Who Needs ID? – Part One

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59 Responses

  1. Izgad says:

    “I’m neither convinced of its truth (although it explains volumes of collected phenomena that no one in the frum community even begins to deal with) nor convinced of its untruth.”

    What would it take to convince you of the truth of evolution? Should it not be enough that it explains volumes of collected phenomena that no one in the frum community even begins to deal with?

  2. tzippi says:

    I’m not an intellectual, though I am fascinated by ideas. I have a hunch, though, that somewhere in part II my head will explode so let me just say this, re “It makes no difference to me…I can live with either scenario”: this has always been the upshot to me. I realize that some inquiring minds need to know, or get as close to knowing as we will in this world, but what practical difference does it make in our developing a relationship with Hashem and keeping His mitzvos?

    A P.S. Some of the ID people could give anyone pause. I assume there is more depth and elegance to their position than one would think after reading Binyomin Cohen’s “My J- Year,” and his description of the famous museum.

  3. Michoel Halberstam says:

    Bravo you are to be congratulated for making a very straightforward, and clearly obvious statement of the case, as usual. It is interesting that when I was young, I and many of my friends simply agreed that these issues were not issues for people who were maaminim, and that insisting on talking about them is simply another way to demonize people who don’t agree with us. Since then, we have become subject to a never ending series of frumkeit tests, the origins of which would require a long exposition. And now everybody has to prove his bona fides to someone. It is obvious that Yiras Shomayim is not always the motivating factor behind those who administer these tests. V’Idach Perusha

  4. Micha Berger says:

    “What options are available to such people in the frum world? I am aware of two. The first is the Divinely authored and engineered form of evolution I described above. The second is ID.”

    Either R’ Adlerstein or I is confused.

    Intelligent Design is the pointing to scientific evidence that what exists today shows design, and thus a Designer. One could even define ID as the assertion that “mah rabu maasekha Hashem” is compelled by from us by the evidence of the world around us.

    If one accepts the evidence for evolution, then ID would mean accepting that there is evidence of a “Divinely authored and engineered form of evolution”.

    I therefore don’t see the either-or implied in calling them distinct “options”.

    [YA – Thanks, Micha. I’ve added a paragraph to explain.]


  5. Stan says:

    What do you mean by “Their advice should be vigorously heeded.”? That we should pretend science doesn’t exist? If the scientific view is the truth, then so be it. As you say, this is is not a challenge to Torah-true Judaism, nor can it ever be.
    In the Drashos HaRan #1, he seems to posit a concept not unlike evolution. He also seems to have have no problem with the pursuit of scientific knowledge of the world.

  6. Bruce says:

    Very interesting post. I’m looking forward to #2.

    In reconciling this tension between modern science and Torah, the key issue seems to be one of textual interpretation, not rationality. That is, one could easily imagine that God either started the process billions of years ago with the pre-determined goal of creating the world as we know it, or alternatively started the process and guided it along the way with the goal of creating this world. Rationally, this all can make sense.

    The more difficult problem is not this idea in general; it is how this idea fits in with a textual understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis. That is, if the world were created through divinely guided evolution, why does the Torah say what is says in Genesis 1 and 2?

    More specifically, if the actual events of creation were not those literally described at the pshat level in Genesis 1 and 2, then three difficult questions follow:
    (1) These chapters must be understood in some way. What is that?
    (2) These chapters must be understood *not* at the pshat level. (That is, not literally *and* at a deeper level, but solely at a deeper level.) Why is that?
    (3) How do the answers to the first two questions fit in with our interpretive tradition or mesorah?

    If these questions are answered well, evolution is not an obstacle to the Torah. If they are not answered well, one can reconcile evolution and God, but one has a much harder time reconciling evolution and a divine Torah.

  7. mb says:

    Whilst evolution has been amply demonstrated it still has some holes that can cause some doubts to some of the scientific theories connected to it.

    However a literal understanding of the Genesis description of creation has been unequivically disproven.

    They are not equal choices.

    Therefore surely a belief in such a rejection of God’s revealed wisdom is as heretical as a rejection of His Torah?

    Or as Chief Rabbi Sacks says, science tells us how the world came to be, and Torah tells us how it ought to be.

  8. Michael says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein. I strongly agree with your approach, but have never been able to articulate it in the way that you present it here.

    Micha- If ID is to have any chance at being scientifically accepted, it must not search for explanations beyond the observable universe. In other words, it posits a designer, not a “Designer.”

    On the other hand, (if I understood Rabbi Adlerstein correctly) Divinely engineered evolution is not a scientific approach (at least not the Divinely engineered part). R’ Adlerstein wrote that the “very beginning of the process” is “outside of the purview of science.” You can accept the utility and the validity of the science, and understand that the Creator is ultimately beyond the realm of human exploration.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein wrote, “In other words, it makes no difference to me whether Hashem created the world in six days of miraculous intervention, or telescoped all of the miraculous into some moment preceding Big Bang.”

    Since we believing Jews accept that miracles have taken place during human history and will occur in the future, we can’t totally confine the miraculous to some past moment as in the latter choice. Events like the great flood (Mabul) and its aftermath are impossible to understand in a completely naturalistic way.

  10. YM says:

    Years ago, I read on-line a string of back and forth debate between Gerald Schroeder and some of his detractors. I completed nine credits in college biology, but really could not understand either Dr. Schroeder nor those trying to disprove hie theories. I realized that the reason the vast majority of people claim to believe in evolution is because they “believe” in the scientists who claim that evolution is correct. The vast majority of us have no idea what evolution means today, nor can we evaluate the arguements for and against evolution. And I completely disagree with the idea that the ideas of Schroeder are “silly” and “guaranteed to drive young people off the derech should they ever study real science”, although luckily most of us will never study real science, at least to the level were we would actually be able to make an informed critique of evolution.

    [YA – I didn’t mean Dr Schroeder. I meant those who claim that HKBH manufactured a world some 6000 years ago to deliberately look billions of years old, in order to test our emunah.]

  11. Micha Berger says:

    While my own approach to creation is “none / all of the above”, I do believe in ID. In other words, however the world did get here, there is evidence in the result of design. Perhaps measurable by information or automata theory, or some future more rigorous definition of design.

    Then we can get into a theory as to why the data points to results one can’t get without the system being designed. If that explanation isn’t “science”, it could be because our line between science and non-science is a matter of convention, not some inherent truth.

    I should point out that Divinely engineered evolution also rules out “natural selection alone”. The engineering would imply that the selection process was based on Someone using loaded dice, ie artifice. Evolution is not a purely random process if it’s engineered — which is exactly what an ID-consistent evolution would imply.

    Divinely engineered evolution could produce the evidence revealed in ID. Or it could produce results that don’t require invoking the notion of design — but then you no longer have mah rabu ma’asekha Hashem either. Engineered evolution isn’t the only explanation to ID’s results, uncountably many other explanations would also account for design in the universe. Including 6 days of non-natural events.

    There is no “on the other hand” involved. One can believe both, either ID or guided evolution alone, or neither.

  12. Shades of Gray says:

    “We live with many valid and opposing options in other areas of Jewish life, including halacha and just about any daf in Shas. We don’t need answers to all questions. It should be satisfying to some people to be able to hedge their bets.”

    This indeed works for many and for me, at times, as well(especially regarding evolution for which I don’t have a great interest in, with the exception of R. Adlerstein’s posts on the topic 🙂 ).

    However, I suppose it depends on the person’s background, as R. Adlerstein wrote in this post, and also on how the “teiku” response is expressed. For example, Professor Aviezer(Jewish Action, Summer 2005) responded to someone who oversimplified a response to a Torah/Science issue that “the troubled Jew has the right to receive rational explanations to his questions and not be put off by philosophical assurances that everything is really all right…”

    I sometimes find it helpful to classify and distinguish between types of questions. Philosophical imponderables, a halachic “sfeika d’dina”, scientific questions, historical questions, and stylistic, textual questions are all categorically different. “She’elas chacham chatzi teshuvah”, and articulating, classifying, and weighing questions are aspects of critical thinking, even if one doesn’t arrive at an answer.

    R. Shimon Schwab (“Selected Speeches”) was aware of this categorical difference in questions, when he rejected a theory that he proposed, in part because, “the most ingenious theories which may have their place in philosophy or as a working thesis in the exact sciences have no meaning in the pursuit of historical evidence, which is a search for facts and which accepts no conjectures.”

    Bringing a question into the light of day can also shrink it down to size (though the opposite can occur as well). R. Hirsch was confident in the ability to shed light on questions and wrote in “Collected Writings” (quoted in Artscroll Biography, pg. 205):

    “Only if one knows the essence of what is antagonistic to Torah can one resist and overcome these influences. That which looms as a fear-inspiring giant specter in the twilight zone of ignorance, will shrink into a pygmy before the shining light of thought.”

  13. Bill Cork says:

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,

    I would argue that “intelligent design,” by itself, takes no position on whether or not there is evolution. Michael Behe, its most famous proponent, is himself an evolutionist. He is not a creationist. I wouldn’t even call him a “theistic evolutionist,” as that term has generally meant divine guidance of the evolutionary process. Behe is content to believe that the elements of design were packed into the fabric of the universe at the moment of the “Big Bang.” He believes that chance, not necessity, was involved in the unfolding of that primordial “design.”

    By itself, “intelligent design” is a philosophical argument, not a scientific or theological one. And its basic premise, that one can see evidence of design in the things that have been made, was the confession of the Psalmist (Ps 19:1), and was argued by Aquinas and Maimonides.

    Now, those of us who are “creationists” (who believe in a young earth, created ex nihilo in seven literal days, with death and destruction the consequences of Adam’s free moral choice) like “intelligent design” because we can use philosophical language to speak with people who don’t share our assumptions about the Bible.

    Unfortunately, I think some other folks, who have a political agenda I do not share, have used ID as a “bait and switch”–they’ve used it as a way to get Biblical teaching into public schools, doing an end run around the constitution and judicial rulings.

    So we have several different issues intersecting. 1) Are those who are pushing ID in the schools being honest? 2) Can we discern design in what has been made? 3) Was the world the result of chance, divinely directed evolution, divinely distant evolution, or special creation? It seems to me that you are primarily concerned with this third question, and that you are content to accept an element of mystery in the cosmos.

  14. Melech Press says:

    Micha is correct in pointing out that Yitzchok’s understanding of ID was simply mistaken and that his own understanding of the evolutionary process is identical with that of the ID proponents. ID does not deny evolutionary processes as possible (or probable)explanations of the existent universe; in fact, the prominent ID people are essentially all evolutionists of one kind or another. The argument is whether random processes can account for the data rather than processes directed by an intelligence, which is seen as the best inference from the data. All the available explanations are, after all inferences; ID proponents disagree as to the most logical inference.

  15. L. Hershman says:

    I don’t know what Stephen Meyer had to say, although I am very curious.
    My perspective, as a frum layperson who somewhat follows the ID/Evolution debate is that framing the position of a frum scientist purely in pragmatic terms is wrong. ID scientists ask some very hard questions about natural selection’s ability to explain it all. Not to engage those questions out of a desire to follow the industry standard and stay in the periphery strikes me as an anti-scientific cop out.

    It is practically undebatable that natural selection exists. I see it as one of many of HKBS’s tools of creation, one of the only ones that has been made known to us through scientific inquiry. ID tries to prove that natural selection cannot be the ONLY tool – and posits that other tools (collectively referred to as “design”) remain undiscovered.

    Jumping aboard the atheism-fueled Neo-Darwinian train (just ask Dawkins about the fuel), merely because it has successfully sequestered “accepted” scientific inquiry so that the “language of biology is the language of evolution,” effectively forecloses the opportunity to discover some of the other tools. If a frum biologist is interested in understanding and appreciating Hashem’s handiwork, categorically refusing to engage and investigate ideas that come from the ID camp is counterproductive. I’m not suggesting that everyone who studies biology has what it takes to be a contrarian – especially if he has academic aspirations of tenure (see Ben Stein’s documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” for some interesting tales of woe from those who did engage the ID questions), but to consider a meaningful inquiry into the limits of current theory on par with just sneaking G-d into a picture painted with the unstated purpose of writing Him out of existence seems misguided. If the biologist views his endeavor as a career like any other but somehow has to resolve this tension in order not be bruised by the pinches you write of, then fine – he has a choice. But if he is actually interested in uncovering and appreciating more of Hashem’s wonders – not just saying ma rabu maasecha Hashem – then there seems to be only one choice.

  16. Micha Berger says:

    Actually, ID defies being categorized as scientific or philosophical. It is the idea that there is scientific evidence of design. Full stop. That rules out scientific theories that are based on design, such as insisting that evolution is random mutation plus the luck of survival. But it deals entirely in measurable physical quantities, whether we’re talking about the ratios between forces of nature, or the processing of sugar in complex organisms. So it would be science —

    — if someone proposes a rigorous definition of design. Until you do, “design” isn’t a scientific concept, and the evidence can’t possibly have the rigor required of science.

    I proposed one but never invested the time to flesh it out from a blog entry to an actual paper. Part of my reason for not having the motivation necessary to do so is included in that blog entry as well.

    Which argument is most convincing? Version 4.0, based on math, many models of the cosmology, geology and biology of our origins, but very rigorous, or Rabbi Aqiva’s simple appeal, using a comparison to show how the point should be self-evident? The ver 1.0, being closest to reducing the claim to a postulate, carries for me the most appeal.

    Rabbi Aqiva gives us the tools for emunah. Building on that emunah, we can understand it in greater depth, subtlety and beauty using these more formal forms of the argument. But the formality hides the dependence on assumptions from which to reason, not replaces them.

    People don’t really reach their positions through reason very often. They experience things that make one position more compelling or the other, and then use reason to bolster that conclusion. I share the Kuzari’s skepticism about basing belief on philosophy, rather than it being more of a buttressing and filling out more detail.


  17. Michoel says:

    “YA – …I meant those who claim that HKBH manufactured a world some 6000 years ago to deliberately look billions of years old, in order to test our emunah.”

    What about those that believe that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created (or may have created) a world 6000 years ago, looking billions of years old and simply do not know why He did it? I think that is by far the larger group of those that believe in recent creation. By “In order to test out emunah” I am assuming R. Adlerstein means in the very simplistic sense of “if you don’t get faked out by the scientific evidence, then you get an extra piece of cake for desert (or an extra bit of olam haba). If you mean the phrase “in order to test” in the sense of the Mesilas Yesharim that all phenomena of this world are created to test us, to see how we react, that would be a more sophisticated and charitable way of expressing the view of those that you disagree with.

    If one starts by looking at the world and asking how old it is, he will conclude that it is ancient. But if we start by simply stating “Hashem made the world at some time but we don’t know when”. If he created it 5770 years ago, he would, of necessity, need to (ka’viyachol) make it look old much older then it is. If we could just march up to north poll and chop out and ice core with exactly 5770 layers, it would effectively be m’vatel our b’chira. The same is true for all other evidences of an ancient world. And the “deception” would need to be sufficiently strong such that the “einei ha’eidah” of secular society (scientists) would be duped with a large degree of consistency. One is not more or less rational to believe that an ancient looking world need not mean an ancient created world. It is just a different starting point. If so, we need to know what our mesora says about it.

  18. dr. bill says:

    I strongly agree with Rabbi Alderstein. In addition to Rabbi Lord Sacks who distinguished how it operates(science) and how we must operate (religion) many also conflate how it operates (science) from questions about why it operates that way (call that what you like, theology, religion, philosophy, etc.) but it is not science.

    Those who oppose ID tend to believe it addresses the latter (why) not the former (how) and is therefore not appropriate for a science curriculum. And many question the old argument of: if there is a design there must be a designer. While I opine on many (perhaps too many) topics, my PhD (35 years ago) was in mathematical logic on the theory of randomness (and descriptions/pattern.) It suffices to say that most who make the designer argument, often include some unstated assumptions.

  19. Phil says:

    Izgad writes: “What would it take to convince you of the truth of evolution? Should it not be enough that it explains volumes of collected phenomena that no one in the frum community even begins to deal with?”

    I’m sure that the phrase “that no one in the frum community…” is irrelevant, but only the part before that is relevant.

    Well, to answer your question, my answer is “it MAY be enough.” But it’s too easy to find a several scientific theories that were subsequently overturned. A couple of them were /very widely/ held in the scientific community. Such as geosynclinal theory and phlogiston.

    On a slightly different topic, many people know that many ID folks just love the bacterial flagellum. Whether their claims about it are true or not, I indeed fell in love with the elegance of the “outboard motor”. I used to ask myself, “when this ‘motor’ arrived — by any method — on the scene, did God say to Himself, “Whoa, look at that?!” or “Ahh, just like I had in mind!” “

  20. Phil says:

    Tzippi, I believe the book you had in mind was AJ Jacob’s “Year of Living Biblically”, not Benyamin Cohen’s “My J- Year.” Meanwhile both authors will enjoy the free publicity. 🙂

  21. Thematic Giant says:

    Micha – your argument in #11 is intriguing (especially since I have long thought like R’ Adlerstein on this issue), but I am bothered by the following. Let us take a “classical” case of Divine providence. A person, driving to the airport to catch a flight, gets a flat tire and misses the flight. The plane he was supposed to have been on crashes. We would say that there was / may have been Divine intervention that ensured this person would miss his flight. However, there is no indication from any of the events that G-d influenced the outcome. Despite the fact that our fictional story could very easily be interpreted as nothing more than a coincedence, we nevertheless feel comfortable saying that G-d may have influenced the outcome of the event. G-d’s influence, working outside of the regular laws of nature, would not be noticeable in our world. So, why do you assume that a Divinely guided evolution must by definition require a physical universe “stacked” in favor of evolution? If you expect to find physical indications of ID, why do you not similarly expect proof of Divine providence in human affairs? I would think that perhaps evolution could occur purely by chance, and that nevertheless G-d guided evolution towards a predetermined outcome.

    Also, your argument that random evolution would preculde “ma rabu maasecha Hashem” does not seem accurate to me. Ma rabu does not have to mean that G-d’s works prove His existence. It can simply mean that the intricacy and intelligence that can be witnessed in the physical world enhance our relationship with G-d. The fact that, possibly, creatures of such vast complexity could arise due to sheer randomness is a concept that fills me with wonder. It is that emotion that ma rabu refers to.

  22. Michael says:

    Micha wrote- “There is no “on the other hand” involved. One can believe both, either ID or guided evolution alone, or neither.”

    I actually agree with Micha in the above statement. It is possible to maintain that the concepts of “Divinely engineered evolution” and Intelligent Design overlap significantly. One major difference, as I stated before, is that ID is put forward as a scientific theory whereas anything “Divine” cannot be. To me, the key question is whether the believer in Divine creation who is engaged in the study of modern biology is required to accept ID as a valid scientific approach. R’ Adlerstein’s post presents an argument that belief does not necessitate a scientific acceptance of ID. Note that I write a “scientific acceptance.” Perhaps the same believer would still see the value in ID as a way to gain a deeper appreciation of “mah rabu maasecha Hashem.”

  23. Michoel Halberstam says:

    Without mentioning names, there are groups of people who are convinced that those who believe in evolution know that it is not true, they just wish to deny the claims of religious believers. This ranks with similar claims that those who disagree with me about Eretz Yisroel, or any other halachic question which pits different Chugim against each other have no sincere belief, the are simply poshei yisroel who want to lead everyone astray. Those who go through life with such an outlook are probably very comfortable in their ignorance and should be left alone to enjoy their sense of security. The rest of us who have to live in the world can’t afford to countenance such positions because ultimately they lead nowhere.

  24. Phil says:

    @Thematic Giant: “The fact that, possibly, creatures of such vast complexity could arise due to sheer randomness is a concept that fills me with wonder.”

    The fact that a person who believes that God had /at least something/ to do with the creation we see today AND an atheist who believes the opposite — yet both are filled with wonder — that fact alone fills me with wonder.

  25. another Nathan says:

    We’re looking at the issue from the perspective of Western logical culture, with definite concepts of past present and future. The physicist Paul Davies (author of “The Mind of God,” endorsed by R. Gottlieb of Ohr Somayach) explains that:
    “…physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety–a timescape, analogous to a landscape–with all past and future events located there together. It is a notion sometimes referred to as block time. Completely absent from this description of nature is anything that singles out a privileged special moment as the present or any process that would systematically turn future events into present, then past, events. In short, the time of the physicist does not pass or flow.”
    In other words, what I might refer to as “6,000 years ago” lies together with today.
    Davies explains elsewhere that
    “Our senses tell us that time flows, namely that the past is fixed, the future undetermined, and reality lives in the present. Yet various physical and philosophical arguments suggest otherwise. The passage of time is probably an illusion. Consciousness may involve thermodynamic or quantum processes that lend the impression of living moment by moment”
    Evolution is a time-bound concept, and it’s hard to get past that in our cultural limitations.

  26. nachum klafter says:

    I agree with much, though not everything, that Rabbi Adlerstein has said. I would like to add to a few of his points.

    To add:
    1. Rabbi Adlerstein did not say this as directly as I will: The signatories of the Slifkin ban believe that Intelligent Design is kefira in the same way that they believe that Evolution is Kefira. Intelligent Design adherents are not “Young Earth Creationists” and they cannot be. They believe that the Earth is billions of years old. They do not believe there was a First Man or First Woman who were created out of dust. They believe that homo sapiens are the descendent of more primitive homonid species. They believe that there is overwhelming evidence that the Neanderthal species flourished in Europe for aboug 450,000 years and became extinct 24,000 years ago. They believe that the radioisotope dating is a valid enterprise. They reject the possibility that Ma’aseh Bereishis is truthful as a literal, historical record of the appearance of life on earth.

    2. The most powerful evidence for evolution has been discovered in the last decade and continues to be discovered now. It is not yet taught in high school or even in college level biology courses. Had Darwin never published his Origin of the Species, contemporary geneticists would have certainly developed their own theory of evolution in the last 20 years which closely resembles Darwin’s theory. Except that the current evidence is much more powerful than Darwin’s conjectures. One example: There are genes in the human genome for enzymes that we do not manufacture, and the most explanation is that an ancestor many millions of years ago did produce this enzyme. Such genes are also seen in chimps, gorillas, and orangutangs on the corresponding chromosomes and in the same site as our defunct genes. The slight differences that are found in these junk DNA sequences are well exapained by the expected mutation rate in DNA. Evolutionary theory would make a prediction: The species that share more recent common ancestors will have less differences between them than the species that share more distant common ancestors. These predictions are being tested, and they are powerful evidence that Homo sapiens and other primate species share common ancestors.

    3. Intelligent design does not make any assertions that which can be tested. It offers no model for how life emerged, how species were created. It does not assert, for example, whether the Creator fashioned horses, zebras, giraffes, and donkeys at the same time as four distinct species, or whether these four species are the descendents of a common ancestor. Intelligent design does not offer an explanation for why the genomes of humans, chimps, orangutangs, and gorills all carries a mutated inactive exon for an enzyme that creates vitamin C. Therefore, Intelligent Design cannot make any predictions about DNA and genes which can be tested. It can never be refuted. Therefore it is NOT and SCIENTIFIC THEORY. On the other hand, Evolution, as described above, offers a testable and refutable story of how horses, zebras, giraffes, and donkeys evolved. That story can be tested and refuted by looking at the genomes of these animals. The evidence from modern genetics will certainly modify the theory put forward be Evolutionists who lacked the powerful tools of molecular biology that scientists currently have. However, as a whole, Evolution as a story for how the current species on earth descended from more primitive spcies, is becoming more plausible, more detailed, and stronger because of this new science.

    4. The “advice of the gedolim” which Rabbi Adlerstein expresses above is not really an accurate characterization. He restricts their advice as being intended for only those individuals who are never exposed to science. Halevai if that were true! The Slifkin Ban demonstrates that the Banners believe it is kefira to believe that the earth is billions of years old, and kefira to adhere to the gedolim or previous generations who suggested that it is acceptable to interpret Ma’aseh Bereishis non-literally (including the views Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, to which Rabbi Adlerstein referred to above). This approach is becoming more and more implausible as the findings of science are more and more disseminated in the world. As many readers are aware, the model of our solar system with the Sun at the center was once consicered kefira by many rabbonim. It was a debate. That debate was not settled by an advance in Torah knowledge. It was settled by the the recognition of the entire yishuv ha-olam, including klal yisroel, that Earth, and other planets in our solar system, orbits the sun. The same will happen regarding the age of the universe. This obscurantism (i.e., a theory based on ignoring, hiding, and censoring knowledge to the contrary) is going to die a simiar fate to the debate of geocentrism.

    5. There are many things in science which will probably be considered nonsense in 100 years, such as far-out interpretations of quantum phenomena like parallel universes, the non-existence of particles when we are not measuring them, etc. (Oddly, it is specifically this wacky fringe science which borders on science fiction which is cited by Jewish Young Earth Creationists to construct an implausible notion that modern science is about to discover that a literal reading of Bereishis is correct, while ignoring that the entire minyan and binyan of modern science emphatically reject the notion of a universe that is less than 6,000 years old.) But, the fact that the universe is billions of years old is not one of the things that science is going to ever reject.

    6. Like Rabbi Adlerstein, I see no advantage of Intelligent Design over Evolution from a Torah perspective. I believe that HKBH has created a purposeful universe, has revealed a Torah to us, and is intimately involved in shaping our destiny as a people. There is no scientific theory or observation which can inerfere my beliefs about this, because it is not a scientific belief. As science continues to explain more and more about about the unfolding of life on earth, I will have a greater and greater appreciation of the Infinie Wisdom or HKBH. Intelligent Design does not enhance this in any way. It is unacceptable as a theory because it does not conform to the scientific method. From a Torah persepctive it poses all the same problems that Evolution does for how we read the Chumash.

  27. Melech Press says:

    Dr. Klafter has made a variety of points in his posting which are incorrect and/or which betray a major misunderstanding of some of the issues. I will offer a few comments.

    1. The issue of “junk DNA” is far from settled science; in fact, there is increasing evidence that there is much less junk DNA than was believed only a few years ago. The molecular biology literature has been reporting increasing evidence that what was thought to be junk DNA are indeed functional units in the genome having directive and controlling functions as to how genes operate, the conditions under which transcription takes place, etc. It is far too soon to arrive at any conclusions as to the role of these units.

    2. The fact of similarity between genomes across species is itself no indication of common descent, though it may be. If point 1 is correct, it may simply indicate a use by the designer of common elements not unlike a computer operating system which runs different programs on different computers.

    3. Dr. Klafter does not understand how scientific theories are “tested.” They need not make any or many predictions, as witness such sciences as geology or cosmology. There is significant difference between historical sciences, in which theories generally are accepted by being seen as the best explanation for prior events, and those sciences which predict future events which can be tested. Certainly, it will strengthen the likelihood of a theory’s being accepted if it makes predictions that can be validated, but that is not a necessity in the historical sciences.

    4. It is, in fact, not true that Intelligent Design theory does not make predictions. While this is often claimed by its opponents, it makes more predictions than the neo-Darwinian synthesis does (by definition, evolution moved by random events cannot make specific predictions.) One example of such a prediction is that it would be only a matter of time to discover that there is relatively little junk DNA and that most of what is considered to be so will turn out to be functionally designed. We will see in the future if this prediction turns out to be true.

    5. As follows from the above points, it is not necessary for a theory to be “refuted” or even to be capable of being refuted to be scientific. While this was claimed to be so by Popper in his famous argument that falsifiability was essential for a theory to be scientific, this is not a principle believed to be essential by many contemporary philosophers of science and certainly not so of the historical sciences. Theories in these areas are judged by their explanation of the available data; the theory which best explains the data will be accepted by honest scientists as the best for the time being. If it ceases to be the best explanation of the data it will be abandoned even if a critical experiment has not bee performed or can never be performed.

    6. Dr. Klafter’s statement that ID is unacceptable because it does not conform to the scientific method is not an argument but mere name-calling. It betrays his misunderstanding of the history and philosophy of science and of the increasing reluctance of contemporary thinkers in those areas to try to rule theories in or out of science by definitional fiat. In fact, there is no “scientific method”, as can easily be demonstrated by looking at the sciences. There are many scientific methods, none used universally in the sciences, and those of the historical and the contemporary sciences are dramatically different. ID is appropriate to the methods used in the historical sciences and probably more so than the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

    7. All of my observations above should not be taken to imply that I do not, in the end, agree with Dr. Klafter’s most important points. He is certainly right that neither ID nor evolution fit in with a literal reading of B’reishis and that the principles he asserts in the first part of his sixth paragraph are central to all believing Jews. He is also right in his implied assertion that there can be no contradiction between our understanding of the physical universe and of the Torah, since they are both creations of HKB”H. Ultimately, as he points out, the advances of science will be accepted by the community of believers as well as by the general world. Torah teachers would be well advised not to create new ikrei ha’emunah that will only turn out to be ulitmately refuted and to pose new stumbling blocks to belief by shlomei emunei Yisroel.

    8. None the less, there is a difference even for the believer between ID and the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Regardless of how one reads Maaseh B’reishis (and I would assert that anyone who claims that it MUST be read literally treads dangerously close to real kefira, denying Chazal’s assertion that it is a mystery), it matters whether one claims that the data is consistent with a designing intelligence or whether it it inconsistent. The reigning neo-Darwinian synthesis claims the latter; if we accept that this is the best science has to offer, it will pose intellectual and psychological problems for sophisticated believers. This is no small matter

    Melech Press

  28. EB says:

    Nachum Klafter:

    1 – Assuming you also believe that “the Neanderthal species flourished in Europe for aboug 450,000 years …”, how do you reconcile that with a purposeful universe?

    2 – What is your belief based on, and how do you reconcile evolution with how we read the Chumash?

  29. Charlie Hall says:

    “ID is a scientific formulation, to those who subscribe to it, not a philosophical or theological one.”

    No, it is not scientific, because it is not subject to empirical verification, nor an it contribute to any prediction. How can you empirically test for the existence of a Designer? And how can any Jew who believes in the existence of H’K’B’H “with perfect faith” even countenance an empirical test of that existence? Why, that is heresy!

    And I have yet to see a single useful scientific prediction made by ID proponents using ID theory. Nor has there been any attempt to re-interpret the now huge volumes of scientific data that are consistent with evolutionary explanations in the context of ID.

    A few years ago I challenged any ID proponent to re-interpret genetic data that had been made publicly available that showed that the genetic diversity of the approximately 40 living cat species matched what was known from the fossil record regarding prehistoric cat migration patterns. Nobody took my up on my challenge.

    “If the scientific view is the truth, then so be it.”

    The “truth” isn’t the scientific view, it is the empirical observations. Sometimes scientists come to wrong conclusions based on inadequate data. But for some things the data paint so overwhelming a picture that there is no other conclusion. Cigarette smoking DOES cause lung cancer. HIV DOES cause AIDS. Vaccines DON’T cause autism. Evolution does occur. And the universe is billions of years old.

    “the Creator is ultimately beyond the realm of human exploration.”

    A Creator that is within the realm of human exploration is not the Jewish concept of our Creator.

    “Events like the great flood (Mabul) and its aftermath are impossible to understand in a completely naturalistic way.”

    Actually the flood is one of the easiest to explain in a completely naturalistic way, as long as you believe in Torah she bal peh. While the pshat in Chumash clearly implies that the mabul covered the entire earth, the gemara clearly says that it did not cover Eretz Yisrael. That can explain the discrepancy between the absolutely conclusive scientific proof that worldwide sea levels rose dramatically at the end of the last ice age, the evidence that the Black Sea rose more recently, and the presence of flood narratives in oral and written traditions of societies all over the world — yet a total lack of evidence for any water ever having been at the top of Mount Everest.

    “those who claim that HKBH manufactured a world some 6000 years ago to deliberately look billions of years old, in order to test our emunah.”

    I can’t see how a frum Jew can accept this. There are sources from within our mesorah that are consistent with a universe that is billions of years old. But the idea that God would create a universe 6000 years ago to look billions of years old was invented from nothing by a 19th century British Christian. This idea was ridiculed by members of his own religion and has no basis in our own mesorah. We look to discredited 19th century Christians rather than Chazal and Rishonim?

    “divine guidance of the evolutionary process”

    As I implied above, whether or not any natural process is Divinely guided is not a subject for scientific inquiry. Nor should any Jew want it to be!

    “Intelligent design does not make any assertions that which can be tested. ”

    And that is why it is not science and can be legitimately called anti-scientific. That is why we scientists are so adamant about keeping it out of science classes. Including believers like me.

  30. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    #5 – What do you mean by “Their advice should be vigorously heeded.”? That we should pretend science doesn’t exist? If the scientific view is the truth, then so be it. As you say, this is is not a challenge to Torah-true Judaism, nor can it ever be.

    It means that there are some communities in which emunah peshutah is very much in evidence, and secular knowledge is shunned. Gedolim in those communities very much want to safeguard the very beautiful emunah peshutah that has been cultivated there; they would like to keep out the challenge of foreign ideas that some people will be able to handle while others will not. We ought to respect their wishes, even if we could not see ourselves living within those communities.

    #6 – More specifically, if the actual events of creation were not those literally described at the pshat level in Genesis 1 and 2, then three difficult questions follow:
    (1) These chapters must be understood in some way. What is that?
    (2) These chapters must be understood *not* at the pshat level. (That is, not literally *and* at a deeper level, but solely at a deeper level.) Why is that?
    (3) How do the answers to the first two questions fit in with our interpretive tradition or mesorah?

    As I wrote, this is a topic for a whole, ‘nuther treatment. The beginning of the answer, however, is that Chazal themselves point to a difference between the opening portion of Bereishis and the rest of the Torah. They claim that this portion is deliberately concealed from Man. See Bereishis Rabbah 9:1 I once heard Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt”l say that if someone held a gun to his head and asked him for “pshat” in a pasuk at the beginning of Bereishis, he would not be able to offer a response, because Chazal say that we cannot know pshat.

    #9 – Rabbi Adlerstein wrote, “In other words, it makes no difference to me whether Hashem created the world in six days of miraculous intervention, or telescoped all of the miraculous into some moment preceding Big Bang.”
    Since we believing Jews accept that miracles have taken place during human history and will occur in the future, we can’t totally confine the miraculous to some past moment as in the latter choice. Events like the great flood (Mabul) and its aftermath are impossible to understand in a completely naturalistic way.

    I meant all the miraculous that was involved in Creation, not the running of the world after that

    #14 – Micha is correct in pointing out that Yitzchok’s understanding of ID was simply mistaken and that his own understanding of the evolutionary process is identical with that of the ID proponents.
    I don’t think I’ve ever won an argument with Dr Press, and I have no intention of beginning now.  Nonetheless, perhaps I can get past some of the confusion.

    As might be expected, ID is no monolith. Different people will define it differently. I have read material that insisted that ID rejects some of the key assumptions of the NDS. I have heard the same from proponents of ID sitting across a table in conversation with me. Not wishing to spoil Dr Press’ record, I therefore called Stephen Meyer and asked him. It turns out that we are both right – or both wrong, depending on how you look at it.

    Dr Meyer argued that you could isolate three important components of contemporary evolutionary thought: 1) the antiquity of the world 2) the descent of man through a fairly well established path from primitive to more complex 3) ascribing all biological diversity to natural selection. ID’ers all accept #1; some question #2; most (but indeed not all) question #3. Many believe that G-d dictating initial conditions will not explain certain phenomena, whether the Cambrian explosion, or the sheer amount of information that had to be contained in the most primitive of life forms. Those people require some midcourse corrections, if you will. There are, however, some people in the ID camp who are “front-loading” design advocates, and see G-d as engineering the opening moves, after which they are content to see “natural” processed such as selection taking us the rest of the distance. According to their view – a definitely minority one within ID – the view I expressed as my own does coincide with an ID position.

    #15 – My perspective, as a frum layperson who somewhat follows the ID/Evolution debate is that framing the position of a frum scientist purely in pragmatic terms is wrong. ID scientists ask some very hard questions about natural selection’s ability to explain it all. Not to engage those questions out of a desire to follow the industry standard and stay in the periphery strikes me as an anti-scientific cop out.
    Guilty as charged. I am not anti-scientific, but I am copping out. But there is a real need for this. The debate over ID passes over the heads of most lay people, as well as rabbis and teachers in our day schools. Yet, the frum community does have to make some practical choices about whether to shun, embrace, or co-opt ID. My belief coming into the recent round of ID appearances in Los Angeles was that it would be a mistake to hitch our chinuch wagons to an approach that will create more conflict for our students than educational good. I may reexamine this in my Part Two.

    #17 – What about those that believe that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created (or may have created) a world 6000 years ago, looking billions of years old and simply do not know why He did it?

    This is less toxic than what I was talking about, but not particularly attractive or satisfying. Will it explain the antiquity of human-like civilization, including cave drawings over 50000 years old, and older tools and implements? While 5770 layers of ice at the Pole would in fact be a dead giveaway for a recent creation by G-d, why would the sea floor have to show signs of ancient spreading, and evidence of the reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles at several points in very ancient history?

  31. Phil says:

    Nachum Klafter, when you wrote: “Intelligent design does not make any assertions that which can be tested”, did you Google on “is Intelligent Design testable” and then refute in your mind the claims you found?

  32. nachum klafter says:

    Nachum Klafter:

    “Assuming you also believe that “the Neanderthal species flourished in Europe for aboug 450,000 years …”, how do you reconcile that with a purposeful universe?”

    I don’t understand your question. It does not contradict a purposeful universe. There are many extinct species. You think HaShem planted fossils of species to make it look like they were extinct, and I think they really flourished and are now extinct. If you have a kashya, I don’t hear it, but it would be on HaShem and not on me.

    2 – What is your belief based on, and how do you reconcile evolution with how we read the Chumash?

    I don’t reconcile evolution with what we read in the Chumash. I do not have a mesora ish me-pi ish for Ma’aseh Bereishis. In fact, I do not even know the roshei perakim! I am really not sure that it can be reconciled. Rashi says that the pesukim do not teach the order of the Creation (the “seder ha-briya”). I am fine with that.

  33. L. Oberstein says:

    The thought police are coming to get you. You better hide. Since I agree with you, I guess we better look for sanctuary. There is a stream of fanaticism sweeping parts of the frum world that make normal people cring. The horrors wreaked on Rabbi Slifkin and the subsequent about face by some of his erstwhile protectors shows how strong the anti-evolution stream is . If there was once room for differences, I wonder if that is still true in certain areas today. Luckily, I don’t live there and can still walk around and think. That there are so many people who voluntarily move to places where there is mind control is mind boggling, but it is happening more and more.

  34. Yaakov Green says:

    “Dr Meyer argued that you could isolate three important components of contemporary evolutionary thought: 1) the antiquity of the world 2) the descent of man through a fairly well established path from primitive to more complex 3) ascribing all biological diversity to natural selection. ID’ers all accept #1; some question #2; most (but indeed not all) question #3.”

    Of the SCIENTISTS affiliated with the ID movement, there are none who question #2.

    [YA – I expressed myself rather poorly. It is not descent that some ID’ers question, but the accepted “well established path” of such descent. Some scientists indeed maintain that some of the gaps don’t allow the lines to be drawn as you will find them in the textbooks.]

  35. nachum klafter says:

    Hassidut and many other schools of machshava delineate different types of miracles.

    1. There are miracles which are lema’alah min-ha teva—obviously supernatural events. The plagues of Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea were miracles of this order.

    2. Then there are miracles which are meluvash be-darachei ha-tevsa—miracles which are disguised as natural processes. Channukah (the military victory, but not the pach ha-shemen) and Purim are considered to be miracles of this order. According to some schools of thought, the very laws of nature themselves are “regularly occurring miracles” in that the laws of physics and chemistry which govern the physical world are also under HaShem’s constant hashgacha.

    If a miracle is meluvash be-darachei ha-teva (if it is disguised as a natural process) then we do not believe that it can be proven, scientifically, to be a miracle. That’s what it means to be “meluvash be-darachei ha-teva.” I am told that during the War for Independence, for example, the city of Tzefat was kept in Jewish control because of a sudden thunderstorm which scared off an entire division of the Syrian military. There are many of similar stories about the War for Independence. If these stories in fact occurred as reported, I would have no doubt, whatsoever, that these were all miracles which were disguised as natural processes or coincidences. Whether one sees such events as a miracle or a random coincidence is not a matter of science. It is a matter of religious sensibility; it is a matter of emunah. It cannot be proven or disproven by science. If it could, it would not be meluvash be-darachei ha-tevah.

    In a nutshell, I think that what is flawed with Intelligent Design is its adherents are trying to devise a system which characterizes miracles which are actually meluvash be-darachei ha-teva as though they are le-ma’alah min ha-teva. They assert that since phenomena are guided by or engineered by an Intelligent Designer, then there will automatically be scientific evidence that this took place. Conversely, this implies that if there is no evidence that an Intelligence is guiding or engineering something, then it is random and is outside of the dominion of Divine Providence. Why would any Torah Jew accept this horribly false dichotomy? We believe that G-d is in charge of what happens on Earth, and we believe that the fate Kelal Yisrael is guided by a special Divine Providence. But we do not expect any of this to be demonstrable with statistics or scientific theories.

    I firmly believe that complexity in nature is a sign of a Designer, but I cannot prove my sensibility about this scientifically. I do not know, specifically, how HaShem has caused sentient beings to evolve. Furthermore, I do not know if He endowed the primary matter of the universe with properties which would cause them on their own accord to form atoms, inorganic molecules, organic molecules, droplets with semi-permeable membranes, living single-celled organisms, etc. To ponder the Wisdom required to invest subatomic particles with characteristics which lead them to form the cosmos as we know it, including living matter, is truly awesome. That, in my view, actually more wondrous than creation ex-nihilo of the Universe in its present state 5770 years ago; but that is my personal opinion. Or perhaps HaShem has been constantly involved in a “hands-on” manner with the building blocks of organic matter, and shaping the emergence of new species by directing mutations that look as if they are random. We do not know. And is it really possible for us to consider whether such a distinction is meaningful from HaShem’s perspective? I would argue that what we should know from our study of Torah is that if HaShem is going to disguise a miracle as a natural occurrence, then Intelligent Design proponents will not be able to demonstrate that it is there scientifically. It will look like a random ordinary event. We beleive that HaShem’s involvement is, generally speaking, hidden. If HaShem has caused human beings to evolve in a manner that His involvement is hidden, then it is not “scientifically proveable.” This is a theological reason why Intelligent Design strikes me as wrongheaded from the outset.

    Back to scientific matters: Dr. Melech Press writes clearly, but he makes some arguments which truly surprise me. Despite his apparent confidence when claims that my post demonstrates a “misunderstanding of the history and philosophy of science,” in reality everything I write is in perfect agreement with the consensus of mainstream scientists.

    Here is a statement from the National Academy of Sciences: “Creationism, Intelligent Design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science.”

    Here is a statement from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science: “Intelligent design proponents may use the language of science, but they do not use its methodology. They have yet to propose meaningful tests for their claims, there are no reports of current research on these hypotheses at relevant scientific society meetings, and there is no body of research on these hypotheses published in relevant scientific journals. So, intelligent design has not been demonstrated to be a scientific theory.”
    I doubt Dr. Press would assert that all of the scientists in these two organizations also “misunderstand the history and philosophy of science.”

    Furthermore, I am not simply reiterating a mantra that “since ID is not testable it is not science.” I am attempting to demonstrate on operational and methodological grounds (not theoretical or definitional grounds) what ID fails to accomplish: Ingelligent Design fails to offer any specific story or about how life emerged on earth, and therefore puts forward no actual, specific hypotheses at all. By contrast, Evolution advances thousands of specific, concrete hypotheses which in combination tell a complex story of how the Earth’s biodiversity came about. The story advanced by Evolutionary Theory is by no means complete, and there are many gaps and flaws in it. But over time the story is becoming better and more accurate, as each hypothesis is tested and revised. As I said in my earlier post, even if Darwin had never lived, a very similar theory of evolution would have been advanced because of recent discoveries in genetics which provide powerful evidence.

    Testing each one of Evolution’s hypotheses is similar to forensic science. (Interestingly, I discovered this comparison in the writings of ID adherents.) One looks for scientific evidence that supports or challenges the veracity of a specific account of what events took place. It is very much like looking for evidence of the presence of a perpetrator at the scene of a crime. Are the defendant’s fingerprints on weapon found at the scene? Do the ballistic markings on the bullet in the victim’s body match the gun found in the defendant’s basement? Do the skin and blood under the fingernails of the victim match the defendant’s DNA? What are the odds that we would have obtained these results if he were not the assailant? How many individuals in the world could have left possibly left this fingerprint?

    An example of a specific claim: Evolution claims that all mammals on earth, including the human, descend from a common mammalian ancestor who lived 150 million – 200 million years ago. Here is one very interesting and powerful piece of evidence for this claim. On the short arm of Chromosome 8 in the human genome , there is a 152 base sequence from the GULO gene, which codes for an enzyme that manufactures vitamin C. It is important to point out that humans do not manufacture vitamin C. (That’s why it’s an essential vitamin for us, and without it we suffer from Vitamin C deficiency—“scurvy.”) There are so many mutations in this segment of DNA that its function has become totally obsolete. The technical term for this in molecular biology is that it is a “pseudogene.” It manufactures no mRNA and codes for no proteins. In fact, no primates manufacture the GULO gene. The only reason we were able to identify the original function of this sequence is by comparison with other mammals that do manufacture the GULO gene, such as the mouse.

    Evolultion’s assertions about how and when each species differentiated itself would predict the following: If this pseudogene were compared in humans, chimps, orangutans, and gorillas, the sequence will show more diverging mutations when comparing humans and chimps vs. humans and orangutans. People have actually bothered to perform this experiment, and that is exactly what the found. (Reference: Ohta, Y; Nishikimi, M. “Random nucleotide substitutions in primate nonfunctional gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the missing enzyme in L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis.” Biochim Biophys Acta 1472:408-11, 1999) What is illustrated by this?

    This is one rather remarkable piece of evidence, among thousands, of relatively recent common ancestry for humans and other primates, and more distant common ancestry of humans and non-primate mammals, such as the mouse.

    Sometimes the findings of molecular biology do not support specific hypotheses of Modern Evolutionary Theory, and those hypotheses need to be revised or rejected. I gave an example of one in my last post—that we now know due to DNA sequencing that the Neanderthal cannot possibly be an ancestor of modern day humans.

    Now, what can Intelligent Design say about the GULO gene? Nothing, unfortunately, because Intelligent design does not offer a story as to how the human being evolved from other primates, or how primates evolved from more primitive mammals. Therefore, Intelligent Design, has no specific opinion or expectation about what species should express this pseudogene, or which species should share more in common with it.

    Dr. Press says of genetic evidence for evolution, “If [there is an undiscovered function to this DNA sequence,] it may simply indicate a use by the designer of common elements .” I surmise that this is not his personal belief, but he was granting to ID adherents the possibility of this response. However, this is not an effective rebuttal. First of all, this is quite far fetched in the case of the GULO pseudogene. More importantly, it is circular reasoning. “If one day we discover a function for this sequence, then it may turn out to be evidence of an Intelligent Designer.” One can say that about anything. And finally, the notion of it being evidence of an Intelligent Designer (when in fact there is no apparent purpose or design, is a non-starter, scientifically speaking. Although it is logically possible, it leads to no predictions about what we would expect to find in the genomes of other species.

    Until Intelligent Design will make a concrete assertion of what took place in the past, there is no way to look and see if such assertions are supported by any data.

    Actually, from the writings of Behe, one of the leading ID expositors, it appears to me that he accepts every assertion of Evolutionary Theory that has good evidence for it. For example, it apears to me that he accepts that humans evolved from a common ancestor that also gave rise to chimps. I assume he would also accept that the GULO pseudogene on chromosome 8 is powerful evidence that we share a very ancient ancestor (maybe about 150 million years ago) with the mouse.

    Dr. Press’ claim that “junk DNA is far from settled science” is a distraction. It is certainly settled science that there are many components in our genome which do not code for mRNA or protein, and therefore which have been free to accumulate mutations with no impact on the organism’s fitness. These sites are extremely valuable because the number of mutations seen in them provides us with the best methods we currently have to date how recently different species or organisms shared a common ancestor. The GULO gene above is a good example. Vast regions of the Y chromosome are examples. The 36,000 inactivated viruses in the genome of every member of the human species is another example. In fact, the DNA remnants of these inactivated viruses (“endogenous retroviruses”) make up about 8% of our genome.

    If Intelligent design wants to be taken seriously by science, then it needs to do one of two things:

    1) It needs to make specific, concrete, hypotheses about what, specifically, an Intelligent Designer did do to create or catalyze the emergence of life on Earth. And it must propose a story of how Earth’s biodiversity emerged which can be distinguished in some way from Evolution. Then experiments can be devised to adduce evidence which will support or disconfirm it.

    2) Or, it could redefinee itself as a science-friendly creation theology, but not as science. The FACTS of how evolution takes place are being discovered by science. The interpretation of the mechanism of evolution as a manifestation of Divine Wisdom is a subjective interpretation. It’s an interpretation that I happen to agree with, but it can’t be supported or disconfirmed experimentally.

    Let’s briefly consider the suggestion that HaShem created a universe in a manner that it would look very old. He placed in it fossilized remains of humans who never actually lived or existed, and which He manipulated with to make them appear as though they are 140,000 years old. He created light which he manipulated with spectral shifts to make it appear as though it is coming from stars which are 100’s of millions of years old. he created rock formations to make the Earth look billions of years old. To me the most interesting thing, in my opinion, to consider about this is the following: If HaShem created an “old looking universe” then that would be the greatest refutation of Intelligent Design! It would mean that HaShem has totally concealed his role in the creation, where Intelligent Design believes that HaShem has not done so. Think about it: If HaShem’s fingerprint, so to speak, can be scientifically proven, then He did a very lousy job with all of the fossils and rock formations. I assume that Dr. Press agrees with me on this.

    [Phil wrote, ‘Nachum Klafter, …did you Google on “is Intelligent Design testable” and then refute in your mind the claims you found?’ I did not google this phrase until now, and I just read Dembski’s article. I find absolutely no merit in it. I actually find it to be quite crazy. Here is a characteristic quote:

    “Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Intelligent design is eminently falsifiable. Specified complexity in general and irreducible complexity in biology are within the theory of intelligent design the key markers of intelligent agency. If it could be shown that biological systems like the bacterial flagellum that are wonderfully complex, elegant, and integrated could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (which by definition is non-telic), then intelligent design would be falsified on the general grounds that one doesn’t invoke intelligent causes when purely natural causes will do. In that case Occam’s razor finishes off intelligent design quite nicely.”

    This is so full of logical problems that it is hard to know where to begin. He is hanging his hat on the idea that Evolution is responsible to explain how every single element in every biological system has come about. Until it does so, his theory stands. So his “testable hypothesis” is essentially asking Evolution to prove a negative. “Until you prove that the flagellum came about without the involvement of an Intelligent Designer, then Intelligent Design stands as valid. Phil, if you want to discuss this further, you are free to get my email address from Rabbi Adlerstein.]

  36. Michoel says:

    Dr. Klafter,
    Thank you for all the good things you are doing for Klal Yisroel.

    A respectful point of correction: Rashi does NOT say that the pesukim do not teach the order of Creation. He indeed held that they DO teach the order of creation. When he writes that the “mikra” is not coming to teach the seder habriah, he is referring only to that first pasuk in chumash. See there and the subsequent Rashis carefully and you will agree.

    This is a small point but the larger point that I believe you are alluding to is that “the Torah is not a science book or a history book”. This is an idea that clearly Rabbi Slikin holds, Rav Nadel held (as far as maaseh breishis), Rabbi Adlerstein holds, and Rav Hirsch was clearly tolerant of, whether or not he held that way in general. This is very clearly not the maskaneh of the vast majority of authorities throughout the generations including Chazal. (I am not now speaking of how to interpret but of the basic hanacha that the Torah IS a science / history book if we would know how to understand it.) As far as mesora ish m’pi’ish, about what exactly do you have a mesora ish m’pi ish? If the general assumptions of science are true, then it is very clear that the mabul is an allegory (I am not speaking about evidence for a mabul but simply that prehistoric man contradicts the idea that we are all bnei Noach). That the sun didn’t stand still in the times of Yehoshua etc. And there is quite a bit more that needs to be dealt with. My point is that it behooves the many people that hold as you do to think very carefully and not be flippant about that way you express your beliefs. You need to think carefully about the very many questions you are opening and have good answers. You can’t just be fine with that. You need to be fine with the very many implications and have answers for the questions you are going to arouse in some people’s minds.

  37. Michoel says:

    RYA: ..cave drawings over 50000 years old…

    Here I would really appreciate some respectful help from a frum scientist reader. I am pretty up on science for a laymen, albeit a million miles (or light years, or shmittah cycles) from someone like R. Slikin. How are cave drawings or tools meaningfully dated independent of the materials used to create them (which are clearly older than the drawings / tools themselves)?

    “why would the sea floor have to show signs of ancient spreading, and evidence of the reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles at several points in very ancient history?”

    I believe that Hadosh Baruch Hu could have caused a reversal of magnetic poles etc for some reason intrinsic to His way of creating the world (not “merely” to cover His tracks) and that this reversal could also be interpreted as evidence of an ancient world which sof sof serves a purpose of increasing the “helem” effect that He wants the world to engender. So He was not “m’chuyav” to undo the michshol that scientists would ultimately encounter.

  38. Simcha Younger says:

    Dr Klafter presents one of two option for ID to make itself a scientific theory. There is a third option for ID proponents, which I think is what many are doing, which is to raise legitimate scientific (ie objective) questions in regard to scientific theory. This would not make ID a science, but it would qualify by all acounts for legitimate scientific discussion. (A side point, I am not at all with ID, I am pretty extreme in my acceptance of evolution.)

  39. Bob Miller says:

    Some of the argumentation here is based on the idea that it’s an affront to humanity when some phenomenon is inherently impossible to understand with human logic. What follows from this is the idea that HaShem always has to act in a way we can ultimately grasp through science, or else we’re being mistreated. Says who?

  40. Simcha Younger says:

    Dr Klafter points out that the idea of an old-looking universe contradicts ID. It does worse than this. Consider that a tree can be presented as old-looking since there is a recognized growth pattern for trees. An old-looking universe would mean that there is a growth pattern for universes, which does not rely on miraculous intervention. If this were not true, then an old-looking universe is not possible, because there is nothing for it to look like, and no development path for it to imitate. This proposal therefore logically necessitates that a universe similar to ours came into being (or at the very least, can concievably come into being) on its own, contradicting the principles it was meant to defend.

  41. nachum klafter says:

    “How are cave drawings or tools meaningfully dated independent of the materials used to create them (which are clearly older than the drawings / tools themselves)?”

    Here you go:

    Direct radiocarbon dating of prehistoric cave paintings by accelerator mass spectrometry. Hélène Valladas 2003 Meas. Sci. Technol. 14 1487-1492

    Abstract. Advances in radiocarbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry now make it possible to date prehistoric cave paintings by sampling the pigment itself instead of relying on dates derived from miscellaneous prehistoric remains recovered in the vicinity of the paintings. Presented below are some radiocarbon dates obtained at the ‘Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement’ for charcoal used in the execution of prehistoric paintings decorating two French caves: Cosquer and Chauvet. The presentation of the dates will be preceded by a short discussion of the experimental procedure used in our laboratory (pigment sampling, chemical treatment, etc). The ages obtained so far have shown that the art of cave painting appeared early in the Upper Palaeolithic period, much earlier than previously believed. The high artistic quality of the earliest paintings underlines the importance of absolute chronology in any attempt to study the evolution of prehistoric art.

    Keywords: AMS carbon-14 dating, prehistoric cave paintings, charcoal, Upper Palaeolithic, Cosquer cave, Chauvet cave

    Print publication: Issue 9 (September 2003)
    Received 13 December 2002, accepted for publication 26 February 2003
    Published 29 July 2003

  42. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Simcha Younger — December 14, 2009 @ 3:59 pm :

    It’s not that the world looks old; it’s that is looks as if there were no singularities (such as acts of creation) in the past. However we have an independent source of information (Torah) that confirms that such singularities did exist.

  43. Michoel says:

    I don’t understand what you are saying in comment #40. Can you expand it a bit? thank you

  44. Charles B. Hall says:

    To scientifically prove the existence of a Designer one would need to design an experiment, or at least an observational study, for which one possible result would prove that there was a Designer, and that the other possible result would prove that there was no Designer.

    I believe that only a heretic could design such a study. But unless you admit the possibility that science can disprove the existence of a Designer, you can have absolutely no evidence in favor of a Designer.

  45. nachum klafter says:

    Simcha Younger-
    Your idea that an old-looking universe implies that naturally evoloving life is possible is absolutely brilliant. If this is your original idea, it is worthy of publication. If not, I’d like a reference. This has never occurred to me, despite many, many hours of pondering the epistemological conundrums inherent in the old-looking universe notion.

    I accept your feedback to some degree. But I am not sure why you do not assign responsibility to those who posit a religious orientation which necessitates denying physical reality, and how destructive this in so many ways.

  46. Simcha Younger says:

    I will try to rephrase the argument I made yesterday.
    I understand the argument of an old-looking universe to be that even though Hashem made the universe in six days, for some reason He put in it all the evidence which we now interpret to mean that the world is ancient. In other words, the world really does look like it is 15 billion years old, but since the Torah tells us it was created in six days we reject the scientific analysis, and instead say it was made to look as if it went through this development, but in reality it did not.

    This argument acknowledges that the scientific evidence does indicate a world that developed as modern science describes. Without the Torah we would have no reason to reject any part of modern science, which gives a fair interpretation of the world’s development, based on the ancient-looking artifacts Hashem put in the world in order to create this impression.

    This argument says that a mature world was created. A tree would have been created on day 3 of Creation with many rings indicating imaginary past growth, and the world would have been created with fossils ‘filling in’ the development of life which in reality did not happen, but which would have been expected to happen if the world had not been so suddenly and abruptly created.

    Now, a tree can be created ‘mature’ and as if it had gone through the standard growth patterns of trees. Anything with a natural course of development can be created at any stage of that development process but looking as if it had gone through the entire sequence which is normally seen. The reason for such a creation would be the expediency of a quick creation, but the need for stable and functioning organisms which developed properly according to the nature of each organism.

    While this is true for any particular organism which has a natural development sequence, it cannot be true for anything which cannot develop naturally. Today we see trees growing, so we are not bothered by the idea of a newly created tree showing signs of having grown. If evolution is a lie and life cannot evolve, then early life could not have been created showing signs of having evolved, since such signs would not be mimicking any natural expectation. Likewise, if a universe cannot develop along a 15 billion year history, then a universe cannot be created to mimic such a development. Where there is no development process there is no ‘would-have-been-the-process’ to say what the skipped sequence should have looked like.

    Therefore, if our universe was created looking like it went through the natural development of universes, there must be some existing pattern through which universes develop. In other words, there must have been other universes which did start with a big bang and then evolved life over the next 15 billion years or so.

  47. nachum klafter says:

    “Without the Torah we would have no reason to reject any part of modern science, which gives a fair interpretation of the world’s development, based on the ancient-looking artifacts Hashem put in the world in order to create this impression.”

    Yes. This was one my points above. Let me elaborate. One of my teachers, who is a well known Torah personality, believes that the Universe was created “looking old.” He has become increasingly uncomfortable with his position as I show him piece after piece of evidence that he is forced to say that the Creator put there just to create an elaborate hoax of some kind. What has come out of this discussion is that since the Nations of the World do not have a revelation teaching them the date of Creation, a Young Earth Creationist perspective leads to the conclusion evolutionists and geologists are 100% correct in their scientific conclusions based on the data they observe. In other words, a Young Earth Creationist must accept that the world is full of evidence that our current biodeversity descended over hundreds and hundreds of millions of years from common primitive ancestors. A Young Earth Creationist must conclude that the best scienctific observations the Earth’s geology is that our planet is few billion years old. When we receive electromagnetic signals from most distant regions of the universe, which are billions of light years away, A Young Earth Creationist must concede that the best scientific interpretation of this is that we are looking billions of years into the past.

    In other words, a Young Earth Creationist must concede that Evolution and Geology are unobjectionable. If there are actually mountains of evidence that HaShem himself created the species ex-nihilo, then it means that He did a very poor job with the evidence he planted.

    Claiming that there are substantive flaws in radioisotope dating to the point that the conclusions of geologists are off by billions of yearas means that the HaShem did NOT make the earth look old. Claiming that Common Descent (the proper name for “macroevolution”) is flawed science means that that HaShem did NOT make it look as though humans evolved from more primitive ancestors.

    Hence, one cannot subscribe to the notion of a Young But Old-Appearing Universe and also subscribe to the notion of Intelligent Design. Otherwise, you are taking a position that HaShem attempted to hide his role in the Creation, but He did a very poor job of hiding His involvement as “The evidence is obvious to anyone who is honest and who really understands how scienctific data is properly interpreted.”

  48. nachum klafter says:

    “Therefore, if our universe was created looking like it went through the natural development of universes, there must be some existing pattern through which universes develop. In other words, there must have been other universes which did start with a big bang and then evolved life over the next 15 billion years or so.”

    I would revise this as follows: If we would posit that our universe was created recently, but made to look like it went through a natrual developement over billions of years to arrive at its current state, then this means that HaShem considers it to be plausible to consider that life could evolve through natural processes. However, I do not understand why it means that there ARE in or WERE, in fact, other universes.

  49. Bob Miller says:

    Simcha Younger said,
    “If evolution is a lie and life cannot evolve, then early life could not have been created showing signs of having evolved.”
    “Likewise, if a universe cannot develop along a 15 billion year history, then a universe cannot be created to mimic such a development.”

    Let’s look at the “could not” and “cannot”.

    As best I can tell, the best arguments that have been made against both this “evolution” and this “development” are not that these would be zero probability events, but that they would be extremely low probability events. As long as the world was created for us to live in with the power of bechira (free moral choice) there has to be some opening for us to err if we so choose.

  50. Bob Miller says:

    That is, low probability that they would have resulted in ourselves and our world as these actually are.

  51. Michoel says:

    Dr. Klafter,
    Thanks for the dating info. I see a few things in the abstract. So until very recently (at least 2003) the standard way to date cave drawings was in no way inherent to the drawings themselves. Correct? And the conclusions of previous researchers was widely divergent from the newer conclusions, albeit both resulted in very ancient dates.

  52. Michoel says:

    Simcha, and cc Dr. Klafter:
    I still do not chop your chiddush although I’ll rely on Dr. Klafter that it is indeed brilliant. If you could bring it down a bit further without diluting it to batel b’shishim, I would really like to put my head around it. From what I think you are saying, I have to thank you for forcing a more clear expression of the idea of a universe created to look old. I believe, like Bob Miller is alluding to, that the world was created to hide the fact of its haschala. Not old for the sake of being old.

    Dr. Klafter: “But I am not sure… how destructive this in so many ways.”

    Aderaba, If Rav Elya Weintraub posts on Cross-Currents, I would like to ask him also!

  53. Michoel says:

    Dr. Klafter writes: “Hence, one cannot subscribe to the notion of a Young But Old-Appearing Universe and also subscribe to the notion of Intelligent Design. Otherwise, you are taking a position that HaShem attempted to hide his role in the Creation, but He did a very poor job…”

    He did a job which was Perfectly “good enough” for His Purpose. Not perfect in scientific sense but Perfect in the sense of accomplishing His goals for the briyah. Allowing scientists ample room to believe with emunah shleimah that their is no Designer and allowing those that wish to see Design to see it.

    I think that you are attributing a formal “intelligent design” perspective to those that believe in (or are still open to) a recent creation where it really is not necessary to do so. I don’t think that this was fundamentally the approach of Rabbi Avigdor Miller v’syato. Being non-scientists, sometimes yeshivaleit that take this approach might use ID terminology that we “picked up on the street”. The basic vort of this view is: It strikes one as very profoundly counter-intuitive that for example 1. There is a musag of vision. 2. That we have organs capable of extremely precise vision. 3. That those organs connect to our brains and not tuchuses. 4. That there is such a things a spectrum of visible light. 5. That food developed independently from the same initial colony of single celled organisms, (through hundreds of millions years of tiny mutations when it did not and could not serve the purpose of human nutrition) containing the exact nutrients that we need for … vision! and this food has colors, and smells and tastes that we can see and smell and taste. One celled organisms that had no capacity for hearing, developed toward having ears. But if there was no concept of sound waves, it would have been a wasted effort of a couple of billion years. They did not develop organs for hyrdaliosophism which would not have been useful. But vision and hearing sure are useful.

    So the frum evolutionist will say “meah achuz”, we agree with all that but it does not demonstrate a Creator in scientific sense. To which I say, So what? It most certainly DOES demonstrate a Creator in the terms of scientific iniyim, hainu bnei adam.

    Yet we see people who are largely steering the boat of evolutionary theory who are outspoken atheists. So that tells me that they are, in some regard, deeply irrational. And I therefore tend to suspect them of being irrational in other areas as well.

    I don’t see goosebumps and ostrich wings as earth-shattering. I do agree that they can be explained well by evolution but that is not the same thing as evidence for evolution. And very often, when we laymen read scientific articles as critically as our brains allow, we are left underwhelmed and suspicious. Are the articles of lots of creationists far more underwhelming? Sure. But so what?

  54. Michoel says:

    Dr. Klafter,
    and another thing…
    It has been a few years already since I read Rabbi Slikin’s original Science and Torah work so I might be misrepresenting him. He makes the point (echoed here by RYA and in the what he brings Rav Hirsch zt”l) that indeed initial natural laws ARE evidence of a creator. So according to you, that ID is not sensible and not al pi Torah either (and indicative of Hashem doing a poor job of hiding the fact of creation), what is the practical difference between the development of life and the development of physical laws? Either way, we have actual scientific evidence of a Creator. Please correct me if I am misunderstanding you (or maybe you don’t agree with R. Slifkin on this).

  55. Observer says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, you say”I meant those who claim that HKBH manufactured a world some 6000 years ago to deliberately look billions of years old, in order to test our emunah”. I’ve always thought about HKBH creating the world 6k years ago seeming old, but for a different reason.

    An old seeming world is a necessity in a world constructed so that its inhabitants can learn the natural rules of the world. To take one example – if the oil in the ground didn’t “look” the way it does, how could we have learned enough to make the kind of use of oil that we do (it’s not just fuel), as well as finding different ways of extracting oil from sources that don’t respond well to typical oil drilling? In fact, if it didn’t look the way it does, we would never have learned how to actually make oil oit of biomass – but in fact we do know how to do so (although it’s apparently not a commercially viable technology at this point) The stuff can’t be distinguished from the stuff that comes from the ground.

    The reason it makes logical sense, is that whether you look at the chumash literally or not (and there are good arguments either way – the Rambam clearly holds that the pesukim of ma’ase bereishis cannot be taken literally.) it seems pretty clear that Hashem created a mature world, with everything in place to move forward with human history. The world HAS to look at least a dozen years older than it really is (assuming a literal reading of the pesukim) because we are dealing with an adult Adam, and Chava of childbearing age. Once you accept that, does it really make all that much of a difference whether the age between reality and perception is a dozen or a dozen million years? The concept, I think, remains the same.

  56. Michoel says:

    These conversations tend to peter out quicker than I personally would prefer. I think that those that more so accept the conclusions of science either 1. get frustrated with those of us that are more agnostic and just through in the towel 2. feel that they may be doing a disservice to pushing the issues on someone that be challenged by questions they raise 3. Or maybe folks just don’t have the time for it.

    Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zichrono livracha, humorously describes in one of his books, a typical yeshiva guy talking about science. “what do scientists know? They find a bone somewhere and just say it is thousands of years old”. I am paraphrasing and without much accuracy (been a few years). But I am, to some extent, that very yeshiva guy. Everyone has negios, but doing the best I can to compensate for them, I just can’t get my head around the extreme confidence in evolution and other assumptions of scientists. Maybe half a year ago, there was widely publicized story about “a bone found somewhere”. It was announced to be an extremely large vertebrae of a python. Exactly. One. Bone. Bo bayom, it was also announced, with utter confidence, that the ancient Amazon (during such and such period) was 10 degrees higher than previously thought. Haraya, if not, a snake big enough to have a vertebrae that big could not survive. Is it really all that simple? With respect to the abstract that Dr. Klafter cited above (41), if someone in 2002 would have the audacity to suggest that maybe neanderthals noticed that dead bodies lying around the camp tended to attract rats so they decided to toss their dead in a cave, and therefore the drawings found in the cave shouldn’t be assumed to have a connection to the remains and shouldn’t be dated by them… Such a person probably would have been called a kofer. No? And if we would look hard we could probably even now find a credentialed main-stream scientists that still prefers the earlier dating technique over the new one. If so, why? If the new technique is really so straightforward and flaw-proof?

    If genetic mappings are such a clear proof of paths of ancestry, then why is it that we see credentialed scientist maintaining previous “tree structures” even after genetic proof that they are not correct? Whales-camels, etc. I think Rabbi Slifkin (who has been praised as an expert by people in a position to know) actually says that biological distribution is the strongest raya to common descent. Could be he holds that genetics is also very strong proof. But I am left with a lack of ease that things are really so straightforward.

  57. Simcha Younger says:


    Its simply that I don’t like to think so much. But I’m game for another round.

    There are a number of closely related, but distinct, debates here, which often get confused. One question is the validity of evolution from a scientific standpoint. A distinct question is the acceptablity of evolution from a religious standpoint. A third question, which was the focus of this article, is if ID is a legitimate approach to the issues under discussion, and this breaks down to two questions – is ID compatible with science, and is ID of interest to religion. A fourth question is only relevant if evolution is incorrect, and that question is why did God create all of the artifacts which suggest evolution, but do not actually support it under solid investigation. If evolution is correct (at least scientifically) then the fourth question will instead be why does the Torah seem to describe a completely different Creation?

    Your last post questioned the validity of the science. If you are correct that evolution is not a tenable explanation for the observed phenomenon, or at least that it is not a convincing explanation, then the question about ID is irrelevant. You (and Bob Miller) also proposed an answer to the follow-up question of why the artifacts are there, by saying that it is to leave room for free-will. You are really now moving the conversation to the primary question – is the science acceptable.

    On this question I would say that there are definitely alot of problems with sceince, and I am also convinced that especially this field of science is particulary dishonest. These failing however do not invalidate that which is good in scince. Even if 4 out of 5 fossils would be fakes, and 4 out of 5 interpretations of real fossils would be sloppy, but the rest is good, honest, and valid, then we would still have sufficient evidence for an evolutionary process. I do not believe that the problems are as prevasive as that, so we are left with a large body of evidence which does suggest evolution.

    I would also say that science fails badly (from what I know as a layman) on the particulars of evolution, but has very strong support for the general idea. I am completely unconviced about the suggested details of how evolution works, but I am convinced that the evidence points to some evolutionary process.

    I think of the existing knowledge as scattered dots which fall on a general line. There are alot of blank spaces, but the pattern is clear. I then ask myself – would I have a more coherent picture of a logically satisfying universe if I fill in the spaces and connect the dots, or if I assume that the holes will never be filled in? If we assume that increasing knowledge will fill in the blnaks, then the existing knowledge is already very explainable and coherent. If however we assume that the dots cannot be connected, then the existing evidence does not have any pattern to it (even if we can explain why God put it there). I am therefore alot more comfortable accepting an evolutionary process despite its incompleteness, then rejecting it and being left with a very arbitrary set of oddly suggestive data.

  58. Menachem Fromer says:

    Firstly, it seems rather philosophical to argue as to whether Hashem actually created the world 6000 years ago with an apparent state of having existed for billions of years, or if He created it billions of years ago. If He created the apparent billions of years in what would have seemed to be billions of years to us (had we been around), is there really a difference? For an eternal God, these billions of years aren’t really so long. In fact, in “Genesis and the Big Bang”, Gerald Schroeder provides a scientific hypothesis as to how God could describe his Creation experience (so to speak) as having taken 6 days, whereas looking back, we see it as billions of years.

    Secondly, regarding evolution, it must be noted that one of the guiding principles is finding the “simplest” explanation possible for DNA sequences shared by diverse forms of life. Therefore, when scientists observe specific arrangements of DNA that are common to multiple species (but not found in others), they conclude that these arrangements were all present in an ancestral species, which has since diverged to form the current-day species. While they COULD conclude that these arrangements were independently placed in the varying species, this is less likely IF you assume that all species trace their lineage to a single ancient species. Now, however, is where Hashem comes into the picture. If you don’t believe in God, then it is unlikely that these events occurred independently multiple times, so you are forced to subscribe to a theory of common descent. On the other hand, if you believe in God (as I do), then you may want to allow for the possibility that He inserted very similar DNA into a number of species. But why is this any more acceptable than the possibility that He developed them WITHIN host species along the way? When it boils down to it, I think that the big fuss over evolution is the thought that subscribing to it would imply that all is random and things could have turned out very differently, for example, with no life existing at all. But, remember that the initial conditions at the Big Bang could have been such that the world as we know it was practically inevitable (and I believe that God set up these conditions).

    Lastly, as food for thought, there are a number of Jewish sources that discuss examples of macroevolution that I can think of off the top of my head. Therefore, I don’t see any major contradiction between the two:
    1. People having shorter lifespans after the Flood.
    2. Looking old (the ageing process), for Avraham and Yitzchak.
    3. The existence of giant-sized humans (Og, Goliath, Kiryat Arba), which clearly no longer exist.
    4. A two-sided Adam “evolving” into 2 separate sexes: Adam & Chava.
    Of course, these are all examples of human “evolution”, but since the Torah focuses in on human history, we should not expect a thorough dealing with the evolution of other species (at least not at the Pshat level for Torah Shebichtav).

    In conclusion, those who want to believe that all is random will continue doing so. And, those who believe that God is behind it all, can still do so. Since as Jews we believe in an incorporeal God (with no physicality), I don’t believe that scientific study of the physical world will ever prove or disprove God. And, my feeling is that’s the way God wanted it, leaving us free will to believe in Him or not.

  59. Michoel says:

    Thanks, I concur with your breakdown of the questions at hand. I’d like to toss a few related thoughts on the table. Sorry for the poor organization.

    Does it make sense for those that lack the keilim to understand the science deeply, to rely on those that have those keilim, even when many of them are evangelical atheists? Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan mentions in one of his books an interesting study. A pool of college students and professors were subject to peer-pressure to such a degree that %80 accepted that an 8 inch line was actually longer than a 10 inch line. That is astounding, no? The tendency to be pulled after one’s associates in outlook is very strong in all groups of people including scientists.

    A parenthetical thought experiment for those that believe in evolution and for those that believe in a young earth: Imagine yourself standing up in a room of your peers and announcing “I have doubts about the truthfulness of evolution”, or “I suspect that scientist are correct about evolution”. Would I be able to make to such a statement and if not, how does that internal dissonance possibly color my perceptions?

    If I told someone that I just flipped a coin ten times and got ten straight heads, if they have a bit of a feeling for probability, they would immediately assume I was lying. If I now brought in 10 witnesses to testify that they saw me do it, they would still be certain that it was a conspiracy. If I brought in 100 witnesses, they would still shrug it off as a bigger conspiracy. If a thousand people testified, they might think that they really saw what they are claiming, but it must have been an illusion of some sort.
    So is the evidence for evolution really so strong that it is greater than 1,000 first hand witnesses? Because for many, the belief that evolutionary mechanisms can produce, say, the instinct to “play possum” in even one species seems far less likely than 10 coin flips with the same result. It bespeaks an external Super-intelligence that is aware of a concept of death, along with thousands of other details that make such an instinct simply shocking.

    It is clear that belief in evolution has been a tremendous boon to atheism and out-growth philosophies. It seems strange that something that can be the cause of so much evil in the world is actually the true picture. This is just a non-scientific hergesh that somehow Hashem wouldn’t run his world that way. One can claim that belief in evolution was so damaging only because folks like Stalin didn’t read Rav Hirsch, but l’maaseh Hashem new that Stalin wouldn’t read Rav Hirsch.

    The choseim of Hakadosh Baruch Hu is Truth and we cannot convey Torah in a way that is not truthful and that certainly includes admitting to verified scientific facts. However, “if” it could be shown that evolution is not true, then we can provide an enormous m’chaiv emunah by showing that it is not true and it certainly would sure up our mesora to all the leitzanim. If the entire world says it is true and we say that our Torah tells us otherwise, and in the end we are correct, that is a colossal kiddush Shem Shamayim.

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