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Evolution and Its Moral Consequences

Evolution and Its Moral Consequences

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Question:

My son and I were talking about the origins of humankind. He said that he was offended by the belief that man had descended from the ape family, and was adamant that we all came from Adam and Eve. I, on the other hand, believe Darwin's theory to be a more reasonable explanation of our evolution, and think it is ridiculous to continue teaching children the creation myth. Of course, this discussion can go round in circles forever. Are you able to shed some light on the topic?

Response:

An elderly rabbi was once on an airplane to Israel sitting next to a self-professed atheist. They were amicably chatting the whole trip.

Every now and then, the rabbi's grandchild, sitting in another row, would come over to him, bringing him a drink, or asking if he could get anything to make him more comfortable. After this happened several times, the atheist sighed, "I wish my grandchildren would treat me with such respect. They hardly even say hello to me. What's your secret?"

The rabbi replied: "Think about it. To my grandchildren, I am two generations closer to Adam and Eve, the two individuals made by the hand of G‑d. So they look up to me. But according to the philosophy which you teach your grandchildren, you are two generations closer to being an ape. So why should they look up to you?"

Beliefs have consequences. If children today lack respect and are unable to honor their elders, if tradition looked down upon and the values of the past all but forgotten, is it not a natural consequence of modern education? If we teach our children that they are merely advanced animals, then they will act that way. And they will treat their parents and teachers like the obsolete versions of humanity that they are.

We have to be aware of the effects of our beliefs. If we believe that humans came about by accident, then life has no meaning. There can be no meaning to something that happens by chance. A random explosion or mutation cannot give us purpose. My life, your life and all human history has no real significance whatsoever. Whether I live a good life or one full of evil makes no difference. It is all a big accident anyway.

We only have purpose if we were created on purpose. Our lives only have meaning if we were created by a meaningful being. If we teach our children that they were created on purpose with a purpose, then they will know that more is expected from them than from an animal. The Adam and Eve story needs to be taught, not just because it is true, but because it is the basis of morality.

Both creationism and Darwinism require faith. To accept that G‑d created man and woman requires faith. To accept that a single-celled organism spontaneously mutated billions of times to form the human being also requires faith. But only one of these beliefs demands that we live a moral life. That's the one I want my children to be taught.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (973)
August 18, 2013
Responding to Bert's "Tale"
Your reference to the Bris referendum in San Francisco supports my point precisely. There have been some bringing up the subject now and then, but they are not science-based movements, just the usual fringe groups with their own agendas. Getting on a ballot in CA is not a high bar; people propose nutty stuff all the time. The fact that it wasn't even allowed on the ballot, let alone had anywhere near enough support to pass, illustrates the point that it is a red herring.

As for the question about whether only atheists should have scientific knowledge, I assume that's a rhetorical question.

The level of scientific literacy in the US is dangerously low and harms us all. The fear of that scientific ignorance, and it's daily impact on our lives and policies, is the only thing that keeps me returning to this forum, which is a poster child for scientific illiteracy.
Paul
New York
August 16, 2013
A Tale of Two Scientists--Part 2
Actually, there was a referendum in San Francisco, (the birthplace of the gay marriage movement), 2 years ago, to ban the Bris. The vote never actually took place, because, prior to election day, a judge ruled that it violated state law. Thus it was stripped from the ballot. The fact that it got enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, however, is troubling.

But I'd like to look more deeply at the sociological issue. Should everyone have some level of scientific literacy, or should that be reserved only for athiests? If we desire broad scientific literacy, we need to learn how those with knowledge can connect to a broad audience.

Who's more likely to connect, inspire, and motivate people of faith to learn science? Those who think like Dawkins or those who think like Miller?
Bert
San Jose, CA
August 12, 2013
RE: Science should not be politicized
With respect, these comments seem far off base. No reputable scientist ever claims that "science has disproven Torah." They say that there's no scientific evidence supporting Torah. And they say that science can explain our world without resorting to supernatural explanations -- and that therefore they see no reason to accept religion. But that is utterly different from the absurd claim in the comment.

Similarly, there is no credible movement to ban Bris Mila or Kosher slaughter in the US, and zero chance of it happening. It is a non-issue that simply distracts from this conversation. And the few fringe voices proposing such things have not been mainstream scientists.

To the heart of the comment above, I can think of no case in the US where atheists have politicized science to harm believers. But there are plenty of examples the other way round, notably the people of faith opposing marriage equality, imposing their religious beliefs to deny basic human rights to millions of others.
Paul
New York
August 6, 2013
Science should not be politicized
Science is fine as far as real science goes.
But when someone in America for example wants to pass laws against Bris Mila (ritual circumcision) or in the name of animal rights, proposes laws against Kosher slaughter such as Poland has recently done and they claim to be right supposedly because they say 'science has disproven, Torah (or religion in general)' that goes far beyond the realm of scientific exploration and falsifiability.

If scientists want to say they do not believe in G-d because such belief in not falsifiable, that is fine.
But when they use it for political activism which in America is unconstitutional, then they must be opposed every bit as strongly as anything else that is a violation of our G-d given and Constitutional rights.
Torah is literal
USA
August 6, 2013
"Dawkins, on the other hand, would think you insane."
If he does, Dawkins may have no credibility. One should state in the preamble if the universe they speak of, whether finite or infinite; this should be declared clearly and unconditionally, which ever mode they subscribe to. "Not knowing" is not a reasonable response, because of its impacting on the issue. It begs the question, what scientific alternatives are possible in a finite universe without a universe Creator?

Only after this issue is made compulsory, can one debate Genesis' version, its texts boldly stating which universe it describes. That is hardly an insane requirement. Apples & oranges apply.
Butseriously
Sydney
August 5, 2013
Which scientist would you rather have as your biology professor?
Butseriously, Kenneth Miller would partially agree with you since he believes that Genesis may be true.

Dawkins, on the other hand, would think you insane.
Bert
San Jose, CA
August 1, 2013
Question, for all readers of this thread: which of these two scientists would you rather have as your biology professor?
Both are un-impacting scientifically. There are only two possibilities how the universe emerged, making any one of them a scientific premise. Genesis wins in its bold opening declaration of a Creator [cause & effect] and that the uni is finite: a pivotal scientific premise in itself, one that ushered in science per se. Genesis also KO's evolution by introducing pre-life anticipatory actions like separating light from darkness & water from land - pivotal factors again, which accounts varied forms of life [not mentioned by Darwin], & billions of years in time. Genesis is also the first record of species, listed by habitat & terrain, a scientific marvel of thought in itself. Can Dawkins or Miller nominate one single life with a 'hidden' trait not shared by any of the other trillions of creatures, as with the pig - or the first recorded 'name' of a human which still prevails today?
Conclusion: when one does not preamble finite or infinite, they have no impact how the universe emerged.
Butseriously
Sydney
August 1, 2013
Scientific Evidence of G-d
What I hear from both Torah is Literal and But Seriously is that there's no scientific alternative to G-d. But that's not the same thing as scientific evidence. Science is not capable of reaching beyond the material universe. Scientific evidence requires something quantifiable, a testable hypothesis, and criteria under which G-d could be falsified.

There are many things people believe in that lie outside the realm of science--love, happiness, beauty, etc. Belief in these things, as well as belief in a higher power, is a matter of faith. These are things we feel, not things we can put in a testtube. Then, the question becomes, does faith add value to a person's life? I think it does.
Bert
San Jose, CA
July 31, 2013
There is evidence for the Existence of G-d
Like all the prophecies which came true such as the one about the Jews returning to Israel and the related one about how the land would not yield it's produce to anyone but the Jews till they returned and we see it was the Jews returning that 'made the desert bloom'.
Before that it was very hard to eek out a living there and it was mostly dry hard land to try and far or grow much in the way of crops.
There are the four species that either chew their cud or have split hooves but not both of which the Torah mentioned over 3000 years ago, and since then no one has found any new ones to fit that special and tiny category.

These are just two examples, and there are more.

Those like Dawkins and Hawking don't want to look at the evidence and so they pretend it's not there.
Torah is literal
USA
July 31, 2013
A Tale of Two Scientists
I’d like to tell you a tale of two scientists, Richard Dawkins and Kenneth Miller. They have a great deal in common. They are both PHD Biologists. They are both primary researchers in the study of evolution. They have both published in scientific journals. They have both authored books accessible to the average reader. They agree there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a deity.

That is where the similarities end.

Miller is open-minded on religion. Dawkins is not.

Miller treats religion with sensitivity and respect. Dawkins treats it with contempt and hostility.

Miller believes a rational person can have faith in something beyond the physical universe. Dawkins believes religion is a delusion.

Question, for all readers of this thread: which of these two scientists would you rather have as your biology professor?
Bert
San Jose, CA
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