3, number 1
In this issue:
1. A Torah-Science View on Evolution
The question about the origin of the universe and of life is of deep interest to all human beings. The Torah answers that question in a straightforward fashion: Both the universe and life in the planet were created by G-d. On the other hand, the scientific theory of evolution does not invoke any divine force in the process. Rather, it postulates that the universe started with the Big Bang, and that life evolved in a slow fashion from atoms, to molecules, to unicellular organisms and eventually to humans.
This sharp difference of opinion between the Torah and science is commonly viewed as irreconcilable. However, Eliezer Zeiger, professor of biology at UCLA and the CEO of the Torah Science Foundation, recently argued at The Fifth Miami International Conference on Torah & Science that, according to the inner wisdom of the Torah, the concept of evolution can be readily found in the Torah.
We include excerpts from Prof. Zeiger's presentation:
(see www.borhatorah.org/home/conference/conference.html for the complete program)
For a G-d fearing Jew, the answer to the question: “Where did the world come from?” is straightforward: “Bereishit barah Elokim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz”“In the beginning G-d created Heaven and Earth.”
On the other hand, the scientific theory of evolution states that the universe began with the Big Bang and that life evolved from atoms, to molecules, to unicellular organisms, to multicellular organisms, to humans.
It also teaches that the
driving forces for evolution are random mutations (alterations in the DNA
that change the genetic instructions), and natural selection. So, according
to evolutionary theory, there is no divine design in the Universe.
One of the strongest forces opposing the scientific theory of evolution is scientific creationism. Scientific creationists support a literal interpretation of Genesis. Their major limitation is that they do not recognize the Torah Shebe’alpeh—the Oral Torah. As a result, they do not have access to the inner wisdom of the Torah, which includes Kabbalah and Chassidic philosophy.
It is worth noting that Catholicism, a major branch of Christianity, has officially endorsed the scientific theory of evolution.
Another important viewpoint about the origin of the Universe is Intelligent design.
“Intelligent Design is a scientific disagreement with the claim of evolutionary theory that natural phenomena are not designed. ID claims that natural laws and chance alone are not adequate to explain all natural phenomena. Evidence that is empirically detectable in nature suggests that design is the best current explanation for a variety of natural systems, particularly irreducibly complex living systems”.
From a Torah point of view, an important limitation of intelligent design is its goal to prove the existence of a creator using the scientific method. Chasidic philosophy teaches that God’s existence is hidden to protect free choice; therefore the question of the existence of God can not be proven by the scientific method.
The question can also be
addressed using the tools provided by the inner wisdom of the Torah, as
expounded by Kabbalah and Chassidic philosophy. If we use that approach we
notice that there is no one but two accounts of Creation: Genesis
1:1-31 and 2:3-24.
The Medieval scholar and
philosopher of Torah, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Nachmanides) teaches that the
verb “barah” (to create) is the only verb in the Hebrew
language that embodies the all-important concept of Yesh mi Ain,” or
creation ex nihilo.
And then there is the unfolding, an interaction of creation with the environment that follows the laws of natural selection, which science calls microevolution and that has been successfully proven many times.
Why the plural “us?”
Rashi comments that God talked about man’s creation with the angels. However, another explanation brought down by the Chassidic master Mordechai Yosef of Izhbitz, in his work Meiy Ha’shiloach (published, incidentally, almost concurrently with Darwin’s The Origin of Species) reads:
The inanimate gives its energy to plants, plants give their energy to animals and animals give their energy to the man—the one that can talk. And man, by worshipping God with his energy will thus elevate all the energy he received in this world, even that of the inanimate.
When the creations saw what they were lacking, they used their power to create an awakening above (itareruta le’eila) [literally: beseeched the Almighty] that man should be created.
“And Elokim said: Let us make man,” meaning that God decreed that all that were created should give of their energy, and contribute to the creation of man, so that man will have a part of all of them. Thus, if man will be in need of anything, they will all help him because his “lack” is their “lack,” like in the generation of the deluge, and when he is well-off so are all creatures.
Many people erroneously
think that the Torah is only a moral discourse. For instance, Stephen Gould,
a major contributor to evolutionary theory, used to say that we should live
with the Bible on Sunday and with science the rest of the week.
This in contrast to evolutionary theory, which claims that random mutations over very large periods of time generate new species from the bottom up (random mutations almost always have a negative effect on creation). This is the macro-evolutionary process that has been so hard to prove.
What is the nature of the evolutionary process at the present time?
Let us look at the vision of Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel (he became Chief Rabbi in 1920). Rabbi Kook wrote extensively about Torah and evolution, here is an excerpt:
Teshuva as the Ultimate Phase of Evolution
(from Glimmerings of Penitence 5:3, translated by Rachel Tovah Ebner):
It is inevitable that the world will arrive at a full return to G-d. The world is not static, but continuously evolving, and true, complete evolution must bring total healing, material and spiritual, and this will bring the light of the living Turnaround along with it.
Our sages thus teach that evolution is at work right now, and that the next quantum evolutionary step is a jump in consciousness that brings redemption for all humanity, a step embodying the culmination of the evolutionary process and the purpose of creation.
2. Questions and Answers from torahscience.org
Here we share two of these with their responses.
Question: I wonder if you know offhand the total number of words in the Hebrew Bible? I have been searching frantically and can't seem to find the answer.
Response: You may be surprised to learn that before the advent of the computer this was a formidable task. So formidable in fact that there was a special title in the days of the second Temple (about 2400 years ago) for those who were adept at this task: they were called "sofrim".
Later (or perhaps even at the same time) the word became descriptive of a scribe, but the original verb in Hebrew for scribe is kotev, not sofer. Sofer just means "one that counts".
In any case it is not surprising that you did not find a number. Incidentally, it is easier to get a number for words than for letters, as the question about letters depends on some issues, not all of which have been solved.
To this day I am not aware of a count for the number of letters in the entire Bible.
The number of words in the Torah (based on the counting by Rabbi Bercher) is: 79,847.
The breakdown is: Genesis: 20512, Exodus: 16723, Leviticus: 11950, Numbers: 16368, Deuteronomy: 14294.
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Question: It is my understanding that there is no evidence-archeological or scientific- that the flood occurred. So how are we to understand the flood? If it left behind no archeological or scientific evidence, we obviously cannot believe in it literally?
Response: The question you are asking addresses the core of the relationship between Torah and science. How do we apply conclusions and reference points from one conceptual system to the other? What are the validation criteria in each of the two systems? In case of apparent or real conflict, which system do we listen to?
In Judaism we are taught that the Torah is truth (Torat Emeth), that
the truth of the Torah is eternal, and that the validity of the truth of
Torah applies to all levels of analysis (pshat, or literal, Drash, or
interpretative, and Sod, or metaphysical). That means that an evolved Jewish
consciousness leads to Emunah shleima, complete faith in the teachings of the
Torah. This implies that, from the Torah perspective, the flood is a fact.
The concept of the flood does not exist in the world of science, it comes from the world of Torah. There are several cataclysmic concepts in the world of science, for example the mass extinctions of the Pleistocene, but no event that can be unabiguously associated with the "flood" has been identified.
Some fascinating aspects of the interface between Torah and science in connection to the events associated with the flood are beginning to emerge. For example, work is being prepared by religious scientists suggesting that the animals that Noah took into the ark were "super species" (involving for example a common ancestor of the wolf, the dog and the fox) and that these "super species" evolved into what we know as species after leaving the ark. The only way to do such research well is to carefully preserve the rigour of both the Torah and the science, and such requirement makes this type of research very complex. Of course, resolving the large-scale geological and biological phenomena of the flood will be a very demanding enterprise.
So what to we do in the meantime, while the issue is yet to be understood? Some people choose to remain fully immersed in the conceptual world of the Torah, and therefore ignore the world of science. Other people choose to treat the facts related by the Torah as metaphors, and relate to the Torah as a ethical body of knowledge.
We at the Torah Science foundation believe that the most powerful and creative approach is to take both the Torah and science as relevant bodies of knowledge that shape human consciousness. From that perspective, since the Torah tells us that there was a flood, we believe with complete faith that there was a flood. Can we map the "flood" concept in the scientific body of knowledge? Not yet. On the other hand, we watch with wonder how very large scale phenomena such as the story of creation in Torah match emerging scientific theories such as the Big Bang with remarkable precision.
3. Tapes Worth Listening To
The Torah Science Foundation is offering a limited number of audio-taped copies from lectures given at the launching of the Foundation in Jerusalem, on Chanukah of 2000.
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) on Unifying fragmented reality
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh on Spiritual reflections on the foundation of physics: An integrated approach to thermodynamics and Torah.
The two day event is available on a 5-audiotape set.
If interested, please send a check for $25 ($20 for the tape set plus $5 shipping and handling) payable to the The Torah Science Foundation to our mailing address:
The Torah Science Foundation
928 11th St., Suite 1,
S. Monica, CA, 90403.
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Tapes from the June 2003 Natural Consciousness Workshop in Los Angeles sponsored by the Torah Science Foundation in Los Angeles and given by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh are now available and can be purchased on line at:
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