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What is the Jewish view on Evolution and the age of the universe?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Contradiction 

The Torah states clearly that the world has a Creator and He created a complete world in 6 days. Science says the world came about on its own, and in a long slow evolving process over billions of years.

Can the two be reconciled?

Some say it can't, which leads them to dismiss one or the other. Others try hard to find a reconciliation, which usually consists of an interpretation only accepted by some.

I say the two don't have to be reconciled. There is no contradiction.

Age of Universe 

Simply put, picture this: I say you look 32. Your birth certificate says you are 58. Is there a contradiction?

No. You are 58, but you look 32.

If you ask two different questions, you will have two different answers. Both true. If we are discussing appearance, the truth is 321. If we are discussing actual age, the truth is 58.

Science, which is based on observable phenomena2, says the universe appears to be billions of years old. Torah doesn't say otherwise. As a matter of fact, Torah supports the idea that the world looks older than it actually is.3

the universe required billions of years to evolve naturally, yet G-d created it in 6 days
Torah, which is a Divine memo, says the reality is the world didn't progress gradually from 0, and therefore didn't take billions of years to get to where it is today. The world was created supernaturally, and complete, and it only happened 57684 years ago. Science can't argue with that.5

The person who refuses to believe in G-d has no reason to assume the actual age of the universe is any different than it appears to be. And the person who believes in G-d, has no problem accepting that the world looks older than it actually is.

Evolution of Species

Similarly, there is no contradiction between creating a theoretic possibility of evolving species, and simultaneously saying that the actual process of creation didn't follow that theory.

Simply put, picture this: you come to my house for dinner. I put out a spread fit for a king. You say 'wow, it must have taken you days to prepare this'. I say, 'it actually took me five minutes; one phone call to a local Kosher restaurant.'

The fundamental difference between Creation and Evolution is not in the past, but in the present and future.
Truth be told, if I had to make it myself, or if you are going to make this dinner at your place next week, it would take days, or weeks. But the fact is I purchased it, and it therefore didn't take much time at all.

If nature were to make a world it would very likely take billions of years. But nature didn't make it; it was delivered.

When we know that scientifically the universe required billions of years to evolve naturally, yet G-d created it in 6 days, we are all the more in awe of our Creator.

The Difference

The fundamental difference between Creation and Evolution is not in the past, but in the present and future. The divergence lies primarily in whether the world and all its inhabitants, including you, exist randomly or for a reason.

Ironically, the paradigm that relies heavily on our own observation and understanding renders us fortuitous creatures in a pointless universe, whilst the Divine viewpoint endows us with values and responsibilities reflective of our Creator.

When we teach children the Torah account of Creation, we are in effect telling them life is sacred, intentional, and has a cosmic purpose. When we teach them the scientific observation, we are in effect telling them life is random and devoid of innate meaning.

Thus the details and numbers expressed in these different views are not contradictory, but at their core they are in fact polar opposites.

Footnotes

  • 1. Appearance is subjective; someone who looks 32 to you can look 28 or 36 to someone else. Similarly, the scientific 'view' of the age of the universe varies depending on the particular field and era of scientific knowledge.
  • 2. Wikipedia: "Science is reasoned-based analysis of sensation upon our awareness. As such, the scientific method cannot deduce anything about the realm of reality that is beyond what is observable by existing or theoretical means."
  • 3. See Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a - Trees were created already bearing fruit, and the world was created in complete form. See Midrash Rabba Breishis 14:7 - the moment Adam was born he appeared to be 20 years old.
  • 4. This article was written in 2008
  • 5. See note 2.

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COMMENTS

jewish view of universe

Posted by: kevin, tillingham, essex, england on Dec 15, 2010

The way you put points across is simple and eloquent

I am leaning about God and his plan for his children again in a new way

I teach my kids that looks can be deceptive but never equated this to the creation Thank you.


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