Thursday, August 9, 2012

Evolution and Our Jewish Beliefs

Nadene Goldfoot
The Oregonian newspaper had a front page headline this morning "Human family tree has many branches."  It went on to explain that in the past 40 years, scientists have suspected that our human family tree has not been happening in a straight line.  Discoveries of 3 fossils show multiple lines of evolution in our own genus, Homo.  there were at least 2 contemporary Homo species in addition to Homo erectus living in East Africca as early as 2 million years ago.

We are classified as Homo sapiens by the scientists.  Our Judaism says that G-d created us.  In fact, the world was created in 6 days less than 6,000 years ago. A question arises.  Was Adam created with a navel?   Abraham lived about 4,000 years ago.  What gives?  How do we handle evolution and our biblical Gensis history?

We do have orthodox rabbis who are excited about evolution and find no problem.  Rabbi A.I. Kook (1865-1935) was an enthusiastic Orthodox evolutionist.  He wrote Orot ha-Kodesh where he explained that the theory of evolution is in full accordance with the Kabbalah, which he believed in, in that it sees the whole of creation as striving to express itself in ever higher forms leading eventually to G-d.

I get this.  When you think of a homo 2 million years ago, you realize, just from working with computers, that that life form had not been programmed with all that we have developed in our brain.  Simple systems such as bodily functions may have formed, but certainly not the brain.  I'd hate to meet a former 2 million year old grandma and hug her.  She wouldn't be really recognizable to me in human form, I would think.  I love Jean M. Auel's Cave man books such as "The Clan of the Cave Bear" with heroines like Ayla.  Jean says that Ayla began at the dawn of man, but I'm sure she didn't go back 2 million years.  She was like us;  tall, blonde and slender a well as smart, smarter even than her mate.  Her story took place from 35,000 to 25,000 years before our present day.

Even going back to Abraham's day shows evolution in the making.  It dawns on Abraham that the idols his dad was manufacturing were not gods, and that there was but a single unseen god in the universe in charge of  it.  He had that Eureka moment when G-d spoke to him and told him to get out of town and go on his own or forever be violated by his environment.  I bet those dendrites in his brain were pulsing and growing at that moment-evolution on the march.

Rabbi Kook's view of man's moral nature goes along with evolution as well.  In his view man's nature has improved and evolved so that today the conflict is far less marked than in former times between ethical demands we see in the Torah and man's natural strivings and desires.  He wrote before the Nazi regime, of course.  I wonder what he would have thought of that.

A British rabbi, Dr. J.H. Hertz (1872-1946) also was an evolutionist. He said there is nothing inherently un-Jewish in the evolutionary view of the origin and growth of forms of existence from the simple to the complex, and from the lowest to the highest.  .  He said the Torah's purpose is not to serve as a textbook of astronomy, geology or anthropology but to proclaim highest religious truths respecting God, Man and the Universe.  There is no conflict.  Religion and Science must each recognize the true border of their dominion.

The Rabbi of Lubavitch in Brooklyn teaches the belief of the literal meaning of Genesis.  He feels that fossils in the earth were there when he created the world.  It was created bearing marks of gradual growth in a spontaneous creation.  Rabbi Israel Lipschutz (1782-1860)  wrote Tiferet Yisrael also relied on theories found among Kabbalists that there are cycles of creation in that the creation of our world descibed in Genesis was not the first creation but the beginning of a new cycle.  The dinosaurs and skeletons of primitive men as were just found in East Africa are the remains of creatures which existed in a previous cycle.

"A Midrashic homily, Leviticus Rabbah 14:1)  says that man was created after all the animals so that if he lives worthily man is the culmination of creation, but if he lives unworthily he is reminded that even the mosquito arrived on the scene before he did."

So, King David wrote the Psalms and in 8: 5-6 puts it wisely:

What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man, that Thou thinkest of him?
Yet Thou hast made him but little lower than the angels,
And hast crowned him with glory and honor.  

It shouldn't offend the religious mind to discover that G-d performs His wondrous works in one way rather than another.  The man of faith is in no way prevented by new theories about how the physical universe operates from seeing the hand of the Maker in all His works.  The Darwinian theory accounts in a natural way for the emergenece of diverse species, and some atheistic thinkers have seized on this as a colossal blow to the whole theistic idea of a designing Mind.  Darwinism tells us how G-d worked, as it were, in His creative activity.  It is G-d who is responsible for the process as a whole, the arrival as well as the survival of the fittest.  This is the process to become more G-dlike.

Resource:  The Oregonian newspaper, 8/9/12 front page, Human family tree has many branches
Book:  What Does Judaism Say About...?  by Louis Jacobs page 133 Evolution
Book: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, first in the Earth's children series, also The Mammoth Hunters, etc. culture in Africa 44,000 years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment