In response to the public debate over Intelligent Design and Scientific theory, the RCA has issued the following statement clarifying its view on this matter as it relates to Torah Judaism, and the biblical account of creation.
Dec 27, 2005
In light of the ongoing public controversy about Evolution,
Creationism and Intelligent Design, the RCA notes that significant
Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly
understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor
with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.
There are authentic, respected voices in the Jewish community that take a
literalist position with regard to these issues; at the same time,
Judaism has a history of diverse approaches to the understanding of the
biblical account of creation. As Rabbi Joseph Hertz wrote, “While the
fact of creation has to this day remained the first of the articles of
the Jewish creed, there is no uniform and binding belief as to the
manner of creation, i.e. as to the process whereby the universe came
into existence. The manner of the Divine creative activity is presented
in varying forms and under differing metaphors by Prophet, Psalmist and
Sage; by the Rabbis in Talmudic times, as well as by our medieval Jewish
thinkers.” Some refer to the Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah 3:13) which
speaks of God “developing and destroying many worlds” before our current
epoch. Others explain that the word “yom” in Biblical Hebrew, usually
translated as “day,” can also refer to an undefined period of time, as
in Isaiah 11:10-11. Maimonides stated that “what the Torah writes about
the Account of Creation is not all to be taken literally, as believed by
the masses” (Guide to the Perplexed II:29), and recent Rabbinic leaders
who have discussed the topic of creation, such as Rabbi Samson Raphael
Hirsch and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, saw no difficulty in explaining
Genesis as a theological text rather than a scientific account.
Judaism affirms the idea that God is the Creator of the Universe and the
Being responsible for the presence of human beings in this world.
Nonetheless, there have long been different schools of thought within
Judaism regarding the extent of divine intervention in natural
processes. One respected view was expressed by Maimonides who wrote that
“we should endeavor to integrate the Torah with rational thought,
affirming that events take place in accordance with the natural order
wherever possible.” (Letter to the Jews of Yemen) All schools concur
that God is the ultimate cause and that humanity was an intended end
result of Creation.
For us, these fundamental beliefs do not rest on the purported
weaknesses of Evolutionary Theory, and cannot be undermined by the
elimination of gaps in scientific knowledge.
Judaism has always preferred to see science and Torah as two aspects of
the “Mind of God” (to borrow Stephen Hawking’s phrase) that are
ultimately unitary in the reality given to us by the Creator. As the
Zohar says (Genesis 134a): “istakel be-‘oraita u-vara ‘alma,” God looked
into the Torah and used it as His blueprint for creating the Universe.
For articles and sources on this subject, see Aryeh Carmel and Cyril
Domb eds., “Challenge: Torah Views on Science and its Problems,”
Feldheim, N. Y. 1976; and Rabbi J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and
Haftorahs (Soncino Press 1960), Additional Notes to Genesis.