Friday, August 5, 2011

How I Came To Reject Evolution

In a post entitled How I Came To Accept Evolution, Rabbi Slifkin tries to explain to his readers the step by step thought process which led to his ultimate adoption of the Evolutionary paradigm for ma'aseh bereishis. Ironically the element that served as the critical turning point for him was the same one that caused me to adopt the exact opposite conclusion. The following are a few selections from his post with my comments interspersed.

Rabbi Slifkin writes:

The final critical component was my realization that I was looking at the entire topic in the wrong way. As mentioned earlier, I had solely focused on the problems with evolution - the kashyas. This was exactly what Denton and Johnson had done in their books. As far as I was concerned, the existence of these problems showed that evolution was bogus. But I realize that this wasn't the correct way of looking at things. The correct way was to ask whether the existing evidence better supported evolution or special creation. And this radically changed my perspective on it.

I have two comments to make.

1) In a sense I understand Rabbi Slifkin. In fact, I actually agree with him. I am aware that some individuals may take exception to the following, but I too believe that it is important to investigate the existing evidence. For those who would protest that it is theologically problematic to grant "physical evidence" the same validity as our accepted Torah traditions, I would respond as follows.

The Torah was given to us via the asseres ha’dibros, the Ten Utterances. The Torah constitutes the Will of Hashem. Studying it causes one to become increasingly aware of the Creator’s presence, which, according to the Ramban, is the ultimate purpose of all Torah u’mitzvos (parshas Bo). But there are another set of utterances which preceded those at Sinai.

B’assara ma’amaros nivra ha’olam – The world was created via the Ten Sayings. As such, creation itself is also a revelation of Hashem’s Will, just like the Torah. Studying the beriah for the purpose of becoming aware of Hashem is no less an Avodas Hashem than studying the Torah. People who get into the habit of dismissing physical evidence as a source of True Knowledge are making an error. This is not to say that we should dismiss our Torah traditions each time we come across a problem but I feel it is crucial to at least know what the physical reality is. This leads me to my second comment.

2) Rabbi Slifkin claims that Denton and Johnson focused only on the problems with evolution without taking the existing evidence into account. I too read Denton and Johnson’s books and I can tell you that Rabbi Slifkin is wrong, dead wrong. Their books are all about the existing evidence. More on this shortly.

Rabbi Slifkin writes:

For example, previously, I had only thought about the fossil record in terms of hoaxes (such as Piltdown man), and in terms of missing links. But now I realized that the fossils that we do have - primitive hominids, and the remains of millions of extinct species that are intermediate in form to surviving species - fit far, far better with the evolutionary model than with the special-creation model. The missing links were much less significant than the present links!

This paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like an epiphany, a “eureka”, a revelation. I have known Rabbi Slifkin for over seven years now and have been operating under the assumption that he was aware that there was a dearth of fossil evidence. In fact, in his book The Science of Torah (pages 149-150) he seems to admit so openly. But now Rabbi Slifkin has finally let the cat out of the bag. One of the “critical components” that turned him into an evolutionist was the presence in the fossil record of “millions of extinct species that are intermediate in form to surviving species”. If there are indeed millions of extinct species that are transitional in structure to currently existing life forms, I myself would have a difficult time dismissing such evidence. No wonder Rabbi Slifkin is an evolutionist!

Oddly enough it was my study of the fossil record that caused me to conclude exactly the opposite.

To be continued…

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