Monday, 7 July 2008

Why evolution is not our hot button issue

Another article from Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer. I have posted many times in the past that TRUE Science and TRUE Torah can never be in conflict because they all emanate from the same source. Perhaps we humans PERCEIVE a conflict, but this is probably an issue of semantics or communication.

BTW, the Rema reputedly said the sam things about Philosophy and Qabbalah, that the differences were merely a matter of semantics. Thus, different discipplines may speak in different metaphors, nevertheless, Provided that they are sincere, they are saying the same thing.

That said, I don't accept Evolution as dogma without first questioning it and using scientific inquiry, as well as good logical thinking.

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

Why Evolution is NOT our "Hot-Button" Issue

by Shammai Engelmayer

(C) 2008 by Shammai Engelmayer - Re-Printed with the author's permission

The anti-evolutionists are at it again and this time, they think they have come up with a winning strategy. Rather than teach alternative theories (creationism or intelligent design, for example), they are now pushing for new laws that would force schools to teach "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory."

Bills to do just that are in various stages of development—one may say they are evolving—in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina.

In Texas, the "strength and weaknesses" language actually has been on the books for more than 20 years, but only now may be put into force. The state board of education, seven of whose 15 members believe in intelligent design, is spending the next month trying to figure out how. If it succeeds in finding a way that will pass muster with the courts, it will be a victory for fundamentalist Christians who equate teaching the science of creation with promoting a godless society by undermining the Bible's authority.

One would think that Jewish schools would be the primary battleground for defending God's word against the "heresies" of godless science, since Genesis 1, the first chapter of Bereishit, was a Jewish text long before it was a Christian one. Yet this is not the case. In some yeshivot, the issue is simply irrelevant; in other yeshivot and in day schools, the attitude is that since God created science, there can be no conflict.

Behind this attitude exists another one that would drive fundamentalist Christians up a wall: Judaism has never been wedded to the literalness of every word in the Torah. "The Shechina [the Spirit of the Lord] never descended to earth, nor did Moses or Elijah ever ascend to heaven [even though it is so stated in the Bible]," declares Rabbi Yosi in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Sukkah 5a.

Do not misunderstand me: We do accept the literal truth of what the Torah says about creation and other matters; it is the words and images the Torah uses to express that truth that is in doubt. In other words, using creation as an example, while we accept that God created the world in six days, we also accept the fact that we do not understand what "day" means or what is actually meant by "created."

We also accept the fact that there are concepts that go beyond human understanding and that the Torah, which is meant to be a document for humans to understand, had to express those concepts in a way that we could understand.

The great commentator Maimonides, writing 1,000 years after Rabbi Yosi's declaration, considered belief in the literalness of the words to be a form of heresy.

Particularly irksome to the Rambam, as Maimonides is also known, was the insistence of some that God has a physical form merely because the Torah talks of His pointing fingers and outstretched arms and of His speaking, presumably through a mouth. To the Rambam, these are obvious metaphors. He codifies this in his Mishnah Torah: The Laws of the Fundamentals of the Torah 1:7, where he states as a positive commandment the requirement to know (not merely to believe) that God has no form of any kind.

As he explains in MT Fundamentals 1:9, the anthropomorphic terms used to describe God and His actions are expressions "adapted to the mental capacity of the majority of humankind..., [because] God's essence as it really is, the human mind does not understand and is incapable of grasping or investigating...."

The Rambam even made this the second and third of his 13 articles of faith: "To believe that God is one, the cause of all oneness. He is...not one in the sense that a simple body is—numerically one, but still infinitely divisible. God, rather, is uniquely one....To believe that He is incorporeal, that His unity is in no way physical, either potentially so or actually so. None of the attributes of matter—motion, say, or rest—can be ascribed to Him. They cannot refer to Him accidentally or essentially....Whenever Scripture describes Him in such corporeal terms as 'walking,' 'standing,' 'sitting,' 'speaking,' and the like, it speaks metaphorically." [See "Chelek," the Rambam's essay to Chapter 10 of BT Sanhedrin]

In The Laws of Repentance, 3:7, he goes so far as to state that anyone who does not accept this is a heretic.

Now, it could be argued that such other great commentators as Rashi and Nachmanides (a/k/a the Ramban) believed in the absolute literalness of every word, but that is wrong. They believed, rather, that often, what the text says and what it really says are two different things; that there is a "hidden text" lurking amid the words of the plain text.

Hidden texts aside, the plain text makes quite clear how God, the Creator, went about creating:

"And God said, 'Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.' And it was so: The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it." (See Genesis 1:11-12.)

Notice what God does here: nothing! God "says" (by whatever means God communicates His thoughts) and nature goes to work doing what comes naturally. There is not even a concept of instantaneous fulfillment here. Nature does what nature does in the time it takes nature to do it naturally.

Does the first chapter of Genesis tell us how creation happened? Yes, but not in terms that will satisfy a scientist. Then again, Genesis was not written to satisfy a scientist.

Does Genesis contradict science? No. Science tells us, as best it can, what the technical aspects were of creation, but not in ways that will satisfy the theologian. Then again, science does not exist to satisfy the theologian.

Put another way, we Jews are secure enough in our faith in God as the Creator of All Things to recognize that one of those things—science—is just another way God communicates with us.And that is why the kinds of continuing battles against evolution do not have counterparts in Jewish schools.


C. David Parsons said...


The reason is elementary: the Discovery Institute and other ID proponents leave out the Triune God, Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, Richard Dawkins can make the case for “aliens” seeding the earth.

The Quest for Right, a series of 7 textbooks created for the public schools, represents the ultimate marriage between an in-depth knowledge of biblical phenomena and natural and physical sciences. The several volumes have accomplished that which, heretofore, was deemed impossible: to level the playing field between those who desire a return to physical science in the classroom and those who embrace the theory of evolution. The Quest for Right turns the tide by providing an authoritative and enlightening scientific explanation of natural phenomena which will ultimately dethrone the unprofitable Darwinian view.

"I am amazed at the breadth of the investigation - scientific history, biblical studies, geology, biology, geography, astronomy, chemistry, paleontology, and so forth - and find the style of writing to be quite lucid and aimed clearly at a general, lay audience." ― Mark Roberts, former Editor of Biblical Reference Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Quest for Right series of books, based on physical science, the old science of cause and effect, has effectively dismantled the quantum additions to the true architecture of the atom. Gone are the nonexistent particles once thought to be complementary to the electron and proton (examples: neutrons, neutrinos, photons, mesons, quarks, Z's, bosons, etc.) and a host of other pseudo particles.

To the curious, scientists sought to explain Atomic theory by introducing fantastic particles that supposedly came tumbling out of the impact between two particles, when in fact, the supposed finds were simply particulate debris. There are only two elementary particles which make up the whole of the universe: the proton and electron. All other particles were added via quantum magic and mathematical elucidation in an attempt to explain earthly phenomena without God.

Introducing the scheme of coincidence, which by definition, "is the systematic ploy of obstructionists who, in lieu of any divine intervention, state that any coincidental grouping or chance union of electrons and protons (and neutrons), regardless of the configuration, always produces a chemical element. This is the mischievous tenet of electron interpretation which states that all physical, chemical, and biological processes result from a change in the electron structure of the atom which, in turn, may be deciphered through the orderly application of mathematics, as outlined in quantum mechanics. A few of the supporting theories are: degrading stars, neutron stars, black holes, extraterrestrial water, antimatter, the absolute dating systems, and the big bang, the explosion of a singularity infinitely smaller than the dot of an “i” from which space, time, and the massive stellar bodies supposedly sprang into being.

The Quest for Right is not only better at explaining natural phenomena, but also may be verified through testing. As a consequence, the material in the several volumes will not violate the so-called constitutional separation of church and state. Physical science, the old science of cause and effect, will have a long-term sustainability, replacing irresponsible doctrines based on whim. Teachers and students will rejoice in the simplicity of earthly phenomena when entertained by the new discipline.

The Quest for Right.

Anonymous said...

> So that even the Sanhedrin in the Temple requires sevora.

Of course they didn't. Didn't you ever watch Battlestar Galactica?