Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just Stuff

I recently had a conversation with my father in law on the topic of faith and religion. He mentioned that while he is no fan of organized religion he does believe that "something greater" than us exists and that people are not just made of stuff. He like many others feel that life would be very depressing if we all are just completely material beings without a "soul" or "spirit". How could you love or value someone if they are just carbon based robots, bags of flesh and blood?

Now this question or challenge to atheism is only problematic if you implicitly accept its hidden assumption, namely that physical material is essentially valueless. Only magic and and the metaphysical is valuable, material is just a tool.

To me being depressed that this world is "just" stuff is about as ridiculous as being depressed that you won "just" a million dollars. The stuff that faith focused people seem to devalue is not only valuable to me, it is the only thing that has value. I don't value our planet, our environment, my family, my wife and my children in spite of their material existence, but because of their material existence. I love my sons' material minds, their material bodies, their material smiles, their material life. This life isn't the antechamber to a greater form of existence, this life is existence and it is amazing because it exists.

If a soul exists in a material world in what way is it non-material in any valuable sense? Can something non-physical even have value outside of a material reality?

You can place the word "just" in front of anything and try to pretend that means it is no longer valuable, but simple linguistic tricks don't devalue anything. You could say that a person is "just" your spouse, "just" your planet, "just" your life, "just" your soul even, but it means nothing. This world is material stuff, material stuff with immense value.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Rabbi's Letter and My Response Part 4 (The Final Correspondence)

Had some back and forth today which drove the discussion to an abrupt end. I personally have no problem with continuing the discussion, but it seems that our basis for determining what exists and what doesn't was too problematic for him to continue. Naturally, I believe my perspective to be a reasonable and logical one, I do know though that my logic may very well be flawed. Either the Rabbi didn't have the communication skills to accurately explain his worldview to me (which I found to be irrational) or his logic was flawed. Even if the latter is true my own logic can very well be incorrect as well, so if my statements need correcting I am happy to take comments and criticisms. Hopefully where I am wrong, someone can carefully and intelligibly explain why. Again my comments in blue:

Response from the Rabbi:

Let me clarify my position as a conclusion of this correspondence [on this subject]:

1. Logic dictates that all has a cause and effect, hence we ask what caused the first existence, and how is it itself not subject to cause. To that we answer that the First cause is above limitation of any sort and hence is not bound by rules of logic. To the question: You base your conclusion of an unlimited cause only because you claim there must have been a first, just say there was never a first and hence there is no need to conclude that there is an unlimited existence which is not subject to cause. To that we answer: The notion of a constant existence of cause and effect that never had a start is itself self contradictory to the entire concept of cause and effect, as what caused there to be a system of cause and effect to begin with. How can one say that all has cause and effect except for the system of cause and effect. The non-believer hence has to live with this inner hypocrisy of how he views life.

2. Logic dictates that all has a beginning hence there was a first existence. In order for the first existence to not be subject to the question of how did it begin we must conclude that the first existence is unlimited and hence is above the rules of logic. To the question why must it be unlimited in order to not be subject to the rules of logic of a beginning or cause we answer: If it is limited then why should it be above the concept of beginning any more than any other limited item that we know. Furthermore the question of who created its limitation cannot be answered if it is limited. It can only be stated "that’s the way it is" which is an irrational argument. If however we conclude the existence is unlimited then a) it is different then all existences as we know it and hence can be subject to different rules. b) It's question of who created its un-limitation is answered by saying since it is by definition unlimited it cannot be subject to this question which is based on reason or logic which is inherently limited.

3. As to the question who says there must have been a beginning or first existence the answer is: Human logic cannot fathom the concept of the universe or any existence not having a start. Furthermore we observe that everything in life has a start. The tooth had a start, the baby had a start. Everything in life has had a beginning point in which point until then it did not exist as it is now, and now it does exist. Hence to suddenly claim cause and effect did not have a start is contradictory and hypocritical to the way we view everything else in life that it did have start.

As I said before this is the best I can, or feel that I need to do, in order explain an intellectual conclusion of G-d. In my mind [and others] it makes perfect sense and saying otherwise would be completely irrational. I must add that I have given this idea over many times in classes to questioners like yourself and was never asked "who says there must be a beginning". It was taken as a naturally accepted rule of logic which is strong enough to logically enforce G-d's existence. But I am not surprised not all minds are alike, or perhaps I am not understanding you properly. In any event there is a well known environmental scientist which I have contact with and has dealt with this exact subject [of beginning]. He has a website "". I have contacted him and will see if he has what to offer past what I already explained or if he would like to correspond with you directly.

he following is the reply I just received from Dr. Gutfried:

At a logical level, I’ll say this:

Causal reasoning means pre and post. Something starts something else. Logically speaking if you assume that this system is eternal you simply don’t need a beginning and time can be cyclic or infinite. If so, you can still prove G-d. How? Take Cause-and-Effect as a singular entity. What is its cause? Obviously something outside of that. Same with time. Time is an entity. Cause-and-effect is a principle. Apply the principle to the entity and voila. Time has a supratemporal cause.

People don’t demand rock solid proof in other areas of their life.

They follow doctors even though some are wrong.

If you analyze the tradition from Sinai – the public revelation and unbroken chain of tradition, you will find a very strong case for G-d and His involvement in history and especially our history.

My response:

I think this last e-mail will help me form a concise understanding of you approach and why we disagree on this issue.

1. You believe that everything must have a cause as a necessary truth.

2. You believe that there must be one thing that doesn’t have a cause as a necessary truth.

3. There is a logical contradiction between these two statements.

4. However both statements are necessary truths.

5. The resolution of 3 and 4 is that an entity (that is indefinable) not bound by logic is the one uncaused thing, but since it isn’t bound by logic it doesn’t need an explanation as to why it can be an uncaused thing in a universe where everything must have a cause.

This to me is problematic for numerous reasons.

1 & 2 in my determination are not necessary truths. Either one is true or the other is true, but not both. I don’t know which one is true, but I lean towards 1 over 2, since 2 has never been observed while 1 has been. You claim that 2 has been observed because we see “beginnings” all the time, things don’t exist and then they do. This is clearly a word game you are playing. Yes I see beginnings, all the time, but every beginning you and I have ever seen are caused by something else. Therefore I agree, the universe had a beginning, but that beginning, like every other beginning we have ever observed was caused by something else. This clearly does not support your 2. You need to show me a beginning that was uncaused in order to show that 2 is a necessary truth.

5 is where I believe you take the most illogical stance. You believe that since 1 & 2 are necessary truths and yet a contradict each other, some entity not bound by logic resolves this contradiction. I cannot accept that the answer to a logical contradiction is something that is not bound by logic. This is just nonsensical. If the entire discussion we are having is prove by logic and reason an entity that is not bound by either, this will be a fruitless discussion indeed. I could even prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt (although I don’t believe this to be possible) that God does not exist and because God is not bound by logic God can both not exist and exist at the same time. You cannot posit that the resolution to a logical contradiction is that a non-logic bound entity is the resolution. The resolution of any logical contradiction is that either one or both of these propositions (1 and 2) are false. This is what the rules of logic dictate.

I although I think whether the universe is from an eternal chain of cause and effect or if there is a first uncaused cause has little bearing on the existence of God, in both scenarios God could exist or not, I think the concept that God as an entity not bound by logic should be discussed further. To me this would probably end the conversation since I cannot imagine a logical conversation with this as the result. It seems utterly nonsensical and possible fruitless.

My response to his quotation of Mr. Gotfryd:

Time is indeed an entity. Thus time has a cause beyond time. Causality is not an entity. It is a universal truth, a rule of logic. As such causality can not apply to causality. Causality is not a entity or system. Just as you can’t say who created the fact that A always equals A. This fact is a fact of logic and is thus universal and eternal. If causality can be applied to a logical fact, that logical fact ceases to become a logical fact altogether.

I have never asked for rock solid proof only convincing arguments for why belief in God and the historicity of the Tanach are reasonable through logic and evidence.

I find this account to be about as unpersuasive as any other religious document positing miracles.

The Rabbi's response:

Why should the rule of cause not apply to logic? What is the logic behind that statement if we have accepted cause for everything else? Why should anything even logic be out of that universal rule as you put it?

My response:

Because causality only applies to entities. Logic is not an entity.

Logic is a universal truth. This means that in every possible universe the facts of logic are always true. A = A in every possible universe. If this can be caused by something else then there is at least one possible universe in which A = A has does not exist yet and still needs to be caused.

This is impossible. A = A is not a caused, it is the reality of every possible universe. Therefore causality can't apply to rules of logic. Only entities.

The Rabbi's response:

Your response is a statement based on logic [that logic is universal and hence A must always equal A in every universe]. Why should that logic itself not be subject to a cause if we apply cause to everything else. In other words you cant use logic [logic is universal] to defy logic [everything has a cause]. That would be illogical.

on that note:
Regarding logic:

Let’s take, for example, a famous discovery by a brilliant 20th Century mathematician by the name of Kurt Gödel. It’s called the incompleteness theorem and it has two parts. Simply put, Gödel proved that any logical system is incomplete, and that any complete system must be illogical.

Let’s put this in context. Here we have a fellow who historians call “one of the most significant logicians of all time” making the most famous pronouncement of his illustrious career and what does he say? That logic itself is always inside the box and if you want to get out, be ready to embrace the irrational.

My response:

So are you saying that in order to believe in God we must be irrational?

The Rabbi's response (this was to my first response in this post above prior to my response to his Mr. Gotfryd quote. He didn't receive that message until now):

In that case I rest my case.

It was a pleasure corresponding.

My response:

Let me just get this together. Is there is no basis in reason or logic to accept God since God is beyond reason and logic?

The Rabbi's response:

Not in my mind. In my mind it is very rational and logical and intellectually forced as I explained in length. I disagree in your fields of logic that try to undermine this rational conclusion. To me they are irrational for reasons I explained in previous letters. In essence to summarize:

The Logic [that I presented] forces one to accept the existence of a field above logic. This is not irrational or illogical as logic itself is what forces its premises hence making it logical. I guess I and Kurt Godel think alike!

Lets agree to disagree and move on with our lives.

With blessings that G-d helps you with all your endeavors and I bless you that you should merit to see His existence to the point you will be left with no doubt, together with all the Jewish people in the coming true and complete redemption.

My response:

Aumann's agreement theorem, roughly speaking, says that two agents acting rationally (in a certain precise sense) and with common knowledge of each other's beliefs cannot agree to disagree.

Logic is simply a way to explain the way things exists. Things can not be said to exist outside of logic. The rules of logic are not things, they are merely tools to investigate and discover what does in fact exist. I will look into Godel's theorem, however I think my position is a reasonable one. We must use reason and logic to determine the existence of things, things that are not logical are also non-existent under this approach. I as of yet know of no better way to determine what is real from what isn't.

I wish you all the best. Thanks for your time.

The Rabbi's response:

To sum up the way I understand things in a short statement:

I logically understand there must be an existence above logic hence making that existence logical.
Hence I logically believe in the illogical
You [in my logic] illogically deny the existence of the illogical hence making that denial illogical.

You on the other hand logically understand [in your mind] the exact opposite, that it is I which illogically believes in the illogical and it is you that logically denies the illogical.

In the end of the day it is shown that logic is not universal as how can two people have different logics. This itself should suffice as a proof that logic also has a cause and hence can be altered in people.

There is no need to respond to this. Just some food for thought.

All the best

My response:

If two people have "different" logics, it only proves that at least one person's "logic" is incorrect, not that logic isn't universal.

Any person can come to me and say that logic permits A <> A, but that doesn't make it logical, all it shows is that his reasoning is flawed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Rabbi's Letter and My Response Part 3

Had some back and forth today. Again my comments in blue:

Response from the Rabbi:

1. How does one conclude that if all things must have a cause, that there must be one thing that doesn’t? 
Simple. As that is the only way to avoid the question "and what caused that" There had to be a first existence and that first must not be subject to the question of what caused it, otherwise it would not be the first. 

My response:

So what you are essentially saying is that "not all things have a cause". I have two questions then:

1. If not all things are caused, why assume that that the there must have been something that caused the universe into existence instead of just saying that the universe is causeless? It seems entirely plausible under the assumption that "not all things have a cause" that the universe itself has no need for a cause. If you argue that this is impossible because "all things must have a cause" this is then a logical contradiction.

2. As far as I can tell everything does need a cause. This to me doesn't allow for the question, "what came first?" to have an answer. Similarly if I were to say "No X's exist" the question "where is the first X?" would have no answer. If "all things must have a cause" then there is no such thing as a "first cause". Either "all things must have a cause" is true or "there is a first cause", but not both. Why assume that there must be a first cause or causeless cause at all?

The Rabbi's response:

One can not say the universe is causeless as the universe itself contains space which is by definition a limitation. This automatically leads to question who created the universes limitation. Only the existence of an unlimited Being can supply that answer. My point is very simple: every limited item has the question of who created it's limitation applicable to it and hence this negates saying the universe has no cause. However an existence which is completely unlimited in all dimensions can not have a question of who caused it asked, as this question itself contradicts the un-limitation of this existence.

What you are saying here makes to me absolutely no sense. There must be a beginning/first existence and hence we must comprehend how that existence is not subject to the question. In essence a conclusion of that there is a supernal unlimited power [I.e. G-d] resolves how there was a first existence and that this first existence is not subject to the question cause. Not coming to this conclusion leaves one with the living contradiction of how can there be a beginning if all must have a cause. I can not accept the idea that there was no beginning. It sounds ludicrous and defies all measures of my G-d given rules of logic. As I had already stated rules of logic are not necessarily explainable [at least by me]. It's just the way the mind works, the same way the mind demands there to be a cause for everything, it demands that there must be a beginning.

My response:

Let's try to narrow this down into what I consider your proposition to be.

1. All limited things must have a cause.
2. Unlimited things don't have a cause.
3. Limited things can be caused by unlimited things.
 C. Therefore an Unlimited causeless thing must have caused all of the Limited things we currently observe, and thus at least one Unlimited thing exists.

While I accept 1 , I find no reasonable basis for 2 and 3.

1. What does an Unlimited Being or thing mean?
2. Not being limited by what exactly and how does the absence of this particular limitation have any connection to causality such that it no longer needs to be caused?
3. Why must limited things be caused by unlimited things?

"Not coming to this conclusion leaves one with the living contradiction of how can there be a beginning if all must have a cause." This is only a contradiction if assume there must be a "beginning". If there is no beginning there is no contradiction. I see no reason to believe there must be a beginning. You claim that it defies logic for there to be no beginning, however you have not explained how it defies logic.

Logically I see no problem with the statements "everything has a cause" and "there was no beginning". This is what I happen to believe.

What seems intuitive to us doesn't necessarily mean it is true. Intuition is a very poor basis on which to base one's beliefs. It is better to base it on logic, reason and evidence. There is nothing illogical or unreasonable about accepting the proposition that "everything has a cause and therefore there is no beginning". If there is please point it out.

Why do I believe this? It isn't because of intuition or how I "feel" it should work, but rather because this is a result of my perception of the world around me. For everything in existence I see a cause and effect. I have no evidence whatsoever of "unlimited beings" or of "uncaused causes" and as such I have no reason to believe they exist in reality. More than likely they are figments of our imagination.

The Rabbi's response:

2. Not being limited by what exactly and how does the absence of this particular limitation have any connection to causality such that it no longer needs to be caused?
An unlimited existence means a perfect existence in every way and dimension imaginable and unimaginable. It hence does not carry any definition or limitation. It is not subject to time or space etc. Since it has no definition it allows me to move on to the next step which is who created this unlimited existence, to which we answer that since the existence is perfect and unlimited it is above and beyond the concept of cause and beginning and rather it created those concepts. In other words a limited existence will always be subject to a cause because the mind dictates to them the rule that all existences have a cause. However an unlimited creation, being by definition above limitations of rules or laws of logic as we know it can not have this question asked.

3. Why must limited things be caused by unlimited things?
The first limited being must according to logic have been created by an unlimited being which is thus above the concept of cause, otherwise we would forever be going back to the question of who created the first cause. From there and on to say that all creations were separately created by G-d and dismiss the theory of evolution is another topic.

In my opinion your belief of no beginning is at that, an imagined belief which defies all of man's common sense and common observation. In fact I must say your last sentence itself is self contradictory, as you state your belief in cause and effect because of your observation, but at the same time do not believe in a beginning, when we all observe as well that all have a beginning the same as we observe they have a cause and effect. So how can you accept one observation and not another just in order to satisfy your desire to revoke the responsibilities of owning up to a Higher power. This is called living in hypocrisy.

All this is in addition to what I still stand by that logic cannot accept the concept of no beginning the same way it cannot accept the concept of no cause, the same way it cannot accept the concept of 1+1=3.

I don’t believe our minds are made different to such an extent. Think about it in depth and I am sure you will come to a rational conclusion that saying "no beginning" is irrational. How could time just have been around forever? How can space be around forever? This makes sense to you? Discuss this with others. Perhaps they can explain this to you better. Further then this I do not have the ability to explain to you.

As I started this entire correspondence mentioning that one can argue that that the cup really does not exist and there is really no absolute proof at all that it does. This argument to me seems the same as the one we are currently having, as by all matters we accept there must be a beginning, and it is for this reason we subject them a cause. Someone now wants to come along and tell me "Yes all limited items have beginning and cause except one -the universe or limited existences as a whole" Although I cannot absolutely prove you wrong. This statement completely defies every sense of my logic and I hence cannot accept it on any terms.

With regards to you mentioning the intellectually forced conclusion of G-d's existence as figments of our imagination this reminds me of a parable of describing the difference between humans and animals. Animals are always facing down so to them the sky that we humans all know of is a figment of our imagination. [This is metaphorical-as in truth animals due look up at times] The reason for the animals limited perceptions is because he never bothered to look up. Similarly it is with G-d's existence: Those who want to judge by exactly what their eyes see are like the animal who will never know of the skies existence. However those which  use their minds to ponder and comprehend one matter from another will come and realize the absolute amazement of how G-d is apparent from all aspects of the world.

I remain.

I do not see how I can help any further on this specific point of proof.

My response:

Ultimately I don’t believe you have given any rational justification for why a limited thing ultimately needs an unlimited cause. See below.

You propose that limited things, like subatomic particles, cannot have existed forever in some form or another. The fact that they are limited doesn’t give me any indication that they must have a cause. Personally, if I was going to accept the notion that there are things in the universe that are causeless, I have no reason to assume that subatomic particle (limited as they may be) could not be uncaused, but rather eternal.

Now the crutch of the issue is my not accepting your proposition that “there must have been a first cause”. You claim that this is illogical.

In fact I must say your last sentence itself is self contradictory, as you state your belief in cause and effect because of your observation, but at the same time do not believe in a beginning, when we all observe as well that all have a beginning the same as we observe they have a cause and effect. ” What beginning do we all observe exactly? Everything I have ever observed is caused by something else, which is caused by something else, etc. Please provide an example of something that you observed which is a “beginning”.  You can point to something, a birth, a first tooth, etc as a beginning, but you know as well as I that this is only playing with semantics. Neither of us have observed an uncaused cause and as such there is no reason to assume an uncaused cause exists in reality. It is that simple.

How could time just have been around forever? How can space be around forever? This makes sense to you?” You continually reject this approach as illogical, but have yet to provide me with one rational reason why this is not a logical possibility. Time and space is said to have been formed at the Big Bang, but this doesn’t mean that there weren’t conditions that caused the Big Bang, and conditions that caused those conditions etc. I see no logical problem with this. It makes much more sense than to say some indefinable entity X caused this universe to exist.

Someone now wants to come along and tell me "Yes all limited items have beginning and cause except one -the universe or limited existences as a whole"” If you truly believe this is my claim, then I suggest you reread my comments thus far. I have never made a claim even remotely resembling this. I will reiterate. Everything has a cause. Nothing has a beginning. A beginning means that is doesn’t have a cause. If a beginning can still have a cause, then all you are doing is playing with words. Instead replace every time beginning is used with “uncaused cause”. This may help you understand my approach better.

To sum up your arguments for why not believing an “uncaused cause” must exist:
1.       It is common sense – (Intuition is a very poor indicator of truth. See for example peoples intuition that the world was flat)
2.       We observe beginnings – (Semantics. We have never observed any “uncaused causes”. If you have please inform me of it)
3.       Causality could not exist indefinitely “backwards” – (There is no reason to assume this isn’t the case. We see that causality has as of yet “moves” indefinitely “forwards”, what is illogical about the assumption that it does the same in reverse?)
If there are any other arguments you made for why the beliefs “everything has a cause” and “there are no uncaused causes” are illogical please provide them, but it should be clear even to you that the above arguments are very unconvincing. 1 and 3 are not logical problems, they reveal your preconceived beliefs without explaining why you believe them. 2 is clearly false.

Lastly, even if I were to accept that there is at least one “uncaused cause”, by claiming a supreme being which is both indefinable and unimaginable is the cause is just a mask of ignorance. Saying “God created the universe from nothing, but I can't tell you how He did it” is not an explanation of how the universe came into being. Stating that a non-defined entity X must be the cause of all existence has no explanatory power (in short it adds nothing to our understanding of our universe, only a defined entity could do that). It is no different than claiming “laws of nature” are uncaused and need no explanation.  This is a non answer and basically results in asking me to “accept the mystery” which essentially means “accept my own ignorance” or “don’t ask such questions”.

You have also accused me of only rejecting this notion of an “uncaused cause” so that I can revoke my responsibilities to a Higher Power. I would rather not bring personal feelings into this discussion, simply rational arguments. I could just as well accuse your acceptance of a particular belief to be due to some emotional reason not related to rationality, but this I feel is unproductive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Rabbi's Letter and My Response Part 2

Second installment. The Rabbi's comments are in black and mine are in blue:

I hope I find you and your family well. I am sorry for the long delay in my reply. I have been very busy with the Holidays and work and simply did not have the time to answer.

Regarding the topic:
You wrote a lengthy reply addressing numerous points in what the Rebbe and I wrote. I however do not have the time, and don’t see the worthiness in addressing an answer for each and every issue which you may have taken to par with, despite the fact that I do have what to respond. I would like the correspondence to stay on the point. So long as the core issues are agreed upon then side issues, examples brought etc should be discarded in terms needing feedback. I hence will only address the core issue under discussion.

That sounds fine to me. I only wished to address each point so as not to miss anything important. I agree that a lot of the side issues are not important enough to discuss at length.

As an introduction though I want to repeat what I already wrote in our first correspondence, that I am not interested in a debate. I am simply here to send information on why I see that even intellectually [in addition to faith] one is obligated to conclude the truth of G-d and the Jewish religion as absolute. I am well aware that not all minds are alike and that many aspects influence one's comprehension, including and especially predetermined notions which are difficult for one to overrule, as well as emotions, experiences in life and the like. I am hence not surprised if one may try to intellectually attack the given information, and it is precisely for this reason that I feel debate is of little use and of much time waste for one who is coming to question rather than to understand. Of course I do not know for certain as to what your position is regarding your questions on G-d, is it a question of seeking understanding, or is it a question of disproving. Again I do not know you personally so it is hard for me to asses as to what are your intents, but one can only judge based on what he sees, and the gist of feeling that I receive from your reply suggests that you are at the current moment coming to disprove rather than to understand. Please forgive me if my assessment of your intent is mistaken. In any event, giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will reiterate and clarify the main points which lead to an intellectual comprehension and obligation of G-d's existence and the truth of our Torah.

I appreciate this and in turn would like to clarify my approach. I understand how it may seem to you that my only concern in this correspondence may be to disprove your position. All I can say this is not my intent. I feel I have a good understanding about what concepts and beliefs are traditionally held by believing observant Jews. I have no problem in accepting these beliefs upon myself if in fact I have good reason to believe them. I am not here simply to shoot down your arguments for the existence of God, etc, but if I am presented with an argument I find flawed I feel it would be necessary to explain to you why, for purely rational reasons, I fail to be convinced by such arguments.

To explain by example, if I were having a discussion with a Christian Missionary I would not mind conversing with them on the subject. They could very well explain to me the concept of the Trinity and I could understand the basics of that belief. However, while I am not actively trying to disprove everything they say to me, if they present an argument in favor of the Trinity which I find flawed for purely rational reasons would it not behoove me to explain to them why such arguments fail to convince me?

While I can definitely understand your reasons for why you believe, they have as of yet not been arguments I haven’t reviewed before and after reflection determined them to be unconvincing. I don’t have any motive to disprove what you are saying, if in fact what you propose is true then I wish to be convinced of its truth.  However, if you present me with your reason for your belief and they are in fact lacking I plan on explaining where I find them to be lacking. This is for two reasons; 1) I could be misunderstanding the rationale or argument and my response can reveal that to you and 2) To show you that my reasons for not being convinced are simply rational ones.

I will write the main points of the presentation in a concise format. For your future questions on these points [which I trust will be forthcoming] let me suggest the following: Write to me one question at a time and try to be as concise as possible in your question, mentioning only the main points. I will then send my answer, and we can continue from there to the next question. I apologize for this procedure, but I don’t see how it will be possible for me time wise to be able to deal with a lengthy discussion over writing. Hence let’s break it into short segments of question and answer.

The proof towards G-d's Existance:
·         Clarification: Definition of G-d in the context of the proof given: When we discuss the subject of proofing G-d’s existence there involve many aspects about G-d[1] which are generally consistent with our belief in G-d, although not all of those aspects are necessarily intellectually proven. The proof to be given is solely addressing the intellectually forced conclusion of a supernal power without proofing the exact details of what this supernal power is.

A. First proof- ex-nehilo:
G-d’s existence is intellectually proven and concluded based on the fact that the human mind cannot comprehend how the first matter or existence came into existence unless a power which is  unlimited to the limitations of time and space had created them and therefore would not be subject to time/beginning/end/space etc.
In other words: The human mind innately comprehends that all must have a beginning, a start, and a cause [this is the most basic principle that all science and intellectual inquiry is based on]. Hence we are boggled by the question of how did the first existence come about [irrelevant to what that 1st existence was[2]]. The only answer that can explain this phenomena is a conclusion that there must be a Supernal Being which is not limited to the concept of time, space or any form of limitation. To clarify: Any being with a limitation demands of the human intellect to explain who created that limitation, how did it come about. Hence one must conclude that an infinite Being without any form of limitation at all exists and created the first existence.

1.      How does one conclude that if all things must have a cause, that there must be one thing that doesn’t? This to me seems like a contradiction.

B. Second Proof- complexity of creatures and life:
The creations in the world, its many creatures, planets, scientific discoveries, medicine, and human anatomy, testify to the great complexity of creations which is beyond fathom. Personally I gasped when I learned of how my body works and all of its intricate and complex functions and abilities regarding every limb and its duty etc. The same way no one will believe an airplane was created by a coincidental wind that put it together much more so can no honest mind fathom in reality that the world and all its complexity came about through coincidental occurrences. Thinking so is absurd and does not need to be addressed.
Nonetheless this still remains us with the question of who is responsible for the complexity seen in creation. Some offered a theory called natural selection although in truth even if we were to accept such a theory it does not explain how the original items became programmed to do the natural selection. The fact that these items theoretically are subconsciously doing acts with much complexity itself shows that they themselves must have been programmed. This then brings us back to the first proof that one must conclude that there is some being out there which has programmed the creations. This proof however does not offer anything about this Beings identity, limitations etc, it simply proves the existence of a Programmer. This however draws us to the previous question: Who programmed the programmer for him to have the ability to program. This then leads us once again to conclude the existence of a programmer which was self programmed –an infinite Being that is not within the limitations of needing programming.
[In the wording of Chassidus the former proof proofs G-d in a form of Soveiv Kol Almin while the latter in a form of Mimalei Kol Almin]

1.      What are you referring to when you ask “how the original items became programmed to do the natural selection”? (Natural selection isn’t a program, it is simply an observable condition that drives evolution. An organism reproduces like organisms, which are slightly different than the host organism due to small random mutations. Those mutations that increase the overall probability of the organisms survival and ability to reproduce against the backdrop of its environment will overtime increase the number of organisms that have this mutation. Over many generations this results in the complex organisms we see today, such as humans.)

2.      If evolution’s explanation of how complex organisms form from simple organisms can be dismissed since it doesn’t explain “the original items” how is this argument from complexity at all distinguishable from your 1st argument from ex-nehilo? They seem to be the same argument and as such should be treated as one argument instead of two.

3.      If the complexity of a system indicates a more complex system is needed to produce the lesser complex system, how is it not a contradiction to say that an infinitely complex system needs no system at all to produce it?

I will suffice with this for now. Other matters which I will IY”H address in coming letters [time allowing, after your response]  These will include:
1.       Proving G-d’s existence based on the Historical account of Matan Torah
2.       Proving Matan Torah based on the Historical account
3.       A list of many sub topics which show the Holiness or supernatural abilities within the Torah, Judaism. Such as codes, predictions, miracles etc.

I once again conclude with the above mentioned request: Please do not nit-pick at the information above. It really obscures the core of the issues. Send me the questions you have which you feel interfere with accepting the above proofs. As I said before let’s do it one question at a time as I do not have much free time to answer everything right away.

Wishing you all the best in all your endeavors.

[1] For example: His existence, that He is one, that he is not made up of parts, that he is infinite, that he never undergoes change, that He is the only true existence even now, that he governs the worlds very move, etc ect.
[2] Hence from here and on let’s not get carried away on a tangent regarding Drawin’s theory which gives absolutely no explanation for the first existence or cause.

Looking forward to your response.
Daniel Rosenberg

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Response to the Rebbe's Chapter "Existence of G-d" in His Book "Mind Over Matter"

The Rabbi I am conversing with over e-mail requested that I read the Rebbe's letters in the first chapter of the book "Mind Over Matter" entitled "Existence of G-d". A full copy of this is located here for reference.

The following is my response to those letters. I got a little tired of writing near the end so the last few responses aren't my best but the first ones pretty much say all I want to say and cover most of the points the Rebbe makes in his later letters.


First of all as I said above I believe the question asked to the Rebbe was a pretty silly one and is definitely not one I would have asked. I don’t need “convincing proof” to convince me “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. As discussed above such proof doesn’t exist and in my opinion no one should try to convince themselves it does. All that I would request is convincing evidence that makes the existence of God or the historicity of the Tanach probable or likely.

The Rebbe first describes what he considers different forms of “proof”. First off “proof” by sight is one method. Second he mentions that this form of “proof” includes reports, i.e. you can trust peoples reported perceptions as you trust your own. As I have mentioned above this to me is not at all convincing. Evidence gained from one’s own personal perceptions should certainly carry more weight than the reported perceptions of others in general. They should not be of equal weight is my point.

The Rebbe then explains another kind of “proof” that is reasoning from cause to effect. This to me seems like an altogether different form than that of sense data and reports as above, but both are labeled as “proof”. I am therefore confused as to which of these the Rebbe considers to carry more weight or if he considers a belief gained from reasoning from cause to effect to be of equal weight as beliefs gained from sense data or reports. From my perspective a “reasoned belief” is nothing more than a model which needs to be tested with evidence (either direct or indirect) before the model can be believed. Anyone can come up with models that explain why one thing caused another, but any model that wishes to be believed must make predictions about our reality and then subject themselves to tests which result in either supporting evidence for the model or evidence against the model.

This is where things begin to get more murky in the Rebbe’s letter. He mentions that the existence of electricity from cause to effect is different than other kinds of “direct proofs” like seeing a certain color, to know that the color exists. I disagree with the Rebbe in that I believe that essentially every belief is a model of existence. Even “direct” things like a certain color is nothing but a predictive model of existence in some sense. You believe that a cup exists in front of you, your model of the cups existence implies many things about the universe which are testable either through your senses (direct evidence) or through reports (indirect evidence). In this light I can’t see any true distinction between a belief in electricity or gravity than any other belief except that they may come about through different forms of evidence (direct vs. indirect).

The Rebbe then mentions that such beliefs contradict rationality (such as gravity). The problem I am having with this statement is that the Rebbe doesn’t explain what “rationality” is. To me if the model of gravity when applied to our universe, tested numerous times, making numerous predictions which have to date as far as I am aware result in evidence that support this theory, through both direct and indirect evidence, that to me is very good reason to believe it exists and is thus very rational, maybe the epitome of rationality. Is rationality no different than “seeing is believing” for the Rebbe, for him to conclude that since gravity has no visible “particles or waves” it can’t be a rational belief? What exactly do having particles or waves add to the rationality of any belief? Also being that gravity is force not a wave or particle it makes me wonder as to what extent the Rebbe understood the theory of gravity in general. All in all without a clear definition of what the Rebbe considers rational it is very hard for me to understand what he doesn’t consider rational about gravity. Is it direct evidence? If so we do have direct evidence for gravity, just try dropping something. Is it a lack of “cause and effect” relationship? If so the theory of gravity is an excellent model for reality with immense predictable power. Is it because we don’t know what causes gravity in the first place? Well then if that is the case not one of our beliefs are understood to that extent. How is seeing a radio wave any more rational than gravity? Sure we may not know what causes gravity yet, but we also don’t know what causes the cause that causes the cause that causes the cause that causes the particle. Not knowing this doesn’t make it any less likely that gravity or radio waves or cups exist. What determines the existence of these things are the substantial supporting evidence gained over the insufficient refuting evidence from testing the models of belief in which these things exist.

Similarly the Rebbe says that relativity is not rational by using the simple test of looking at some matter like a shoe and then looking at some energy like light from a light bulb and noting that they are different. To me this underlies not the irrationality of relativity, but of the ignorance of the person performing the test. Perhaps if such a person were to gain a fuller understanding of relativity, the connection between the shoe and the light would be clear. I believe the Rebbe (either mistakenly or was not clear on this point) says that it is because of what the theory of relativity explains that it is accepted by scientists. While it is true that one support for relativity are the things it explains (namely backward looking) the main strength of this theory as well as any other theory accepted by the majority of scientist, such as gravity and evolution, are their predictive ability. It isn’t difficult for an economist to explain why a certain stock rose, fell or stayed the same after the fact, there are plenty of reasonable explanations for why each scenario would seem most likely (after you already know the results), but for an economic model to be considered a belief with any real use it must be able to accurately predict the direction of markets before they happen, not merely explain the events after they occur.

After speaking about proof and rationality the Rebbe then goes on to talk about what, under his standards, meet the reasonable criteria for a correct belief. He says that (based on his erroneous conclusions above) a belief need not be rational (which he never defines) nor fully grasped to be believed. The only criteria the Rebbe seems to require to hold a belief is that it best explains events that have already happened or things that already exist. This to me is only the bare minimum a belief must have in order to be held. How does one determine which belief “best” explains the data we currently have? To this the Rebbe gives no proposal. It would seem to me that what decides this according to the Rebbe is our own personal preferences or our simple perceptions of the world around us (does the shoe look like light sort of perceptions). These are very weak ways of determining what is true from what isn’t. As I have written above, the most important way to determining if a belief is accurate is to test its implications and gather supporting or refuting evidence for that belief.

There is another important aspect is in direct opposition to what the Rebbe stated here. A belief must be rational and must be fully grasped to be believed. If this is not the case then a person claiming to believe in this thing does not believe the proposition in actuality, since they don’t even truly know what they purport to believe. They are merely parroting words which they do not understand. They believe in the belief, but they don’t believe it themselves. In other words they trust the authority, but have no individual opinion unto themselves. As if they were saying “I don’t know how this works, but if person X says it is correct then it must be true.” This may work well for those who have no interest in the subject at hand and/or holding the belief or not doesn’t affect their lives in any significant way. However, a professional or an educated person in the field in which the belief is related to, should not defer to the opinions of others in this regard. They must be able to understand the belief fully in order to actually believe in it. This isn’t to say they must know fully the reason for why this belief came to be (for example why does the force of gravity exist rather than not) but they must be able to fully grasp the belief itself (they must understand gravity and how it works).  As you may see this difference in approach can make the Rebbe’s “proof” of God’s existence not very convincing for a person with my approach to beliefs and evidence.

Now the Rebbe goes into his first argument for the existence of G-d and the validity of the mount Sinai account in the Torah. He mentions that as a general rule people rely on the authority of others (for instance a weather man who tells us the weather) even if we don’t have any evidence or reasons to validate their claims. While this is acceptable for much of life, it is only because the decisions based off these authorities are usually relatively minor changes to our life with very little long term impact. Deciding to take a vitamin or to bring an umbrella with you out of the house are minor enough life alterations that there is no valid reason for you to doubt the weatherman or the doctor advising you to do such thing, unless of course you are fairly knowledgeable in either of those fields or you have reason to believe the authority is either being deceptive or who’s credentials should be questioned. Moving from that the Rebbe says that numerous reports should lessen our suspicion of deception and should strengthen our belief in the claim. While this is true for experts (ie if numerous experts recommend taking vitamins your belief that vitamins will help you) it isn’t necessarily the case with lay people. There is no reason to assume that the lay person has any real understanding of medicine to make a reliable recommendation and thus there is no reason to trust it.

On this basis the Rebbe then claims that at least 600,000 claimed to have witnessed a revelation on Sinai, have passed it continuously from parent to child in an unbroken chain, and no less than 600,000 people have ever not believed this. While this seems impressive on the outset, when you look at the actual evidence presented it is clear that it is fairly weak. Ultimately it is only one source, the Tanach, that makes this claim. This is a far cry from “well documented evidence” as the Rebbe puts it. It is but a single document. If there were multiple reporters there should be multiple reports, but we only have one report, a report exceedingly vague at times, with all the hallmarks of storytelling and none of the signs of history reporting. It is a well crafted story but that doesn’t make its claims true. If there is a reason the other reporters couldn’t report the event (ie they were illiterate, no source to writing materials, too busy, etc) then that is not really 600,000 reports is it? It is one report, with an excuse why the other reports that should have existed don’t. There is no evidence that such an event occurred the way it is portrayed outside of the Torah. There is no evidence that there was an unbroken chain of tradition outside of the Torah. The Rebbe claims that “all the versions of the above historical event are similar in every detail”. What other versions of the above supposed historical event are there outside of the Torah? Of course they are all identical, if there is only one account it would naturally be identical to itself.

The second argument the Rebbe brings is the teleological argument (the argument from design). He states that the very fact that the many individual pieces of our universe work in harmony with one another in a system that doesn’t seem to fail is proof of design. He gives an example of walking into a factory and realizing that it must be designed since it is both complex and works as a functioning system. Thus these systems could not have been created by random chance. Taking the components of a functioning tree, scrambling them together, will not likely produce another functioning tree or even the same tree. The fallacy of this argument is its presentation of a false dichotomy. Either it was all randomly produced or it was designed by a superior being. For example Darwinian evolution explains precisely how complex forms of life are produced from less complicated forms of life through the process of natural selection and random mutation. While the word random may throw you off, you should know that the model of evolution as a whole is by no means random, just as a person who decides to choose between two randomly selected amounts of money is not therefore choosing randomly. The animals that survive and reproduce through natural selection become more and more adaptable to their environment, through the process of natural selection and random mutation, and as a result become more complex. However, even before Darwin helped us understand the process of how simple organisms evolved into more complex organisms, the argument from design seems to have little standing regardless. If it must be that complex functioning systems must come from some great cosmic designer that is by the Rebbe’s own admition even “stronger” than the system He creates, then this designer must therefore be an even more complex functioning system that needs an equally greater designer as well. Thus the argument from design essentially implies things which you and the Rebbe would likely reject, so why is this argument appealing in the first place?

I agree with the Rebbe’s next statement that arguing that life and even our universe is not explained by the claim “the laws of nature did it”. This is indeed a non-started, it explains little to nothing about how the universe came into being and has no predictive ability. However, I consider the answer that “God did it” to be equally a non-started, it explains little to nothing about how the universe came into being and has no predictive ability. Both arguments are essentially statements that ask the questioner to “accept the mystery” and thus accept your own ignorance. It asks you to stop asking questions without providing any real answers.

I fully agree with the Rebbe’s next point that “one may not adopt certain truth criteria when it is convenient, and then drop them when it is not.” This is precisely my goal. If I am convinced by the arguments for God it will indeed have major implications on my actions, but so is the situation in which no God is found to exist.

The Rebbe then states that one expects tomorrow to come (ie the earth to rotate properly, the other systems and forces to work as they have previously, etc) even though no one has proof it should. He then claims that there is no logical reason to expect that they should. While I agree there is no absolute proof, there are plenty of logical reason to believe tomorrow will come and that is on the basis of evidence gained from testing the proposition that tomorrow will come. So far every piece of evidence supports this notion and on the basis of this it is logical to conclude with relative certainty that tomorrow will indeed come. There is no need to claim an existence of a deity to expect the systems to continue to operate as they should, since there is no reason or evidence to believe the contrary is even probable. And as before what makes us certain that this deity will operate as before or that this deity will no longer cease to exist over time. The same question arises and nothing is answered as to whether we expect the world to continue to run as it is.

The Rebbe claims that since doubt exists in the scientific community that it is a problem for their approach. The problem isn’t in the doubt, for which all of science is based on doubt, but rather the problem lies in believing you have proof in anything beyond a doubt. This is shown to be fallacious by the Rebbe in the next statement. What if this is all a hallucination? How do we know beyond any doubt that what we perceive is reality? The answer is that we don’t. We must first and foremost accept that nothing in the universe can be known with certainty, that we take our perceptions to be an accurate reflection of reality is only an assumption, but we should strive to make as few assumptions as possible to be as least prone to error as possible.


The Rebbe claims here that people’s emotions count for more than intellectual considerations when discussing things like God’s existence. While this is true for many people what reason is there to believe this is true for everyone? If it is true for everyone doesn’t it stand to reason that theists themselves aren’t thinking intellectually about Gods existence, but accept it for emotional reasons (and thus as a matter of preference) rather than considering the intellectual implications.

The Rebbe tries to support this from evidence stemming from the Shulchan Aruch, which ultimately his predicated on many things including Gods existence, which is what is under dispute in the first place.

Going further the Rebbe speaks about other topics that are not of the nature of logical proofs or evidence. He discusses that each Jew knows the truth of righteousness and justice. I am not certain what the Rebbe means by this, but for me my morality stems from my empathy with other creatures. I wish to act in ways that increases the overall well being, happiness and health of people. This is an urge which I suspect stems from the evolution of our species, but just as it gives me pleasure to act upon other urges this urge in me is quite strong.

I am also relatively young, and with youth comes the courage to question the previous generations beliefs and assumptions. This is simply what I wish to achieve. To question and to come to true beliefs as best I am able. I am not sure which responsibilities the Rebbe believes this generation to have, so I can neither agree nor disagree with them. He mentions that our times are a frightening place, I personally don’t agree with this sentiment. The Rebbe increasingly speaks in poetic language, none of which I can outright dispute due to the vagueness of his points, but I will say that I don’t agree with his sentiments here either. Academic discussions are vital to moving us forward as a society as well as a species.

I believe that the nature and intent of the Mitzvos don’t seem to be the same today as they were in ancient times. I would then regard the observance of the Mitzvos as not unchanging, but rather in a constant process of change, like much else of human and Jewish history.

Faith and Justice

The Rebbe here is responding to the approach, that I myself hold by, of not believing in the existence of God because of the lack of evidence supporting the belief that God exists. The Rebbe responds that there has been ample evidence for the existence of God publicized and printed and that the only reason people don’t accept them is because they are simple and not complex. I for one do not dismiss any explanation simply because it is simple, in most cases the simplest explanation is usually the most accurate one. So let’s consider the simple arguments for God’s existence.

Again the Rebbe uses the argument from design, this time using the example of finding a book rather than a factory. The Rebbe here doesn’t add anything new to this argument so I will defer to the response I gave to this argument in his “Proof” letter. This argument as discussed above is a logical fallacy and as such it can be easily dismissed.

Continuing off of this argument the Rebbe argues that your inability to understand why God would create the universe in such a way is dismissed as being a result of our inferior intellect. More likely, it isn’t the inferiority of our intellect that is the culprit, but rather the fact that model which is produced based off of the belief that God exists is rejected by theists when it gives us evidence that refutes the belief in this deity. Every time this model is tested and comes up with evidence that supports this belief (ie that God exists) it is used by theists as evidence that God does indeed exist. For example, if a person prays and recovers from an illness theists jump to point out that this is evidence that their God exists, and this is indeed the case. However, whenever the tests not only fail to produce supporting evidence for Gods existence but rather provide evidence that helps refute this claim (such as after praying for recovery the person dies) the theists ignore this refuting evidence by claiming it is our inability to understand God that this seems like evidence to the contrary, when in fact it is supporting evidence. It now becomes clear that this type of belief in God is no real belief at all. Either God is something we can understand, in which case the belief implies things about the universe and are subject to testing which either support or refute this claim, or God is incomprehensible in which case neither supporting evidence nor refuting evidence can be gathered and the belief is superfluous. The theists wish to have it both ways, pointing to tests that give evidence only when they support their belief in God and pointing to the incomprehensibility of God when the tests provide refuting evidence.

The Rebbe then goes on to make another point. He asks what can guarantee that people will act morally if they don’t believe in God. My answer is that no such guarantee exists, even if a person believes in God they may not act morally. This is clear since there are numerous people who believe in God that act immorally all the time, so how does belief in God ensure that people will act morally? Look at the personalities in the Tanach and ask yourself whether you believe that because these people believed in God that guaranteed their moral actions. It should be clear that this is certainly not the case. In addition to this many times people act immorally because they believe in God. Certain people perform immoral actions they wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for their belief in God. Case in point the attacks on 9/11. The Rebbe uses the example of the Holocaust to propose that this is the result of a nation without a belief in God, yet he forgets that belief in God was one of the guiding principles of the Third Reich. Why else would Nazi soldiers wear belts that state “God With Us”. There are also other nations that are mostly atheistic (unlike Germany at that time which was mostly theistic) such as Sweden that currently enjoys peace and prosperity that the Nation of Israel (a country dominated by theists on all sides) which has seen nothing but ceaseless violence.

The Rebbe then contends that the person he is writing to does not truly disbelieve in God. He states that if there were no God then why would you be surprised at the violence and immorality in the world. The person doesn’t seem to state that they were surprised about this, but rather that they were disturbed by this, which I consider very different things. I am also upset with the violence and immorality that exists in the world, but why should I expect no violence to exist at all? I do expect immorality, but I also expect other things I am upset about. Such as that my body will grow weaker with time. That someday I will lose my parents. These feelings are borne out of my empathy for others and my concern for myself as well, but just because I am upset that these events will occur, that doesn’t make me any less certain that they will. The root of our feeling that there should be justice in the world stems from our empathy which has been produced through the evolution of our species and need not be attributed to any diety.

The Rebbe ends with the call that regardless of the persons questions or doubts, they must still nonetheless act as if the Rebbe’s position is already proved correct. A person should not feel compelled to act contrary to his beliefs. If the Rebbe has failed to convince the person that God does indeed exist then it is not fair for him to expect that person to act as if he has been convinced.

Preconceptions and Open-Mindedness

The Rebbe states  at the beginning of this letter that a person should not approach a subject looking for its faults, and with this I agree. He then goes on to try to answer the questions he received.

Again the Rebbe is asked to prove the authenticity of the Torah. He responds that one doesn’t require 100% certainty to live life day-to-day. He again states that reports should be believed, especially when multiple people give a similar report. Here he makes a few mistakes which I have noted previously in the “Proof” letter. As stated earlier a report should only be believed as long doing so doesn’t impact your life to a great extent and the report is supported by numerous experts. A report that is being given by lay people (non-experts) that would result in a great impact on your life should not be taken at face value. It should be investigated to determine if such a claim has any truth to it.

He then brings up the example of allowing a surgeon to operate on you. Yes, you still need to rely on the testimony of experts, namely the educating board that certifies this doctor as well as others who have been treated by this specific doctor and even other doctors. However, the best thing for people to do in this situation is to be informed about the operation you are about to undergo, the purpose of the operation, any alternatives and possible risks. It would be quite foolish to undergo an operation without fully informing yourself as to these things. The Rebbe is correct, the surgeon could make a mistake, so why not make an informed decision with the guidance of other professionals in the field.

Then the Rebbe, interestingly enough, points to historians to inform us of the events that occurred in the past, even if there are small differences between them. With this I agree, since usually such minute details of history have little effect on most people’s day to day lives as well as these people being experts in their field. Since historians generally regard the scenario at Mount Sinai to be myth it seems odd that the Rebbe would point to them as reliable sources to base ones belief on.

Again the Rebbe uses the account of a revelation at Sinai to prove its veracity, but while disguising this as a multitude of reports fails to mention that essentially what is being passed down by numerous people aren’t numerous individual accounts of one event, but rather a mere reference to one ancient text that only has one account, just one report of this supposed event. Even looking at the Torah itself we see no report of people hearing God’s voice proclaim “I am the Lord your God” and the account itself is very vague about what exactly the people saw and heard with regards to God.

The Rebbe then presents another false dichotomy. Either the story as reported is true or it was a rumor started suddenly. I have heard of no scholar stating the latter situation ever occurred. It is far more likely that this story grew over time from an simply origin (some Israelites encountering a volcano eruption) interpreted as a divine message, expanded and elaborated slowly until the final story was canonized in the Torah long after the events were purported to occur. This likely scenario is much more likely based on the evidence than the described events actually occurring.

The Rebbe states that this is different than the Christian of Muslim revelation claims, except that the most important claim in Christianity to Christians is the resurrection which according to Christian scripture was viewed by hundreds of Jews who later became converts to Christianity. There are also many Christians to date that claim ancestry from these Jews namely many  Eastern Orthodox Christians. It seems that these claims are very similar in nature, and if one were to be dismissed out of hand so should the other.

The next few questions and answers c) to e) concern spiritual questions for which don’t have much relevance to the questions I am asking so I will not comment on them.

The Rebbe in response to question f) addresses the issue of the discrepancy between the Jewish date of 5719 years from creation (no 5771 years) with the scientific account and the discovery that the Universe is at least 13.7 billion years old. The Rebbe goes on to contradict his earlier approach of accepting the report of numerous experts (since nearly all scientists from all different fields accept that the universe is at least 13.7 billion years old) and states that instead of accepting what the experts say we must evaluate their claims to determine if they are accurate or not. How does the Rebbe explain this inconsistency?

The Rebbe states that the scientists have made numerous false assumptions. He lists a number of assumptions that scientists may claim to have been constant, but fails to discuss the implications of altering these assumptions. Perhaps the scientists have good reason to make these assumptions. As stated before, you can make all sorts of claims but simply making claims doesn’t make them just as likely to be true as the accepted beliefs of scientists. Since the Rebbe never discusses the implications of changing this assumptions I assume he doesn’t know the implications of them. Also hardly any of them would alter the evidence found enough to coincide with the account in the Torah.

The Rebbe then brings up a second objection that scientists assume the universe wasn’t created dated. Now this is where it becomes clear that the Rebbe doesn’t have any real objections to the scientific approach, he is only fishing for solutions for why his current belief is not false. He comes up with rationalization after rationalization. He doesn’t seem to be concerned with what is actually the case, only which argument is most convincing to support his already preconceived belief that the Torah’s account of creation is true. If the Rebbe really wishes to propose an alternative model he should propose it and test it.

Also if God created a 6000 year old universe virtually indistinguishable from a universe that is billions of years old what if any implications are there for such a model? If there are no distinguishing model and accept a more complex hypothesis that everything looks old for no understandable reason over the simple explanation that the evidence that points to an old universe shows that the universe is indeed as it seems.

The Rebbe asks why couldn’t God have made the universe appear suddenly which appears older than it actually is. What the Rebbe fails to reason is that the scientists aren’t proposing their solutions as an opposition to the Torah’s account but rather simply based on the observations they have made. If the Rebbe wishes to claim that God made the world in such a way he must first explain what exactly was created old, how that is distinguishable from what the scientists are observing and how that can be shown to be true through tests. What sort of predictions can this model of the universe make? If they aren’t any different from what scientists currently predict, what compelling reason is there to accept this superfluous belief.

In the Rebbe’s PS he mentions that the scientists’ calculations  of the age of the earth contradict each other. I for one have never seen any evidence of this. As far as I can tell the calculations are all consistent with one another.

The Meaning of Life

The Rebbe in this letter begins again with the argument from design, which as I have stated before is fallacious and need not go over it again. Again the Rebbe mentions that God is incomprehensible to humans, in which case I see no reason to give an incomprehensible idea any further thought, since something incomprehensible cannot be understood so what is the purpose of trying? More than likely this incomprehensible idea will not be able to add any value to our lives unless we assume that it is indeed not incomprehensible and can therefore be used to predict certain things in our universe and then may be of some use, but that to me is not what an incomprehensible thing would mean to me.

Again he mentions the Sinai account which also is not convincing for various reasons I discussed above.

From the Rebbe’s belief that the Torah is a God given document (using arguments I don’t find very convincing) he explains that Man’s purpose in life is to follow the commandments therein. However without convincing evidence for the authenticity of the Torah such claims to ultimate meaning are just as likely to come from any ancient religious text as the Torah itself.

Check this out