Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hadar Kevod Hodecha: The Universe Testifies (Chapter 7)

This is my favorite chapter in Sing, You Righteous by R' Avigdor Miller thus far. I'm not typing up the whole chapter, just part of it. I love the idea of intelligent watermelons, you see ;) We live in a beautiful world and it does indeed testify to the brilliance of the Creator who made it. Along those lines, I encountered a gorgeous idea in an epigraph to Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm's Torah UMadda. It is as follows:

"I heard it said that God wrote a book- the world; and He wrote a commentary on that book- the Torah."

~Rabbi Zadok Hakohen of Lublin (1823-1900)

That strikes me as profoundly gorgeous. I'd love to know the context of the quote, as I'd like to understand the concept better. But in and of itself, it's already beautiful.

~

(Mr. Goodfriend is entertaining Eliezer and his younger brother Aaron on the back porch. Watermelon is being served.)

G. Last year I visited a farm in the South and I saw watermelons growing alongside the steps of the Negro workers' cottages.

Aaron. Why did they plant them near the steps?

G. They did not. In the evenings they had held watermelon feasts on their steps, and the slippery seeds had shot in all directions just as they do here. That is the purpose of their slipperiness.

A. Do you say that they are purposefully slippery? Is that not merely due to the moisture of the melon?

G. Rub the melon water between your fingers: it is not slippery. The seeds are coated with a slippery mucus which causes them to fly out under pressure.

A. Then why are only watermelon seeds slippery, but not orange seeds?

G. The watermelon seeds are palatable, and must therefore be protected by making them elusive. The orange pips are bitter and therefore need no protection. That is the purpose of their bitterness.

Eliezer. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture says so in one of its publications on the orange.

A. You say, Sir, that the bitterness is for the intentional purpose of protecting the pips. This implies that the orange tree knows that there are eaters, and therefore intentionally makes its seeds bitter. The tree, then, also knows that the eaters dislike bitterness.

Eliezer. And it implies also that the orange and the watermelon know that the future of their species depends on the protection of the seeds.

A. The biology teachers would be outraged at such language.

E. What else could anyone say, whether he wished or not?

A. If the melon is entirely purposeful, why is its flesh colored red?

E. When your mother makes ice cream, why does she color it? The color enhances the pleasure of eating.

A. You are now implying that the watermelon knows also that the eaters have eyes, and it knows that the eaters are not colorblind.

G. And it knows that the eaters relish sweets, for it sugars the flesh of the melon. You are also forced to admit that it knows how to mix starches and acids, colors and flavors, all in exact proportion, and cooks them in the sunshine until ready to eat.

E. A master chef!

G. It is superior to the best of chefs. The chef is supplied beforehand with all the materials; whereas the plant creates a masterpiece from nothing but water, air, sunlight and soil.

E. It is also evident that it is careful to waste no materials. The red color stops at the rind.

G. Yes. A colored rind would be misleading, for the eater might be tempted and cause himself stomach cramps. Only the edible part is colored.

A. Are you crediting the watermelon with so much intelligence? Perhaps its purpose is merely to produce seeds.

G. That in itself is enormously purposeful. But the seeds do not need the meat of the melon, for each seed is provided with its own store of food within its jacket. This food in the seed-jacket is colorless and unsweetened, for the seed does not need an attractive color or luscious flavor such as the watermelon-meat possesses.

E. The melon proclaims as clearly as could be that it is intended for eaters. The seeds of the fruits and vegetables are provided with their own supply of food, and the kind of food which they need, inside the seed. Therefore the meat of the fruit clearly has no purpose other than to be eaten.

A. And the color of the orange flesh?

G. It causes the eater increased enjoyment.

A. To say that the melon wishes to protect the eater against stomach cramps, seems too imaginative.

G. Do you not see that all unripe fruits are green? Why?

A. That is their natural color.

G. Then why do apples turn red when ripe, and not before? Why do oranges turn yellow only when ripe, and grapes turn purple? In ripeness they have various colors, but when unripe all are green. Why?

E. You can say nothing else: to protect the eaters from stomachache. The green warns them.

G. The green causes the fruits to be inconspicuous among the green leaves. The unripe fruit remains unnoticeable, in addition to remaining unattractive, as long as it is unfit for eating. The ripe fruit assumes a bright color in order 1) to make it conspicuous among the green leaves and 2) to make it attractive to the eaters.

A. You attribute very much intelligence to all plants.

G. Yes. The fruit tree knows 1) of eaters 2) who have eyes 3) which distinguish colors; and 4) who possess stomachs, and 5) who have the senses of smell and taste, and 6) dislike sour food but 7) relish sweets flavored by gentle acids, and 8) whose digestive systems are equipped with complex chemical processes with which the tree is familiar. The tree knows also that 9) the eaters possess teeth and 10) that they have no wings with which to fly.

[...]

E. When we were children, the teacher said: "Nature plans ahead," and "Nature does nothing without purpose." We were told: "Nature maintains a balance," "Nature foresees emergencies," "Nature economizes," "Nature constantly strives to break down all things to their simplest components," and "Nature has devised an ingenious plan, etc." We swallowed that unthinkingly.

G. Nature is one of two things: Intelligence or accident. There is no third alternative. They actually are saying: "Accident plans ahead"; "Accident does nothing without purpose."

A. They do not say that Nature is mere accident. They call it Adaptation.

G. What difference does a new name make? Adaptation is the result of either Intelligence or accident. Is it an accident that the seeds are protected from eaters by their being coated with a slippery mucus, or by being made bitter, or by being covered by hard cases? Or is it an accident that the unripe fruit is green, and is held tightly by the tree; and that only when ripe does the fruit become colored, and then only on the outside of its skin; and that the tree then releases its grip? Adaptation, or whatever term they may use to denote processes of accident, cannot make purposeful arrangements. Without a great Intelligence in control, how could a seed come into being? If one finds a watch in the wilderness, would he attribute it to anything other than an intelligent mind? Such attitudes are possible only when men live in a dreamworld of unreality.

A. But perhaps Life is different. A watch is lifeless, but maybe Life can perform such achievements.

E. That is but another name. The choice must still be made: Life is either accident or Intelligence. To say it is neither would be an evasion.

G. Evasion is exactly what the savants are employing. They use dishonest terminology in order to confuse the issue; but in the last analysis, the question remains: Is Life the result of accident or of planning by an Infinite Intelligence? What is accidental about a seed? It is a library of blueprints for the future. It has not only thousands of volumes of plans and instructions, but possesses also the machinery to carry them out into action. It can take air, water, sunlight and earth, and it can disassemble their chemicals and recast them into the countless varieties of organic materials which the plant requires in order to organize them into roots, stem, leaves, wood, bark, pollen, nectar, flowers, sap, fruit, seeds and all the vastly complicated paraphernalia of growth and reproduction.

-pages 130-136

12 comments:

nmf #7 said...

Love, love, love, love, love!!
I can hear R' Miller echoing in my head as he was expounding on the apple- "So delicious and sweet, and perfectly red..."
I must link to this- so perfectly done Chana!

TMWTBH said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx_NgHIBRt4

Shimon said...

The quote by Rav Tzadok is from Tzidkas HaTzadik (רטז) [from the Hebrew version of R' Lamm's book]

itsagift said...

Thanks, nmf #7 for the link to this post - it is beautifully written. Reminds me of a chapter in "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt..."

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yeah man, Rav Miller has so much truth to tell and so many people just write him off in half a second…

..it’s very good someone is spreading his word..

Staying Afloat said...

Thank you so much. It's a good reminder that the world-view that's contemporary isn't the whole story. My roommate in Stern would regularly come over to me, shove her bio book in my face, and say, "How awesome is this thing Hashem did?!!!"

Ezzie said...

Now THAT was awesome. :)

Jewish Atheist said...

Wow, I never pegged you as an IDer. It's like you've never heard of Darwin!

Jewish Atheist said...

My response.

Erachet said...

Yes.

I always wondered how people could learn biology and not believe in God.

Lvnsm27 said...

Interesting about the fruit, especially watermelon ummm

I remember hearing a documentary inwhich the person mentioned about accident vs. design. They said that one scenario is that a group of proteins in a pool of liquid was struck by lightning and that started the proccess. He continued that even if that happened, it still wouldn't have become so complex as it is.

Some people say that the cell started simple and became complex. However, the person in the video mentioned that in order for a cell to work, it needs to have all it's parts. And so it was complex from the beginning, therefore, even if something like electricity started the process of the proteins connecting, it wouldn't have become like this with all it's complexities

Bill Patt said...

I happened to go into a Jewish book store. I'm not Jewish,but I love the depth of the feast days. Anyway, I ran across Rabbi Miller's book The Universe Testifies. I got it home and the end of the evening I had most of it read. I went back a day or two later and bought the rest of the copies in the store to pass out to friends. A GREAT little book.