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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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The Editorial Team July 24, 2017

At some point, we need to close comments to an article, simply because the author is not capable of responding to every article he has ever posted.

If you have a question on this article, please direct it to our AskTheRabbi service. Reply

Eli Fisher Washington Heights March 21, 2017

Thank you I am learning about evolution in biology now (9th grade MTA), and I was wondering how this fit in. Your article was very helpful. Reply

Pinchus New York June 27, 2015

And who decides which is right? When rabbinic and scientific experts disagree on what "the reality" is? Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL June 25, 2015

Look not behind but what's in our future! That's right! We must rely on scientific "experts" .AND on rabbinic experts. Together, we will assure a better understanding of what is expected from us to achieve a better future for next generations to come. Reply

Pinchus New York June 22, 2015

Micro evolution is not macro evolution. Being able to eat Nylon or metabolize a given substance that a bacteria did not (not even necessarily "could" not. It just didn't for whatever reason) previously metabolize, is just adaptation.
It's not a species changing into a completely new species which is now genetically incompatible with the one it came from.

No one has ever seen any creature evolve into human beings.
I know, they say the time scale is far too long for any individual to observe.
Still the fact is no one ever saw it happen.
so any claims that it is supposedly "a proven fact" have to obviously be false.

As for isotopes in R dating, who gets to define what a 'significant' deviation, is?
Also who knows what unknown factors in the past might have made those isotopes change at a much different rate then today.

I personally can't do all those experiments, so must rely on scientific "experts".
Yet we are told not to rely on rabbinic experts.
Ah good old double standards... Reply

Anonymous toranto May 4, 2017
in response to Pinchus:

Look for the example of black vs white a speckled moth during the industrial revolution, or bacteria becoming more and more resistant to penicillin. That is evolution in action. Reply

Sheila July 9, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

That evolution is specific. That moth developed a resistance. It's not a different species. We have penicillin resistant viruses, they aren't new, they adapted. When I go swimming, my fingers wrinkle so I can grip wet things better, I didn't evolve, I adapted. Reply

Ern Wigzell Adelaide June 22, 2015

Thank you Steve I wondered how substances changed. After a huge amount of generations we had a new species, no longer E Coli. I think not. Changing diet does not give a new family of animal!
Even in the war some Jews ate pork - proof of evolution???? Reply

Steve E Abraham New York June 18, 2015

evolution today I read a study. Scientists took a strain of E Coli that does not metabolize substance A (I don't recall the exact name). They increased the quantity of substance A, while decreasing the other nutrients. They carried this through 30,000 generations. Now that is a lot, think of 30,000 generations of humans! The researchers found that at the end of the study, the E Coli were able to metabolize substance A. As the other nutrients decreased, mutations that were able to metabolize substance A were able to proliferate and become the dominant organisms. This is a direct demonstration of evolution, the process of evolution. Scientists can show this process happening in our own environment, in the past and today. Evolution is a process that happens all around us. This brings up the question: If there are 2 ways to explain something, how do we choose which explanation works for us? Usually, we look for data, for evidence, and ask. Does it work for all of humanity, or just for a few holy people? Reply

truecreation_dot_info USA June 17, 2015

Faith and Science Naturalistic explanations are in many cases, fully compatible with theism and, indeed, Judaism or Christianity.

In the Biblical account of creation, did G-d inspire Moses to describe the creation of the stars and galaxies as condensing spheres of hot hydrogen plasma? No, He placed the stars in the sky. Yet we don’t have a problem with that explanation, do we? Indeed, life is more complex than the elements, stars and planets, but complexity is not a reason to exclude natural mechanisms from the explanation of how G-d did it (see the article "Is Evolution Statistically Impossible?" on the site, truecreation_dot_info).

A better, G-d fearing scientific answer is, "G-d did it! We've seen that created the elements, stars, planets, and other incredible complexity in this universe using natural mechanisms. If He created species in the same way, let's learn how, and let's do it with integrity." Reply

Bert San Jose, CA April 22, 2015

Ern's Other Questions “Let science admit they do not know about the divine.” I agree.

“How did non-organized matter become organized?” In the book, “Just Six Numbers” by Martin Rees, six laws of physics are explained. They don’t simply allow matter to be organized, they compel it. The organization of matter is embedded in the design of the universe.

“How did non-living atoms become living things?” What is “life”? Who’s to say that atoms are not alive in ways we don’t understand? If G-d is everywhere, then G-d can be found in atoms.

“Can mutations produce a different family of creatures?” It is not certain that mutations are the sole cause of evolution.

Scientists believe the rates of radioactive decay are constant, because they have no reason to assume otherwise. Isotopes used in R-Dating have been tested under a variety of conditions, and no significant deviation has ever been observed (Dalrymple 2004). Reply

Bert San Jose, CA March 18, 2015

Ern’s Questions Although these were originally addressed to Isaac, I will respond to them.

I believe G-d created the universe. From nothing? Nothing existed before the universe? G-d existed. G-d is everywhere. The universe is the manifestation of G-d’s thought. I would not say “from nothing.” I would say “from G-d.”

Scientists say that evolution is a continuing process and that all species are transitional.

An example of observable evolution is the bacteria that eat nylon, which never existed in nature; nylon is a human invention. We started with a culture that had no ability to consume nylon. (Miller, “Only a Theory.”) But if science relied only on direct observation, we’d have to set free many accused criminals.

Scientists believe that life, and hence, evolution, began about 3.5 billion years ago from the same molecules that make up non-living objects. Reply

Pinchus March 8, 2015

"If it is the truth, it can be proven, if it cannot be proven, it cannot be the truth."

You have kept telling us you believe in G-d, but your line here above, excludes any possibility of belief in G-d.

"Scientists have the proof. It may not be as conclusive as all may wish it to be,"

Then it's not proof.
And there has been plenty of doubt against their claims as well, just like you said about doubts mentioned about the Flood in the Gemmara.

"but it surely beats by leaps and bounds of primitive and ancient societies' of past generations' assumptions and mere opinions,"

So since it's not actual proof now here comes the personal insults and ridicule designed to try and embarrass those on the other side into silence.

"of which many, to everyone's knowledge, have been disproved."

That is not true at all.

"Debating with those whose only goal is to win at all costs even that of truth and honesty would be incapable of producing any useful result. "

The anti Torah side does that. Reply

Pinchus Brooklyn New York March 8, 2015

"In Zevachim 113A is a debate on whether or not the land of Israel was affected by Noah's flood. So if there are doubts of the entire known world being affected, how much more so the entire globe? I will need to find where I saw the article on this to recall the Rabbis."

#1 You can't pasken from a Gemorra especially since you are not a rav.
#2 SOME seem to have had doubts, that is not necessarily what the sages concluded, though.

"When pride and ego prevents one from submitting to indisputable scientific evidence, their pride becomes foolish & ego selfish. What is your excuse?"

It's far from 'indisputable' and falsely claiming it supposedly is is pride becomes foolish & ego selfish. so what is your excuse?

You claim to know more then the rabbis so go argue with them, you know like how you told me to go argue with the scientists.

As for your claim of supposedly 'not worthy opponents' that is typical of those who lose the argument and have to try and save face. Reply

steve new york February 10, 2015

The best choice? If... the Bible was never written, and if the idea of God never happened, then wouldn't the most reasonable idea of nature be natural selection and evolution? Without the idea of a deity, what criticism of natural selection would there be? On the other hand, look at how many religions there are, look at how many have fallen away, like the Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Egyptian gods, there have been so many ideas of god that we (especially as Jews) admit are wrong! So, looking at human history, we have proven many gods as being non-existent, yet, the idea of natural selection not only persists, it is gaining new evidence all the time. If you went with probabilities, natural selection is more probable, than all the gods in human history. Where is the Sun god of Egypt? Debunked. Zeus? Debunked as myth. Jesus? Budha? where are they and the god they represent? Debunked myths. And yet, natural selection is still here and makes sense. Reply

Ern Adelaide January 13, 2015

The truth of Evolution! 5) Would it make any difference to you if the scientists would admit there is a God?
Baal, Ashtaroth?
Let science admit they do not know about the divine.
Isaac,
1. How did non-organised matter become organised without detroying the laws of physics?
2. How did non-living atoms become living beings?
3. Is 2 above, repeatable? Is it possible?
4. Can 2 be demonstrated in a lab, with intelligent people directing it, & external energy being added?
5. Can mutations produce a different family of creature? Give one proveable occurence.
6. Are there transitional creatures today? If not, why?
7.Give a timing method where the original status (radiation levels, etc) is known, the process can be proven to not deviate, & is not influenced by water. (Why water? because fossils require high pressure water, & sedimentary layers means "laid down by water!)
I like the name Isaac: was the first known Isaac, a father of the Jews or a descendant of an Iraqi? What is the difference - G-d! Why that family? Reply

Ern Adelaide January 13, 2015

Isaac, is Evolution true & provable? Look at the title of this blog - is Judaism true? Is its truth provable? Or do we who proclaim the Bible as True, have a blind faith?
1) Do you, or do you not believe God created the universe ‘Ex Nihilo’? ANSWERED!
2) When did the scientists declare, evolution had stopped?
They say it is a continuing process, but where are the transitional creatures today? Where are the monkey/apes still evolving into men? They are not to be found. Because a new creature is found, that does not mean it recently evolved, just that it was not found before.
3) When did the scientists believe evolution was observable? I do not know. Surely one could observe the transitional creatures they talk about if one existed then. CAN YOU ANSWER THIS?
4) How long did the scientists claim it took for the duration of evolution? It is still happening. When did it start? There must have been a starting point, but that it never discussed. The laws of science clearly state that nothing comes from nothing. Reply

Don California January 6, 2015

Genesis AND evolution For me, the biblical account of creation is myth. Before anyone gets their hackels up, let me explain that myth is truth without necessarily being historical. Myth is a way of portraying the truth of creation. So I can accept the creation story (stories, really) as entirely true, and also evolutionary theory as an attempt to explain life evidences, both contemporary and in the fossil record, together with radioisotope dating, stratigraphy, and other geological methods of investigation. Reply

Bert San Jose, CA January 4, 2015

Half a Car Stuck in the Sand If I saw half a car stuck in the sand, I would think it had a maker. If someone told me that it came into being, piece by piece on something called an "assembly line," I would think that made sense. But if someone then told me that the "Theory of the Assembly Line" ruled out the existence of a maker, I would think that absurd. Reply

Isaac Brooklyn NY January 4, 2015

My last comment on this blog for lack of Worthy Opponents As a mitzvah leads to another mitzvah and a sin to more sin, so too is for falsehood and truth.
The pursuit of truth is of the utmost importance, for without it, what is there other than stagnation at best and declining of the intellect at worst.
If it is the truth, it can be proven, if it cannot be proven, it cannot be the truth.

Scientists have the proof. It may not be as conclusive as all may wish it to be, but it surely beats by leaps and bounds of primitive and ancient societies' of past generations' assumptions and mere opinions, of which many, to everyone's knowledge, have been disproved.
Debating with those whose only goal is to win at all costs even that of truth and honesty would be incapable of producing any useful result.
This blog's intended purpose. For the benefit of all. Is for deriving of truth, not of frivolity.
I must therefore move on to more worthy and stimulating adversaries which I hope to find on other blogs.
May all blessings be bestowed upon all. Amen. Reply

Isaac Brooklyn NY January 4, 2015

Pinchus, answers for you in the order of your inquiry Questions posted were not meant for you

Rules you refer to does not derive from Torah, age of universe, Adam was first man.
Is why you were not taught

All familiar with Rambam's teachings are aware of his views, do all agree? You would have to ask them

Rabbis claim God alters the laws of nature, scientists have proven He does not

Rabbis claim Torah states God created the world within 6 24hr consecutive days, Adam was first man, miracles occurred outside of nature etc.

'not in line', with. Reality = the state of world & things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them

Why would they? Because they are truth seekers. Which will bring them closer to their creator & everyone else for that matter

"If our perception of G-d has to change to suit others, then we have nothing eternal, to hold onto.
It becomes meaningless, and we are then just paying lip service."

Well said. Are you pleasing & giving lip service to God's Toras Emes or to Rabbis? Reply

Ern Adelaide January 3, 2015

For Isaac 1) Do you, or do you not believe God created the universe ‘Ex Nihilo’? No - He made by converting His energy into Matter & natural energy, like light & wind.
2) When did the scientists declare, evolution had stopped? Ask them to show evidence of it happening. I have & they cannot. Where are the transision creatures between families, still evolving. Why has every transistion species died out? You answer the question - where is your evidence of evolution today?
3) When did the scientists believe evolution was observable? Observable by whom. The only one who could observe, if it happened, they do not believe in, & His claims are different.
4) How long did the scientists claim it took for the duration of evolution? Has it stopped?
5) Would it make any difference to you if the scientists would admit there is a God? RePhrase, admit there was a creator. YES! There would be no need for fabrication & lies. Look at the history of evolution.
Now you answer the same questions, please Isaac Reply

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