Grandmuffti is often amused in America over how, well, ridiculous things can be here. When I first arrived, I noticed the war of the fish: Jesus vs. Darwin, dueling it out on trunks of cars everywhere. Then, just today, I noticed a news story about Georgia: apparently, the Scopes Trial of 1925 wasn’t enough for Georgians who still are rather suspect of theories that contradict the oh-so-implausible version of creation laid out in Genesis (twice!)

Anyhow, it turns out that Georgia is hearing a case in court over the matter of text book stickers that say that evolution should be ‘critically considered’, and claim that evolution is ‘a theory, not fact’. (Question to the intelligent reader: are these merely truisms? Isn’t quantum mechanics a theory that we should critically consider?) This is the latest development after a plan by Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed the (even stupider) idea of replacing the word ‘evolution’ with ‘changes over time’. (I think this is kind of like changing the word ‘atom’ in physics texts to ‘little spinning dealies that follow God’s plan’). Apparently it all traces back to a complaint by Marjorie Rogers, who felt that:

the (evolution) theory is atheistic. And it’s all that’s presented. It’s an insult to their intelligence that they’re only taught evolution.

Of course, teaching them that the world was created in 6 days flat, that 3 days past before the sun and moon were created, and that vegetation preceded the creation of the sun is a clear respect for their intelligence. I assume, on this model, that it would be an insult to the intelligence of adolescences to tell them that parents give them their christmas gifts without also providing the counter-theory that a jolly fat red suited man travels at incredible speeds in a celestial sleigh, all the while finding time for illegal entry down the chimney in order to put said gifts in their place.

Anyhow, I only harp on about this because (a) it seems ridiculous but (b) it got me to wondering whether or not we (the Jewlicious ones) are firmly anti-evolution. I would imagine that the letter of Genesis is rather forbidding: evolution doesn’t seem to happen very quickly, certainly not over the course of days. And even if it did, evolutions is a theory that involves preservation of traits apt for survival, not intentional agency. But surely we aren’t stuck with literal interpretations. (Philo of Alexandria was known to say, the entire Torah is metaphorical in nature. So, I posed as a question to the more Judaically informed than I (which probably includes, well, all of you), what’s our deal with evolution? The Muffti is hoping that we are less like Georgians than he fears we are.

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23 Comments

  • G-d does not exist in time, so a “day” for Him is uncountable for us. “Day” is used so that we mere mortals can get a grip on the situation. It’s like saying “the hand of G-d” even though G-d has no physical form, and therefore, no hands.

    Personally, I think that G-d created the world just as the Torah says. In “earth time” it took billions of years, but it was only 6 days in “G-d time”.

    How’s that for a compromise?

  • This post has changed my mind. Grandmuffti is now my favorite Jewlicious poster.

    Let’s thank G_d grandmuffti is not going to be silenced by this heresy with threat of being burned alive at the stake, at least by a State authorized religion. Galileo wasn’t as lucky.

    Let us preserve our spiritual side and faith in G_d, like Grace(what an appropriate name), by also using the logical side G_d gave us to process new information to understand the meanings of the ancient writings of our spiritual inspired ancestors.

  • Why thank you, Jim R…I’m guessing I wasn’t ranking very highly prior to this post. For what it’s worth, I think they threatened Gallileo with torture rather than burning at the stake. (see: http://www.2020site.org/galileo/church.html) Amen to the idea that we should use knowledge to re-interpret old texts; but at any point do we have to admit defeat and say that the old texts just got it wrong, or is there infinite potential for deconstruction of the word of God? (Does no one, not even he, have the power to anchor meaning?!?)

    One quick issue, Grace; I’ve always been a bit surprised that people make a big deal about the time period. The real problem isn’t that the bible says 6 days, but that the order of creation seems all wrong and, more to the point, evolution is an non-intentional process while God’s creation is presumably the PARADIGM intentional process. So, I don’t know how easy the reconciliation really is.

  • for another interesting perspective on this and cool way to trip out late at night read Gerald Schroeder’s Genesis and the Big Bang.

    I saw him speak a couple years ago, but i would do it a disservice to try to give any of it over now

    Jim R– awww man, wasn’t I your favorite before? Sniffle sniffle. It’s ok, though. I’ll get over it eventually.

  • Grandmuffti, Your knowledge is impressive, your wisdom needs
    some season(ing)s.

  • Laya, I have been unfaithful. I hate it when it this happens, more so when caught.

  • Three cheers for Grand Muffti for a thought provoking post.

    The orthodox rabbi who ran the hebrew school in the conservative shule I was bar mitzvahed in (how’s that for a puzzler) told us bright eyed skeptics in bar mitzvah class that a literal belief in the Genesis account is something that’s comforting for children but not for adults.

    “It’s metaphor boys and girls,” he told us. “The trick is to figure out what it’s a metephor for.”

    Wise words that I never forgot.

  • The muffti is glad you guys liked the post; I see christians talking about this kind of thing a lot, especially the orthodox. Rarely do I hear Jews talking about it and when I asked my more learned friends, I get a rather wide divergence in answers. This makes me think that there is no accepted dogma on the matter, which I find somewhat curious. I mean, even if it is a metaphor, that has never stopped commentators from going nuts trying to tell you what literal meaning the metaphor is attempting to convey. Thank you all for interesting answers so far. Hopefully reading them will provide some of the seaon(ings)(?) that Jim_R was recommending.

  • I’ll give you some seasonings grandmuffti… alls I can say is don’t make any plans for tomorrow evening beeyotch. We’s gonna party hearty.

  • I have never really scene any difference between the two. I have always felt that what we call science (or the research that is done by scientists) is actually researching the ‘hard’ proof of G-D’s existence. I have been reading a book recently, and I am guessing on the name because I don’t have it handy, called something like Creation Science and the Bible or Science and Biblical Creation. I don’t know the author, but will post that information later this evening when I get home from work.

    I think the people who generally can’t reconcile these items are generally people who want to take the Torah accounts as being completely literal, and I am not sure that is entirely possible.

  • Party Hearty? Grandmuffti likes the sounds of that. He will start arranging party favours immeadiately.

  • Read the book The Science of God, I forgot the author…. It´ll shed some light on this discussion

  • Let the Muffti clarify a bit in light of all your interesting comments. We all agree, I take it, that the literal interpretation of the bible is just ridiculous. I suppose that means that if we are to understand our Holy books, we had best resort to treating them like metaphors. But, the unfortunate thing about metaphors is that they are both hard to understand and typically require some familiarity with the intentions, beliefs and desires of the author. Notice that that model is rather strained when we cling to the view that the author is, well, God allmighty who we make no pretences to understanding. What I seem to be getting from a bunch of you is that we do our science and that provides us with an interpretation of Genesis: whatever science tells us about the developmental history of the universe is what God meant when he wrote Genesis. Is that about right? Because the story science gives us may be a story that doesn’t look very much like a benevolent, omnipotent God was running the show…

  • but dude, science changes all the time. Just 60 years ago scientists almost unanimously agreed the the age of the universe was eternal, and then a few short years later the big bang theory (which corresponds with the bible’s idea of an initial creation) turned that all on its head.

    Just one example.

    Science is not there to tell us what truth is, it’s there to explain to us all the why’s and how’s behind it. Science changes and evolves, and we need to be open minded enough to allow our perceptions or what truth is to be shaken up sometimes.

  • Ummmn…I find this paragraph very confusing:

    “Science is not there to tell us what truth is, it’s there to explain to us all the why’s and how’s behind it. Science changes and evolves, and we need to be open minded enough to allow our perceptions or what truth is to be shaken up sometimes.”

    So, when you find out the why’s and the how’s behind the nature and working of the universe, you still haven’t been told truth? Anyhow, the fact that science is in flux tells you that you shouldn’t bet the entire farm on it, but the fact that it has progressed and exhibited clear directions should tell you something; and the fact hat our models are getting more and more accurate should also tell you something.

  • The flat earth society thought that they were accurate too. Everything seems accurate until something else comes along to disprove it. That’s the nature of the beast.

    What exactly is it that you are saying it should be it be telling us?

    Except that science has a fascinating history of man’s (often wrong but always evolving) attempts to understand the world around him.

    And no, i don’t think that full truth can be found by looking at things thru a purely scientific lens.

  • Yes, the flat earth society thought they were right. And surely it takes quite a lot of confidence in your beliefs to blow yourself up in the name of Allah. Nonetheless, the Muffti fails to don’t see relevance. The fact that we could be wrong doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we should believe, and our best explanations of our evidence is what we should be believing. (All empirical belief seems subject to some doubt and revision; that doesn’t stop you from thinking that there are things that you should believe and things that you ought not to believe.) As for science, I reckon it should be giving the most accurate possible model of the basic laws of cause and effect of the universe with an eye towards explaining and predicting phenomena (either probabilistically or otherwise). So, if your best science is telling you about how the world operates, while defeasible, it looks like its relative success in predicting and explaining should give you some degree of confidence in its being right.

    Given that, and given that your best science is in conflict with some bit of dogma, I guess the question is what should go, the dogma or the science. For my part, bland appeals to scepticism aside, I reckon that we should empathize but ridicule the people that side with religious dogma. I take it that’s why people on this post all say that the bible should be interpreted metaphorically: because the straight literal translation is so out of sync with any plausible scientific attempt to explain ‘creation’ that it is laughable to try to compare the two toe to toe.

  • I think you are making a bit of a generalization saying that “I take it that’s why people on this post all say that the bible should be interpreted metaphorically” (i certainly know that i have never explicitly stated that, and I believe Alli has never chimed in on her view. I hate to think of our blog as all having to be in agreement anyway)

    We’re not talking about blowing yourself up in the name of Allah, we’re talking about science vs. religion and who to believe when they disagree. I’m saying that science is always changing and therefore it seems silly to discredit Tanach simply on the basis that it does not concur with current scientific discovery. I brought up the big bang theory as one large example of science actually growing to be in sync with Tanach. For all we know that could be some kind of trend that continues and we’ll reach the day where the science of God and the science of man prove and reaffirm each other.

    If you are sincerly curious about the matter, and want to broaded your horizons a bit look at MIT-trained scientist Gerald Schroeder’s website or books. It all seems refreshingly sane.

    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
    –Albert Einstein

  • Science is not in contradiction with religion. They prove each other constantly.

    The book I mentioned previously, The Science of God, was written by Gerald Schroeder. It´s an amazing book that demoralizes this arcaich theory that religion and science clash. In fact, he uses science to prove the bible.

  • I suppose I should get around to reading Schroeder. The bit that I read seemed pretty amateurish (and my science buddies confirmed that, but they are a bunch of atheists so who knows?) I don’t think that anyone ever doubted that evolution was an oversimplified view that massively (a) overgenerates possible species and at the same time (b) undergenerates in that there are species that seem, at times, to have appeared with no smooth antecedents. Of course, this does nothing to refute evolution since evolution on its own doesn’t make any predictions about what fossils you would find, but when you add plausible premises to evolution, perhaps these predictions are entailed. Anyhow, despite its flaws, I’ve never seen mainstream science throw out the random variability aspect of evolution and I don’t see why it would: the key seem to be to add constraints within which to contain expected mutations, not toss out the baby with the bathwater. In this regard, I can’t much see how religion and science are ‘proving eachother’. Just the opposite; science gives some non-teleological description of how the world works and then religion takes that and teleologizes it, in order to fit a micro-managing creator into the mix. Science doesn’t, and I see no good reason to think that it will, endorse this sort of end/purpose directed overall view of nature.