Friday, October 12, 2012

Parshat Bereshit - Faith & Science - Notes for presentation at synagogue

While tradition instructs us that every word of the Torah is Sacred, Parshat Bereshit, the first Parsha of the Torah, holds a particular resonance because Bereshit deals with a universal theme, one that has been contemplated by every human being who has ever lived. That theme was best expressed by Admiral James Stockdale, running mate for Ross Perot in 1992, who asked the question "Who am I....and why am I here?"

Is the Torah story of creation, faith or science? Modernity inform us that faith and science are contradictory yet is this so? Albert Einstein said that "Faith without science is blind....but science without faith is lame." Faith and science are like auto mechanics and calligraphy, two different disciplines that have nothing to do with each other but don't impinge on the validity of each. Science is the study of the  natural world and the  development of abstract concepts based upon that study. For example, arithmetic is based on the observation that quantities of things can be added to or subtracted from. Emerging from this simple thesis came the intricate and abstract study of the interaction of quantities that is arithmetic. Indeed human knowledge, and the improvement of human life, is based upon an understanding of science which is a study of the nature of God's world and how to harness that nature to change the human experience.

Faith is the study of the spiritual and the supernatural side of existence, an entirely different discipline from science but one that complements science. Anatomy includes the study of the human body but not the human spirit or soul. Faith holds as self evident that there is a Divine creator of the universe and that the creator is a law giver in terms of how the spiritual human being should live and he should interact with other human beings. Faith holds that the human being is not just an anatomical animal, although scientifically this is part of the story, but rather that the human being is also created, both man and woman, in the image of God.

But is this scientific? The concept of man as created in the image of God, as found in Bereshit, is the concept that led to the understanding on the part of the founding fathers of the American Republic, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson, that "all men are created equal." If we, as individuals, are created in God's image than we must all be created equal with certain inalienable rights. And while we struggle with defining those rights, and while each one of us is unique and lives a life in the context of entirely different circumstances and interests, we are, nevertheless, all equal under God. We are born equal, we are entitled to the same respect during our lives that would be accorded a being created in the image of God, and we all die equal. Indeed, our entire moral and ethical code, our system of justice, and our civilization is based upon the assumption that this is true.

Yet the so-called science of Evolution, as it was coined by Charles Darwin and as it is still articulated today, must hold that we are not created equal. And this is why creationism is not reconcilable with the Theory of Evolution. Either we are created equal or we are not created equal, either we posses a soul that makes our lives sacred or we are simply evolving animals. Either we were created in the image of God or we somehow emerged from, as Darwin speculated in his notes, "a small warm pond."

The Theory of Evolution is a theory of breeding. The cornerstone of Darwin's theory was what he called "natural selection" which, in layman's terms, means that a superior member of a given species mates with another superior member of the same species which results in more superior, or more "evolved" offspring. To evolve is to improve, to get better, to become superior in some way. The term "species" derives from the Latin term for race. Thus through superior breeding, after umpteen generations, results, according to evolutionary theory, in the emergence of a new and superior species.

Concomitantly, according to the logic of this theory, other members of the species would be undergoing a process of devolution. As members of the species devolve, those members would eventually die out or they would have to be annihilated in order to improve the evolutionary prospects of the more evolved members. Darwin called this process "the survival of the fittest."

Karl Marx was an admirer and contemporary of Darwin. He wanted to dedicate his book "Das Capital" to Darwin but Darwin refused to accept the honor. Original copies of their correspondence can be found in the Darwin House Museum in London. Marx borrowed Darwin's biological theory of the evolution of the human species and he super-imposed it upon his social theories of the evolution of society. Thus while Darwin's biologically evolved human species would find it's expression in the Nazi Ubermensch, Marx social theory would call for a striving toward a socially collectivized world society where a socially evolved humanity would form an international ant colony, a world bee-hive, where all would be de-facto equal and where such false ideas as self-interest, faith, family, love, property, the right to trade, and all forms of sovereignty would have been, to use Marx term, "made impossible."

This so-called scientific theory of evolution, a theory that remains unproven and one that I reject, stands as a contradiction to the Torah and all of its values. Besides, and since there is no hard scientific proof either way regarding the origins of man, there is actually more proof, and a growing consensus amongst geneticists, that man is descended from one mother, geneticists call her "Mitochondrial Eve" and one father, geneticists call him "Y Chromosome Adam."

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