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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 (1060)
November 16, 2014
Random vs. Indeterministic (ref. 2^26 possibilities)
"Travis, why should scientists assume something is random until proven otherwise? "

I don't know where I said that exactly? Inheritance and the passing on of chromosomes is, as far as we know, a random event. We don't speak in certainties, but in probabilities.

As I said before, what would be the mechanism though with and agent intervenes in the outcome of which chromosomes are passed on? Are the current, stochastic models inadequate? Do you wish to add something to them to make them more accurate? Does adding agency add one iota to the results and the predictability, or are you just adding complexity because of your own, personal incredulity?

The possibility of agency isn't closed off (as with most science), but really, what does it add? Why would we add it?

And "equally likely" just applies to this, one situation. Clearly, there are lots of situations where it doesn't. In that case, I would expect a different stochastic model to apply.
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
November 9, 2014
Random vs. Indeterministic (ref. 2^26 possibilities)
Travis, why should scientists assume something is random until proven otherwise? Why not assume the opposite—that something is non-random until proven otherwise? Non-random does not necessarily mean “intelligent,” but it does open up the possibility. Why do some scientists want to close off that possibility? Is it because of empirical evidence or personal incredulity?

(By the way, if you like all outcomes being equally likely, stay away from quantum physics.)
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 29, 2014
"What is supposed to inform us that the days are longer? Is it the language?"
Yes, obviously language, meaning grammar. There is nothing to read in the text accept its context. This says there is yet no stars existing in V3. There is time [a beginning], there is the earth [does not say if this refers to a planet or physicality]. The given context is all we have and this says "light was separated from darkness" & "water from land" - these are the only text which is contextual.

Thus the length of Day One and Second Day can only be measured by those texts respectively. One cannot add hours here or view from a post-world scenario. We know that those actions = billions of years. There is no other reading which appears logical here.

The next step is to check if it fits with post-world science. Yes it does. Both Genesis & Science agree such separations take billions of years. A bolder insight says Darwin is wrong by not mentioning these critical life anticipating actions as vital for emerging life, which could not occur without those actions.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
September 21, 2014
Longer than 24 hour days...
Bert,

Oh, I'm not saying that "days" in Genesis AREN'T longer than 24 hours, however, Joseph is talking about it as if it's obvious. I don't see that it is. What is supposed to inform us that the days are longer? Is it the language? Something in the text? Something else? OR, is it just the external knowledge that science has given us, saying that the world is ancient?

If it's the latter, then I don't know why we would think that the authors of genesis believed the days to be anything but 24 hour days.

Theories of scholars are fine and good, but I'd like to know why the belief exists. What is the reasoning? What is the evidence?
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
September 21, 2014
2^26 possibilities...
Bert,

That's a great question. I don't actually know. That is the running theory, since we don't know of a mechanism by which is WOULDN'T be equally likely. If it is somehow not that way, then we'd need evidence to show that it is not.
Travis Cottreau
Wellington, New Zealand
September 21, 2014
"religious authorities who believed that the Genesis "day" was much longer than 24 hours"
The 'text' says so. The separation actions of light & dark, and day and night - cannot be understood as not being time factored. The preceding term of 'beginning' refers to time. It is not superfluous that morning & evening are specified but hours are left out. Correct grammar says textual meaning must take the only coherent reading path that is coherent & possible.
JOSEPH SHELLIM
Sydney
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
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