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Accepting Gedolim's Positions
I am a big believer in accepting Gedolim's positions. In fact, I am a much bigger believer in this than many people in the charedi community.
I'm not talking about accepting their positions as binding on me; after all, there is no reason, halachic or otherwise, for me to do so. Rather, I am talking about accepting that Gedolim have certain positions, even if it's uncomfortable to acknowledge it.
When the first ban against my books came out, many people, including myself, were flabbergasted to see the letter by Rav Yitzchok Sheiner. He cursed me for my belief that the world is millions (actually, billions) of years old. What?! We all thought that this was something that had been settled years ago. As one extremely chareidi Rav said to me that day in astonishment, "Aren't there about twenty different terutzim for that?"
For many people, it was simply too hard to accept that the Gedolim deemed such a basic fact to be heresy. It meant that either Gedolei Torah were not what they believed them to be, or that they themselves had heretical views - both of which were too disturbing. Much easier was to convince oneself that their objection were specifically to my books - the nebulous problem with the "tone."
Yet the Gedolim, most of whom did not read any of my books and were not in a position to evaluate the "tone," were very clear about their objections. As noted above, Rav Sheiner considered it absolutely unacceptable to believe that the world is billions of years old. At an EJF conference, Rav Nochum Eisenstein reported that Rav Elyashiv holds that any person who believes the world to be older than 5768 years is kofer b’ikur. Even if Eisenstein is not the most reliable person, I don't think that there can be any question that Rav Elyashiv strongly opposes such a a view. The same goes for Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who is reported as saying that someone who believes the world to be millions of years old may not be accepted as a convert. And even Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz"l writes about how modern science textbooks have heretical statements about the development of the universe. There's no doubt that the vast majority of Charedi Gedolim are of the view that belief in an ancient universe is, at best, deeply wrong both factually and theologically, and at worst, heretical.
I mention all this because of a statement made by Rabbi Yaakov Menken, who has been disputing my critique of Rabbi Avi Shafran's anti-evolution article which spoke about modern science being driven by atheist bias in its stance regarding evolution. I responded that while bias certainly exists in the scientific community, it is even stronger amongst Orthodox Jews. Rabbi Menken, on the other hand, insisted - incredibly, to my mind - that “ad hominems, hysteria and ridicule in lieu of rationale are more common from evolutionists then of Orthodox Jews who oppose evolution." And in response to people claiming that charedi Jews are biased against modern science in these areas, Rabbi Menken made the following statement:
[There is] a phenomena that does not exist, to my knowledge: a Gadol HaDor who claims the belief in evolution is in direct conflict with belief in G-d. In fact, all of the arguments claiming religious bias depend upon something similar, and the experience of actual Ba’alei Teshuvah contradicts this absolutely. To become observant, one must accept that there is a Creator, that he gave us the Torah, that we are expected to observe it, etc. There are many fundamental precepts (13, according to Maimonides) which we must accept as true. But one of them is not that the universe appears to be less than 6000 years old, or that it does not appear that we have evolved by chance.
Now Rabbi Menken may well truly believe that the Gedolim are not theologically opposed to the antiquity of the universe or evolution. And the experience of actual Ba'alei Teshuvah is indeed that Charedi Judaism and its Gedolim are not opposed to modern science. But that is because the kiruv yeshivos work very hard, and often duplicitously, to give this impression. Nevertheless, as demonstrated above, this is clearly not the case. Charedi Gedolim are, by and large, firmly opposed to the idea that the world is billions of years old, and all the more so to the idea that life evolved.
With regard to the bias issue, however, I agree with Rabbi Menken that presumptions of Gedolim opposing modern science do not create a bias against evolution in the Baal Teshuvah community. But this does not mean that they approach the evolution/ ID/ creation controversy without bias. Instead, there are two other, powerful biases. One is to show that evolution is mathematically impossible and thereby to intellectually justify belief in God. The other main bias is a social bias; siding with one's home team against the liberal left/ secular community. And that's why they care so much about this issue.
(See too my post "And Man made Godolim in his image.")