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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