Rambam Forum

The Theory of Evolution - A Jewish Perspective

Avraham Steinberg


All possible pro and con arguments regarding the theory of evolution have been discussed and debated in the vast literature—scientific, religious, and lay—in the past 150 years. There is usually great zealotry in all debating parties, with mutual intolerance of ideas and concepts, disrespect toward opposing opi-nions and positions, and usage of very harsh language. This prejudiced approach usually does not allow for a reasonable debate. It is important to look at the facts, assumptions, and beliefs of the theory of evolution in a more calm and humble way.
In this article a comparative analysis is offered between the scientific aspects of the theory of evolution and a Judaic approach to these aspects.
The two sets of human thought—religion and science—are fundamentally different in their aims and purposes, in their methods of operation, in their scope of interest and issues, and in their origin and ramifications. Whenever science surpasses its limits, or religion exceeds its boundaries, it actually is a form of an abuse of both. This has happened to the theory of evolution in a more powerful mode than any other interaction between science and religion.
The agenda of many scientists who promote the theory of evolution is to achieve the goal of under-standing the existence of the universe as a random, purposeless, natural development, evolved slowly over billions of years from a common ancestor by way of natural selection, devoid of any supernatural metaphysical power.
Jewish faith perceives the development of the universe in a different way: God created the world, with a purpose known to Him; He established natural laws that govern the world; and He imposed a moral-religious set of requirements upon Man.
The discussion and comparative analysis in this article is based upon the current neo-Darwinian theory, although it seems almost certain that even the new and modern assumptions and speculations will continue to be challenged, changed, and revised as new scientific information will be discovered.
The theory of evolution is based upon certain facts, many assumptions, speculations, and interpreta-tions, and some fundamental non-evidence-based beliefs.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2010;1(1):e0008