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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 (618)
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
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
September 16, 2014
Re: Ern Wigzell
You seem very knowledgeable on these annual layers & know more. You should go & convince Geologists & Scientists of their error. If & when they concur with you, I & everyone else will submit.
No matter what answers are given to your questions, you will not accept. I see proof from the Torah as well.

You say "G-d spoke & it was done" If it dose not say directly in the Torah, how do you know it was not evolution? Where's your proof? Rabbis had always relied on Scientists & Doctors of their generations for their expertise.

The first words in the Torah says, "God created the havens & the earth." To me this means that everything discovered on this planet is from God. If (God Forbid) I were to say 'this, what was found by scientists is not from God,' then I am in essence saying, that not everything was created by God. I would then be in odds with the Torah.
If you cannot persuade the Scientists, then you should rethink your position & perhaps you should start listening.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
September 16, 2014
Layers are layers
Saying this one is annual and that one is not, is just semantics.

Scientists are more fallible and more wrong then rabbis plus they have an agenda to defend and promote. it's far from pure science. The Rebbe was a sage not just any old rabbi.
Where is proof the Rebbe was wrong about evolution, the age of the Earth or anything else?

I never personally say proof for claims of "hundreds of thousands of annual layers", so by your argument, I should not believe it's true just because fallible people who get things wrong, say so.

You never answered questions I asked you, or addressed certain points I made, such as the one about the rules for interpretation.
Where is proof you followed or even know what the rules are?
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 15, 2014
Re: Pinchus
Geologists found annual layers in glaciers counting back 740,000 years.
If you consider about 4000 years since Noah's flood, this would mean 185 snowfalls yearly on the average, or 5774 years from Adam with 128 snowfalls average per year, all resulting in annual layers.
Where & when did you see these daily snowfalls?

When one's faith is based on a Rabbi, as is the weakness of many of us, and when this Rabbi is somehow proven wrong, that faith can come crashing down, & can be very spiritually debilitating.
This being the reason why many will defend their Rabbi's words even at the cost of the truth of Torah.

Our Sages were well aware of this weakness and when composing the prayers we recite, they made sure we direct our faith & trust to God and away from man.
E.g. In Psalm 146 we say, "Do not place your trust in noble men" In Berich Shemei prayer we say, "Not in man do I put my trust"
How accepted by the sages are your rabbis?
& Where can one find the 39 or so, strict rules.
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
September 11, 2014
Pinchus & Isaac
Snow layers - these are not annual layers, they are many more times frequent than annual. Otherwise give proof that one & only one layer forms every year. ie; what makes layers? It cannot be melting as that destroys the amount of snow, so what is it that causes the snow to form layers?
Isaac, I am still waiting on proof of evolution!
1. Proof that the BigBang formed & lowers Entropy? Otherwise, after millions of years there would not be enough 'available energy to form a very big bang!
2. Are the "simple cells" of Darwin & early evolutionists real? Can they be formed & have life by natural processes? If evolution plays by the rules it is still occurring - so where can we find these still forming single cells?
3. If Evolution is still occurring - where are all the "in between kinds"? DNA replicates after its kind, now in in the past. OR give current mutations which are changing kind today!
G-d spoke & it was done, is not evolution! He will speak again, are we waiting, & listening?
Ern Wigzell
Adelaide
September 11, 2014
"All creatures and humanoids were created by God. "

So you don't believe they evolved from lower life forms, going back to a single celled creature, from which all life came?
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 9, 2014
That was a typo
Not a credibility problem.
And that was the only example you gave to attempt to prove my statements supposedly had such problems.
And most scientists these days have a liberal agenda to promote things and ideas that
go against what G-d wants.
That gives them many credibility problems and makes their statements like those about layers of ice, very suspect.
What Torah sages 3000 years ago believed the world was flat?
Other people are not part of this discussion.
Torah was not compromised in order to talk to primitives and the Sages were intellectual giants and they were the the Torah scholars who taught everyone else.
How Torah is interpreted must by halacha follow a bunch of strict rules (39 I believe, or some number along those lines).
If those rules are not followed the interpretation is flawed and not accepted by Torah scholars.
Exactly how many rabbis is "a lot" anyway?
How accepted by the sages are these rabbis?
Pinchus
Brooklyn New York
September 8, 2014
Re: Pinchus, In other words.
Each snowfall does not produce an annual layer, the more snowfalls in a single year, the thicker the annual layer for that year.
All creatures and humanoids were created by God.

You state.
"I have seen multiple snow layers occur in a single day.
So there could be many thousands in a year.
multiply that by thousands of years, and it can add up to many thousands of layers." "
This statement of yours has many credibility problems. For one, 1000s multiplied by 1000s adds up to millions.

People living over 3000 years ago believed the world was flat, their lack of intellect could not accept a round world.
To be accepted by all, the Torah was written in the language of all men. A poorly educated, primitive person can conclude, by leaving out the details, that Adam was the first man. An educated person can conclude, by including all details, from the same Torah text that Adam was NOT the first man. There were and are many Rabbis that concur with this.
Can you understand this well?
Isaac
Brooklyn NY
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