Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chabad Rebbe and Spontaneous Generation

Follow the link and search spontaneous generation, and you will find an answer from Chabad apologists Ginsberg and Branover (two fo the most quoted on scientific issues) based on letters from the CR himself. It is a positive defense obfuscation. IOW, they argue that just because we see eggs and worms, does not mean that these worms came from those eggs. Ergo, there CAN BE spontaneous generation, and no one can disprove it. The Pasteurs would quickly counter that no such "spontaneous generation" occurred when outside access was denied. However, our brilliant apologists would say the often quoted axiom that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absense" and that cases that are "highly improbable" are nonetheless feasible.

Well, gentlemen, then there is no disproof of anything ever, and the Rambam's implication to the contrary is false. I challenge you to produce any positive evidence, a single observation, from anywhere, that spontaneous generation, the generation of life from the inanimate occurs. It should be easy enough given today's technology. (Note: the Talmud and early sources assume that it occurs in many species with regularity, not just that it is "highly improbable". Note the discussion about lice and lice eggs.) I hear only the chirping of spontaneously generated crickets.

Without examining this struggling apologetic line for line, shooting fish in a barrel, I offer the following defense of the position. (Did he say DEFENSE? My G-d I think he did!)

When one observes very small eggs, larval worms, and grown worms or insects, it is difficult to make the connection between each of these stages from the previous. The reproduceable effect will be that if one puts these eggs and / or larvae in proper environment, in a place unaccessible by an uncontrolled environment, the worms or insects will grow. If one were to put in only sterile spoiled fruit or sterile mud, no organisms would grow. However, halacha goes by observation, and the observer sees two or three separate entities, an egg (if it is microscopic, halacha might not even consider it existent), larvae, and mature organism. Thus, halacha must deal with them separately, because halacha is instructing the average OBSERVER in what must be done. Thus, the organisms ARE spontaneously generated from a halachic point of view, and the descriptions of that process are correct, from that point of view. The underlying apologetic argument emerges OK from this. We cannot say that the eggs, larvae, mature line is OBSERVED, not by a scientist in a lab, but by the OBSERVER in any particular case, trying to make a halachic determination. Hence, the "we cannot say that it never happens, even though we observe it in a lab" type proof is SUSTAINED, and all runners are safely on base.

1) Spontaneous generation proofs in science are sustained.
2) The halacha that some organisms are treated as spontaneously generated is sustained.
3) The defense premise of the apologetic is even sustained.

And most importantly, the only way to explain all of this is with the hashkafa that the Chazal were discussing halachic assumptions, rather than scientific reality, and the fundamentalists are REFUTED.

Update: Even more nauseating apologetic at Frumteens


  • Oy Rebel, why don't you go lie down for a while? I'll bring you some chicken soup.

    By Blogger Menuval, at 3:57 PM  

  • Spontaneously generated, I presume.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:26 PM  

  • Yet another reason why you never see a microscope in a talis zekkel.

    By Blogger Shlomo Leib Aronovitz, at 11:11 AM  

  • I like this one:

    However, when eggs found in rot are identified as belonging to a specific species of worm, and the worms found there also bear signs of belonging to that species, that in no way proves that it is impossible for these worms to have appeared without the eggs, through spontaneous generation.

    For the future, please warn us before we read this stuff. All my vitle organs nearly, spontaneously combusted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 PM  

  • Branover. That is very sad. Maybe he's getting old.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:29 AM  

  • It was disturbing to read his thoughts about cloning. It sounded to me that he felt, if a human ever was cloned,it would be a subspecies of inanimate object. This guy is just spooky...

    By Blogger Ben Avuyah, at 6:43 PM  

  • I just read the chabad rendition. It wasn't as bad as frumteens, but, man, are there a lot of confused people out there.

    By Blogger Ben Avuyah, at 6:48 PM  

  • First of all, you have totally misrepresented what was quoted in book. READ ON! later on that same page, he says
    " Returning to the issue of spontaneous generation of worms, we can say that indeed from a scientific perspective their spontaneous generation has a probability of close to nil. (It should be noted that according to modern calculations, the possibility of spontaneous generation even of much lower level organisms is considered to be nil. In fact, today the theories of spontaneous generation of life, which were once so popular, have been completely rejected by science.) However, their generation through a particular means — for instance, from rot — can regularly occur as a result of Divinely ordained natural laws that are directly implemented by Him in each specific case."

    The Rebbe doesn't say that spontaneous generation is possible through laws of nature. The case in Talmud was a miracle. Its no different from believing that the Red Sea parted or a donkey could talk. Its an act of Divine Will. Now if you don't believe in that and, G-d forbid, believe that all life started from unicellular life then spontaneous generation is still relevant, Google the term abiogenesis. If you believe in the big bang or other theories then you pretty much believe a form of spontaneous generation. So no matter which way you cut it, spontaneous generation is still relevant today.

    By Anonymous alon, at 10:37 AM  

  • This is worse than what the post implies. You are answering that spontaneous generation is miraculous in their time. You are using a variation of nishtana hateva. Yet, it would appear that better observation merely produced a different conclusion. No miracles needed, as long as you can say that the previous conclusion was mistaken.

    Abiogenesis is not spontaneous generation. Abiogenesis is an explanation of how something "which we call life" came into existence. It was a perfectly natural progression (replicating chemicals and viruses to more complex replicating chems and viruses to things that grow and reproduce) and we defined the end result as life. Spontaneous generation presumes that life and not alive are already defined and that clearly alive things come from clearly unalive things without a clear natural progression. That is an entirely different matter, and it has been tested and found wanting. Abiogenesis is in no way a form a spontaneous generation.

    By Anonymous rebeljew, at 12:05 PM  

  • Firstly the point of my previous post was merely to provide that the Lubavitcher Rebbe doesn't believe that science thinks spontaneous generation could happen Alpeteva (something in my opinion this post implies.)
    With that said why would my post be worse than what the original post implies? Please elaborate.

    Now abiogenesis

    Firstly yeah the two are widely different. However the point that life comes from inanimate matter is also present in abiogenesis. However for evolutionists its easy to fathom because it takes a long period of time. But at the end of the day the silliness of spontaneous generation that everyone points out, in my opinion, is that it is ridiculous to believe that living breathing things could come from inanimate matter. When in reality if they believe in evolution they believe something similar(albeit yes very different).

    By Anonymous alon, at 4:33 PM  

  • There is no such thing as an "evolutionist". There are only a huge trove of facts and a theory that explains the vast majority of them perfectly across many disciplines. If you have an actual fact that contradicts evolution, I would suggest you write a paper for peer review. That is how science works.

    The end of my post actually defends the Rebbe's point, and my only objection was not how CR presented it but how Branover did. Branover's point is easily refuted. If the Rebbe had a better point, he could have presented it. Fact remains, the Talmud did not consider each act of SG as a miracle. this answer is not what the Rebbe was saying. IMO, the Rebbe meant to say what I conclude in the post, and I was merely bridging what the Rebbe said with what Branover walked away with.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:13 PM  

  • Ehhh... I would consider people like Dawkins an evolutionist. You're right for there are people who search for the truth and just believe evolution because it makes sense, of course if it didnt they would just drop it. But Dawkins is like in love with it and flaunts it around like its his religion, but thats a different discussion.

    Also you say there is a difference between the Rebbe's view and Branover's. I dont understand I thought that passage was taken from directly from the Rebbe's letter?

    By Anonymous alon, at 4:28 PM  

  • My point is that the Rebbe was not interested in the argument. What he left as an off hand suggestion, not intending to debate the matter, Branover expanded into a proof of the Rebbe's scientific brilliance. I was simply defending the Rebbe's statement in the spirit in which I think it was intended.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 PM  

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