Yup, today I had to field that one.

“Daddy, there’s something that doesn’t make sense. Did dinosaurs come before Adam and Eve, or after? I thought dinosaurs came before people showed up on Earth, but then how did God make Adam and Eve first?”

Yikes! What do I answer? Do I tell him that the second chapter tells a slightly different story than the first chapter of Bereshit (Genesis)? Do I tell him that scientists date dinosaurs millions of years prior to the arrival of homo sapiens, and while that doesn’t conflict with the first chapter in Genesis if one assumes that by “day” the Torah means “millions of years,” it conflicts with a literal reading of the chapter and any reading of the second chapter? Do I tell him that the Torah was written by men and this is a creation story with its roots in mythology?

He obviously believes there’s a God and is trying to make sense of what this means. He also clearly believes in biblical stories, just as he believes what his science teacher tells him about dinosaurs. But I’m afraid that if I tell him what I believe, I will damage his confidence in the Torah and in God.

Oh yeah, last week he asked, “Daddy, what happens to us if we don’t eat kosher?”

I’m clearly not smart enough to be a father.

About the author

themiddle

240 Comments

  • Well, the way I understood it is as follows.
    We know the creation took “6 days”. Adam wasn’t created until Friday and as far as we know 6 “days” in G-d’s time can be 6 milleniea. When talking about the concept of time in reference to G-d, as far as the 6 days of creation is concerned, maybe G-d didn’t do it instantly. Maybe he let everything evolve and erode, which maks room for dinosaurs to come round.

    As far s the death of the dinos, the flood can cover that one.

    This explanation of mine is a very very vague interpertation of a lecture I heard at a Discovery seminar by a man named Dr. Schroeder. He wrote a book called ‘Genesis and the Big Bang’

    You can get it by clicking here

  • Well, the answer to who came first is, of course: the dinosaurs. God made the beasts first. And those particular beasts didn’t really work out, so God edited them out before moving on to us. (Jury’s still out on whether we worked out.) It only figures God didn’t bother to tell us about the dinosaurs in Bereshit. It must be a sore point with God.

    But seriously, folks, to the question of science and creation: they’re different arenas. Why do we perceive this great conflict? It’s like love and physiology. Both are true. Yes, we are driven by evolution to seek sexual relationships, and because we are social, to have strong emotional ties to our mates. But it is also true that we can fall in love–real, spiritual, soul-mate love. There’s no conflict there. It’s all true. The same with creation.

    A.J. Heschel said that whatever we say about God is neither literally true nor LESS than literally true; it is MORE than literally true. The essence of Creation was amazing beyond the ability of our minds to grasp. The closest we can come to describing God’s great work of Creation is the attempt to describe it in Bereshit. Science just deals with the nuts and bolts of that, which is much more boring, and less important in matters of the heart and soul. God would no more include the science (which is true) in the Torah than you would say to your wife: “Honey, thanks to such and such a biological drive, honed by such and such natural selections, and tempered by such and such hormone, I love you.”

    http://sethchalmer.blogspot.com

  • when i was a kid in “M.O.” day school, i carried a dissonance about Torah truths and Science truths, and didn’t stress too much the reconciliation,or feel obigated to “pick one” Because who knows?

    I do believe in Dinosaurs, despite being told by rebbes not to. the impulse to create theories about what how much time a “day” equals is tempting, but why not just leave it open, and wait for the clarity? it’s not like fossil records affect our day to day life or modern moral struggle. or do they?

    Tripping once, i had a vision of clarity of the process of growth of the world. it started ith water, and then got boring, then plants, which was a nice change of pace but couldn’t reach beyond.

    Theres a theory by tom Robbins in a bunch of his books: all life is based on water. What if we evolved just to move water further? it works on a metaphorical/kabbalistical level too.

    So dinosaurs, they survive an move water very well, but their priority is not innovaive or exploratory so much, so… life goes on. maybe we’ll get the water somewhere.

    I once heard Dovid Hertberg Z’l say when does water really become happy, become redeemed? It’s been pissed off ever since it was forced to separate, when does it come back together and feel like it was all worthwhile? when tzaddikim cry, real tears of longing or joy, and it became clear to me, also when they sweat real sweat.

  • While not very satisfying to many others, the explanation I once heard and found most appealing is that just as Hashem created Adam and Chava as adults, he also created the Earth as an “adult” world with a past. Thus he could have created the Earth with fossilized dinosaurs already in it.

    This answer is not from a halachic source, but I always found it appealing on an emotional level.

    Of course, re your child, I’d just say that dinosaurs were created before humans, and see if he accepts that. Hell, all the animals were created before us!

  • Uh, hello – why are people on this list saying they “believe” in dinosaurs? We’ve dug up the skeletons and dated them, folks. It’s not a matter of faith.

    And I really don’t like the “G-d made an old world” approach – like all our science is a cosmic fake out? Intellect is a gift from G-d, we are not supposed to surrender it. Nor does got play such “tricks” on humanity.

    I am Orthodox and also hold a degree in physics. I have also read (and recommend) the lectures and books of Gerald Schroeder, although they are not so clearly written.

    Basically, what I “believe” is: the six “days” of creation in the Biblical story are, in face, eons – there is solid mainstream Orthodox opinion dating back to medieval scholars that does not take this story literally, so this is not such a jump.

    Adam and Eve – i.e. the creation/evolution of self-aware, morally aware humans – takes place on the last day. This jibes with the scientific record, as well: humans are a late development.

    Even a small child can understand that Tuesday comes before Friday. So the dinosaurs are the “great lizards” mentioned in the Biblical account. They died out before Adam and Eve. I think this can be explained to a child.

    For an in-depth, broad-ranging, nuanced discussion of the age of the universe from an Orthodox Jewish perspective, try the hirhurim blog at http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/

  • Ben David, how do you explain the Garden of Eden story, which conflicts both with the Creation story as it appears in Chapter One, and with your chronology of animals before man?

    Liora, I said, “That’s an excellent question that is so good and so complicated I have to think about the answer and get back to you.” My initial response was to tell him what Ben David just said, but I suspected that he was asking me because he had been exposed recently to the Garden of Eden story, which differs in the chronology.

    Then I came to Jewlicious to learn more and to try to sort out for myself what I want to tell him and how to present it.

    • Everyone, go get your bible.
      In Genesis, Chapter 1 God created the heavens and earth in 7 days.

      God tell you WHAT he did on each of the six days and on the 7th day he rested. We do not know how long a day was for God but we do know it wasn’t in 24 hour period as we have it today.

      Verse 11 states: God said, “I command the earth to produce all kinds of plants, including fruit trees and grain.” And that’s what happened. The earth produced all kinds of vegetation.

      Verse 24 in Chapter 1 states: God said,”I command the earth to give life to all kinds of tame animals, wild animals and reptiles.” And that’s what happened. God made every one of them.

      Verse 27 states: God said, “Now we will make humans and they will be like us. (which means that God and the angels were already here). God doesn’t say in what order this was done but he does say it in Chapter 2.

      Chapter 2 tell us about the garden of Eden and HOW God created man and the animals.

      Verses 7-9 states: The Lord God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the mand started breathing. The Lord made a garden in a place called Eden, which was in the east, and he put the man there. The Lord God placed (not created but put there) all kinds of beautiful trees and fruit trees in the garden.

      Verses 18-20 states: The Lord God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. (I’m sure dinosaurs were considered wild animals.) That’s how they got their names.

      So, the Bible states that Man came first then the animals so that they could be a partner to the man, but that none of the animals were the right kind of partner for the man.

      Don’t believe what I say about God didn’t give us the order in which came first in Chapter 1? Try this. “On Saturdays, I shop, clean house, do laundry and see friends”. Do we know in what order they were done? No we do not. We speak in what we did, not neccessary in the order that we did them.

      Same is true of God in this sense. He told us What he did on the 6th day in Chapter 1 and how he did it in Chapter 2. God has a sense of humor. He got what he wanted; us discussing this topic eons of years later.

  • I know that if someone had explained to me that the Torah we read is just the “adapted for the human mind” version of the Torah God has, lots of things would have made more sense to me. There are three levels to the Torah: Torah, Midrash, and Yesod. Sometimes, for concepts from the Yesod part to be explained to us in Torah, we need stories. The point is not the story but the symbolisms and message.

    Of course, you could just show your son that in the Torah it says, “vayivrah Elokim et taninim hagedolim” (Bereishet 1:21)–that HaShem created giant sea creatures. This was before Adam and Chava, and if he sees that it says it straight out in the Torah, it’s pretty easy to understand. We don’t know what kind of sea creatures those are, but if he keeps asking such bright questions–maybe one day he’ll be such a big talmud chachum that he’ll understand it and get to explain to others! (At least that’s what I’d say.)

  • I think the zohar tells of this a few worlds that were created and ‘broken up’ before ours (final one?). On one hand, how do you explain the zohar to your son, on the other hand, in messianic times, kids will be learning sod/hidden stuff.

  • I’m with Fun Joel on this one. As an archaeologist and an observant Jew, this is the explanation that sits best in my opinion.
    There’s nothing as far as I’m aware in the Torah to negate this opinion, and it sits ok with science, although I wouldn’t go as far as to teach it as unrefuted fact in an archaeology class.
    It works with the medieval commentary that each “day” of creation was actually eons in time as well.

  • Yes Netsach, I am well prepared. For example, I knew right away why he was confused, which verses were involved, was able to locate the verses in seconds and then read them in their original and quite beautiful biblical Hebrew.

    It’s the fathering part – where I have to decide whether to teach him something in which I don’t believe so that he will continue to believe and his world will remain shaped by magical forces – for which my education didn’t prepare me.

  • I usually take the days=eons rout, only more allegorically yet. Essentially the sevend days of creation can be taken as showing that the universe, and life itself came in waves and phases. If you try to match things up too specifically it tends to fall apart (and I have no idea what to do with Genesis 2). But my favorite allegory is “let there be light!” = the separation of the Grand Unified Force into the Four Forces of nature (one of which, of course, is the electromagnetic force–light).

  • I guess I’m not as smart as everyone else here. Once you start bringing in electromagnetic force, you’ve lost me.

    Somehow, with all the problems I may have with the way Torah is taught, I never saw the conflict; maybe it was the “day does not equal 24 hrs” theory, taught to us when we were very little. But it never really occurred to me to try to prove the Biblical text through science or v.v. I always found room for them both in my understanding of the world. If you say the Bible’s man-written, then you can chalk the discrepancy up to human error or our incomplete knowledge of archeological history. If you say it’s verbatim the word of God, then it’s something that we just need to accept, logic and scientific/archeological discovery be damned.

    I do admit, that when I was a kid, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. (And even took a course in them in college.)

  • I see. You choose to lie to your children about how the world came to be, and substitute real science with fairy tales. But Muffti is the unqualified guy for fatherhood…

  • The way I understand it, no one is really ever prepared to answer all of the questions that kids can pose. “Real science”? “Fairy tales”? “Philosophy”? They’re all versions of a truth that can never be satisfactorily proven.

  • Hey, look! The ‘rents have taken over Jewlicious and all they can do is talk about their kids! 😉

    This is a great discussion. My kids were old enough when they started dayschool that they already knew the truth about dinosaurs and the origins of the universe…

    But in all seriousness, there is a big problem out there with inconsistences in the teaching of how things started. It’s helpful, as an adult, to see the creation story as allegorical- but to a young orthodox dayschool-educated child, a day is 24 hours, light came first, and dinosaurs are an abstract concept.

    I experienced a stunning moment a few years ago when I was helping out at an ultra-frum camp-out. A high school girl and I were oohing and aahing over the night sky- being from Brooklyn, she’d never seen so many stars in her life. She asked me what I knew about astronomy (she knew I had a science background), so I told her that the light from these stars had traveled for millions of years to reach us & isn’t that remarkable?!! I looked over at her: stunned silence… “But the world is only 5,763 years old?…,” she squeaked. Oops. I blew her head apart without even trying.

    In contrast, I drove up north through Vermont and into Canada with a Lubovitch friend. Along the way, we were marveling at the rock formations along the highway. She told me how amazing she thought it was that the rock had been pushed up from the earth in so many different directions.

    Whoa! Now it was my own mind exploding. I asked her how she was reconciling geophysical changes over large periods of time with the Torah’s version of creation. She actually laughed at me- and told me it was only a problem if I insisted on seeing the days of creation as 24 hours.

    The lesson I draw from these two experiences is that it is quite possible to reconcile science and Torah if you aren’t afraid of what you may learn. However, if your faith is so ordered and brittle that scientific evidence is enough to shake your foundation, maybe it’s better to be left in the dark (there was a major brouhaha over the books by ZooTorah’s Rabbi Slifkin- just a few months ago, his books were banned and he was put into Cherem- for real!- for believing that science and Torah could co-exist).

    As far as the kids are concerned- it’s probably better to tell them what *you* believe about scientific matters. Knowledge always trumps ignorance.

  • Muffti always likes lines like ‘it was only a problem if I insisted on seeing the days of creation as 24 hours’.
    Like, believing in God is only a problem for Muffti if you insist on looking at God as an abstract all powerful being. If you think of ‘creation’ as just ‘nature’ and God’s miracles as ‘nice stories’ and the ‘laws’ as a moral code made up by people over many years, Muffti is a theist (so long as you don’t insist by ‘theist’ something like ‘guy who believes in God’.) Yay! Redefining can resolve all disputes, can’t it!

  • I’m confident that my son will be familiar with science and that’s not a concern here. For me one of the questions is whether one should tell a child everything about everything from a young age. Right now, he is experiencing the wonder of the biblical stories and grappling with the notion of what god is and isn’t. He is also trying to wrap his mind around the concept of an omnipotent and omniscient god. What is god? What are his powers? Where does man stand in a universe with a god?

    I see this is a building block in his future decisions about faith. I could easily crush it with a couple of choice pieces of information, but why do so? Muffti cannot disprove god’s existence, just as I can’t disprove that Moses went up to Mount Sinai and brought down some tablets. The things I believe, I have come to believe over a period of decades where I was exposed to a great deal of information that conflicted with other information. However, I definitely also went through some periods in my youth where I believed in God and they have shaped my view of Judaism and of Jews, especially Jews who are faithful and observant, in a positive way.

  • The ‘rents have not “taken over” Jewlicious: they have merely “occupied” it. But just wait…one day soon, we nonparentals will end the occupation.

  • Middle:
    Ben David, how do you explain the Garden of Eden story, which conflicts both with the Creation story as it appears in Chapter One, and with your chronology of animals before man?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    One mainstream interpretation – again based on Midrash – is that the second chapter (Garden of Eden story) took place on the First Friday (sounds like a Catholic holiday…).

    The Eden story is then a parable of the birth of human consciousness. The full realization of Adam and Eve as beings with free will and human moral dimensions is then the pinnacle of the Creation. All is now perfectly imperfect in a Jewlicious way, and the first Sabbath comes.

    This interpretation yields a lot of insight when you think it through – and is an especially useful counterpoint to Xtian folderol about original sin.

    There is no “Fall of Man” – until they sin, they are not aware that they have free choice. This distances them from G-d while simultaneously opening the possibility of a higher (re)union, one that combines freely-willed love with obedience.

    Search the web for articles on this by Rabbi David Aaron. Good stuff.

  • A propos the ‘rents takin over:

    It was grandmufti, then dinosaurs, then Adam and Eve. That was the actual order.
    – – – – – – – – –
    … and he’s STILL not married.

    Tsk. Tsk.

  • Ben-david, the STILL part seems to implicate that Muffti has been TRYING to get married…

  • I did not look at this site for a few days and actually got work done.
    Now I come back and I see my exact discussion and warning to TM.

    There is no in between. You want to bring your kid up Jewish and not intermarry. But then you don’t accept that the torah was given to our fathers as they told us.

    You are correct. There is an unbridgeable schism between those Jews who don’t deny their history and understand the covenant and those others whether conservative or deformed who who have denied it.

    Now I will tell you the answer as I understand it.

    1. First of all there is no contradiction between the first two chapters. The second chapter happened during the seven days of creation and much of the second chapter happened on the sixth day.

    The Torah explains things in logical chunks. It first explains the seven days listing what happened on each. It then goes back to give specifics. What do you suggest it do? Break up the flow and insert extraneous details right in the middle?

    2. There is no question that what Fun Joel said is correct. Can aybody imagine Adam being created as an infant? He was of course created a grown man. Do you think Adam had to wait years in order to eat from a fruit tree – until the tree grew from a seed?!

    3. Dinosaurs and other creatures I’m sure existed. Dogs and cats also existed. Does that mean that they existed ‘millions’ of years ago? I don’t believe so.

    Many events happened in the world. The dating used by the scientists are not at all accurate in the real world. In a test tube they might be but in the real world they are affected by variables such as temperature and pressure both of which speed up the process so that 1 year under heat and pressure can equal who knows how many thousands un a test tube.
    As an example anything killed during the great flood in the times of Noah would be dated wrong due to the tremendous pressure and heat of the waters. The great flood in the times of Noah killed just about every species on land.

    Do you TM or anyone else here trully understand the dating methods used? Do you know that carbon dating for example is only accurate to up to 10 thousand years? I saw that written at the ‘tar pits,’ a museum in California, in between the showcases of animals found that were supposedly millions of years old. Do you know how they date dinosaurs?
    Here is a discussion that I found talking about this:
    http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=38149

    I am willing to learn.

    But one thing I am unwilling to do is to accept on belief alone without understanding it.

    Apparently you, Mufti and others are willing to accept ‘scientific facts’ without questioning or understanding the science behind it;
    but to accept what you own great-grandparents testified about history that was SEEN -that you don’t accept.

    Very smart.

  • Um, even if Carbon dating is off by 10,000 years or so, that still doesn’t add up to 5,763.

    I believe that G-d does not exist in time, so He used a unit of time that would be easy for the early Hebrews to relate to.

    The Ramban states that “the story of Creation tells of when the major categories of the universe came into existence only in very general terms, because its PRIMARY PURPOSE (emphasis mine) is to state that nothing came into being except at G-d’s command.”

    In other words, if you spend all your time trying to make the stories match up, you’re missing the whole point of the lesson. Missing the forest for the trees, as it were.

  • Schmo! Actually, I do accept that the Torah was given to us by our fathers. It’s the miracles, God’s revealing himself to the Israelites and giving the Torah at Sinai rather than indirectly inspiring a really good writer or two (even if his name was Moses) with which I have some difficulty. I don’t challenge Israelite religion or its permutations, and fully believe that a Temple existed in Jerusalem led by Cohanim.

    Having said that, the carbon dating comment you made is a red herring since carbon dating only goes back about 70,000 years.

    Here’s an article about dating ancient fossils.

    If I understand the underlying premise of your comments, Schmo, I have to gather that it doesn’t matter to you whether I am Jewish or whether my child is raised Jewish.

  • Joe Schmo: your comments are interesting if particularly narrow-minded.
    Using your same argument, what of the civilisations (eg Egyptian) that date their written record back thousands of years before the Earth was created 5763 years ago?
    The Torah was not written “in logical chunks”. So much of it is illogical that it is a joke to say so. It was written to highlight a moral code for the Jews.

  • wait till he starts asking about where babies come from, and what he saw the other day playing doctor, you’ll long for questions about Adam and Dinosaurs

  • I have a degree in biology, and I’m having a really hard time understanding exactly what you’re saying about test tubes, real world, temperature and pressure. I think you really need to look into this stuff a bit more.

    First off, carbon dating is useful for dating things back to about 50,000 years, not 10,000. You can go back about 8, maybe 9 half-lives of C-14 with good results; a half-life is about 5700 years (gee whiz!- almost the age of the world!!). If you read about and understand the concept, you would know that there are ways of calibrating the measurements to render the best results. Some methods work better than others, but advances in the field have made modern measurements more accurate than those done in earlier times.

    Incidentally, the arguement that carbon dating is useless for samples over 10,000 years old is a popular one in X-tian “Creationist” circles.

    As for temperature and pressure, sure they’re important. But to say that they are the major influential forces of nature would be like me telling you that the basic elements of matter are earth, wind and fire. Like I said before, knowledge trumps ignorance.

    If anything, you’ve made a brilliant argument for an expanded science curriculum in dayschools and yeshivot.

    …I’m glad to see my degree came in handy for something…

  • Grace, I wasn’t saying that it is off by 10,000 years but that it can only date to ‘within’ 10,000 years.

    TM, I have seen a few numbers of how up until how far back carbon dating is accurate. The 10,000 number I saw on a plaque in a museum – the ‘tar pit’ museum.
    Here I found a web site for it: http://www.tarpits.org/

    Apparently some estimate the limit to be 30,000 and some 70,000.

    I am not sure which part of my comments implied anything about whether I care about your being Jewish. Of course I care. You have to undestand though that when you bring your child up that is is no real middleground. Once you say that the events in the Torah that your great-grandparents knew becasue it was their history- are not accurate… you can only expect total rejection by your child later on. Why would somebody keep difficult laws if they were written by a ‘really good writer?!’ If your child will remain even partially committed consider yourself lucky.

    Me,

    I was not aware that any civilizations date anything past around 6,000 years ago. I would be very interested in learning about that.
    Any references?

    I would like you to show me anything ‘illogical.’

    I have gone to yeshivah and I have studied extensively – but I am willing to learn.

    Please give me some references to illogical places because I have yet to come upon such a place.

  • Einstein’s limit on the speed of light says the world is old. The world is old because we see light that travelled billions of light years to reach us. Vayehi or! lol (does that answer the dino question?)

    I’m more impressed by the magnitude of the universe than with dinosaurs. If you ever have trouble with religion just look up at night sky. That is a billion billion billion worlds. Hashem put a lot of stuff out there. Judaism is not incompatible with science. We just need to accept that we are very tiny and insignificant compared to the awesome powers beyond our control. Thereby, Hashem is everywhere.

  • Oy, I don’t have the patience or time to read all the comments but I trust they’re well intended. Let me just skip to the heart of this: TM, level with your son as best you know how. Kids eventually wise up to their parents’ obfuscations.

    By adolescence, he’ll figure everything you tell him is baloney. Don’t start early and give him more ammunition than he needs.

    Good luck, whatever you tell him.

  • I read through the site but there was no mention of tempurature or pressure.

    My question is simple. Will a specimen at the bottom of the ocean (under a lot of pressure) carbon-age at the same or different rate than something on dry land.

    Will a specimen in Antartica carbon-age at the same rate as a specimen in Florida?

    What about a specimen at the bottom of the Arctic ocean (to combine pressure and tempurature)?

  • Schmo, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s 30 or 70 thousand years since we’re talking about millions of years.

    According to National Geographic, they have found homo sapien fossils dating back 160,000 years.

    Now I wonder, Joe, how does this affect your beliefs? How do you reconcile what you’re learning in this discussion with your previous ideas about this topic?

    Anyway, with respect to your all or nothing view of Judaism, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to get over this narrow-minded perspective.

    One can live as a traditional Jew and raise traditional Jewish children without having them “reject” everything. I don’t “reject” everything. If anything, notice that you observe out of awe and fear, or perhaps because you grew up this way and it’s the only way you know, while I observe out of respect for our culture and traditions, as well as a sense that this choice I make to live as a Jew and raise my child as a Jew is one that matters deeply to me.

  • ANNE!!!! It’s so nice to see you again!

    Notice, Anne, that I haven’t lied to my son. I have merely postponed giving him an answer, and will likely give him an answer that is accurate, although a lawyer may sense that I’m omitting some info. That info will come, but probably in a little while, I really don’t want to disrupt the current learning process with respect to God.

  • Conserva Girl

    As I understand it Carbon 14 dating is based on the ussumption that the amount of C 14 in the atmosphere(and organic matter) remains relitively constant but apparently there have been certain studies that have shown this not to be the case. it might be worth looking into it but allas my bed looks much more inviting.

  • TM my point is that i am not at all convinced of the accuracy of the dating schemes used. I know what it says in national geographic.

    My point is that you accept whatever is written even without understanding it when it is a ‘scientist’ saying it.

    Scientists also have to back themselves up. There is a reason its still called the THEORY of evolution. That is because it is just a theory.

    It seems that in real life the dating has often been wrong. Thats what my first link was about:
    http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=38149

    I also have a simple logical question on it that had to do with temperature and pressure- that was not yet addressed by anybody neither the anthropologist or the biologist (me and conserva-girl).

    Why TM are you so easy to accept things without understanding them?

  • wine guy I understand that, conserva-girl gave a nice link.

    My point is that it is sort of obvious in chemistry and biology that any rate of change defined is always assuming a certain temperature and pressure. If you put an item under higher pressure or under more heat the rate of change usually speeds up. Before I personally come to any conclusions I need to know what would happen if those variables change. Hence my question in my comments above.

  • Carbon dating is just one tool, and its use it limited to organic samples such as fossils. A lot of the dating is arrived at by cross-comparing the Carbon data with other geological age markers, the fossil’s position in the sediment layers, etc.

    There is also the observations of physicists and cosmologists which make the universe billions of years old, using unchanging physical phenomena.

    NONE of this really conflicts with Judaism or the Bible. The “conflict” is artificial, manufactured and maintained by ultra-secularists and religious fundamentalists – BOTH of whom are rather ignorant of the underlying science (yes, that includes the secular folks – most of them are just parroting the garbled nonsense they’ve picked up from the mass media. They don’t understand the underlying science, and what it does and doesn’t prove.)

    I think a kid can understand the difference between how a scientist describes the physical world through observation and experimentation – and how the Torah and Judaism use history, law, and poetry to convey moral and spiritual truths.

    How about something like:
    “The Torah isn’t a science book – so it doesn’t tell the details. It just tells us that G-d made the world in an orderly way – just like the days of the week have an order. And that’s what the scientists have found.”

    I think a kid can understand that – different, but complementary, facets of reality. Science is great for understanding the material world, Judaism is great for the emotional, moral, and spiritual aspects of reality.

  • Dear themiddle,

    Do you want to share these doubts you have;
    as you put it?:

    “It’s the miracles, God’s revealing himself to the Israelites and giving the Torah at Sinai rather than indirectly inspiring a really good writer or two (even if his name was Moses) with which I have some difficulty. I don’t challenge Israelite religion or its permutations”

    Is this what you want to teach? Is this youre idea of being strong minded; so as to be able to deal with the challenges of life? I wouldn’t
    underestimate how easily people pick up and
    learn these doubts, especially younger people.
    I connect doubt with confussion and panic.

  • Confusion and panic? What am I panicked about? And let’s say that a young person “picks up” on the doubts I have with respect to the stories in the Torah, why do you think they will panic or be confused? Perhaps they’ll be open-minded and explore the topic from a variety of angles. That’s what I did, and that’s what most people do. You then come to conclusions. If certainty means that you try to come up with debating points by ignoring links to scientists and scientific publications while providing a link to some online discussion in some chat forum, then perhaps certainty is not a good thing to have.

    Ben David, I think your last comment is probably the closest we’ve come to what I will ultimately tell him. I believe that I will discuss the 7 days of creation and their order but will avoid discussing the discrepancies between the Creation story and the Garden of Eden story.

    For those of you who are adults, and are confident in your beliefs, consider the Documentary Hypothesis which posits that a number of authors authored the bible. Having two contradicting stories related to the creation of man makes a lot of sense in this scenario…

  • Dear themiddle,

    You ask:

    “Confusion and panic? What am I panicked
    about?”

    You answered yourself when you started this:

    “But I’m afraid that if I tell him what I believe, I will damage his confidence in the Torah and in God.

    Oh yeah, last week he asked, “Daddy, what

    happens to us if we don’t eat kosher?”

    I’m clearly not smart enough to be a father.”

    Did you not say that?

  • Netsach, this is not panic or confusion. This is good fodder for an interesting discussion, allows me to develop my own thinking, is generally fun, can be informative in several ways (in this discussion we have seen Orthodox Jews dismiss science; atheist Jews dismiss the Torah as fairy tales; and learned about the science of Carbon dating and fossil dating), and allows me to make a self-depracating joke about something which I do with great joy – being a father. And fatherhood, like everything else, is a process of learning, not of panic and confusion, but of learning. Thanks for your concern, however.

  • Joe-

    The link I gave answers those questions you’ve posed. Temperature and pressure aren’t the forces we’re concerned with. C-14 content is influenced by many environmental factors, but B-H, scientists who use these methods have ways of qualifying their results. Read the website! You’ll find your answers there.

    BTW, evolution was brought up here a few comments back. Evolutionary genetics isn’t about finding “missing links”. Evolution is a subtle thing. I once interviewed in a lab where they were studing bird genetic diversity. They had found that on neighboring islands in the Pacific, different species of birds differed by only a few miniscule DNA changes. Yet they looked entirely different. If it hadn’t been for DNA comparison, you wouldn’t even know they were related.

    Another example of evolution is the rapid mutation of the AIDS virus. Folks, that’s evolution- it’s not just a theory! It’s a modern example of DNA that adapts itself in order to survive.

    Religion reconciled with science is a gift from God. We think that the age of miracles is over, but what if God performs miracles within the context of the times? Maybe these are our modern miracles but we’re too intent on seeing the splitting of seas to notice them. Albert Einstein once said “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

  • By the way, Muffti, by your definition of a theist, Rambam is one. He said that God created nature and gave it the ability to create blah, blah, blah. The Ramban vehemently argued against him on that point (among others :)).

  • A few questions about Genesis chapter1/2:

    If the Garden of Eden story takes place on Day 6, why would God declare that his creation on Day 6 is “very good.” He created man and he already sinned on his first day! What is good about that?

    And how are the discrepancies between chapters 1 and 2 rectified. A literal reading of chapter 2 implies that God created man (2:7/Day 6?), and then the garden with its trees (2:9/Day 3?) and the animals (2:19/earlier on Day6?).

  • Science is great. It is facts. It is “how”. Religion is great. It is truth. It is “why”. The oldest human history anybody knows is indeed about 5 – 6 thousand years ago, which is the “Torah age” of the world. FOR US as humans OUR world is therefore indeed 5 – 6 thousand years old. Our PLANET can be as old as it wants. Science is very interesting six days a week. On the seventh day we close the lab, tape the light switches and read from Scripture.

    Yay team.

    When your six year old asks how the elevator works, you say, you know the engine in Daddy’s car? There is an engine in the basement like that one and it makes the elevator go up and down.

    That is simplified, but it is not a lie. A lie would be “there is a large pink bunny in the basement and he kicks his feet and that makes the elevator go up and down.” The first is like religion, simplified but true. The second is like superstition, nonsense.

    Your seventeen year old asks how the elevator works. You start in on oms and amps and transistors and resistance and generators, and you take out your blue-prints from when you worked at Otis designing elevators. Vastly more complicated – he can handle it now.

    G-d is the father in this story. He is proud of his children’s increasing understanding of his world. But they are challenged not to forget the basic Truth while they are learning all those wonderful facts.

  • Joe Shmo read my post again

    There have supposedly been studies showing that the amount of C14 in the atmosphere is increasing. This means that thousands of years ago there was less, therefore things may appear older than they really are, which was not the point I was focusing on

    the point is C14 is not a perfectly reliable tool and even if it was it would not contradict Torah or it’s Divine origens

    Sorry guys I just don’t see any big issues with science There are old Jewsih sources which claim the universe is billions of years old.

    National Geographic did a study showing that the percentage of Scientists who believe in creation, vs. those that don’t are the same as those across all walks of life in the western world. As science progresses we will see more and more that it correlates with Torah and reveals Torah

  • Well, this morning I told him that I didn’t know whether there were human beings around in the time of the dinosaurs but that many people don’t view the 7 days of creation as 7 human days, but as 7 days in God’s time, which could be as long as one can imagine. Since the animals were created before man, it could have been millions of years before.

    I then told him that the Garden of Eden story suggests a different timetable. I didn’t attempt to reconcile the differences. We did have a brief discussion about “Adam’s rib.”

  • Why does The Middle have to go this alone? All the kids in the school are asking similar questions at home. The professionals at the school have been over this ground and have training, so why aren’t they helping in some way?

  • dear themiddle,

    I aggree with just about all of what you are saying now. What I am really emphasizing is not so much the “what” in terms of the arguments. Many
    of these folks here are doing a fine job with that; as you are as well, no doubt. I am talking about the “how” you are putting things. For example the doubts and the fear you have of expressing youre views. Another emphasis I am making is that these “doubts” and “fears” will leak out one way or another.

  • A quick word on the religion vs. science issue, in particular on the ‘how’ vs. ‘why’ approach to seeing the dialectic.

    One grand shift between how the ancients and the moderns approach explanation of the world can be summed up by a fight between teleology and efficient causation. Teleology is the study of purpose, or the aims of a type of object. It need not be religious: Aristotle’s studies of physics, matter etc. made little reference to the divine and lots of reference to purpose. Why does the object fall when dropped? Because it wants to return to earth from which it is made. Why does air not to ‘fall’ (well, it sorta does actually)? Because it wants to be up in the sky where it belongs. Why is there motion? Nature abhors vaccuums and particles want to fill them. In religion, why do people get sick? Because the laws want to punish the unjust, or want to promote a great good somewhere else and hurting a person is required to achieve that purpose.

    Modern science didn’t simply give new explanations, it did away with an entire paradigm of how to explain things. It posited mechanisms that were absolutely cold and insensitive to desire or purpose. Things don’t fall because they want to get to the ground. They fall because gravitational forces are greater downward than force pushing upwards. Why do people get sick? A plethora of explanations, none of them requiring positing a being with intentions and desires that he carries out in reliable means.

    Muffti’s point is that the clash between religion and science isn’t merely a clash between to competing explanations: science is an attempt to give a fully predictive account of the universe that specifically does not require any appeal to intentions. Religion, in modern times, is transformed from an attempt to explain the phenomenon in intentional therms to a defense against such a reductionist view that science offers. Thus, when a poster earlier wrote ‘look at the stars’ while a scientific approach sees a mathematical challenge, religious approaches see a theological one.

    Are these approaches strictly speaking incompatible? Well, not logically incompatible but insofar as you think that mechanistic, non-teleological explanations give a FULL account of what you see and so forth, so much the worse for account that require positing teleology.

    That’s what the real fight is about between the religious and the scientific: an approach to how we should think about the world. The march of science has been an ever-growing intrusion on explanations once given by teleology and those that embrace teleology have been left trying to carve out a domain of explanation that science can’t touch. You know where Muffti stands on these things. But lets not kid ourselves into thinking that the conflict is one that will be solved by looking at a case by case basis to see who is giving a better explanation, sceince or religion. Science is winning that one and we all know it. So, like Descartes, start thinking about what the proper domain of religious explanation really is.

    Phew. Sorry about the rant.

  • How nice you bring up Descartes.

    I agree!

    Twas ne’er philosopher bore the toothache calmly.

    The student said to the old Rabbi, “I assert Man is only a bunch of chemicals dissolved in water”. Shall we discuss this? The old Rabbi smiled and said, “Of course. With pleasure. But I am confused. How can I have a discussion with a bunch of chemicals dissolved in water?”

    The student realized he had tied his own shoelaces together.

    They all lived happily ever after, married, and had children.

    No, G-d cannot be deduced by logic. Some people are just more attuned than others. That’s why there are so many mitzvot to perform. They help us, like training wheels. Only the tzaddikim don’t need training wheels.

  • That was an interesting and almost exhaustive rant. And I thought I got long winded… I am not to sure about the “science winning” view. Religious fundamentalism, jewish or not, has a way of going through cycles. I am not trying to sound authoritative, but we seem to be going through an upswing. There a lot of competing views out there beyond just the Science vs. religion one. I don’t know “who” is winning really.