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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 (603)
August 31, 2014
Re: Sientje Commerford
I concur with Ramban, no need to apologize.
Our purpose in life is not only to better ourselves and the world morally, but as humans, physically as well. The covenant of circumcision (for males) is the first act not only physical but also morally, for we partner ourselves with God, for through us all, will come improvement and reward for our efforts God will bestow His abundance. Hence, God created us in His image.

Looking back at history, life in many ways have become easier, new medicines, people are living longer, growing taller and stronger, new sports world records. Yes, evolution is still very much a part of our lives. But without the contrast, i.e. the evil, unfortunately we would not know to seek the improvement.

We also evolve intellectually, learning new and more advanced, through which we reach higher levels of understanding and insights.
If we stand still we will cease to be, for we live in a universe that is constantly moving.
Evolution my dear explains everything.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
August 31, 2014
Re: Ern Wigzell
We have proof of creation, scientists call it, The Big Bang theory, the Torah calls it Bereishis.

Even if there were 10 snow falls every month for the last 5774 years, which we know did not happen, it still would not account for all of the 740,000 annual layers found in glaciers.

Where is the proof that Adam was the first man? Even the Zohar states that there were other humanoid beings living at the time of or before Adam.
Even the Rabbis of Chabad & the author of this blog has failed to submit any proof. I have asked Rabbis from all walks of life & yet have not seen any, other then, "this one said that & that one said this" type of responses.

You try to put doubt in the scientific findings, to what ends, to prove what. How do you expect for everyone to take the word of spinmeisters over prominent scientists and Rabbinic authorities? What are your answers to your own questions, lets see how they hold up under scrutiny.
Torah does not conflict with science nor science with Torah
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
August 29, 2014
Creation is not evolution!
Many people ask for proof of creation, but fail to give proof of evolution. They quote the theory but not irrefutable proofs. Where are the transient creatures today-did evolution stop?
Where are the lowering entropy that led up to the 'big Bang'?
Where is the SIMPLE cell as described by Darwin - it has not been found-no simple cell but a complicated life form.
Pressure on ice causes it to change density or melt, so if we had 10 snow storms a month there would be 10 layers, even in the depths of winter. If you quote layering of glaciers, please explain how the layers form, if not by the above method. Also layers are from the efect of sun causing parcial melting even in cold weather, so we can get hundreds of layers each & every year!
G-d has promised a new creation, in the twinkling of an eye. Man by evolution is not improving moraly, a new creation will give our hope not an evolving mankind. The spiritual is based on the natural. In the image of G-d but man wants to be an animal.
Ern Wigzell
Adelaide
August 29, 2014
Paroles de La Palice
Bubbe,
well said, couldn't say it better myself
Right to the point and very clear and appropriate
Best comment yet
Thank you
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
August 23, 2014
Evolutionary theory doesn't contradict the creation account: evolution is the means by which Hashem created the universe. Science unlocks the mystery of creation. Hashem made us with minds to think; do we not do that gift a disservice when we say science and religion are mutually exclusive?

Think of it this way: we begin from the position that God created the universe and everything within it; we've identified ancient life forms from stromatolites to dinosaurs and protohumans; science has unlocked some of the mysteries about the early universe and its formation and even replicated some of those phenomena. If we believe in God and we accept the proofs for the Big Bang theory and evolution then does it not follow that these are the works of Hashem? What other conclusion can possibly be drawn? By denying the science of evolution you deny that God created stromatolites, tryannosuarus rex australopithecus afarensis and everything that came before us.

Science is one of Hashem's gifts.
Bubbe
Pearland, Texas
August 21, 2014
re statement man was made animal first
My apologies to Isaac, If I attributed that statement to him instead of a"quote from the Ramban" Let us suppose that The Word written is true, The Word speaks of man being created in G-d's image, I am taking this from the authorized King James version. Then since we know that the Lord G-d is good, then mankind was created "good" so how did that change, why have we now hearts that can become wicked and deny G-d's creation? See evolution explains nothing. it has no life, and since my christian Bible also tells us that the earth was not like it is today. That it stood in and out of the waters before the flood, would it not then seem feasible that when the flood receded the earth broke apart and continents were formed? This then would not be evolution but rather a consequence of G-d's wrath for mankind's wickedness?
Sientje Commerford
Chilliwack
August 20, 2014
Macro-evolution(Darwinian) is a notion from the exile, and is not Jewish.
Evolution says death brought man into the world, but the Torah has it as man brought death into the world. Judaism is opposed to evolution all to the point where Chazal already had clear descriptions of what was going during the 6 days of creation, man was created in the 6th hour etc etc. "Judaic evolution" is simply a result of living in the exile, and picking up foreign notions that were established here in the exile. We may consider ancient Rome and Babylonia to be wrong about many things today, but they were the "scientists" of the day - and Jews very foolishly took what they said seriously. Today should be no exception, stick to Torah and Chazal!
Anonymous
August 20, 2014
Re: Ern Wigzell
All sciences may or may not be an exact science, but I highly doubt that they are totally wrong. Even the biggest skeptics are inclined to agree.
Summers in the arctics before climate change did not cause the snow to melt away, if it did there would be no layers at all. What you suggest is highly improbable to occur in the given timespan.
Is carbon water soluble or not? Rocks have different ages because they were formed at different times. From where do you know the earth was made all at once?

As previously outlined, there are numerous different methods for determining the age of our universe. There are a multitude of evidence to support evolution. There are even a myriad of Rabbinic support including the great Rambam. & The Torah is not at odds with either.

What is missing here is proof from the opposition, a single verse from Bereishis, evidence that proves not only tries to disprove.
We also hear assumptions of what the Torah says, and not well thought out reasoning.

Isaac
Brooklyn NY
August 19, 2014
Re: Jewish View
The essay is flawed from the very start and consequently shows his lack of understanding of the subject. He claims evolutionary theory states that in the beginning there was a nearly perfect self-replicator to sustain life. This could not be further from the truth. Evolutionary theory does NOT claim this at all. As fact, science does not yet know how self-replicating molecules evolved. Research is still in process for this. Science does not claim to know how life began! Why? Because to date there's no hard evidence that can stand up to the rigor of scientific proof. Evolutionary theory, as a scientist sees it, makes no claims about how life began. We just don't yet know. To claim that you know, without hard proof, is simply self-delusion and will render you a non-scientist very quickly.
Dovid
California
August 19, 2014
Does evolution jibe with creation???
Man by science & knowledge of Evolution in a lab could not create life - yet evolution did it by chance.
Evolution or Creation: the jews, The Hope, The land,
G-d promised LIFE & Hope, & a NEW CREATION not by evolution slowly but by His grace & a rapid change for forever not by natural evolving.
Ern Wigzell
Adelaide
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