Sunday, January 12, 2014

Who Made Cows?

What do people who reject evolution think about the origin of cows? Were cows made by God? Or did man domesticate cows from wild aurochs in the last few thousand years?

The same question goes for lots of other animals. Did God make dogs, or did man domesticate them from wolves? Did God make sheep, or did man domesticate them from mouflon? Did God make pigs, or did man domesticate them from wild boar?

I'm not asking this question in order to challenge contemporary creationists or attempt to prove anything to them - I've long given up on such things. Rather, I am pursuing a historical investigation.

It would seem that the creationist position ought to be that God created cows. After all, that would appear to be the most straightforward explanation of the Torah, which states (Gen. 1:25) that God made the behemos and the chayos. Chayos means wild animals and behemos means domestic animals. Accordingly, the various lines of evidence for domestication are to be dismissed, and the genetic similarities between dogs and wolves, pigs and boar, and sheep and mouflon are simply coincidence - er, I mean inexplicable Divine providence. (The Gemara presents a view that the shor ha-bar - presumably the aurochs - is a domestic cow that has gone feral.)

However, I discovered that Malbim, in no less than four places (Gen. 1:28, 2:20, 7:3, and Lev. 11:2), writes that domestic animals were created by man. Accordingly, he is forced to explain that when Genesis describes the creation of behemos and chayos, those terms do not refer to domestic and wild animals, but rather they refer to herbivores and carnivores; thus, the deer is a behemah. Only later in the Torah do these terms change in meaning.

Malbim is forced into such a difficult explanation of the terms because, as he states, scientists have shown that domestic animals were domesticated from wild animals. But, curiously, Ramban also defines behemah and chayah in Genesis 1:25 as referring to herbivores and carnivores (and Abarbanel also seems to prefer this view). Netziv points out that this explanation is difficult, since the deer is certainly classified in the Torah as a chayah, and the dog, according to one view in the Mishnah, is a behemah. What, then, motivated Ramban to explain the verse in this difficult way? It does not seem that he would have been aware that domestic animals originated in wild animals. Can anyone shed any light on Ramban's motivations?

Likewise, so far I have not been able to discover any other sources dealing with this topic - if anyone can dig up something (which would most likely be from the 19th century), I'd be indebted.

68 comments:

  1. Maybe it's a stupid question - maybe the Torah includes both mouflons and sheep, etc. together as behemot? Kind of like - domestacatable species?
    This would not work for dogs and wolves, but that one only comes up in the Mishna, right?
    Are there any pasukim in Tanach which identify animals in ways which would contradict this idea?

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  2. Natan - I found other examples of tantalizing explanations given by some rishonim in Bereishis that are compatible with evolution.

    Even a quick perusal of the Stone chumash shows Ramban, Or HaChaim, and the Ahavas Yonasan, explaining the sea and land as being created with capability to bring forth life.
    The Ramban even explains the "us" in "Let us make Man" to mean that Hashem "partnered" with the earth and the seas in the Creation. He also believes that Adam experienced an initial stage of brute-like existence before Hashem endowed him with a full human neshama.

    I'm surprised no one seems to be aware of these very obvious sources.

    You can add these to your question!

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  3. Weaver, I think that you misunderstood me - I was not presenting Ramban as an example of a tantalizing explanation that is compatible with evolution. Ramban did not believe in evolution.

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  4. Ramban's comment is on 1:24, not 1:25.

    Maybe Ramban explains thus because man had not yet been created, so there could not have been such a thing as a domesticated animal, and so the distinction between chaya and beheima must be something else?

    (Although I think Ramban says that all animals were herbivorous until the time of the Flood, so the same objection could be levelled against the explanation he advances in 1:24, viz., it is anachronistic.)

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  5. "Weaver, I think that you misunderstood me"

    I understand what you were saying. By "tantalizing" I meant the Ramban, et al. - having no bias to do so - presented an explanation for the Creation that fits with the theory of evolution, similar to your Ramban.
    I thought you might like to be aware of these additional sources, if you weren't already.

    While of course not anticipating the entire theory of evolution, I find the possibility of some rishonim inadvertently hitting upon an explanation that was later scientifically indicated, fascinating.


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  6. "Ramban did not believe in evolution." Which would have been completely anachronistic.

    Also, I think that the post is a bit confusing, since domestication of wild animals is not really the same as evolution of new species through natural selection. Thus, dogs and wolves are both canis lupus and can interbreed. Same for the sus genus (even if separate species names are assigned.)

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    1. Zach, the point here is that the evolution-deniers forbid a rereading of Biblical verses in the account of creation to compensate for scientific reality. Or at least that is one of their main approaches. Given that, how do they take these verses literally considering what we know of animal domestication? As a corollary, what internally within the verses caused Ramban to opt for a seemingly non literal interpretation especialy considering he was unaware of modern scientific knowledge from hundreds of years after he lived? Understanding the answer to this second question would shed light on the first.

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  7. Wolves and coyotes can also interbreed, and most consider them separate species. It is only a matter of degree of separation.

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  8. I remember reading somewhere – I think in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” – that only a handful of animals have ever been domesticated (and most of those are native to Europe and Asia). Other animals, like the elephant, or the deer, could not be domesticated, no matter what was tried. Perhaps a creationist could argue that “behemos” are animals that could be domesticated, and “chayos” are those that cannot.

    Alternatively, he could invoke the Omphalos hypothesis, and claim that the evidence of domestication was planted by God along with the dinosaur bones, the light from distant stars, etc.

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  9. "Perhaps a creationist could argue that “behemos” are animals that could be domesticated, and “chayos” are those that cannot. Alternatively, he could invoke the Omphalos hypothesis," -- Why do I feel like you're poisoning the well, G*3?

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  10. This reminds me of the argument for design that R Avigdor Miller makes based on the (modern) banana, which was actually cultivated by humans!

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  11. The Torah, in the lead-up to the flood, seems to use "behemah" and "chayah" interchangeably, or at least uses one word at a time when both are meant. Perhaps the creation and the flood are just qualitatively different times regarding the behema/chaya difference, and only after Noach leaves the ark are things set the way they are now.

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  12. In support of the view that "behemah" in Gen. 1:24 means "non-preying, herbivorous quadrupeds," Shadal notes that in Syriac, the root BHM means "tender" or "good," and thus seems to stand in contrast to the cruelty of hayyot, or "beasts." However, he also says that in some contexts "behemah" includes all quadrupeds, or even all non-human animals, as in "Adam u-vehemah toshia" (Ps. 36:7).

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  13. Malbim ... states, scientists have shown that domestic animals were domesticated from wild animals.
    Just to clarify, is Malbim saying that scientists have shown that all domestic animals were domesticated from wild animals, or just some?

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  14. On a gratuitous and pedantic note of no importance to anyone and little relevance to anything, Temujin notes that Rabbi Slifkin finally conceded the ground to conventional American spelling and dropped the traditional academic plural for the auroch, aurochsen, for aurochs. We have witnessed the Great Oxen Shift of 2014.

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  15. Sometimes "behemah" includes humans - according to some explanations of the last pasuk in Yonah.

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  16. Re. Yoni's comment on the bananas, indeed yes, Rabbi Miller had said something to the effect that the banana provides proof for Intelligent Design since it's a delicious, conveniently sized and naturally "packaged" fruit which even tells us when it's ripe by its colour. Alas, the banana variety the good Rabbi admired, the yellow and very sweet cultivar, were "created" by Lord Cavendish in the 1830s from one fruit "tree" which yielded a sweeter banana than the rest of the...bunch. The wild banana has too many seeds and a hard to peel skin, and the most popular banana in the world is the plantain, a starchy staple food in the tropics, which like the potato, must be cooked. Another delightful pedantic supplement brought to you by Temujin...

    The lesson to be learned is that kiruv philosophy and methodology needs to advance. Simplistic, cringe-producing proofs of God's existence were really hot in the Middle Ages and worked well mainly because disagreements could earn one 24 lashes or even the stake, but fell out of favour with the evolution and universal advent of of Google and Wikipedia.

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  17. There is no contradiction. Hashem gave man the knowledge and he took it from there. The Mahral says this explicitly about Adam HaRishon creating fire on the first motzaei Shabbat.

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  18. Just a little note. The science refers to microevolution (on the species level) and macroevolution (that leads to new species). Nobody really denies microevolution- we know bacteria may change, but it's still bacteria. Wolves and dogs while technically may be called different species, can interbreed and are essentially the same.

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  19. Okay, Temujin. That was quite good with the lashes. I chuckled, actually.

    But regarding cringe-worthy proofs of God's existence, I urge you to reconsider the validity of the medieval arguments. Most of them are actually quite good. Before you ask if I've had one too many undomesticated bananas, I will explain that the opposition to such proofs comes, in most cases, from a misunderstanding of just what kind of God was presumed to exist on the basis of the arguments. Unfortunately, most still think of God as a person-like entity of some kind, who reasons and acts essentially like we do, albeit on a much larger and smarter scale. If we're solar calculators, he's a multi-core processor--he's that much more awesome and powerful. As is abundantly clear from those very writings, however, they were speaking about an idea far, far removed from even the most elevated type of corporealism, and discussing an essence which could, all caveats aside, be accepted by deists just as soon as religious Jews. Even the Kantian critiques of classical philosophy, should you swallow them wholesale, do not actually disqualify these arguments; they merely relegate them to a specific corner of human endeavor.

    And, and, even when you see a bunch of propositions from the Physics or Metaphysics being thrown together into a big cholent that tastes vaguely like proof, I absolutely recommend rethinking the original problems they deal with, redefining to oneself overvisualized words like "force" and "space," and understanding that Plato and Aristotle were often hinting to the limits of human cognition rather than defining what lies beyond.

    Documenting all this would require about a hundred pages of examples and argumentation, and I regrettably cannot provide that in this forum. But this is the k'lal. Dok v'ashkach vetimtza nachas.

    Oh, and, Rabbi Slifkin, is there anyway you can get easier captchas for the comments? I'm beginning to feel quite like the robot I'm supposed to prove I'm not, as it usually takes me at least two tries to get them right!

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  20. "most consider them separate species"

    The term "species" is not a precisely defined biological term. The number of examples of successful interbreeding across different species is now rather large.




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  21. Lazar, the "macro evolution" moniker is only used by creationists and is basically a fad and a rhetorical goal-post which is loose enough to be hurriedly shifted away at every piece of observable evidence of evolution. It is essentially a requirement for a dramatic, bombastic change, kind of like saying that you'll only believe the theory of Continental Drift when you see it happening, while rejecting any historical evidence or small scale measurements.

    There is no difference between microevolution and macroevolution, as the same natural selection processes unfold in both. We place cats and dogs in two genera, but the two emerged from a common ancestor, diverging only because of isolated breeding populations. We call that "speciation" for the sake of classification, but it is a conceptual construct for convenience; the natural selection process is no different than in "microevolution" where, for example you had an emergence of entirely new plastic-eating bacteria which can no longer reproduce or share the same ecosystem. Recent empirical examples of "macroevolution," a change in species, can be observed with Midas cichlid fishes and a number of plants.

    Temujin has no doubt that if it hasn't already done so, Creationist pseudoscience will find a way to dismiss the new, emerging examples as inapplicable. That is perfectly understandable, for a made-up requirement, or a willful refusal to place a bet on a falsifiable criterion can go a long way. One can continue to dismiss any and all proofs by changing the definitions and requirements yet again. Of course, if "macroevolution" never happened, there would be no humans, no mammals really, whales and dolphins would still be land animals instead of water creatures with clear remnants of land animal features and Temujin would be swinging from tree to tree, screeching with frustration, looking for the elusive banana which would, however, need a nineteenth century commercial planter, Lord Cavendish to "create" it.

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  22. I'm still trying to figure out what the fox says!

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  23. Lakewood Strong, Temujin is delighted to be able to elicit chuckles and compliments you on your rich style.

    Briefly, as work calls, the bottom line is that belief in God is, well, belief in God. One either has it or doesn't and one should learn to live with the certainty or uncertainty. Belief in a Universe created and ruled by the ribbon shel olam is a personal conviction which may involve entire societies, but it cannot be validated either rhetorically or empirically. If this were possible, we would all believe the same things.

    Temujin wouldn't swallow anything by Kant, perish the thought, but will say that his disdain for the medieval variety, or crude kiruv kinds of "proofs," are not due to anthropomorphic views of the Almighty, but the ease with which they can be dismantled. The problem is that the rhetoretician who sets out to prove God's existence takes on an haughty task and is forced to become a philosophical anarchist, an opportunistic relativist in the mold of Hume and Feyerabend, to craftily cobble together arguments fitted to the temporal paradigms of their audience. But up against sharp logic and scientific methodology, they come apart at the seams and do more harm to faith and observance than good.

    Temujin will admit to being partial to certain "hints" and "arguments" found in the history of the Jewish people. Its survival, its adherence to the Torah, its fortunes and misfortunes and the vastness of national disasters and miracles such as the persecutions, the Shoah and the miracle of the emergence and success of the Jewish state. The Torah, the Sages, the communities, all these suggest something Temujin cannot easily describe to himself, much less to anyone else. Every component can be rationalized and explained away in cultural and materialistic terms...there is no single or cumulative body of arguments that can substantiate neither conviction nor faith, nor hope... and yet the cumulative, the "statistical" and most of all, a certain "poetry" suggests otherwise.

    And yet, Temujin will confess that he hasn't the foggiest why he has been drawn to the Torah and to the Jewish community and why after decades of trying to rationalize this tidal pull away, he finds himself ever so closer. Alas, he has gone around the corner a few times and has discovered, for himself only of course, that he can live without the illusion of watertight theological "proofs" or even convincing answers, come to think of it. So, he will continue to greet the Shabbats with joy, look for beauty and wisdom in Scripture, feed off the energizing surge of mission and feeling of stability in the structure of halakhah, bask in the warm joys of community life and delay projects and mess up his schedules by losing himself in the excitement of debates such as these here. That for Temujin is sufficient, especially with the overwhelming amount of catch-up and learning before him.

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  24. Temujin, have you read Douglas Erwin's "Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution," Evolution and Development, Vol. 2(2):78-84, 2000 ?

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  25. Okay. As Rabbi Slifkin has reprimanded us about staying on topic, I will not add anything of substance, except to say that it seems to me that your issues lie where I suggested they might. That the ancients do not prove what moderns want them to prove is something else entirely, and that is where the dismantling does come in--even the word "proof," with all its mathematical and syllogistic weight, is a far cry from what these arguments are. (Unfortunately, "anthropomorphism" is usually applied to a subset of a wider range of positions that all qualify for philosophical anthropomorphism, and while I'm sure you do not advocate the former, it takes effort for even developed minds to extricate themselves from the latter.) So while I agree with the ixnay on the iruvkay, Sa`adiah and Maimonides are a different story. Also, keep in mind that we are not discussing proofs of the validity of a specific set of laws, etc. Just the universal God questions.

    But that is the end of my comments here. If you'd like to continue on this topic, I can be reached at "lasagna-loving cat, twenty-two fourty-four, at google mail." (There's only one lasagna-loving cat.)

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  26. Leaving aside the question of parshanut for the moment, I think most 'creationists' (I prefer offering real names of real people) usually see the origin of dogs as proof AGAINST evolution. See, for instance, these two articles:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/dog-breeding-proof-that-darwin-was-right-hardly-says-prof/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/pedigree-dogs-or-mutant-monsters/

    In order to 'evolve' dogs from wolves, you first need a wolf with all of its genetic information and then you either need to limit the expression or development of that information or shift around pre-existing genes. It is not a creative process - i.e., it does lead to new traits or no new biological information.

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  27. Begging your pardon, Rabbi, excuse the excursus. It was all Lakewood Strong's fault :)

    But to address your puzzle, where Ramban also defines behemah and chayah in Genesis 1:25 as referring to herbivores and carnivores..." one can suggest the possibility, which will certainly not get approving nods all around, that the Rambam sourced medieval Islamic philosophy of his times as a known admirer of Averroes and a few other Arabic thinkers, of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. He would have certainly been familiar, at least in a "modernized" form, with the Platonic notion of Divine emanations into the natural world, a theme which was in vogue with the "Three Religions" of the Iberian peninsula, namely that all things and beings are reflections or shadows of perfect forms or templates. It certainly "does not seem that he would have been aware that domestic animals originated in wild animals," as no one else appears to have been aware of this, since the domestication of sheep and cattle took place in the Near East thousands of years before. However, from paintings and sculptures of the times, it's clear that domesticated cattle, sheep and goats didn't appear all that different anatomically from their wild predecessors. It's a stretch, indeed, this hypothesis of Neoplatonic influence, but it was real and one is unaware of any Jewish sources which may have led him to such conclusions.

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  28. Further to the above musings, we should not imagine that people of Rambam's time were unfamiliar with anatomy. The Rambam was, after all a physician, with access to illustrated medical translations and as a rabbi, he would have undoubtedly been more than familiar with shekhita, butchering and with all the organs. Certainly he would not have performed autopsies, but he would have seen enough battle injuries and accidents to notice the anatomic similarity between people and other mammals.

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  29. Without wading into a debate about evolution, it should just be pointed out that Temujin is incorrect in his contention that "macroevolution" and "microevolution" are monikers "used only by Creationists." Macroevolution is the study of evolution on a grand scale and implicates issues of gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium, among many others, that raise different questions than those studied by scientists who study microevolutionary processes.

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  30. To Temujin, your humble servant exclaims, Amen.

    To Reb Natan, WRT to your last comment, I say, Bah Humbug.

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  31. @Temujin
    >>There is no difference between microevolution and macroevolution, as the same natural selection processes unfold in both...<<

    I presume there is a difference between changes in size/shape/color and creating new organs. I am yet to see species with sort of “half eye” alive or fossilized- there should’ve been plenty in the process of eye developing according to evolutionists.

    >>Of course, if "macroevolution" never happened, there would be no humans, no mammals really,…<<

    I could not have found a better example of circular reasoning.

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  32. @Temujin >>... Certainly he [Rambam] would not have performed autopsies, but he would have seen enough battle injuries and accidents to notice the anatomic similarity between people and other mammals.<<

    If you look around in AKEA you will see different brands of chairs that look similar. Is it an evidence they evolved from each other, or maybe whoever built them for some reason chose to made them similar?

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  33. If I can be permitted to make one comment on the Medieval proofs: They tend to rely on infinity paradoxes since solved + confusion between logic and empiricism about which Kant also remained confused (the illusory synthetic a priori).

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  34. >>There is no difference between microevolution and macroevolution, as the same natural selection processes unfold in both...<<

    I presume there is a difference between changes in size/shape/color and creating new organs. I am yet to see species with sort of “half eye” alive or fossilized- there should’ve been plenty in the process of eye developing according to evolutionists.

    >>Of course, if "macroevolution" never happened, there would be no humans, no mammals really,…<<

    I could not have found a better example of circular reasoning.

    January 14, 2014 at 3:57 AM
    Anonymous Lazar said...
    @Temujin >>... Certainly he [Rambam] would not have performed autopsies, but he would have seen enough battle injuries and accidents to notice the anatomic similarity between people and other mammals.<<

    If you look around in AKEA you will see different brands of chairs that look similar. Is it an evidence they evolved from each other, or maybe whoever built them for some reason chose to made them similar?


    I assume that our host will put a kibosh on starting a debate on evolution here. Suffice it say that your approach is similar to arguing that inertia is an absurd concept that has never been proved; when you throw something, it always comes to rest. You aren't going to be able to revolutionize a hard science with a few (by your view) clever comments.

    You might also want to check your facts on the existence of primitive visual sensory systems as well as self-replication in furniture.

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  35. >I assume that our host will put a kibosh on starting a debate on evolution here.

    Correct!

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  36. Moshe said, In order to 'evolve' dogs from wolves, you first need a wolf with all of its genetic information and then you either need to limit the expression or development of that information or shift around pre-existing genes. It is not a creative process - i.e., it does lead to new traits or no new biological information.

    Is the Chihuahua, which evolved from the Grey Wolf, in as little as30,000 to 20,000 not an example of a fairly "grand scale" change? Evolution, in this case "guided" by the needs of hunters, pastoralists, agrarians and now pet owners did "lead to new traits" and "new biological information" with major behavioural and morphological changes.

    Unknown said, ...it should just be pointed out that Temujin is incorrect in his contention that "macroevolution" and "microevolution" are monikers "used only by Creationists....."

    Unknown, as moderately useful as the terms micro and macro evolution may have been in academic classification schemes, evolutionary biologists rarely use these now mostly because they can be misleading. And indeed, the Creationists grossly misuse them to argue for scientifically meaningless divisions they haven't even been able to define even for themselves. The distinctions have become rhetorical devices for the mantra that microevolution is really not evolution at all and that macroevolution has never been proven. Yet both of these assumptions are simply dead wrong; "microevolution" is full-blown evolution and the evidence for what Creationists would call "macroevolution" under their very own criteria has been piling up for decades. Soon enough, one imagines, Creationist "scientists" will clue in o the fact that this micro-macro distinction has become a liability to their claims.

    Lazar said, "I am yet to see species with sort of “half eye” alive or fossilized- there should’ve been plenty in the process of eye developing according to evolutionists." The common garden snail is a good place to start and Google is our friend; examples include the eyespots on the planarian, which detect light direction, compound eyes of insects and krill and the pinhole camera-type eyes of the nautilus. Of course, none of these may mean anything to you, since you really want to see the process as it unrolls. May you be granted a very, very long life and a lot of patience.

    And, "If you look around in [IKEA] you will see different brands of chairs that look similar. Is it an evidence they evolved from each other, or maybe whoever built them for some reason chose to made them similar?" Hmm, an excellent point which renders one speechless...almost. Perhaps evidence of the underlying unity of humankind? That in spite of our philosophical and anatomical differences, our tushes really want the same things? In any case, David Ohsie will surely be unable to prove to you that chairs don't self-replicate in Ikea after closing time when the lights are out.

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  37. I assume that our host will put a kibosh on starting a debate on evolution here....Correct!

    Oops. It was only after looking up the meaning of "kibosh" (ki·bosh: kəˈbäSH,ˈkīˌbäSH, put an end to; dispose of decisively; "he put the kibosh on the deal") that Temujin clued-in that Rabbi Slifkin meant the opposite of what one assumed.

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  38. Rabbi Slifkin: I found Temujin's 7:54 PM comment on why he has been drawn to Torah and the Jewish people thoughtful, eloquent, and moving. Your response "Keep on topic" struck me as small-minded and very disappointing. You should be proud that your blog elicits such wonderful comments.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  39. A proposal:

    Can we stop calling those who don't believe in evolution "creationists"?
    Though technically correct, it sound jarring, I think.
    We're all "creationists", but just dispute the mechanics of it!

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  40. Temujin will now graciously address himself to the very first question Rav Slifkin asked (about time!).

    The fairly recent mitochondrial DNA studies have removed lot of the guess work in trying to establish origins of living critters and even people. According to these, domesticated cattle is traced to southern Anatolia and Iraq and occurred about 10,500 years ago and it descends directly from about 80 aurochs. From a 2010 study of aurochs and domesticated cattle:

    Researchers, based in Ireland and Britain, have found the complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequence of ancient wild cattle using a sample from a 6,700 year-old bone.
    ....
    Previous studies have suggested that ancient aurochs, which lived in the Near East (modern day Iran, Iraq and Syria) and across Europe and Asia, are the ancestor of modern cattle. However, comparisons of European aurochs mitochondrial DNA with modern European cattle suggests that the level of cross-breeding between domestic cattle and the wild, fierce European aurochs must have been very low.


    The article can be found at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100227171057.htm. Temujin lifted the only interesting paragraphs as the rest of the article is filler about the basics of genome sequencing and the organization which conducted the research.

    One suggest that this is a similar case to that of the dog, which is 20,000-30,000 years old, nearly twice older than the cow, because dogs were useful to hunter-gatherers and pastoralism with animal husbandry did not emerge until the recession of the last nasty Ice Age which led to the reduction of big game.

    One can't avoid the mention that if dogs and cattle could evolve in such a strikingly short time ("human-assisted evolution" is still evolution) the 4 to 8 million years for the emergence of hominids and modern Man is comfortably slow-paced. Given that our DNA is 98.4% identical to that of the chimp, the conclusions should be obvious.

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  41. Professor Kaplan, thank you very much for your kind words, but I'd like to say that Rabbi Slifkin is 100% correct in objecting to off-topic comments. He could have blown away my comment, but didn't. Running a site such as this one is hard and keeping folks focused is like herding cattle or worse, cats!

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  42. Note to readers: I am not posting comments debating evolution, either pro or con. Sorry!

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  43. Temujin,

    I also enjoyed your comments and your musings on why you have been drawn to Judaism. Why not start your own blog - I'd be keen to read it!

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  44. Funny that Temujin calls microevolution "full blown evolution" while Student V refers to "evolution-deniers," referring to those who deny macro-evolution, but not micro-evolution. See the contradiction?!
    (This was not an argument for or against evolution. It was about definitions and name-calling, so maybe you'll post it.)

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  45. Who made bread? We say "hamotzi lechem min haaretz", even though we did the planting, watering, harvesting, grinding, and baking. Seems to me like the same issue.

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  46. Who made bread? (Shlomo). Are you referring to Rav Slifkin's first paragraph and subsequent comments? As in, "Who Made Cows? What do people who reject evolution think about the origin of cows? Were cows made by God? Or did man domesticate cows from wild aurochs in the last few thousand years?"

    Syntatics. Obviously, this is not an issue of theism versus atheism as your challenge seems to suggest. We acknowledge Creation, yet discuss the process and its mechanisms; we acknowledge that God has made everything and makes everything possible, but the Torah is clear...at least according to Temujin's understanding of the Stone Edition Chumash and his ArtScroll siddur (time to get a Koren!)... that people do actually make stuff and are even expected, by the Ribono shel Olam no less, to make stuff....even if, metaphysically speaking it's merely a figure of speech.

    With apologies and since definitions are allowed: Funny that Temujin calls microevolution "full blown evolution" while Student V refers to "evolution-deniers," referring to those who deny macro-evolution, but not micro-evolution. See the contradiction? (Gravel)

    Umm, no. Different views by different people talking about the same subject do not necessarily create a contradiction. "Microevolution" is considered by anti-evolutionists merely as a superficial variation in the pre-set "kinds," not as evolution as we commonly understand the term. It's cheap semiotic tomfoolery; toying with words, a rhetorical deception.

    "Why not start your own blog - I'd be keen to read it!" Thank you, Avrohom, that is very flattering, but perish that thought! Temujin is not into the leadership thing; he excels as a follower. In the Middle Ages he would have aspired to the service as a King's Fool. They made a good living, rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, got a hand in guiding policy and got away with a lot...even Great King Harry's Master William Sommers managed to keep his head on his neck. This man here lacks the necessary discipline and quite frankly, he wouldn't know what to write about. Really. In any event, the next phase of blog evolution, Temujin proposes, is qualitative and involves consolidation, where successful bloggers who are leaders in their own fields incorporate others as guest commentators or guest authors of posts, circle the ideological forts and interconnect in blogers' "rings."

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  47. TO Temujin:

    Oh mighty Khan you embarrass your humble servants with such self-effacement. Know ye, that many like myself, are automatically drawn to persons of highly tuned senses of humour. Your talents can be fruitfully employed and your astute wisdom spread on sites that allow guest posting such as that now famed fellow, DovBear, though apikoros that some may consider him to be. Unless, of course, your serious side eschews intercourse with such heretical types. But, I hear tell that some misguided souls use that unholy term for our beloved host.

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  48. My gratitude, dear vassal Elimir, thou art a flatterer with your flowery prose. And seemingly a poacher as well, hmm? Temujin spent two years skulking on the various blogs of the Israelites before daring to pipe in. He still visits many, including Dov Bear's excellent pastures and good Iroheart'stoo, but has set up his ghers and tends to his flocks in Rav Slifkin's lands. ...hopefully not to the good rabbi's dismay. Commenting is time consuming and requires an intense, honest and long term commitment, which one cannot afford now. Temujin's absence from other blogs should not be construed as disapproval or indifference, but his presence here does indicate wholehearted approval and personal preference for the academic approach.

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  49. Just a short comment regarding the discussion about medieval proofs: Look at The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here http://plato.stanford.edu/ and check any topic. You will find vast controversy, so that no one modern position could be regarded as the settled truth. - generally speaking

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  50. Temujin: I would not have minded so much had R. Slifkin said "Great comment, but keep on track!"

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  51. Out of curiosity, what changed in Malbim's time proving the origin of domestic animals? Sure they looked like wild ones, but there was no genetics yet, nor the sub fossil remains of partially domesticated animals we have now. No one could actually explain the origins of dogs from wolves or horses from tarpans in anything but generalities from Darwinian Evolution, which was quite new and would obviously cover every animal.

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  52. Elimir, a note on your recommendation of Mr Dov Bear's blog. Temujin decided to be fair and to give it at least a one-time try. Upon getting there, he jumped head-first into the same sex marriage debate which began with a brief and fundamentally flawed premise by the otherwise absentee landlord, Mr Bear. One was amused to find our hero, Sir Garnel Ironheart, under a concentrated siege by almost everyone on the blog, with him beating his head hopelessly against an impenetrable granite wall of incomprehension, sophomoric secular liberal arguments and gratuitous insults. Kefira or apikorus would have been a refreshing diversion one would have enjoyed tackling, but instead, one found indifference and hostility to any remotely Jewish position. Temujin hopes to wrap up soon, as the discussion is going around in blind circles. In summary: Zzzzzzz.

    But what's even worse more than anything that goes on there...or rather, doesn't go on there... is that these painful exchanges are taking place over the much talked-about Disqus format that some are recommending for this site (perish the thought!). It is a clunky, glitchy, time-consuming mess that seems to favour personal "zingers" over a proper debate. Sorry if one disappoints, but Temujin prefers being here. By far. Aah, so good to be home; now, where did one put one's slippers, the box of Cubans and the decanter of single malt....

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  53. Professor Kaplan, perhaps Rav Slifkin didn't think Temujin's comment was all that great! Truth be known, Temujin prefers the Rabbi as he is and would have been shocked to come across the sentence you recommend, leading one to contact Beth Shemesh's constabulary to rush to the Slifkin Zoo and to look into who might be impersonating our Rabbi.

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  54. I am sure you know more about this than I do, but I always understood 'creationism' to be a rather modern thing.
    Wikipedia tries to suggest the same.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_evolutionary_thought

    If Ramban argued against philosophy and rejected Plato, there would be less inclination to say that cows were created as an essential form.

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  55. “Netziv points out that this explanation is difficult, since the [צבי] is certainly classified in the Torah as a chayah”

    Yet the Netziv proves this from a braisah as interpreted by the gemara. But this wouldn’t be a proof for BIBLICAL terminology. Au contrare, Devarim 14:4-5 tells us, “This is the behemah that you may eat… the צבי….” Halachah distinguishes between behema and chaya for the laws of chelev and kisui hadam, but that distinction might reflect the rabbinic terminology, not the biblical. It seems from Rambam maachalos asuros 7:1 and Shechitah 14:1 that this distinction is biblically derived without reference to the biblical words chaya and behema. (The distinction between chelev and shuman certainly reflects rabbinic terminology, as the word “shuman” isn’t biblical.)

    Chazal derive from Devarim ibid that חיה בכלל בהמה. I’m not sure how that would factor into this discussion.

    If I read Rambam maachalos asuros 7:1 correctly, the prohibition of chelev is only for shor and seh but not “other behemas”. Is that behema temeiah? Is it something else? Not sure if this is relevant.

    ----

    “The genetic similarities between dogs and wolves, pigs and boar, and sheep and mouflon are simply coincidence - er, I mean inexplicable Divine providence.”

    You appear to have forgotten, or didn’t agree in the first place with, my comments here: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/09/chassidic-rebbe-discovers-evolution.html?showComment=1350398814441#c8250395685849411897,
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/09/chassidic-rebbe-discovers-evolution.html?showComment=1350399053620#c849292784222130016

    In your lecture at yutorah.org you cite Rambam that the reason for certain mitzvos is to detoxify the generation of the exodus from the rampant polytheism to which they were exposed in Egypt. What about now when polytheism is largely a dead issue? Maybe those mitzvos remain obligatory as a testimonial to the circumstances of the exodus, seen by many as THE historical foundation of Jewish belief? I contend, and have contended similarly at my most recent post “On Ralbag and the creation sequence”, that nature, G-d’s other “book”, confirms (or conforms to) the teachings of His Book of books and would therefore provide evidence against polytheism for the Exodusians (from their general observations of nature and/or from Moshe’s showed-and-told class on kosher and non-kosher animals). For this it would be necessary to have similarities. And though for us polytheism is basically dead, it’s a testimonial to the circumstances of the cradle of Judaism.

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  56. "while Student V refers to "evolution-deniers," referring to those who deny macro-evolution, but not micro-evolution. "

    Huh? I wasn't excluding anyone. I used the term evolution-deniers referring to all who deny evolution. To be honest, I'm not even sure what your distinction means.

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  57. A Very old joke:

    A little child asks "Parson, did G-d make everything?"

    "Yes, child. He did."

    "Did He make all the animals?"

    "Of course."

    "No he didn't! My Papa and older brother took the bulls and turned them into oxen!"

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  58. Student V, almost everyone believes in microevolution, even if they don't believe in macroevolution. So, they're not evolution "deniers". They just don't buy the whole ball of wax.

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    1. This distinction only exists in the minds of people who deny evolution. The "theory of evolution" (wasn't that what was being discussed?) Includes both forms of evolution. So if u mentally bifurcate evolution into "the type that I accept and the type that I do not accept" you are in fact denying the theory of evolution.

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  59. Why do you think man succeeded in domesticating aurochs, mouflons, and boars, but never succeeded in domesticating man? I mean like making a new species from slaves?

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  60. Why do you think man succeeded in domesticating aurochs, mouflons, and boars, but never succeeded in domesticating man? I mean like making a new species from slaves?

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  61. Why do you think man succeeded in domesticating aurochs, mouflons, and boars, but never succeeded in domesticating man? I mean like making a new species from slaves?

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  62. Beautiful post! thank you for your work! keep it on!

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  64. It's simple. Man messed with the genes of their own people, animal and plants. Most of the things on the earth right now are due to genetically interference. You'd think only the scientists today does this?

    All the food that are acidic are man made in a lab. Also with starch food like potato, carrot, rice, barely, etc.

    We're not designed to eat starch and meat.

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