Rabbi, I know this sounds dumb, but occasionally I have doubts because I hear what atheists have to say. Can you explain to me what is the Jewish view of evolution? I heard certain rabbis say that it is all nonsense while others say that evolution could have happened. For instance, after the Tower of Babel was destroyed, some people were punished and became monkeys. So what is the truth?
Our sages said that any falsehood that doesn’t have a grain of truth in it will not get off the ground.
Evolution is not a complete lie, but a lie mixed with truth. For example, even the Talmud wrote that species do change — just not in such a way that one species morphs into a completely different species. But changes do take place within the species, which is why you see that there are black and white and Asian humans. There is diversity in nature, and the holy Zohar explains that species vary according to the climate and the environment. These changes are inherent in our DNA, and it has nothing to do with evolution or new creation.
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Unfortunately, I've heard from a number of people who became religious that they were affected by atheists’ mocking against rabbis. It seems they do not know that the truths of the Torah and Jewish tradition are not based on comparing religion and recently discovered science. Chazal's scientific knowledge reinforces the credibility of tradition, but does not constitute proof of our tradition. It is not because of their scientific claims that we and our fathers believe that the Torah is true.
It is therefore important to make the following clear:
We know that the world has a Creator — not because evolution was refuted, and not because of scientific parallels that we found between the Big Bang and what was written the Torah. it is important to understand that we have countless logical and philosophical scientific reasons which require any rational person to unequivocally conclude that there is a Creator to the world — irrespective of or independent of the issue of evolution or the age of the world.
We know the world had a beginning and every beginning must have someone who started it. We know that the universe is run by the laws of nature which proves the control of the Creator every single moment. We see that the universe is designed and built according to complex mathematical equations, proving to us that the world was created by a designer. A rational mind must conclude that the Original Cause is not dependent on material and time, created everything, and answers only to the definition of G-d. We also learn from our spiritual essence and our free will, of the existence of a Divine soul. The proofs are innumerable.
(1) A science proof from the Big Bang: We know there is a G-d because we know the world had a beginning, and every beginning has someone who begun it. Science has proven that the universe appeared at a certain point of time and didn’t always existed. This proves the existence of a Creator that is outside of material and time, which created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo).
(2) Scientific evidence from the laws of nature: Science has shown that even now all the laws in the entire universe follow a set pattern. There cannot be laws without a Legislator, otherwise the universe would be in chaos. This proves that there is an omnipresent cosmic Creator who controls the entire universe and keeps it in existence at His Will.
(3) A logical proof based on design: we see that nature’s design of atoms, molecules, the water cycle, ozone, oxygen, etc., are all systems of mathematical complexity. Scientific wisdom can not be denied, and this is a logical proof that there exists an intelligent Designer who planned all this, for there can be no wisdom without Someone wise.
(4) A unequivocal philosophical proof: the rational mind compels the conclusion that there is an original Limiter to everything that is confined, Who is the cause of all causes, and Who can not be confined Himself into any created being. Behind all existing things there must be an omniscient, infinite Being, unlimited by material and time, that answers solely to the definition of G-d.
(5) Spiritual proof: Because we understand that we have a spiritual essence that distinguishes us from animals, we deduce that there is a Creator who created our souls, and combined our spirit with our material bodies.
(6) Personal Proof: We also know that G-d exists through the personal experience of persons who experienced Divine Providence in their lives, proving divine intervention.
One doesn’t have to be an "Einstein" or a clairvoyant to understand that the world has a Creator. Even a child who looks honestly at the world around us will reach the conclusion that the world has a Creator. Our Creator’s existence is irrespective of the issue of whether G-d created the world over millions of years, or whether G-d created the animals through a process of evolution — because in any case it is clear to us that there is a Creator who created the universe and mankind with precise wisdom and intent — with or without evolution, with or without processes that took millions of years. A Creator of the world must have existed however creation may have taken place, this is the conclusion mandated by reality, and it is important to understand that the existence of G-d is irrefutable in any situation.
We also know that the Torah is true — not because we found impressive correlations between the words of our sages and modern science, but because we have a reliable history that was passed down thousands of years, which documents and verifies the Creator’s omnipotence in His world: the ten plagues of Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the 40 years wandering in the wilderness, irrational prophecies that took place over more than two millennia ago that were described in the Book of Books, and above all the Creator’s revelation before the entire Jewish people at Mount Sinai.
Our fathers and our ancestors faithfully transmitted the Torah, holidays and the commandments, and were willing to sacrifice their lives in every generation over its truthfulness. We do not believe in the Exodus just "because it is written in the Torah", but because our ancestors transmitted the Torah from one generation to the next as our people’s national history over the past 3300 years. Therefore, the Torah constitutes undeniable national historical evidence, and all those "Bible deniers" are no different from the Holocaust deniers who have arisen in recent years.
The Jewish people is the only nation in the world that has received manufacturer’s instructions from G-d through a divine revelation and miracles performed before the entire nation which proved His mastery of nature. There are no teachings that affected the world more than the Jewish Bible. The existence of Israel also proves G-d’s miraculous control of history, since the Jews are the only nation in the world that has experienced so many genocides and hatred over thousands of years, is scattered all over the world, remains a small minority, and yet has survived without sovereignty or army while all the empires and ancient peoples assimilated and disappeared. And after all this, the Jewish people returned to its land after two thousand years, a return that was described in advance in our ancient prophecies in the Torah which the people have been passing down these last 3300 years. We know what is the secret of the Jews’ immortality!
We have countless historical reasons to believe in the Torah, and to clearly know that the Torah is truth. There does not exist anywhere in the world a Torah or religion that ever attempted to compete with the Torah and the Jewish people’s miraculous and historical authenticity. All our articles of faith are clarified in the books of our rabbis, such as The Kuzari, The Duties of the Hearts, and more.
So, even if you came across the words of an atheist seeking to accuse and distort the words of a rabbi, you should always try to distinguish whether his words touch on the fundamental Jewish articles of faith, or only on matters that strengthen faith (such as the length of time of the moon’s cycle or the earth’s roundness which appeared 1,800 years ago in the holy Zohar). People who became religious and who are mature and rational, know to base their faith on real knowledge, so they do not have a hard time with such doubts.
I recommend that you read the booklet "Fateful Conversation" that answers all the questions (about the existence of G-d, religions, the Oral Tradition, free will, why G-d created us, and other issues). We recommend that you read all the way to the surprising end, and not miss any subject:
Please search in Google for the words "Fateful Conversation". It is very important that you read this booklet, I think you will enjoy it very much.