Turning Things On Their Head
Cyberspace moves quickly, but the comment moderation at Cross-Currents doesn't always keep up; my comment to Rabbi Adlerstein's article took a week to appear. So, since Rabbi Menken just wrote a post in response to my response to Rabbi Shafran, I am going to post my response here (slightly expanded) rather than to wait for it show up in the comments.
Rabbi Shafran said that many scientists are, like all people, subject to bias. He suggests that nowhere is this so evident as it is with evolution, which, to some, has been elevated to the status of an unquestionable article of faith. Try as Rabbi Slifkin might, it’s hard to dispute either of those relatively obvious contentions.
This is a strawman. I didn't try to dispute either of those. That wasn't the point of my article. The point was that it is hypocritical to talk about this, when religious people are just as motivated by bias, if not more so.
Nonetheless, and contrary to Rabbi Slifkin’s assertions, it is true that a theist is capable of an impartial view of evolution, while anyone unwilling to entertain the idea of a Creator is incapable of the same.
That is not contrary to my assertions. In fact, it is entirely consistent with what I wrote. But theists who truly have an impartial view of evolution all accept that the evidence supports it! My assertion was that, in general, bias is just as powerful in the religious community as in the scientific community.
Rabbi Slifkin takes an obvious indicator of bias and turns it on its head: “it should be pointed out that amongst the ranks of those who do believe in evolution, you will find both atheists and devoutly religious people… but amongst those who declare evolution to be false, you will only find religious people.” Bias is found in the beholder, not the concept, and thus the same facts should rightly be said as follows: “you can find devoutly religious people who do or do not believe in evolution, but to a one, atheists profess belief in evolution.”
With all due respect, I think that you are the one turning things on their head. To be sure, atheists must believe in evolution; I never claimed otherwise. But since even those without any atheist bias believe in evolution, this indicates that the evidence supports it. Which means that those who deny it are motivated by bias and are mistaken, whereas atheists, even if sometimes having the wrong motivations, are nevertheless ultimately correct vis-a-vis evolution.
Bias against evolution does not only exist with those who formally consider it to be heresy. It also exists with those who consider it to be part of a general value system which they entirely reject - Obama, global warming, etc., and who very much see the world in terms of "us" versus "them." Is there any major issue about which you are comfortable with saying, "The Gedolei Torah/ charedi community were wrong, and the liberal secular left are correct"? Of course not. In general, all the articles by you and Rabbi Shafran are about how "we" are right and "they" are wrong. You might not formally consider evolution to be theologically unacceptable (though I'd be interested to hear your detailed explanation of how it is acceptable), but you are certainly uncomfortable with "them" being right and "us" being wrong.
By the way, if you have evaluated the evidence for evolution and found it lacking, then I assume this means that you considered the question of why marsupials are concentrated in Australia, why whales are not able to breath underwater like fish, and why every species that is discovered, live and extinct, can be neatly fitted into a nested hierarchal family-tree taxonomy - (for example, there are numerous species with characteristics of dinosaurs and birds, but no intermediates between birds and mammals). Can you share with me the answers that you came up with?
I find it particular interesting that you mention Intelligent Design. Those who subscribe to it do not suffer from the atheist bias, right? And yet those scientists who do subscribe to ID all accept that all life evolved from a common ancestor. What does that tell you about the evidence for common ancestry - and about those who deny it?
Yes, we believe the world is 5771 years old, however this may be defined (there are multiple schools of thought on this point). Yet I am unaware of even one Orthodox person with an education in the hard sciences who believes that, from a scientific perspective, the world appears to be 5771 years old rather than roughly 15 billion.
Agreed. Now I challenge you to write an article for Mishpachah or Ami or Dialogue elaborating on this - that the scientific evidence itself clearly shows the world to be billions of years old, and that nobody with an education in the hard sciences would reasonably say otherwise. (And you can add your detailed explanation of why evolution, although being scientifically unfounded, is not at all theologically problematic.) Then we'll see if the Orthodox community is really okay with this. But in any case, the fact that someone accepts the more undeniable evidence for one thing does not mean that they are honestly evaluating the evidence for something else.
As to your claim that evolutionists react to their opponents "with ad hominems, hysteria and ridicule in lieu of rationale" - as with Rabbi Shafran's article, the irony is remarkable. Do you really, truly think that this is more true of evolutionists than of Orthodox Jews who oppose evolution?