Announcement: MoreThinking.com

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Introducing MoreThinking.com

MoreThinking.com is designed to be an intellectually rigorous, yet easy-to-understand website dedicated to discussing and exploring issues relating to G-d, Torah, Science and More. Currently, there are three main sections to Morethinking.com:

  • Knowing G-d
  • Intelligent Design
  • Evolution

These sections are usually broken done into series of articles that explore in more detail particular issues or questions. Some of the main series going on right now are:

  • The Argument From Design
  • The Fine-Tuned Universe
  • The Origin of Life

Please feel free to take a look at the site and join in on the conversation (and don’t forget to spread the word 🙂

(Announce your simchah or Torah lectures by clicking on the button in the top right corner of Hirhurim. See here for readership statistics and here for instructions on buying an announcement. Please note that announcements now cost $36 each.)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

26 comments

  1. Sad and seemingly anonymous as far as I could tell (beyond “Moshe”).

  2. What exactly is sad about it? Anything specific?

    In terms of anonymous – my name is Moshe Morris, it’s my individual project that I started. Anything else you would like to know?

    Be well,

    Moshe

  3. P.S. I’m sincerely asking the two questions in my last comment [in other words, please don’t read those questions as defensive, they are rather honestly inquisitive]. I would very much appreciate any feedback you can offer. Thanks.

    Be well,

    Moshe

  4. Thanks for engaging, Moshe. I took a quick look around last night (and again just now) and it seems to me nisht ahin, nisht aher.

    Is your site meant to be in the “kiruv” genre? Who is meant to be the audience and why should they believe your science writing is accurate?

  5. One more broad question: what problem are you trying to solve?

    By the by, the Dawkins “threat” is not something most Americans (including Jews) find compelling. See, e.g. the 3rd question summarized in http://menachemmendel.net/blog/2012/04/17/the-prri-survey-of-american-jews/

  6. the hirhurim link is bad – “https://www.torahmusings.com/www.morethinking.com” – please fix.

  7. Looks to me like the site is all about “Isn’t life amazing? Only God could do this.” It’s a more sophisticated Avigdor Miller style of argument, but ultimately the contention “why some [and I believe that is the whole purpose of the site] argue that an Intelligent Agent is the best explanation for the origin” takes this completely out of the area of science and into the realm of belief. It’s tiring to try and explain to folks that Intelligent Design is not science, and this thinly veiled kiruv site either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care.

  8. Zach,

    If Moshe intends to be blogging a philosophical argument, then I would agree with the complaints. And it seems from the domain name, that is his actual goal.

    However, I learned to appreciate R’ Avigdor Miller, though, by taking his material to be inspirational rather than informative. A majestic mountain range doesn’t prove Hashem exists, but hopefully our souls aren’t so dead that when we visit one we don’t feel “Mah rabu maasekha Hashem!” Similarly, when one follows RAM’s advice, keep an apple seed in one’s pocket, and every time you put a hand in to fish out change, you are reminded yet again about how much information Hashem managed to cram into such a tiny pit. An entire tree, the fruit it produces, the seeds in those fruit, the trees they produce, ad infinitum, all somehow packed into the instructions in that tiny thing.

  9. Micha — not to diminish your point, but one can say the same thing about seeing a beautiful woman on the street — “Mah rabu maasekha Hashem!” But, of course, there are many who think this is assur…

  10. To IH:

    In terms of the audience – it’s not strictly kiruv, although one of my target audiences is the same crowd.

    The main goal of the site is to chronicle the various ways in which one can gain an awareness of G-d (or deepen that awareness).

    One group of people who are interested in that are those that the Kiruv movement addresses, but it’s not solely limited to that group. The site can also be of benefit to kids who grew up in an Orthodox home and are having questions and doubts.

    And it can also benefit people who aren’t plauged by doubts, but who are interested in the subject for its own sake. To play off what a later commenter wrote – there’s value in appreciate the beauty of a beautiful sunset in and of itself.

    Finally, I also have in mind educators who deal with the above groups.

    In terms of the science – perhaps they will have to do some of their own homework to see whether or not I know what I’m talking about. The video animations that I use are for the most part from the scientific community.

    And, of course, anyone can (and should) challenge me if they think that what I’m saying is factually or logically off. One of the goals of my site (beyond what I listed above) was to bring the conversations about these issues to a more factual level, to put the conversation where it should be – around the facts and how to interpret them.

    In terms of what problems I’m trying to solve – the problems are more side issues which I feel I have to deal with when trying to present what I’m really interested in, which is clearly articulating and demonstrating various ways in which one can better ‘see’ and ‘know’ G-d.

    I don’t know the statistics of how much a threat Dawkins is or isn’t. I think he articulates a point of view that many people share, even if they don’t reach his conclusion. He raises and articulates issues which I want to address.

    Thanks for engaging back – if you have any more questions, please send them my way.

    Be well,

    Moshe

    Thanks for engaging, Moshe. I took a quick look around last night (and again just now) and it seems to me nisht ahin, nisht aher.

    Is your site meant to be in the “kiruv” genre? Who is meant to be the audience and why should they believe your science writing is accurate?

  11. To Zach,

    You wrote: Looks to me like the site is all about “Isn’t life amazing? Only God could do this.”

    My response:
    I believe (or at least hope) that I’ve said a more than just ‘isn’t life amazing’ and I’ve offered more compelling arguments than ‘Only G-d could do this’.

    True, one of my goals is to clearly display the tremendous sophistication and genius of design that we see in the natural world. I think it’s impossible to have an intelligent converstaion about these topics if one hasn’t first seen how brilliantly designed the natural world seems to be.

    With that said, I attempting to do more than just demonstrate how amazing life is, I’m also trying to clearly articulate how we should look and understand that brilliance and why.

    On the one hand I do so positively, laying out positive reasons for ‘blaming’ this brilliance on HaKadosh Baruch Hu. On the other hand, I relate to the counter-claims and arguments and explain why I don’t find them very serious (at least the one’s I’ve seen so far).

    Here are two articles (there are others) in this regard:

    * Positive claim: http://bit.ly/fine-tunings-as-evidence

    * Relating to criticism: http://bit.ly/gd-of-the-gaps

    I personally think that I am saying more in those articles than Only G-d could do this. If you disagree, fine – please point out why you think otherwise. That, indeed, is what I want from this site – real conversation about the real issues, not just general talking points.

    You futher wrote:
    It’s a more sophisticated Avigdor Miller style of argument, but ultimately the contention “why some [and I believe that is the whole purpose of the site] argue that an Intelligent Agent is the best explanation for the origin” takes this completely out of the area of science and into the realm of belief.

    My response:
    My site is not a site about science, it’s about G-d. I’m interested in the science for how it relates to theological and/or philosophical questions. The question is whether or not one can see evidence for G-d in the natural world – I think the answer is clearly yes and I’m trying to show why that is so.

    The issue is whether or not this is science or ‘belief’, the issue is whethe or not my argument is sound or not. If not, please articulate why not.

    You wrote:
    It’s tiring to try and explain to folks that Intelligent Design is not science, and this thinly veiled kiruv site either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care.

    My response:
    While this is not really my issue – whether or not intelligent design is science – try me, you may find that I’m not so tiring after all :).

  12. To Micha:

    Thanks for commenting.

    While I do intend to be inspirational, I also intend to be informative.

    In the article quoted by Zach I related to a central question – how does a coded system get set up in the cell? It’s not just a question of how much information, but rather the very existence of information in and of itself as well as that information being organized into a logical, coded system.

    Coded systems imply intelligence – inherently. This is an intellectual point as well as an inspirational point.

    It is inspiring to note the genius of the design, it’s sophistication and it’s power and reach (such as the apple seed example). Intellectually, the fact that we have discovered functional, coded information systems inside the cell states – I was created.

  13. I don’t think you are relaying the information you think you are. First, because the typical reader needs a lot more background than you are giving in order to assess your claims. Second, because if your position really was that compelling (and I’m not talking true-vs-false, but how convincing it is), there wouldn’t be any atheist biologists.

    I suggested a way, using Information and Automata Theory, to actually give relative measures to the information content of various biological systems. (See my blog entry Argument by Design ver. 4.0. Even to show that none of the responses to Behe’s irreducible complexity make the evolution of that complexity more probable.

    But I don’t pretend any of that is compelling to the extent that a reader who is not an expert in the subject has any reason to believe my ideas over those I am disputing.

    Hashem set up the world in balance — “zeh le’umas zeh”. For example: the yeitzer hara for idolatry couldn’t be destroyed without also ending prophecy. The kind of irrefutable proof you appear to want to set up can’t exist, there will always be reason for someone to question it (even if it happens to indeed be true).

    In reality, Rabbi Aqiva’s “Even as a house proclaims its builder,a garment its weaver or a door its carpenter, so does the world proclaim the Holy Blessed One Who created it.” is more powerful than subsequent attwepts to formalize it.

    See also the first section of the Kuzari on the limitations of philosophical proof altogether.

  14. “Looks to me like the site is all about “Isn’t life amazing? Only God could do this.” It’s a more sophisticated Avigdor Miller style of argument, but ultimately the contention “why some [and I believe that is the whole purpose of the site] argue that an Intelligent Agent is the best explanation for the origin” takes this completely out of the area of science and into the realm of belief. It’s tiring to try and explain to folks that Intelligent Design is not science, and this thinly veiled kiruv site either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care”

    What is, or is not, “science” is a matter of convention. While there are many good arguments for having a fairly narrow definition of science, there are no arguments at pretending that those narrow definitions are the sum of what constitutes justified belief.

  15. Kant attempted to show how philosophy could prove the existence of God. Unfortunately, for him his previous work showed that we could not know reality directly as thing-in-itself. What is real in itself is beyond our experience. Even if God exists, we can not know God as he really is.

    For Kant the Christian could have faith in God, and this faith would be consonant with reason and the categorical imperative. Given that human beings have the autonomy to create moral values, it would not be irrational to believe in a God who gives purpose to the moral realm.

    Me-Hence IIUC R’ Micha’s take – you can’t “prove” it, but you can try to make people feel it as what I would call “the most likely guess”
    KT

  16. Moshe: Coded systems imply intelligence – inherently.

    Maybe, but not “inherently”.

    Yirmiahu: What is, or is not, “science” is a matter of convention.

    False.

    I would highly recommend you both read Freeman Dyson’s recent: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/05/science-rampage-natural-philosophy/

  17. To Micha:

    You wrote:
    I don’t think you are relaying the information you think you are. First, because the typical reader needs a lot more background than you are giving in order to assess your claims.

    My response:
    Well, I’m trying as best I can to relate to them the information needed. That’s why I did a whole series on DNA and I have more series on other releated topics planned. If there is any particular information that you think I should include that has not yet been included, please let me know (note: I do plan on discussing information theory in the future).

    You wrote:
    Second, because if your position really was that compelling (and I’m not talking true-vs-false, but how convincing it is), there wouldn’t be any atheist biologists.

    My response:
    I don’t think whether or not an idea is compelling is determined by whether or not there is a group of people (even intelligent people) who do not accept that idea. There are all sorts of non-logical, non-intellectual reasons for rejecting an idea or an argument.

    The real question is do atheist biologists provide strong, compelling counter-arguments. What I find most interesting is that the more well-known atheistic biogists seem unwilling or unable to rigorously defend their ideas from an intellectual point of view. Note, in this regard, Antony Flew’s critique of Dawkin’s:

    “The fault of Dawkins as an academic…was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine which he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form.”

    If one is on solid intellectual ground then they have no problem presenting and refuting the best possible formulation of one’s opponents ideas.

    Over and over again I find people who don’t like what the ID community is saying avoiding the strongest form of their argument (sometimes they avoid the argument altogether) and instead resorting to rhetoric and other non-intellectual and non-scientific arguments.

    Here is an example – PZ Meyers discussing what Intelligent Design is and why they are wrong:

    * http://youtu.be/G7fpzsoT9u0

    * http://youtu.be/cNbTgUl8rNs

    Did Meyer’s present ID in it’s strongest form? Did he even present it accurately? Complexity is only part of their argument – they talk more about specified and functional complexity. Specified and/or functional complexity involves the following properties

    * The right parts
    * In the right order
    * Of the right shape and size
    * Integrated with each other in the right way
    * In order to achieve a particular function.

    Random drift-wood does not meet that criteria – it doesn’t have to be in a specific order, the individual pieces of wood don’t have to be a particular size, they don’t have to be integrated just right with one another, and it doesn’t even have to be drift wood.

    On the other hand, try flying an airplane with paper wings – or with wings made of the wrong shape or put on the wrong part of the plane. Would you get on that flight?

    I see atheistic biologists in a different light – if they are unable to actually face the arguments head on, if they have to resort to misrperesentations and/or highly charged (and at times insulting) rhetoric, then perhaps the emperor has no cloths. Perhaps they have nothing to say. Perhaps the way the respond indicate just how compelling the argument they claim to refute really is.

    In terms of your article on Information and Automata Theory – I enjoyed it, although I for one don’t hold much stock in random mutations as a mechanism for evolution [see this article in general and Professor James A. Shapiro’s statement in particular for starters: http://bit.ly/antibiotic-resistance-and-evolution%5D.

    [Btw, I would love to discuss information theory with you some time – could you send me an email via my contact page? Here’s the URL: http://morethinking.com/contact/%5D

    In terms of proof – I don’t phrase it as irrefutable proof – I phrase it as confirmation for the person who already believes and reason for the man who doesn’t believe to investigate further.

    Finally, in terms of Rabbi Akiva’s statement – I always wondered, why did he ask the heretic to come back tomorrow? Why didn’t he answer him right away?

  18. To IH,

    Codes systems are agreed upon systems. Agreement is an intellectual function. One if by land, two if by sea only works if all parties agree upon the meaning of one and two (and on lanterns).

    That intellectual agreement is an inherent aspect of the code.

    Even if the system is automated wherein one machine works with another machine vis-a-vis code, the codes which they have been programmed to use have been obtained the meaning and function that they have solely by intellectual agreement of their programmers.

  19. Moshe — with respect, you are playing a semantic game. Very primitive organisms contain coded systems and seem to behave in agreed upon systems. But, no one would reasonably classify these very primitive organisms as intelligent. Now you can believe that God designed these coded systems imbuing them with agreed upon systems; but, it is equally plausible to believe other conclusions.

    In any case, I have zero interest in the rhetoric on either side – be it Dawkins or yours. Freeman Dyson hits it on the head:

    Why do I value so highly the memory of Eddington and Velikovsky, and why does Margaret Wertheim treasure the memory of William Thomson and Jim Carter? We honor them because science is only a small part of human capability. We gain knowledge of our place in the universe not only from science but also from history, art, and literature. Science is a creative interaction of observation with imagination. “Physics at the Fringe” is what happens when imagination loses touch with observation. Imagination by itself can still enlarge our vision when observation fails. The mythologies of Carter and Velikovsky fail to be science, but they are works of art and high imagining. As William Blake told us long ago, “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

  20. Moshe,

    Your efforts are admirable but futile. If you’ve spent some time on this board or elsewhere, you’ll see that most people have already made up their minds on this issue one way or the other (usually the other, but that’s another story). It’s doubtful that what you say will change anyone’s mind.

  21. R’ Aiwac,

    See my comment above – I heartily endorse what R’ Moshe said in a later comment “In terms of proof – I don’t phrase it as irrefutable proof – I phrase it as confirmation for the person who already believes and reason for the man who doesn’t believe to investigate further. ”

    KT

  22. Joel,

    If that case, fair enough. It’s reminiscent of the works of R. Dr. Michael Avraham, whose efforts are geared towards convincing those who believe that their belief is a perfectly rational and legitimate position to have in modern society (he’s not a fan of POMO). I think that’s all that’s necessary.

  23. To IH:

    You wrote:
    Moshe — with respect, you are playing a semantic game. Very primitive organisms contain coded systems and seem to behave in agreed upon systems. But, no one would reasonably classify these very primitive organisms as intelligent.

    My response:
    Please give me a concrete of such a primitive organism – as far as I know, the most primitive cell displays coded and other systems whose sophistication far outdoes anything that we can create. If you know otherwise, please provide a concrete example.

    In terms of semantics, I’ll have to disagree with you. Certain aspects are inherent to codes – intellectual agreement is one of them. If you have a reason for disagreeing, please clearly articulate it. Thanks.

    Be well,

    Moshe

    Now you can believe that God designed these coded systems imbuing them with agreed upon systems; but, it is equally plausible to believe other conclusions.

  24. To aiwac:

    You wrote:
    Your efforts are admirable but futile. If you’ve spent some time on this board or elsewhere, you’ll see that most people have already made up their minds on this issue one way or the other (usually the other, but that’s another story). It’s doubtful that what you say will change anyone’s mind.

    My response:
    There are many people who read this and other blogs who don’t comment. Secondly, it is specifically this aspect of the debate that I want to address – to change the conversation from one of preconceived notions to discussing the actual facts of the issue at hand.

    Either way, my responsibility is to try – I know I have an uphill battle :).

    Thanks and be well,

    Moshe

  25. IH, I have to agree with Yirmiyahu. What is a valid theory vs pseudoscience has a real definition. But the decision to have a discipline that ends at Evolution, and won’t discuss whether it was truly random or guided, that’s convention.

    Ignoring difference between Yirmiyahu’s topic and Dyson’s is the basis of much error. It’s why there are people who think that because G-d is excluded from the realm of scientific study, it’s somehow more scientific to assume there is none. In the case of life, that saying it’s random is more scientific than saying evolution is being guided to particular desired species. Neither claim is scientific, but one of them is true.

  26. But the decision to have a discipline that ends at Evolution, and won’t discuss whether it was truly random or guided, that’s convention.

    Huh? First, which discipline ends at evolution? Second, how is “truly random or guided” a question that can be answered by experimentation (which is the sine qua non of science as well explained by Dyson)?

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