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Monday, June 12, 2006

Judaism and Darwinism: Are they really compatible?

It's been conventional to claim that Jews accept Darwinism but the snake handlers and Jesus-hollerers of evangelicalism Christianity don't. Not so fast. Here's a thoughtful analysis by David Klinghoffer, author of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.

Klinghoffer shows that many Jews have avoided recognizing the seriousness of the conflict between the purposeless world of Darwinism and the purposeful world as understood by Judaism by misunderstanding the great Jewish thinker Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon). Maimonides sought to link and reconcile Judaism to the clearest and most promising trends in Western thought. But, as Klinghoffer notes,

In practice, however, there is simply no way to reconcile an idea with its precise negation. The premise of Judaism is that God commands us on the basis of his having created us. The question before us, therefore, is not a simple-minded one of whether the universe was made in six calendar days, but rather of whether the universe has a need for a God, period.

In the philosophical system elaborated by Darwin and his disciples, there is no room for a creator in any sense. To explain the existence of life without reference to a deity was Darwin's entire purpose.

He developed a theory that answered his own purpose, certainly not ours as Jews. Given that his idea has neither been unambiguously demonstrated nor is it congenial to Jewish belief - the two-fold test of Maimonides - I am bewildered to find Jews who are committed to Judaism rushing recklessly to Darwin's defense.

(Note: Klinghoffer is a Discovery fellow - a fellow of the Institute that almost singlehandedly put ID on the cultural map, eliciting maximum arthritic rage from the science establishment - but you're a fool if you let that deter you.)

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