Guided Evolution And Intelligent Design: A Guide To The Jewish Perspective

1328 words - 6 pages

In Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?, Alvin Plantinga argues that proponents of naturalism, like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, tell us that, according to the theory of evolution, neither God nor any other agent has designed or created the living world, and that evolution, therefore, clearly contradicts the central tenant of theistic religion (which Dennett labels “entirely gratuitous fantasy” ). If what these experts say is true and we must understand evolution only in the context of naturalistic, unguided evolution, “then evolutionary theory is deeply incompatible with theistic religion, whether Christian…or Jewish.” However, Plantinga stresses that evolution does not need ...view middle of the document...

In much the same way that Keith Ward expressed theistic evolution is a lens through which science can be interpreted and viewed, Rabbi Michael Loeb ben Yechiel Malbim, in his widely read biblical commentary, interpreted passages from the creation story in Genesis to indicate that, when God said things like ‘‘Let the earth sprout forth vegetation’’ and ‘‘Let the waters swarm,’’ He was commencing an ongoing act of creation that is continuously at work through evolution. John Haught argues, “once we allow that God’s creative and providential activity is essentially a liberation of the world to “be itself,” then it comes as no surprise to the informed theist…that the universe would probably not be finished in one magical moment but would instead unfold stepwise – perhaps consuming billions and trillions of human years.” Likewise, in Judaism, as in Haught’s Catholic tradition, one of the most prominent Orthodox rabbis of the nineteenth century, Samson Raphael Hirsch, shared the view that evolution is correct, and, like Haught, did not understand evolution to be in conflict with theology. In his writings, Hirsch gave both evolution and natural selection his approval:
Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of ‘‘adaptation and heredity,’’ in order to bring forth, out of what seemed to be chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today.

Even from the early reactions to Darwinist theory, Jewish followers have seen little conflict between the newly offered explanations and those offered within their faith, and, though there were then—and remain¬— Jewish persons who may disagree with the notion of evolution, these doubters are a small minority within the faith.
Similarly, Kabbalistic Jews share in the opinion that evolution can fit decisively within the framework of the their cosmological framework. According to Kabbalah, the essence of God is transcendent and cannot be described directly, as Ein Sof (the truest essence of God) is so transcendent that It cannot have direct interaction with the universe. Meaning “without end,” Ein Sof embodies God’s lack of boundaries in both time and space simultaneously, espousing the idea that both the world and God’s essence evolve and ascend through time and space. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, writing in the early twentieth century, felt that evolutionary theory was in essential accord with the doctrines of Kabbalah:
The theory of evolution, more so than all other philosophical theories, conforms to the Kabbalistic secrets of the world. Evolution, which proceeds on a path of ascendancy, provides an optimistic foundation for the world. How is it possible to despair at a time when we see that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate...

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