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Does the Theory of Evolution Jibe with Judaism?

Does the Theory of Evolution Jibe with Judaism?

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Question:

I always get conflicting answers regarding the theory of evolution and Judaism. Could you clarify?

Response:

If you are getting conflicting answers, that’s most likely because you are asking Jews. Like they say, for every two Jews there are three opinions. That’s just part of Jewishness.

But now you’re asking me, so I’ll provide my opinion. And that is that evolution and Torah are two distinct paradigms. Evolution is an attempt to explain life in purely materialistic terms. Things happen out of chance and necessity. Torah, on the other hand, tells us that a singular, deliberate and intelligent force is to be found in all things and all events.

Or, put it this way: Evolution and Genesis both agree that human intelligence began as a hunk of mud. Evolution says that if you leave enough mud alone for long enough, it will eventually—through chance events and natural selection—become a human being who will build computers and spaceships. Genesis says that intelligence arises from a greater intelligence.

Or to simplify it even further: Evolution says the background of the universe is dumb matter, and intelligence is an accident. Genesis places intelligence at the core of the universe, and says that dumb matter is an illusion.

One step simpler: Evolution says that a dumb universe can create intelligent beings. Genesis says that an intelligent universe may sometimes look dumb, until you look deeper.

Mixing these two together is then an exttreme form of syncretism.

While I'm at it, please allow me to point out that "natural" and "selection" are mutually incompatible terms. Natural implies blind necessity dictated by the consistent patterns of nature. Selection implies intelligence. I won't be the first to point out that this term is an oxymoron. What I propose, however, is that the choice of such a term indicates that scientists subliminally recognize that there must be an intelligence at work here. Which is my point: It's much more intuitive to believe that the primal substance of the universe is not matter, but intelligence.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to believe that creationism is science. How it was, precisely, that a super-cosmic intelligence extruded all these beings from the primordial mud is something still beyond our science. Perhaps one day we will have theories that can explain some of this to us in terms we can grasp. Or perhaps not. At present, however, materialistic evolution is sorely deficient at explaining anything at all.

In fairness to your question, I should add that there have been those who have attempted to align Judaism and evolution, some of them quite respectable Torah scholars. None of them, however, have managed to make a plausible reading out of Genesis with their theories. Their error stems from the belief that evolution has been somehow scientifically proven. This is simply not the case. While Darwin’s theories and their modern counterparts may have proven a useful paradigm for certain studies, they cannot at all stand the rigor through which a theory must be put in the academic world in order to be accepted as “proven.” Their sole claim to acceptance is the human mind’s endemic fear of saying, “We don’t understand.”

There’s lots written on our site on this topic. Here is one useful article, written by an environmental scientist.

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Discussion (552)
July 28, 2014
Re: Even Chabad agrees evolution is true
When you say "no refutation," do you mean in this article, in the comments, or in general? It is axiomatic for a believing Jew that the words of the Torah come from G-d, and that the rabbis spoke under divine inspiration, with an insight beyond mere speculation. In this article, at any rate, no reference was made to rabbis. The issue addressed here is that of reconciling the Theory of Evolution with the account of Genesis. If one chooses to believe in the Torah, they are faced with the need to rethink the assertions of this theory. Is it possible to understand the hard data amassed by scientists without the model of evolution but within the description of Creation given in Genesis? Chabad teaching says yes. One example is here.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
Chabad.org
July 20, 2014
Even Chabad agrees evolution is true
Since there is no refutation of evolution or of the claims that the Rabbis got things wrong, it seems to be a silent admission that it is all true.

But then why does Chabad in their yeshivas teach that it's not true if they know it really is?
dumbfounded
NYC
May 11, 2014
Dear Zhev - In the Land of Honey!
Thank you (I think...) I love that expression: Little Bird on a Cinnamon Tree!
That Ghoti/fishy story is very fascinating but what is its correlation with our story? Please clarify your story. Are you saying that Evolution, Science and Humans are responsible? Everything in the Universe is part of Evolution since the beginning of G-d’s Creation everything has been going forward non-stop, good or bad.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
May 1, 2014
Response to Rabbi Tzvi Freeman.
Evolution does not in itself claim that God did not create man. You could not be more wrong. At best you can say that the atheists attempt to use Evolution to disprove God's existence.
Furthermore you are erroneously misinterpreting Genesis. Genesis does not declare that there was no Evolution as you would have us believe. At best all you can prove is that many respectable Torah scholars had so declared.
Were they right? Sorry but the evidence leans the other way on Evolution.

Your biggest failure is ignoring what Genesis is declaring. That God Himself created the world and man, not the Rabbis. With no fault of their own they were not privy to the discoveries on Evolution. If they were they would have certainly conceded, given their strong love for the truth.
Your allegiance for the Rabbis though admirable has blinded your intelligence to seeing the reality of truth.
Teach us to acknowledge the world as God (NOTtheRabbis) had created it, for allegiance to God is more admirable.
Isaac
Brooklyn, NY
April 13, 2014
Dear Feigele- In the Cinnamon Tree.
Dear Fegele:
How dare (L-0-L) =`(*_*)' you be so thoughtful and write so well?
I haven't been on for some time. Evolutionary events have been occurring in our lifetime and documented. e.g. There is a specie of fish [ghoti] in a river where a dam was built. The dam and other environmental {climate change...} have created a division in their breeding & feeding area. They were divided into two non-mixing groups. 0ne of the two has, within a few generations -circa 20 yrs., morphed into a divergent group. The two will not mate with each other. In another few years, perhaps, they will not even be able. They look different, they feed differently and live differently. from their cousins. However, we must remember that we will never really reach people who know that their prayers & no Iron Dome rockets that stopped Grads & others.
Zhev Freed
Bher-Shev'A
January 28, 2014
time and evolution
But, is there evolution if there is no time? How will evolutionary biology meet new physical paradigms about time, space and so on? Will new conceptual changes deny evolution? Or on the contrary, will it become a more extraordinary process, full of astonishing implications? If so, will past human beings and the rest of living beings become something different as science progresses? After all, is life something fix-finite-defined? That is, can one understand it by means of using a flesh brain and its limited words? Does the whole of life fit inside a bone box? Indeed, will science add indefinitely without understanding completely, is there an infinite pool of ignorance waiting for us? Otherwise, will religions use the word God forever and ever, as if it were a death thing, a repetitive thing? Along these lines there is a different book, a preview in goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion in order to freethink for a while
Anonymous
palmabeach
October 30, 2013
Creation
Both and Rabbis and Physicists seem to agree that matter originated from a "singularity"
To the Rabbi the "Singulality" is G-d - look no further. The Rabbis philosophical explanations I find impossible to follow.
But Physicists continually struggle to find a rational explanation for a "pre-singularity" condition as.we cannot contemplate a void and experience leads us to reject the idea of something from nothing .

For me the question I ask the Rabbis is -
For what purpose did G-d create life on earth ? and if It is to reach the Messianic Age and we and live happily ever after - what then for the Creator ?

Maybe I prefer one unanswerable question to two .
AubreyJ
Hendon London
October 25, 2013
Two Different Paradigmas
Since July 19th 2010 until now there have been 543 commentaries. All this speaks out to me that the saying is true -each head is a world in itself. My point is that the Torah provides me with guidance to live, but that guidance is something intimate, something that sustains me against the other's assaults in the battle of life. On the other hand, evolution is something... perhaps plausible but while I'm standing on the sidewalk I'm not authorized to speak about the Torah and if I dare to do so, a spirit will make me known who really I am. On the same sidewalk if I speak about evolution, passersby -my fellows- probably would think I am a political activist and like many other political statements, evolution is in, is true, is fair, everybody knows it and nobody doubts it and after all, who cares it.
Anonymous
Qr
October 24, 2013
The Fossil Record Does Not Contradict Evolution
The fossil record does not contradict evolution. Moreover, there are no facts today that contradict evolution. Just within the past 10 years, we’ve unearthed fossil evidence that has strengthened the theory of evolution considerably.

Misinformation about the fossil record has been floating around for years, and unfortunately, it has wormed its way into Chabad literature. It’s primarily related to the work of Drs. S. Gould and N. Eldridge, who studied the rarity of transitional fossils. Their findings have been distorted beyond recognition by opponents of evolution. I don’t have room to delve into the technical details. But I will say this: no competent paleontologist would ever conclude that missing fossils never existed, nor would they ever conclude that non-discovery of more primitive forms of a species must mean that species appeared suddenly. And anyone who drew those conclusions 10 years ago would today be looking quite foolish.
Bert
San Jose, CA
October 24, 2013
Who preceded who? (2nd)
Is it what the debate is all about? No doubt about it, it had to be Creation from which derived Evolution as G-d intended to be or as some would describe it as an unfinished and endless story. So to finish this story, Evolution/Science must continue to progress beyond Creation. Although, Torah has been our guide for thousand years, I don’t think it encompasses all cures for humans and knowledge that men have to discover on their own for their benefits. I don’t believe either that G-d would be laughing at His own image. On the contrary, He would be sympathetic to their suffering and proud of their accomplishments and even, sometimes, guide them towards victory. When he created the world, his work was done. He left it to us to make it a place to live and enjoy. I am sure the Torah has been misinterpreted many times and so has science been wrong many times, but in all, we are progressing in science and in understanding the Torah. Nothing wrong about making errors from which we can learn better ways.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
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