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SECTIONS

Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes

Counter-Apologetics

Serious Notions with a Smile

Miscellaneous

Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site

Historical Notes

Is intelligent design science or religion? Nova chronicles the legal battle to settle the status of a new assault on evolution in a two-hour
 
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial November 13, 2007 at 8pm ET/PT on PBS www.pbs.org/nova/id

NOVA captures the turmoil that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania in one of the latest battles over teaching evolution in public schools in Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Co-produced with Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions, Inc., the film will air as a two-hour special on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 8pm ET/PT on PBS (check local listings).
Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers, and town officials, the program follows the celebrated federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District.
In 2004, the Dover school board ordered science teachers to read a statement to high school biology students suggesting that there is an alternative to Darwinís theory of evolution called intelligent design -- the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent.
The teachers refused to comply, and parents opposed to intelligent design filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state.
"There was a blow-up like you couldnít believe," Bill Buckingham, head of the school boardís curriculum committee, tells NOVA. Buckingham helped formulate the intelligent design policy when he noticed that the biology textbook chosen by teachers for classroom use "was laced with Darwinism," in his words.
NOVA presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as "What is evolution?" and "Is intelligent design a scientifically valid alternative?" Kitzmiller was the first legal test of intelligent design as a scientific theory, with the plaintiffs arguing that it is a thinly veiled form of creationism, the view that a literal interpretation of the Bible accounts for all observed facts about nature.
During the trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs showed that evolution is one of the best-tested and most thoroughly confirmed theories in the history of science, and that its unresolved questions are normal research problems -- the type that arise in any flourishing scientific field.
U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III ultimately decided for the plaintiffs, writing in his decision that intelligent design "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
As part of his decision, Judge Jones ordered the Dover school board to pay legal fees and damages, which were eventually set at $1 million.
"Judgment Day captures on film a landmark court case with a powerful scientific message at its core," said Paula S. Apsell, NOVA Senior Executive Producer. "Evolution is one of the most essential and least understood of all scientific theories, the foundation of biological science. We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not, and therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum in our public schools."
"Vulcan Productions has long been committed to the subject of evolution and its teaching," remarked Vulcan Productions Executive Producer, Richard Hutton. "When we co-produced the Evolution series with the WGBH Science Unit in 2001, we set out to bring the richness of Darwin's theory to life. The story of the Dover trial gives us another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to helping audiences understand the nature of science through elegant and compelling storytelling."
For years to come, the lessons from Dover will continue to have a profound impact on how science is viewed in our society and how it is taught in the classroom.
Founded by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen in 1997, Vulcan Productions devotes itself exclusively to producing independent films of unique vision and artistic quality. With feature film projects such as Hard Candy, Far From Heaven, The Safety of Objects, and documentaries such as Rx For Survival, The Blues, Evolution, Black Sky: The Race for Space, and Black Sky: Winning the X Prize, the company commits its talent and resources to creating films of substance and enduring significance. Through collaborative partnerships with established and emerging filmmakers, Vulcan Productions explores creative opportunities that result in engaging and inspirational storytelling.
Now in its 34th year of broadcasting, NOVA is produced for PBS by the WGBH Science Unit at WGBH Boston. The director of the WGBH Science Unit and senior executive producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell. Funding for NOVA is provided by The DOW Chemical Company, David H. Koch, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers.
NOVA is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. The descriptive narration is available on the SAP channel or stereo TVs and VCRs. Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial will be available on DVD wherever videos are sold. To order direct from WGBH Boston Video, visit shop.wgbh.org or call 800.949.8670.

author(s):
WGBH, NOVA;
published: Nov 08, 2007


The chosen among us
 

In recent years we have run into multiple articles, scientific and journalistic, propagating the thesis of Jewish genetic advantage (or superiority) in intelligence. The most famous is the study conducted by a group of scientists from the University of Utah (Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending, "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence", Journal of Biosocial Science, 2005), adopted lately by Prof. Steven Pinker in The New Republic magazine in June of 2006.

This essay produces a critical analysis of the thesis of Jewish genetic advantage, developed on the basis of aforementioned articles. The author supposes that he successfully deconstructed this thesis as well as the analytic edifice which stands behind it.

author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Oct 17, 2007


Fourteen steps on the stairwell to hell
 
This essay aims to explore the painful question of the existence and nature of Jewish Fascism. Umberto Eco once set out 14 defining characteristics of Fascism. Judaism, as the author demonstrates, easily meets 11 of them. What is even worse, its radical nationalistic fervor, a recent product of the evolution of Israeli society, ardently adopts all the other characteristics, far outstripping in its radicalism the majority of theoretical forms of Fascism. The fact that this tendency in Judaism is openly advocated by leading members of the Israeli establishment turns the theoretical discussion into one that is political -- and even practical. The author believes that this radical form of Judaism poses a serious threat to Israel's existence and the security of the Middle East.
author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Sep 26, 2007


Deception by Design: The Intelligent Design Movement in America
 
A book-length description of the history of the ID movement, including a history of fundamentalism in the US, a description of fundamentalist efforts to undermine church/state separation, a history of creation 'science', the Wedge Document, and the rise and fall of intelligent design 'theory'.
author(s):
Flank, Lenny ;
published: Aug 20, 2006


Of Pharaohs and Dates: Critical remarks on the dating and the historicity of the Exodus from Egypt
 
This essay deals with the question of the historical background and especially of the date of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. Taking as its starting point an article on the date of the Exodus published by Jonathan Adler, this essay shows that the date of the Exodus as specified in the rabbinic tradition (year 2448 from the Creation, i.e., 1312 BCE) does not fit with the chronological data presented in the Bible itself, which indicate two different dates for the Exodus: c. 1447 BCE or c. 1528 BCE. The essay shows that Adler's attempt to corroborate the date of 1312 BCE by appeal to Egyptian historical sources is untenable, based as it is on misinterpretation of the Egyptian evidence. In addition, it is shown that the existence of two sets of chronological data in the Bible itself, pointing to two different dates for the Exodus, constitutes an internal contradiction in the biblical historical narrative. Moreover, the biblical mention of the Israelites employed in Egypt to build the city of Ra'amses does not fit historical reality prior to the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE), and the mention of "the way of the land of Philistines" as existing during the Exodus does not fit historical reality prior to the reign of Ramesses III (c. 1183-1152 BCE). On the other hand, the Israelites' presence in Canaan is attested in an inscription of Merneptah, dating to 1208 BCE -- which means that if the Israelites had migrated into Canaan from Egypt, they must have done it before that date. These historical inconsistencies and contradictions are understandable if the biblical story of the Exodus was written a long time after the events it purports to describe. However, these inconsistencies and contradictions show that the rabbinic notion of the whole Pentateuch having been written before the Israelites' entry into Canaan (i.e., before 1272 BCE according to the rabbinic tradition) cannot be correct.
author(s):
Goldstein, David;
published: Jul 24, 2006


A test of eponyms and sexual sacral initiation in classical Jewish culture
 
Gender issues are among the least explored in Jewish scholarship. This area continues to be dominated by clerical notions that mistakenly jumble together gender phenomena that belong to different periods, turning them into a miscellany of primitive patriarchal injunctions. At the same time, even a cursory attempt to explore gender issues yields a plethora of fascinating and tantalizing findings.

The present essay is devoted to an overview of easily detectable phenomena: the references to sacral sex in Jewish culture, above all in the Bible, as well as in post-biblical writings. The biblical narrative points expressly at gender relationships, including sexual practices, that, though markedly different from those traditionally ascribed to the Israelite and Jewish societies, nevertheless match the customs of other ancient nations, suggesting, among other things, a long and arduous process of overcoming a classical matriarchal heritage.

author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Jun 11, 2006


A History of the Intelligent Design Movement
 
The early history of the intelligent design movement, in the wake of the defeat of the creation "scientists".
author(s):
Flank, Lenny ;
published: Apr 25, 2006


Creationism/ID: A Short Legal History
 
A brief description of the legal issues surrounding the ID/creation controversy.
author(s):
Flank, Lenny ;
published: Apr 24, 2006


A Nation, Great, Mighty, and Populous?
 
This essay deals with the question of the number of the Israelites reported by the Pentateuch to have participated in the Exodus from Egypt. Taking as its starting point a discussion of this question which took place in the journal of biblical scholarship Vetus Testamentum, the essay shows that the number of the Israelites specified in the Pentateuch -- over 600,000 adult males, corresponding to a total population of at least 2,000,000 persons -- is totally implausible both in the context of the demography of ancient Egypt and in relation to other data provided in the Bible concerning the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt and their exodus therefrom. An attempt to solve this difficulty, based on the suggestion to interpret the Hebrew term 'elef as "a troop" rather than "thousand," is out of place, because the total number of over 600,000 adult males participating the Exodus is firmly connected with the detailed census figures provided in the Pentateuch for various segments of the Israelite population, and the proposed re-interpretation of the term 'elef does not fit these figures. On the other hand, the assumption of over 600,000 adult males participating in the Exodus underlies some parts of the Pentateuchal narrative dealing with the Israelitesí wanderings in the Sinai desert after the Exodus, and since this number is fictitious, the corresponding parts of the narrative must be fictitious as well. Hence, the notion espoused by the Jewish tradition that the Pentateuch was written down in full during the period of the Israelites' wanderings in Sinai cannot be correct.
author(s):
Goldstein, David;
published: Apr 15, 2006


A time to gather stones
 
This essay is devoted to an inquiry into the fundamentalist approach to ancient Jewish history. It reveals the anti-scientific, manipulative nature of the historical-archeological model, rooted in religious dogma, which "fuses" the biblical description of Jewish history with the history of Canaan in the 13th-10th centuries BCE, and ignores most relevant scientific discoveries of the recent decades. In the framework of critical analysis, the author describes the modern scientific notions regarding the period in question, separating resolved issues from those that have not yet been resolved.
author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Sep 04, 2005


Fixing the Mind
 
This essay is devoted to refuting one of the most famous mythological historical systems -- the Jewish Orthodox historical myth rooted in the Talmudic tradition. This myth, though not quite consistent, still retains its popularity in Jewish fundamentalist circles. It has given birth to its own chronology and requires other-than-scientific interpretation of entire historic eras.

In recent decades, several pseudo-scientific attempts have been made to 'insert' the Jewish historical myth into historical science, thereby proving that ultimate historical truth belongs to Jewish Orthodoxy. This essay clearly demonstrates not only the fact that the most famous of these attempts, undertaken in the 1980s-90s by Chaim Heifetz, is pseudo-scientific and crumbles in the face of a sufficiently broad set of simple and reliably established facts, but also that any attempt at a sweeping review of ancient chronology will yield similar results. In other words, the author of the essay proves that any attempt to fuse Jewish historical myths with science essentially amounts to modern mythmaking, devoid of objective meaning and doomed to scientific failure.
author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Jun 09, 2005


God: A short history with a cognitive explanation of the concept
 
The Christian concept of 'God' names a category with surprisingly heterogeneous contents. In the Old Testament traditions God is an anthropomorphic agent, in Christian theology God often appears as a personalized metaphysical principle, philosophers of religion try to find the inherent rationality of this concept, finally, some natural scientists regard God as the "intelligent designer" of the world. What is common in all these ideas, covering a time span of about 2,500 years, is that representations of God are triggered by the perception of order and control in the world. Readers of Talk Reason may be especially interested in the section of this article dealing with intelligent design. This article will be published in the forthcoming no 1 (vol. 41; expected in June 2005) of Temenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion. Posted with the kind permission from the journal's editor and the author. (PDF format.)
author(s):
Pyysiainen, Ilkka;
published: Feb 12, 2005


Medicine in the Babylonian Talmud
 
This essay examines the medical knowldge of the Babylonian Sages as reflected in the Talmud and its relevance to and implications for modern Halachic decision-making.
author(s):
Yadan, Yaron;
published: Nov 18, 2004


The Chicken or the Egg
 
There are many people who misunderstand evolutionary biology because they do not grasp the "population thinking" involved and misconstrue evolution as being about individual living things. It can also be claimed that many of the arguments against evolutionary biology are, perhaps subtly, arguments against a similar misconception.
This essay is an attempt to highlight such misconceptions by taking a look at an outdated biological theory of creation, one which was taken very seriously (for an extended period of time) by many intelligent and well-informed people. This theory, known by the name "preformation", is the idea that the adult features of a living thing were created in the precursor rather than being developed by natural processes. It might be worth noting that Archdeacon Paley wrote his famous arguments from design in an era in which preformation was still being taken quite seriously. And Darwin questioned, in the final chapter of "Descent of Man":
... why it is more irreligious to explain the origin of man as a distinct species ... than to explain the birth of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction.
author(s):
Scharle, Tom;
published: Sep 20, 2004


On Orthodox discourse
 
In this essay, the author focuses on the fact that standing behind the evidently dangerous (even though it has it own defenders) Jewish fundamentalist praxis is the even more dangerous -- and indisputably so -- fundamentalist discourse. Without any doubt, Jewish fundamentalism is not alone in this respect. On the contrary, the author views it as an obvious yardstick and point of comparison for all other fundamentalist systems.

The Orthodox religious concept -- which even today earnestly and publicly discusses whether the gentiles are inferior to dogs, whether it is permissible to offer medical treatment to gentiles, and whether the rules forbidding cruelty to animals extend to gentiles -- is gravely ill, regardless of how it answers these and other instructive questions. The very existence of such a discourse -- which permeates the entire Jewish Orthodox community and takes place in every sphere, from elementary schools and the realm of politics to the kitchen and the synagogue -- is a telling testimony to the dire crisis in which this concept find itself -- both intellectually and socially. In theory, one could conclude that the community -- which only recently, as Heidegger puts it, "execrated", despised and discriminated against outsiders openly and without any discourse, and has only now, centuries too late, ripened for this discourse -- has simply sunk into senility. The author, however, views such a conclusion as superficial and irresponsible.

author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Jun 05, 2004


Some remarks regarding comparative morality
 
This essay is devoted to the analysis of an ethical tautology that arises (inevitably, in the author's opinion) in the course of constructing any kind of modern Jewish Orthodox moral philosophy. The author examines the basic ethic tenets produced by MO circles in their attempt to "insert" basic universal moral precepts into the Orthodox ideological system which decisively rejects universalism. He uncovers the patently derivative nature of modern, ostensibly universalist, Jewish Orthodox ethical theories and analyzes the exotic nature of their coexistence with Jewish tribal morality, which Orthodoxy is forced to preserve and nurture. The natural outcome of this "ethical construction" is, in the author's opinion, a glaring moral and intellectual dissonance -- the complete antithesis of what is commonly considered to be the purpose of ethical philosophy.
author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Apr 20, 2004


Simple Halachic observations and Jewish universalism
 
This essay is an expanded answer to a query by an eminent Western intellectual who ran across an obviously wrong, tendentious translation of the well-known passage from the Shulchan Aruch which seemingly calls for the extermination of Christian priests. The intellectual wished to know what the passage actually said. In the essay, the author briefly examines the basic attitude of Orthodox Judaism to other faiths, the issue of Jewish religious intolerance, and the way Orthodox Judaism treats those Jews who do not share its dogmas.
author(s):
Eterman, Alexander;
published: Apr 20, 2004


Judaic sources on the attitude towards gentiles
 
It is impossible to understand Judaism and Jewish tradition without analyzing the nature of their systematic, meticulously developed attitude to gentiles. The impetus for this study was the absence of any adequate academic inquiry regarding this subject. Up until now there has been no textbook that a student or even a specialist on Jewish culture could consult for references, analysis, or comparative material on this issue.
This academic study briefly summarizes the main religious tenets that define the attitude of traditional Jews and Judaism toward gentiles of every rank and category. This summary is in turn reinforced by a set of crucial excerpts from classical Jewish halachic sources which serve as the foundation for these tenets. In the framework of this study, the reader is presented with a fairly complete selection of authoritative opinions covering the entire spectrum of relevant issues. These opinions are cited from the writings of leading Jewish lawgivers in their pivotal works or are directly from the main Jewish religious sources, primarily the Talmud. In some instances the study also cited opinions expressed by contemporary authorities.
This study was conducted by a team headed by Leon Zilberstein (an assumed name), a Hebrew University researcher.
The next, more complete version of this study is in preparation. It will become available to the reader in the near future.
author(s):
Zilberstein, Leon , et al.;
published: Dec 18, 2003


The idea of the sanctity of the Biblical text and the science of textual criticism
 
In this essay, Professor Menachem Cohen, one of the foremost experts in biblical lexicography and the chief editor of the authoritative editions of the Hebrew Bible, argues in favor of a scientific analysis of the historical transmission of the Bible's text, which, in his view, is not contrary to the concept of the sanctity of the Scriptures. Prof. Cohen provides a detailed analysis of the changes the biblical text has undergone over the course of its long history. Although this essay does not directly deal with the Bible code controversy, the unrefutable evidence of many changes in the Bible's text over the course of centuries thoroughly undermines the assertions about the alleged code hidden in the Bible by its creator (this question is specifically addressed in Prof. Cohen's other article).
author(s):
Cohen, Menachem;
published: Sep 22, 2003


Some Thoughts on Elliot N. Dorff, To Do the Right and the Good: A Jewish Approach to Modern Social Ethics (Philadelphia: JPS, 2002)
 
This text is a review of Rabbi Dorff's book, which originated in a short letter of opinion regarding this book by the author of the review, written at the request of the TalkReason site team. Since the text was not intended from the beginning to be a complete review (hence its title), readers familiar with the book may find the subject worth wider and more detailed treatment. Still, it seems to both the reviewer and the site team that the following text offers a good glimpse of the book reviewed, which is why it is posted on this site.
author(s):
Lerner, Sasson;
published: Apr 22, 2003


Critique of the Kuzari Argument
 
This paper is a response to an argument offered as rational proof that the miracles described in the Torah are historical.
In this paper it is argued that the premises of the argument are flawed. Furthermore, these flaws are demonstrated by the existence of counterexamples that the reader will be unlikely to accept as historical.
author(s):
Norowitz, Avi;
published: Jan 29, 2003


Gentiles, Rabbis and Texts
 
This essay reviews an internet site authored by Gil Student and dedicated to discussion of the view of non-Jews in early Rabbinic sources. The site is explicitly intended to vindicate these of charges of anti-gentilism and illustrates quite well the misfortune which had befallen the Rabbinic material discussing non-Jews: too often people turn to this material in order to support their preconceived views, instead of allowing the sources a say on their own terms and then analyzing them as thoroughly and impartially as possible. The essay is not content with criticizing the faults of Student's argument, but ventures to propose a critical analysis of the relevant sources capable of discovering the real views of the people standing behind them - and not surprisingly, it is found that even among the ancient rabbis, different people had different opinions. Naturally, those parts of the essay dedicated to thorough discussion of the sources are more difficult to read than episodic comments on certain issues or remarks of general character. Readers interested in general discussion of the topic and an indication of the deficiencies plaguing Student's scholarship - as well as that of many works of a similar genre - may contend themselves with the introduction to the essay, the chapter "Who Is a Gentile?" and the "Concluding Remarks"; these parts are relatively short and easy to read. Other, lengthier, chapters are dedicated to critical analysis of several specific sources discussed by Student or closely related to the latter. It is the author's hope that this analysis offers a fair glimpse both of the approach necessary to understand what the Rabbinic sources were really intended to say and of the inevitable drawbacks of the method taken by the reviewed site.
author(s):
Lerner, Sasson;
published: Oct 17, 2002


A Lonely Champion of Tolerance
 
A discussion of R' Menachem ha-Meiri's view of the discriminatory anti-Gentile Halachic laws, as well as its status in later Halachic works. This view, albeit genuine (in spite of some presently popular opinions), lacks solid Halachic grounds, and no later Halachic arbiter has ever fully developed this view into a practical Halachic verdict. On the other hand, it is argued that modern Orthodox Jews do not need the Meiri to cope with the discriminatory attitude of the Halacha towards Gentiles -- it is rather their own actual conduct today that would serve as a base for the Halachic rulings of tomorrow, in the sphere of Jewish-Gentile relations as well as in any others.
author(s):
Goldstein, David;
published: Oct 03, 2002


When was the Zohar Written?
 
This article presents some details in the Zohar - one of the basic works of Jewish mysticism - which cannot be explained by the traditional notion that the Zohar was authored by the Tanna R' Simeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century CE. Analysis of these details lead to the conclusion that the Zohar was written, in fact, in the last quarter of the 13th century CE by R' Moses de Leon of Spain.
author(s):
Rubin, Ephraim;
published: Jul 26, 2002


The Kuzari - The Principle and the Formalism
 
This work discusses the psychological mechanisms which underlie various modifications of the Kuzari principle (including the work of Rabbi Dr. D. Gottlieb) as well as its Jewish and Hellenistic elements. Yust demonstrates that the principle (both in its origins and the nature of its arguments) is neither ancient nor actually Jewish.
author(s):
Yust, David;
published: Jun 07, 2002