Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Placing Things Right Side Up - Part 2

Rabbi Slifkin writes:

I find it particular interesting that you mention Intelligent Design. Those who subscribe to it do not suffer from the atheist bias, right? And yet those scientists who do subscribe to ID all accept that all life evolved from a common ancestor.

This is no doubt false. Rabbi Slifkin did not interview every ID scientist. There is no way he could know such a thing. The reason ID scientists do not take issue with common ancestry is because they do not have a scientific argument to disprove it. But that doesn’t mean they all believe it.

Rabbi Menken writes:

Yes, we believe the world is 5771 years old, however this may be defined (there are multiple schools of thought on this point). Yet I am unaware of even one Orthodox person with an education in the hard sciences who believes that, from a scientific perspective, the world appears to be 5771 years old rather than roughly 15 billion.

To which Rabbi Slifkin responds:

Agreed. Now I challenge you to write an article for Mishpachah or Ami or Dialogue elaborating on this - that the scientific evidence itself clearly shows the world to be billions of years old, and that nobody with an education in the hard sciences would reasonably say otherwise. (And you can add your detailed explanation of why evolution, although being scientifically unfounded, is not at all theologically problematic.) Then we'll see if the Orthodox community is really okay with this.

Rabbi Slifkin is correct. The Orthodox community wouldn’t be too happy with Rabbi Menken’s attitude. The question is, why? And the answer is simple. The term “scientific perspective” is nebulous. If “scientific” perspective means “materialistic” perspective then yes, the world does indeed seem old. As the Rambam notes in Moreh Nevuchim, a naïve observation of the world could reasonably result in the conclusion that huge periods of time elapsed in its development. But there is an opposing “theory”.

Once one assumes the presence of a Grand Designer (or even the possibility), the term “scientific perspective” vis-à-vis the age of the universe adopts, per force, an entirely different definition. It means “evidence-based perspective”. And according to the “Orthodox world”, the “evidence” is not any more consistent with the evolutionary view than it is with the design view.

The truth is, the design view is far more consistent with what we see than the materialistic view but this is not for now…

1 comment:

  1. According to some would say there were some mammals descended from birds.