For observant Jews: What say you about evolution?

This is inspired by a recent thread in this forum about the RCC possibly waffling on their stance about evolution. Since Genesis is part of the Hebrew scriptures, and any Christian argument about evolution must be based on that, I’d presume that observant Jews would be qualified to make a comment on that. And as I am aware there are some rather educated observant Jews who post here, I ask this of you.

I’ve never noticed much hostility from Jews against the notion of evolution. Unlike certain fundamentalist Christians. My impression is that Jews tend to interpret Genesis broadly enough that G-d could have had evolution as part of His creation. Or at least anyone who focuses on Creationism is missing the big picture, and attaching way to much importance to a very small part of the Hebrew scriptures.

Thus I ask: Can an observant Jew accept evolution, or is this just heresy?

Please excuse this slight digression, but I would think that since God said “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground,” most Judeo-Christian folk setting their sights on a comfortable, air-conditioned, all-you-can-eat buffet retirement would tend to give a latitudinarian interpretation to Genesis.

You’ll also get a better response to questions to observant Jews if you don’t post on Friday night


In the meantime I’ll point out that even observant Jews don’t believe that the Old Testament is the direct word of G-d. There is an understanding that it was written by the hand of man, and contains many contradictions.

There is even a kind of story called a [url=]midrash[/url that interprets contradictions or gaps in the tale.

Given this, Jews feel free to interpret the Creation tale as they see fit. For example, some might see it as merely an allegory for Evolution. Some might point to the first three days (before sun and stars were made to divide time into days as we understand them) and say that they covered billions of years. A few might believe it happened in exactly 6 days, but most would feel no particular reason to support this view.

I think it was pretty well established in that thread that the RCC was not waffling.

News Flash! Religious People Believe God Was Ultimately Responsible for the Creation of the World!

Dude, check the settings on your computer. I appearently live in the same time zone you do (Eastern Daylight Time), and the time stamp on my OP is 07:55 PM Saturday evening. Given the Jewish sabbath was near the end when I posted that, and it was already Sunday in Europe and Israel, I’d say I chose a reasonable time to post that. Yeah, it may have been a little early for observant Jews in Hawaii. However, my post didn’t state I demanded an immediate answer. :wink:

Y’know what? You’re right! In my defense, I was posting shortly after midnight on Saturday, thus actually early Sunday morning. However, I had not noticed that fact, and thought it was still Saturday, July 9th, and your post said it was made “yesterday,” which in my mind was July 8th and thus Friday at 7:55 PM. :smack: Sorry about that.

S’alright. :slight_smile: I just presume that observant Jews are patient people. If they find my post after the Sabbath, I’ll understand the delay in their response.

From my discussions with Orthodox Jews (including, IIRC, cmkeller on this board), they take somewhat of an OEC approach to Genesis (a “day” is not a literal 24 hour day, etc.). While evolution itself is pretty much accepted among Conservative and reform denominations, opinion is still divided in Orthodox Judaism with a majority (I believe) of Orthodox rabbis still rejecting it, but they don’t adopt any sort of “creation science” tactics towards trying to prove anything.

I have no doubt that cm or Zev can elaborate on this or correct me if necessary.

IME the range varies, mostly from OEC lines to blatant evolution denial.

A reasonable spectrum can be found at, here: (weak anthropic principle OEC) (same as the above plus some ID) (the whole mutation can not drive natural selection canard) (intricate OEC)

There are a number of different approaches that Orthodox Jews take in addressing this question. The one that has appealed to me most is saying that just as Adam was an adult on the day of his creation, by the same token, the world, created 5765 years ago, was a “developed” world at the time of its creation. There’s also some Kabbalistic statements that indicate that G-d had been creating worlds prior to the current one and that he each time re-started his creation upon the remains of the world that had existed beforehand. If this is meant to be taken in the literal, physical sense (and with Kabbalah, it’s hard to tell), then it could very well mean that dinosaurs actually did roam Earth, and fossils that they left behind are real, but that there is no meaningful connection between us and them. The message in the Torah’s starting from the creation that occurred 5765 years ago is that what concerns our personal and spiritual developement is to be found within that boundary, not outside of it.

As for evolution, it leaves room for the notion that evolution is genuine, but that the creatures that have existed over the past 5765 years are not the descendants of any fossil-creatures that pre-date that time. More importantly than any other point about evolution is that it could be the natural process by which G-d creates species, but the mutations are not random, but are directed by G-d.

Oh, and by the way, Hello Again:

Observant Jews do believe that the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were in fact the direct word of G-d. The other biblical books were written either by the word of G-d as filtered through the perception of Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophetic books) or by the hand of man working with Divine inspiration (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations). And we do not believe that it contains any contradictions. It may contain some apparent contradictions, but the resolutions of those can be understood through in-depth study. And that is what Midrash is.

One reason you’ve never noticed much hostility from Jews is that very ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t send their kids to public schools. Fundamentalist Christians rage about the schools, and you notice it . Fundamentalist Jews dont have a dog in that fight, so there is nothing to notice.

Don’t believe it. In New York, at least, there are statewide tests from the Board of Regents, which even private-school (including Yeshiva) students must take, and evolution questions are present in the Biology regent exam.

Different yeshivos deal with that in different ways. Mine just ignored it and told us we’d have to pass the test and take it as given that there will be 3-5 questions in which we hadn’t been taught the answers. Others might teach it in the syllabus but tell the students it’s just for the test and not to believe that it actually happened. And there are other approaches as well.

But Orthodox Jewish political action groups (e.g., Agudath Israel) are always keeping an eye on education policy to ensure that Yeshivos don’t end up being forced to teach things that run counter to our religious beliefs. (Evolution is one area where this is relevant, sex education another.)

I jhad been reading Aish for a while before I saw the bombadier beetle page. I was very disappointed and began including a disclaimer whenever I used another part of the site as a cite on Jewish law or tradition.

While many Jews hold that the five books are the inerrant word of G-d, not all of them hold that they are the literal truth. There’s a story of a rabbi being questioned by one of the czars. The czar cites a passage that seems absurd to him and asks how it could be true. the rabbi says ‘Before any royal decree can be carried out, you must sign it. This morning, you signed one that will have two Jewish villages destroyed. If some one were to say “That day, a single drop of ink washed away the homes of hundreds of Jews.” would that not be the truth?’

Chappachula I read an article in a Florida paper on the debate over public Christmas and Hannukah displays. The head of a Christian group was saying that a mall was wrong in displaying a Christmas tree and a menorah. He said that the Christmas tree was a seasonal, secular symbol but that the menorah was a religious one. If they were displaying a Jewish religious symbol, he demanded a nativity scene as a Christian symbol. The head of a local Jewish group agreed that the tree was a seasonal symbol for most Americans, and that the menorah was a religious symbol. His proposal was to remove the menorah from the display so that it would be entirely secular.

You don’t see Jews fighting to have creationism taught in public schools because Judaism is nonproselytizing. The science teacher’s job is to teach science.

I don’t see the problem with sex ed. Just follow every fact with something clearly stated as religious tenet, or traditional opinion.

‘Latex condoms are x%effective contraception and x% effective in preventing the transmission of the AIDS virus.’

Followed with

'Wasting seed is a sin, as can be seen in these verses, and these commentaries. What do you need a condom for anyway? You shouldn’t be having sex before you’re married. What? Are you sneaking off for a quick one with some shikseh? What would your poor bubby say if she knew what shameful things you’ve been doing? ’

‘Birth control pills work by . . .’

‘Young lady, if your parents ever find out you’ve shtupping some fella it will break their hearts. What? You decided to give it up because he has big muscles or a nice car? Oh, you think you love him. So with this love, you decided that instead of exchanging rings under the hoopah before your joyous family, you should swap bodily fluids in a backseat?’

Doc, the main objection a yeshiva would have to teaching sex ed in schools would be the necessarily immodest nature of such a course. Even brides- and grooms- to-be are taught the laws that will apply to them in a one-on-one or very small-class setting. Often their rabbi will even tell them the relevant chapters to read through on their own and to come back with specific questions if they have any.

Tznius - modesty in private matters - is not something to be breached.

Well, just what in sex education courses would be a problem? I’m guessing that certain attitudes about sex are what would worry some here, rather than specific details of the what and how of sex.

True Blue Jack

Just a small nit to pick … those of us who were raised Conservative or even Reform may actually also be observant Jews* … even if we do not believe that observance requires that which the Orthodox do and even if they consider some of us apostates.

That said, carry on …

*admittedly few of of actually are, we tend to the non-observant secular side, but we could be.

I keep kosher, and consider myself to be at least somewhat observant. I am Conservative, though I was not raised Jewish (I converted as an adult).

I don’t believe that the Earth is less than 6000 years old. My views on evolution could be described as theistic evolution. I’ve also heard it described as “Adam and Eve crawled out of the swamp” (though I think the creation story in Genesis should be taken metaphorically, not literally).