Jews for Darwin: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Orthodox Judaism

By Aviezer, Nathan | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Jews for Darwin: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Orthodox Judaism


Aviezer, Nathan, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


I AM AN ORTHODOX JEW WHO believes that the Book of Genesis is the word of God. This article--a rebuttal of the article by Alexander Nussbaum in Skeptic (Vol. 12, No. 3) which argued that Orthodox Jews do not accept evolution and other areas of science--will deal with evolution and Intelligent Design. My thesis is that an Orthodox Jew should have no hesitation in accepting the scientific theory of evolution. However, there is every reason for an Orthodox Jew, or any person of faith for that matter, to reject Intelligent Design.

Evolution and Orthodox Judaism

According to Nussbaum: "By definition, Jews who accept evolution are not Orthodox." Nussbaum illustrates his point by presenting me (!) as a typical Orthodox Jewish scientist who denies evolution. He writes: "Professor Nathan Aviezer penned a book in 2001, entitled Fossils and Faith, in which he dismisses evolution and paleontology."

The facts are quite otherwise. In my book, I devote an entire chapter (entitled, "Evolution--Is There a Problem Here?") to demonstrating that there is no contradiction whatsoever between evolution and Orthodox Judaism. The last sentence of that chapter (p. 84) states: "It follows that the religious person has no cause to oppose the scientific findings about evolution." I could list one hundred quotes from my book that treat evolution as a fact.

My colleagues and friends include dozens of Orthodox Jews, both eminent scientists and non-scientists, who accept the theory of evolution as readily as they accept any other well-established scientific theory. They would be amused to learn that they have therefore been reclassified by Nussbaum "by definition" as not being Orthodox Jews.

Nussbaum begins his abstract with the following assertion: "Denial of evolution is a defining characteristic of education in Orthodox Judaism." One may assess the validity of this assertion by considering the two citadels of Orthodox Jewish university education: Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Yeshiva University in New York.

At Bar-Ilan University, a course is taught on "Torah and Science" (Torah means the first five books of the Bible), whose enrollment typically exceeds 500. This course emphasizes the complete compatibility between evolution and the Torah. At Yeshiva University, Carl Feit, an Orthodox Jew, is Professor of Biology and Health Sciences. His views regarding evolution can be seen from his scathing review of a book denying evolution, authored by a Jewish fundamentalist. Feit writes: "The premature demise of Darwinian thought has been proclaimed [by fundamentalists] for more than 100 years, bur the theory has proven to be a very robust paradigm, and remains the regnant theory of modern biology. It is not prudent to tie the validity of the Torah to the downfall of Darwin, especially since the two are compatible, as I have demonstrated" (emphasis added).

The Orthodox Union is the central organization of Orthodox rabbis in the United States. Nussbaum writes: "the Orthodox Union has branded evolution as not 'kosher' ... declaring evolution to be incompatible with Orthodoxy." That this statement is erroneous follows from the fact that the Orthodox Union's official journal (Jewish Action, Summer 1998, pp. 127-28) published Feit's book review that denounces the denial of evolution and emphatically asserts that evolution is compatible with Orthodox Judaism.

The book Challenge: Torah Views on Science is described by Nussbaum as "promoting creationism." In fact, the exact opposite is true! This book demonstrates that Orthodox Judaism rejects creationism by quoting prominent Orthodox rabbis who accept evolution. For example, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook writes (p. 136): "Thinking people have always seen gradual, evolutionary development in the spiritual essence ... the same principle applies in the physical development of the visible world." Rabbi Zvi Chajes writes (p. 135): "This lends strong support to the passage in the Talmud [that] they were formed by evolution, following the natural laws inscribed by God. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jews for Darwin: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Orthodox Judaism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.