Should I Argue Against Evolution or for a G-d Directed Evolution

I have a work associate who seems interested in Torah, but he likes to challenge me about contradictions between Torah and science and other things. He recently asked me about the Torahs views on Evolution.

On the one hand, I could say that that I don’t believe in evolution and there are many holes in evolution theory and that scientists are biased against a belief in G-d. On the other hand, many secular Jews accept the scientific consensus that evolution did take place, and I could make the case that a G-d directed evolution would not necessarily contradict the Torah.

My Rav holds that you don’t have to take a 6,000 year creation literally.

What approach makes more sense when dealing with non observant Jews?

– Jack

Originally posted July 2008

103 comments on “Should I Argue Against Evolution or for a G-d Directed Evolution

  1. Yes, we should not be “believers” in scientists. There is such a concept as shallow-but-intelligent which we see all around us. Scientists are no different. Although they deal with a lot of facts, that doesn’t mean that every possible option was explored. In fact, while we often hear that their theories gave us a lot of advancements, this is not always the case. Most inventions are born out of experiment rather than theory. Theories and discoveries come about the same time.

    For example, look at the famous experiment which led to the discovery of the electron. The experimenter noticed that there were rays going from the cathode to the anode in a tube. He also tested it and found the ray to have momentum. From this it was deduced that there must be a particle involved here, which was named Electron.

    This experiment also led to the cathode ray tube (CRT) screen that, until recently, gave us computer and TV screens. Now, the creation of the CRT monitor is not necessarily dependent on the theory of electrons.

    The same goes with many evolution proofs. Although the study of the genome goes hand in hand with the theory of evolution, it isn’t necessarily dependent on it. We would have noticed the common genome with other animals regardless if someone said that we all come from monkeys.

    Also, the evolution that is observed is usually in the form of adaptation and degeneration. These are part of a law of nature, no different than the forming of lakes and rivers and decaying plants. If the latter doesn’t cause you to say that the world happened by itself, neither should the former.

    Another point: Dr. Hall mentioned the fact that people choke, as something that would point to evolution. I would say the exact opposite. The theory of evolution is based on survival of the fittest. Does the human sound so fit? The excuses for species gone extinct don’t match up to the shortcomings of the homo-sapiens-sapiens – starting from it’s very birth!

    Having said all that – and there is more to say – I still say that creation proof is not the basis of Emuna. There are many philosophical proofs mentioned in Sefarim, ranging from the world’s beginning to its very end. However, the main proof, the pillar of which the Torah speaks of, is Yetzias Mitzraim. Even Shabbos, which is all about remembering the six day creation is also Zecher Yetzias Mitzraim. If people would keep this in mind, there would be one less sticking point.

  2. I think the recent grant-fueled faux-science about global warming should make us at least a bit skeptical about the scientific community.

  3. Hi Bob,
    I thought I was writing a footnote on a buried paper. Thanks for proving otherwise.

    There definitely is proof from the creation and philosophically, from existence, that there is a creator. However, the strongest (and therefore, main) starting point is Yetzias Mitzraim. Don’t forget that Avraham Avinu figured out the rest of Sinai, too.

    The Sefer Kuzari writes that after Avraham Avinu figured it all out he got a Nevua. At that point, says the Kuzari, how can Avraham Avinu not have laughed at all his deliberations? Once he experienced it, there was no more room for doubt. That is what we had by Yetzias Mitzraim and Matan Torah.

    As I said earlier, the Torah says, She’al Na Leyamim Rishonim… – “Ask the previous generations if such a thing ever happend, or if they ever heard of it, that a nation heard G-d speak and survived. Did any G-d ever try to take a people out from within another people?” It doesn’t mention any proof from anti-evolution.

    We see constantly throughout the Torah that Yetzias Mitzraim is the starting point as a reason of why we are indebted to Hashem, and as proof of His existence and power.

    I added this to what I thought was a dead thread because I see this as a very important point. Basing Emuna on making fun of scientists has many downsides. You can read through the posts above and see just how well that will work.

  4. The Avos were renowned for Emunah, pre-Sinai. See Rashi at beginning of Parashas Vaera, discussing HaShem’s response to Moshe Rabbeinu.

  5. I might be a little late for this (just about a year), but one very important thing to realize is that our Emuna in Hashem and the Torah is not based on creation arguments. In the Torah we see that the Emuna starts at Yetzias Mitzraim. We know that Hashem created the world because he told this to us upon giving the Torah. Yes, the fact that Hashem created the universe is an essential point in Yiddishkeit – Shabbos is about this – but it is not the starting point.

    Of course this doesn’t answer the original question, but it makes it an unloaded question.

  6. I was a member of the Brooklyn kehillah of Rav Avigdor Miller, zatzal, for nearly eleven years, from March 1976 until I moved to Far Rockaway in February 1987. Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s books battled head on against the theory of evolution, not on theological or philosophical grounds, but with scientific and mathematical arguments. There are many complex processes within living organisms that would not work if even one step or one chemical in the process was missing. The incomplete or partly complete process is useless to the organism. Compute the staggering mathematical improbability of so many beneficial mutations occurring together. Just one example from Rabbi Miller’s books: a species of wood-boring beetle with yeast plants growing around its egg-laying orifice. That species of beetle bores into the wood and lays eggs which have the yeast plants clinging to the shell. When the little beetles hatch, they swallow these yeast plants and that gives them the ability to dissolve wood and bore their way to the surface. Rabbi Avigdor Miller zatzal cited many more wonders of the Borei HaOlam in his books in chapters entitled “The Universe Testifies” from his books Rejoice O Youth! and Sing, Ye Righteous. It is important to fight “evolutionism” which is blind faith and not science at all, since it leads directly to the idea that the murder of millions of human beings is no more tragic than the “destruction of infusoria in a mud puddle” (Rav Miller’s words).

  7. Got milk? The Theory of Evolution doesn’t. There’s no scientific explanation for milk. Mammals, by definition, feed their newborns with milk; reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds don’t. Not just the liquid itself, a perfect blend of fats, sugars and proteins to nourish the baby, but the whole milk production and delivery system in the organism, not to mention its expression in the DNA of mammals so that female offspring will also be able to nurse their young. It just doesn’t make any scientific sense to come up with a completely different way of giving newborns food to eat. Calves and foals could have been born with teeth so they could start cropping grass like the mother cows and mares right from birth. That would have been “easier,” so to speak, than milk. How could milk have evolved, and why? What is the mathematical probability that the milk production and delivery system of mammals, along with correct sequences in the DNA, could have been the result of random beneficial mutations? Do we rely on Stephen Jay Gould’s theory about “hopeful monsters,” or as one paleontologist declared, “kittens sucked in vain for a million years?”

  8. Dr. Hall,

    What future events are you referring to when you say that evolutionary theory ‘predicted future events.’ – ??

  9. David,
    I think that the general question is a very important one. If I hadn’t already used up all my web time, I would weigh in further on the subject!

    Just as a btw: while there has been quite a bit of “discussion” about evolution on the various blogs, it is usually just a lot of nasty flame throwing without much real communication. This blog, which, by some nes, is both open and civil, is a place were these things can really be discussed. And there is a need to “discuss” them because true discussion is NOT something that has already been done.

  10. Perhaps it would have been preferable if our wise administrators would have phrased the question in general terms in the first place.

  11. I think propriety is an issue, but I think the other key issue is our approach to answering questions.

    Do we try to undermine the premise of the question, which in this case would be trying to prove that evolution is false? Or do we try to give the person a resolution in the Gemora format of “even according to your opinion” there is no contradiction between Torah and Evolution.

  12. RE #84
    I have heard people say that since the RAMBAM talks about astronomy that everything he says must be literally true, and that all of astronomy for the last 399* years must be wrong.

    The critical factor in a scientific theory is that it should be fruitful. Which is to say that it should help you find out things about the world you don’t already know. Saying well “G-d made it that way, end of story” is a totology. you can’t learn anything about the thing. Whereas by using observational data from the planet Uranus and Newtonian physics Levernier was able to discover the planet Neptune without ever using a telescope. When the observers went to look for it they discovered it within 1° of where he said it would be.

    * Actually a bit more, in truth modern astronomy starts with Tycho, but Galileo’s first telescopic observations are more or less as good a place to start it.

  13. I think this thread, in many respects, has veered far from the points raised by the original question. How strange for a blog, no? :)

    I don’t really think that Jack was looking for a debate on the issue of evolution and torah or science and torah. There just might be some info floating around the blogosphere in that regard.

    The question, really, as I see it,is:

    What is the propriety of presenting a non-Torah observant Jew with a viewpoint that may be different than your own if you feel that your view may be unacceptable to them?

  14. Steve,
    First of all, Mazal Tov again, in case my earlier mazal tov was batul b’rov.

    I would say that your comment in 84 is a bit of a raya against your comment in 83. Upon what basis did they take sides in the discussion of the shape of the earth or the its rotation? Obviously they held that the Torah has a view on the subject. In Rabbi Kaplan’s writings as well, it is clear that one needs a makor in Torah.

  15. David F.

    Yes, you’re right.

    My point is that regardless of which approach Jack takes with regard to evolution, he should make it clear to his colleague that with regard to the origin of life either you have to believe in the impossible (not improbable, but literally impossible) or special creation.

    Of course, most people will answer, “I don’t know.”

    At that point you can respond that it behooves us to try to make a connection with a Creator Who’s given us life and manifold benefits, on the possibility He does exist, simply out of gratitude for all the myriad pleasures we enjoy daily. If he wants to know more, Jack can direct him to a suitable local program.

  16. I take note that Dr Hall talks about how evolution is so 100% definite, but has not provided any examples of proof.

    Unless I read this thread too fast, if so, please provide the comment # where Dr Hall provided us proof of evolution.

  17. I haven’t read all the replies yet, but I think you should tell him what you think is mandated by Judaism. If you think that the Torah makes it clear that the universe was created in 6 literal days, then you should tell him that. If that is your belief, but you think that other beliefs are permissible let him know that. In general truth should trump expediency during kiruv, IMHO.

  18. One more point-Many Acharonim wrote about and took sides in the Copernicus and Galilean views of the shape of the earth and whether the earth revolved around the sun. However, those who argued that the sun revolved around the earth were essentially following a Copernicean or Aristotelian POV which one can also find in the Rambam which RYK realized was wrong when he watched the moon landings. One would hope that one can realize that Torah and science operate along different sets of principles and that while they are not always reconcilable, Poskim have never hesitated to consult scientists and others whose expertise lies outside of a Beis Medrash in approaching cutting edge halachic issues.

  19. Michoel-Prior to the Slifkin ban, there were numerous articles and books written that worked from various premises with respect to Torah and science ( R Aryeh Kaplan ZTL) and no Gadol ever banned these books as beyond the pale of halachic or hashkafic acceptability. The Slifkin ban asserted a previously non-existent catechism in an area where there had been a lot of hashkafic flexibility. WADR, the issue of how much one accepts of evolutionary theory is irrelevant once once accepts Divine Origin and Maaseh Breishis as discussed by Chazal and Rishonim in many different ways as well as the fact that there is precious little of a redeeming moral value in the Torah until Lech Lecha because God’s search for anyone who would accept monothesim was falling on deaf ears between Adam, Noah and Avraham. Why this issue seemingly bothers so many people simply amazes me.

  20. David Schalheim
    To be fair, your argument about the origin of life would be directed at atheists. This thread is talking about marco evolution within the framework of a Creator. I personally don’t care either way, like Prof. Hall, it doesn’t effect my Emunah at all. In order for me to accept macro ev. there would have to be all these billions of fossils of transitional species that are missing. No one denies dinosaurs existed because we have their fossils; who would believe they existed if we didn’t have them, but existed in someone’s theory?

  21. >>Well for one thing without the theory of Evolution we would have no understanding of how drug resistant viruses and bacteria come about

    Zach, that’s the distinction we’re all making between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is verifiable by empirical lab snd field studies, like the peppered moths we learned about in high school.

    Macro-evolution requires a logical leap and extrapolation, and is open to question: Did it ever really happen? As opposed to “it could have happened.” And the probability that it could have happened is so remote as to be impossible.

    Do we have to accept the proposition that we are descended from the apes to conduct scientific research?

    We should make it clear that evolution is a mighty warrior with clay feet. It has no basis upon which to stand, because it’s clearly impossible that life arose by chance on this planet.

    In the words of Nobel Prize laureate George Wald (, who wrote in Scientific American, in an article entitled “The Origin of Life”:

    “The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only other alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a “philosophical necessity.” It is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of out time that this necessity is no longer appreciated. Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing.

    I think a scientist has no choice but to approach the origin of life through a hypothesis of spontaneous generation.

    One only has to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are – as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”

  22. Even if it could be proven (as Prof Hall is saying) that there is no fundamental difference between micro and macro, that would in no way “prove” that life as we know it is the result of macro-evolution. If it could be proven (as per Prof Spetner for example) that macro cannot result from micro, that would indeed be a very big challenge to “evolution is fact” folks. But the issue is one of “can evolution be DISproved”. To PROVE it, we would need a time machine.

  23. Prof. Hall,
    What I meant by the difference between micro and macro evolution is the difference between evolution that can be seen in the lab, e.g. bacterial, as an example of microevolution and the creation of widely divergent species (not just types of cats) as an example of macroevolution. Just because the first has been proven does not, in my mind, justify the declaration that the second one is fact. There seem to be limits in nature as to just how far evolution can go.

  24. Right, like what we refer to as artificial intelligence. Pre-programmed ability to improve based on environmental input.

  25. By what test or analytical method would one distinguish an event of evolution from an event of “adaptation utilizing built-in capabilities” ?

  26. Professor Hall,
    Thank you for your contribution.
    I have a couple of questions:
    1) As has been asked before, how has Evolutionary theory contributed to developing new drugs?
    2) I’m sure you have heard about the recent experiment of the E. Coli bacteria which the author of the study says after 20 years in the lab has evolved a new capability. Now this was heralded in the news as proof that random mutations and natural selection can indeed evolve new capablities in a short period of time. My fundamental question here (obviously assuming that there are no errors or fraud here) is that while it took only 20 years, it involved over 31,000 generation (some reports say it is over 44,000 generations)! This amount of generations in animal or human terms would mean hundreds of thousands of years for just one small change. It seems impossible that this could account for the countless changes required, even over a hundred million years. My question to you is, is this a valid observation?

  27. What has the theory of evolution contributed to advances in medical research? I can’t think of any concrete examples.

    Well for one thing without the theory of Evolution we would have no understanding of how drug resistant viruses and bacteria come about. I’m sure there are others but that one jumps to mind.

  28. One issued raised in this article was whether a person can tell his friend an idea that might have some basis in Judaism and might be persuasive, even if the person didn’t accept that idea himself. Also, whether the person can pass such an idea along without saying whether he himslf accepted it or not.

    We might get somewhere discussing these angles.

  29. David Schallheim makes a very important point. In western society there is an attitude toward scientists that approaches “worship”. One can see this in a lot of areas. So there is not an accusation (at least by me) that scientist are sneaky guys trying to dupe everyone. But there is an “accusation” that they are merely human.

  30. Steve,
    Can you please flesh out this statement a bit: “A catechism of faith where ome was never demanded in Jewish history”

    You seem to refer to those that reject evolution as compatible with Torah as “insisting on one and only one approach”. Why are you doing that? You certainly know that the rejection of an approach does not equate to the rejection of all non-literal approaches. One can reject evolution and accept lots of other things. I would say that those that believe that evolution is “a fact” have jettisoned far more of our mesorah than those that reject it.

  31. Yasher-koach to Charlie Hall and others for their extensive, informative posts on this thread!

  32. Yaakov,

    >Do you have other means of directing research in these areas or should we just stop wasting our money trying to do research vaccines, medicines, cancer

    What has the theory of evolution contributed to advances in medical research? I can’t think of any concrete examples.

    Do you really think that if the scientific community had followed the lead of William Paley ( instead of Darwin, they would have made less advances in medical research? Why?

    > Those accusing biologists (or scientists) as a whole as biased should really take a few minutes to think about what this means

    Humanity as a whole is biased. There’s no escaping it (aside from learning mussar!). Perhaps you saw this before, but it bears repeating:

    “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption … For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneous liberation from a certain political and economic system, and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom…”

    –Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for Their Realization” (Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York and London, 1937, pg 316).

  33. Professor Hall,

    > “about a completely random process’

    >>The need for newly evolved characteristics to offer a benefit provides a systematic bias and direction.

    I think Lee Spetner in “Not By Chance” has demonstrated well that a completely random mechanism cannot consistently produce those beneficial characteristics needed for evolutionary change within any time frame available, even if you had the entire 15 billion years.

    > ‘ in the face of the obvious design of living creatures.’
    >> Actually, it isn’t so obvious…

    Your arguments sound like Stephen Gould’s Panda’s Thumb. To me, it’s like someone taking a tour of the space shuttle and finding an “inelegantly designed” module, so he concludes the entire edifice arose due to a hurricane sweeping through a junk yard. In the face of overwhelming evidence of design, this argument picks on one subjective issue that doesn’t meet one’s fancy.

    What’s more, it seems to me this argument is the equivalent of asking “why do bad things happen to good people?” on a biological scale. The fact that there are huge issues we don’t understand about G-d’s design of the universe or the way He runs it are not pieces of evidence for a materialistic theory.

    In 1961, they wanted to remove my tonsils because they were “unnecessary.” Today medical science views tonsils quite differently. Just because science does not understand the reason for large stretches of genetic material or various organs, it’s not proof that G-d didn’t design it. Why does it suggest evolution any more than an insufficiently understood design?

    The next time a human being creates a hundred billion galaxies with a hundred billion stars in each galaxy out of an absolutely incomprehensible nothingness, he can ask pointed questions on the Creator’s design!

    >Why can people choke to death?
    A better question is why we don’t choke every time we eat! Isn’t it amazing that the throat is used for breathing and swallowing, two mutually exclusive activities, with a nearly 100% success rate? Could you design an aperture that enables a person to talk while he eats (which he shouldn’t do) for eighty, ninety years without a mishap? I don’t see the kasheh on G-d’s design; we ought to be amazed by the entire mechanism in the first place!

  34. IMO, one of the best approaches to this issue and the quandaries that provoke such discussions is to recognize that Torah and science are two different approaches in relating to God’s world and that is folly to expect either easy reconciliation or perpetual conflict in understanding this admittedly complex issue. A catechism of faith where ome was never demanded in Jewish history IMO strikes me as a particularly inappropriate solution. IOW, insisting upon one and only one approach to the events of Breishis Yesh MeAyin assuming as Rambam states with a Divine Will at the beginning, and what happened thereafter, in the presence of numerous legitimate approaches thereto in the Mesorah, cannot IMO be viewed as a positive, beneficial or more importantly, intellectually honest approach.

  35. “about a completely random process’

    Please allow me to jump in on this one, as a statistician, I sort of am an expert in randomness. Most laypeople believe that explanations must be either completely random or deterministic. In fact, most scientific hypotheses are tested using models that are partly deterministic and partly random. And this is true in evolutionary development: The need for newly evolved characteristics to offer a benefit provides a systematic bias and direction.

    ‘ that eliminates the need for a supernatural Creator’

    This is correct. Science by definition deals with natural and not supernatural phenomena. This is because the ultimate test of science is its ability to predict additional observations. And every frum Jew must agree to this as otherwise we would have to give scientists the power of naviim.

    ‘ and provides an atheist with an intellectually satisfying argument’

    I’ve had plenty of arguments with fundamentalist atheists. My existence as a beliver is very inconvenient to them.

    ‘ in the face of the obvious design of living creatures.’

    Actually, it isn’t so obvious, because there are plenty of examples where the “design” looks like it might be able to be improved upon! What is the purpose of wings on flightless birds? Why can people choke to death? Why do we have an appendix or a coccyx? Why do human women need assistance in giving birth? Evolutionary biology explains all this much better than any “intelligent design” argument.

    That said, being a scientist causes me to express amazement at HaShem’s universe every day. I can’t think of a better career for someone who wishes to be forced to be in awe of heaven.

  36. “their physical orientation makes them biased against spiritual solutions to questions such as the origin, meaning and purpose of life.”

    I don’t know that science is biased so much as it is simply unable to address those questions.

  37. “microevolution or macroevolution?”

    Underlying the question lies a big misconception. Most of us learned something about how “species” develop, presumably by evolution, in our science classes, and many of us probably thought that it was a bit of a stretch. It seemed that development of new “species” was rather rare and few junior high school biology teachers could cite an example in a higher organism — or even define the term “species” satisfactorily. I think that this is the source of some of the willingness of the public to be sceptical regarding evolution.

    Here are the two misconceptions:

    (1) “Species” is not a well defined scientific term and it is rarely used in a technical sense by scientists.

    (2) There is really no fundamental difference between microevolution and macroevolution, because all differences and changes in life forms that appear at a macro- level are based on differences and changes at a micro- level. We know that today; we did not know that two generations ago.

    Regarding the first issue, there is an additional problem in that there is a word in Chumash that is often interpreted as meaning species. Rabbi Slifkin has done a better job than I could ever do in pointing out that the Torah definition of species does not correspond to any meaningful scientific definition. And it is not even clear that there exists a meaningful scientific definition; the ones we learned in junior high school just don’t work well in practice. Even Darwin himself reportedly disliked the term.

    For example, many of us learned that if two higher organisms can mate and produce fertile offspring, they are ultimately part of the same species. What then, do you make of a situation where creature A can mate with creature B which can mate with creature C, but creature A can not mate with creature C. This kind of situation is called a “ring species” and while rare, they do exist; one example is the herring gull. And another problem is where two creatures can mate and usually produce infertile offspring but in rare cases fertile offspring result; for example, there are some rare cases of fertile mules.

  38. “How many of us can say with certainty that we can prove or disprove any scientific hypothesis.”

    Excellent question! In fact as Jews we have to deal with this on a regular basis. How do you know that the meat you will eat this Shabat is actually kosher? How do you know that the milk you drink tomorrow morning is from a kosher animal? Those are empirical questions. There is in fact a halachic standard for sufficiency of evidence. The scientific standard to be able to make a statement like “cigarette smoking causes lung cancer” or “HIV causes AIDS”, to cite two statments that are certainly true, are different and almost certainly more rigorous than the halachic standard. See Chazal’s discussion of the efficacy of an amulet in Shabat 61a for an example.

    There *is* always the possibility that sufficient evidence may be discovered that overturns what was previously known. However, it is worth noting that such rarely happens. Einstein’s theory of relativity was mentioned; in fact it did not overturn Newtonian mechanics which works today just as well as it described 300 years ago. Einstein’s theory only predicts different results for very small or very fast moving objects. For cigarettes, there really aren’t any other possible causes that haven’t been definitively ruled out. For HIV, the evidence is just as overwhelming despite the insistence of one dangerous troublemaker.

    And for evolution, the chance that there will be sufficient data to show that it did not occur are essentially zero. It is right up there with cigarettes and HIV — maybe even more so.

    A few years ago there was a paper on the evolution of cats that showed a strong association between the genetics of all living cat species and the fossil record. The authors included hundreds of pages of supplementary data as an online appendix. In a different internet forum, I suggested that this would be a relatively easy task for evolution opponents if they really had a possible alternative explanation since this was a relatively small amount of data limited to
    one family of animals. Nobody took me up on the challenge. And there are dozens of papers like this published every year on all sorts of topics — it is difficult for those who aren’t in the field to grasp how overwhelming it all is.

    Back to your point of humility: In fact scientists are human and are reluctant to drop explanations that have worked in the past. Thomas Kuhn wrote extensively about this. Just within the time of my career, we’ve had to rewrite textbooks to say that most stomach ulcers are caused by bacterial infections, and that adult humans can grow new neurons. The midot that come from an examined frum life can help spare science from the dangers of excessive arrogance. I try to remember this every day. Nevertheless we do have to sometimes make definitive statements like “cigarette smoking causes cancer” just as the rabbi in all his humility has to rule “treif” or “kosher”.

  39. To those of you who insist that the theory of evolution is the basis of science and that predictions based on it have been verified, are you talking about microevolution or macroevolution? If you want to include macroevolution, can someone give me an example? Have any experiments been done to evolve one species into another? To show how multiple interrelated evolutionary steps happen at the same time? I’d be very interested in hearing more about this.

    I don’t think anyone disputes the fact of microevolution. It’s macroevolution that is the sticking point. I don’t think it’s very scientific to use a single word “evolution” that may be based on one of them (micro) to include the other (macro).

  40. Science does not make judgments, but scientists do all the time. In fact Dawkins uses his credentials as a scientist to disparage G-d and religion.

    And many religious leaders use their credentials to disparage scientists and their work? I personally find both behaviors distasteful.

    The framework and orientation of science is the physical which is at odds with spiritual explanations. That aspect of science is at odds with religion.

    It isn’t odds with religion any more than music is at odds with sculpture.

    Science is a conceptual model. You can choose to believe it is an accurate model of the Universe, or that it is merely a pragmatically useful model of the Universe.

  41. Science does not make judgments, but scientists do all the time. In fact Dawkins uses his credentials as a scientist to disparage G-d and religion.

    The framework and orientation of science is the physical which is at odds with spiritual explanations. That aspect of science is at odds with religion. I think this is a reason that scientists don’t believe in G-d at a significantly higher rate than other groups.

    Which of course is not to say that we don’t benefit from science and we should not be grateful to scientists who help us.

    From Wikipedia: Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is the effort to discover, understand, or to understand better, how the physical world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding. It is done through observation of existing phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate phenomena under controlled conditions. Knowledge in science is gained through research.

  42. Science doesn’t actually make judgements about any non-falsifiable claims. They are entirely outside of its scope.

    Biology is no more antithetical to religion because it doesn’t deal with divine creation of species than Meteorology is because it doesn’t deal with divine creation of lightning.

    Science is an empirical philosophy. It creates a model of the Universe based on what we have observed, and uses this model to make predictions of what we will find in the future. If these predictions are falsified, then we have new data, and will come up with new theories to explain them. Many years ago, I listened to a leading physicist make the case for the Superconducting Supercollider by simply stating “Our current theories explain everything we’ve found so far, and we are sure that we aren’t right yet — we need better tools to find things that disprove our theories.”

  43. Yaakov, Science at its core deals with physical evidence which is antithetical to the spiritual which by definition can not be measured. This is the inherent bias in that field. Philosophy for example, does not have that same inherent bias.

    Saying a field of study has a bias in no way is a disparagement of its accomplishments. Its just pointing out that their physical orientation makes them biased against spiritual solutions to questions such as the origin, meaning and purpose of life.

    Rabbi Schallheim is giving a more pointed description of bias, but we may not have to go that far to show that there is an inherent bias in disciplines that rely on the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual.

  44. David – do you really think all biologists are biased? All of them? That their theory which has given humanity so much is just a peice of junk that they should give up? Do you have other means of directing research in these areas or should we just stop wasting our money trying to do research vaccines, medicines, cancer…

    Those accusing biologists (or scientists) as a whole as biased should really take a few minutes to think about what this means…

    This whole disucssion has been very disturbing…

  45. Mark, Regarding your comments in #38 above: If the coworker would challenge by saying that science proves that yitzias mitzrayim never happened, would you also be as tolerant.

    I don’t think tolerant is the right word, I think truly understanding a person’s questions and possible answers to that question is the goal. Thinking things through together is a lot more satisfying then winning, especially when in these situations when you win, you often lose – the person’s friendship and trust that is.

    In the example of Yetzias Metzrayim, I don’t think the statement that science proves that Yetzias Metzrayim never happened can be made. I would try to understand how the person understands the concept of proof and scientific method and how it applies to different disciplines like physics, biology, archeaology, etc.

    I personally think it’s better to discuss rather than try to prove.

  46. Somehow I knew, as soon as I saw this post, that it would devolve :) into a general discussion of Science and religion. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    To attempt an answer at Jack’s original question and to take into account Dave’s honesty issues I’d say that, unless Jack fundamentally believes that there is no room for evolution in understanding creation, it’s really OK and preferable for him to lean on the side of a “G-d directed evolution”.

    It is implied in Jack’s post that his associate probably accepts Evolution as fact. Why on Earth would we want to put him off at this stage with, what he would surely perceive as, fundamentalist, uneducated, backward thinking.

    If he steps further into our world he’ll be exposed to other opinions, but, hopefully, in a framework of at least appreciating, even if he doesn’t agree, the source and reasoning behind the more literal understanding of the creation narrative.

    This issue goes to the heart of “disclosure” questions we’ve had here before.

  47. Jack,

    Firstly, you have to make it clear that when scientists, such as Dawkins, are speaking about evolution, they are speaking about a completely random process that eliminates the need for a supernatural Creator and provides an atheist with an intellectually satisfying argument in the face of the obvious design of living creatures.

    [If you examine the history, you can see clearly that this was how evolutionary theory developed, and not as a theory to explain the evidence. In fact, the last 120 years has been a struggle to explain why the theory is still tenable in face of the lack of evidence (such as Gould’s Punctuated Equilibrium to explain the missing links, about which Darwin put himself out on a limb and declared that if they’re not discovered, he’s wrong), or contradictory evidence (such as the Cambrian explosion, which contradicts the idea of gradual change).]

    Therefore, “G-d directed evolution” is really an oxymoron.

    Nevertheless, I spoke about this issue with Rav Yaakov Weinberg ztz’l. He put it this way: We don’t have any obligation to try to convince someone against the belief in guided evolution.

    I’m sure that Rav Yaakov believed that evolution was a false theory (as pointed out above, we’re talking about macro-evolution), and that the scientists are biased. But he didn’t consider guided evolution to be an illegitimate approach.

    Can we take it a step further, and actually teach guided evolution, if we don’t believe in it ourselves?

    I would say no, but you can always direct him to the works of Dr. Schroeder or the like.

    In other words, you can explain what you believe to your coworker, and tell him about other points of view in the Orthodox world as well.

    I don’t think it’s intellectually dishonest. It might be comparable to saying I eat only chalav Yisrael, but there are legitimate views you can eat chalav stam.

  48. I am certainly not writing them off as “not Observant”. I think their are very strong arguments that can be made that believing in evolution is k’fira. I do believe that the Torah says that there was 1 man named Adam who was created less then 6,000 years ago and that all humanity is descended from him. And that any explanation that disagrees is mistaken. In terms of defining things “al pi halacha” as kefira or not, I’ll leave that to vastly greater people.

  49. chanaleah (post 30) wrote:
    You seem to be saying that Hashem’s Authorship would only be certain to you through the types of proofs science can offer; would it be a fair representation to say that your belief and Dawkins’ belief are equally valid possibilities; only neither has been (dis)proven scientifically?
    – – – – – – – –
    I understood the original poster to mean the exact opposite: that Hashem’s Authorship is not subject to scientific or logical proof and is therefore a moot point when it comes to rational argument.

    In this sense Dawkin’s militant atheism mirrors religious “faith” – because it asserts something unprovable with fundamendalist ferver and conviction.

  50. Michoel:

    Yes, that question was directed to you. Sorry for not making that clear.

  51. Let’s say evolution is not correct – can science ever explain the method of how HaShem created the various species? Or must we say HaShem violated the laws of nature and created each species separately?

  52. So are you willing to write off those who don’t have an issue with Evolution as “not Observant”?

  53. Re numbers,
    I think we can pretty safely say that virtually all chasidim and Orthodox Sefardim do not believe that the theory of evolution is compatible with Torah. It seems, based on loose math of school sizes, that this is already at least %50 of the orthodox world, before we even begin to count in the many others.

  54. ‘Rather, the film demonstrates that scientists are under great pressure (some might suggest bias) to parrot the company line. ‘

    Well, that is certainly true. Witness the scorn heaped on those who question manmade global warming.

  55. Mark,
    Regarding your comments in #38 above: If the coworker would challenge by saying that science proves that yitzias mitzrayim never happened, would you also be as tolerant?

  56. No, not really. Hardly the same.I will be happy to see your film. Is it on video? Is it fundamentalist Christian film?

    It’s not “my” film, but rather, a major doc release starring Ben Stein.

    I’m not endorsing the film as a slam-dunk against evolution. I don’t enough about evolution, ID, etc., to pontificate on the matter. Rather, the film demonstrates that scientists are under great pressure (some might suggest bias) to parrot the company line.

    This happens in my field – Mental Health – every day. If you’ve heard the phrase “Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain”, you’ll appreciate how a hypothesis is often positioned as a fact.

  57. I’m not aware of any statistically useful polling on the subject, so, honestly, I’m going on inference from anecdotal data.

    I am defining large in this case as “big enough to make up a noticeable portion of the Observant Community”. Not as “a majority”, although in some of the case, it may be.

  58. Dave, interesting analysis. For the sake of truth, how are you defining large and how exactly are you making definitive statements about the beliefs of large groups of people?

  59. It all depends on the beliefs of the original poster.

    To put them in rough categories:

    1. “I find the evidence for evolution compelling, and it doesn’t conflict with being an Observant Jew.”

    2. “I don’t know if evolution is true or not, and honestly don’t care, but there are plenty of people who are Observant Jews who believe it to be true.”

    3. “I don’t believe evolution is true, but there are plenty of people who are Observant Jews who do believe it to be true; it isn’t an issue between us.”

    4. “I don’t believe evolution is true, and don’t believe that you can believe it happened and be an Observant Jew.”

    If the original poster falls into category four, then I submit they are being inherently dishonest if they hide this.

    If the original poster falls into any of the first three, I believe they are being less than honest if they don’t also point out that there are large portions of the Observant Community that do fall into the fourth category.

  60. Dave,

    I don’t think that is the case if you know that there are others that believe differently from you and yet fall under the umbrella of torah observant Jews.

  61. How many of us can say with certainty that we can prove or disprove any scientific hypothesis. Given our human intellectual limitations, wouldn’t it make sense to present Jack with the potential reconciliations between Torah and evolution.

    I learned the following passage in Mesillas Yesharim in the chapter on Acquring Humility which I think might be applicable as we express our opinions on this issue:

    “Above all, one should constantly reflect upon the weakness of human intelligence and the many errors and deceits to which it is subject, upon its always being closer to error than to true understanding. He should constantly be in fear, then, of this danger and seek to learn from all men; he should give ear to advice lest he go astray. As our Sages of blessed memory have said (Avoth 4.1), “Who is wise? One who learns from all men.” And it is stated (Proverbs 12:15), “One who gives ear to advice is wise.”

  62. If you believe that Evolution is incompatible with Judaism, but you gloss that over in an attempt at outreach, aren’t you basing your entire kiruv approach on a lie?

  63. Jack speaking here:
    “Good morning Dave, how are you? Please help yourself to a piece of cake. My wife baked it for Shabbos and I brought in the leftovers, still fresh I hope. I was thinking about the question you asked me the other day about evolution contradicting the Torah’s account of creation. The truth is that for thousands of years the Torah has been understood by the Jewish people to be teaching that G-d created the world as we find it today, more or less, with fully developed species. In recent times, since the advent of Darwinism, many prominent commentators have explained the Torah in ways that show that science and Torah are compatible and that there may even be room for evolution in the Torah’s world view. There is still a very large segment of the Orthodox world that completely rejects that idea, including many of the greatest scholars. For myself, having a decent secular education, I am not threatened either way. I am comfortable with the idea that an all powerful Creator could create the world in a finished state. And I am also not that bothered by the claimed evidence of distinct historical time periods. The very purpose of the world is to hide G-d’s presence and that includes hiding the fact of creation. However, since I know that you personally would only accept a scientific criticism of a scientific theory, I would like to point out something to you. You are probably somewhat familiar with Dawkins and Gould, no? Do you know that according to Gould, life DEFINITELY DID NOT develop the way that Dawkins claims it did? And that according to Dawkins life DEFINITELY DID NOT develop the way that Gould claims it did? So even if I am not scientific authority, why cannot I rely on those authorities?

    If you think the cake is good, wait until you try the rest of my wife’s cooking. So can we have you over this Shabbos?”

  64. I wonder if Jack’s personal beliefs should dictate how he approaches his colleague. Why not explain to your colleague what you believe but also explain that there are other torah observant Jews who believe otherwise and explain their positions. Why limit the discussion to your personal beliefs?

  65. Hello Reb Administrator,
    I am not exactly sure how to define the parameters that you describe. One thing kind of connects to others.

    But to try an honor your request…
    The question as asked seems to imply that the questionee is doubtful that a G-d guided evolution is compatible with Torah, but open to using that approach for a non-religious Jew. So I would say that the correct approach FOR HIM, is to call it as he sees it and not be apologetic about it.

  66. Avrum68 wrote Not just haredi circles, science circles as well

    No, not really. Hardly the same.I will be happy to see your film. Is it on video? Is it fundamentalist Christian film?


    I would be happy to read your sources. My concern however, was on most of all the banning of macro-evolution discussion as even possible, which haredi leaders are quite (in)famous for.

    Shouldn’t Beyond BT be more careful, or is there a heter for kiruv?

  67. We just want to point out that this is a discussion about how someone who believes in G-d and Torah can approach the question of evolution. Let’s leave it within those parameters.

  68. Underlying all discussions about evolution are implicit and explicit accusations of bias. Those that accept the conclusions of the scientific community naturally assume that those that don’t must be biased and vice versa. However, it is clear (I hope) that one that does not believe in H’ will ALWAYS conclude that life evolved because he has zero other options. And amongst those that are steering the Evolutionary Theory boat, atheism is extremely common, something like %90 (yes, I will try to provide a source for that number.

  69. “I would argue that anyone who says that HaShem has nothing to do with that evolution is also wrong, but I can only say so based on faith as this is something that is unprovable — but then again, Professor Dawkins’ atheism is equally unprovable; something he doesn’t want to admit.”

    You seem to be saying that Hashem’s Authorship would only be certain to you through the types of proofs science can offer; would it be a fair representation to say that your belief and Dawkins’ belief are equally valid possibilities; only neither has been (dis)proven scientifically?

    If this is NOT the case, and your belief in Hashem is grounded in something less shaky, I am very interested (without wanting to pry) in hearing more about how you overcome your dedication to scientific proofs in order to accommodate belief in Hashem.

    Don’t mean to touch a sensitive topic but for personal reasons this question is irresistable.

  70. But DK, do you feel that Lee Spetner and Yehudah Levi also do not approach macro-evolution from an honest manner? If you are familiar with their writing, please share your objections.

  71. The problem is that resistance to evolution in haredi circles is not coming from a scientific perspective, but rather, from a religious bias.

    Not just haredi circles, science circles as well.

  72. Essentially, most of them are either ignorant about how science works…

    Have you seen Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed? I’m not asking if you’ve read the reviews, but actually seen the film? If not, go!

  73. The problem is that resistance to evolution in haredi circles is not coming from a scientific perspective, but rather, from a religious bias.

    This is reflected in peer So some of the “holes” presented by the likes of Rabbi Gottlieb are highly dubious, such as bringing objections from many decades ago when science information has grown considerably.

    I think we first need to be honest that the haredi community often does not approach macro-evolution in a scientific or honest manner.

  74. Zach,
    I agree that where one cannot really fully examine evidence, relying on people you respect and are truly familiar with their character is completely reasonable for formulating one’s own opinion. But when advising others, I think one should be extremely cautious.

  75. Dr. Hall – R’ Goldson distinguished above between micro and macro-Evolution. Would you countenance a similar distinction, or do you feel that both are equally grounded in empirical fact?

    Also, would you mind briefly explaining what you mean that most of modern medicine and the like is based on Evolutionary Theory?

    Thanks for the informative posts!

  76. Off my soapbox (finally)….

    There is a nice brief presentation regarding this issue on page 194 of the Hertz Chumash. Rabbi Dr. Hertz z’tz’l says in part,

    “There is nothing inherently un-Jewish in the evolutionary conception of the origin and growth of forms of existence from the simple to the complex, and from the lowest to the highest. The Biblical account itself gives expression to the same general truth….*insisting, however, that each stage is no product of chance, but is an act of Divine will*, realizing the Divine purpose, and receiving the seal of the Divine approval. Such, likewise, is in effect the evolutionary position….”

    Rabbi Hertz continues on the next page,

    “The ‘conflict’ between the fundamental realities of Religion and the established facts of Science is seen to be unreal as soon as Religion and Science each recognizes the true borders of its dominion.”

  77. Please forgive me for a much less erudite response than those before me. My Hebrew School teacher often said something akin to what your Rav has told you — that time is a construct of man, so when the Torah mentions days in the story of Creation, we interpret that as man’s concept of a day, not Hashem’s. Therefore, creation and evolution do not have to be diametrically opposed.

  78. “Evolution is not just a way to explain how species evolved, it is the framework for all research in biology and most of medicine. ”

    Well said, Yaakov. People whose knowledge regarding evolution is limited to fossils and Darwin’s finches are often surprised when they discover its centrality to almost all basic research in medicine and biology today.

  79. “the anti-religious scientific community that insists that evolution is logical ”

    Most of the anti-religious people who insist that evolution is “logical” that I have met (and there are many!) are not scientists but laypeople who have read some science. Any good scientist understands that ultimately it isn’t logic but empirical fact that determines whether a scientific explanation should be accepted as correct.

  80. Michoel,

    I do not share Professor Dawkins’ views on this matter. His militant atheism is unscientific IMNSHO.

    In terms of science, it isn’t ultimately about credentials, it is about empirical facts. Arguments from authority really have no weight and that is why I don’t generally argue things like “almost all scientists accept evolution” even though it is a true statement and those who don’t are considered on the far fringe. The ultimate test of any scientific hypothesis is its ability to predict future observations. And in that, evolutionary biology has been a spectacular success. To get around evolution would require reinterpretation of thousands of results that have been published in peer reviewed publications for decades. Opponents of evolution like to pick at little details that haven’t yet been reconciled, but they have been unwilling to go through the voluminous scientific literature to come up with alternative explanations. Essentially, most of them are either ignorant about how science works, or intellectually dishonest in presenting a misleading portrayal of the body of evidence.

    What this really represents is an attack on the methodology of science, which is actually as old as the first chapter of the book of Daniel. Those who don’t accept scientific methodology give up their right to comment on it in the same way that a Reform Rabbi who rejects the authority of the rabbinic tradition gives up the right to comment on halachic disputes. And rejection of science is actually contrary to halachah; the proof for that is that we are halachically required to go to real physicians with conventional scientific medical training when we are ill and to listen to them — even when it contradict’s Chazal’s medical statements. Given this, I personally can’t see how anyone who completely rejects empirical science can be termed an observant Jew.

    Regarding my own credentials, I don’t comment on the “nitty gritty” because it is not my primary area of research (although I am a statistician on one study for which evolutionary systems biology is central to the hypotheses). It isn’t about the nitty gritty it is about the basic point that empirical evidence is real and can’t be dismissed.

    Regarding the idea that it is a “bad theory” I would actually agree. The famous statistician George Box is quoted as having said, “All models [of nature] are wrong, but some are useful.” The current state of evolutionary biology theory is indeed probably wrong in many details that we don’t understand yet. But it is the best explanation for an overwhelming number of empirical observations and has been proven to be effective at predicting future observations — the real test of any scientific theory. The various philosophical alternatives that evolution opponents have proposed are incapable of predicting anything and that is why they don’t deserve to be called science. And I would indeed say that anyone who says that evolution has not occurred is indeed wrong on a factual level.

    I would argue that anyone who says that HaShem has nothing to do with that evolution is also wrong, but I can only say so based on faith as this is something that is unprovable — but then again, Professor Dawkins’ atheism is equally unprovable; something he doesn’t want to admit.

  81. Why do people feel that there has to be ONE answer? Tell him or her that this is a fascinating and deep issue and that there are a number of different legitimate approaches one can take. Then provide a list of books/articles that deal with the issue. Or you can read these articles yourself and explain the various approaches.

    R’ Goldson, science works within the known framework at a given time. For example, physicists worked under the framework of Newton’s laws for many years with successful results until these laws were modified by quantum mechanics and general relativity. Evolution is not just a way to explain how species evolved, it is the framework for all research in biology and most of medicine. Even assuming the fossil record is lacking (which is highly debatable) there is NO better framework out there. You can scream Creation all you want but Creationism does not help put better medicine on pharmacy shelves and it cannot be used to direct genome research. Evolution does. So, even if evolution does have flaws there is no question that there is nothing better…

  82. Charles,
    A few points between paid work!

    “the statement attributed to Galileo that the Bible tells you how to get to heaven, not how the heavens move, could have been made by any number of rishonim. ”

    I am not aware of even one rishon that says such a thing and I would really appreciate being enlightened. I am aware of some mekoros that “allow for” or even explicitly state that the world is ancient or other scientific views, but even those mekoros generally hold that the Torah indeed reveals to us the process of creation (if we are able to understand it). This is vastly different from stating that the Torah has “no opinion” on science. Adaraba, “hafech bah v’hafech bah d’kula vah is a yesod gadol of all the rishonim.

  83. Step 1 is to understand the Torah’s account of creation and subsequent history in light of the entire Mesorah, including the opinions of Chazal, Rishonim, Acharonim, etc. With a comprehensive inside view on all levels (“Pardes”) one can begin to see which of today’s physical/biological theories may be consistent with a Torah view and which may not.

    Since most of us don’t have this comprehensive Torah view, we need to defer to those who do. This appears to have been Jack’s reason for accepting his Rav’s position.

  84. Ezzie,
    Just to address your question very briefly…

    There are a lot of shades of gray. One can believe that Evolution is not necessarily k’fira, but still believe that it is not consistent with what the Torah is telling us about how the process of creation occurred.

  85. The top paragraph should read:

    the technical problem of biological interdependency

    Sorry for the typo. By the way, take a look at Michael Crichton’s novel The Lost World and find the chapter titled “The problems of evolution.” Although it is a novel, Crichton is a brilliant scientist, and the science in his fiction is reliable. He explains there many of the reasons why conventional evolutionary theory doesn’t work. He doesn’t accept Creation in the end, but he doesn’t propose much else to solve the problems he poses.

  86. When I teach Creation to my high school students, I tell them that we don’t have to choose between believing in evolution or not. Taken together, the lack of (virtually any) fossil record supporting macroevolution (the change of one species into another, as opposed to microevolution, the adaptation within species, for which there is fossil evidence) together with the technical of problem or biological interdependency that means once species changing disrupts the ecological system of which it is part, all put evolutionary “theory” very much on the defensive.

    Did HaShem create the world all at once, in a mature, finished state, the way He created Adam and Chava, did He direct the evolution of the universe over six conceptual “days” that were really billions of years, or did He accelerate the process of creation so that billions of years of evolution was crammed into six 24-hour days?

    I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Each of these can be logically defended (although the first model leaves other questions unanswered). By presenting your case this way, you accomplish three things: you show that you have done your homework, you show that you are not an ideologue, and you put the burden of proof back where it belongs — on the anti-religious scientific community that insists that evolution is logical and Creationism is blind faith, when the opposite is at least as true, if not more so.

  87. From a simpleton’s POV… if your Rav has said that you need not hold to a literalistic interpretation, what positive would be gleaned by choosing against evolution? I would think that the only reason a person would say evolution does not happen is because they feel it is against the Torah; with that not an issue, there seems to be no reason to do so.

  88. My background is a BA in Physics and an avid interest in astronomy. I don’t know enough to do scientific research but I do know enough to smell BS from half a parsec out. I also know enough to know when people who do know talk who I should listen to. Those include my father who is a professor of biology at Columbia Medical school and Charlie Hall (Previous comment) who I am proud to call a friend.

  89. Hello Charles,
    I once saw a statement from Richard Dawkins to the effect that those that argue on the Theory of Evolution always have scientific credentials that don’t directly come to bare on the issues. (I think he was refering to the Discovery Institute which has a bunch of MDs and Geologists amongst their members). I wish I could find his exact wording. He said in other places that ANYONE can see that the theory of Evolution is true and that if one doesn’t see that, it is clear that they are … It gives one the impression that to agree with him, you don’t need credentials but to disagree, no credentials are good enough.
    So I would like to know how a PhD in Biostatistics renders one qualified to comment on the nitty gritty of Evolutionary Theory. I really don’t know, so I am asking, not in a snarky way.

    Professor Yehudah Levi wrote that it was a “bad theory”. So he is just wrong, according to you, correct?

  90. The reason that one should “believe” in evolution is that there is overwhelming empirical evidence that it has occurred, and does occur. I put the word “believe” in quotes because it isn’t really a matter of belief, it is a matter of fact. It is really no different from “believing” that a catfish does not have the required signs to make it a kosher fish — both are empirical questions and not matters of mesorah.

    There is no contradiction between science and torah. If you carefully examine the 13 principles of the Rambam, you will see that not one is subject to empirical test. In Judaism there is a very long tradition of non-literal interpretations both of scripture and of the words of Chazal; we have never demanded that literal interpretations of the pshat are the only acceptible opinions and there are many rishonim who point this out. Rashi’s comment to the very first verse in Chumash points out that Torah is not a history book — the statement attributed to Galileo that the Bible tells you how to get to heaven, not how the heavens move, could have been made by any number of rishonim. I personally think that the emphasis on literal interpretations may be something that has crept in from other religions. That is certainly the case with the theory that HaShem created the universe recently to look like it is old; that idea originated by a 19th century British Christian whose ideas were rejected by his own peers. If there appears to be a source in our mesorah that is incompatible with our mesorah, we just don’t understand one or the other well enough or it may be one of the rare instances for which our sages had incorrect information.

    That said, I am personally 100% sure that however the world developed, HaShem was 100% in charge of it. While that idea may not specifically appear in Rambam’s principles, it seems to be something that many if not most Orthodox Jews believe today.

    For the record, I am a practicing academic scientist with a PhD in biostatistics and over sixty peer reviewed publications.

  91. Zach,
    You are correct that most of the folks expressing an opinion on this, don’t know the science well. I see that you are quite confident to offer an opinion. Can you tell me what your scientific background is?

    If, as it seems, the coworker is not a trained scientist, than Jack should simply point out that neither of them really have the ability to bring an intelligent scientific opinion to the discussion but he (the coworker) choices to have great confidence in the scientific community. Jack feels that there are reasons to be skeptical.

    Jack wrote that his Rav holds that one may believe in a universe which is more than 6,000 years. Somehow you took that to mean that one can believe in Evolution. That is an enormous leap.

  92. 1) Your Rav has made it clear that you don’t have to argue against evolution. Since it would be a “deal breaker” of sorts, what is your remaining doubt?

    Assuming your coworker is expecting confirmation that Torah Judaism is “fundamentalist” – wouldn’t they be more impressed by your Rav’s opinion? “Wow, orthodox Judaism actually has room for intellectual diversity and inquiry!”

    2) If you are afraid that your Rav’s opinion – or openness – does not reflect “mainstream” frum thought: do you see how this relates to the previous post about “bad religious experiences”?

  93. Before you start to argue against evolution make sure you know what you are talking about. The evidence is quite overwhelming and has been so for quite some time. Simply disregarding facts which do not support your position will make you look like someone who does not have a clue.

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