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The Slifkin Affair

The Slifkin Affair

Some of the more recent discussion may be found at the wiki.

In his book Challenge of Creation (2006), Rabbi Slifkin claims that there is convincing evidence that the marvels of life are due to chance and naturalistic processes (such as random mutation and natural selection). Given that he accepts the supposed billions of years of fully naturalistic evolution, Rabbi Slifkin, in his book, denies the supra-natural creation and historicity of the first man and women (Adam and Chava). This contradicts the first chapter of the Torah which describes the creation of Adam at the culmination of the creation week (Adam is created on day six in the image of God). Rather, in Challenge, Rabbi Slifkin argues that the first three chapters of the Torah is pretty much a total allegory. Thus, according to Challenge, there was no historical meta-natural creation week as described in the first chapter of Genesis.

Some background to such claims. While evolutionists and creationists often debate the scientific evidence for evolution, the source of the ongoing dispute is much deeper. It is not just a clash about gaps in the fossil record or dinosaur bones. Rather, it is a fundamental dispute about different worldviews.

As Jews we are committed to the absolute truth of the Torah. The universe is the result of a meta-natural creation solely by Divine fiat, imbued with plan and purpose, so as to bring us to an awareness of the Creator, His wisdom and His kindliness. The first humans (Adam and Chava) were created, in the image of God on the sixth day of the creation week. Thus humans are creatures who are specially blessed with the capacity to discern and choose to live up to these great truths.

The most influential intellectuals around the world are mostly naturalists. They assume that God exists only in the minds of religious believers. The assumption of methodological naturalism – the quasi-religious doctrine that matter and energy is all there is – is the unquestioned assumption that underlies the origin sciences and the intellectual enterprise of western civilization today. For the atheist, if nature is all there is, then chance and natural processes must somehow have the ability to produce the marvels of life. The naturalist is in the unenviable position of, somehow, having to demonstrate that man is here by unguided materialistic processes that did not have him in mind.

What naturalists actually do is as follows. They start with the assumption that naturalism is true and then, with a limited naturalistic repertoire, they must attempt to provide purely natural and chance explanations for our existence. This is why the origin sciences are based more on unproven and dangerous materialistic presuppositions than empirical verification. The current state and past record of origin sciences as attempts to understand the fundamental nature of reality is a warning that these attempts are speculative and suspect, particularly where they contradict the account of these matters in the Torah.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

[Richard Lewontin, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard, “Billions and Billions of Demons”, New York Review of Books, Vol. 44, 1997. Emphasis added.]

The consequence of the absurd constructs and "unsubstantiated just so stories" of evolutionary naturalism is moral Darwinism. As Michael Ruse puts it: "The time has come to take seriously the fact that we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day." According to this worldview, truth and ethics is relative and culturally constructed.

It is unfortunate that Rabbi Slifkin has aligned himself with the evolutionary naturalists (see the Ruse quote) while struggling to argue that there is a God behind evolution's random processes, vestigial organs, embryological debris and the poorly designed Panda's thumb. His acceptance of naturalism over Torah has led him to write books that "were deemed to contain ideas antithetical to Torah". His attempted reconciliation (undoubtedly sincerely advanced) to the Challenge of Creation is unnecessary, evasive, and not even acceptable to the leading evolutionary scientists, as can be seen from the following colorful response by the late William Provine (Cornell).

Some scientists along with many liberal theologians suggest that God set up the universe in the beginning and/or works through the laws of nature. This silly way of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too … is equivalent to the claim that science and religion are compatible if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.[1]

First, modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable. Second, modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society. The conflict between science and religion is to the extent that persons who manage to retain religious beliefs while accepting evolutionary biology have to check their brains at the church-house door.[2]

“Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented”.[3]

 Our mesora is not negotiable. It is the worldview that is right, makes sense and has the most evidence on its side. Despite that, it is losing the fight for the public imagination, and those who try to challenge the unproven presuppositions of naturalism are stereotyped as stupid fundamentalists. But this characterization depends upon misinformation, myths and outright trickery. This site explores these issues further.



[1] Provine, William. 1988. "Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion are Incompatible." The Scientist, September 5, p. 10. Prof. Provine was the Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University. [2] William Provine, "Evolution and the Foundation of Ethics," MBL Science 3.1 (1998); 25-29 [3]  Provine W.B., “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life.” Slide from Prof. William B. Provine's 1998 “Darwin's Day” address, "Darwin Day" website, University of Tennessee Knoxville TN, 1998. Richard Dawkins (Oxford): “...although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.6). Gould (Harvard): “Before Darwin, we thought that a benevolent G-d had created us”, (Gould S.J., "So Cleverly Kind an Animal," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," [1978], Penguin: London UK, 1991, reprint, p.267). A universal acid is a liquid so corrosive that it will eat through anything. Prof. Daniel Dennet approvingly likens the theory of evolution to a “universal acid” that eats through every traditional concept: “Darwin’s dangerous idea cuts much deeper into the fabric of our most fundamental beliefs than many of its sophisticated apologists have admitted to themselves”. Daniel Dennet, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Simon and Schuster, 1995, p18.