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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 (1083)
February 23, 2017
Phil NY
I see the premise of evolution better explained and validated by what is perhaps the first recorded scientific equation:
"A seed shall follow its own kind."
I see also the premise of 'speceis' also comes from this same Hebrew Bible source, namely the first recorded groupings of life forms in the correct emergence protocol.
The past life forms not only did not graduate to the more advanced 'thumb' tool, but they also missed acquiring the most powerful force in the universe: "Speech". Or are you saying the past life froms need more time display 'Survival of the fittest' These factors give me a different view of evolution, a different scientifc view based on realty and validation.
Joseph
February 14, 2017
Travis cottreau

I have been away from here for a long time, but now I see this discussion has become quite active again, so to address something I had no time for, way back when;

"Torah is literal
You say, "Once again the fact that belief in H.E.A. causes more violence and immorality in the world is more proof that ..."

"No, see, that's my point. Even if what you say is true, and What you call HEA is completely responsible for all violence and immorality,"

First of all, that is a strawman argument.
I never said anything about it causing "all the violence".

" that doesn't count one millimetre towards it being a false theory."

Not if you do not believe in a god who created the universe with a specifc purpose.

But for those who believe in the God of the Torah, there is no way he would have created a system which would cause the spread of so much evil in the world and still be true.

"That fact that you think it does means you don't get my point at all.

Wrong, you just don't get mine.
Torah is Literal
NYC
February 14, 2017
Joseph Shellim RE; Animals and their intelligence compared to humans
Animals are not as intelligent as humans.
If humans did not have thumbs as you say, but did have claws and or hooves, they would still be able to dig holes and drag brush over them, and use that to trap animals, both to stop predators and to catch prey.
Also you are arguing against the idea of evolution by implying that Humans did not develope thumbs over time, anyway.
If humans developed them through evolution and the animals didn't, that still shows greater ability and intelligence of humans over all other creatures.
Phil
NY
February 14, 2017
Is not morality subjective?
If the same conditions and curcumstances of anything can be emulated exactly as it happened before, it would be repeatable.
Joseph
February 9, 2017
Anthropology, not Biology
Ask a biologist about the origin of morality. If the biologist asserts that morality is a biochemical process, I would expect an empirical cause-effect based on a repeatable experiment. Since different people make different choices in response to the same set of circumstances, the repeatability of the experiment is in doubt.

Hopefully, the well-educated biologist refers me to a cultural anthropologist.
Bert
San Jose
February 8, 2017
Which universe?
An honest scientist is obligated to first state which universe is referred to. Here, there are only two kinds, a finite or infinite one. When one says 'we don't know that' - it means they have to examine both scenarious, not one. This factor is most often avoided, as if it is not relevant. Yet the un-avoidable 'Cause & Effect' scientific fact is thus:
There are no alternatives to a universe maker, based on an absolutely finite universe premise. Name one?
Joseph
Australia
January 22, 2017
Biology, not Physics
Probably the best lesson I've learned in 35 years working with scientists and historians is the degree to which they respect expertise, specialization, and deep knowledge and recognize where they lack knowledge. Which is the exact opposite of social media and Internet conversations like this, where people revel in superficial info gleaned from a quick Google search and. The most important sign of an educated person, is recognizing how much they don't know.

A good evolutionary biologist, if asked for a "professional" explanation of the origin of the universe, would refer you to an astrophysicist or cosmologist — somebody with actual expertise. But here, folks are happy to lump everything together under the broad heading of "science" and debate whether or not modern biology answers questions about cosmology and physics. And then, after observing that biology can't adequately explain physics, they trumpet that here as if it were a meaningful observation.
Paul
New York
January 18, 2017
Design, Meaning, and Purpose
It's true there are hints of design inside of materialistic science, such as the 6 physical constants that make life possible. If you look inside a car's engine, you'll see nuts, bolts, belts, ball joints, axles, etc, all hints of design. But if you exist only inside the engine, you probably won't comprehend the function of the car or even that the car exists. Only from the outside can you see the whole car. That's why the search for meaning and purpose is a search beyond the physical universe. It is outside the physical universe where you find the creator and ruler over the universe.

Darwinian theory never produces order from chaos. It starts where order already exists--the first cell has come into being; the nuts and bolts of genes and selection are already in place. It's a study of how existing order works, not how order came into being.
Bert
San Jose, CA
January 18, 2017
Huh?
I'm eager to see the explanation about why an assertion about seeds "destroys" 150 years of evolutionary science.

(Surely there will be a follow up by Joseph to explain his otherwise hilarious assertion. Can't wait.)
Anonymous
New York
January 13, 2017
Evolution Introduced in Genesis.
"A Seed shall follow its own kind". That is the first recorded scientific equation. It supports natural evolution as embedded in a program designed by a Programmer, while fully destroying the Darwin Evolution of jitterbugging quarks banging into each other to eventually produce order.
Joseph