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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 (1054)
September 21, 2014
Day
Over 1000 years ago, long before modern science, before Darwin, before radiometric dating, there were religious authorities who believed that the Genesis "day" was much longer than 24 hours.
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 19, 2014
Equally likely?
Travis, how do you know that all 2^26 possible outcomes are equally likely?
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 18, 2014
Random=all possible outcomes are equally likely?
Bert, I am not making assertions, I am trying to sort out a definition. It seems we are going back and forth over the definition of "random".

Random doesn't mean "every possible outcome is equally likely". Strictly speaking, in a statistics sense (not always the way we've been using it), is that all items _in a defined set_ are equally likely.

If you look at the example I use, say the selection of a mother's or a father's chromosome, you have two possible outcomes which are equally likely (according to our models - it may be false, but not that we know). Add in that with a set of 26 chromosomes and you have 2^26 possible outcomes, all equally likely. Is this not "random"? You call it "stochastic", which it is, but all random processes are, by your definition, stochastic anyway, although not all stochastic processes are random.

So, in my above example, it's much less likely that a random set of mutations will assemble the chromosome into a copy of a chromosome from Ghandi say. :)
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
September 17, 2014
Random concept not supported
Travis, you keep making assertions without providing any supporting evidence.
Stochastic means indeterministic, which is not the same as random (K. Miller).
And the difference is not trivial.

"Random" means all possible outcomes are equally likely. "Indeterministic" means
we cannot predict an event from cause-and-effect or mathematically.

Intelligence is indeterministic. Although you can say certain decisions are more
likely than others for a given situation, you can't predict a decision with a
formula.

That doesn't prove evolution is intelligent; but it leaves open the possibility.
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 11, 2014
"There is no preference for which you get from where."
That is not random. Its a program that ensures conception will most probably take place: it is intelligent. The idea that the egg 'recognizes' the sperm cells is also not random: the egg will not recognize unsuitable cells or not suitable debris in the body fluid.

Analogy. If a car recognizes petrol fuel and moves, or the earth recognizes water instead of rocks to grow, it is not random but a program installed therein.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney.
September 11, 2014
"No one talks about "the first day of the Big Bang"
Not replying does not mean you have one or that its circular. If one applies a finite premise, as does Genesis, its evaluation must be based on a finite universe in deciding its merits.

And a finite uni says there was a time when no days existed, then one day appeared: correct from a finite uni premise. Thus its period is not by hours but by its context. In the context of day one and second day, it is talking about the separation of light & darkness, and water from land. This can account for large periods of time - it cannot in any wise equal 24-hours, which is not given in the context anyplace in the entire chapter. Correct from a scientific premise.

It is clear that when hours are not inserted Genesis makes scientific veracity and is the first writing that mentioned a beginning, that light is a primordial product and that water and land were separated on earth prior to the emergence of life: all correct from a scientific view. What became 'species' is also form Genesis.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
September 9, 2014
Random Chance
Hey Bert,

There are lots of random chances inside evolution. For example, you get half your chromosomes from your mother and half from your father. There is no preference for which you get from where. This is, essentially, the same random chance as which sperm gets to the egg first.

Now, if you are arguing for a more esoteric, philosophical definition of chance, I'm with you (I'm a determinist), but from the point of view of a population or individual, events are stochastic.
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
September 9, 2014
Wrong reading?
How can it be a wrong reading if the word and context are the same?

I agree, it is a difficulty in that there was no light yet, but that's not a difficulty for me, but for you, as someone who believes in the historical events. How, exactly, can something we see as being billions of years old, be described to have happened in 24 hours? Not easy. Good luck.

No one talks about "the first day of the Big Bang", it's a logical impossibility (day is a property of the earth and it doesn't appear for another 9 billion years). Why then, do people talk about the first "day" of creation? Surely, if it's a logical impossibility, they wouldn't use the word?

I am not going to reply to any more of these comments. They are going around in circles and you won't admit the difficulties in the text. It seems very odd for you to try and pawn them off onto someone else when they are clearly a problem IN the text and for the believers of the text. Not some outside party. It seems obvious in fact.
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
September 9, 2014
Random chance
Travis,

You need to support your claim with empirical evidence. Otherwise, your perception of "random chance" may be an illusion.
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 8, 2014
"he extincts or evolves into something better"
If this evolution is an 'on-going' process, it must be seen every second of time w/o pause and pervasively. Not just theoretically. Trees & apes don't grow once every million years, but continuously and pervasively. The Maths shatters the premise.

Also, there's a difference between communication and speech. The former is generic to all life, the latter is unique in the known universe to one in trillions or all other life forms - thus not a result of evolution. The Maths shatters the premise again, but no one looked.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
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