Volume 9 Number 64
                       Produced: Fri Oct 22 12:24:33 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Evolution vs. Creation (3)
         [Seth Ness, Kibi Hofmann, Steve Wildstrom]
Testing the Theory of Evolution
         [Meylekh Viswanath]
Torah and Science
         [Jonathan Katz]


From: Seth Ness <ness@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 93 19:55:12 -0400
Subject: Evolution vs. Creation

before anyone attempts to critique evolution, i stongly suggest you read
some of the FAQS at the talk.origins FTP site at ics.uci.edu in

Seth L. Ness                         Ness Gadol Hayah Sham

From: Kibi Hofmann <hofmanna@...>
Date: Mon, 4 Oct 93 11:54:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Evolution vs. Creation

Before I write anything about evolution, I want to make it clear that
although I don't believe it happened, I believe that if G-d wanted to do
it he could. The theory may even accurately describe what occurs
nowadays. Similarly, there is no way that I or anyone else can prove
that the world is either 6000 or 6 billion years old. What surprises me
is the attitude of supposedly rational people who can believe that an
entire universe of matter could be created out of nothing (ex nihilo) by
G-d and is controlled by him (miracles and all), but can't believe that
G-d had the power to do all the handiwork (after the initial "bang") in
6 days (yes, real days).

David Charlap shows a distinction between the Theory of Relativity and
the Theory of Evolution (v9#40):

> But there is still a bit of a difference.  In the case of relativity,
> many scientists now accept it as a law, since time dilation has been
> empirically observed in orbiting spacecraft.

> Unfortunately, this can't be done for evolution, since man hasn't
> existed long enough to actually observe soemthing evolve from one
> species to another.  So it is doomed to remain a theory.

This is true as far as it goes, but a further point can be made: Even if
mankind hung around long enough to observe evolution happening, this
still wouldn't prove that the variety of species in existence NOW had
come about by process of evolution. To iliustrate, a little example I
heard from Rabbi M. Miller in Gateshead (must be undestood from a
creationist viewpoint):-

The midrash states that Adam HaRishon was created as a 20 year old man.
If we were to take a modern scientist to the Garden of Eden on the first
Friday, and ask him to examine Adam he would tell us that he had
examined a 20 year old man. Anyone who said this man is only 1 day old
would obviously be stupid since every other person takes 20 years to
reach such a physical state (similarly, it would seem unlikely to
conjecture that such a healthy looking man had just been made out of
mud). The Garden was full of trees too, and if you had cut one down,
then since it was made as a tree with all the usual features, you would
have found x-number of rings, indicating a few hundred years of history
to any scientific observer. However, the trees were only a couple of
days old. The point is that if you truly believe in the creationist
viewpoint, you can see that the scientist was wrong. Any statement to
the effect "This is the way things work" should have the phrase "in
every experiment we've done" appended to it to make it truly scientific.
Since no modern scientist has ever examined a man created instead of
born, they would think they were telling the absolute truth, but still
be wrong.

The reason Adam's age was not apparent from his appearance was that all
the rules we have about how bodies appear are from the observations of
people who are born, not people who are made of mud. Similarly, any
truly reliable uranium dating tests (or carbon dating tests) we have are
based on data of rocks which formed naturally (and trees which grew
naturally). They cannot tell you anything about items which were created
ex nihilo.

The real difference between evolution and relativity as theories is that
relativity can be (and is) used to predict phenomena and is thus
testable and useful in a physical sense. Even if relativity was proved
wrong tomorrow (not very likely, I know) it would be nothing more than
an honest mistake made by people searching for a facet of the truth. In
addition, relativity does not intrude into the metaphysical world by
attempting to make guesses about what has occured in the past.

Evolution makes no predictions and can never be tested. It can also, by
that same token, never be disproved, since any incongruous fact will be
absorbed and fitted in somehow to the new new revised really correct
theory of evolution.Since it can't predict anything it serves no
scientific purpose - it is merely a tool to support a metaphysical
arguement about the existence of G-d.

This isn't to say that people who believe in evolution are all godless,
evil heathens. As I said before, it is certainly possible that G-d DID
use evolution (and all the other proposed universe building tools) to
make the universe as it is today. The problem is that lots of "fans" of
evolution do not acknowledge the hand of G-d at any point and use the
theory to "prove" the non-existence (or non-involvement) of G-d.

It's all very well saying that paleontologists are spending their time
trying to understand "where all the bones came from" in a spirit of
honest inquiry, but if they then trumpet their results as "proving" that
such and such an animal trod the earth 65 million years ago or that life
came about without any divine intervention then they are presuming too
far on their scientific credentials.

To sum up, it's possible to be sane, intelligent and a religious Jew and
believe in either creation or evolution (divinely guided), but since I
am leery of the sort of people who misuse the evolution theory for their
own ends I find a simple 6 day creation view preferable from a religious
standpoint. Philosophically, Occam's Razor states that the hypothesis
which has the least number of assumptions is more likely to be correct.
Creation has a very simple set of assumptions whereas evolution keeps on
getting more complicated as more facts are fitted in.

Rereading this, I think I've said enough times that I do not reject or
denigrate the views of those who believe in a G-d guided evolution.  I
do however, take offence at those who insist on looking at people who
believe in creation as brainless, unscientific sheep.

> In fact, every rabbi I've spoken with holds that one can make absolutely
> no assumptions with regard to the flow of time before the Flood.  The
> Six Days of Creation are very often considered merely six "phases" of
> creation.  And when the Torah speaks of pre-Flood people living to be
> hundreds of years old, it is not meant to be understood in terms of our
> years.

In the Vikuach (Disputation) the Ramban certainly uses the long lives of
people mentioned in the Bible to suggest that the Messiah could have
been living for a very long time. Again, if you can believe in all the
amazing miracles in the Bible (or is someone going to suggest that all
the plagues and the splitting of the sea are all allegoties too?)
happened, then why is it so difficult to believe that people used to
live to greater ages?  I'm not discounting the rabbis David has spoken
too, they only say that you can make NO assumptions (not that you can
assume the untruth of what is plainly written). Anyway, stuff from
before the flood doesn't explain how Avrohom lived 175 years (or is that
low enough to be believable?) or the stuff in the midrash about Serach
bas Osher living on and on, or the innumerable tales of Eliyohu Hanovi's
continuing longevity. Say what you like about d'rush and sod, the gemara
says the scripture can always be explained in a literal sense (ain
hamikra yotze mip'shuto, or something like that).

> In other words, six days of creation is consistant with science's
> billions of years.  It just depends on your point of view.  To one
> within the Universe, it's billions of years, but to one outside the
> Universe, it's six days.  Considering that man didn't exist before the
> sixth day, it wouldn't really make sense to use man's timekeeping system
> before that point, now would it?

Since the Torah is a book in which G-d communicates with man and it
frequently uses anthropomorphisms to put G-dly concepts in the language
of man, I'd say the point is moot.

Good Yomtov

From: Steve Wildstrom <wild@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 19:52:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Evolution vs. Creation

> From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)

> David Charlap, in v9n40, uses an argument that was also used by Gerald
> L.  Schroeder in the Fall 1991 issue of Jewish Action (p. 29). He says
> that because of the gravitational red shift, fifteen billion years
> passing on earth would correspond to six days as seen by an observer
> (G-d?) at the edge of the universe. But doesn't he have it backwards?
> Wouldn't someone at the edge of the universe be at a higher
> gravitational potential than someone on the earth, and wouldn't this
> mean that a short time as observed on the earth would seem like a very
> long time to an observer at the edge of the universe? Or does the
> expansion of the universe change this? Maybe someone out there who
> really understands general relativity can clarify this.

I believe this is an issue of Special Relativity which, I barely
understand--unlike General Relativity which hardly anyone understands.
One of the fundamentals of Special Relativity is that time is dilated
(slowed) from the perspective of a moving observer. The dilation is
infinitessimal unless the observer is moving at a significant fraction
of the velocity of light. From the perspective of earth virtually all
objects in the universe appear to be moving away from us (and from each
other, like lettering on the surface of a balloon as it is inflated.)
The farther away the object is, the faster it appears to be moving.
Because of this motion, the objects spectrum appears to be shifted in
the direction of red. So I think what is meant by an observer at the
edge of the universe is an observer moving at a significant fraction of
the speed of light. If earth were stationary, a very long time would
pass on earth while a day passed as measured by the distant, fast-moving
observer. If the observer were travelling at the (theoretically
impossible) speed of light, time would stop altogether from his
perspective while continuing to move at a normal pace to a stationary

All that said, there's a fatal catch in the attempted reconciliation of
Torah and cosmology via relativity. Another tenet of relativity is that
there is no such thing as an absolute frame of reference. From the point
of view of our distant observer, he is stationary and earth is moving
away from him at nearly the speed of light. There is absolutely no way
to determine who is "right," and, indeed, the question itself is
meaningless. So the relative movement of time does nothing to get us out
of this bind.


From: Meylekh Viswanath <viswanath@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 93 19:55:09 -0400
Subject: Testing the Theory of Evolution

In Vol9 #37 I wrote:

> a basic prediction of the theory of evolution as understood till
> recently, was that there was a gradual change in organisms,
> leading to the development of new species.  ...

Frank Silbermann responds:

>The prediction of gradual change in organisms is not necessarily
>inconsistent with the evidence.  

He goes on to provide one explanation for the absence of gradual changes
in the fossil evidence.  It was not my intention to claim that such lack
of evidence could not be explained in a manner consistent with the
theory of evolution.  My point was that for a long time, scientists
searched for the existence of chains of fossil evidence showing the
intermediate steps in organisms predicted by the theory of evolution.
This was seen as a legitimate test of the theory of evolution.  However,
when such fossil evidence was not forthcoming, they sought to fit this
lack of evidence into the theory of evolution (e.g. Gould's theory of
punctuated equilibrium).  I don't believe that the other alternative was
considered seriously--that the construct of evolution itself was wrong.

I am not arguing for or against the theory of evolution per se.  My only
point is that scientists are emotionally committed to the theory of



From: Jonathan Katz <frisch1@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 19:52:48 -0400
Subject: Torah and Science

   I feel I must disagree with Pinchas Edelson's position that the Torah
cannot be read in light of modern day science.
   While I certainly agree that no substantial portion of the Torah
should be changed or viewed differently due to current scientific
theory, I do not think that this reasoning applies to the first few
chapters of Beraishis.  Fundamentally, it makes no difference whether
the creation story is taken literally, word for word, or metaphorically,
as long as the key points are not discarded. I will not list all the key
points, but I am thinking of examples such as: the fact that God created
the world, the fact that mankind is the pinnacle of creation, etc..
   The fact is, many Rabbis in the past, before modern science, have
taken the story metaphorically. Now, with the added "proof", if you
will, of science, why should we not be allowed to do the same?
   Pinchas's belief that the mitzva of Shobbos depends on the 6 day
reading as opposed to the 6 era reading is nonsense. First, of all, I
think it makes perfect sense for the 7 day (week) cycle to represent a 7
era (creation) cycle.  Secondly, the posuk he brinks as proof merely
says "[keep Shobbos] because in six yamim [usually trans. as days] God
created the heaven and earth]". Of course, if one is interpreting yamim
as eras with regard to creation, then the word has the same meaning
   The fact is, Pinchas is certainly free to ignore science completely
and focus on the Torah alone. The fact still remains, though, that many
Jews cannot put on blinders, and must try to interpret the Torah, within
halachik reason, within the framework of science. For Pinchas to say
that we are wrong for doing so is ridiculous.

Jonathan Katz


End of Volume 9 Issue 64