Nice Work Rabbis, But Does This Mean Genesis is Just a Big Metaphor?

Kudos to a group of 235 Rabbis who are willing to publicly state their hostility to the teaching of Creationism in science classes. Muffti isn’t really sure how a theory that says that development of species is essentially a random matter of genetic mutation could display God’s hand in anything, but he’s not theologian (nor scientists) so he’ll leave it be. From the Baltimore Sun.

For Rabbi Gary Gerson of the Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion, evolution does not oppose religious belief but strengthens it.

“If anything, it all the more underscores the magnificence of creation as the expression of some highest order,” Gerson said. “We as Jews every day praise God for the times and seasons and the order of being, and that perhaps is the greatest miracle of all. This is not caprice. There is a natural order to things.”

Seeing evidence of the divine in the theories of Charles Darwin meant that Gerson did not hesitate to sign an open letter drafted by a suburban Chicago rabbi this summer supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools. The two-paragraph letter, written by Rabbi David Oler of Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, has attracted 235 signatures since its completion in July, with Jewish leaders from across the United States supporting its cause.

The effort, Oler said, spun off from the Clergy Letter Project, launched in 2004 by Michael Zimmerman, now the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University in Indianapolis. Zimmerman asked Christian clergy to draft an open letter, since signed by 11,000 religious leaders, supporting the public teaching of evolution and emphasizing that religion does not have to be an enemy of science.

But Oler, who also holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, felt that Jewish clergy should also be given an opportunity to endorse the teaching of evolution while rebuking the addition of creationist theories to curricula. “I would say that as Jews, being a minority, we’re particularly sensitive to not having the views of others imposed on us,” Oler said. “Creationism and intelligent design are particularly religious matters that don’t belong in public school system.”

Arguments over whether alternatives to evolution should be taught in public schools continue across the United States, most recently in state legislatures in Louisiana and Florida.

To Zimmerman, “the goal of both letters is to say that religious leaders, both Jewish and Christian, can come together and be secure in their faith without having their faith impact and pervert modern science. There are fundamentalists of many stripes whose religious predilections have perverted scientific worldview. When that narrow religious perspective ends up being taught as science, we’re doing society a real harm.”

Carl Feit, the Ades Chair of Health Science at Yeshiva University in New York City and an ordained Orthodox rabbi, said that compared with American Christianity, Judaism is largely untroubled by evolution.

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