Excerpt from Chapter 7

Genesis and Genes is now available in Israel, the UK and the USA. It is expected in South Africa in January 2013. In the meantime, I intend to post a number of sample passages. Here is an excerpt from chapter 7.


Some images are so familiar that they become part of our mental furniture. Many of them come from our private lives: pictures of our spouses, children and friends; places we know; objects we own. A large chunk of our mental library is injected into our minds by the media. Some mental images are ubiquitous; these are the icons that form part of the mental library of virtually every person in the western world. One of the most potent of these icons is The March of Progress, by Rudolph Zallinger. It is an image we have all seen dozens of times. On the left is a small, hirsute, hunched ape. To its right is a slightly larger, more upright ape. This progression continues, with the creatures becoming ever more human-like. The last figure is a modern human, fully upright and clutching a spear.  This is probably the best-known icon of evolution. It encapsulates the most potent implication of the theory of evolution: man is the end result of a lengthy natural process by which an ape-like creature evolved, eventually becoming Homo sapiens.

Many scholars within the Torah community reject this vision. They argue that our tradition teaches unambiguously that Adam was created by God from scratch. Adam was not the culmination of millions of years of genetic mutations acted upon by natural selection. Nor was he the end result of a long line of hominids, infused by God with a soul many millennia after creation. There are numerous Torah sources which discuss the creation of Adam. I am not familiar with any sources that describe an evolutionary process in which primitive (or even sophisticated) creatures are infused with a soul, at which point they become Adam. In other words, Adam is not merely a label, an allegory for humanity. The idea encapsulated in The March of Progress, which marks a radical departure from the age-old understanding of our origins, requires clear, unambiguous sources in Torah literature.


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