Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pass the Oxygen

I recently sent the following letter to the Jewish Press (referenced here), responding to one of the anti-evolution diatribes that they publish every now and then:

To the Editor:

Regarding Dr. Yaakov Stern’s (no relation to me) letter in last week’s issue, for someone who writes so often about science, he ought to know that scientists test their ideas against nature, i.e. against objective reality, not against this or that holy book or the opinions of this or that Torah scholar. Evolution is successful because it explains a vast corpus of observable reality better than any competing theory. In fact, there is no competing theory that comes under the heading of science, in that it can be tested against nature. God wrote both books, nature and Torah, and, as Pope John Paul II observed, truth cannot contradict truth. It is not the Torah’s purpose to serve as a textbook of natural history, or to tell us how or when He got the tzelem Elokim into the human species, or how long the process took. Torah is focused on the here and now; today human beings possess the tzelem Elokim, therefore we must relate to fellow human beings with basic decency. That means, inter alia, that a Jew must, at a minimum, treat his workers, Jewish and Gentile, according to the requirements of the law, and that a Rosh Yeshiva must protect his students from pedophile teachers.

Zev Stern, Ph.D.

The Jewish Press did not publish my letter, perhaps the reference to the late Pope was treif, never mind that the Rambam said to accept the truth from whoever said it. However, in this week's issue it published the following beaut by a Martin D. Stern, also no relation to me, stating in pertinent part:

As regards the evolution of species, the theory is much less convincing on purely scientific grounds. It claims that more complex species have evolved from simpler ones through random changes, which appears to be inconsistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics which asserts that, in the absence of outside intervention, systems tend to become more chaotic.
Also, most of the proofs brought for it depend on observed changes within species such as the preponderance of melanistic [sic] moths in industrial Manchester, England, as opposed to the lighter colored varieties previously prevalent. This is a far cry from evolution from one species to another distinct one - a phenomenon that has never been observed.

Reading it, I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. The Second Law of Thermodynamics? Good God, where did this clown go to school? The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to a closed system. The earth is not a closed system; it constantly receives fresh energy from the sun. It is that energy that allows living systems to order themselves at the expense of their surroundings; the total disorder of the universe indeed increases. And the Jewish Press publishes this garbage! As for one species evolving from another, this usually does not happen within a human lifetime, but it has been produced in the laboratory and it is the inescapable conclusion inferred from a vast body of observations; see my letter in Intercom. If the writer knows nothing about science he should pick up some books in the public library and educate himself before writing about a subject he knows nothing about, and playing his readers for fools.

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Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

Good God, where did this clown go to school?

Obviously somewhere where science isn't well taught.

The Wolf

Thu Sep 25, 03:26:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evolution works very, very slowly. Which kind of makes sense if you assume that an Eternal God who has lots of time to work with (well, all the time in the universe I guess) set it up.
How wondrous are your works, oh Lord. Sorry the same can't be said about some of these idiots.

Thu Sep 25, 06:54:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you think you should make it clear that Martin Stern's comments were in a LETTER TO THE EDITOR? I followed yoiur link thinking the JP had published some major article by this guy, but it's a freakim' letter! Publications run letters from readers all the time that contain erroneous or suspect info. And then other readers write in to dispute it. BTW, I don't think your letter didn't run because of the reference to the Pope. The JP is pretty enlightened about these things, certainly compared to the other frum papers.

Thu Sep 25, 07:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger BrooklynWolf said...


Read the post again. It's pretty clear that all the correspondence on the issue -- by Yaakov Stern, Zev Stern and Martin Stern, were all Letters to the Editor.

The Wolf

Thu Sep 25, 08:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The strangest part about Martin Stern's letter is that he concedes the correct age of the world, but dispute common descent. That's incoherent. It's quite clear from the fossil record that today's species were not around in the past (no fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian). It's also clear from same record that the species of long ago are not around today (see any dinosaurs, trilobytes, etc?). So where did today's species come from??? Bluntly: animals come from animals, therefore today's animals came from yesterday's. Since we know they were not the same species, there must have been change over time, a.k.a. evolution. QED.

To admit that the world is billions of years old is to concede to macroevolution. Anything else is incoherent, or absurd, like imagining that God was for billions of years churning new species that failed/died out and popping new, (mostly similar!) ones into existence--to also die out.

Fri Sep 26, 02:38:00 PM EDT  

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