A few months ago Nick Matzke of the NCSE was on a podcast giving the usual NCSE line that opposition to evolution is a fundamentally “Protestant” Christian phenomenon. Matzke stated, “I’m not sure if the evolution issue will go away until Biblical inerrancy declines in popularity,” and he expressed his hope that, “maybe in a few hundred years people will get over it.” Mr. Matzke should have attended a recent lecture, “Is Darwinism Kosher?,” given at Discovery Institute by Jonathan Rosenblum, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and popular columnist of The Jerusalem Post. Mr. Rosenblum stated that he is comfortable with the literal meaning of Genesis being a “mystery” or an “analogy,” yet he rejects Neo-Darwinism. Speaking at Discovery Institute to a crowd that included many Orthodox Jews, Rosenblum explained that in his view, the literal meaning of the Torah may be reinterpreted, but its moral lessons and the theological truths are constant.
Rosenblum explained that Orthodox Judaism has no objections to the claim that life undergoes change. But he repeatedly asked, “What’s the mechanism of that change?” According to Rosenblum, Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah. Rosenblum was adamant that Orthodox Judaism in its reading of the Bible is not driven by a simple literal approach, but he maintained that Neo-Darwinian evolution stretches the theological truths of the Torah beyond their intended meaning.
Rosenblum clearly grasped the scientific issues. His article last year in the Jewish Observer challenged Darwin on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils and the inability of natural selection to produce complex systems. Instead, Rosenblum, who himself is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago, gave a lucid explanation of how Neo-Darwinism survives:
First step: Exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian Evolution were true, it would explain observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. … Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved.
(Jonathan Rosenblum, “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity,” Jewish Observer (May, 2006).)
Earlier this year, in the Jerusalem Post Rosenblum critiqued sociobiology, because he believes its implications are “not only silly but dangerous”:
[Under sociobiology a] newborn baby has less claim to life than a contented house cat, according to Singer. And the scope of those whom this son of Auschwitz survivors would see subject to euthanasia is wide – not only Downs syndrome babies, but even those with hemophilia, if their death would result in the parents producing a more perfect baby.
(Jonathan Rosenblum, “Think Again: Sociobiology isn’t science,” Jerusalem Post (January 11, 2006).)
Like his writings, Rosenblum’s lecture at Discovery Institute showed that there are influential thinkers in the Orthodox Jewish community that give thoughtful scientific and logical reasons to question Darwin. Indeed, during his lecture Rosenblum observed that from the time of Aristotle until the 20th century, the “consensus” among intellectuals was that the universe was eternal. We now know that the consensus was flat wrong. Who knows where Neo-Darwinism will be in another 2000 years.
Regardless, Rosenblum showed that the case against Darwinism is not based on Biblical literalism of any faith, but rather involves much common sense and thoughtful reflection. This being the case, it seems that Mr. Matzke and the NCSE will be dealing with public opposition to evolution for a long time.