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12.2 Jewish Orthodox Scientists Respond to Darwin

Several modern Orthodox Jewish scientists have interpreted creation in light of both modern scientific findings and rabbinical interpretations of Genesis. Each of these scientists have claimed that modern science actually confirms a literal interpretation of Torah. They accept the scientific evidence that the age of the Earth and the age of the universe are on a scale of billions of years, and they acknowledge that the diversity of species on Earth can be explained through an evolutionary framework. However, each of them interprets certain aspects of evolution, or the emergence of modern humans, as a divine process, rather than a natural one. Thus, each of them accepts an evolutionary paradigm, while rejecting some aspects of Darwinism.

Shai Cherry, Professor of Jewish Thought at Vanderbilt University, remarks that these Modern Orthodox scientists have rejected the approach taken by Jewish theologians. Theologians have tended to use later writings, such as Midrash and Kabbalah, to reconcile modern science with Genesis. The Orthodox scientists, by comparison, have largely ignored Jewish theology, in favour of a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of Genesis. Yet in their writings, each of them seeks to reconcile science with Genesis.

According to Cherry, the books of Aviezar, Schroeder, and Landa have each sought to strengthen Orthodox Jewry in a time of mounting secularization. Aviezar and Schroeder sought to prove that Genesis anticipates the findings of modern science, and thus increase its status. By contrast, Landa sought to remove a barrier to Orthodox commitment, by proving to secular Jews that Orthodox Judaism and modern science are compatible. At the same time, he sought to persuade students in his own Orthodox community that the study of science is not incompatible with commitment to Orthodoxy.