Readers’ Feedback – Reuben

Reuben  

Regarding your critique of Dr. Schroeder’s book I can only comment as follows:-  

Absolute truth, like absolute knowledge, cannot be attained absolutely. The best both either side can hope to achieve is a well calculated possibility.  

For me there has to be some form of reconciliation between creationism and science. There is a new book out called the Genesis Enigma which although not too rigorous in its argument postulates that the order (sequence) of creation described in Genesis corresponds exactly to scientific evolvement. If this is so then both sides have merit and the differentiation hinges on what started the process a Higher Being or an accident of nature. One has to ask why Hashem gave man the injunction to go out and make (discover) the world but at the same time man was tasked with preserving the Garden of Eden (Lonely Man of Faith – Rav Joseph Soloveichik). In discovering the world Hashem allows man to see what He wants man to see. Since neither side can claim absolute certainty then is this argument a test of Faith or a Freedom of Choice? If we really knew then neither faith nor choice would exist. 

Kol Tuv

“Reuben” 

My response 

I agree that most (perhaps all) of life’s decisions are made on the balance of probabilities. However, this does not mean that in every argument, each “interpretation” is equally valid. The evidence could indicate that one side is 99% likely to be right. This would also be a case of making a decision on the balance of probabilities.  

Consider the hypothetical case of “Steven”, whose parents died in an air crash, leaving no DNA behind. Steven now has to prove that he is the biological descendant of his parents, in order to be declared the lawful heir. He would use a wide array of evidence – birth certificate, photographs and videos, testimony of numerous relatives and friends, documents such as report-cards and bank-statements. Would this constitute absolute proof that Steven is the legal heir of the deceased? No. Would the decision be based on a balance of probabilities? Yes. Does this mean that both sides have merit? Well, if there is copious evidence that Steven is the legal heir then, notwithstanding the fact that this is a decision based on a balance of probabilities, we would have a very high degree of confidence in awarding the inheritance to Steven.  

It seems to me that your decision to treat the issue of evolution as a case of both sides have equal merit is unjustified. One needs to evaluate the evidence and decide whether it allows one to have a high degree of confidence in one position or the other. In the case of evolutionary theory, many of the claims can be objectively assessed and a firm conclusion reached. The idea that Torah must be reconciled to contemporary scientific paradigms is based on the preconception that both are of equal merit.  

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb has written extensively on this in his work Living Up to the Truth, available here: 

(http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/publications.htm). 

If we were living about fifty years ago, Dr. Schroeder would possibly have tried to reconcile the Torah with the then-prevalent notion that the universe is eternal. Nobody is trying to do that now. That is because the scientific paradigm has shifted. Whereas everyone in the community of scientists believed in an eternal universe back then, nobody does so now. The conclusion to be drawn from that experience is that science is not the same as scientists. There can be no fundamental chasm between the Torah and nature, since the latter was created by God. But there can be dissonance between the Torah viewpoint and that of scientists (even the vast majority of scientists). I argued in Genesis and the Big Bluff that when it comes to evolutionary theory, there certainly is disagreement, just as there was regarding the eternity of the universe. 

I have not read The Genesis Enigma, nor do I know who wrote it. Nonetheless, the following points are relevant: 

1. If the author is quoting Torah sources, is he doing so faithfully? Perusal of even only the first twenty-or-so pages of Genesis and the Big Bluff demonstrates that Dr. Schroeder uses mistranslations, omissions and fabrications to make his case.

 

2. If the author is using scientific sources, is he starting off with the premise that evolutionary biology is correct? Is it his methodology to reconcile Torah with science? If so, he is virtually guaranteed to misread the evidence. The evidence has to be evaluated objectively, independently, regardless of your overall conception of the relationship between religion and science.

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