We baby boomers have had amazing good fortune including the way that technical innovations roll out like a red carpet the moment we need them. In middle age, just as our short-term memory dribbles out, iPhones become convenient enough to catch the dribble. And just as we start to reminisce about our pasts, there’s Facebook.

I last talked to Moshe when we were pre-Bar-Mitzvah age. I opted not to have a Bar Mitzvah and ended up an atheist researching and writing about scientific alternatives to God, attempts to address the challenge rightfully posed by religion to come up with a better explanation for life than God. I’m working on a book called “Purpose: A Natural History” that offers one such explanation for how life’s creative beings could ever have spontaneously emerged from mere physics and chemistry.

In contrast, Moshe had a Bar Mitzvah and became a Rabbi. When we reconnected on Facebook he was putting finishing touches on a book called Nonsense of a High Order: The confused and illusory world of the atheist in which he argues that the kind of work I do yields nonsense and that it’s time to admit that there is no explanation but God.

Moshe was a charmer at 12 and still is today, which makes our friendly reconnection from opposite camps delightful and inspirational, a little like those cross-border German/French Christmas Parties at the beginning of WWI. I love conversations with people like Moshe who live David Hume’s adage that “Truth springs from argument amongst friends.” He zeros right in on our points of greatest contention. There’s love between us even though we disagree whole-heartedly on critical matters.

He’s a brave soul engaging with me. Thanks be to Facebook, just as he’s putting finishing touches on his magnum manifesto, he finds himself in warm conversation and heated debate with about the most erosive mind he could find. I don’t know that I would be brave enough withstand a credible challenge to a book I’m about to bring to press.

My arguments have proved credible to him in part because I’m not proving to be the kind of nonsense promoter Moshe caricatures in his book. I agree with him that a lot of what passes for scientific alternatives to God is nonsense. For example though I believe in evolutionary theory, I don’t think it explains life’s existence. Asked how evolution began, some atheists say, “it evolved.” That’s circular nonsense.

He embraces me when I slice and dissect stuff that passes for science. But then my knife is double edged. I argue against “defaulty logic” the faulty logic that says that if the opposition’s argument is wrong, our argument must be right by default. Both sides of the science/religion debate indulge in defaulty logic. Science-supporters argue religion is so dumb scientific theories must by right by default. Moshe argues that since there are big holes in scientific theory, God is the answer.

Moshe and I argue in short skirmishes punctuated by pauses sometimes lasting months.

Recently Moshe re-engaged posing this wonderful question:

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When we cut to the chase it boils down to only two possibilities: Life was created by a supernatural creator or it is the result of some naturalistic process?”

I countered that the forced choice is actually whether life’s creation is something you believe can or can’t be eventually be explained.

Conviction that life was created by a supernatural creator is actually two arguments in one that life can’t be explained. A creator implies a living being. “Life was created by a living being,” is as circular as “Evolution was created by evolution.

And to say that the creator is supernatural is to suggest that the creator is on the other side of a line between our natural, material and knowable realm and some supernatural, immaterial and unknowable realm. To say a supernatural something created life amounts to saying we can’t know what created life.

I told Moshe that you can’t have it both ways, ducking out to posit a God-creature and then when challenged ducking in to say “We can’t know anything about it because it’s supernatural.” Likewise you can’t say “God is a total mystery, a supernatural force beyond my comprehension and who I will now tell you all about including His personal preferences.”

Moshe said he had to think about that. He wrote back this reframing recently:

“Life is either the product of some naturalistic process, or was created deliberately by an intelligent creator who “himself” requires no creator. Supernatural God: actually existent, composed of neither matter nor energy, existing in neither time nor space. We describe him as alive only in the sense that he exists and “acts”. He is not alive like we are. We are creatures; he is creator. There is no greater closeness and intimacy than that of creator and creature and there is no greater chasm than that which separates creator and creature.”

I realize I’m wrong when I say you can’t have it both ways. Of course you can. You can say whatever satisfies you regardless of whether it answers the question.

Words themselves are a double-edged sword. They are necessary to slicing and dicing our way through to answers, but they can also be used to excise questions. To say with confidence that life was created by a supernatural intelligent creator is like saying there exist square circles. And of course you can say that.

I therefore conclude there are three choices:

Either we can or can’t explain the origins of life, or we can claim to explain it using any combination of words that satisfy us that we know what created life.

We want an accurate explanation for the origins of life. But the way we know whether we have one is whether we’re satisfied with the answer. Are we only satisfied with accurate answers? Far from it.