Wishy-washy article about kosherness of Darwinism
Last month, 600 people turned out for a Yeshiva University fund-raiser at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The museum, which stands as a monument to science, houses one of the world's most extensive collections of dinosaur fossils. The dinner itself was held in the dramatic Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, which features a massive blue whale that hangs suspended in midair; intricate dioramas modeled on the flora and fauna of the planet's oceans line the walls. Everything about the affair suggested that Yeshiva, the intellectual epicenter of Modern Orthodox Jewish life in America, is very much at ease in the world of secular science.
This impression is confirmed by Carl Feit, who is an ordained rabbi and Talmudic scholar as well as chairman of the science division at Yeshiva College. Prof. Feit says that in nearly a quarter-century of teaching introductory biology, he has always taught evolution -- supported by traditional Jewish source material -- and that "there has never been a blip on the radar here." His assessment echoes the official line of the Modern Orthodox rabbinical association, which states that evolution is entirely consistent with Judaism.
The seeming ease with which this branch of Judaism has embraced science can in large part be credited to the towering intellectual legacy of Moses Maimonides.
The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life does seem like a strange place to hold a huge Yeshiva University fundraiser -- it seems that the place does not have much to do with Judaism. Furthermore, it is even more strange to interpret this choice of a fundraising site as an Orthodox Jewish endorsement of Darwinism.
The article later says,
Yet there are important exceptions to this tradition of moderation, and in certain parts of the ultra-Orthodox world, Darwinism has always been denounced as subversive and dangerous. Take the case of Rabbi Natan Slifkin. A boyish-looking ultra-Orthodox Israeli scholar and science writer, Mr. Slifkin, who publishes his books in English, is popularly known as the "Zoo Rabbi" because of his consuming fascination with the animal kingdom and his Steve Irwin-esque pedagogical style. In recent years he has emerged as a central figure in the ultra-Orthodox struggle to define the proper place of science within Judaism.
Rabbi Slifkin's work has been publicly denounced by 23 prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis who attacked his beliefs as "nonsense" and ordered that Rabbi Slifkin himself "burn all his writings."
Also, the WSJ article said (I added this quote to this post on Friday afternoon),
According to Marc Swetlitz, co-editor of "Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism," "the Slifkin affair has forced both Jews and non-Jews to remember that there are Jews who oppose evolution and they are not afraid to say so. I think there is more Jewish anti-evolution writing out there now than ever before."
Also, a major Orthodox Jewish magazine's article titled "The Faith of Darwinism and the Science of Intelligent Design" said,
Belief in Darwinism and religious life are truly incompatible.
. . . . it is vital that all Jewish high school students, Orthodox or otherwise, and whether in a public or Jewish school, be fully aware of the religious implications of classic Darwinism. It is also important that we refute the misconception that ID is a Christian idea. It is Jewish to the core and one of our fundamental beliefs.
So it should be apparent that there is no Orthodox Jewish consensus supporting Darwinism. Also, a lot of Jewish support for Darwinism -- particularly that of the Anti-Defamation League -- is basically just anti-Christian and particularly anti-fundy. The ADL is paranoid about the proselytizing efforts of Christians and the efforts to turn the USA into a "Christian" nation. The ADL sees the teaching of criticisms of Darwinism in the public schools as a threat to the separation of church and state. The ADL probably also sees attempts to link Darwin to Hitler as attempts to reduce Christian anti-Semitism's responsibility for Hitler. The ADL sees criticisms of Darwinism as anti-Semitic. There are no other ways to explain the ADL's fanatical embrace of Darwinism. Otherwise, why would the ADL file amicus briefs opposing the teaching of criticisms of Darwinism in public schools. Why would the ADL website have an article titled, "Dover Intelligent Design Decision A Victory for Students." Why would the ADL have Judge Jones as a speaker at a national executive committee meeting. Why would ADL national director Abraham Foxman bitterly attack a fundy outfit's TV program -- the ADL called it a "Christian Supremacist TV Special" -- that linked Darwin to Hitler. What in the hell does the controversy over Darwinism have to do with anti-Semitism, anyway. Not very much. People are going to call me an anti-Semite for telling it like it is, but someone has to do it.
For related articles in this blog, click on the "Darwin-to-Hitler" label below or in the sidebar of the home or archive pages. "Darwin-to-Hitler" is not particularly appropriate as the sole label for this post, but if I created a new label I would have to go back and relabel a lot of old posts. I may create a new label later. Also, some of the old posts with the Darwin-to-Hitler label do not particularly concern the Darwin-to-Hitler issue but generally concern Jewish views of the controversy over Darwinism.