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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.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (1098)
March 22, 2017
Guessing is not the same as logic
As I said before (and no obe can refute)
What scientists believe about humans supposedly evolving from animals is the best speculation wh I ch is guesswork.
That is not the same as a "logical fact".

And the fact is that "scientists" like Richard Dawkins, and many others do use their claims of science to draw moral conclusions.
Which I agree has moral consequences, and not very good ones, to put it mildly.

It's at least as logical, if not more so, to conclude that Torah is correct in everything it says about how everything came to be vs claims of atheistic or other anti Torah, scientists.
Look how many Baal teshuvas there, are.
Including many who were athiest secular people who thought science knew the reality that Torah wa just ancient writings of so called "ignorant primitives".
Toral is Literal
NYC
March 21, 2017
Beyond Logic
Evolution is the logical conclusion of over 150 years of scientific research. But, as McCoy would say to Spock, there is much more to the human experience than pure logic. The moral consequences of evolution begin with the idea that evolution is the be-all-end-all of human existence. If everything about our actions and choices is encoded in our DNA, then we cannot rise above our DNA. When people make choices based on survival of the fittest, there are moral consequences.

Morality includes helping those who are not the most "fit" in the Darwinian sense and giving them dignity. It is the opposite of natural selection. It is achievable only when we rise above our DNA by embracing a larger reality of which science is only a part.

I'm not putting down science. I'm saying science has its place and its role. But morality, (which is not the same as cooperation), lies outside of science, and failure to recognize that has moral consequences.
Bert
San Jose
March 14, 2017
RE 'fossil facts'
The only fact regarding fossils is that they have been found.
But one being above the other or below the others does not prove that one came from the other.
Or to put it another way, the miracles (like the facts that only Jews have been persecuted all through history in every generation and still exist. Any other group or culture persecuted to that extent everywhere all through history would have ceased to exist long ago. Look at the American Indians for example, so few left and that was only after 300 years and their persecution has not even been in every generation, it's not going on these days, for example.) that have happened all through history are just as strong evidence that G-d exists as fossil evidence is for so called proof of humans evolving from animals.
And many people have been falsely convicted in criminal cases and later turned out to be innocent.
How much more unreliable must any claims be regarding what supposedly happened, hundreds of millions of years ago?
Torah is Literal
NYC
March 14, 2017
To Paul
#1 I'm glad you include yourself. I'm also glad you are working on yourself, as I am on myself.
#2 Your comments part 1 "And do we know that speech caused humans’ success? Maybe, but I prefer not to make sweeping claims without evidence."

You ask me in part 2 if I reject all but eyewitness accounts.
If you reject all the evidence for speech making (at least a huge part of) the difference between human success and animals, then I am doing no worse by saying that you cannot make definitive absolute statements of 'proven fact' regarding what most people believe about humans supposedly evolving from animals.

I accept DNA evidence if it is advanced enough to conclusively prove that someone was in a place he claimed to have never have been in.
DNA evidence does not conclusively prove he was the murderer.
Evidence is based on reasonable doubt, not 'all doubt, whatsoever'.
To claim that belief in G-d is 'proven wrong, and stupid', needs absolute proof, not just "it seems that way.".
Torah is literal
NYC
March 14, 2017
Hawking finally succumbs to the science in Genesis,
This is seen both in the opening verse of 'In the beginning' and that time, space, darkness & light once never existed. It says the universe, and everything in it, once never existed, and that the entire realm is 'finite'. This negates the 'star-wars' fantasy of MV, String Theory and other parallel universes.
It means, if the universe is un-conditionally finite, there can be no alternatives to a universe creator. Name one if one disagrees?

• Hawking: "There was a beginning: “In fact, the theory that the universe has existed forever is in serious difficulty with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law, states that disorder always increases with time. Like the argument about human progress, it indicates that there must have been a beginning.
• Hawking: "Time had a beginning: Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang.
Joseph
March 14, 2017
Hi Paul.
3) Regarding defining survival of the fittest and a seed following its own, I’m too baffled by the non sequitur to reply.

# Here, the latter seed following its own kind, makes the survival of the fittest premise null and void. Example: if the former is validated [and it is], the latter becomes superfluous. The former is not a result of a survival mechanization but a program embedded pre-birth, one that does not require a choice or choosing process. The will to survive is ultimately more than instinct; it is a mind function, like knowing fire will burn one’s hands. That is mind, not mere repetitive mindless impulse; this is proven by the mind being able to find a way of transcending the fire and using it for one’s own benefit, like a form of energy – no other life form does that.
Joseph
March 14, 2017
Hi Paul.
Re 1)
# By prevail, I only meant you are correct and I am not. I did not ask for ancient scripture, I asked only about an older ‘alphabetical book’ than the 5 Mosaic books. Believe me, I did investigate for many years and found not a single parchment, monument, relic that changes the paradigm I presented you. We know that the Hebrew emerged late in the ancient world, there was cuneiform and picture writings, yet I say those were not alphabetical, and not multi-page continuing narratives as with the Torah. It’s a significant factor, perhaps even mysterious: there is no Hebrew writings pre-Torah book, only an oral language. So how can the first output of a new language be its most advance; how did it emerge before mightier, older nations? I examined the premise the Torah could have been written much later than its narratives say, but this too was exhausted and not possible.
Re. 2.
Why make it so complicated that it should depend on how I define powerful. It refers to obvious brain-size and higher threshold activity that is non-generic. I fully understand a human cannot perform as a bee with the same effectiveness, but this cancels out because it is generic to all life forms’ conditions and situations. This is not the case with humans, as they stand alone among trillions of other life forms. Speech [varied from communication], consciousness, moon landing, etc are stand out factors.
Joseph
March 2, 2017
Responding to Comments Part 2
To Torah is Literal:

1) You ask if I include myself among those more interested in convincing than listening. Yes. Which is why, after introspection and reflection, I had determined this thread was depressing and abandoned it years ago. I'm trying to mend my argumentative ways.

2) You observe, when discussing facts, that nobody has traveled back in time to watch evolution. Do you honestly suggest that direct observation is the only type of fact? If so, I assume you reject all criminal trials that don't involve an eyewitness. Or medical tests where the doctor hasn't cut you open and looked inside? In reality, we all, every day, rely on many types of facts beyond eyewitness accounts. For evolution, there are fossil facts, DNA facts, geological facts, chemical facts, etc. Just as we can convince a criminal based on fingerprints, blood stains, and forensic evidence, so we can document evolution using DNA "fingerprints", fossils, geological traces, and countless other fact-based threads.
Paul Rosenthal
New York
March 2, 2017
Responding to Comments Part 1
Thanks to those who replied to me. I'll try to address those who answer honestly.

TO JOSEPH:

1) You ask me for examples of ancient literature so I can “prevail" over you. I don’t want to prevail. That's the "win, not listen" tone I decried. I've no time to do exhaustive research. Which is why I made no claim. (I just noted that your assertion wasn’t backed by evidence; I made no assertion of my own.)

2) You say speech is the most powerful force because humans are the most powerful. It depends on how you define power. If a criterion species longevity, population size, durability, or cooperation, one could argue for other species. Is the richest man the one with the most money, or most love? Different people have different criteria of success. And do we know that speech caused humans’ success? Maybe, but I prefer not to make sweeping claims without evidence.
3) Regarding defining survival of the fittest and a seed following its own, I’m too baffled by the non sequitur to reply.
Paul Rosenthal
New York
March 2, 2017
" Past life forms need more time to display "survival of the fittest"?
When that happens [more time - and we are not even given a time factor, so anything goes!], at least 10 times, it may enter the realm of science - which requires repeatable validation. The Evolution in Genesis, "A seed shall follow its own kind" is in my view the first recorded science equation, and it does not suffer the time requirements per Darwin, and can be observed with repeatable evidence. Therefore, Genesis is better validated scientifically than Darwin.
To date, not a single ape-human fossil connection has been validated - we should have Billions, wherever we dig. All aleged fossils have been concluded as doctred or as errors.

Why we must be suspicious of the time factor requirement:
"Those who lie make sure their proof is far away" At least, that can easily occur.
Joseph Shellim
Australia