Creationist rabbi Moshe Averick has another Marshall McLuhan moment

December 17, 2011 • 9:25 am

Moshe Averick, an Orthodox rabbi here in Chicago, has been pwned again: he’s getting it not only from his commenters, and from the wife of a Nobel-winning scientist whom Averick attacked, but now from the Nobelist himself and a science columnist.  It has not been a good week for the good rabbi. I wonder whether, in the dark of night when he lies wrestling with his God, Averick even considers the possibility that he might be wrong—or duplicitous.

A few days ago I was scurrilously attacked by Averick for criticizing the ID advocate and pompous twit David Berlinski.  Among my other failings, Averick singled out the quality of my writing, which he compared to a bottle of Ripple.

Averik’s schtick has always been that since science can’t tell us how life arose from nonliving precursors, God must have done it.  He claims to be a novice in all other areas of evolution, not qualified to pass judgment on neo-Darwinism, or my own work, but he’s 100% sure about abiogenesis: science not only can’t tell us how life began, but never will.

In his frenzy to pwn me, Averick quoted Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak, who happens to work on the origin of life. Unfortunately, Averick not only took Szostak’s quote out of context, but added a bit to it to make it seem as if he was finishing Szostak’s thoughts.  Here’s what Averick said:

The argument that I put forth in my book, which Rabbi Jacobs also presented in his Huffington Post column, was that the simple reason why Origin of Life researchers are baffled in their attempts to find a naturalistic origin of life – as Noble Laureate Dr. Jack Szostak put it, “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter,” is because it is impossible for a cell’s machines to have formed spontaneously from non-living matter. The notion that the functional complexity of a bacterium could be the result of an unguided process is as absurd as asserting that the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore were the result of an unguided, naturalistic process.

When you read Szostak’s quote, you immediately detect that it might have been ripped out of context: evolutionists have seen this happen many times, and we get a sense when there’s duplicity afoot.  (Note as well that Averick takes it upon himself to finish Szostak’s quote, so subtly that the reader might think that the whole sentence came from Szostak.)

As I pointed out in my earlier post on this, Szostak’s wife, Terri-Lynn McCormick, commented on Averick’s post, noting that the full quote didn’t express what Averick said it did, but instead discussed ways that the first proto-cell might indeed have formed.  And McCormick called Averick a liar, an accurate characterization.

In response, Averick waffled a bit but wouldn’t admit that he dishonestly truncated a quote, claiming it was all a “misunderstanding.” (LOL!).  So McCormick went right back to the comments and again pointed out his dishonesty:

How dare you misrepresent my husband. Your quote from the Scientific American article blatantly distorts his meaning. It is virtually impossible to imagine the cell we know now to emerging from the pre-biotic earth. He and others have, over many years, been showing incrementally how an RNA cell might have been created on early earth. There is nothing in my husband’s work that suggests otherwise. It is quite sickening that you would try to make him, a steadfast rationalist and atheist, into a propopent for I.D. You are in complete disagreement with Prof. Jack Szostak. Unfortunately for you his opinion is backed up by facts and mountains of results from peer reviewed research.

Please refrain from misrepresenting his opinions or work again. We consider it slander.

What was missing here was Szostak’s own take on the matter.  Well, it turns out that Faye Flam, science columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, went to the horse’s mouth for clarification. She’s posted the answer on her Planet of the Apes website, in a piece called: “Did a creationist quote a Jack Szostak imposter?
Flam, who had previously watched Szostak lecture on his work and interviewed him about his origin-of-life ideas, quotes the great man:

I emailed Szostak to find out where Averick’s quote came from – whether he remembered saying or writing it. “If I recall, the basic point I was making was that the complex machines of modern life could not have formed spontaneously, but must have emerged gradually over a lengthy period of evolution,” was his reply.

It’s not about whether the process is guided, but whether it was sudden or gradual. What kind of a person would take the first part of that quote and then finish with support of creationism?

I’ll tell you what kind of person: someone who’s a professional liar for Yahweh.  And this is for you, Averick, for you’re a man who, to support your unevidenced belief in God, regularly breaks the Ninth Commandment:

And Flam, Szostak, and McCormick have given Averick one of my favorite moments: The Marshall McLuhan Pwn, as seen in this clip from Annie Hall:

29 thoughts on “Creationist rabbi Moshe Averick has another Marshall McLuhan moment

    1. Don’t give up on Woody! His latest, “Midnight In Paris” is a delight. Inspired by a recent PBS “American Masters” series on Allan, I’ve been catching up on his work from the last few decades, and much of it is excellent. I watched “Match Point” last night and…Woah! It’s definitely NOT a comedy, but it’ll take your breath away, and you’ll never hear opera the same way again!

  1. “I wonder whether, in the dark of night when he lies wrestling with his God, Averick even considers the possibility that he might be wrong—or duplicitous”

    That’s gold, Jerry. Gold.


  2. Once upon a time, men such as Averick held a privileged place in society and could make unchallanged great pronouncements on the Ultimate Meanings of Life, the Universe, and Everything. It would not even occur to anybody to question the sage wisdom that fell from such august lips.

    But those days have long been waning outside of certain sheltered communities, and the Internet has utterly swept away any last vestiges of priestly authority.

    The old unquestionable position was, of course, a platform from which one could lie with reckless abandon, free from even the possibility of challenge. But today, you can’t even comment on the weather without being fact-checked.

    One might hope that this incident will provide a much-needed wakeup call for Averick — that it will remind him of his mortality and help him realize that his only hope to pursuade people to his position is with honest engagement. I fear, though, that much more than a token of such hope would be wasted.



    1. Well said, Ben. I hope I’m not being unduly optimistic when I hope that the Internet will ultimately show lying liars who tell lies that it’s not really worth the effort, since it enables people to call them on their BS mere seconds after they’ve posted it.

  3. I like how Averick uses all the creationist code words we all know and love:

    Non-living matter – what is that, Averick? Is a piece of DNA living matter or non-living matter? Explain, plz.

    Functional complexity: what is that, Averick? You don’t know either, you just throw out the term because you think it makes you look smart but, srsly, dood, it makes you look very, very stoopid. And while I’m at it, why the bacterium? Why not a fingernail? Could it be that the bacterium is the Creationist Poster Critter. Geeze, Louise, Averick, you can’t even write something original. Talk about Ripple writing!

    Mt. Rushmore – Really, Averick, you resort to Behe’s sloppy argument. Pass the Ripple!

    Unguided naturalistic process – what is that, Averick? Is a river unguided? Tell me, because I’m all ears, what is the difference between an unguided process and a guided process. Srsl, I’m nearly out of Ripple and I really want to know.

    Oh, and A-rick, old buddy, in case you’re wondering, this is my civil tone.

  4. I first actually heard of Jack Szostak’s work due to a column by Faye Flam, in which someone opposing some aspect of evolution needed some reply; in the course of that I found a great video on YouTube about Szostak’s work and thus learned something new. Now I hear more and really it is due to Averick; if he didn’t misquote intentionally and outrageously, he wouldn’t have made your blog or Flam’s column today. Perhaps others have learned more because of this, not just me. So something good will come of lies, but not intentionally of course

  5. You’d think by now that Creationists would realize that quote mining someone who is still alive is a very bad idea. Then again, they are Creationists and they never learn by definition.

    1. Hell, they haven’t learned that quote mining On The Origin of Species doesn’t lead to anything other than Epic Fail (heck, somebody just did that over on another post here today!) and they’ve had 152 years to figure that out. How could they possibly be expected to catch on that quote mining something that’s only a couple of decades old won’t work?

  6. My first thought is, why do these religious idiots pretend to know anything about science? If they knew anything about science they wouldn’t be religious. Then I remember frozen waterfall guy*. OK, if they knew anything about science they would be much more unlikely to be religious.

    As for quoting out of context, Richard Dawkins now hedges his money quotes with careful clarifications and advanced warnings that creationists will do so, due to him having been a victim in the past. Presumably they can’t then quote him without making him into a prophet.

    *Francis Collins, I think.

    1. OT, but thanks for your RNA world references in that old thread!

      I definitely didn’t know that there is evidence of proteins before DNA.

      Or that there is a homologous core in ribonucleotide reductase (as I found a reference to that effect). The latter would nicely reject Forterre’s idea of independent DNA takeovers, I take it, as he claims the three domains have non-homologous genetic machinery.

      Both of these are interesting to me as I dig into astrobiology. There is a very real chance that abiogenesis happened between the Earth-Moon impactor and the Late Heavy Bombardment, as the latter has been found to be survivable in models. And modern gene family data point to an early abiogenesis.

      One possible cause of a RNA-DNA shift instead of simply divergence is then the LHB. The LHB seems marginally survivable for mesophiles, if they procreate and spread with somewhat of the efficiency of modern bacteria.* But it would put both selective pressures and bottleneck drift possibilities in play under a long period of chaotic environment.

      * It is possible. The Earth-Moon impactor is putatively pushed forward hundreds of millions of years in the latest Moon rock dating (to ~ 4.36 Ga bp). But there is still some 200 Ma for an RNA world to evolve capable enough cells. Proteins would certainly help!

  7. Oops, looks like Rabbi Averick broke a commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

    I wonder what his scripture says about what his punishment should be?

    1. I wonder how he came to be so dishonest – at one point a young and earnest rabbi, and now lying so blatantly! There will be a story worth telling re his slippery slope.

  8. By now, I’m fairly convinced that the good rabbi is simply on some holy mission of compulsive self-flagellation to, perhaps, atone for involuntary (or God forbid, intentional) episodes of nocturnal emissions about which we were told in Yeshiva that there were few things
    that can get Yahweh to go more ballistic over.

  9. So is the Maverick one going to show up here to spill his bile? He’s done that before.
    He deserves to get his ass sued.

  10. shorter McLuhan

    But seriously, consider how revealed religion works as a method — Some authorities write a text, then some authorities interpret the text selectively to justify some results they wanted intuitively.

    Averick applied this method to what a scientist said. If the method really is foundational to Averick’s worldview, then I expect he’ll never see what he did was wrong.

  11. Nice piece, and I loved Faye Flam’s piece. She could not have put it any plainer and it’s great to see attention brought to it. You did, however, get the order of my responses to Rabbi Averick wrong. My first post told is the one you site as my second. He responded and my next comment began “Again, you say what is not true.”

  12. I just read the Rabbi’s original article – he really hates Dr Coyne, doesn’t he? But the comments were great – I’ve never seen anyone so thoroughly and comprehensively trampled on by everybody. Worth a look if you like blood sports 🙂 One could almost feel sorry for the rabbi, if he hadn’t been so gratuitously obnoxious in the first place.

  13. “I wonder whether, in the dark of night when he lies wrestling with his God, Averick even considers the possibility that he might be wrong—or duplicitous.”

    I doubt it. Averick strikes me as one of those people for whom religion is tool to manipulate people. He’s lying, he knows he’s lying and if he lies awake at night it’s because he’s thinking about who to screw over next.


  14. Funny, I went to a seminar by Dr. Szostak at the University of Minnesota and he never once gave the impression that abiogenesis couldn’t have happened. Quite to the contrary he gave a very nice lecture on how it could have happened, which is why this mined quote made me burst out laughing.

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