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While Rabbi Slifkin’s work does not carry the approbation of noted Torah authorities, it does carry an enthusiastic approbation from Darwinist Michael Ruse, who believes that “we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God.”
Ruse, like Rabbi Slifkin, believes in Darwin’s “blind watchmaker” thesis – the thesis that the marvels of life (the human brain, for example) originate via naturalistic mechanisms such as accidental random mutation and natural selection.
Rabbi Slifkin believes that currently operating natural processes (albeit guided by God) produced vestigial organs having little or no utility and “poorly designed” organs such as the panda’s thumb. When he wrote about the panda’s thumb in 2006, Rabbi Slifkin was unaware of an in-depth study of the matter by Japanese scientists. The scientists described the panda’s thumb as an engineering marvel, calling it an “extraordinary manipulation system.”
The Torah, in contrast to Rabbi Slifkin’s chance naturalistic approach, describes a purposeful meta-natural creation process that is entirely removed from the currently operating laws of nature. It is Rabbi Slifkin’s insistence on evolutionary naturalism that is fundamentally at odds with core principles of Torah, and this is the central issue that Rabbi Slifkin has consistently failed to address in our discussions.
Charles Darwin wrote: “If I were convinced that I required such [miraculous] additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish … I would give nothing for the theory of natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.”
Richard Dawkins writes (in The Blind Watchmaker) that in Darwin’s view the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations.
For Darwin, any evolution that required God’s help was not evolution at all. Rabbi Slifkin in essence concedes to the atheists that if anyone could have witnessed the origin of the cosmos and of life itself, he would not have detected any role played by God – thus allowing leading intellectuals to teach our unwitting students that “Darwin made it possible to be a fulfilled atheist” (in the words of Richard Dawkins).
Can the meta-natural account of creation in the Torah be reconciled with Darwin’s blind watchmaker thesis? When one puts it like that, the answer is clearly no. After all, Darwin said we may never appeal to miracles. But the concept of a miraculous meta-natural Creation Week permeates the first few chapters of the Torah and has always been understood to be at the heart of all the fundamental beliefs of Torah, and of our very awareness of the Creator.
Indeed, Rabbi Slifkin freely admits that his Darwinian interpretation flies in the face of every classical Talmudic and Rishonic source discussing the topic.
When we make Kiddush on Shabbos we recite the words of the fourth commandment stating that God rested (vayonach) on the seventh day. Chazal say that this means that creation came to halt on that day. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains this as follows: “On each day of the six day creation week, novel entities were formed outside of the system of nature currently in operation and, on the seventh day (Shabbos), the state of the world became lasting and established just as it is at present.”
The Maharal writes (Be’er Hagolah): “Know that He, Himself, may His name be blessed, in all His Glory (b’chvodo u’veatzmo) caused all of reality to materialize into existence during the six days of creation. He did not cause it through the agency of nature, as opposed to the period which ensues after the six days of creation, in which Hashem, may His name be blessed, governs his creation via the intermediary of nature.”
This is the concept of Creation we have as our mesorah. And this means, as Rav Shlomo Miller shlita explains, that Hashem is not just the Guide (manhig) of the universe but also its Creator (boreh).
The very laws of nature, the imperatives that govern the cosmos, space, time, mass, energy, and life were only able to come into existence via God exercising his role as the Creator over the entire six-day creation period of asarah ma’maros, ten declarations.
Shabbos teaches that the natural processes we see at work today were not the ones responsible for bringing the world and its inhabitants into existence. Our cessation of work on Shabbos testifies to the fact that God meta-naturally created his universe in six days and ceased this process on the seventh day.
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The owner of the bookstore took one look at the book I was purchasing and said, “Rabbi Slifkin has made quite the splash in our city.”
He then asked, “What do you say about the dinosaurs?” – referring to Rabbi Slifkin’s Challenge of Creation (2006), which has a stunning photo of a dinosaur skeleton on the front cover of the book.
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