Tammuz 5770 – Learning About Evolution

1 Tammuz 5770
Evolution: Am I allowed to learn about evolution so that I can better answer questions which come up in Kiruv?

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,
I am involved in a lot of kiruv – and find that discussions about evolution come up quite often. Am I aloud to study about evolution in depth – so I can be knowledgeable about it – and be able to explain the Torah ideas in contrast to it?

Thank you,
name withheld
Michlalah 06-07

The gemera in Sanhedrin discusses teaching about avoda zara so a person will know how to avoid it. When my son was little he told me he had a question – but he was afraid to ask it because maybe it is kefira. I said, “How will you know if you don’t ask!”

There is a value in Da ma lahashiv. The problem is knowing how to study the material without getting sucked into it. I have a Rabbi friend who was asked to read a book of kefira to give his reaction. He found the experience overwhelming – he didn’t know how to respond. I told him that was because he approached it uncritically – you assume that everyone will present their material honestly. Unfortunately, it is often not the case.

Many times students have confided that they write papers in university to reflect the views of the professors so they will get a better grade. When people teach their material in order to intimidate students into accepting their views, there is little room for intellectual honesty.

Evolution is a prime example. When someone questions evolution based on the scientific data they are subjected to abuse and name calling. It has become a religion among many academics – accepted on faith and beyond question.

So by all means, study it. But keep up your guard and critical analysis, because many of the problems with the theory (and it is after all only a theory) are amazing.
Hatzlacha in your efforts for Klal Yisroel!

All the best,
Dovid Orlofsky