Jewish View of Evolution


Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch (Feldheim Publishers)

Collected Writings of R. S.R. Hirsch v. 7 (p. 257)

     Present-day natural science, in whose genuine advances our generation may justly take pride, has suggested the possibility that all the variegated forms of nature may be reduced to basic atomic elements, that the multitude of forces at work in nature may have originated from one primal force, and that all the laws of nature may, in fact, derive from one single law. This unification of the natural sciences is occurring despite the fact that the study of natural sciences is becoming increasingly sophisticated, the subject matter to be mastered requiring an increasingly complex division of labor among scientists. Now suppose that (please forgive an outsider’s comment) the proponents of this unification theory, overly excited by a few startling initial results that would seem to support their hypothesis, will proclaim this mere possibility – which may never be substantiated as fact – to be incontrovertible certainty and will use it as the basis for some hasty conclusions. Is Judaism not justified in welcoming the mere chance that the hunch pursued by these scientists will prove to be correct? Do the findings of all the natural sciences to date not show similarities that would suggest the existence of the very Oneness that is the foundation of Judaism? Is it not possible that the astronomer in his observatory, the mineralogist in the pit, the physiologist with his microscope, the anatomist with his scalpel and the chemist with his flask will be forced to conclude that all their studies actually center on one and the same work of creation in the heavens and on earth? Is it not possible that, with all their investigations, they find themselves on the track of one single Thought that inspires the creation of matter and energy, laws and forms, that even in the midst of the infinite variety presented by the universe there is an obvious single harmonious unity?

     In light of the foregoing, would Judaism not be justified in viewing this idea of a universal unity, which inquiring minds have already pieced together from the textbook of the universe and which man’s consciousness years to express, as nothing less than the long-awaited triumph of the truth of Judaism? This is the truth with which, thousands of years ago, Judaism first appeared in the midst of a chaotic multitude of gods, proclaiming that there is only one, sole God in heaven and on earth, and that all the phenomena of the universe are founded upon His Law. This idea, the concept of the Unity of God, is the truth for which Judaism has endured a course of martyrdom without parallel in world history.

     It is true, of course, that most natural scientists today are satisfied to stop at the point where they have surmised some sort of unity at the foundation of all nature. They do not attempt to proceed upward from there to one, sole Creator and Composer of that unity. They do not even suspect that, with every step they take toward the discovery of unity in nature, they add another step to the universal throne of the one, sole God. Without knowing it, and perhaps even against their will, they confirm the sole sovereignty of the One to Whom, as Judaism firmly believes, all mankind will ultimately do homage, even though at present these scientists narrow-mindedly seek to eliminate this though from the minds of their own generation and from those of generations to come.

Collected Writings of R. S. R. Hirsch v. 7 (p. 263)

     Whether or not man is able to find an adequate or correct explanation for the natural laws governing any phenomenon of nature does not alter his moral calling. What Judaism does consider vitally important is the acceptance of the premise that all the hosts of heaven move only in accordance with the laws of the one, sole God. But (whether we view these laws from the Ptolemaic or Copernican vantage point is a matter of total indifference to the purely moral objectives of Judaism, Judaism has never made a credo of these or similar notions.) (See our graduation day essay for the year 1868*.) This volume, p. 47 (ed.)

     This will never change, not even if the latest scientific notion that the genesis of all the multitude of organic forms on earth can be traced back to one single, mot primitive, primeval form of life should ever appear to be anything more than what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact. Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that notion, would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures.) This would be nothing else but the actualization of the law of le-mino, the “law of species” with which God began His work of creation. This law of le-mino, upon which Judaism places such great emphasis in order to impress upon its adherents that all of organic life is subject to Divine laws, can accommodate even this “theory of the origin of species”. After all, the principle of heredity set forth in this theory is only a paraphrase of the ancient Jewish law of le-mino, according to which, normally, each member of a species transmits its distinguishing traits to its descendants. This law of creation wields such power over the organic world that even seeds discovered in ancient Egyptian sarcophagi were found to have remained so potent after thousands of years that, when they were placed into the soil, they produced plants similar to those that grew in the immediate vicinity of the tombs in which the seeds had lain unsown for so long. Nowhere in all recorded history do we learn of a farmer who harvested, say, barley after he planted wheat.

     Jewish law is very much aware that outside interference could cause deviations from this normal development of species. That is why, out of ethical considerations and in order to keep its adherents loyal to the Lawgiver of the universe and ever mindful of His world order, Jewish law forbids Jews to interfere with the normal development of the organic world or to cross-breed different organic species with one another. And these prohibitions will remain in force even if the scientific theory to which we have referred above should someday turn out to be more than a speculative illusion.

Jewish View of Evolution

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The Case for Evolution
by Gans, Mr. Harold
FREE Listening

Evolution claims that all living creatures evolved out of inorganic matter. What scientific evidence has been offered to show such a possibility? Quoting sources from Darwin to scientific journals, Mr. Gans investigates all the existing evidence of such an occurrence. - Judaism Online