Skip to comments.Rabbis Say the Darndest Things
Posted on 09/25/2008 12:21:49 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator
In the media, Catholicism is the religious tradition most frequently, and misleadingly, held up for approbation as having no problem reconciling Darwinism with theistic faith. The tradition next most often cited as Darwin-friendly is my own, Judaism. You can bet a new Rabbis Letter in support of evolution will garner the usual uncomprehending applause.
Boasting 305 signatures so far, the letter holds that "It is possible to be inspired by the religious teachings of the Bible while not taking a literalist approach and while accepting the validity of science including the foundational concept of evolution."
The Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science From American Rabbis, as its formally called, has already scored an admiring report in the Chicago Tribune, full of the standard confusions. The article, like the letter, implies that what's at stake in the Darwin debate is nothing more than a contest between simple-minded fundamentalist literalism, which Judaism indeed has always rejected, and science.
In the lead paragraph, Rabbi Gary Gerson is quoted, affirming evolution as a confirmation of his faith, demonstrating the "higher order" in "creation." "We as Jews every day praise God for the times and seasons and the order of being, and that perhaps is the greatest miracle of all."
First of all, what does Gods ordering the "times and seasons" have to do with evolution? More fundamentally, Gerson and all the other signers of the Rabbis' Letter miss the point that it is the mechanism that Darwin proposed to explain how his tree of life developed that presents the really grave challenge to theistic faith.
God is understood by the Jewish and Christian traditions as the creator of our own world and all the life in it. What the work of creation entailed is a subject taken up by Jewish mysticism, kabbalah, a subject requiring the most intense erudition to begin to appreciate.
For his part, Darwin sought to explain how the various forms of life could have arisen, once the very first life was somehow seeded, without the need for divine interference. Natural selection and chance variation would do the entire job, he argued. As Darwin clarified in his Autobiography: "The old argument of design in nature which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered." Nothing could be clearer. Read even in the most metaphorical manner, Genesis depicts God as directing and approving each stage of the worlds development: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (1:31). Darwin's theory obviates the need for such a creator.
The piece in the Tribune also cites a bogus legend that implies that Maimonides would approve of Darwinian evolution. The truth is quite to the contrary, as I've shown in Moment magazine and the Jerusalem Post.
Almost all the signers of the Rabbis' Letter are liberal clergy, from the Reform and Conservative denominations. Evidently, Orthodox rabbis mostly declined to sign or maybe they weren't asked. I'd like to think they were guided by the teachings of the German rabbi who inspired Modern Orthodoxy. Samson Raphael Hirsch in 1878 used the Biblical image of the idol Baal Peor, worshipped in the most grotesquely animalistic fashion (mixing defecation with sexual intercourse), to illustrate "the kind of Darwinism that revels in the conception of man sinking to the level of beast and stripping itself of its divine nobility, learns to consider itself just a 'higher' class of animal."
For a more historically informed perspective than you'll get in the Rabbis' Letters, a recent book from the University of Chicago Press is worthy consulting. In Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism, edited by Geoffrey Cantor and Marc Swetlitz, the more interesting essays describe attempts by rabbis and other Jewish leaders to find an appropriate response to Darwin's materialism, from the mid-19th century to today. Some of the research will surprise readers who assume that Jews have always been friendly to evolution.
In his own essay in the book, Swetlitz presents the opinions of prominent and theologically liberal rabbis, representing the Reform and Conservative movements, who wrote and gave sermons during the 1950s and 60s, questioning natural selection as a mechanism sufficient to explain the development of life. In effect, they were premature advocates of intelligent design.
Please remember that David is not a literalist creationist but an "ID" Theistic evolutionist; ie, he accepts evolution and the evolutionary timetable but merely believes that G-d, and not "natural selection," is the valid scientific explanation for evolution (at least at certain points on the evolutionary timetable). I of course disagree with him on this, but nevertheless think he does important work.
David mentions that most, if not all, of the "rabbis" signing the referenced letter are not Orthodox. I remind all readers that "non-Orthodox Judaisms" have no valid rabbinic ordination and that only Orthodox rabbis are in fact rabbis. This does not mean there are no Orthodox rabbis who are evolutionists, but it is still a most important point.
The unfortunate use of the phrase "simple-minded fundamentalist literalism" is a reference not to religious fundamentalism per se (ie, that religious truth is factually true as well) but rather to what Catholics call sola scriptura. It is unfortunate that so many Jews, Catholics, and Orthodox chr*stians confuse sola scriptura with fundamentalism. The true name of the sola scriptura position is not "fundamentalism" but Qara'ut (Qara'ism) in Judaism and Protestantism in chr*stianity. And since liberal, anti-literalist, anti-fundamentalist Protestants are every bit as sola scriptura as their fundamentalist counterparts, the use of the word "fundamentalist" to denote a position which may in fact be either fundamentalist or liberal is most unfortunate.
My past experience on FR is that Eastern/Oriental/Nestorian Orthodoxy is every bit as pro-evolutionist as any Catholic. David may not be familiar with this.
I've tried to correctly transcribe the hyperlinks in the article. If I have failed, kindly go to the original article to click on them.
All in all, a timely topic for the 25th of 'Elul.
Ping for your interest.
FR may not be an accurate source then. I recall a book recently published by a Father Rose (sorry I can't recall the full title), that defends the biblical creation view (contra old earth views) from an Eastern Orthodox perspective and extensively documents the historical fact that the Eastern church has affirmed a YEC position. In fact, a recent Catholic work has done the same for Catholic church history. (See Fr. Victor P. Warkulwiz, The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11: A Compendium and Defense of Traditional Catholic Theology on Origins).
Pretty fly, for a rabbi. (Weird Al)
His name was Seraphim Rose and I am familiar with his work, but unfortunately I am afraid his status as a "western" convert leads his opponents to label his creationism a hangover of "Protestant rationalism." Certainly the vast majority, of not the totality, of Eastern Orthodox FReepers are evolutionists who hold creationists in contempt.
I am also familiar with the Warkulwiz book and with the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation. But again, unfortunately, their position is a minority one in Catholicism. In fact, considering that a recent Vatican conference consisted entirely of Theistic evolutionists, they appear to have lost the argument in their church.
How ya' doin', Bernie?
Not quite. God saw everything that he had made, and it was good, except for man. God made man, but according to Genesis, He had no comment.
Oy vey! Oy vey!
There certainly are Jewish creationists — I’m sure at least a dozen out there. The vast majority of Jews — not just liberal Jews — accept evolution and have for 100 years or more.
As you are well aware, you exaggerate. What your motives are I'm not sure.
Of course there are Orthodox Jewish evolutionists. There are even "Ultra-Orthodox" Jewish evolutionists. As I said, David Klinghoffer himself is technically an evolutionist. But there are, as you surely know, a lot more than twelve Jewish creationists. In fact, there are probably a lot more than twelve Orthodox Jewish geocentrists.
Science tells us about the world before us. It has absolutely nothing to say about a world of which it has no knowledge--a world in which the human gestation period was a matter of minutes, for example.
There is an oral Tradition of the true facts about Creation which are expounded before no more than two pupils at once. Only the recipients of this tradition, and neither scientists not theologians, know the real facts of creation.
I head, from a very good source, that rabbis are allowed to date.
Very appropo piece - what he wrote is a great start at getting the truth out there.
Unfortunately, this issue (Jews and creation) has been the object of so much misinformation for so long. I can understand the motives in a general sense, but not the motives for making outlandish statements that are easily refuted.