Friday, November 6, 2009

"Jews for Darwin"

I was skimming through old copies of Skeptic looking for a particular article written by Dr. Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc. While doing this I came across an article written by Nathan Aviezer in Vol. 13 No.1, the Carl Sagan tribute. The article was titled "Jews for Darwin", and was written in response to a previous article that was written saying that Orthodox Jews are by definition creationists and against Darwinian evolution.

In this article Aviezer posits that not only is there no contradiction between Orthodox Judaism and evolution, but that as a person of faith he should deny Intelligent Design "theory". To show this he makes three particular points:

1) In Genesis 1:25, it says God made (Hebrew: vaya'as) not created (Hebrew: vayivra) all the plants and animals of the Earth. Basically what he is saying is that God made everything from simpler things, not created them ex nihilo. So God would have guided evolution from simpler beings into humans.

2) Orthodox Judaism is in many ways based on the authority of the Jewish scholar Maimonides, in particular his works Guide for the Perplexed and Mishna Torah. In Guide, Maimonides says that where there are contradictions between a literal reading of the scriptures and generally accepted knowledge, the literal meaning of the scriptures should be set aside for a metaphorical meaning.

3) Any person of Orthodox Jewish faith believes understanding nature is trying to understand the mind of God. God works through the natural laws, so understanding the natural laws (i.e. science) is the ultimate tribute to God. Where as Intelligent Design invokes supernatural causes, so it would mean that God wouldn't be working through the natural law, which is against their understanding of how their God works.

So what I want to know is, is this just a rationalization by one man? Or is this the general position of Orthodox Judaism? I would like to know. I must admit I am quite ignorant of Orthodox Judaism. But, I was raised Catholic in a predominantly Christian nation, so my knowledge of Christian religion is stronger. That isn't an excuse, but a lame defense for my ignorance.


  1. I think anyone trying to relate traditional, religious values to modern science is only rationalizing the situation. It's only until now that people are revising their scriptures to make sense of what science is offering because it's more coherent, right? Why should this religion be the only exception?

    So I am promoting the assumtion that Orthodox Jews are just as clueless as Christians. We all should be sure of this because we havn't been presented otherwise, possibly excluding this one Jewish guy who happens to be trying hard at making sense of both worlds.

  2. I in no way meant to imply that I think Orthodox Judaism is any less loony than the rest of the loons. It's just I was quite ignorant of OJ.