Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wisdom of Rav Hirsch zt"l

Here are some quotes from Rav Hirch that you will not see on R. Slifkin's blog (here). In direct contradiction to the evolutionary dogma of common descent, the Torah tells us that the Biblical types are immutable:
With this eleventh verse we enter the sphere of organic life. We see דשא, the vegetation that sprouts from the soil, the seed-bearing plants and the fruit trees that bear fruit. We learn that all these countless varieties of creation are governed by one and the same law: למינהו, למינו. Each of them is to work only for its own species and to develop only within the circumscribed sphere assigned to its own kind. We read the momentous sentence, the key to understanding the plant world: ויאמר אלקים תדשא הארץ. By God’s Word, the earth sprouted vegetation; He is the One who decreed the law of למינו, which governs every plant as regards material and form; and God’s Word still activates, reveals itself in, and powerfully governs every plant and every seedling.
   This Divine law of  למינו, which governs the whole organic world, renders two different species “כלאים”; the two species are כלואים, closed, one to the other, do not combine or unite. Each species preserves its reproductive energies only למינו, for its own species, and only human caprice would force it into unnatural, that is, unlawful unions. If left to itself, each seedling will belong to its own species as exclusively as did its earliest ancestor, concerning which and concerning all of whose descendants the Creator first proclaimed His law: למינהו!
   Let us look further into our verse: עץ פרי עשה פרי למינו אשר זרעו בו על הארץ, “a fruit tree that bears fruit for its species, (fruit) in which its seed (of the tree, or of the species) is above the earth.” The first tree was produced by the earth, but from then onward the seed of trees was taken away from the earth, to mature על הארץ, above the earth. Henceforth, the earth is to receive the seed, develop it, and dispense it. (RSRH to Gen 1:13, emphasis added)
On the sixth day man is created, not from an ape-like hominid, but directly from the passive earth.
   So we read here: וייצר ה' אלקים את האדם עפר מן האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה, meaning: The Creator and Director of the world wished to bestow favor upon, and to elevate, His world. Hence, He formed man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his countenance the breath of life, and thus man became a living personality.
   At the creation of all other creatures, Scripture says: תוצא הארץ נפש חיה, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” The earth was active in their creation, just as it was active in the creation of plant life; and the earth brought forth their life, just as it brought forth their body. The earth brought forth the living individual. Not so at the creation of man. The earth was passive in his creation, even in the creation of his body. The earth’s activity for the creation of man ended before his creation.
   But even after his body was formed from the earth, he was still merely עפר. It does not say: God formed man מן העפר, from the dust of the ground, but, rather: וייצר ה' אלקים את האדם עפר מן האדמה. He formed him, dust of the ground; man originates from the earth – only to the extent that he is עפר, that he comes from the earth and, like dust, will return to the earth. But man’s life and vital soul do not originate from the earth. The body that was formed for man lay lifeless like עפר; ה' אלקים then breathed into his countenance the breath of life, and only thus did man become a living personality. (Gen 2.7)
The body of man was not a living hominid that evolved into a human. Rather, the body of man, formed directly from the earth, lay “lifeless” until G-d breathed into his countenance the breath of life (see Ramban).
   Clearly, then, תולדות השמים והארץ are the products of heaven and earth; they include everything that is produced after Creation, as a result or “product” of the interaction between heaven and earth. … Heaven and earth stand in passive – not active – relation to their products; they are not creating gods, but are themselves creations. Their products seem natural, because they are produced according to the laws of their nature, which appear to be fixed and stable. But this nature of theirs is itself something that was created; the laws by which they function, produce and develop were implanted in them at their creation. All תולדות שמים וארץ were determined בהבראם; their origin is in their creation. (Gen 2:4)
A creation “day” is not a long period of time period or an allegory, but rather a known unit of time consisting of an earthly period of night followed by an earthly day.
    ויקרא אלקים לאור: יום! ולחשך קרא לילה!. This קריאה is not name-giving, for the words light and day are by no means identical. Rather, “day” – as a unit of time – denotes the measure of time in which light rules over the earth; and “day”, as a natural phenomenon, denotes all the phenomena of life that materialize as a result of the light during that measure of time. (Gen. 1;5)
 A creation “day” is divided into hours and minutes in anticipation of the Jewish Holydays.
   Regarding the time-function of the light-bearers, Scripture adds: ולימים ולשנים. The regular paths of the heavenly bodies divide our time intoמועדים ; and the day, too, is divided into hours and minutes. But the days are not equal to one another, and they form smaller and larger periods, in accordance with the position of the earth vis-à-vis the moon and sun. ימים and שנים are formed: ימים are smaller periods of days, viz., months; שנים are larger periods of days, viz., years. Or: ימים, periods of days, viz., years, and שנים, periods of years, viz., cycles. (Gen 1:19). 
During the six days of creation, nature itself was brought into existence. This is why it is illegitimate to make vast backwards extrapolations from what we currently observe. The six days of creation was a unique one time sequence of creative events in which new laws, creatures and formations were directly brought into existence by the word of G-d. Any laws currently in effect cannot be used to describe this six days of chidush haolam. The essential purpose of the Sabbath is to celebrate the complete cessation of all new creative activity, and the initiation of a new phase in which G-d guides the universe in accordance with the laws of nature He proclaimed. This is why we do not see any fundamentally new laws and entities popping into existence.
   ויכלו השמים והארץ וכל צבאם. This verse is the concluding statement of the history of Creation, and it parallels the opening statement. The opening of the Creation history shows us heaven and earth, and proclaims of them: בראשית! From the very beginning God created these! Now the conclusion again shows us heaven and earth, and proclaims of them: ויכלו! Heaven and earth were brought to this completion! They had not always existed, but, rather, were brought into existence. And before they were brought into existence, they existed as an intention in the thought of their Creator. The heaven and the earth and all their host, were, at one time, merely a thought in the mind of their Creator, and the actualization of this thought was the purpose of their creation. The cause of the existence of heaven and earth does not lie in themselves; they are not the cause of their having come into existence – a view that is self-contradictory, irrational and absurd! The cause of their existence lies outside of themselves; and they are not the result of some force working blindly, but the creative work of a lone Creator, Who created them with intention and purpose, ויכלו!
   The Sages define this concept in greater clarity: המעשים היו מותחין והולכים (Bereishis Rabbah 10:5), the matter and forces which had been called into existence were in a state of continuous development – until God called out ויכלו! and set a limit to their development. He acted as שקי – i.e., שאמר לעולמו די; He called out to His world: די. שאלמלא לשמים וארץ די עד עכשיו היו מותחין והולכין, “Had He not said to heaven and earth: ‘Enough!’ they would still today be in a state of continuous development” (ibid. 46:2). (כלה is also synonymous with כלא, and means “to stop, restrain, fence in,” as in לא יכלה ממך (below, 23:6); ואת בניהם כלו בבית (Shmuel I, 6:10). These are all different nuances of the same concept: to set a limit.)
   The ending of creation, the cessation of formation of new creations – in a word: the present Sabbath of creation – is a greater revelation of the Creator than the very existence of heaven and earth. If, as the materialistic outlook on the world has taught throughout the world has taught throughout the ages, the origin of the world was due to physical causes not founded on thought and free will; if the world originated from forces of nature that are inherent in the world – why, then, has there been a Sabbath in creation for thousands of years? Why have these forces ceased to function and to produce with great power new creations? Why has the cause – which still exists – ceased producing the effect? What has put an end to its creative power? We see that for generations upon generations creation has ceased, and Sabbath has reigned in the world. This teaches us that the present Sabbath was preceded by purposeful, all-powerful creative activity, and that the universe is not a physical result of blind forces of nature, but a moral work of a Creator endowed with supreme wisdom, free will, and unlimited power. ...
Thus, ויכלו protests against any materialistic world view that denies the existence of a free Creator. ויכלו attests to the creation of the world by a free, wise, and almighty God. (Gen 2.1)
The belief that the world is eternal or that its creation is dependent upon any pre-existing aspect of nature is “not only a metaphysical falsehood, a misrepresentation of the origin of the universe, but even worse: it undermines all morality, and denies all freedom in both God and man”..

From the same essay in Collected Writings quoted on R. Slifkin's blog (The Educational Value of Judaism, vol. VII), Rav Hirsch writes:
If anyone were to claim that a font of type carelessly dropped from a type case could rearrange itself to compose an Iliad, or Schiller's Lied von der Glocke, or even an ABC primer, it is certain that the entire scientific community, even today, would commit him to a lunatic asylum. The same fate would befall anyone who would argue that an accidental convergence of materials could produce a building with symmetrical proportions, or a laboratory instrument, or a machine capable of specified functions, or even one little screw that could be used as a functional part of such an instrument or machine. Physiology has not succeeded thus far-and until we receive proof to the contrary we dare say it will never succeed in explaining the creative force behind the origins of a specifically-oriented cell structure, not to speak of the impulse that triggers the union of specific cells into functional organs or the union of functional organs into specific, homogenously coordinated forms of life. We can say with certainty that the nearer a physiologist in his research comes to that sphere which the nonphysiologist perceives as "freedom," the more often he will encounter, even in studying the most primitive forms of life, sphinxlike mysteries that defy easy, clear-cut solutions.
Rabbi Hirsch anticipated many of the problems that continue to plague evolutionism today, including the vexed problem of the origin of life and the staggering implausibility of pre-biotic chemical evolution. The essay argues that biology “will never succeed” in explaining the sphinxlike mysteries behind the creative forces responsible for the origin of complex coordinated organs.
It may be easier for him, given the wonders of spectral analysis, to obtain information about the physical composition of the sun or of even more distant stars than to use the formulas of mechanics and physics to explain that "something" which everyone can sense deep within his own soul, which remains untouched by the physical changes around it, which alone makes consciousness possible and which non-physiologists presume to define as "the spirit." It is equally certain that every bodily organ functions in accordance with specific physiological laws. Thus, the functions of the eye, for instance, are subject to the laws of physiology and optics. Yet, to continue with the analogy of the eye, the focusing of its functions upon a specific objective, the viewing and examination of a specific object, is subject to an act of free will of which we are all conscious. We could compare this – forgive the analogy – to the operation of a steamship engine. The operation and fueling of the engine are governed by the laws of physics. But the steering of the ship, its movement away from one shore and toward another, its landing in a given harbor, is not accomplished by the puffing of the steam, or the noisy thrust of the pistons, nor even by the stokers who sweat as they feed the fires, but by the firm pressure of a hand, guided by a will and an intelligence, at the helm of the ship, quietly and soundlessly directing the seagoing giant and all the energies operating within it to a predetermined destination. As certain as all these facts are, so certain is it that, with all the progress recorded by the natural sciences, the timeless truths of Judaism remain unaltered. Indeed, each discovery in the natural sciences only confirms the fundamental truth first set forth by Judaism: There can be no thought without a thinker, no order without a regulator, no law without a lawgiver, no culture without a creative spirit, no world without G-d and no man without the gift of free-willed morality.
R. Slifkin has been very critical of ID (Intelligent Design). These are the folks who are skeptical of common descent via blind mindless processes, and who argue that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not undirected processes (such as random mutation and natural selection). Rav Hirsch's position is that the realization that there must be an omnipotent Creator and Ruler of the world, would come to anyone who thoughtfully contemplates nature.
At the end of Psalm 18, David announces that the dissemination of the knowledge and worship of the Lord, to be effected by means of his songs, would be his main purpose in life and the fruit of his sorely-tried stay on earth. Here we have perhaps the most significant example of such a psalm. It has as its theme the sources from which one could come to recognize the Lord and worship Him. To David these sources are the book of nature, from which he derives his knowledge of G-d, and the Torah, from which he has learned how to worship Him. David states that the revelation at Sinai was not essential for the recognition of the fact that there must be someone Who is the omniponent creator, regulator and ruler of all the world. The realization that there must be a G-d could come to anyone who thoughtfully contemplates nature and the heavens in particular (RSRH to Psalm 19, Verses 2-7)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Don't these quotes simply make it all the more powerful that Rav Hirsch nevertheless saw it as important to teach that evolution does NOT contradict Judaism, for those who accept the view of the scientific community? What do you have to say about that?

  3. Yissacher, please explain your logic?

    (1) The Collected Writing essay was written in 1873 for a non-Jewish audience as required by the German Educational Authorities. It was never published by Rav Hirsch. Rav Hirsch's Chumash was revised/printed much later and has many passages denying evolution. So, given a contradiction between an unpublished essay and an author's later voluminous published work, why go with the earlier unpublished article?

    (2) Also, why does R. Slifkin's book not quote the evidence from Rav Hirsch that goes contra R. Slifkin's belief in evolution's blind watchmaker thesis? After all, Rabbi Slifkin writes: “[Darwin's] blind-watchmaker thesis need not be incompatible with God” (Science of Torah, pg. 193; Challenge of Creation pg. 297).

    Rav Hirsch totally contradicts R. Slifkins' evolutionary blind watchmaker thesis. Why does R. Slifkin not quote Rav Hirsch's opposition.

  4. Really?! maybe i am missing something here.

    "So, given a contradiction between..."
    what contradiction do you see? in the quote Rabbi Slifkin gave, he noted that "Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains how it does not conflict with Judaism. Especially significant is that Rav Hirsch did not even consider evolution to be true." so other quotes demonstrating that Rav Hirsch did not consider evolution to be true show what, precisely?

    kol tuv,

  5. YSO,

    Below are answers that I think take care of some of your questions. Let me know what you think!

    "Evolution claims that mankind broke away from chimps about 6-7 million years ago and slowly advanced in intelligence. Ultimately they reached the level of the modern human with his attendant level of intelligence and technological advancement. My question is the following. Based on the current level of human advancement and projecting backwards over 7 million years, we should expect to see written historical records of mankind for at least 100,000 years. After all, this amounts to not much more than 1 percent of mankind’s entire evolution. Surely after almost 99% of mankind’s evolution already behind it, it should be advanced enough to keep records, a feat far less complicated than most of its other technological advancements, such as advanced architecture."


    This is not a question. Humanity has advanced more in the couple of hundred years since the industrial revolution to now then they did in the thousands of years between the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution. Advancement does not grow at an even and trackable rate.

    "Why is it that the experiments conducted by scientists to support an evolutionary model consistently fail?"

    They don't. I suggest you read some of the experiments mentioned in the "Greatest show on earth" by Richard Dawkins or just research it online.

    "Every textbook of evolution asserts that reptiles evolved from amphibians somewhere in the Triassic period. There are innumerable problems with this but here’s a big one. One of the major distinguishing features between them is the reptilian amniotic egg which supposedly came about gradually as a result of a successive accumulation of small changes. But the amniotic egg of the reptile is entirely different than that of an amphibian. Amphibians lay their eggs in water. They are jelly-like and possess a transparent and permeable membrane, an ideal structure for development in water. Reptiles, on the other hand, lay their eggs on land and are meant to survive there, not in the water. The hard shell of the reptile egg (amniotic), allows air in, but is impermeable to water. In this way, the water needed by the developing animal is kept inside the egg. If amphibian eggs were laid on land, they would immediately dehydrate thus killing the embryo. Therefore if dinosaurs evolved from amphibians, the amphibian egg must have changed into an amniotic one within the lifespan of a single generation. How could such a process have occurred?"


    No it would not have to have happened in one generation. There is the possibility of it developing gradualy. The eggs of the Mud Skipper are a good example of an egg that spends some time underwater and some time in the air. It could devolop given enough time if the survival and reproductive rate of those more able to live in both air and water longer was higher.

  6. "The North American wolf and the Tasmanian wolf have an almost identical skeletal structure making them perfectly homologous. Yet the former belongs to the placental class whilst the latter to the marsupials. This, according to Evolutionists, means that these two different species have completely separate evolutionary histories. Hmm… an evolutionary conundrum. How do you explain this?"

    Not completley diffrent. They all came from the same ancestor. The pressures on the Australian species made them marsupials while the North American one developed as a placental. Why should the fact the pressures on two descendents of the same ancestor were similar enough to produce a similar species in two diffrent areas of the world be a problem for Evolution?

    "Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras? After all, if all species descended from other species gradually, the species today should represent a conglomeration of intermediate species not easily able to be classified. I already quoted this to you above."


    Classifications are made by humans for humans. in reality there is a spectrum: there Amphibios fish, Marine mammals, Animals that have flaps that are almost wings but just allow them to glide, Animals with "eyes" that just detect light and nothing more to eyes that see alot better then ours. It goes on and on, the point is as people we make classifications were it is most convienient for us. The fact that there are classes for evreything does not mean that there are no species that could technicly be called "intermediate".

  7. what contradiction do you see?

    Um, Josh, YSO even bolded it for you:
    The term "le'mino" in Writings has the opposite meaning of the term "למינו" in his later Commentary.

  8. Not completley different. They all came from the same ancestor. The pressures on the Australian species made them marsupials while the North American one developed as a placental. Why should the fact the pressures on two descendents of the same ancestor were similar enough to produce a similar species in two diffrent areas of the world be a problem for Evolution?

    Then by the same token, concentrations of marsupial animals in Australia is not a problem for the CM as question 8 implied either. CM has no difficulty recognizing that selective pressures causes change on the micro-level.

  9. FKM,

    You said,

    "CM has no difficulty recognizing that selective pressures causes change on the micro-level. "

    Why do you believe that these "Micro" GENETIC changes would stop at the point we Humans have decided to call a "Species"? In other words why should they not continue given enough time to change the animal until the animal is no longer recognizable as a member of the same "Species"

  10. YSO,
    Here are some more answers. I look foward to your response!

    You asked,

    "Precisely! And this prediction has been falsified! A study of geology and paleontology does not reveal the picture of a family tree the way Evolution envisions it. In fact, phenomena like the Cambrian Explosion turn this tree quite literally upside down. The truth is this clearly seems to support the CM of Dr. Betech while falsifying yours."


    This is simply untrue. For example you don't find mammals in precambrian rocks EVER if you did this would disprove the EM. The Cambrian "explosion" (which incidently took place over about a 30 million year period!) dosn't pose a problem for the EM either and there are many explanations purposed for this "sudden" explosion of life like one given by Richard Dawkins that it might be that many of the animals in the precambrian had only soft parts to their bodies: no shells or bones to fossilize.

    You asked

    "Furthermore, the criterion I just supplied as predictions for the CM would seem to falsify the EM too. How does the EM account for the sudden appearance of species in the geological record as opposed to a gradual unfolding? And wasn’t this precisely Darwin’s criteria for falsifiability? Wasn’t it he who stated that if his theory was true the geological record should demonstrate a gradual transitional state rather than the sudden appearance of well-defined species?"


    The fossil record is of course not near complete and fossilisation is a rare event. However there are hundreds of transitional fossils you can see at any Museum of Natrual History. You can also see lists of such fossils online.

    You asked,

    "Also, what about my other prediction? According to the EM, a study of Zoology should yield a continuous spectrum of intermediate species? You know who asked that? Darwin! And if you think Darwin’s kushya is no longer a kushya, here’s a quote from a well-known evolutionist asking the same kushya"


    You are not understanding what the EM predicts at all. According to the EM any species alive today can be a transitional species: If selection pressures keep making Micro changes to the offspring of any species alive today for enough years eventualy the offspring will become unrecognizable as a member of the same species as its ancestor

  11. Dear Ari, this post is about the wisdom of Rav Hirsch. I wonder if it would be at all possible for you to move your comments about the creation model (see previous post by SC) to the comment section there for response by the author? Many thanks in advance.

  12. Dear Ari,

    Hi. I just noticed that you responded to a lot of my questions but you did it on YSO's post, not mine. I will be responding to you in the post entitled Q & A. I hope to get to it tonight but I doubt I can. I don't have a chavrusa Friday morning so I committ to respond tommorow night bl'n.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. It is very gratifying to see that someone is finally making an effort to address the scientific issues on an academic level. I look forward to an animated discussion.

    With gratitude...Simcha

    P.S. No need to move all your previous comments over to the other Blog entry. When I respond to you, I will quote your comments in the original Hirsch Blog. But in the fututre, please post all comments relating to the Q & A entry in their proper location

  13. Dr. Ostroff,

    I take exception with much of the "contradiction" to theistic evolution you see in R' Hirsch. But I'll hold onto that for now and take issue with your fundamental premise.

    Why is accepting or not accepting Darwinism a choice between "an intelligent cause" and "blind mindless process"?

    Every single event in my own life could be explained by some combination of natural mechanisms, yet I often feel that HKB"H is guiding my steps. Why can't evolution be the same way? In fact, the way I see it, God creating the complexity, variety, order, and elegance of this world through natural law is much more impressive than pulling it ready-made out of a hat.

    Here in America, the majority of people who believe in evolution also believe it was guided by God. Why don't you see that as a viable position?

  14. In the comments to his blog entry, R. Slifkin said (October 12, 2010 7:19 PM): Now I have a question for you Dr. Betech. Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism...

    The short answer to R. Slifkin is absolutely no! And I mean within the hashkafa of Rav Hirsch zt"l.

    The modern definition of evolution is common descent via blind, mindless, unguided, purposeless processes (such as random mutation and natural selection) that did not have us in mind (blind watchmaker thesis). Even Darwin said that he would consider his theory to be rubbish if he would need to appeal to G-d for any one stage. As Richard Dawkins sums it up with evident approval "For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all". Evolution without the blind watchmaker thesis is not evolution at all. At best (or perhaps at worse), it would be common descent with meta-natural guidance from G-d (something that the scientists R. Slifkin relies upon absolutely reject).

    The quotes provided in Collected Writings and in his commentary to Chumash show Rav Hirsch in absolute opposition to evolution's blind watchmaker thesis. And in his later writings, Rav Hirsch also rejected common descent and the whole man-from-proto-monkey nonsense.

    Question for R. Slifkin:Have you provided even one quote from all the works of Rav Hirsch zt"l that explicitly support the blind watchmaker thesis?

    Let me answer that one. No! R. Slifkin's blog and books deeply misrepresent Rav. Hirsch.

    As Rabbi Elias points out, in the entirely hypothetical case that overwhelming evidence can be brought to bear, Rav Hirsch would accept it, provided there is clear evidence that it works and that it does not depend on random processes and natural selection, but is seen as a Divinely planned and instituted development. These conditions were not met in his time, and they are certainly not met today. (See Rabbi Joseph Elias, The Nineteen Letters, Feldheim 1995, page 44).

    As Rabbi Yehuda Halevi puts it: Heaven forbid that there be anything manifest or proved which could contradict anything in the Torah (Kuzari I:67). The blind watchmaker thesis is supposed to account for eyes, wings, the mammalian brain and everything else. What utter nonsense! There is not a single shred of evidence in support of it. R. Slifkin knows this and this is why he has refused to debate Dr. Betech.

  15. The modern definition of evolution is common descent via blind, mindless, unguided, purposeless processes (such as random mutation and natural selection) that did not have us in mind (blind watchmaker thesis).

    I don't know if you were intending to respond to my question, but I don't take that as an answer. I'd like to hear you defend your rejection of a commonly held position (namely Divinely guided Darwinian evolution, henceforth DGDE) on philosophical grounds.

    1) This is my main question: Why does apparent randmoness preclude Divine participation?

    The nahala of Eretz Yisrael was determined by lottery, for example. Everyday events appear to be random, but we believe that God is working behind the scenes. That's exactly how I understand DGDE.

    2) Let's say we were convinced that random mutation is inadequate to explain the amazing features of life. Why is it impossible that there is some natural mechanism we haven't yet thought of that can?

    Take the Mandelbrot set, for example. It's infinitely complex and stunningly beautiful, yet surprise, everything about it is determined by the rule z(n+1) = z(n)² + c. Life is far more complex, yes, but God had available all the wonders of chemistry we're still discovering to this day.

    3) "Heaven forbid that there be anything manifest or proved which could contradict anything in the Torah." There are many widely respected gedolim and talmidei hakhamim who see no contradiction between DGDE and Torah. What would you say to them?

  16. Evolution's blind watchmaker thesis: The modern definition of evolution is common descent via blind, mindless, unguided, purposeless processes (such as random mutation and natural selection) that did not have us in mind (blind watchmaker thesis). This dogma means that we are not allowed to appeal to a Divine Intelligence. We may only appeal to chance/natural processes.

    Rafi, you ask why apparent randomness precludes divine participation. Who cares? That's not the issue. The issue is that R. Slifkin explicitly defends evolution's blind watchmaker thesis. But the blind watchmaker thesis -- the consensus of modern biologists at the most influential universities (Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, Oxford, & Cambridge) -- denies Divine intervention and any appeal to intelligent causes. This is why they demonize and suppress intelligent design.

    (1) Here is a challenge for you. Can you provide a single quote from a university level biology textbook (one that is considered reputable by the mandarins of science) that explicitly says that G-d or a Supreme Intelligence is behind evolution?

    (2) Here is another challenge for you. Can you provide even one of our ba'alei m'sora who explicitly supports evolution's blind watchmaker thesis as an accurate historical description of the creation week (maaseh beraishis)?

    By the way, once you answer (2), you will also be on the path to answering your other questions.

  17. You're missing my point. I'm saying that there is no contradiction between the apparent randomness of evolution and Divine guidance. That's why your question (1) is irrelevant. Scientists investigate the mechanisms; the theologians see God behind the mechanisms. Regarding (2), of course until 200 years ago there was no concept of DGDE for the ba'alei mesora to comment on. The watchmaker argument was completely different then.

    Let's not worry about sources for a second. Please explain to me why DGDE is philosophically invalid. (DGDE IS what R' Slifkin believes, by the way. Look at chapter 5 or 22 of CoC.) How did the lottery identify Akhan as the thief of the herem? How did Yehuda end up with central hills region and not the Jezreel Valley?

  18. I'll do you better than a biology textbook. Take a look at the epigraph of On the Origin of Species. Darwin quotes a theologian, then a scientist:

    "But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this—we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws."

    W. Whewell: Bridgewater Treatise.

    "To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both."

    Bacon: Advancement of Learning.

  19. Dear Rafi, am I underanding you correctly? Are you seriously quoting the 19th century Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise -- a famous defense of intelligent design via natural theology -- in answer to my challenge (1): a request for quotes from a university level biology textbook (one that is considered reputable by the mandarins of science) that explicitly says that G-d or a Supreme Intelligence is behind evolution?

    Please tell me you are not serious?

    Here is the kind of nonsense you will see in biology textbooks:

    "Darwin showed that material causes are a sufficient explanation not only for physical phenomena, as Descartes and Newton had shown, but also for biological phenomena with all their seeming evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx's materialistic theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism --- of much of science, in short --- that has since been the stage of most Western thought."

    Futuyma, D. J.
    Evolutionary Biology
    Sinauer Associates Inc., 1986, Sunderland, MA, p. 2

    The text by Futuyma has gone through many prints/revisions with the above quote intact and is one of the most popular biology textbooks in use.

  20. No. You are not understanding me correctly. DARWIN quoted Whewell. I am quoting Darwin. I am quoting the scientific publication that started the Darwinian revolution.

    Evolution is a mechanism, devised by God, whereby with minimum supernatural intervention He created the amazing biodiversity on this planet.

    That is my position. That is Rav Slifkin's position. Many talmidei hakhamim have approved that position. I hope we can soon move on.

  21. Dear Rafi, Darwin certainly intended to start his career as a theologian. But, the quote in your comment is from the Bridgewater Treatise. You did not say in what context Darwin was referring to Bridgewater Treatise. Please provide the complete quote and precise biographical details.

    Challenge (1) asked for a quote from a modern biology textbook, one that might be used in a biology course at Harvard or Oxford. This you have not done.

    If you are quoting Darwin then perhaps you should also address how Darwin envisioned his theory of evolution:

    Charles Darwin: If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish. ... I would give nothing for the theory of natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.

    Richard Dawkins (University of Oxford) in The Blind Watchmaker: In Darwin’s view the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. … For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all.

    Darwin's and Dawkin's blind watchmaker thesis is the curent concensus of scientists and what you will find in the biology textbooks (e.g. see Futuyma in my earlier comment).

    Are you opposed to blind watchmaker thesis which is the current scientific concensus to be found in every good department of Biology?

    If so, you are with Rav Hirsch zt"l and contra R. Slifkin.

  22. First, I reiterate that challenge (1) is irrelevant. It is not the job of science books to tell me what to think about God. I don't know the context of that Futuyma quote, but if it's being taught as science as you present it then I object to it.

    Darwin used the quotes as the epigraph of his book, right before the title page. You can see it here in Google Books. Apparently a third quote was added after the 1859 edition, which is what I copied and pasted from.

    If you don't mind, let's put all that to the side for now and cut to the chase.

    I think that you are seeing a false dichotomy here. If I may attempt to summarize your viewpoint:

    There are exactly two ways to understand how the universe reached its present state: blind godless natural process, or supernatural young earth creationism. Darwinism and God are incompatible.

    Is that a fair summary? To be honest I find it surprising, as I can think of an obvious middle position in which God governs the processes of Darwinism. R. Slifkin made a great effort to elaborate this position in his book.

    He even criticized you directly for maintaining your dichotomy, see point #10 in this essay.

    I have many questions about why you reject our middle position. They are waiting on my computer desktop because you still have yet to acknowledge that such a position could even hypothetically exist, whether it is right or wrong. I would be much encouraged if you would please reread the bolded sentence from my last comment and tell me what you think of it, on its own terms.

  23. Rafi, an author's epigraph does not tell us whether he believes in the statement or not. So, indeed, your Bridgewater Treatise does not answer to Challenge (1). This is in addition to the fact that I asked for quotes from modern biology text books.

    Also, note that the Futuyma quote (stating his own opinion as a professional biologist) is in a classical, popular, university level biology textbook. The same blind watchmaker thesis is presented in many other biology textbooks. You are entirely correct to reject the blind watchmaker thesis even though this is the consensus of the scientists.

    You write that there is an "obvious middle position in which God governs the processes of Darwinism."
    No sir.

    Please read the Darwin/Dawkins/Futuyma quotes again, and then try to insert God (please do note that Darwin called such an insertion rubbish). Once you introduce G-d, what you have is not Darwinism but some kind of new entity that we can call Rafi-Theory that opposes the scientific consensus.

    This post was about Rav Hirsch and he absolutely opposes Darwin's blind watchmaker thesis. R. Slifkin is in error to claim that the blind watchmaker thesis is compatible with Genesis chapter one.

  24. Darwin said the theory is rubbish if God needed to override the mechanisms of evolution using a supernatural miracle. That does not contradict the fact that God devised the mechanism, or works through the mechanism, an idea that is found all over Judaism with other natural mechanisms (see R' Slifkin's latest post).

    My theory is not new. It is commonly called "theistic evolution." I choose to call it "Divinely guided Darwinian evolution" to more clearly distinguish it from ID. This theory is popular in America and held by prominent evolutionists like Kenneth Miller and Robert T. Bakker.

  25. YSO,

    You are missing the point. The point is it dosn't matter what Darwin or Dawkins or anyone else beleive(d) about God.

    For arguments sake lets say whoever discovered that clouds and rainstorms are formed by evaporation also said that saying that God causes those things now is silly. Would it now be impossible to beleive that evaporatin causes these things but that God is also involved?

  26. Dear Rafi and Ari,

    You are welcome to propose your own theories, but these were not the subject of this post.

    R. Slifkin claimed in his books that Darwin's blind watchmaker thesis (which is also the current scientific consensus) is compatible with Torah. This claim is an obvious error. It's just badly wrong (see also articles at toriah.com). Remember we are using evolutions's blind watchmaker thesis in the way it is used by the most influential biologists and scientists (and this includes Dawkins, Simpson, Wilson, Gould, Lewontin etc.). This is what is taught in the biology textbooks as in the Futuyma quote. This post demonstrated that Rav Hirsch's commentary to the Chumash is in absolute opposition to evolution's blind watchmaker thesis (also called methodological naturalism) and also of R. Slifkin's characterization of him.

  27. YSO, I am frankly astounded that you continue to call theistic evolution my "own theory." And I am frankly astounded that you understand R' Slifkin as endorsing blind processes as opposed to Divinely directed processes, when R' Slifkin devotes whole chapters of his book to the idea that God works through nature.

    I'm having tremendous difficulty understanding your viewpoint. I have 3 important questions waiting for you here.

    Also, I dispute your understanding of R' Hirsch, but I can't approach that until I better understand the way you think.

  28. YSO, I share Rafi's astonishment. You say that you are using the blind watchmaker thesis in the way that it is used by Dawkins etc. But surely you must be aware that this is not how R. Slifkin is using it? You are saying that R. Slifkin does not believe that God is involved in any way, just like Dawkins. How can you simply ignore his entire book, which is dedicated to showing just the opposite?

    And how can you simply ignore his blog post of a few days ago, which showed that there is nothing inherently anti-God in evolution any more than any other part of science? Wouldn't Dawkins also say that lotteries and the fate of Am Yisrael are also blind, random processes?

  29. And I am likewise puzzled. Theistic evolution is not the scientific consensus and is thus entirely irrelevant to me (if there are people who believe that there are teapots circling the sun, should I take them seriously? :-)

    It is the scientific consensus and only the scientific consensus that has the potential to raise questions on the Torah due to the strong claims that scientists make to objective knowledge--and why R. Slifkin feels that Torah has to be reinterpreted in the light of that consensus, no? Now R. Slifkin wrote explicitly that Darwin's blind watchmaker thesis is not incompatible with the Torah; in fact he even states that Judaism sees the random processes that Darwin invoked as ideal. Was R. Slifkin misleading us when he explicitly used this term "blind watchmaker thesis", by which he meant something entirely different than (a) the usual use of the term; (b)the scientific consensus; and (c) without telling us that he means something else entirely? In which case he does not mean what he says, and he does not say what he means? Dear Ari and Rafi, it is R. Slifkin's blind watchmaker thesis that I am contesting, as these terms are generally understood and used by the mandarins of science.

    Now if R. Slifkin is willing to retract his original statements about the compatibility of the blind watchmaker thesis and Torah, that would be news to me. But I would like to see an upfront admission to (a), (b) and (c) above.

  30. Your mistake regards (c). For goodness's sake, he wrote a whole book explaining what he means!

    If you would just read his very next sentence (2006 edition, p. 302):

    "So far, we have only discussed the argument that the blind-watchmaker thesis need not be incompatible with the concept of God. Theistic evolution fully agrees with the Darwinists, except that it claims that God is behind the whole process."

    As I commented in the other thread:

    If you can't understand that R' Slifkin's position is theistic evolution, maybe discuss it with R' Coffer, who explained it correctly here ("Rabbi Slifkin replies with a passionate, vigorous, well-considered theological argument in favor of theistic evolution"), or with R' Lampel, who actually corrected you here ("He agrees, as I understand it, that the process is not a 'blind, mindless one,' but an intended, wisdom-filled one instilled by Hashem at Creation as the process we call 'nature.'").

    If you insist on attacking a mischaracterization of R' Slifkin's position, I have nothing more to say.

  31. Dear Rafi, if R. Slifkin wants to defend theistic evolution that is his right --- but it means very little to me, as I already explained --- it is not the scientific consensus. So, who cares? People have all sorts of weird and wonderful beliefs. I have no intention of indulging them. But Science (with a capital "S") is supposed to be objective. If it does have good solid experiments or empirical evidence for its blind watchmaker thesis, then yes I care about that.

    Now R. Slifkin (as you also quote him) does claim that the blind watchmaker thesis is compatible with our belief in G-d, does he not? Now the blind watchmaker thesis is the scientific consensus, and has a very specific meaning. Hence I am now waiting for an answer to my questions (a), (b) and (c). (see my earlier comment, or should I repeat the questions?).

    I suggest that we switch this thread to the "R. Slifkin's Problematic Blind Watchmaker Thesis" post where we are having essentially the same discussion. See you there. See you there.