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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 (625)
September 30, 2014
I'm with Pinchus
We take a G-d denying theory, believe theoretical dating, assume all snow layers were only annually laid down, find fossils do not prove evolution, they prove nothing but that the animal existed, & we call it empirical evidence, even when it cannot be proven nor can it be made to happen with all the technology of the men that believe in it, yet it is believed to happen by chance
Science says NO GOD, some add G-d.
There is no skeleton of hominids that cannot be found living today -we call them deformed.
Find the evidence & ask, if science is wrong, what is right, & follow that as well. Then compare the results.
With an allwise, allpowerful, eternal G-d an instantaneus 6 day creation is possible, & can fit all the evidence. Bees require flowers & flowers, bees. Evolution would have the flowers waiting to be pollenated for millions of years, same with all the naturally connected creatures.
I would rather be called stupid & follow wisdom than actually be stupid & follow fairy tales.
Ern Wigzell
Adelaide
September 29, 2014
Re: Pinchus
Perhaps you are referring to, "Rabbi Yishmael says: through 13th methods the Torah is expounded:" which we recite in the morning services.
Not every halacha the Rabbis decreed are from Scripture, e.g. reciting a blessing over food before eating. The example you cite is of a rational moral, and teaching that, 'if it is not stated in the Torah, does not mean it is moral.' But who really knows for sure what the Torah is saying by not directly stating all these Halachas. All we know for sure is that, the Rabbis felt them necessary for their generation.

I knew someone who ended it for himself, the Rabbis said wherever he goes, he will have to start all over again, for there is no escaping what one must fix for themself and for the world in their current lifetime. You might as well do all you are meant to do now in this lifetime, in order to prepare yourself for a better life here in this life and in your world to come.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
September 21, 2014
"Fossils Make A Monkey Out Of Evolution"
Trying to reconcile evolution with the Torah is an exercise in futility. Because evolution cannot be reconciled even with the fossil record. As a matter of fact, the fossil record actually proves evolution never happened. "Fossils Make A Monkey Out Of Evolution" describes in detail evolution's incompatibility with the fossil record. The book availabe on Amazon or at:
Josh Greenberger
New York
September 18, 2014
You win,
By default.
You are allowed to say anything you want including insulting the Sages, and I am not allowed to respond, no matter how civilized and polite my response is.

Obviously it is the goal of the Chabad website to promote anything that goes against everything I was taught in yeshivah, and everything Chabad told me about G-d and Emunah must all be nothing but the ramblings of rabbis who are and were obviously nothing but foolish "primatives".

I have wasted my life trying to follow such wrong teachings, and am far too old to try and start my life all over again as the "enlightened", secular person, Chabad obviously wants me to be.

With no life and no solid belief system I have nothing but pain and suffering in my miserable life.
But on the bright side, I can now commit suicide without committing any sins since it was all a bunch of garage anyway.

To hell with everything, I will now go and look for the fastest most painless way to off myself.
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 17, 2014
"Still waiting on proof of evolution"
There is no proof, but there's plenty of empirical evidence. However, no
evidence will suffice for some, and to those I say you're throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Let me emphasize that "random chance" is not part of the theory of evolution. It was added by atheists who think they can disprove G-d. There's no evidence that anything happened by "random chance." I suspect that, if evolution weren't equated with "random chance," we wouldn't be having this debate at all.

Don't throw the good science out with the bad. If you're seriously willing to
consider the evidence, there are books I can recommend.
Bert
San Jose, CA
September 17, 2014
Re: Tzvi Freeman
What & How are covered by scientists, I believe you are talking about the 3rd idea, 'Who' Who created all? We all know Nature was created by God.

Charles Darwin said "The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for 
the existence of God."
Albert Einstein had proclaimed "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe."
Atheists who exercise their right of free will, should not blind us from reality.

The real issue is 'Was Adam the first man?' According to the Rambam, when science & Torah are at odds, one must reinterpreted their understanding of the Torah.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of the literal text of Genesis can easily conclude that Adam was NOT the first man. Couple this with all scientific discoveries & the words of our Sages in support, one cannot derive any other conclusion.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
September 16, 2014
If anyone can interpret Torah,
However they want based only on the words clearly written out, then they can easily interpret it to give permission for women to be with other women (to "know" each other in the Biblical sense), since it clearly says nothing against women doing that.

It only prohibits men from doing it, not women;
"A man shall not lie down with a man, as with a woman, it is an abomination" (Vayikra, Sedra Acharai Mos, Verse 22, in The Pentatateuch, and Rashi's Commentary).

Yet we all know that Halacha clearly forbids women from doing it too.
But you can't find that spelled out word for word, in the text of the Torah.

People might want to look up info about the Saducees and/or the Karaites, I believe at least one of those groups also said something along the lines of, if it wasn't in the Torah, then the Rabbis made it up, and are wrong.

But the Torah following world has always rejected such ideas.
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 16, 2014
I am not at the moment sure where to find a comprehensive list of all the rules for interpretation of the, Torah.
I remember seeing it in a, Sefer many years ago.

But if you search for the exact phrase "Free interpretation of Torah, Moshe Ben Chiam".
You can find some discussion about it that does go into some detail.

This includes one part that clearly and specifically says that only the rabbis have the right to interpret Torah and that no interpretations outside of, Talmud are ever valid or accepted.
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 16, 2014
Some clarification from the author
I've been purposely staying out of this conversation, but I would like to make one small but major comment.

When we say "evolution," we are talking not of one, but two ideas: The idea of common descent, and the mechanism of natural selection. On other words: what happens, and how it happens.

Now look at that from a Torah perspective. There is no issue with common descent. All emerges from a single source. The earth takes form and organisms develop from the simple to the complex.

But ascribing all the complexity of nature solely to the mechanism of natural selection is clearly rejected by the narrative of Genesis. There, we read of deliberate declarations of a Creator who thoroughly transcends nature.

I don't believe there is any evidence to reject the Genesis paradigm. But I do believe that ascribing the emergence of life and consciousness to natural selection alone is startlingly naive and will eventually be rejected by science.
Tzvi Freeman
September 16, 2014
Re: Pinchus
"All creatures and humanoids were created by God. "
You say,
"So you don't believe they evolved from lower life forms, going back to a single celled creature, from which all life came?"

You think that evolution means, God is out of the picture. That is what it may mean to you. But when I was in Yeshiva we were taught, everything comes from God.
It is not a sin to even believe that we came from a cockroach. As the Pirkei Avos 3:1 puts it "From what do you come?--from a putrid drop. Where are you going?--to a place of dust, decay and maggots."
The bottom line, we all came from the same source that single celled creature (as you put it) came from--God.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
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