Sunday, June 17, 2007

Erring By Design

The Argument from Design is one of the classic and most time-honored rational proofs for the existence of God. Yet its primary line of reasoning not only appealed to the ancient thinkers - indeed, it continues to enjoy popularity among a good number of contemporary scientists and philosophers to this day.

The essential thrust of the Argument from Design is this: The Universe exhibits a remarkable complexity, lawfulness, and order throughout. In the biological realm, the appearance of intentional design manifest in the harmonious functioning of living organisms is unmistakable. It seems profoundly unreasonable to attribute these phenomena to mere happenstance. Thus, we must infer that an intelligent Being is in fact responsible for them.

Enlightenment Period skeptics, beginning with David Hume, have challenged the Argument from Design on many counts, and their objections have been reviewed and rebutted by more recent thinkers. However, bad habits die hard, so moderns frequently declare that the Argument has been debunked, and tend to recycle even the most dubious of Hume's critiques as if they were beyond reproach. Perhaps the most talked-about contemporary atheist who has levelled Humean attacks against the Argument from Design is Richard Dawkins, whom our own favorite blogger-skeptic has borrowed from in his discussion of the topic.

The truth of the matter is that the objections to the Argument from Design are not very impressive philosophically. Many of them are flawed so seriously that they are naught more than chains of fallacy in disguise. In this post, we will confine ourselves to those counterarguments deemed by our friend to be worthy of an appearance on his blog. His anti-Argument-from-Design is formulated there as follows:

If you say you need an N+1 creator to design an N, then God is even more amazing than the universe, so you have simply pushed the question back one level, and now you have the problem of who designed God. And if you want to say that God doesn’t need to be designed for some incomprehensible reason, then you can say the same about the universe, for some incomprehensible reason.

Now, if you are philosophically inclined, reading this may already have given you a serious headache. But let's examine the argument he is presenting and attempt to define why it is flawed.

Basically, the counterargument proceeds like this: The Universe is incredibly complex, amazing, etc. This leads us to think a Creator must be behind it. But this Creator, in order to have produced such an amazing Universe, must Himself be even greater than that Universe. So, if we are going to ask how the Universe could be so intricate in the absence of a Creator, then we must ask the same about God - how could a Being so amazing possibly exist without a Creator?

The error in reasoning here is simple. When we observe the Universe's breathtaking harmony, we are faced with two options - either this order is a mere accidental grouping of blind material forces into lawful patterns, or it is an intentional design expressing itself through matter. The former seems terribly unlikely and forced, so we choose the latter.

But it is crucial to understand why the first option is counterintuitive - it is because we don't expect inert, brute matter to become organized into patterns of its own accord. There is nothing in pure physicality that suggests that it should have to or would tend to conform to any kind of intelligible principle whatsoever. So we naturally conclude that this must be the result of an external cause who designed the Universe on purpose.

God, on the other hand, is not something we believe to have emerged "by accident" from the chaotic motions of physical particles. He is a metaphysical Being devoid of any material properties - the source of order as opposed to an ordered entity. Wondering who designed God is like wondering who "designed" a concept - the term is simply inappropriate, since ideas are not constructed from raw materials; they are discovered or perceived. Attempting to apply the notion of design to God is ultimately an exercise in futility.

Considering an example of design drawn from our earthly experience will clarify this point. An architect formulates a coherent layout for the construction of a new home. That model is, so to speak, "imposed upon" the wood, brick, plaster, etc., by workmen who implement the instructions of the architect, and the result is a house that physically embodies the conceptual plan. Neither the materials alone, nor the architectural scheme alone, would ever bring anything particularly impressive into existence by themselves. It is only when the vision in the mind of the artisan finds expression in a physical medium that we see "design" manifesting itself.

So the question of the design of the Universe, which is comprised of matter, is legitimate, while the question "who designed God" is not.

Our good friend continues:

Now some people will argue that God is simple, and hence He fulfills the N-1 option above. But what kind of ‘simple’ is this? Not any kind of ‘simple’ that we can comprehend. Basically it’s just playing a word game, calling something simple when by any normal human standard we would call it complex.

This part of the argument betrays hazy thinking in the domains of theology and science. The premise underlying it is that whatever is responsible for the Universe must be as complicated, if not moreso, than the Universe itself.

Upon reflection, however, it should be obvious that this is not the case. Scientific theories aim to explain the complex phenomena observed in the world through the use of simple, general constructs that have the ability to account for an enormous number of particulars. Time and time again, science has revealed that what manifests itself to our senses as staggering complexity presents itself to our minds as the expression of a small set of fundamental principles. In fact, scientists' ultimate dream is to formulate a single Theory of Everything that will elegantly account for all observed phenomena in the material world.

If the skeptic's reasoning were correct, then this objective would be deemed absurd or even impossible from the get-go, since any theory of such grandeur would of necessity be more cumbersome and intricate than the subject matter it explains.

To summarize, then, we see that the concept of positing God as the ultimate source of the harmony in the Universe is actually quite logical - it is the natural culmination of the process of understanding our world. At first we take in a wealth of sensory information and feel overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of our environment. Then we slowly but surely move from the material details to the realm of the theoretical and conceptual, and begin to see myriad phenomena as expressions of an underlying set of rational principles or laws of nature. As we transition from experience to principle and from data point to concept, we similarly transition from complexity to simplicity and from chaos to order. This process of simplification and unification eventually leads us to the recognition of the Source of the majestic system of physical law itself - the Creator of the Universe.

84 comments:

Anonymous said...

Could you say that a large flaw within the n+1 argument is the fact that it presupposes that god's existence is only greater in a quantitative sense, and that this than leads to the false comparison of outcomes?

Anonymous said...

Dawkins is taken to task for the very point that you Rabbi Maroof discussed, in this article from the NY Review of Books here : http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19775


An excerpt:

" Indeed, one needn't be a creationist to note that Dawkins's argument suffers at least two potential problems. First, as others have pointed out, if he is right, the design hypothesis essentially must be wrong and the alternative naturalistic hypothesis essentially must be right. But since when is a scientific hypothesis confirmed by philosophical gymnastics, not data? Second, the fact that we as scientists find a hypothesis question-begging—as when Dawkins asks "who designed the designer?"— cannot, in itself, settle its truth value. It could, after all, be a brute fact of the universe that it derives from some transcendent mind, however question-begging this may seem. What explanations we find satisfying might say more about us than about the explanations. Why, for example, is Dawkins so untroubled by his own (large) assumption that both matter and the laws of nature can be viewed as given? Why isn't that question-begging?"

Anonymous said...

The Argument from Design is one of the classic and most time-honored rational proofs for the existence of God.

What is this, the 1600s? Don't pretend Hume didn't exist.

littlefoxling said...

As much as I disagree with everything you wrote and consider you to be a biased theologian, there’s simply no denying that you are eloquent, articulate, bright, penetrating, thoughtful, and an excellent debater. The way XGH’s project completely fell apart as soon as you left underscores this point. And, I’m very happy you have chosen to return. As far as I’m concerned, we can call each other names all we want, but when we stop exchanging ideas, a dark shroud engulfs our minds.

Anonymous said...

>As much as I disagree with everything you wrote and consider you to be a biased theologian

As much as I disagree with everything you write and consider you to be a biased skeptic...

I just love the way the skeptics trully trully believe that they are objective beings. Of course this is why they hate post modernism as much as religion. Both display their intelectual nakedness in a very stark manner.

tayqoo said...

it seems that in the final analysis what we believe is a matter choice based primarily on our biasis.

Anonymous said...

>it seems that in the final analysis what we believe is a matter choice based primarily on our biasis.

One man's bias is another man's yetzer tov or yetzer ra.

You are partially right of course. The problem lies in getting the skeptics to let go of their illusion of their own objectivity.

David Guttmann said...

>it is because we don't expect inert, brute matter to become organized into patterns of its own accord

If you place bacteria on a petri dish with certain chemicals and conditions you can force mutations through random 1 in a million changes where the bacteria adapts to its new environment. It shows that there is no need for design just adaptation of matter to environmental pressures. I know that you will then say who made that rule that certain matter will adapt? I am also talking about biological entities, what about inert matter? Well add gravity, energy and other such components it is no longer so far fetched that the mix is potent enough for things to evolve randomly over millenia.

Ultimately you are coming back to the First Cause argument. Will, design, creation are explanations that we accept because they are "closer" to how we understand things but more importantly because of revelation and also because it obligates us.

I am saying this because I am under the influence of rambam who warns us in his discussions not to use this argument for Metzius Hashem. Science might change and exlanations may be found. If you rely on this you may end up with nothing in your hand. That is why to me FC is the ultimate argument. Having that, the rest can be accepted as long is it does not conflict with reality. Our job is to understand them in that reality.

Excellent post and I hope it will bring the Design discussion on the web back in its rational groove. it has gone totally off track.

alf said...

"If there are any marks at all of special design in creation, one of the things most evidently designed is that a large proportion of all animals should pass their existence in tormenting and devouring other animals."
--John Stuart Mill

"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice." --Charles Darwin

Alf

tayqoo said...

by "our biasis" i meant skeptics and otherwise. we are all biased. we basically believe what we want to believe for whatever reason.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Too many anonymous commenters!!!

First Anonymous,

Yes, this presupposition is also problematic.

Second Anonymous,

Thank you for the citation.

Third Anonymous,

I am not pretending that Hume never existed. Was he pretending the medieval philosophers never existed? Are you pretending that no philosophical critiques of Hume have been formulated during the past 400 years?

LF,

As much as I disagree with everything you wrote

If you are in favor of the fallacious arguments I criticized simply because they support your own personal conclusion, that doesn't bode well for you. It would be helpful if you expressed your reasons for disagreeing so that they could be discussed and debated if necessary.

and consider you to be a biased theologian

Just as I consider you a far more biased dogmatic materialist who, it seems, is no longer even trying to engage the subject matter with an open mind.

there’s simply no denying that you are eloquent, articulate, bright, penetrating, thoughtful, and an excellent debater.

That's nice of you to say.

The way XGH’s project completely fell apart as soon as you left underscores this point.

He seems to consider himself quite capable of handling these issues, so let's see how he proceeds from here.

And, I’m very happy you have chosen to return.

I read XGH's blog and skim the key comments. But I prefer not to participate in that forum until the standards of reasoning are improved.

As far as I’m concerned, we can call each other names all we want, but when we stop exchanging ideas, a dark shroud engulfs our minds.

On this I agree with you 100%.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Tayqoo,

it seems that in the final analysis what we believe is a matter choice based primarily on our biasis.

I disagree. I believe it has a lot more to do with a sincere commitment to intellectual honesty, combined with training, background knowledge, and, most importantly, a profound sense of humility in approaching such weighty subject matter.

Very few of the interlocutors on either side possess the prerequisite qualities to engage meaningfully and productively in this discussion.

XGH said...

> Enlightenment Period skeptics, beginning with David Hume, have challenged the Argument from Design on many counts, and their objections have been reviewed and rebutted by more recent thinkers. However, bad habits die hard, so moderns frequently declare that the Argument has been debunked

This is an example of your disingenuousness. You constantly claim that these kind of arguments are upheld by various modern thinkers. Sure they are. Yet most of these thinkers are theists, and therefore are biased. Non theists all uniformly reject these arguments. You say 'bad habits die hard'. But why is it a bad habit? Why is it that the few people who uphold these arguments are correct, while the majority who reject them are somehow guilty of 'bad habits'?

So you will argue that the non theists are biased too, and that when it comes to religion, everyone is biased. Okay, so when it comes to religion everyone is biased and no one has credibility. In fact you already admitted this. So why should I be impressed that some modern theistic thinkers have upheld theistic arguments?

Whats even more disingenuous of you is that you have admitted that all people are extremely biased and subjective when it comes to religion, and you have admitted that religion has a serious credibiliyt problem, yet you yourself think that your own biased and subjective arguments should be found convincing, and when your opponents find them utterly unconvincing, you accuse them of being obstinate. The chutzpah here is astounding.

XGH said...

> Very few of the interlocutors on either side possess the prerequisite qualities to engage meaningfully and productively in this discussion.

Except for you of course.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

David G.,

Of course, the Argument from Design is just that - an argument. It is not logically airtight like the First Cause Proof. However, that is no excuse for employing fallacious reasoning and obfuscation in the course of a debate about it.

Although the Argument from Design is not a formal proof, it certainly is intuitively compelling. The Midrashim seem to attribute this chain of reasoning to Avraham Avinu.

I tend to think that the notion of design pertains more to the fundamental laws that organize matter than to the emergence and subsequent evolution of life, although this too leaves many unanswered questions as far as I am concerned.

In the final analysis, the existence of abstract lawfulness in the material world is most reasonably explained by attributing it to an intelligent source.

XGH said...

> I disagree. I believe it has a lot more to do with a sincere commitment to intellectual honesty, combined with training, background knowledge, and, most importantly, a profound sense of humility in approaching such weighty subject matter.

I see. So all the secularists who oppose these arguments are ill insincere, lack inteletcual honesty and humility. But the theists who declare themselves to be the only honest people around, and in position of ultimate truth, they are humble beyond words. What bugs me here more than anything is that you yourself make the most pompous pronouncements of anyone, constantly bashing your opponents and claiming that only you yourself have the intellectual honesty, rigor and training to make an objective assesment of which one religion is the one true one. And guess what?! It just happens to be the one you were born into. Now there's a surprise. When are you going to be honest about this?

XGH said...

> If the skeptic's reasoning were correct, then this objective would be deemed absurd or even impossible from the get-go, since any theory of such grandeur would of necessity be more cumbersome and intricate than the subject matter it explains.

Also, you missed the point of my post. That is exactly what I was saying: That ultimately the scientists propose that some very simple concept produced everything else. If you want to argue that God is 'simple', then likewise that scientific concept, whatever it is, is equally simple, and equally capable of producing a complex universe. So, your argument fails.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Alf,

First of all, the Argument from Design in its modern form is based upon the essential lawfulness of nature, not on the specific properties of the various ecosystems that may have emerged as a function of evolution.

Second, projecting moral sentiments onto the Creator is an example of gross anthropomorphism - it assumes that a transcendent God would agree, as a matter of course, with our subjective moral intuitions. We have no way of knowing what God would or would not want the animals He created to eat.

And keep in mind that people like Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill's godfather, lived at a time when evolutionary theory did not yet exist. Which means that they had no reasonable materialistic explanation for the basis of the organization of living things on this planet. They would have had to attribute the existence of complex, functional life forms to the random collision of blind atoms. Yet they remained atheists nonetheless. This calls their intellectual honesty into serious question.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Also, you missed the point of my post. That is exactly what I was saying: That ultimately the scientists propose that some very simple concept produced everything else. If you want to argue that God is 'simple', then likewise that scientific concept, whatever it is, is equally simple, and equally capable of producing a complex universe. So, your argument fails.

Not really. An equation is just an abstraction that cannot accomplish anything on its own. It needs to be imposed upon matter to have an impact. This requires a designer.

As Hawking famously asked, "what breathed fire into the equations?"

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

You constantly claim that these kind of arguments are upheld by various modern thinkers. Sure they are. Yet most of these thinkers are theists, and therefore are biased.

he following: If we are discussing an issue like evolution which, in mFirst of all, this is not true. Most of them are deists, not religious believers.

Furthermore, this is circular reasoning. If I accept the argument, I am a deist/theist. Am I now biased for having accepted it?

Non theists all uniformly reject these arguments.

By definition, of course, which is why comparing deist/theists and atheists on this issue is ridiculous!

You say 'bad habits die hard'. But why is it a bad habit?

It is a bad habit to recycle centuries-old arguments while being completely oblivious to the literature developed around them over the past 400 years. You cannot cite Hume as an authority without reading up on the critiques that have been formulated by the philosophers who followed him.

Why is it that the few people who uphold these arguments are correct, while the majority who reject them are somehow guilty of 'bad habits'?

I've already explained why.

Of course, numbers are irrelevant to truth.

It would not be at all surprising were the minority to be correct in this case since, as the ancient philosophers taught us, these areas of thought are exceedingly subtle, and most people who attempt to explore them wind up failing miserably.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I see. So all the secularists who oppose these arguments are ill insincere, lack inteletcual honesty and humility. But the theists who declare themselves to be the only honest people around, and in position of ultimate truth, they are humble beyond words.

Not at all. As I said, people on both sides are approaching these issues without the requisite intellectual humility.

What bugs me here more than anything is that you yourself make the most pompous pronouncements of anyone, constantly bashing your opponents and claiming that only you yourself have the intellectual honesty, rigor and training to make an objective assesment of which one religion is the one true one.

Ouch! I don't think I ever claimed such a thing. You were the one who claimed that I was more philosophically knowledgeable, but that was probably just an excuse for why you lost the first debate. :)

And guess what?! It just happens to be the one you were born into.

You say this all the time, yet it is really irrelevant. Aren't you the person who believes that our Universe, magnificently designed and perfectly fit for life, is just the one we happened to be born into?

This kind of probabilistic manuever is the wrench you attempt to throw into every reasonable argument, just when things start to become clear.

As I have said in the past, I am still waiting for you to adduce a single argument or apologetic for the veracity of another religion that is on par with the arguments put forth for Judaism. Thus far you have failed to deliver.

Now there's a surprise. When are you going to be honest about this?

You seem very angry. :(

XGH said...

> But it is crucial to understand why the first option is counterintuitive - it is because we don't expect inert, brute matter to become organized into patterns of its own accord.

There's your fallacy right there. What do you mean 'we don't expect' ? That's the very thing we are arguing about. How can you state that as premise?

> There is nothing in pure physicality that suggests that it should have to or would tend to conform to any kind of intelligible principle whatsoever.

Sure there is, the laws of physics. Again, your premise assumes your conclusion, which is exactly the problem with all these types of arguments, and why nobody serious (i.e. non biased to produce a forgone conclusion) holds of them anymore.

XGH said...

> .

There's nothing to deliver. I'm As I have said in the past, I am still waiting for you to adduce a single argument or apologetic for the veracity of another religion that is on par with the arguments put forth for Judaism. Thus far you have failed to deliverprefectly happy with the idea that Judaism makes more sense than the rest of the religions, I have said so many times. Judaism wins my vote for religion most likely to be true (assuming any one religion is true). However that is VERY FAR INDEED from saying it is true.

As I have said in the past, I am still waiting for you to adduce a single convincing argument or apologetic for the veracity of your religion that is on par with the arguments put forth against it. Thus far you have failed to deliver.

XGH said...

> You seem very angry. :(

I am. Because all I see from my (subjective biased perspective) is incredibly intellectually dishonest and biased theists bashing their opponents for the very thing I see them to be guilty of. :(

XGH said...

> You say this all the time, yet it is really irrelevant. Aren't you the person who believes that our Universe, magnificently designed and perfectly fit for life, is just the one we happened to be born into?

What kind of response is this? Makes no sense. Of course the fact that your research shows OJ to be true, and you were born into OJ, does not neccessarily make OJ non true. But when you see a million RJMs, of every reliigon, all saying that they have personally researched into all religions, and then 99.9% of them come to the conclusion that their religion was the one true religion after all, it doesn't take a statistician to see that they are all entirely biased. Of course OJ could be the one true religion, but how could I possibly tell? None of your arguments rely on solid data, but rather on dubious subjective arguments, for example the 'national historic consciousness' argument you have for the mesorah. It could be a good argument, it might not be. How can I possibly tell? Just because YOU and all other fundie OJs and XTians believe in it? Thats exactly the problem. Nobody else does.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

There's your fallacy right there. What do you mean 'we don't expect' ? That's the very thing we are arguing about. How can you state that as premise?

What I mean is that the laws of physics are distinct from matter. They are the organizing principles of matter. That is why scientists entertain the possibility of other universes with alternate sets of natural laws into which matter might be organized.

You are overlooking the fact that matter and its organization are two different things.

And for the record - the Argument from Design is not a "proof" for God's existence. It is just a reasonable inference drawn from the structure of our world.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Judaism wins my vote for religion most likely to be true (assuming any one religion is true). However that is VERY FAR INDEED from saying it is true.

I agree. We don't conclude that something is true simply because it is the best option available at a particular point in time.

As I have said in the past, I am still waiting for you to adduce a single convincing argument or apologetic for the veracity of your religion that is on par with the arguments put forth against it. Thus far you have failed to deliver.

If you keep imitating my writing style like that, you may begin to improve.

Meanwhile, let's be honest - we have never had any discussion of any arguments against Judaism. In all our conversations, you have challenged me to put forth arguments in support of Judaism.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I am. Because all I see from my (subjective biased perspective) is incredibly intellectually dishonest and biased theists bashing their opponents for the very thing I see them to be guilty of.

I am not guilty of not having read the relevant original sources in philosophy and religion. I am not guilty of failing to study and consistently apply logic. I am not guilty of brashly dismissing cogent arguments with little to back my dismissal up other than 'rubbish' or 'nonsense'.

XGH said...

> What I mean is that the laws of physics are distinct from matter. They are the organizing principles of matter. That is why scientists entertain the possibility of other universes with alternate sets of natural laws into which matter might be organized.

OK. So we have the following situation: Matter/Energy which has existed in its rawest form unchanged since the beggining of time, and then the laws of physics, which groups this matter into various, ever more sophisticated, configurations. You say 'we don't expect the laws of physics to be there'. But what does that mean? We don't expect that based on what exactly? Thats its just too 'amazing' for the laws of physics to be existent? So why is this any more 'amazing' than God being existent? Again, you are asuming your conclusion in your premise.

XGH said...

> I am not guilty of not having read the relevant original sources in philosophy and religion. I am not guilty of failing to study and consistently apply logic. I am not guilty of brashly dismissing cogent arguments with little to back my dismissal up other than 'rubbish' or 'nonsense'.

No, you are guilty of being intellectually dishonest in your application of philosophy and logic. As I will prove.

XGH said...

> Meanwhile, let's be honest - we have never had any discussion of any arguments against Judaism. In all our conversations, you have challenged me to put forth arguments in support of Judaism.

Well, the burden of proof is actually on you. But I agree, we haven't gottten into that yet, though plenty of other blogs have: Mis-nagid, Little foxling, Baal Habos, Failed BT and others.

Personally I have never been into all that, because what's the point? If you can't reasonably show it to be true, then there's no good reason to believe it, veen if there are no good proofs that its false. I don't believe any old religion just because you can'tr prove it false. I believe it because you can prove it to be true.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Of course the fact that your research shows OJ to be true, and you were born into OJ, does not neccessarily make OJ non true.

Exactly.

But when you see a million RJMs, of every reliigon, all saying that they have personally researched into all religions, and then 99.9% of them come to the conclusion that their religion was the one true religion after all, it doesn't take a statistician to see that they are all entirely biased.

Where are these hypothetical people you speak of? As I have said in the past, you tend to operate with tha assumption that everyone out there is busy subjecting their religious beliefs to rational scrutiny and arriving at the conclusion that their religious convictions are vindicated. In my personal experience with individuals from all faith traditions, this is by no means the case in fact.

Give me a single example of a person who believes - after researching the alternatives and on rational grounds alone - that his religion is the only true religion. You will find that, if there are any such people out there, they also believe that Judaism is true, although they think that their subsequent revelation surpassed and/or built upon it.

Furthermore, I never seem to get the message across to you that, when it comes to the informed choices of human beings, statistics are of no use. Selection of religious belief based upon rational inquiry is not a random process; therefore, statisticians have nothing at all to say about it. I am not sure why you fail to fathom this important point.

Of course OJ could be the one true religion, but how could I possibly tell? None of your arguments rely on solid data, but rather on dubious subjective arguments, for example the 'national historic consciousness' argument you have for the mesorah.

There is no better argument. In fact, I can't imagine a superior argument in favor of the authenticity of a revelation.

It could be a good argument, it might not be. How can I possibly tell? Just because YOU and all other fundie OJs and XTians believe in it? Thats exactly the problem. Nobody else does.

Again, this is inescapably circular logic. Anyone who accepts the argument is going to accept the conclusion, making them, in your view, biased fundamentalists. And anyone who rejects the argument, even if it is as a function of preconceived bias, will of course also reject the conclusion.

Therefore, the best we can do is evaluate the evidence as objectively as we are capable of doing. This is far, far more than most people do when it comes to issues of religious belief.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

We don't expect that based on what exactly? Thats its just too 'amazing' for the laws of physics to be existent? So why is this any more 'amazing' than God being existent? Again, you are asuming your conclusion in your premise.

What I am saying is that rational order suggests a rational agent. Pure, chaotic matter/energy would not. But coherently organized matter/energy does. It's as simple as that.

The "amazing"ness factor you invoke is so ill defined, it is not meaningful in the context of serious discussion. This has nothing to do with how amazing something is. It has to do with explaining why matter exhibits a coherent, harmonious order rather than behaving like a conglomeration of different contradictory, or inconsistent, forces and entities.

Anonymous said...

>>>It could be a good argument, it might not be. How can I possibly tell?

I guess using your brain to distinguish more convincing approaches from less never occurred to you? Oh, I forgot, they claim they are convinced by their religion.... Stupidity. Its like stopping at the toothpaste shelf in the supermarket and not buying anything because so many brands advertise on TV each claiming to be the best that you have no idea what to do. Duh - tune out the advertising and make the best choice based on what is before you.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Maroof, do you take pleasure is beating your head against walls?

XGH said...

> Duh - tune out the advertising and make the best choice based on what is before you.

Very good analogy in fact. So do you honestly think that any one toothpaste is significantly better than the rest? Or do you think its all a bunch of advertising?

XGH said...

> What I am saying is that rational order suggests a rational agent.

What do you mean by 'rational' order? You mean the laws of physics are 'rational'? What does that even mean? Ultimately, when it comes down to it, you are forced to invoke the fuzzy concept of 'amazing'.

XGH said...

> Rabbi Maroof, do you take pleasure is beating your head against walls?

I see. So RJM is 'beating his head against a wall' trying to convince the poor stupid skeptics that he is correct. Whereas when the skeptics try to convince the believers that the believers are all wrong the skeptics are just being obstinate and stubborn. And you guys are not biased! No, no sir. No bias there. What a joke.

XGH said...

> Give me a single example of a person who believes - after researching the alternatives and on rational grounds alone - that his religion is the only true religion.

Don't be ridiculous. You think you ae the only person bothered by these questions? You think only you (and david g) have ever done comparative religion study from a rational perspective? There are tons of christrian apologists claiming to do the exact same thing as you.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Now, now, guys. Let's try to keep it nice here.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Don't be ridiculous. You think you ae the only person bothered by these questions? You think only you (and david g) have ever done comparative religion study from a rational perspective? There are tons of christrian apologists claiming to do the exact same thing as you.

...And they all believe in Torah Misinai!!!

Kylopod said...

David Guttmann wrote:

"If you place bacteria on a petri dish with certain chemicals and conditions you can force mutations through random 1 in a million changes where the bacteria adapts to its new environment. It shows that there is no need for design just adaptation of matter to environmental pressures."

You aren't forcing mutations. The mutations were already there: drug-resistant bacteria were part of the culture to begin with, they just became more numerous as conditions favored them, even if they were poorly adapted in other ways. There is no rise in the level of complexity or good design, it's simply a matter of certain traits being favored over others under certain conditions.

"Well add gravity, energy and other such components it is no longer so far fetched that the mix is potent enough for things to evolve randomly over millenia."

Your negative formulation--"no longer so far fetched"--underscores why this argument is a red herring. As soon as skeptics think they have found the slightest chip in the design argument, they throw up their hands and conclude that they've blown the argument away. This delusional confidence overlooks the fact that drug resistance does not even begin to address the challenge of the old watchmaker argument, the existence of natural entities that far surpass the works of human creative genius.

"I am saying this because I am under the influence of rambam who warns us in his discussions not to use this argument for Metzius Hashem. Science might change and exlanations may be found."

Didn't Rambam himself fall into that trap? He attempted to reconcile the Torah with Aristotle. A thousand years later, and we've moved far beyond Aristotle, so Rambam's philosophical writings seem naive today. That's why I avoid getting bogged down in finding explanations for apparent Torah-science conflicts. I just accept the science when it's convincing, and assume the Torah's account can meaningfully be true, even if I have no idea how that could be possible. But the key word here is "when it's convincing." Just because scientists think they have found the key to unraveling design in the universe doesn't mean they will ever come close to succeeding.

Religious people may be biased by a prior belief in God. But skeptics are also biased by a prior belief in the absence of design. Yes, I say prior. It is prior, as they themselves often admit. They reject design as a matter of first principle, before even considering the evidence, before even considering whether science may ever have the answers.

People who refuse to consider design will, almost by necessity, think that an instant of the environment favoring drug-resistant mutations provides a powerful argument for believing that a similar process, stretched over billions of years, could produce the human mind that discerned this concept. People who keep an open mind on this question (and very few people do) may not find the example quite as convincing.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

What do you mean by 'rational' order? You mean the laws of physics are 'rational'? What does that even mean? Ultimately, when it comes down to it, you are forced to invoke the fuzzy concept of 'amazing'.

What I mean by rational is what the scientists mean when they discuss this issue. There is a specific set of extremely precise, mathematically elegant and highly abstract formulae that govern the behavior of matter in our Universe.

These formulae can be apprehended by the mind only, and not by the senses directly.

This is why the term "rational" or "intelligible" is appropriate. "Amazing" is a subjective word, whereas "intelligible" or "comprehensible" describes objective properties of the laws of physics as we know them.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Kylopod, thanks for joining the discussion! Your comments are always cogent and beautifully articulated.

XGH said...

> Again, this is inescapably circular logic. Anyone who accepts the argument is going to accept the conclusion, making them, in your view, biased fundamentalists. And anyone who rejects the argument, even if it is as a function of preconceived bias, will of course also reject the conclusion.

We already argued about this and I already proved you wrong, you forget.

Of course this would be circular if I applied this argument to a bunch of initial skeptics and agnostics, who all came to one conclusion, and then I called them biased. But that is not the situation, as you well know.

What we have is a bunch of pre-convinced believer all coming to the 'conclusion' that their own religion is true. Clearly, plain old statistics would produce a bell curve. Or alternatively would produce one result - that of everyone gravitating towards the one one obviously true religion. But we don't see that at all. All we see is everyone confirming their own religion. Hence the obvious conclusion of bias.

Now, we do see some phenomenon of converting, but that just shows people going all over the place. If there was an an obvious conclusion, why doesn't everyone see it?

XGH said...

> ...And they all believe in Torah Misinai!!!

Yes, and Jesus Christ too. Don't play games. It doesn't suit you.

XGH said...

> That's why I avoid getting bogged down in finding explanations for apparent Torah-science conflicts. I just accept the science when it's convincing, and assume the Torah's account can meaningfully be true
kylopod

> Kylopod, thanks for joining the discussion! Your comments are always cogent and beautifully articulated.

What I see is kylopod saying that he 'assumes' the Torah to be true. It's cogent, but not very convincing. Did I misread?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

What we have is a bunch of pre-convinced believer all coming to the 'conclusion' that their own religion is true. Clearly, plain old statistics would produce a bell curve. Or alternatively would produce one result - that of everyone gravitating towards the one one obviously true religion. But we don't see that at all. All we see is everyone confirming their own religion. Hence the obvious conclusion of bias.

Not necessarily. The number of people who intelligently and critically evaluate their religious beliefs is too small to draw any general conclusions. Your tendency to overestimate the quantity of people involved in this is a reflection of your rationalistic Jewish bias!

Now, we do see some phenomenon of converting, but that just shows people going all over the place. If there was an an obvious conclusion, why doesn't everyone see it?

I have worked with converts to Judaism. In most cases, their interest in Judaism was sparked by a sense that the religion into which they were born was inauthentic or unbelievable, and that Judaism simply made more sense.

I have also had extensive discussions with people who have converted to Christianity, sometimes from Judaism, sometimes not. The common denominator in the discussions with people who became Christians was that they felt a personal connection to JC, they experienced a "calling" from the Lord of some kind, or they were deeply moved by Church services. Nothing about rational investigation at all.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

What I see is kylopod saying that he 'assumes' the Torah to be true. It's cogent, but not very convincing. Did I misread?

He was primarily commenting on the design issue.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

> ...And they all believe in Torah Misinai!!!

Yes, and Jesus Christ too. Don't play games. It doesn't suit you.


Except that their reasons for believing in JC are not very convincing. They boil down to:

1 - Faith and/or a feeling

2 - How could JC have been a liar or madman?

3 - The apostles saw the empty tomb and resurrected JC, and they surely wouldn't have fabricated this

Can you honestly compare these arguments to the testimony of the Exodus and Revelation at Sinai? Be serious.

You need to make a choice - either what religious believers conclude is significant, or it isn't.

If it is significant, then the Torah's truth is affirmed by the majority of religious believers in the world.

If it is insignificant, then we must evaluate the evidence with our own minds and arrive at the most reasonable conclusion, regardless of what other religious believers think.

In any case, you typically adopt the same line of approach in all of these discussions. First, you try to use the opinions of Christians, for example, to undermine Judaism, since they have supposedly evaluated the evidence and come to the conclusion that Christianity is superior.

When it is pointed out that Christians also implicitly believe in the validity of Tanach, you respond that their opinions carry little weight, being that they believe in JC, etc. So you are effectively acknowledging that they are not especially rational or reliable in their evaluations.

But if they are not reliable in this regard, then should we not simply factor out their opinions altogether and proceed with our own investigation of the matter?

XGH said...

> The number of people who intelligently and critically evaluate their religious beliefs is too small to draw any general conclusions.

I don't believe this to be true at all, but I have no data. There are far more christians and moslems than Jews in the world, 100* more, so why wouldn't there be a 100 Xtian RJMs? Because only Jews are rational seekers?

XGH said...

"Except that their reasons for believing in JC are not very convincing. They boil down to:

1 - Faith and/or a feeling

2 - How could JC have been a liar or madman?

3 - The apostles saw the empty tomb and resurrected JC, and they surely wouldn't have fabricated this"

Oh. My. God. Can you just hear yourself??? You pour derision on the silly proofs of the Xtians, and say they are not concvincing. Of course they aren't! And neither are yours! Thats the whole point! Sheesh.

XGH said...

> Can you honestly compare these arguments to the testimony of the Exodus and Revelation at Sinai? Be serious.

Absolutely 100%. Both are ridiculous. You want to claim that the Xtian arguments are even more ridiculous? Fine. So what?

XGH said...

> But if they are not reliable in this regard, then should we not simply factor out their opinions altogether and proceed with our own investigation of the matter?

As I have proven to you, they are as unreliable as the OJ's and everyone else, hence all your opinions should be factored out, and we should proceed with a discussion of what the evidence shows. Do you have any actual evidence for TMS? The only evidence I see is yet another religious claim, in a world where pretty much EVERYONE (including) agrees that 99.99% of all religious claims are definitely false. With statistics like that, you are gonna have to do a lot better than some 'national consciousness' hogwash.

XGH said...

> I have also had extensive discussions with people who have converted to Christianity, sometimes from Judaism, sometimes not. The common denominator in the discussions with people who became Christians was that they felt a personal connection to JC, they experienced a "calling" from the Lord of some kind, or they were deeply moved by Church services. Nothing about rational investigation at all.

And how many BTs report the same with the shabbat experience?

XGH said...

Also RJM, I don't see you addressing this question:

"Halachah forbids you from reaching any conclusion other than God and TMS. If you are committed to Halachah, how can you claim to be objective?"

Either

a) You are not committed to Halachah
b) You are not objective.

Which is it?

Daganev said...

"Halachah forbids you from reaching any conclusion other than God and TMS. If you are committed to Halachah, how can you claim to be objective?"

That is garbage.

There is not a single halacha based on what you believe, only based on what you do, and what you intend to do, and why you intend to do it.

Rambam's 13 princples of faith are not Halachas.

If what you said was true, then we would not allow children to Daven. Why? Because most children apply to Hashem some physical form, and when praying to Hashem, imagine an image.


What you can't do in Halacha is daven to something other than G-d, but you can certainly daven to "nothing" to daven to "your misconception of what G-d is"

XGH said...

> That is garbage.

> There is not a single halacha based on what you believe, only based on what you do

What about the Mishnah in Sanhedrin which says you lose your chelek if you say even one posuk wasn't written by Moshe?

Daganev said...

"What about the Mishnah in Sanhedrin which says you lose your chelek if you say even one posuk wasn't written by Moshe?"

Since the Gemara goes on to say that 8 psukim were not written by Moshe, I have to assume they were not being literal.

Rather, if you don't trust the Torah, then you will not trust the laws, then you will not cleave to Hashem, then you will not have Chelek.

It is a statement of cause and effect, not a statement of law.

There is no law that says you get your chelek for this, or your chelek for that. As it says in Perkei avot, that we do not know what is a "big" or "small" mitzvah.

If I tell you that walking across the street without looking both ways, will get you hit by a car, is that a law?

XGH said...

> Rather, if you don't trust the Torah, then you will not trust the laws, then you will not cleave to Hashem, then you will not have Chelek.

Actually I like this peshat. But either way, the Torah clearly does not approve of someone saying 'God doesn't exist' or 'Torah is not Min Hashamayim.' Are you claiming that there would be no theological implications for RJM at all should he chose to deny God or TMS?

Daganev said...

"Are you claiming that there would be no theological implications for RJM at all should he chose to deny God or TMS?"

Only because of a cause and effect relationship, as stated in the Mishna.

Though, I think somebody who believes in G-d, and beleives in TMS, but has doubts about the veracity of the Talmud are much more likely to have difficulties, then a person who believes in the veracity of the Talmud, but denies G-d or TMS.

That is, if you had a had a Jew who believed that the system developed by the Talmud, is the best system to live one's life by, (and not just part of the system, but the whole system) but was not convinced that there is something greater than the Universe, he likely wouldn't be that bad off in the end.

XGH said...

RJM, the community pressure on RJM, being a non anymous blogger and a Rabbi of a congregation, is enormous. No way could he ever reasonably come out and say God doesn't exist or Torah is not from Sinai. It is ridiculous to claim that he can be objective here.

Daganev said...

"RJM, the community pressure on RJM, being a non anymous blogger and a Rabbi of a congregation, is enormous. No way could he ever reasonably come out and say God doesn't exist or Torah is not from Sinai. It is ridiculous to claim that he can be objective here."

Sure he could, and he could make his whole congregation reform. (and in the process make more money) It has happened before.

XGH said...

> Sure he could, and he could make his whole congregation reform. (and in the process make more money) It has happened before.

LOL, OK then. Let's see how long it takes for the skeptics to convince him. They can get a whole congregation in one go! Temple Magen Avraham, sounds good.

Of course if and when that happens, the true believers will still not be convinced. They will say that RJM was just a kofer and can't be trusted. You can't beat the true believers (cos they're so biased you see).

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

XGH,

I am taking a break from unpacking just to respond to some comments here...

And how many BTs report the same with the shabbat experience?

Granted. But that isn't the primary basis for our conviction in Torah Misinai. We are asked to accept the Torah's veracity based on the testimony of an entire nation as to its direct experience of God's hand in history.

"Halachah forbids you from reaching any conclusion other than God and TMS. If you are committed to Halachah, how can you claim to be objective?"
Either
a) You are not committed to Halachah
b) You are not objective."


You have constructed a false dichotomy here. I can objectively evaluate a particular proof, argument or piece of evidence regardless of my commitment to certain premises. The two are entirely unrelated. There are individuals who believe that the existence of God is unprovable, and who attempt to rebut all of the arguments adduced to demonstrate His existence, yet remain with a sincere faith in God. And there are those who question the validity of arguments offered in support of TMS who nonetheless are committed to the system for other reasons.

Many scientists who are deists reject Intelligent Design theory, even though it would lend even more support to their metaphysical beliefs.

Even Christian theologians in the Middle Ages spent time debunking supposed "proofs" of the Trinity, despite their belief in that doctrine.

So there is no contradiction at all here. I operate with certain premises which I believe are true for many reasons. If you were to show me that one or more of the arguments I give in support of my beliefs is unfounded, I would abandon that argument immediately.

In other words, what I am saying is that, while it is true that I am already committed to certain views which I believe are unquestionably and inherently rational, I am fully open to the possibility that some of the arguments I present on their behalf may be flawed and that I may be corrected.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

All,

In general, let's try to keep accusations of personal bias to a minimum. I enjoy the spirited argumentation but would prefer that discussions be conducted in a friendly manner. Criticisms should be directed at ideas, not people.

Daganev said...

"Of course if and when that happens, the true believers will still not be convinced. They will say that RJM was just a kofer and can't be trusted. You can't beat the true believers (cos they're so biased you see)."

This may be true, but what you seem to forget is that most people who have strong beliefs, do so, because of personal experience, and not because of abstract thinking.

for myself for example, the abstract thinking is something I engage in to better understand my personal experiences, not something I engage in to figure out how to interpret those experiences.
(i.e. I already know that the food tastes good, now I want to know why I know the food is good, so I can make other food, that I will also think tastes good.)

XGH said...

> In other words, what I am saying is that, while it is true that I am already committed to certain views which I believe are unquestionably and inherently rational, I am fully open to the possibility that some of the arguments I present on their behalf may be flawed and that I may be corrected.

A good response, but I don't believe it. You may not be emotionaly committed to the FC argument, but you are certainly wed to your Kuzari argument, since without it everything falls apart.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I happen to think that my version of the so-called Kuzari argument is solid. But there are many committed Jews who do not find it especially convincing. And, were I ever to be shown that it is not as reliable as I currently believe it to be, I would still maintain that the Torah must be Divine based upon its content alone.

So don't give up on me. As Mishle says, the wise man loves rebuke. And I do aspire to be a wise man, not just a wise guy.

littlefoxling said...

I don’t have much time at the moment to get into the whole debate (spent my whole day debating DH on DB). But, a few points.
On bias:

1. You keep on complaining that we are calling you biased and you keep on saying we are just as biased as you and complain that we aren’t addressing the merits of your arguments. It’s a fair critique. But, our concerns about biases aren’t some unfounded vicious attack, they are a very legitimate concern in light of the behavior of people on this planet, and to just return the insult is to ignore what is a very legitimate issue here. The fact of the matter is that 99.99% of religious people follow their religion of birth. Yet, all of the religious people are convinced their religion is the rational one. To any observer, your position is highly dubious, and your failure to address this concern just undermines your credibility. Just returning the insult and accusing us of bias gets you no where. Your accusation that I am biased is irrelevant to the issue. It may very well be that I am biased. But, I really can’t understand how you can claim to be a rational thinker and not be truly existential troubled by the fact that you coincidently find your religion of birth to be true.

2. I’ve had many faith conversations with people of other religions and they were all convinced their faith was logical, not faith based. I’ve read/watched much internet stuff from people from other religions and they all claimed to be rationally based, not doctrine based.

3. I don’t doubt for a second that you honestly believe that TMS is true. I think you really think that. I also think you are very intelligent and can argue your case very well. But, the whole point of bias is that even though you honestly believe you are in the correct position, your judgment is skewed by your bias. In fact, I would argue, that from your own perspective, even though you are totally convinced you are right, you should also be totally convinced that the fact that you have reached those conclusions is due to bias since the statistics support that view.

Sam said...

>In fact, I would argue, that from your own perspective, even though you are totally convinced you are right, you should also be totally convinced that the fact that you have reached those conclusions is due to bias since the statistics support that view.

So nobody can ever claim that their religion is true? Only the skeptics are able to be 'intellectually honest'?

How convenient for you.


Obviously RJM thinks that he can overcome his bias to present a fair case for OJ. Whether you could ever accept that any religious person can be unbiased is up to you.

Though I suspect that if RJM was a ba'al Teshuvah, you would accuse him of being biased as well. (He cam to religion to fulfill his emotion needs etc..)

I highly doubt that anything that anyone religious would be free from your accusation of bias.

Being open minded means listening to the substance of the argument no matter who says it.

Bias is just a cheap ad hominem attack.

littlefoxling said...

On design:

1. You keep asserting the universe is complex, but it’s not. After the Big bang it was a random soup of particles. The structure that exists now is a product of the a few simple laws of physics. We know this to be true. At this point, we have even been able to even explain the reason for many of the laws of physics, and are working on the ones we can’t explain. To me, that success is truly remarkable. Who would have thought in 1904 that we could explain the reason that the laws of physics hold?

2. I agree with XGH. You assert that while complexity is unacceptable in the realm of the physical world, it is acceptable in the realm of the metaphysical. But, the metaphysical world is not one that we have any reason to assume exists, and surely have no reason to assume complexity would or would not apply there. Thus, saying there exists a metaphysical world which is complex is really not very different from saying that there exists complexity in our realm, unless you have something other than complexity that distinguishes the physical from the metaphysical. But, since you had no reason to assume the metaphysical exists before complexity came along, I don’t see how you can assume it’s any different from the physical.

3. I agree with XGH. Historically, pure faith has proven rather poor at predicting the real world. Someone said on XGH that it has had success in mathematics and I agree to that, but it has not had success in the physical sciences, and indeed has failed quite miserably again and again, but yet that is the crux of your argument.

4. This is getting ahead of ourselves, but to me, both TMS and science but forth an understanding of how the complexity of the universe arouse. TMS does it in Gen 1 – 11 and science does it in evolution and physics. But, sciences views have proven correct and Gen 1 -11 has proven incorrect. One of the problems I have with your allegorizing Gen 1 – 11 is that it seems clear to me that the purpose of these chapters is exactly to explain the complexity of the universe. That being so, at least in the case of OJ, OJ may in theory be able to explain the complexity of the universe, but we know that it’s explanations are not true. I know we aren’t up to TMS yet, but I thought it was relevant so I brought it up.

littlefoxling said...

Though I suspect that if RJM was a ba'al Teshuvah, you would accuse him of being biased as well. (He cam to religion to fulfill his emotion needs etc..)

You should say ger, not baal teshuva. Actualy, RJM's parents were traditional, not relegious. But, it's irrelevant. People are biased towards their relegion of birth even if they weren't born orthodox

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

LF,

I appreciate your taking the time to comment so extensively. I have much to say in response; however, because I presently have no Internet access at home, I won't have the opportunity to do so until tomorrow.

Daganev said...

"TMS does it in Gen 1 – 11"

I highly object to this straw man.

Gen 1 - 11 is an introduction to the relationship between people and the world they live in. It is not a detailed explanation of G-d made the universe.

Daganev said...

"But, it's irrelevant. People are biased towards their relegion of birth even if they weren't born orthodox"

So only converts are allowed to talk about religion?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

LF,

Now that I finally had the opportunity to read your comments carefully, I see that you misunderstood me on almost every point. I will enumerate my responses just as you enumerated your comments above.

1. We are not disagreeing here. The Universe, despite its apparent complexity, is really governed by a small set of fundamental principles, only a portion of which have been discovered thus far. If it were just chaotically complex, that would not be noteworthy. My whole point was that the fact that the complexity is organized by conceptual principles that are simple and elegant is precisely what suggests a designer.

2. I have no idea what you are saying here. As should be clear from my post, I have argued that God is simple, not complex.

3. We were never speaking about pure faith. We were discussing the exercise of logical reasoning. This has indeed proven itself quite reliable in our exploration of the Universe, since everything scientists have examined has turned out to manifest rationality and consistency to a tremendous degree.

4. This is off the topic. And it is also a misunderstanding of the text of the Torah. We can return to that later, but it is clear to me that you have already made up your mind, and your primary objective now is to attempt to convince others that your conclusions are correct.

Rambam System said...

Excellent essay. The presentation of the distinction between tzura out of chomer and in chomer was very well done. I particularly liked the use of the metaphor of design in melacha from B'resheet to clarify this distinction.

Daganev said...

Hi, I wrote a fairly long comment at XGH about the FC, Infinity and reltionships, and I am curious about your take on the concept.

Thanks!

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/xgh/3798693089744026611/#67298

Daganev said...

Seems it didn't link well.

Click me

Basically, its two things. One is an rebuttal to XGH's "Happenstance" concept (which I had never heard of before) and the also how it is that the FC is the same thing as the G-d Judaism speaks about.

Daganev said...

ARgg, it linked to the wrong place, sorry for the comment spam.
Click me again

enjoy your boxes!

Rabban Gamliel said...

"In fact, I would argue, that from your own perspective, even though you are totally convinced you are right, you should also be totally convinced that the fact that you have reached those conclusions is due to bias since the statistics support that view."

Little Foxling that's already an argument that's not worthy of anything. Statistics don't say why each individual voted the way he did, it can only say why people enmasse voted the way they do.

mevaseretzion said...

Since the Gemara goes on to say that 8 psukim were not written by Moshe, I have to assume they were not being literal.


Daganev, actually, I have a post on precisely this subject: http://mevaseretzion.blogspot.com/2007/05/who-wrote-devarim.html

Daganev said...

Thank you, interesting stuff.