Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mishpacha's Godless Universe

In this week's Mishpacha magazine, Jonathan Rosenblum bemoans how Ofsted - the British governmental Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills - is attempting to teach atheism to all schoolchildren:
We live in a world in which Hashem’s sovereignty is denied. The British government today insists that every child, even those in Torah schools, be taught that naturalistic — i.e., godless, explanations for the Creation of the universe and the inception of life are perfectly adequate (which is, inter alia, scientific nonsense).
This sentence is very badly wrong, from both a scientific and theological perspective.

Let's get the science part out of the way first. Ofsted is not trying to teach about the actual point of creation of the universe - i.e. the cause of the Big Bang - which is beyond the scope of modern science. Nor does modern science present any kind of definitive explanation for the moment of inception of life, though there are various speculations about it. Rather, what Ofsted is trying to teach is the development of the universe over billions of years, and the evolution of life from simple life-forms into more complex ones. Neither of these are "scientific nonsense," and it's rather amusing that Jonathan Rosenblum - a lawyer turned journalist - thinks he can dismiss them that way.

More bizarre and disturbing, however, is Rosenblum's describing such naturalistic explanations as "godless." This is very strange indeed. After all, we have naturalistic explanations for lots and lots of things. We have naturalistic explanations for how medicine works, and for how Israel won the Six-Day War, and for how the planets and stars move, and for how we have children, and for lots and lots of phenomena. I am pretty sure that Rosenblum does not deny the truth of any of these explanations. So does this mean that he is living in a godless universe?

As explained at great length in my book The Challenge Of Creation, scientific explanations for phenomena are not seen as ruling out a role for God in any other branch of science. So why should they be seen as doing so with regard to the development of the universe and the evolution of life? To quote Ramchal:
"It is undoubtedly true that The Holy One could have created His universe in an all-powerful way, in such a way that we could not have understood cause or effect in His deeds... But because the Higher Will desired that people should be able to understand some of His ways and actions—and indeed He wanted that people should engage in this and pursue it—therefore He chose the contrary, to act in the way of man; that is to say, in an intelligible and comprehensible fashion." (Da’as Tevunos 40) 
And, directly with regard to evolution, to quote Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch:
"Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that nation (probably a reference to Thomas Huxley, who advocated Darwinism with missionary fervor—N.S.), would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form (an ape—N.S.) as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures." (“The Educational Value of Judaism,” Collected Writings, vol. VII, p. 264)
Naturalistic explanations for the evolution of life are no more "godless" than naturalistic explanations for anything else. There's no reason for the British Jewish community to challenge Ofsted's requirement to teach modern science. There are enough very real threats that Jews in England have to deal with. It's a pity to fabricate one which doesn't actually exist.

On another note - for details about the Biblical Museum of Natural History's forthcoming feasts in Israel and Teaneck, see www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/feast

126 comments:

  1. With all due respect, Jonathan Rosenblum, a man with whom I somewhat familiar and who is committed solely to representing the interests of Haredi Judaism and 'Conservative' values, likely could not care less what rational or naturalistic explanations/interpretations exist. Godless goyim vs. god-fearing yidden is the name of the game and the recurring thread of his opinions. As Rosenblum is on record as a partisan peddler of untruths, quasi-intellectual insights and political hackery in the interests of (Haredi) 'Torah' Judaism why would he approach this any differently?

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    1. Every sentence/point is exactly on target.

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  2. On a practical level, teaching evolution to haredi kids in a formal framework would shake their faith in the Six Day system they have been taught and endanger their adherence to religion.

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    1. Then it sounds like a very worthwhile enterprise.

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    2. If learning truth endangers their adherence to religion, then either their faith and understanding is rather poor, or their religion is שקר. Either way, I don't think it's a bad thing if they end up growing as people.

      Of course, one could say that evolution isn't truth, but then it doesn't pose any dangers to their beliefs, no?

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  3. Some important points:

    Firstly, chareidi jewry believes, and wishes to instil in its children the belief, in the literal truth of the simple meaning of the story of creation in the torah. They are not students of R' Hirsch.

    Of course naturalistic explanations of the motion of the planets etc. do not exclude God. We simply say that God set up the universe to follow the rules of the law of gravitation (and perhaps we add that He continues every moment to constantly will the universe to follow these rules).

    But this is possible because God does not specifically say in the torah "Gravity follows an inverse linear law" or "Gravity follows an inverse cubic law" to contradict our observations of an inverse square one.

    But He does specifically say that He created the universe in six days, and anyone wanting their children to take this literally will naturally see a very good "reason for the British Jewish community to challenge Ofsted's requirement to teach modern science" in jewish schools.

    Secondly, and more importantly, is the following:

    While your main point is very well taken, to wit that science per se only deals with the mechanisms of the workings of the natural world - the "hows" of things, and therefore does not exclude God from the "whys" and "how-they-came-to-bes"; nevertheless it is a historical and contemporary fact that for some reason this distinction has been lost on most people.

    Scientists and lay-persons alike from Stephen Hawking through Richard Dawkins and down to the general public have come to regard the advances of science as a kind of "license for atheism". It seems the liberal revolution in modern times has created a subconscious need for freedom from any sort of responsibility and accountability to a Higher Power, and this is causing people to conclude from science things which do not actually follow logically.

    Thus there would be a problem even if chareidi jewry were to do an about-face and embrace the spirit of R' Hirsch and agree to teach modern evolution and cosmology in its schools. They would hardly be allowed to devise their own curriculum in order to approach the subject from a position of belief in creation. The state approved curriculum predictably reflects this misconception of atheism following on from science in ways both subtle and not so subtle, and will definitely have a detrimental effect on the beliefs of the children.

    Thirdly, in defense of Jonathan Rosenblum:

    I highly doubt that he is silly enough to be making either of the two mistakes you are attributing to him. He does not make the theological mistake of concluding that atheism follows from science, nor the scientific mistake of claiming that evolution and cosmology are scientific nonsense.

    In fact, when I first read the paragraph you quoted, before reading the rest of your post, I understood immediately that he is making the very point you and I have both made, i.e. in the greater context of his main point that "we live in a world in which Hashem's sovereignty is denied", he is bemoaning the fact that the British government is forcing a curriculum which both explicitly and by omission commits and promotes the fallacy of concluding atheism from science, and this same conclusion is scientific nonsense for the very reason that the remit of science is the "hows" and not the "whys". Read it again and you'll see what I mean.

    Pardon the insinuation, but is it possible that your subconscious need to find a bone of contention has caused you to be dan lekaf chovah and automatically read into his words mistakes that he never meant to make?

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    1. It's not that teaching evolution rules out God. It's that lots of people hang their faith on the Argument from Design, and evolution makes God unnecessary to explain the apparent design in living things.

      When Pierre-Simon Laplace, the astronomer, showed Napoleon how the law of gravity makes the solar system predictable, the emperor asked him, "How could you have written a book on the subject, and never mention its Creator?" Laplace replied, "I have no need of that hypothesis."

      That's the danger of science to religious fundamentalism. Not that it contradicts the possibility of God, but that it makes Him unnecessary for explaining the world.

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    2. G*3, science has not (so far at least) refuted the argument from design, it has merely pushed it back to other things, such as the value of the fundamental physical constants.

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    3. G*3

      I would rephrase your first point, as follows: It's not that teaching evolution rules out God. It's that lots of people hang their moral "freedom" on evolution, and its lack makes God necessary to explain the apparent design in living things, perhaps compelling certain moral standards.

      Evolution is strongly associated with a secularist agenda and is therefore offensive to many religious people.

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  4. Rabbi Slifin, I apologize for my insinuation at the end of my last comment. In retrospect, I regret having written that. I don't mind if you delete that last bit before posting my comment.

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  5. I didn't think the secular liberal forces that are influencing OFSTED were looking to teach theological evolution. Their agenda is obviously to offer the children the "alternative" hypothesis - that evolution can replace the need for a creator - hence a G-dless and scientific nonsense because even you agree that evolution was designed by G-d.
    BTW can you enlighten me - do ALL scientists agree with Evolution. Some in the Orthodox community have written very powerful arguments demolishing the theory (if i may refer to it as a theory in this forum) I can recommend a few

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    1. Can you point me to these arguments that 'demolish' the theory of Evolution? Not only that, I would be intrigued as to what version of 'reality' they subscribe to.

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    2. I don't think any serious scholar of note denies that evolution exists. It's observable from day to day in microorganisms, and in general it's pretty obvious to even the casual amateur student of biology. Would be very interested to see if there's any compelling scientific argument to the contrast. What a lot of religious people prefer is the idea of guided evolution, meaning that God arranged the evolutionary paths in such a fashion as to ensure the world He wanted to exist.

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    3. Jolly Chareidi,

      While you’re busy demolishing the theory of evolution, you may as well employ similar logic to demolish the theory of relativity.

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    4. Common sense is enough to see that a random process cannot produce the stupendously complicated interlocking systems inside the cell. Who needs science? Some people believe everything....

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    5. Israel Coleman,

      i think that you misunderstand what is meant by "demolishing the theory". it would be best to read Jolly Chareidi"s comment in conjunction with the excellent synopsis of the issue laid forth in JoMorris's comment just above it.

      the question isn't whether evolution takes place (it certainly seems to), it is whether evolution is a reasonable explanation for the biodiversity that surrounds us. that is the aspect that allows (to paraphrase dawkins) "one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist", and the use to which is currently being put.

      when evolution was first proposed by darwin, the modern field of biology was in it's infancy, and the complexity of living systems was not appreciated. since that time the field of biology has greatly advanced, and many people with a deep knowledge and appreciation for the complexity of microbiology and biochemistry find evolution to no longer be satisfying as an explanation. if evolution loses it's attractiveness as an explanation, it can longer serve in it's role giving "intellectual fulfillment" to atheists. the fact that it occurs in nature then becomes irrelevant to this discussion.

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    6. Everyone here is confusing two different meanings of evolution - common ancestry and evolutionary mechanisms. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2014/06/ten-questions-on-evolution-and-judaism.html

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    7. Anonymous, "demolishing" means completely destroying. I am unaware of any serious scientist who believes that biodiversity cannot be explained by evolution, guided or not, who has produced any work that "demolishes" evolutionary theory.

      You mention "many people." Can you name or quote some of them? Not being combative, I'm honestly interested.

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    8. No reputable science does not accept evolution. There is simply too much empirical evidence.

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    9. Meir Moses

      Send me your email address and i'll send you some articles that may sow the seeds of doubt in your 100% acceptance of evolution

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    10. Common sense is enough to see that a random process cannot produce the stupendously complicated interlocking systems inside the cell.

      Me thinks someone does not know what random means.

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    11. @Avi

      I understand random to mean: proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern

      How do you understand it?

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    12. The random process responsible for the structure of the cell, micro filaments has been well described.

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    13. I guess you think train tracks also spread randomly across the country.
      can you not see that scientists are imposing a perceptual framework over the reality in order to keep up the illusion that this is a random process?

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    14. It goes on by trial and error, one microfiber being synthesized only to be destroyed when not reaching the good place. Try to figure the equivalent in your train metaphor. It's not the same as looking random because of complexity.

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  6. It's rather disturbing our great luminaries are totally forgotten and their wisdom replaced by narrow fundamentalism. The Maharal in the introduction of the sixth Beer of Beer Hagolah wrote: there's a natural cause to the form of man and the number of his limbs, because there is no doubt that this has a natural agent, but nonetheless this cause has a divine cause of which the Torah said and God created the man etc. And even he never dreamed of the evolution theory it doesn't contradict his assumption.

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    1. Firstly the theory of forms is not an assumption. If you can find it look in the lexicon at the beginning of Emunos Vede'os by R. Saadia Gaon in the entry 'sechel' where it explains how the purpose of Greek mathematics is to gradually detatch your concentration from the outside physical world and this ultimately leads to the ability to see the forms.

      Secondly the theory absolutely contradicts evolution because it is saying that each physical species is really only the manifestation down here of a spiritual being, so there is no random shifting from one species to another. Each is what it is.

      You may like to label an approach as 'narrow fundamentalism' but it is simply an expression of a world view that (when actually taken in a broad perspective) is far more in tune with reality than the scientific one. And I do not mean to disparage the phenomenal achievements of the scientific approach.

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  7. ********************July 26, 2018 at 2:49 PM


    This is the correct link.

    http://www.mishpacha.com/Browse/Article/10532/Reeducate-UKs-Jewish-Kids

    OFSTED are not trying to do anything of the sort anyway.

    How does an American living in Yerushalayim have a clue what OFSTED is and is not trying to do?

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    1. Well by that logic you could ask how an English rationalist living in Israel has a clue what OFSTED is trying to do. Although I'm fairly certain your point is valid in this case :)

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    2. *************************July 27, 2018 at 5:17 PM

      Israel,

      Eh, I live in England.......

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  8. An acid test of OFSTED's intentions would be this: If, in teaching the "standard" sciences, the Jewish educators were to emphasize the Divine role in the creation and preservation of the natural world in all aspects---and not toss it all off to randomness---would that get OFSTED upset?

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    1. The standard sciences do not toss things off to randomness

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    2. Doesn't Darwinian and later evolutionary theory depend on the occurrence of favorable random mutations?

      Also see:
      https://www.americanscientist.org/article/quantum-randomness

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    3. The mutations may be random; their success is anything but.
      Quantum mechanics states that we cannot see the world as it really is, that the act of observation changes a system is some unpredictable way. I don't think a quantum physicist would take your comment very well.

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  9. Maybe it's time for British Jews to come home to Israel?

    Perhaps God is telling them this?

    Maybe

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    1. This is about the small, insular and largely anti-zionist Haredi community and their antipathy to secular education and to receiving the tools for parnassah. Their idea of 'Israel' is different to other people's ideas. 'Israel' for them is a simply another place where they can pursue ignorance and insulation. I doubt Hashem is interested in such matters. Most oridnary British Jews, be they secular or obeservant - are well integrated, astute and aware of their position in society - moving to Israel provides no solution to the issue at hand.

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  10. Scientific explanations may not rule out God, but they certainly make Him more and more irrelevant.

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    1. Not all all true.

      I should add that I am a religious scientist who is at this very moment attending a major scientific conference where I am on the program committee.

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    2. @Charlie Hall
      Can you elaborate? I would love to be wrong on this.
      If there is a scientific explanation for something, what need is there to use God to explain it? Or are you saying there is a limit to what we can know?

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  11. Much more disturbing is the British Government's demanding that Jewish schools teach about sexual practices that the Torah calls abominations to Yeshivah K'tana students.

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    1. Exactly. we must lose sight of the bigger picture - the british government is forcing religious private schools to teach a whole range of things that go against their religion (much of which even rationalists would object to). I think that we can all agree that this is very disturbing.
      josh miller

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    2. Why is it disturbing? Is it more disturbing than a generation of ignorant children being delivered? Is it more disturbing than the countless sex scandals taking place within Jewish communities from Melbourne to London to Israel to the US whereby Jews prey on innocent and naive children and where such occurrences are denied?

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    3. What does that have to do with anything? If you can't see the difference between a government forcing a belief system upon a community and sex scandals, you may need some help. The starving children in Syria is also disturbing, but that is not the issue we are talking about.
      I cannot see how any orthodox jew is ok with this. They are forcing schools to teach about religiously sensitive issues in a way that totally ignores their religious sentiments. Even the most modern or rationalist among us can agree that the Jewish approach to teaching about LGBT is far from the secular one.
      josh miller

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    4. I will take seriously the claim that this is an important issue when the orthodox community stops defending its abusers and when it becomes unacceptable for a orthodox person to excuse such behavior in public officials.

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  12. Avraham, the danger doesn't lie in the teaching of evolution but in the childish view of Bereshis taught in the Cheder, if our Sages said that the first chumash a kid shall learn is Vaykra there are good reasons, the Ramban said that it is impossible to understand the verses of Bereshis without the Kabalah, so even if evolution was not to be taught a clever kid which did once hear about dinosaurs, if you don't refer him to the Drush Or Hachayim and instead answer him boldly some shtus or another he is in danger to lose his faith if he get some real information about it because there are literally mountains of facts showing that the earth is older than 6000 years who require explanation, and as Rav Martsbach wrote once, if you are caught saying things which can be proved to be stupid this kid will lose all confidence in the other true things you taught him. of course you must place evolution in a Torah perspective, but how can you do that when you don't even know exactly what it is about, and have never reflected about it in a serious way and tried honestly to find insight in the Torah about it.

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  13. Jomorris: Rav Hirsch would probably not have taugh a Torah wersion in the science curriculum, but he would have provided his pupils with insight and information in order to make them cope with the inevitable questions aroused by the subject, and this is what Torah education is about.

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  14. I think that the only goal of the British government is to prevent young English citizens to grow fundamentalists the like of beheaded people in Syria and Iraq, of course you will answer Jews don't do thing like that, but videos from Jerusalem and Beis Shemesh can arouse anxiety about that

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    1. This is an interesting observation. I would suggest that the aim of the UK government is to provide viable 'choice' to the student body for which they are responsible. To be able to run a school legally in the UK - even private - one must adhere to a basic curriculum designed to EDUCATE - not indoctrinate.

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    2. You're certainly right and this applies not only in the UK but in the whole Europe.

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  15. R' Slifkin, remember when you said you agreed with the ban on your books, to the extent that you thought people in ultra-insular charedi communities should not read them? Then why would you be in agreement with Ofsted mandating the way children are taught in private schools? Shouldn't they be left alone to teach their children the way they want, as the Amish are in America?

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  16. Toby Bulman KatzJuly 27, 2018 at 1:11 AM

    You are only partially right.  You are correct that a naturalistic view of the world does not /necessarily/ preclude G-d, but you are ignoring the fact that the secular educational establishment /believes/ it precludes G-d and is trying to impose atheism as the official scientific standard -- even though science and atheism certainly do not logically /have/ to go together!

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    1. As part of the secular educational establishment ;) I can personally attest that you are wrong about your second point.

      It is not that science precludes God it is that science does not and cannot make statements regarding God. And that is consistent with Jewish teaching. If I fit a statistical model that includes Divine Intervention, I am making a statement about how God acts under specific circumstances. Judaism says I can not do that unless I am a Navi!

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    2. Prof. Hall, I agree and would add that the greatest 2 scientists to date, namely, Newton and Einstein believed in a Deity or 'Universal Intelligence' (Einstein). Newton is said to have been influenced in his audacious anti-Trinitarian stance (he refused to take the required relevant English oath) by Maimonides. Both were mystics in the sense of feeling a connection to a Divine Mind. It has truly been said that science and religion occupy 2 distinct realms. The latter strives to understand what ought to be, while the former; what is. Nor does science claim to understand all of reality. Much is still unknown such as dark energy and matter or unknowable such as, possibly, consciousness. Spirituality is totally outside of the realm of science as is largely true of aesthetics.
      Toby's argument about the danger of teaching subject matter such as evolution and the age of the earth is also partly canceled by the exponential growth of available information. Wouldn't it be safer to learn of matters that contradict some traditional teachings, such as the literal creation narrative, in a religious setting which can, hopefully, provide some perspective? The alternative is for the students to leave the yeshiva and learn of such matters on the internet (or even while attending) without a context. You can't keep all people in the dark forever, and the attempt to do so is delusory and fraught with danger. The dilemma is that the yeshivot/seminaries largely don't have the teachers who could provide some context and resolution. Rabbinic leaders appear to believe that it is better to lose some erstwhile students to outside ideas and influence than to 'endanger' the presumed majority by introducing them to those ideas. It's a stance that is on shaky grounds that will only get more precarious with time.

      Yitzchok

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    3. Do people really buy into this? Science also cannot and does not make statements about unicorns. But that's no reason to assign any probability to their existence or to ignore the fact that science gets along just fine without them.

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    4. Do people really buy into this? Science also cannot and does not make statements about unicorns. But that's no reason to assign any probability to their existence or to ignore the fact that science gets along just fine without them.

      I think you are conflating science with scientists. Science is entirely neutral on any topic which cannot be empirically tested or observed. Scientists, on the other hand, may have any number of beliefs, which may or may not have a scientific basis.

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  17. Really disappointing blogpost. The point you are missing is that the British goverment are propogating as Rosenblum says so well "that naturalistic approaches are perfectly adequate". Of course religion and science are not mutually exclusive - far from it, but the crux of the matter is the approach the goverment is suggesting will inevitably lead to conflict and doubt of Emunah. Should schools try to endeavour to present a rational approach to resolving the apparent contradiction between Torah and science (and on face value for children there is a contradiction between Ma'aseh Bereishis and evolution and whatnot)? Perhaps, but they are limited by Ofsted's guidelines and their own lack of perspective.

    I was taught in a Jewish school in Britain which nevertheless conformed to these parameters and I can assuredly confirm they certainly sowed seeds of doubt in many of my classmates minds. Rightfully or wrongly that is the fact of the matter. In an ideal world the whole world would be Rationalist Jews, but until then we have a serious issue on our hands..

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    1. I can assuredly confirm ...

      Tragic. But kudos, because an ounce of observation is worth several pounds of theory.

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  18. From a religious perspective, there are a few issues with accepting evolution as an entirely naturalistic process. It's not just that it contradicts the plain meaning of the bible, but that it appears to remove God from the picture of creation. And once a person accepts that over tradition, why would they find other claims of traditional Judaism to be convincing?

    While it's true that traditional commentators discuss the concept of a "nes nistar" (hidden miracle), they still accepted the concept of a "nes nigleh" (revealed miracle) and surely creation fit in that category. It may be possible to develop a more Deistic-leaning religion, but one can understand why people like Jonathan Rosenblum would prefer otherwise.

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    1. The problem does only exist if you assume that this world was the one in which Adam was created. According to the Zohar though he was created in a much higher level and only after his sin did his materiality became the soul of a body of this world which is a kelipah resulting from the tsimtsum rishon and the sheviras hakelim, in the beginning this world was not connected to the kedushah in order to give a place for evil to exist,for the sake of freewill, and could have been evolving in a totally naturalistic way, after his reconnection with the kedushah there is place for both nature and Providence even miracles according to the merits of men, and of course Providence and nature are both manifestations of divine Will. The only issue is to make clear for kids that Torah and science are gateways to two different wisdom, the wisdom of the Torah guide us towards eternity, science helps us to cope with the material problems of this world, and when Torah is eternal, the science of today is the ignorance of tomorrow.

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    2. Shouldn't the relevant question be whether or not evolution is true? Not how it effects whether people find other claims of traditional Judaism to be convincing?

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    3. How many Rishonim explicitly stating that Genesis is a metaphor are necessary before this perception changes?

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    4. Israel Coleman, how many Rishonim explicitly stating that Genesis is a metaphor are you familiar with? Please post a list.

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    5. Evolution is a fact even observable live, try to explain the fact that a retrovirus is needed for women as for other mammals to develop a placenta without evolution. But in the same time we don't have to interpret Bereshis metaphorically, only to understand of which level it is literally true.

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    6. JoMorris, first of all, excuse me for giving the impression that I was talking in terms of quantity. I mean more sheer moral weight. Secondly:
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2016/09/the-rambam-and-rav-on-allegory-in.html?m=1

      The more well known example is the Ramban, of course. I'm sure there are others more learned than I who can assist with other marei mekomos.

      All that said, when English chadorim stop quoting Ramban because of his belief in a Big Bang (as stated in Bereishis and reiterated in Kesavim,) then I'll take this seriously.

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    7. If it is necessary to teach falsehoods to teach Judaism, then Judaism is a false religion and I want no part of it.


      Fortunately such is not necessary.

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    8. Israel Coleman, All RambaN says that creation ex nihilo was all done in the first instant and started as a small speck (indeed similar to what we would now call all matter/energy coming into being in a "big bang"), and in subsequent days nothing further was created ex nihilo but the various thing were fashioned by God out of this primordial matter. However, he does not say that the six days (of "fashioning") were anything but six literal days.

      As for RambaM, his words in the guide 2:30 are cryptic; he is certainly saying at least as much as RambaN that all creation happened at once, and certainly many later authorities such as Abrabnel understood him to mean that all fashioning into final form also happened at once and the order of the six days refers to some even later (and more cryptic) stage of development into a hierarchical structure, but it is still not so clear that they really mean that all mention of days is an allegory, rather than an actual process of some sort of collating into a hierarchy that actually took six literal days.

      In any case, Abrabnel and R' Arama'ah disagree with RambaM, so the only Rishon you have found is RambaM himself. Furthermore, the only part of the story RambaM might be saying is an allegory in this chapter of the guide is the "six days" part, so even this gives us a solution to the age of the universe problem, we are still left with the rest of evolution, common ancestry etc. to explain.

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    9. JoMorris: Ramban's well-known (outside the yeshiva world) position on Genesis, specifically the Creation narrative, is that it cannot be interpreted literally. Ergo, it is by no means inappropriate to suggest that the actual "origin of species", to borrow a term, is not spelled out in Genesis according to the Ramban. It is really quite foolish to insist without evidence that despite this explicit claim of Ramban, he nonetheless understands the Six Days of Creation as actual 24 hour days.

      Looking over your comment, it seems clear that you mistook my argument to be one on the subject of the length of the six days. I did not say anything about the length of the days. I pointed out that Ramban did not believe that cows, palm trees or English rationalist Jewish bloggers were created ex nihilo. It is difficult to escape the logical conclusion of that statement, i.e., that subsequent compounds and eventually organisms could only have developed from those original atoms which were created ex nihilo. (Unless you believe that God has hands and a worktable upon which He fashioned little figurines and blew souls into their noses.)

      All this being said, surely you understand that Ramban and Rambam have more bearing on what you might call traditional or standard Jewish thought than Abarbanel or Isaac Arama.

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    10. Israel Coleman, I am sorry , but you are making a big mistake here. RambaN's position is decidedly not that "the creation narrative cannot be interpreted literally". I am not insisting without evidence that he considers the days to be actual days; he says so very clearly in his commentary to verse 3. I quote: "You must know that the days mentioned in the story of genesis and the creation of heaven and earth were actual days, composed of hours and minutes, and they were six in number like the days of the work-week, as the plain meaning of the text dictates." end quote. By no conceivable scientific means could evolution have possibly proceeded naturally in just six days.

      RambaN's position that creation ex-nihilo all happened at once does not contradict the plain meaning of the text at all, as he himself explains on verse 1 that the verb in Hebrew denoting creation ex-nihilo is "bara". This occurs only in the first verse; on subsequent days the verbs "asiyah" and "yetzirah" are used, which denote fashioning from pre-existing primordial material. (The verb "bara" also occurs in the creation of Man; RambaN does not seem to explain why this is.)

      RambaN certainly did believe that cows and palm trees were fashioned miraculously by God, on literal-days numbers six and three respectively, from primordial matter created by God ex-nihilo on literal-day number one.

      Delete
    11. Israel Coleman, a follow up comment to my previous one, about your comment of God fashioning figurines on a worktable.

      Just because we can understand something about the mechanism by which God accomplished a miracle, does not make it any less of a miracle. Thus for example, if God caused a tornado, in conjunction with a wildfire, to miraculously reassemble the fragments of a smashed vase back into their original form, this would be a miracle, since it violates the second law of of thermodynamics (at its heart a mathematical law about probabilities), even though we would understand the mechanism by which the pieces got reattached.

      Of course the arch-typical miracle, of which we can understand nothing at all about the mechanism, was the actual creation of matter/energy ex-nihilo in the first place. But there is still no need to imagine any sort of worktable for the rest of creation; the mechanism by which God "fashioned" the different parts of creation out of the primordial matter might well have been by some sort of evolution, but according to RambaN (see my previous comment), this evolution must have been supernaturally directed AND ACCELERATED to occur within six actual days.

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    12. JoMorris, you are correct and I am wrong about the Ramban's belief about the nature of the days. Nonetheless, what I am arguing is that it is impossible to contemplate a physical interaction between G-d and matter. This is my point with the worktable. G-d most certainly did not _literally_ carve trees and mountains out of chomer of any kind (in fact, this might well be considered complete heresy.) I don't understand why you see this as anything less than full acknowledgment of G-d's miracle. On the contrary, it should only increase one's appreciation.

      While I incorrectly implied that Ramban does not believe in six literal days, it is very unsatisfying to suggest that geological time was somehow compressed in order to generate the seeming great antiquity of the universe. I readily concede in the face of your explicit proof that Ramban does not consider the days to be metaphorical. But I fear that we are left with more questions than answers. Omphalos is not a very good solution.

      Delete
    13. JoMorris: Upon examination, it seems that you neglected to mention the part of the Ramban where he says that there is an inner meaning to the six days according to Kabbalah, which we can barely understand. See The Challenge of Creation by a certain Rabbi Natan Slifkin, pg. 192 for a clear translation and short explanation.

      Delete
  19. The notion that the life occurred solely by an accident and all its development including appearing of humans occurred through a chain of accidental copying errors hardly leaves any place for G-d.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The notion that the Purim victory occurred solely by an accident and all its development occurred through a chain of accidental events hardly leaves any place for G-d.

      And yet this is what the Megillah states happened - at a physical level.

      Delete
    2. That is a simplified explanation of evolutionary mechanisms, but as I explain in a comment above the alternative is to be able to state with some degree of certainty what actions God takes in specific circumstances. Since none of us are Naviim it is NECESSARY to keep God out of scientific explanations.

      Delete
  20. Rosenbloom is an extremely centrist Jew. I believe he straddles Orthodoxy and modernity in a most commendable way. Discredit him, and you've blasphemed a very fine Jew.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know if you know what the word "blasphemed" means. Do you have an argument? Or are you just whining at Slifkin like usual?

      Delete
    2. He is living in the dark ages in terms of his knowledge of advanced concepts in neuroscience and evolutionary biology. So, while well intentioned, he looks and sounds pretty dumb to people educated in these areas.

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    3. Very fine people can write things that deserve to be discredited.

      Delete
    4. Rosenbloom is an extremely centrist Jew

      like you are Modern_Orthodox.

      Delete
  21. It's very important for children to learn about evolution, specifically about how humans evolved from other hominids and then about how evolution magical stopped and groups of humans separated reproductively for 50,000 years or more under radically different selective pressures have absolutely no inborn cognitive or behavioural differences, a fact that is so indisputable that it requires no supporting evidence.

    Haredim Judaism cannot survive the teaching of evolution. That's a problem with Haredi Judaism not the theory of evolution. There are many admirable aspects of Haredi life, and if Haredim were a non-Jewish sext like the Amish I would be inclined to leave them alone, however, as Jews they have a responsibility to do collective teshuva for many things, which would transform the community beyond recognition. Returning to the topic though, while it may be laudable to demand that all people be familiar with evolution and let the chips fall where they may, it is wicked in the extreme to use evolution selectively to attack and undermine conservative religious opinions, while at the same time doing everything possible to suppress knowledge of recent human evolution that would utterly destroy progressive religious opinions (including those that deny their religious character).

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    Replies
    1. I'm not so sure it will destroy any kind of Judaism if we look thoroughly in our tradition instead of focusing on the ways to promote our various factions, draining all spiritual energies in vain strives .

      Delete
  22. See rejoice o youth! By rav avigdor miller זצל for a refutation of evolution

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or you can just go straight to the fundamentalist Christian books from the 1950s where he got his "refutations" from.

      Delete
    2. Rabbi Slifkin, a "mareh mokom" would be GREAT.

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    3. R Miller was SO OFF on it. He'd be crushed by today's evolutionary biologists. Sad, but true.

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    4. Yes it is old stuff. The Christian arguments against evolution -- arguments which most Christians reject -- have not evolved.

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    5. What is wrong with old stuff... the torah is also old... but if you insist see ann coulter’s recent book “godless” which is very up to date...

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    6. Don't confuse the Torah with the apologetic of a particular understanding of the Torah,while the first is above aging the second could very quickly become has been.

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    7. Ann Coulter? The anti-semite?

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  23. can you quote the books. I looked in Miller and for some reason he does not reference the fundamentalist Christian books


    who is right here . Lee Spetner or Dr. Edward E. Max?
    I am slow in comprehension. This would take me an hour to get through. If you have a spare 30 seconds to read it or anyone has a spare 5 minutes , I would appreciate your thoughts.


    https://www.trueorigin.org/spetner2.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Challenging the neo-darwinism is not the same as negating evolution, more and more secular biologists are convinced that novelty can be explained by random micro-mutation alone, but in my opinion even orthodox neo-darwinism wasn't such a problem for Jewish theology.

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    2. Nonetheless his claim that archaeopteryx was a fraud doesn't sound like serious science, a bit like the creationists claim that feathered dinosaurs found in China were fabricated.

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    3. Dr. Specter has his own variety of rapid evolution that is compatible with, and necessitates, divine creation

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    4. Rapid evolution is a very seductive alternative but what do you do with all the geological history and the fossil record which cannot be compressed in 5778 years.

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    5. I don't recall Spetner being a young-earther, just a rapid-evolutioner.

      Delete
  24. One thing that sets you apart from previous expositers of Judaism and science harmonizing is your belief in scientific concensus.

    The usual YA

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  25. I actually think that going into schools to force them to teach evolution is misguided. Halevai that the kids were taught everything but the parts of the textbook which contradicted their religious belief system. They’d be better off with pressure to simply increase the amount of secular education while letting them skip parts that they deem theologically problematic.

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  26. Evolution is a pseudo science at best. Never has science been able to find a species in the midst of evolving or with flaws that have yet to eliminated.

    In the natural world, God created a perfect world, the only imperfection is found in man. This is removed by bris milah. The "science" of evolution is the search to explain the unexplainable. It's not scientifically explainable why or how God created the world. The world was created EX nihilo. It is impossible to explain scientifically how God created the world from nothing.

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    Replies
    1. Please explain the following features, if humans are perfect, except for having a foreskin.

      The blind spot in the human eye (cephalopods lack this, and have eyes that are otherwise pretty similar, just... superior to ours)

      The appendix, which today seems to serve primarily as an organ to get people sick.

      Wisdom teeth, and why some folks don't have them.

      Why humans get cancer but whales pretty much never do, despite having many more cells in their bodies.

      And many, many, many more.

      All of this of course doesn't even begin to address the ludicrous claim that scientists have never been able to find a species in the midst of evolution. Literally every extant species is evolving, and scientists have been able to observe many changes in species in real time, not to mention the wealth of evidence in the fossil record. I could go on, but ein soph ladavar hazeh - the evidence for how wrong you are can quite literally fill volumes of text.

      Delete
    2. http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2007-10-10/scientists-discover-true-function-of-appendix-organ/693946

      The usual YA

      Delete
    3. How do you know whether wales get cancer? Who keeps statistics on cause of death of wales?

      1000 years ago no human died of cancer either, right?

      Delete
    4. @ Dov
      You refer to the natural variation of species that is already present within the DNA and take it to mean the development of entirely new characteristics that would be evidence for evolution.

      A few comments on your proofs:

      1. Blind spot - so humans have gone backwards in your eyes?

      2. The appendix is regarded as a storeroom for healthy gut bacteria, so that if there is an infection in the large intestine that damages them there is a store for replenishment.

      4. Well I guess you might be frum in which case you would accept that there is a nefesh. Science doesn't. And that would be the place to look for the cause of illness. Humans have much more emotional stuff going on than whales, and it reflects in disease. Refuas hanefesh urefuas haguf....

      Strange that tho you are clear that there is a wealth of evidence for evolution you are unable to provide an example. I want to see a species with a partly formed characteristic. Say half a wing. Or one eye. AS far as I can see the fossil record is against evolution; the species appear together within a very short time period, and there are no partial features suggesting one species changing into another. It's just that there are some intelligent people out there who do intellectual summersaults to fit their 'theory' into the facts.

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    5. It sounds like you graduated from Meiselman U.

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    6. Skeptic, every single human being in the world has a vestigial tailbone, the coccyx. That's just off the top of my head, and I barely graduated high school. Skinks have vestigial feet, as do pythons and boa constrictors. Your refusal to face facts or do research does not constitute proof of your rectitude. Beyond that, it's very obvious that you're ignorant of the basics of evolutionary theory. If you intend to be some kind of Internet white knight of Haredism, I'd work on understanding the basic issues.

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    7. @Israel.
      If you meant me, No way.

      Delete
    8. @Israel

      And also: ad hominem. If you don't like my points answer them; don't just have a go at me.

      Delete
    9. The claim that the world was perfect came from the Greeks not from the Torah, the gemara answered them according to their hypothesis, but if the world in which Adam was created was indeed perfect, according to the Zohar this world into which he fell after his sin wasn't, it is the most external of four kelipos, and there is no surprise its coming into existence could be explained in totally naturalistic way, even if that doesn't contradict our belief that the divine Will is its ultimate cause.
      Concerning the appendix : The examination of the caecum of two groups of cynomolgus and rhesus monkeys, two orang-utans and a chimpanzee, as well as an extensive review of the available literature, confirmed that the length of the caecum, relative to that of the colon, decreased as the position of the species in the primate scale rose. Although absent in prosimians and New World monkeys, there was evidence that the appendix vermiformis began to develop in certain Old World monkeys and became fully developed in the anthropoid apes, showing that, far from being a vestigial organ, it has actually developed progressively in primates,The primate caecum and appendix vermiformis:a comparative study G.B.D.SCOTT Department of Histopathology,Royal Free Hospital,London (Accepted 17 April 1980)

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    10. @ Israel
      Well if your coccyx is off the top of your head I'd accept that as proof of something, I'm just not sure what (-:.

      Seriously though, the presence in the body of structures that you don't understand is not a proof of anything. Evolution says that one species transformed into another. And the only proof of that would be real intermediate forms, skeletons showing one species transforming into another. And none have ever been found. Which itself is very significant.

      Delete
    11. Ok, so not the appendix. Nu? There are still tailbones, ear muscles, wisdom teeth, male nipples, goose bumps, arguably the vomeronasal organ, and so on and so forth. The point remains that humans aren't "perfect" in any way, not only in that we have useless parts, but also in that we have parts that are obviously inferior to those found in some other animals (e.g. the eye).

      I find Skeptic's objection to an ad hominem argument amusing, given his (or her) coy suggestion that I'm not frum - as though frumkeit or lack thereof is relevant in this discussion. It seems that the internet swallowed my earlier reply, or possibly it wasn't approved, but the notion that humans only get cancer because of our more developed minds is rather silly, considering that a) whales are actually quite intelligent and display emotion and b) plenty of far less intelligent animals do get cancer.

      Delete
    12. Skeptic, no fear, I did that too.

      Delete
    13. for fish becoming land animals by getting limbs and longs, there are a lot of evidences, and even on the genetic level, for example embryologist have been able to make rays grow limbs in place of fins by using one control factor, in the same way it is possible to make a chickenosaurus with clawed for-limbs, teeth and Dino back-limb by tweaking only a bit the development sequence, the ancestors are still present in the genome and the descendants already potentially there.

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    14. to skeptik: I do see that your not updated in the more recent finds in paleontology, the sequence from reptiles to mammals is now very convincing even it is not quite complete for reasons already explained by Darwin himself, in his chapter about the fossil record, and it is quite a miracle and certainly a providential occurrence that we've got so much knowing that fossilization is such a rare thing, we are very from "some bones planted there to mislead the scientists", I don't believe God almighty to be a tyrant trying to mislead anyone, so we have to ponder the facts, and accept that the Tiferes Israel got the best answer to the problem, like the holly Maharsham did in his time, instead to try our best to look silly by turning the Holly Torah in a fundamentalist catechism.

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    15. a flaw isn't always absolute, a evolutionary advantage can become a liability if the environment changes, like we see now with the polar bear, a top predator unable to cope with climate change and probably doomed to extinction, but in the forest in Israel we have a group of black sewer rats evolving to become a arboreal species in quite a short time, fit make sense only in relation to the environment.

      Delete
    16. @ Michel
      I looked this up. It's not clear to me if the embryologis used a protein or altered the DNA but in any case sure it is obvious that if you go in and genetically modify a cell it will do different things. Tho with GM food they had to insert a virulent viral dna/rna otherwise the cell won't express it. Other cases seem to be adapting to different situations with inbuilt capabilities. THis is not to be confused with something genuinely new, that is not coded for in the inherent DNA, which is what evolution would say. And heck how did you get all that complicated DNA in the first place without any direction?
      It is very easy to build pathways between species according to various features, it is another thing to say that there was a random mutation in the DNA that led to the change.

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    17. The retrovirus embedded in our "junk" DNA and which codes for our placenta is one of these novelty we share with other mammals, you could call it providence and not chance and I should agree with you but it points nonetheless to evolution.

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  27. Parks Authority is fudging geological dates to spare ultra-Orthodox:

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/parks-authority-fudging-geological-dates-to-spare-ultra-orthodox/

    ReplyDelete
  28. What is the chareidi concern here: that evolution, as a theory, is problematic because it (is assumed that it) precludes the existence of HKBH or because the theory is prima facie against the literal meaning of Bereishit. I ask because the Copernican theory and Galileo’s eventual proofs of Earth not being at the center of the universe (solar system) were also characterized as contrary to Torah. Here, the facts are irrefutable and cannot be denied. As such, would Chareidi society deny study of the solar system as currently modeled or simply help students understand the reality of scientific fact against the backdrop of the truth of Torah? I’m sure the overwhelming majority try and reconcile - which is what happens over time - so I suspect the point of contention is the “godlessness” that it may suggest. Until the teachers themselves are equipped to teach and have the discussion, this will always be a fight which I think gets us to R Slifkins point - if you can accept other scientific facts as manifestation of HKBH’s will then do do here and stop being intellectually dishonest.

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    Replies
    1. You are clearly right and I totally agree with you.

      Delete
    2. @invisible
      You are absolutely right. Zipora L.

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  29. As I see it, it is not a chareidi issue at all.
    For instance, there is no intellectually honest biology class in a dati-leumi yeshiva.
    Also there is no class about Bikoret Hamikra; you get to adulthood without ever hearing about the subject in an intellectually honest way.

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  30. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/coccyx#1

    The usual YA

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  31. On the subject of the evolution of the eye:

    There are so many evolutionary aspects to the development of the eye, it is difficult to be concise.

    There are species with eyes that see only shadows, or that see only motion.There are species with good far vision, some with good near vision, and many that can adjust their focus to different distances.
    There species that have one eye, two, three, six, hundreds and even thousands of eyes. There are species with eyes either in front, in back, on top, on the side, far from the body, and even severely misaligned.
    There are species that have a narrow field and some with almost a 360 degree field. There are species that see black and white, some see color, some see ultraviolet light and some see infra-red.
    The arrangement of the human eye muscles is totally illogical until we find the same (and very logical) arrangement among fish. This arrangement has not changed much in a million years.
    Some species have no eyelids, some one, some two, some three. I could go on and on.

    Human eyes are quite far from being the most efficient or the most organized. Our field of view is not very wide, we have limited color vision, and we cannot pick out a rabbit from two miles away as can the vulture. Intellectual capacity and highly developed vision do not correlate well at all.

    looking for evolutionary stages and variation? look at the eye.

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    Replies
    1. No one is looking for variation.

      Delete
  32. A new Pshat, available from the latest Science on the subject. The Sin of Adam and Chavah was in the relations of original man with Neanderthal women. The mix of the two "human" species was only just viable, and it caused many genetic problems in their offspring, as it says: בְּעֶצֶב, תֵּלְדִי בָנִים. It was first assur, because it was a different species, which became Mutar, in the light of the many advantages that ensued, as it says: וִהְיִיתֶם, כֵּאלֹהִים, יֹדְעֵי, טוֹב וָרָע.

    ReplyDelete

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