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Are Evolution and Creation a contradiction?

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow

  

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Question: 

Hi, my name is Mikayla and i go to a Jewish day school, i am 15 years old and am in grade 9. My question is: What is the Torah's opinion on the theory of evolution vs. its own statement of creation, and how are we supposed to believe both? We learn both theories in school and as a scholar it is confusing. Please can you help me!!?? Thank you
 
Answer:

Dear Mikayla,

You asked how we reconcile the Torah description of Genesis with modern scientific theory. There is a discrepancy of several billion years between the two.

I will respond to the question on two levels. First I would like to qualify the question then I would like to offer a number of possible answers. Please bear with me and read it through to the end.

I am happy to respond to any questions that may occur to you in the course of reading my letter.

Science

I begin by touching on the Jewish approach to the general question of scientific findings in contra distinction to Torah truths. It is common to speak of scientific truth versus Torah claims but I deliberately chose the terms scientific findings versus Torah truths because science can do no more than find or discover information as Scientists come across it.

There is no question that the information we know is less than the information we don't. As we continue to discover newer and newer secrets (otherwise known as findings) our ideas take on new dimensions and our picture of the universe takes on greater shape. At every point in the process we must remember that we are still on the road to discovery. We still don't have all the information, our scientific picture is still incomplete, and as we gather more information and newer discoveries, our understanding of the universe will change again.

Scientific knowledge has evolved a great deal from the early days of Galileo, to the days of Sir Isaac Newton, and even since the era of Albert Einstein. Truths we held sacred in Galileo's day were found to be false in Newton's day. Truths held sacred in Newton's day were debunked in Einstein's day. Some of what we did not understand in Einstein's day is now much better understood. Science is continuously evolving and there is no telling when and where it will end.

It is clear that one can never lay claim to absolute truth when relying on scientific evidence because the truth as we know it today will in all probability evolve further. It is true that many scientific theories have been proven in laboratory experimentation but even those theories cannot withstand the test of time. As we discover newer information it may very well affect our understanding of the experiments conducted, of the results achieved, and thus affect the conclusions reached.

Cosmology

This is true of all scientific knowledge but especially of your field of interest, cosmology. Cosmology deals with the question of how the universe came about, how long did it take to develop into what it is today, and attempts to burrow down into the building blocks of physical matter - atomic and subatomic particles.

Much more is left to guess in this field science than in fields such as mathematics, medicine and astronomy. There are no telescopes that can show us what the world looked like before it was ever captured on camera. There are no microscopes that can show us how physical matter actually came to be. The best we can do is analyze the particles that make up matter as we see it today and extrapolate from there. At best we can only guess (and hope?) that the process as we observe it today has not significantly changed since its inception.

If anything has changed that might affect either the process itself or the speed by which it progresses, then all cosmological calculations would be significantly affected, especially if it has changed in ways that we cannot project. 

Torah

Contrast this uncertainty with Torah. Torah does not propose theories, attempt to corroborate them and then claim understanding, Torah lays claim to the truth from the very start. I grant that it requires a leap of faith to accept that the word of Torah is the word of G-d but irrespective of the popularity of this belief the Torah does lay claim to eternal truths; truths that need not be proven for they are known to the author of those truths. G-d created the world, knows more about it than any other, and reported those truths to us in the Torah.


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COMMENTS

Bereshis

Posted by: will goodall, exeter, uk on Nov 26, 2009

dear R.Gurkow

You said...

Science is telling you how old the world looks, and the Torah is telling you hold the world is.

From a human vantage point the universe seems billions of years old; so science, which is the analasys of human perceivable knowledge, is accurate in its conclusion3. But the world is not a human project, it is a divine creation, so the Torah, which is a Divine memo, shares a little secret: the world is a lot younger than it looks.

Simply Brilliant !!!! Wish I 'd thought of that -

rhetorical question - where did you get that insight from?

kind regards

will g


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Philosophy » Creation

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