Sunday, January 16, 2005

OU Jewish Action magazine article claimed universe is billions of years old, still on website. Will it be banned? Will it be removed?


At 9:38 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...
How "long" Genesis' initial stage of creation endured is indeterminate. Therefore, an estimate of the age of the universe in billions of years and Genesis' description of a pre-temporal period are not at odds. One could even say that these billions of years - units of measure that humans can mouth but harly grasp fit the Torah's mysterious, untamble "one day."

Letters regarding this article:

At 11:40 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5761/2000
Readers Respond to “Genesis, Cosmology, and Evolution ”Summer 5760/2000

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg attempts to resolve the contradiction between Genesis and the scientific theories of evolution and cosmology, in his article entitled “Genesis, Cosmology, and Evolution.” I would like to offer several com-ments:1) In his article, Rabbi Goldberg states repeatedly that Darwin wrote his book, The Origin of Species, as a challenge to Genesis: “Darwin intended to disprove...the Genesis creation story” and “the Genesis that Darwin disproved...” are direct quotes. In the Index of my copy of The Origin of Species(Mentor Reprint Edition,1958, New American Library), the entries Genesis or Bible do not appear. Nor do either of these words appear in Darwin’s 15 chapter headings or in his167 chapter subheadings. In fact, nowhere in his book does Darwin discuss the relationship between his theory of evolution and the Genesis creation story. Darwin’s view of the relationship between his theory and the idea that the animal kingdom arose through the action of a Divine Creator, can be found in the stirring words of the final paragraph of The Origin of Species: There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms...and from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have evolved.2) A major topic of the article is the enormous discrepancy between the time scale of Genesis (six days) and that of the cosmologists (15 billion years) for the origin and development of the universe. To resolve this discrepancy, Rabbi Goldberg invokes Einstein’s theory of relativity: The relevance of Einsteinian relativity to the discrepancy between the calendar of the Torah and of the contemporary cosmologist is obvious. There is, in fact, no discrepancy. Rather, there are two elapsed times for the same events...Six days, fifteen billion years; one event, two elapsed times. The proposal of an Einsteinian resolution of the discrepancy between the time scales of Genesis and of cosmology appears in a book, whose author also presented the same proposal in an article (The Age of the Universe: Six Days and 15 Billion Ye a r s) published in the Fall 1991 issue of Jewish Action. This article generated a letter to the editor (Spring 1992) by Professor Barry Simon, who characterized this proposal as “a fundamental misunderstanding of basic physics...immediately recognized as fallacious by professional physicists . . . contrary to modern astrophysical contradiction to astronomical observation.” The author of the article responded by stating that: “ I think that he [Professor Simon] errs.” Let me assure the reader that Professor Simon did not err in his trenchant criticism of this proposal. Barry Simon is an observant Jew and he is also the IBM Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Ph y s i c sat the California Institute of Technology, the former Vice President of the American Mathematical Society, and an editor for over 20 years of an important mathematics journal. This world-famous scientist is not in the habit of “erring” in basic matters of theoretical physics. 3) Rabbi Goldberg also proposes another approach for resolving the time scales: The age of the universe is speculation because science cannot prove that physical change in the past proceeded under present conditions. Perhaps, a process now described as taking one million years actually took only a few hours...perhaps, therefore, the Earth really is but a few thousand years old. Rabbi Goldberg is certainly correct in stating that cosmological processes that occur very slowly today, took place with amazing rapidity under the extreme conditions that existed at the beginning of the universe. However, scientists are well aware of this fact. Indeed, this fact has been emphasized by the dramatic title that Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg chose for his famous book on modern cosmology: The First Three Minutes. Professor Weinberg explains that all the cosmological events involved in the creation of the universe occurred within a very few minutes. However, a short time after the initial creation, the conditions of the universe settled down to become reasonably similar to present-day conditions. As cosmologist Joseph Silk puts it (The Big Bang, p. 151), “A few minutes after the big bang, the nuclear fire-works ceased.” For billions of years now, rapid cosmological events no longer occur anywhere in the universe. How can one be so sure of what conditions were like in the far distant past? How can we know that nuclear reaction rates (one of the scientific proofs for the multi-billion-year age of the universe) have not changed in the course of time? According to the big bang theory of cosmology, the elements hydrogen and helium were formed shortly after the creation of the universe, billions of years ago. If we assume that nuclear reaction rates then were the same as they are today, then one can calculate the helium-to-hydrogen ratio that should exist in the universe today. When one measures this ratio, one finds the calculated value. This con-firms that nuclear reaction rates indeed remained unchanged over billions of years. 4) In his discussion of evolution, Rabbi Goldberg ridicules the modern scientific concept of “complexity theory” or “self - organized criticality,” writing: Consider an alternative explanation, self-organization or “complexity theory.” Almost like the spontaneous combustion of old, self-organization asserts that systems with a large number of interacting components spontaneously organize themselves into ordered patterns...Notice the irony: It is an unacceptable leap of faith to embrace God and His design of the universe, but it is an acceptable leap of faith to embrace spontaneous self-organization of staggeringly complex bio-chemical interactions! The concept of self-organized criticality that Rabbi Goldberg considers so ludicrous (“leap of faith”), is now recognized by leading scientific authorities to be the fundamental explanation for hitherto unexplained behavior of complex systems. These include not only biological systems (evolution), but also physical, geological, financial, cosmological, fluid dynamical, and many other complex systems. Recent findings about self-organized criticality were deemed so important that in 1984, three Nobel laureates —Philip Anderson, Murray Gell - Mann ,and Kenneth Arrow — established the Sante Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research institution devoted to the study of the many implications of self-organized criticality for a wide variety of disciplines, including evolutionary biology. Professor Leo Kadanoff of the University of Chicago has emphasized the importance of this new field of science in the March 1991 issue of Physics Today(bulletin of the American Physical Society). In a White House ceremony last March, Kadanoff was awarded the National Medal of Science, America’s highest distinction. In his article, Rabbi Goldberg completely dismisses the results of all this research, carried out by some of the world’s most distinguished scientists.5) Rabbi Goldberg states that Darwinism can readily be refuted on the basis of scientific findings in “mathematics, paleontology, logic, and biochemistry.” He then systematically discusses these four areas, claiming that each area reveals basic flaws in Darwin’s theory of evolution. At this stage, the reader might be wondering: If it is really so obvious that the theory of evolution is incorrect, why has this fact not been noticed previously by the scientific community? Why do so many outstanding scientists continue to support the theory of evolution? I truly regret that limitations of space do not permit me to discuss in detail each of Rabbi Goldberg’s arguments against evolution, and I must be content with pointing out that all the leading scientists, including many Nobel prize winners, are well aware of these arguments, and have found themunconvincing.6) Rabbi Goldberg is correct in his basic message that a remarkable harmony has recently been discovered between the literal text of the Genesis creation story and modern science. And this important message should be emphasized. However, in spite of this overall harmony, there certainly exist statements in the first chapter of Genesis that are simply incompatible with modern science. The most striking example is the time scale (6 days versus 15 billion years). What is one to do when it becomes clear that there is a discrepancy between well-established scientific knowledge and certain words in the text of Genesis? This question has been discussed in detail by the Rambam (Guide for thePerplexed, Part II, Chapter 25), who states that it is not necessary to understand each and every word of the Genesis creation story in its literal meaning. If well-established science asserts (and it does) that it is impossible to understand the “Six Days of Creation” literally, as six 24-hour periods of time, then the Rambam instructs us to interpret these Genesis words figuratively. On this basis, one may interpret the “Six Days” as referring to the six phases (of unspecified time) in the creation and development of the universe. In the incisive words of the Rambam, “The paths of interpretation are not closed to us.”

Professor Nathan Aviezer Bar-Ilan University, Israel

I must respond to Rabbi Hillel Goldberg ‘s article “Genesis ,Cosmology, and Evolution”. The period of time during which “creation” occurred is discussed. This period of time cannot be determined scientifically for the believer of the Torah. We believe creation was an event or process not governed by the physical laws as we know them today. “Creation” was miraculous. Science, on the other hand, only considers that change can take place under the influence of physical laws which they [scientists] consider to be immutable. Thus when they see a river bed, they calculate the time it would take for a stream of water of a given flow rate to erode a bed of land through which this river flows which contains a particular geological composition to a depth of so many feet. Thus, they may say that the Grand Canyon was formed in, say, a million years due to the flow of the Colorado River. Other methods of time measurement such as the radioactive com-position of rocks, which decay at a theoretical fixed rate, have also been measured. These measurements come out to hundreds of millions of years. Could the world be so old? We know that the world is 5760 years old! The scientific measurements are all based upon a common fallacy. The world was not created “new”! God created the chicken before the egg. The first man was not created with a diaper but walked through the Garden of Eden on his first day. The Garden contained trees — not seeds. If the trees would have been cut, they would have rings and appear to be many years old. The four rivers mentioned in Bereshis had riverbeds that may have “appeared” to be quite eroded. God made the world to “appear” old. A scientist measuring radioactive decay in the Garden might also conclude that the Garden was a billion years old. If God could create life, He certainly could make the world as it is today to be hospitable to man. God didn’t need to waste billions of years to go through “natural” physical processes since He created the nature of these processes Himself. I must also take exception to the comment, “To Nachmanides, it might make no difference if humanity were descended from a common ancestor to apes.” When God created man from “earth, Adam from adama, he blew into him the spirit of life. The spirit of God was blown into Adam. An ape is just a dumb animal. Darwin’s Theory concerning the creation of species is wrong! It was never proven or demonstrated. Yes, species can adapt within a certain range, but they don’t become another species. In halachah we find a concept of Nishtana HaTeva: (Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer, Chalek 2, Tshuva 3, Anaf 2).The nature of people has changed over the thousands of years so that medicines mentioned in earlier periods may not be effective today. But we are still the same human species with the same basic abilities and limitations. Let us not be ashamed to tell the truth. We, who received the Torah, have a tradition that goes back 5760 years which names names and describes generations from the very beginning. The poor scientists who don’t have this tradition or don’t believe in it have to speculate, make measurements today, and then extrapolate them out to the very distant past. They, themselves, say that the world has changed since creation, which contradicts the basic assumption upon which those extrapolations were made— that there was no change. They also have no basis upon which to speculate about the initial conditions. They had to try and figure out a mechanism whereby some non-life could become life and develop more complexity with time. This was a very difficult project. It cannot happen without a Creator who was a perfect designer. Michael J. Bebe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Free Press, 1996) and “Darwin Under the Microscope,” The New York Times, OP-ED, Oct. 26, 1996, page A25,shows that even a three piece mechanism such as a mouse trap could not have been produced without an intelligent designer. In his book, he shows that many complicated steps are required to accomplish apparently simple processes, such as blood clotting. The body’s pumping and piping systems, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the neurological (automatic) control system, hearing, eye sight, intelligence, and memory could not be achieved without a super, master designer of infinite intelligence. Only God could be that designer! It is those scientists who ignore all the complications of the functions of the body in order to continue to follow the desires of their heart who have to be ashamed of the Truth. Only God could have given them the ability to rationalize, speculate without basis, and ignore that which stares them in the face! Professor Elliot Rothkopf Engineering Science and Physics Coordinator, Engineering Technology College of Staten Island/CUNY Rabbi Hillel Goldberg (Genesis, Cosmology, and Evolution) was obviously well intended and his challenges to Darwinian evolution were well stated. However, despite those qualities, his article undermines most basic pillars of our emunah. He trusts and accepts contemporary cosmological dating, in totem, and therefore feels he is doing the Torah a service by having Genesis conform to cosmology. However, in fact such dating is based on theory; it is not proven science. Therefore, in truth he has done a most serious disservice to your Jewish readership. A Torah believing Jew will gain much by knowing science. Ibn Paquda and Maimonides demonstrate how to use the broad knowledge of science to further one’s recognition of God. In consonance with that idea, an accurate, unbiased, scientific approach to dating the universe will result in time spans that are consistent with the traditional and accepted understanding of the Torah, as follows. Firstly, there is no reason to feel forced to accept an age of billions of years as scientific fact. There is enough evidence for a young earth. I will cite some briefly, to hopefully undo some of the harm done to the emunah of those who have been constantly exposed to the one-sided writings of the media and academia. The atmosphere has in it radiogenichelium released during the decay of radioactive uranium into lead. Additional helium enters our atmosphere from the sun and the earth’s core. Had the earth been as old as contemporary cosmology claims, there would have been up to a million times more than currently exists. Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Melvin Cooke believes that there is so little atmospheric helium because the world is relatively young. Measurements have been taken of the earth’s magnetic field since 1835.It has been determined that the strength of the field has decreased by6% since then, the half life being roughly 1100 years. If the earth would be more than 10,000 years old, its magnetic field would have been so strong as to indicate a nuclear power source such as a star or our sun. The earth was never a sun and therefore cannot be even 10,000 years old. The population growth in recent centuries is between .5 and 2 % per year. The world population today is several billion people. If mankind would have existed for a million years, the population would be trillions of trillions (actually 10 to the 2100thpower). Even if they perished, there would have been fossil evidence that such great numbers existed. If the universe is ancient, why are there short lived comets still orbiting the sun and stars? Evolutionists claim there is a comet cloud somewhere, which replenishes the supply. However, such a cloud has never been observed or detected. Scientific measurements of the lack of great amounts of space dust on the moon and earth, the shrinking energy of the sun, trace materials being washed into the ocean, and other observations all indicate a young earth. Much of the evolutionist dating methods are self-serving and use circular reasoning. They declare ‘lower forms’ as ancient. They then declare the rocks containing fossils of such forms to be ancient. They then prove that lower forms are ancient because they are found in ancient rocks. Evolutionists must claim an ancient universe in order to allow time for the evolution they claim to have occurred. In addition, I have yet to hear a theory of the arrival of that material which supposedly banged to start with. In the creation model, Adam opened his eyes to see grown animals and tree s .Measurements of trees and stars on day one would have given the impression that the world had been in existence for much longer than one day .My objective here is not to prove conclusively that the earth is young. It is merely to demonstrate that there is sufficient scientific evidence for an intelligent person to subscribe to the theory of a young earth. In truth, the creation model for the origin of the universe is considerably more logical, sound and scientific than the evolutionary model. Secondly, to use Einstein’s poorly understood theory of relativity as license to say that one day equals a million years is science fiction. Thirdly, to publish a statement that the world was created in a billion years (which is Yom Echod), which of course none of the earlier commentaries ever said, is contrary to thousands of years of our tradition. Hashem spoke to us in terms we are expected to comprehend. To redefine whatever one chooses and to declare it is a secret of Hashem is distorting what has been our unbroken tradition. It is destructive to the very pillars of our faith. Rabbi Goldberg was bold enough to meet Darwinian evolution head on; he should do the same with contemporary cosmology. The author needn’t feel apologetic about dinosaurs. Their fossils exist; they once lived on earth, probably about 4,000 years ago. One likely possibility for the cause of their disappearance is the great flood. Incidentally, a story of the mabul (great flood) is corroborated in the ancient writings of several old civilizations, independent of the Torah. Many species of animals have disappeared, such as the mastodons, sabertoothed tigers, and dodo birds. Some have become extinct as recently as within the last 50 years. Rabbi Goldberg tries to separate the relationship between evolution and design. There are only two theories or models for origins, randomness and design. If you disprove one, you remain with the other. Is there a third option? Scientific Creationists per-form an important service in publishing facts that show the weaknesses and refutation of evolutionary theory and by demonstrating design, which indicates a designer or Creator. The information they discover and publish is intentionally ignored by the politically correct press. Their work should be encouraged. One more point. Judaism is not a religion based on a blind “leap of faith.” To reduce our religion to such, would give it no greater legitimacy than some other religions whose claims and principles are nonsense, and when questioned, its proponents instruct one to take a leap of faith. Rather, the Torah expects us to think, examine nature and history, and there by gain conviction that there is a Creator. We are expected to learn our history and there by internalize the realization that God can and has performed miracles, and that He has chosen our fore fathers and us. We should recognize the kindness and justice in the Torah .After all that, if there are problems in our personal life or in world history that we don’t understand, we go to the next step of having faith. The analogy is to one who has a generous and wise father who always does what is in his son’s best interest. When the son asks the father for a motorcycle and the father says no, the son now extends his faith in his father. The son says to himself that his father has always been so good to him that his father’s refusal now must also be good. To blindly take a leap of faith with no basis and in something that makes no sense, is contrary to logic, and is foolishness. If on a significant issue a stranger says, “trust me — take a leap of faith,” the response should be “absolutely not.” In conclusion, the claim of an ancient universe is theory. The onus of proof is upon its proponents. Enough scientists support the young earth and creation model. It is not in the service of the Torah or truth to reengineer Genesis. Jewish Action which always publishes fascinating articles of Jewish interest should print another article demonstrating the scientific basis for a young universe that supports the traditional understanding of Genesis.
Rabbi Sigmund Friedman, M.D. Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Zichron Eliezer Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Goldberg responds: Dr. Aviezer’s letter makes six comments. 1. I am, frankly, flabbergasted by the first one — the lack of references to “Genesis” or “Bible” in the index and chapter headings of The Origin of Species. I am trained as an intellectual historian. I am trained, among other things, to ask such questions: What does a text say? What does it omit? Why does it omit it? What intentions does the author express outside the text? Why does the author express them outside the text, not inside it? What other sources, such as letters or oral history, reveal the author’s thoughts? What are the author’s agendas? Dr. Aviezer is blithely unaware that any of this is relevant to a study of Darwin, to The Origin of Species, to those who promoted his book, to those who objected to it, and to those who canonized it. He assumes that if I use the word “Darwin” I can only denote by this the actual written text of The Origin of Species. When I use “Darwin,” I mean the totality of Darwin’s thought in, around, and behind the text. That is why I cite Gertrude Himmelfarb’s fine piece of intellectual history on the topic. It fills in a picture of which Dr. Aviezeris unaware. I also carefully distinguish between “Darwin,” “Darwinists,” and“Darwinism.”2. On the time scale of Genesis, I cannot respond to Dr. Aviezer’s invocation of authority. He simply says that I am wrong because somebody says so. That somebody has outstanding credentials — as do the scientists I cited. To pit one person’s credentials against another’s is to avoid argument. It is evasion. It means nothing to say that I am wrong. Dr. Aviezer must explain how I am wrong. He does not even try. Particularly diversionary is Dr. Aviezer’s reference to his science expert as “an observant Jew.” The issue here is not the meaning of science (for which Orthodox credentials are relevant), but the science itself. Michael J.Behe, a biochemist whom I cite in another context, is a Catholic. This is as irrelevant as one’s status as an observant Jew to scientific analysis. 3. Dr. Aviezer’s entire point about a" very old" universe is vitiated by his one telling phrase, “If we assume . . .”Based on assumptions, one can prove anything. A major thrust of my article was to identify the assumptions many scientists make, and thus the tentative nature of their conclusions about a" very old" universe. On the other hand, I indicated that even if scientific assumptions about rates of change are correct, if the universe really is very old_ this does not necessarily pose a challenge to Genesis. Genesis is more complex than both scientific assumption and unidimensional interpretation .4. Dr. Aviezer is right. I ridiculed complexity theory, but only regarding evolutionary biology. It is clear what has transpired. Darwinism’s view of life’s origin, for over a century hailed by scientists as unassailable, no longer holds up to biochemical scrutiny and other criticism. Science, not religion, defeated Darwin on this pivotal point. But rather than dispassionately reexamine assumptions, some scientists counter that life “self-organized” —and expect this to be taken seriously! As to complexity theory’s views on physical, geological, financial, cosmological, fluid dynamical and other complex systems, I said nothing. Obviously, however, even if the theory is valid for these fields, this is not an argument for its validity in evolutionary biology. That would require substantive argument, which, again, Dr. Aviezer does not even try. He merely cites authorities, without, however, even identifying their fields of expertise. One is a Nobel Prize winner in economics. In biochemistry — a field directly relevant to our topic —Professor Behe finds “self-organization” as complexity theory’s explanation of the biochemical origin of life to be an idea never once validated in a laboratory.5. Dr. Aviezer wonders how evolutionary biology could be wrong if so many outstanding scientists continue to support it. Well, the “scientists” he cites include a Nobel Prize winner in economics! That’s like saying that a talmid chacham is an expert in higher mathematics just because both fields require a superb intellect. A Nobel Prize in economics says nothing one way or the other about the validity of evolutionary biology. Further, evolutionary biology is of critical importance mainly to those who believe in Genesis as God’s word and to evolutionary biologists. As for others, they, like I, accept any number of popularly held, invalid theories that are not germane to our lives. I find it impossible for anyone reasonably aware of the complexity of human knowledge today not to say the same about himself. Popular assent is not a necessary indication of truth. However, popular assent, even by the most learned in society, is frequently wrong as a matter of historical record. For hundreds of years, for example, leading scientific minds accepted Newtonian physics, much of which, however, Einstein overturned. “Proof” from authority is not proof. There is another critical issue. Atheism claims a certain segment of the current climate of opinion. Darwinism is easily read to support atheism. “Climate of opinion” is a mode of historical explanation that cuts below stated claims to unstated, pervasive assumptions. Darwinism, like other intellectual trends, can remain persuasive not due to its stated truth claims, but due to its congruence with an unstated climate of opinion.6. As I elaborated in the article and summarize above, it is not established either that the universe is 15 billions years old or that Genesis asserts that the universe was created in 172 60-minute hours. Hence, I find Dr. Aviezer’s resort to the Rambam unnecessary. I also find his use of the R a m b a m’s view of “literal meaning” to be just as simplistic as his analysis of The Origin of Species based on its index. The words of the late Professor Marvin Fox are germane:". . . one feature of biblical language is that terms often have multiple meanings. . . . Think for a moment of the ordinary English word pitch . . . As a verb it can refer to putting up a tent, throwing a ball, or helping someone (as ‘to pitch in’). As a noun it can refer to a musical tone, tar, a downward slope, a high point (as in ‘the pitch of success’), or the patter of a salesperson. . .We are not likely to confuse a pitcher of water with a pitcher in a baseball game or the key of C with tar. Yet Maimonides claims that when it comes to reading Scripture, this is exactly what we do. We tend to treat the language as monochromatic, and we fail to respond to the range and richness of meanings of biblical terms. "The Rambam beckons us to engage in sophisticated readings. One need not establish harmony between Genesis and modern science on the basis of “figurative” readings. One need not move that far from the text. One may understand Genesis literally, yet not simplistically. The agenda of my article was in the spirit of the Rambam — to provide a close and often literal reading of Genesis, and to show how that could include much of contemporary cosmology and need not include much of evolutionary biology. Dr. Rothkopf sets forth one possible cosmological reading of Genesis with-out, however, substantiating that it is the only possible reading. Apparently he takes me to task for setting forth alternative readings (including his own), all of which are subsumed under the strictures of the Orthodox Jewish faith. His unidimensional reading of our faith is a possible one, but not a necessary one. Significantly, he cites no authoritative Jewish sources to render his claims exclusivistic. On the other hand, he apparently supports my expose of the presuppositions of many scientists on this complex topic, since he cites in brief form that which I elaborated. For example, the work of Michael J. Behe. Another example: Dr.Rothkopf writes that Darwin’s theory has not demonstrated the evolution of one species into another. Precisely. But my point about Nachmanides (and the text of Genesis) is different, namely, that God created Adam through a precursor and that, therefore, if Darwin and his circle had possessed a fine knowledge of Hebrew, of Genesis and of Rashi, they would less likely have adopted such a strong anti-religious polemic. Much indignity heaped upon religion in the19th and 20th centuries might have been diminished, not to mention the human suffering inflicted in the name of “social Darwinism . ”Dr. Rothkopf writes that “God made the world to ‘appear’ old,” that radioactive decay as measured now is not the way it occurred, and similar thoughts. He is right that nothing in the scientific record can prove otherwise, but is wrong that something in the Torah requires this approach exclusively. He seems unable to entertain other cosmological explanations, which, while consonant with the Torah, make more sense to contemporary science and therefore might build bridges between Torah and science. Should there be any such bridges? Dr. Rothkopf apparently thinks not. He writes, “Let us not be ashamed to tell the truth,” by which he means a truth at odds with science. While I am mindful that the first law in the Shulchan Aruchis not to be ashamed of the truth in the face of those who mock it, this dichotomy is simply no longer the reality in contemporary cosmology. The “truth,” as Dr. Rothkopf understands it, is that “we, who received the Torah, have a tradition that goes back 5760 years . . .” He fails to understand that the definition of a “year” is the crux of the issue. A year is merely a function of time. And time, in Genesis, as I trust my article showed, is a very complex topic admit-ting of very different readings, all soundly based in the text of the Torah— and some of which suggest a bridge between Torah and cosmology. Dr. Rothkopf would have me be a fundamentalist, that is, one who believes in a unidimensional reading of Torah. Dr. Aviezer would have me be a figurativist, one who, upon confronting a conflict between Torah and science, is content with only the most general resolutions. Neither hermeneutic is necessary, given the absolute truth of Torah and the increasingly sophisticated truths of science — and of its critics. Rabbi Friedman, MD, writes: “Rabbi Goldberg was bold enough to meet Darwinian evolution head on. He should do the same with contemporary cosmology.” I am not trying to be “bold,” as if a believer in the Torah need fear science, such that only with boldness can he confront it. Rather, I am trying to seek the truth. Rabbi Friedman writes: “He [Goldberg] feels he is doing the Torah a service by having Genesis conform to cosmology.” I am not having Genesis conform to anything. Genesis (like the rest of the Torah) is God’s word; it is other claims that must conform to it! Darwinism does not. Certain trends in cosmology— such as an uncreated, cyclically expanding and contracting universe —do not. But amazingly, over the past70 years or so, the dominant trend in cosmology has come close, with its assertion that the universe had a beginning. It should be a delight when a major scientific trend, so long contradictory to faith, shifts course. This may make faith more attractive for large segments of humanity. Rabbi Friedman’s approach strikes me as fearful of the use of science, despite his advocacy of a broad knowledge of science “to further one’s recognition of God.” He advocates this, but seems to shrink from it. For him, “a scientific approach to dating the universe will result in time spans that are consistent with the[my emphasis]traditional and accepted understanding of the Torah.” Leave aside, for a moment, that he cites no sources for his claim for “the” traditional and accepted understanding, as if there were only one — as if no leading Torah authorities had addressed this issue in the last 100 years. Leave aside, for a moment, that the ideas of the late Rabbi Shimon Schwab are very similar to my own. Leave aside that I am reliably told that the late rosh yeshivah , Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner, did not necessarily regard Genesis’ days as denoting 24-hour spans. And grant that Genesis’ days can be read to mean at least five 24-hour spans, and that the earth can be “you n g” (as I stated in my article). I am still left with this question of Rabbi Friedman: If another scientific approach, wholly consistent with the text of Genesis, furthers one’s recognition of God, why fear it? Rabbi Friedman writes of my use of this approach: “To use Einstein’s poorly understood theory of relativity as license to say that one day equals a million years[my emphasis] is science fiction . ”Throughout, Rabbi Friedman’s letter subtly but consistently oversimplifies what I wrote. Here, for example, I did not say, “equals a million years;” I said, could equal a million years. This is not semantics. Remember, we are dealing with the distant past. We are dealing with conditions that can longer be observed. No one, neither believer nor scientist, can reproduce the conditions of creation and measure them now. Scientifically, any explanation is ultimately contingent. That is why I replied above to Dr. Aviezer that he has not established the age of the universe as 15 billion years. So, of course, I could not say equals. I could say in the name of Professor Gerald Schroeder that, given Einsteinian concepts, one day of creation could equal a million years from God’s perspective. Observe this irony: Making the very same assumption, Dr. Aviezer and Rabbi Friedman come to diametrically opposed conclusions. This shows the danger of assumptions. Dr. Aviezer insists on a 15 billion year old universe because he assumes that current processes of change were always this way. These processes measure an “old” universe. But processes in the past may have been drastically faster than now, and that would render the universe “young.” Rabbi Friedman, on the other hand, insists on a “young” universe. In (for example) his citation of Dr. Melvin Cooke, Rabbi Friedman assumes that processes of radioactive decay were always this way. These processes measure a “young” universe. But processes in the past may have been drastically slower than now, and that would render the universe “old.” Dr. Aviezer’s and Rabbi Friedman’s diametrically opposed positions both assume that processes of change in the distant past were the same as now. Either the professor or the rabbi may be right, but the position of neither can be tested. Therefore, I observed that the universe may be young or old, and set out to show how even an old universe can conform with Genesis. Frankly, I find it difficult to under-stand what so agitates Rabbi Friedman— to the extent that he regards my exploration of cosmology as “undermin[ing] most basic pillars of our emunah” — when he himself, after opposing me at length, reaches the same conclusion I do. He seems to know that evidence from demography, Darwinian circularity, and scientific measurements is countered by very different evidence, for he concludes: “My objective here is not to prove conclusively that the earth is young.” Well, then, by Rabbi Friedman’s logic, his objective undermines basic pillars of emunah !By my logic, Rabbi Friedman merely reflects the indeterminacy of projecting the present tempo of change or decay onto the distant past. He does avoid inconvenient facts. He refers to a half life (though its referent is unclear) to establish a “young earth, ”while not referring to such things as radioactive potassium, whose half life is 1,300 million years. Still, Rabbi Friedman insists that the way I made the “old earth” possibility conform with Genesis is, to quote him, “science fiction.” The atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not science fiction. The revolution in scientific knowledge that made this awesome weaponry possible shares one salient characteristic with the revolution in our understanding of time. The concepts of both revolutions are eerily contrary to the perception of human beings — drastically counterintuitive. In two papers, both published in1905, Albert Einstein significantly advanced one of the two scientific revolutions of the modern era, quantum mechanics; and he founded the other, relativity. Quantum mechanics is far more fantastic than any science fiction. Einstein showed that light is dual. It is particles, not just waves. As quantum mechanics developed, matter was shown to be dual — an electron is a wave, not just a particle. And an electron can occupy two orbits instantaneously. And there is such a thing as a “massless particle.” And quantum computations yield different results, depending on the order in which they are performed (2x3 does not equal3x2). And matter has properties, no one of which can be completely specified if another one is. And this “uncertainty principle” is a key to understanding the behavior of a nucleus in fission (atomic bomb) and infusion (hydrogen bomb). No writer of science fiction could match any of this. Yet it is all true. Equally couterintuitive is the relativity of time. Time observed under one set of conditions can yield one, 24-hour earth day; the same period of duration observed under another set of conditions could be more or less than one, 24-hour earth day. Is this contrary to human perception? Yes. Is it “science fiction”? Just like Hiroshima is. The fantastic science of the sub-atomic world of “very small” and of the cosmological world of the “very large” dramatically increases my own recognition of God. From my reading of evolutionary biology and cosmology, I hazard this generalization: the biologists tend to be skeptics, the cosmologists tend to be believers. Many are awed by modern cosmology —awed to the point of belief in a Creator. Far from science fiction, the counterintuitive cosmology is both true and conducive to faith. And remember, to say that one day of Genesis could, from one perspective, equal one million years, is the same as to say that one million years, from another perspective, could equal one day of Genesis. The late Rabbi Shimon Schwab grasped this perfectly when, with reference not to Einsteinian physics but to his strikingly similar reading of Genesis, he wrote: “Billions of years during the era of creation are equal to six regular days today. . . . Science cannot help but count the age of the universe by billions of years. Yet these billions of years last six ordinary days. There is no inherent contradiction involved. ”Rabbi Friedman objects to my interpretation of yom echod. In sum, I wrote that the Torah does not say yom rishon, does not designate this day as part of the series of days to come, and therefore yom echod might not be of equivalent duration as the second-sixth days. It might be longer, immeasurably longer, and this could account for scientific measurements of an “old” universe. Rabbi Friedmans reasons
that since this is not said by any earlier commentator, it is “contrary to thousands of years of our tradition.” By his logic, Rabbi Friedman banishes chiddush from every beis midrash. Novel comment on unusual linguistic expressions in the Torah is the bread and butter of Orthodox intellectual life from rabbinic sermons to systematic commentaries. Of course, a chiddush, merely by being a chiddush, is not necessarily valid; its cogency must be evaluated. Rabbi Friedman merely stigmatizes a comment on Genesis that has not been made by an earlier commentator as “destructive to the very pillars of our faith.” I hate to think where this would put everything from Chiddushei Rabbeinu Chaim Halevito many of the leading commentaries on the Torah of the last 150 years. Rabbi Friedman writes: “There are only two theories or models for origins, randomness and design. If you disprove one, you remain with the other. Is there a third option?” This rhetorical question is a classic example of arguing in commensurately, the so called “apples and oranges” fallacy. Randomness is apples, design is oranges. Randomness is a scientific theory. Design is a conclusion of faith. I believe in design, but neither I nor any believer can prove it, since something cannot be proven unless it is falsifiable. Precisely my faith in God and His design of the universe renders a “proof” of design impossible for me, since, as a believer, I will not admit that the claim of design is subject to falsification. What my article added is that much evidence now renders evolutionary biology’s claim that design is false to be unfounded on scientific terms. Scientifically, this makes design attractive, not definitive. Rabbi Friedman does not seem to realize that by claiming design as a scientific theory, he is actually admitting the possibility of design’s — and a Designer’s — falsifiability. By trying to raise faith to the level of science, he is actually lowering faith. I should also like to point out that if we shift from Rabbi Friedman’s focus on origins, randomness itself is not easily excluded. First, there is evidence that no biochemical system could have come into existence randomly, but could have subsequently developed randomly. Second, the Torah includes a form of randomness — the lots used to select the scapegoat on Yom Kippur, for example. The precise philosophical implications of randomness in these two senses I did not specify. I explicity excluded randomness per se from the purview of my article. It is, however, not an either/or proposition. Rabbi Friedman objects to my supposed reduction of Judaism to a “blind‘ leap of faith.’’’ This phrase is not in my article. Again oversimplifying, Rabbi Friedman rewrites the phrases I use, “faith” and “leap of faith,” into “ blind leap of faith.” Rabbi Friedman writes, “To blindly take a leap of faith with no basis and in something that makes no sense, is contrary to logic, and is foolishness.” This is true, but how he got from what I wrote to this is a mystery. My context was this: the advocacy of faith in an article on science and Genesis in order to state that when it comes to the ultimate truth — to Go d— not everything is explainable. I wrote, “Truth is not total if it is totally demonstrable.” This summarizes Jewish faith from beginning to end. Moses ,asking to see God’s glory, was shown God’s “back,” but not His “face” (Ex .33:18, 23). Psalms 145:3 says, “There is no fathoming the greatness of God ,ve-liggedulato ein cheiker. ”Jewish philosophy distinguishes between God’s will, which is knowable, and God’s essence, which is unknowable. Jewish mysticism distinguishes between God as His light reaches us, and Ein Sof, which is inscrutable. Faith is not blind; it is a double gesture: knowledge, and lack of knowledge .Faith is essential even for a Jew with firm convictions about Torah and design in nature. For if God is taken to be entirely explainable, He is reduced to human terms. God is no longer God. God becomes a mathematical, scientific, or juridical proposition. I wrote, “The Torah’s truth encompasses but is larger than science and reason.” This is not “blind faith.” This respects science and reason, but accords greater respect to the Torah. This calls attention to its Author’s awesome majesty — what ba’alei ha-Musar call yiras ha-rommemus. I was privileged to study extensively under the late Rav Eliezer Ben Zion Bruk in Jerusalem. His faith, his emunah, was a given. Any time he spoke ,any listener heard it. Sensed it. Knew it. More than once, I personally witnessed the late, great tzaddik, Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul, approach Rav Brukjust before Yom Kippur and virtually prostrate himself, requesting a bracha, Rav Bruk communicated faith even to American ba’alei teshuvah, though he knew no English and they knew little Hebrew. His faith was so strong, people could touch it. And yet, Rav Bruk conveyed a deep dread. The way he wept. The way he cried. The way his body was racked with trembling. The way he shuddered. The way his small, five-foot frame emitted sounds like a lion’s roar as he dressed himself down during his musar shmuessen. He knew he needed to take a leap of faith, to close the distance between himself and God. His convictions — and with the exception of two or three others, I never saw, never imagined, such convictions — were insufficient. He needed to seek, above all else, the presence of God. God’s wondrous design of the universe was insufficient. Reason was insufficient. Torah knowledge was insufficient, for Torah has to be lived, not just known. Through every mitzvah God addresses the Jew and this conveys joy and certainty, but it is the Jew himself who must close the distance — the gulf between conviction about God and the presence of God. To be with God, to feel God, to connect to God continually — to infuse the convictions of Torah into the concrete realities of life — a leap of faith, yes, is of the essence. I echo Rabbi Schwab: “ . . . it takes an act of Emuna to develop within oneself the awareness of God’s presence.”

At 1:25 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

JEWISH ACTION Summer 5760/2000
Genesis, Cosmology ,& EVOLUTION
By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

Rabbi Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News and associate editor of Tradition. He is a member of the Jewish Action editorial board and author of The Fire Within (Mesorah, 1987 and 1992).JEWISH ACTION Summer 5760/2000

“There are two kinds of secrets in the world, make-believe secrets and real secrets. A make-believe secret is one that depends on its concealment . . . when it is revealed, the mystery vanishes and the secret loses its fascination. Such is the secret of the . . . stage magician. When the . . . trick becomes apparent . . . the magic disappears. “Such is not the case with the real secret. A real secret can be open and apparent to everyone . . . Nevertheless, the more it is looked at and examined, the more of a secret it becomes . . . The story in the first part of the Book of Genesis is very well known . . . and still it remains a secret.”— Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

The opening portion of Genesis describes the creation of the universe, including humankind. There are three ways to look at this portion. It is a poetic, theological statement about the nature and purpose of humanity; it is scientifically accurate; or, it is a rudimentary creation story. In fact, it is all three. Genesis hardly seems to be scientifically accurate. Genesis’ creation of the cosmos takes six days, while science estimates the age
of the universe to be fifteen billion years. Genesis’ process of creation is directed, while science proposes random evolution from inorganic to organic matter, then from simple to ever more complex life. The discrepancies between Genesis and science seem irreconcilable. However, a subtler and sharper reading of both the religious and the scientific sources reveals a different picture. Genesis emerges as scientifically accurate,
not just by analogy or metaphor. This is difficult for the non-Hebrew reader to accept because of what I term the “Orthodox fallacy”. Simply put, when it comes to the Torah, Orthodoxy is not orthodox. The only readers who take the Torah both literally and unidimensionally — who are fundamentalists — are non-Hebrew readers. The simplicity ascribed to the Biblical account of creation within Western culture is not and never has been a part of the intellectual heritage of even the most Orthodox Jewish believers. The scientist, however, sees a Jewish reader back off from a literal and unidimensional understanding of Genesis, expressed in the translations, and exclaims, “bad faith!” To engage in an objective, cross-disciplinary analysis of Genesis, the scientist must acknowledge that even the most traditional reading of the Torah is never orthodox (with a small “o”). The only text that counts is the original, whose Hebrew is multi-layeredin a way that is alien to the English language. What a scientist calls a “re-reading” may be an example of a time-honored hermeneuticendemic to Hebrew, generously indulged long before Galileo, Darwin, or Einstein. For millennia, the interpreter of the Torah has lived congenially with the multiple denotations and connotations of Hebrew words, phrases, and themes. Indeed, he has gloried in them, without, however, violating the plain sense of the text— without twisting its clear intent. If a reader lets Genesis be Genesis, not a translated stultification thereof, Genesis is scientifically accurate. Beginning with this multi-valent mindset, I bring to the discussion of Torah and science a second ground rule: Intuition is irrelevant. If the believer intuits God and therefore finds random evolution preposterous, this proves nothing about either Torah or science. The believer’s intuition has no legitimate place in my analysis and will not guide it. Similarly, if a scientist intuits the absence or detachment of God and finds randomness reasonable, this, too, proves nothing and does not guide me. The text of the Torah and the findings of science, as well as the pre-suppositions of both, must speak for themselves. As obvious and objective as this methodology might seem, it is far — very far — from the tone of the discussion between science and religion ever since Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. In fact, rarely has there been any “discussion,” only bitter debate that sheds heat, not light. There is a reason for this. More than any other science, evolutionary biology originated in relation to religion, specifically, to Genesis’ creation story. Darwin intended to disprove it. Evolutionary biology was born with a sharp polemical edge and has never really extricated itself to become a purely scientific perspective. One of Darwinism’s chief proponents, Richard Dawkins, wrote The Blind Watchmaker not only to defend Darwinism against its critics, but to prove that atheism is a logical and necessary deduction from Darwinism. From its very beginnings, evolutionary biology has made a subtle methodological assumption: If Genesis is wrong, God does not exist. In classic syllogistical fashion, Darwinists maintained that if Genesis says that God created the earth in six days and made all species immutable, and if these claims are false, then God does not exist. There are two problems here. First, Darwin’s Bible (and indeed his entire circle’s) was a translation. Darwin rightly insisted on first-hand field work as the necessary basis for his biological conclusions, but he settled for second-hand religion. As we shall see, the Genesis that Darwin disproved does not exist; the English renderings he refuted do not, in critical details, reflect the Hebrew. Second, Darwin assumed that evolution disproved Genesis. If, then, evolution itself is wrong, Genesis is right. This is how Darwin understood the issue: Either Genesis or evolution. However, if evolution is wrong, this does not make Genesis right. Its truth is not dependent on scientific affirmation. As Professor Michael J. Behe, a bio-chemist whose work we cite below, notes, “No person is required by dint of logic to reach any particular supernatural conclusion solely on the basis of scientific observations and theories.” Yet, Darwin reduced the Torah to a scientific tract that would rise or fall on the coherence of his new biological science. This, not random evolution, is the primary injustice that Darwin did to the Torah. He simplified and eviscerated it, robbing it of its own central concern, which is spiritual-ethical, not scientific. Ironically, “Creation Science” makes the same mistake. Claiming to refute Darwinian evolution, creationism claims to prove that God created the world. However, no refutation of Darwinism, however valid, proves Genesis. Nonetheless, in an age of scientific adventure, the conflict between Genesis and science must begin any serious exploration of the Torah. Although the primary purpose of the Torah is to elucidate the relationship between God and humanity, the Torah remains under a cloud without an initial encounter with science. A scientific refutation of Genesis would undercut its resonance and relevance. Therefore, I show how Genesis’ simple language may serve as a prism for contemporary cosmology (though less so for evolutionary biology), and explain why Genesis’ creation story exhibits such a rudimentary character. Upon analysis, if Genesis and science may credibly be interwoven, why does Genesis discourage this agenda by such simple, unscientific language?

Cosmology: The Age of the Earth
Genesis apparently says that the cosmos was created in six days. Actually, Genesis says that the cosmos was created in five days, plus “one day” (yom echad). A careful reading of the Hebrew in Genesis and of discoveries in physics show that this is no linguistic quibble. Five plus one does not equal six, not when the unit of measure is “days.” A day is not a number, not a mathematical symbol, but a measure of time. On earth, a “day” is twenty-four hours. On other astral bodies, which rotate on their axes faster or slower than the earth, the duration of a “day” varies. On Mercury, one year is only eighty-eight earth days, while on Pluto one year is 247.7 earth years. Time is relative (especially since the rotation of the earth is very slightly slowing), so that when Genesis labels each of five time periods a “day,” how long is it? Which heavenly body’s day is signified by it? When science speaks of billions of years, it means “earth years,” but when Genesis speaks of five “days,” Genesis may signify the earth’s twenty-four-hour-periods or another astral body’s twenty-four-billion-hour periods. The text does not say and the issue is open. Genesis can accommodate modern cosmology. This, however, is insufficient, especially since the Torah itself retrospectively subsumes its creation story under “a six-day period” (Ex. 31:17). For precision, we must care-fully probe what is erroneously translated as Genesis’ “first day,” as well as Einstein’s understanding of time. Genesis records no “first day.” Instead, before its “second” day there is “one day.” The two are not necessarily of equal duration. A first day, a first anything, begins a series. Whatever the duration of the five sequential days of Genesis, they are of equal duration. For the stage of creation preceding these five days to be identical to each of them — to be a “day” — it would have to be a “first day”— the first in the series. Instead, there is “one day.” How long is it? Time is measured by the spin of a heavenly body, but in Genesis 1:1-2, no heavenly body is created, only unformed “heavens” and “earth.” Next, in Genesis1:3-4, God creates “light” and “darkness” — not, pointedly, “day” and “night.” Day and night are indicators of a spinning astral body facing a sun; day and night indicate time. “Light” and “dark” precede time as we know it. If the units of time known on earth —twenty-four-hour units — were retroactively ascribed to the period of light and darkness named “one day,” how long would this period be? Not only does Genesis not say, it would contradict its purpose to say so. If Genesis wanted us to think of the initial stage of creation as a unit of time, Genesis would label it the “first day.” By separating it from the continuum of the following days, Genesis indicates that it is “pre-temporal” and is meant to be pondered as such. A pre-temporal stage of creation conveys the mystery of creation. Time is the opposite of mystery. Time is quantifiable, an index of material motion. Time bestows the potential for mastery and control. Now, a critical element of human craving is an understanding of the origins of human life and of nature itself. At each level of human existence — individual, familial, national, species— humans crave knowledge of origins. An unmeasured pre-temporal stage of creation conveys this lesson: The origins of existence should remain a mystery, beyond quantification, beyond understanding and control — beyond time. Origins should not be reduced to measurable indices. Mystery respects the uniqueness of the cosmos and of the human being. Creation is a “real secret.” How “long” Genesis’ initial stage of creation endured is indeterminate. Therefore, an estimate of the age of the universe in billions of years and Genesis’ description of a pre-temporal period are not at odds. One could even say that these billions of years — units of measure that humans can mouth but hardly grasp — fit the Torah’s mysterious, untamable “one day.” Still, it is necessary to inquire: How long are the rest of creation’s single-day periods (the second through sixth days)? They may dilate to accommodate a current scientific measure, but do they? Or, is the Biblical measure just as precise as the scientific? Gerald Schroeder examines Einstein’s special and general laws of relativity with reference to the Biblical and the scientific calendars. Whether marked for five days or fifteen billion years, a calendar is a measure of time; and time, Einstein discovered, is not absolute. Time is not a constant. Time moves slower under certain conditions and faster under others. The same clock runs slower or faster depending on the speed of the person observing the clock, the gravitational pull on the clock, and other variables. Time is relative. This defies normal observation only because all humans move at the same speed, under the same gravity and other conditions —those of the earth. If these conditions change, time changes. Einstein discovered that of the factors that measure time, only the speed of light is a constant, at186,000 miles per second. Light’s velocity is impervious to the speed of the observer and of the light emitter. Laws of relativity render the calendar of Genesis scientifically accurate, as follows: Under Einstein’s special law of relativity, an elapsed time is not necessarily the same for one and the same event. The elapsed time of an event depends, for example, on the speed of the observer. If it were possible for the same flash of light to be observed simultaneously in a speeding rocket and a stationary laboratory, the distance that the light would travel as viewed in the rocket would seem less than the distance as viewed in the laboratory. The light-flash would traverse seemingly different distances at seemingly the same time. However, the distances cannot be different. Since the speed of light is constant, any flash of light covers the same distance regardless of the position or conditions of the observer. It is the time that differs. One event, two elapsed times! Time is relative. The clock in the rock-et runs slower than the clock in the laboratory. Every elapsed time is valid for the “reference frame,” or specific conditions, under which it is observed. Schroeder writes: According to Einstein’s law of relativity, we now know it is impossible in an expanding universe to describe the elapsed time experienced during a sequence of events occurring in one part of the universe in a way that will be equal to the elapsed time for those same events when viewed from another part of the universe. The differences in motions and gravitational forces among the various galaxies, or even among the stars of a single galaxy, make the absolute passage of time a very local affair. Time differs from place to place. The relevance of Einsteinian relativity to the discrepancy between the calendar of the Torah and of the contemporary cosmologist is obvious. There is, in fact, no discrepancy. Rather, there are two elapsed times for the same events. There are two different “clocks,” so to speak. Since no human being and not even a spinning heavenly body existed as God created the original, unformed matter, only the Divine clock existed. Under God’s measure, there was one day whose duration He did not disclose so as to preserve the mystery of His act of creation. Then there were five sequential units of equal duration, to which His clock assigned the duration of five days. When the planet earth and human beings came into existence, people measured the same events at approximately fifteen billion years. Six days, fifteen billion years; one event, two elapsed times, each relative to its own reference frame. Einstein’s laws of relativity excise the enervating apologetics offered to resolve the conflicts between Genesis and cosmology and paleontology. Yes, the earth may be measured as older than a literal reading of Genesis; yes, there were dinosaurs 220 million years ago; no, their fossils were not imbedded in the earth by God to test the faith of His believers. We may even put aside the truism that only that which can be measured experimentally or mathematically qualifies as science, all else being speculation. The age of the universe is speculation because science cannot prove that physical change in the past proceeded under present conditions of duration, any more than science can establish the duration of Genesis’ “one day.” Perhaps, within a single temporal reference frame, a process now described as taking one million years actually took a few hours. Here, the change in measure is not one of time, but of actual chemical and physical process. Perhaps, unknown atmospheric pressures, temperatures, catalyzers, radioactivity, and the like, played havoc with our under-standing of the tempo of change; perhaps, therefore, the earth really is but a few thousand years old. It is a defensible position, but it has no meaning for scientists, who wit-ness the uniformity of the laws of nature everywhere. We may grant scientists this uniformity. Genesis is still scientifically reconcilable. The universe is a few days old and the universe is fifteen billion years old. Each is a measure of relativistic time, true for its own reference frame. Each time is “local.”

Biology: Mechanisms of Evolution
So much for Genesis and cosmology. What about evolutionary biology? Can a descendent of a common ancestor to apes be unique? If Genesis is to be scientifically accurate, it must address more than cosmology. It must address evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology in the 21stcentury resists a paradigm shift of the magnitude that quantum mechanics brought to Newtonian physics at the beginning of the20thcentury. Quantum mechanics awed most physicists, but a suggested shift in Darwinism, even by learned scientists, angers most biologists. Far from eliciting dispassionate analysis, scientific criticism of Darwinism elicits a dogmatic view of evidence or a hostility toward faith, as if it were science’s job to defeat or advance religion. In one sense, contemporary cosmology and evolution forever changed the way one reads Genesis. Taken literally as six twenty-four-hour days during which inorganic matter, plant, animal, and human life are each created instantaneously, the creation story of Genesis cannot be squared with evolutionary biology — but then, it need not be. The creation story of Genesis is intentionally rudimentary for reasons we shall address below. Genesis is also scientifically accurate if we understand three things: (a) the biology of the 19th century, no less than a unidimensional reading of Genesis, is a parody; (b) Darwinists circumvent or disregard evidence and logic in the interests of a scientific faith; (c) a critique of Darwinism does not validate Genesis. An argument against evolutionary biology is not an argument for faith. That is a separate issue. In 1859, the date of publication of The Origin of Species— in the beginning, so to speak — the conflict between religion and evolution parodied each. The book of Genesis supposedly refuted by Darwin was a Genesis twice-deprived: first, of the relativity of Einsteinian time; second, of its original language, in whose English translations such distinctions as the difference between its unmeasured “one day” and the sequential second through sixth days are absent. Darwinism, supposedly refuting Genesis, was a science deprived of the reality it was supposed to explain: the mechanisms of biological change. These, we now know, embrace irreducibly complex biochemical systems and the nucleotides, DNA, and proteins that express the genetic codes. Despite the fact that none of these were known to Darwin, who knew no biology on the cellular and subcellular level, current evolutionary biology acts as if it were founded on them. Put differently, current evolutionary biology acts as if the electron microscope, X-ray crystallography, and nuclear magnetic resonance were available to Darwin. Biology and its tools have metamorphosed since1859, but in its essentials Darwinism has remained untouched. It is unwavering, a religion in its own right. Based on five years of intensive field work, Darwin said this: Life’s forms evolve from its simplest form, ever upward in complexity, through the very gradual accumulation of small changes. These gradual changes occur through natural selection, “the survival of the fittest.” Those forms of life that exhibit characteristics most adapted to their environment survive. The rest perish. Species are not fixed; some survive, some do not, and those that do survive, change. Genesis, therefore, is wrong because it attributes the forms of life to God’s design, and because it affirms that species are fixed. Evolutionary biology, however, needs neither Genesis nor the attribution of life to a Designer to be found wanting. The issue is not the faith of Genesis versus the faith of Darwinism. The issue is the faith of Darwinism versus mathematics, paleontology, logic, and biochemistry. As we address each, we must keep in mind that the faith of Genesis requires its own justification. As biology advanced, Darwinists could no longer attribute the mechanism of biological change to “natural selection.” What, precisely, was to be selected? To Darwin, it was anatomical features, such as the shape of an eye. With advances in genetics, however, it became that biological change resides in DNA. For Darwinism to remain valid, it had to be updated and applied to phenomena of which Darwin had no knowledge. For nature to select a fit DNA code “naturally,” mutations in genes had to be random. Evolutionary biologists transformed Darwin’s mechanism of anatomical change — natural selection — into random mutation plus natural selection. Enter mathematics. If chance were to select between a pool of two usable protein forms to generate a useful gene, the odds of evolutionary success would be 50/50.Plausible. However, the pool of possible protein forms is20250! This virtually incomprehensible number is vastly larger than the number of seconds in a fifteen-billion-year-old universe. If chance were to select, by odds of 1/20250,the protein forms necessary for each small advance in biological complexity, this would require a stupefyingly long time. Four billion years —the estimated age of the earth — is simply too short for the random evolution of the human species. This (among other factors) impelled no less a figure than Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, to entertain the possibility that life on earth originated elsewhere and somehow arrived here from outer space! Under the Darwinian paradigm, not only has there been insufficient time for life to develop on earth —the record does not show it. Enter paleontology. If the vast array of biological life consists of simpler forms that gradually evolved through small changes, this should be reflected in the fossil record. The fossil record now consists of millions of fossils. It ought to be filled with the transitional forms that once roamed the earth. The record, however, is full of critical gaps. Evidence does exist for what two English biologists call “the minutiae of evolution” — for “intraspecies events” or micro-evolution, such as a change of a bacterium into a drug-resistant bacterium, or change sin wing color in speckled moths. But the fossil record is silent on how the speckled moth got here to begin with, not to mention on how fish turned into people — on macro-evolution. Instead comes “Darwinian eschatology,” the biological version of a believer’s faithful wait for the Messiah. Darwinists counsel infinite patience. Time will tell, the transitional fossils will be discovered, we need only wait. The waiting has gone on since 1859 and the fossil record has ballooned, but with little evidence of macro-evolution. David Berlinski, who examines presuppositions of Darwinism, writes: The classical Darwinian theory of random variation and natural selection requires a continuous distribution of animal forms, one that must be reflected in the fossil record. The assumption of continuity is a crucial aspect of Darwinian theory . . . The fossil record does not appear to support the assumption of evolutionary continuity . . .Paleontologist Niles Eldredge: Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution. The most serious gap in the fossil record is the “Cambrian explosion,” the sudden appearance of fossilized animal phyla about 600 million years ago. Philip E.Johnson: Darwinist theory requires that there have been very lengthy sets of intermediate forms between unicellular organisms and animals like insects, worms, and clams. The evidence that these exist-ed is missing. Enter logic. Falsifiability, a requirement of argument, is the idea that if a point is not subject to refutation — if it does not take into account contradictory evidence — it cannot be true. If claims of evolution made from the fossil record do not grapple with gaps in the record, these claims become a matter of dogma or intuition. In Darwinism, the absence of falsifiability characterizes its treatment of paleontology — and more. Some organisms have maladaptive traits, yet survive. Under Darwinism, they should not, since Darwinism requires the survival of the fittest. Other organisms exhibit diametrically opposed traits, yet both survive. Under Darwinism, only one should. Evolutionary biology, however, incorporates all contingencies. Its practitioners readily expand or contract its definition in order to divert evidentiary challenges. No claim is falsifiable —therefore, none can be true. Also illogical is natural selection (“survival of the fittest” ) .It is, as Tom Bethell observes, a tautology: the fittest survive ,and survival is the criterion of fitness. Berlinski: “ . . . biologists . . . explain the survival of an organism by reference to its fitness and the fitness of an organism by reference to its survival.” Two illustrations: The shark survived for millions of years because it is adapted to its environment — after all, it has survived for millions of years. Or: A creature is fittest because it has more offspring than others; it has more offspring than others because it is fittest. Another logic chop: the evolution of the eye. Eyesight is a system, an interaction of many proteins. Neither the proteins nor how they fit together to yield visual perception is fully fathomed. Berlinski: “Could a system we do not completely understand be constructed by means of a process we cannot completely specify?” Can it be said that A caused B if no one knows wholly what A or B is? An inconsistency: To Darwinists, natural selection has no “targets.” Change in nature is blind, not designed. Yet, Darwinists say that nature’s very many, very tiny randomly produced changes will accumulate, one after the other, to build the fittest biological form. This presents a problem. As Berlinski notes: “A system conserving certain features in view of their future usefulness has access to information denied a [blind] Darwinian system.” As tiny changes are randomly produced, some will ultimately become indispensable parts of a fittest form, but others will be use-less. How does nature know to conserve the incompletely fit parts for future use and to discard the rest? To conserve a random, incompletely fit change for future use is to rely on design.Darwinism presupposes design even as it denies it. Computer programs that simulate Darwinism make this clear. First, a target word is pre-selected. Then the computer is turned onto test whether a random selection of letters can spell out the pre-selected word. The computer is stopped at intervals to see whether the first one or two letters have been selected, then these letters are conserved and the computer is turned back on. If the computer succeeds, it is because it or its operator knows which letters to conserve in order to reach a target. Darwinism wants it both ways: to deny design, and to presuppose it. Now, the fuzzy logic of natural selection veritably pales before the bald reality of design in the foundation of life, biochemistry. Enter biochemistry. Blood clotting and intra-cellular transport are examples of the human body’s many irreducibly complex, biochemical systems. Bloodclotting is aninteraction of many proteins that functions only when every protein is in place. If one protein is missing, the system ceases to function. This is what makes it “irreducibly complex.” Now, under Darwinism, nature would never preserve a single one of an irreducibly complex system’s cascade of proteins because each one would meet the classic Darwinian definition of least fit. Each protein has no independent use separate from the other proteins in the system. Further, none of the transitional forms of these proteins would be preserved, since a complex system functions only when all of its protein s , fully formed, interact at once. Evolution asserts the indispensability of “transitional forms,” of partial usability by a partially developed biological form, but in an irreducibly complex system there is no such thing as partial use or a partial form. This system’s proteins must come into existence totally developed and en toto. An irreducibly complex system must be designed .Molecular biologists implicitly concede this. Behe has surveyed the major journals in biochemistry and molecular evolution of past decades. He has found thousands of articles, but only one or two even attempt to explain the origin of complex biochemical systems. How they work, how one may have evolved into another, mathematical models for them — on all this, the literature is immense. On how a single complex system came into existence to begin with, the literature is silent. Similarly, Dawkins’ refutations of evolution’s critics in The Blind Watchmaker do not reach down to the molecular level. The scientific disciplines that forged the “evolutionary synthesis” — genetics, comparative anatomy, paleontology, embryology, and others — are all non-molecular. Molecules, however, are the foundation of life. It is on the molecular level that evolution does, or does not, occur. Here, evolution’s favorite examples, such as eyesight, function. Yet, writes Behe, “there has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems. ”Genesis’ Rudimentary Creation Story We reach, then, the pivotal issue: design. Based on scientific data, not on Genesis, life’s irreducibly complex bio-chemical systems were designed. Consider an alternate explanation, self-organization or “complexity theory.” Almost like spontaneous combustion of old, self-organization asserts (in Behe’s paraphrase) that systems with a large number of interacting components spontaneously organize themselves into ordered patterns. Why this alternative to design? At all costs, evolutionary biology must be preserved. In rejecting religion, evolutionary biology must sustain its own faith — non-faith. Notice the irony: Faith meets faith. It is an unacceptable leap of faith to embrace God and His design of the universe, but it is an acceptable leap of faith to embrace the spontaneous self-organization of staggeringly complex biochemical interactions! Implicitly, science concedes religion’s foundation: leap of faith. Science cannot escape from the perplexity that faith responds to. Again, to be perfectly clear, the conclusion of design from the biochemical basis of life does not, and s hould not, compel one to accept a Designer. That is a spiritual decision. Preponderant design in nature merely re moves faith from the realm of the irrational or the absurd. (Randomness in nature and its relation to the Torah is beyond the purview of the present article.)Genesis, of course, submits that nature is designed. This is the first of Genesis’ three principles. This is the postulate with which biochemistry and cosmology are increasingly consistent, including Edwin Hubble’s theory of the “Big Bang.” There was no universe — bang! — 10 –43 seconds later there was a universe. In Genesis, of course, the designer is God. Genesis’ second principle is creation step-by-step. Creation by God does not logically (or textually) require His creations to occur in six twenty-four-hour days, or instantaneously or directly. This point derives from no torture of the text in the face of new scientific evidence. It derives from Nachmanides, writing over 700 years ago, responding to the original Hebrew. Nachmanides observes that God created from out of nothing only the initial primeval matter of “one day.” Then, from out of this matter, God formed all else on the second through sixth days. Indirectly, God unfolded water, earth, fish, bird, plant, animal, and human life by tapping the potential in the unformed matter that He created (1:26,2:7). God acted one day at a time — in Einsteinian time, one era at a time. Nothing in Genesis says that this unfolding of life did not take eras, nor that once a living being was created, it could never change. Most important of all, Genesis even attributes variability to the human being. In pitting Genesis against the descent of humanity, Darwin argued against a straw man. The issue is not whether species resemble each other, but whether they descend from one another. The similarity of anatomical and DNA structures between humans and others is not at issue. Macroevolutionary descent, by the Darwinian mechanism of random mutation plus natural selection, fails for the mathematical, paleontological, logical, and biochemical objections already raised. What, then, of descent by another mechanism? That which Darwin termed “descent with modification” — the descent of the human being from a common ancestor to apes — is not sustained by the embryological evidence. Phillip E.Johnson: [Ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny.] Although it is true that vertebrates all pass through an embryonic stage at which they resemble each other, in fact they develop to this stage differently. . . . Only by ignoring the early stages of development can one fit Darwin’s theory to the facts of embryology, but it was precisely the early stages that Darwin claimed were the most significant! Embryology does not support Darwin’s claims for the descent of humanity. At the same time, Genesis does describe the descent of humanity. Lacking Hebrew knowledge, Darwin misread Genesis as regarding species as immutable. To Darwin, his most critical discovery was the variability of species. Just as cosmologists who were ignorant of Hebrew missed the difference between Genesis’ “one day” and subsequent five days, Darwin’s ignorance of Hebrew made him miss Genesis’ variable human being. Hebrew makes no distinction between upper case and lower case. All letters are uniform. The only way to know when the Hebrew intends a proper noun is through a careful reading of context. Translations generally cannot reflect this. Translations of Genesis’ first of two creation stories refer to the first hominid as “Adam.” However, the context reveals the hominid of Genesis 1:26 to be adam, a “lowercase,” generic, undifferentiated being. (Rashi regards it as a double-faced, male-female being.) Derived from this pre-cursor is Genesis 2:7’s “Adam,” the “upper case” husband of Eve. First, God creates a single being, which He calls it; then He divides it into male and female. And God said, “Let us create , adam in our image” . . .And God created the adam in His image, in the image of God He created it; male and female He created them (1:27).The being – ‘adam — from which God created male and female is different from both. However, translations generally render both the male-female being and the partner of Eve as “Adam,” since in Hebrew the same word is used for both beings. Hebrew itself cannot distinguish between the male-female ancestor (adam; lower case “a”) and the partner of Eve (Adam; upper case “A”). This leaves a non-Hebrew reader, such as Darwin, clueless that adam of 1:26is different from and ancestral to Adam of 2:7. Darwinismis built on the supposition that “literal Biblical tradition” supports the fixity of species, but Genesis sets down the physique of the initial hominid as variable, not fixed; as precursory, not final. Darwin never knew this because he never read the real Genesis, the one in Hebrew. The polemical edge of his entire life’s work is grounded in error. Although the variability of species in Genesis does not assert the descent of man from a common ancestor to apes (Darwin’s claim), it would have been helpful had Darwin known Biblical Hebrew. Much misunderstanding between science and religion, which began in good mea-sure with Darwin, might have been avoided. Darwin’s central interest was not evolution but the variability of species. Genesis affirms this. Had Darwin known so, the caricature of science and religion locked in mortal conflict might have been reduced to a more realistic — and manageable — configuration. Genesis’ claim is the fact of ancestry, without further detail, because Genesis’ purpose is not scientific. Genesis is short on scientific detail because the uniqueness of the human being is its soul, not its physique. The one exception to God’s unfolding of life from primeval matter is the human soul. It is non-material and comes directly from God (1:27, 2:7).Because [writes Gerald Schroeder] our physical makeup is not what makes us unique and because sages and scientists agree that the matter of mankind has a common origin with all other universal matter, a theological problem is not posed by having the physique of mankind developed through an evolutionary process. Indeed, Nachmanides comments on Genesis1:26 that the “us” in “And God said let us make man” refers to joint contributions by God and the existing Earth.
To Nachmanides, it might make no difference if humanity were descended from a common ancestor to apes. Humanity’s uniqueness is still the direct result of God’s design. Darwin denied that God designed humanity because humanity is variable, not fixed; but Genesis regards humanity as variable — and designed. Genesis’ creation story is scientifically accurate, it now seems, in the sense that once a scientific fact is finally established, it fits Genesis. A fifteen-billion-year-old universe ,Einsteinian time, and the descent of humanity (though not by Darwinism mechanism), all fit Genesis. In the main, contemporary cosmology is established and evolutionary biology is not, but neither is essential to Genesis. The truth of science does not establish the truth of Genesis. The consonance of Genesis and of scientific fact means only that the Torah is not refuted. Therefore, the Torah could be true. Genesis is short on scientific detail in order to divert attention from cosmology and biology — this, in order to establish its primary truth: theology. Here we reach Genesis’ third principle. Its truth is established by its elucidation of the relationship between God and humanity. Here, and here alone, Genesis moves beyond the rudimentary and articulates the pro-found: By nature, humans are singular, created in the image of God , but also capable of evil. By purpose, humans should act in accord with their Divine side and thus be holy . The male and female human should cleave to one another and propagate the human species. Finally, humans should have faith. The Torah is to be believed, not proven. The Torah is not refuted by science, but this does not establish the Torah. That requires faith. The Torah’s truth encompasses but is larger than science and reason. The Torah is a “real secret”. Its truth addresses the human being’s totality; intellect and emotion, soul and body, individual and community. No scientific truth can address the human totally, since truth is not total if it is totally demonstrable. Just as the creative act of God, yielding a universe, is ultimately a mystery, the human being is ultimately a mystery. Only faith, which is larger than science, can sustain this truth


Adin Steinsaltz, In The Beginning: Discourses on Chasidic Thought(Northvale: Jason Aronson, 1995), pp. xiii-xiv.
King James incorrectly translates yom echad as “first day,” an error sustained even in such contemporary translations as the New International Version.

Darwin’s polemical edge, in Gertrude Himmelfarb, Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (Chicago: Dec. 1996), pp. 251, 263; Ernst Ma yr,

One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), pp. 50-60

Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), “no person required,” p. 246; “spontaneously organize” p. 190.Gerald Schroeder, The Big Bang: the Discovery of Harmony between Modern Science and the Bibl e ( New York: Bantam, 1992). Quotes, pp. 50, 150.

Unknown atmospheric pressures: Menachem Schneersohn, “A Letter on Science and Judaism,” in Aryeh Carmell, Cyril Comb, eds.,Challenge (New York: Feldheim, 1978), p. 147.

Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981), esp. pp. 73-106.

English biologists: Moe-Wan Ho, Peter Saunders, “Beyond Neo-Darwinism — An Epigenetic Approach to Evolution,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 78, p. 589; cited in Behe, p. 28.

David Berlinski, “The Deniable Darwin , ” Commentary (June, 1996);

Response to letters, Commentary (September, 1996). Quotes: “classical Darwinian theory,” “Response,” p. 30; “biologists . . . explain and the shark survived,” “Deniable” p. 20; could a system we do not,” ‘Deniab l e , ”p. 21; “system conserving certain features,” “Response,” p. 25.

Niles Eldredge, Reinventing Darwin (New York: Wiley, 1995), p. 95;cited in Behe, p. 27.

Cambrian explosion, in Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed.( Downers Grove: Inter Varsity, 1993), p. 54.
Tom Bethel, letter on “Deniable Darwin,” pp. 20-21.

Behe, “Never been a meeting,” p. 179.

“Ontology and phylogeny,” Johnson, pp. 71-73.

“Darwin’s most critical discovery,” Mayr, pp. 94-95.

Bernard Fellner, Kenneth Kauvar, M.D., Faye Rapoport, Alan D. Singer, Carl Tessler, and consulting editors of Jewish Action read and commented on an earlier draft of this article. I also benefited from bibliographical guidance from Rabbis Beryl Gershenfeld and Dovid Gottlieb

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just came acros your blog, and I love it. One thing irks me badly though: why are all your postings in the comments? Maybe it's a creative new way of blogging or something, but friendly suggestion, keep your posts in the main blog area and you'll attract readers in the thousands.


At 8:30 PM, Blogger zal said...

I also wondered that. Haven't seen a blog format like it; somewhat annoying.

At 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, with your original idea that topics could be scrolled over faster to check and read further incoming comments, I think it works just fine.


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