Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Judaism in the Year of Darwin

posted by David Klinghoffer

Thanks and congratulations to the editors of Mishpacha, a popular Orthodox Jewish magazine, for marking this year of Darwin anniversaries with a frank look at Darwinism’s cultural consequences. The author is also the author of this blog. I note the event not only because I think the piece is hard-hitting and I know it’s accurate, but also because Jewish attention to this issue has been sorely lacking. Maybe Mishpacha (which means “Family”) will prove to be a trend leader.

The piece is viewable online but requires registration. I’ll reproduce the text here:

By DAVID KLINGHOFFER

Welcome to the year of Charles Darwin. In coming months, the secular world will be celebrating two anniversaries relating to the originator of evolutionary theory. February 12 marks what would have been his 200th birthday and November 24, the 150th year since the publication of his book On the Origin of Species.

The cultural and political battle over evolution in the United States will intensify. Yet I believe many Orthodox Jews feel that it somehow isn’t “our fight.” Darwin argued that a purposeless, unguided process–natural selection operating on random genetic variation–explains the whole history of life’s development. But frum Jews have no doubt that life was purposefully designed by our Creator.

Though I’m a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, the think tank best known for advancing intelligent-design theory, I can appreciate this response. However, permit me to argue that the Darwin wars are very much our fight, as Jews, or should be.

Begin with the fact that Hitlerism was no less than an exercise in applied Darwinism. To whip up his fellow citizens in the service of a race war against the Jews, Hitler relied on the language of Darwinian biology.

In the coming year’s celebrations, you can bet that the nastier parts of Darwin’s writing will be safely ignored. As a young man, during his adventures as a naturalist aboard the Beagle exploring the coasts of South America, Darwin had his eyes opened to the good points associated, as he came to see it, with genocide. 

In 1833 he made the acquaintance of General Juan Manual de Rosas, who was busy liquidating the Indian population of southern Argentina. “This war of extermination,” Darwin wrote in a cheerful letter home, “although carried on with the most shocking barbarity, will certainly produce great benefits; it will at once throw open four or 500 miles in length of fine country for the produce of cattle.” The “extermination” (a favorite word of Darwin in his writings) of failed races, whether animal or human, is a great theme in his books and a key feature in the advance of the evolutionary process as he conceived it. 

In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin prophesied: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”

Evolutionary theory was embraced and championed in Germany faster even than in England, Darwin’s native country. Hitler felt its influence, as the important biographers of him agree. In Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Alan Bullock writes: “The basis of Hitler’s political beliefs was a crude Darwinism.” Joachim C. Fest, in Hitler, describes how the Nazi tyrant “extract[ed] the elements of his world view” from various influences including “popular treatments of Darwinism.” 

The key chapter in Mein Kampf is Chapter 9, “Nation and Race,” where he discusses the obligation to defend the Aryan race from the Jewish menace. His argument is couched from the start in Darwinian terms. He writes: “In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right of opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. And struggle is always a mean for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of higher development.” He praises “the iron logic of Nature” with its “right to victory of the best and stronger in this world.” 

But what if the strong (Aryans) choose not to dominate and exterminate the weak (Jews)? “Eternal Nature,” he writes, “inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands.” He means those iron laws of Nature, Darwin’s laws. 

Hitler calculated that an appeal to the Germans against the Jews would be most likely to succeed if framed in scientific-sounding evolutionary terms. Mein Kampf was hugely popular and influential, selling six million copies by 1940.

Nazi propaganda hardly sought to hide the Darwin connection. In a 1937 German propaganda film, Victims of the Past, the audience is shown a retarded person as the narrator intones, “In the last few decades, mankind has sinned terribly against the law of natural selection. We haven’t just maintained life unworthy of life, we have even allowed it to multiply.” Between 1939 and 1941, German physicians empowered by the state under the Action T4 plan murdered 70,273 children and adults who had been observed to suffer from debilitating mental or physical conditions. 

It should not have been surprising that Hitler under Darwin’s influence would follow up by seeking to destroy the Jews. Not because Darwin was an anti-Semite (he wasn’t), but because his worldview is all about explaining life and its mysteries in purely natural, material terms, leaving no room for God. In Mein Kampf, when his use of Darwinist rhetoric is most pronounced, Hitler decries the Jews for their “effrontery”: “Millions thoughtlessly parrot this Jewish nonsense and end up by really imagining that they themselves represent a kind of conqueror of Nature.” In Darwinism, Nature sweeps all before her. 

Judaism says just the opposite. Torah is marked by the call to defy Nature, to do the hard work of bending our personal natures to God’s will. It is almost as if Hitler, following the logic of Darwinism, sensed that Torah and thus the Jews who uphold it must be his ultimate, eternal foes.

Today, the skinhead and Neo-Nazi subculture is full of Darwinian chatter. Whether on aggressively Hitlerian web sites like Stormfront.org or in the writings of the racist and anti-Semitic Louisiana politician David Duke, discussions of evolution as a proof of white supremacy are common.

Darwinian science has otherwise mostly lost its anti-Semitic edge, but its leading contemporary spokesman, Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins, can’t be matched for his hatred of the God of Israel and for his attack on the intelligent design of life. His latest bestselling book, The God Delusion, rails blasphemously at the Creator that he denies.

But it’s not our fight, as Torah-believing Jews? Historically our rabbis have certainly indicated that it is. Long before Charles Darwin was born in 1809, similar debates were being fought in Europe over scientific challenges to the belief that God created and designed the world. In medieval Spain, the science of the day was carried on by Aristotelian philosophers who denied that the universe had a beginning. So there could be no Creator in any sense recognizable to a Torah Jew. 

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, among other Jewish philosophers, knew it was necessary to directly address the challenge of this scientific doctrine. In the story he tells in the Kuzari, the religiously searching Khazar king stages a debate between a rabbi and an Aristotelian scientist-philosopher. (A Christian and a Muslim also participate briefly.) The philosopher denies that God intentionally created the world but instead argues that a series of natural causes explains the existence of everything. That is Darwinism in a nutshell. Yehudah HaLevi saw it as totally normal and desirable that a rabbi should engage in an extended and very well informed disputation over such issues.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch lived to see Darwin’s influence spread rapidly across Europe after the Origin of Species appeared in 1859. In his Torah commentary, Rav Hirsch was scathing on the morally disastrous effects of Darwinian thought. Ideas, he knew, have consequences for the way we all live. Commenting on the idol Baal Peor, worshipped in the most grotesquely animalistic fashion, Hirsch wrote that it illustrates precisely “the kind of Darwinism that revels in the conception of man sinking to the level of beast and stripping itself of its divine nobility, learning to consider itself just a ‘higher’ class of animal” (Numbers 25:3). 

Western culture has since become widely convinced that human beings, just like animals, lack moral choice and responsibili
ty. Applied Darwinism results in the widespread, easily observable failure to distinguish between people and animals, a moral disease we may call animalism.

Both the elite and mass media are rife with it. So the rights of animals become a sacred cause, justifying even violence in their defense, while ascribing a unique dignity or worth to men and women is increasingly suspect. If human beings lack such a dignity unique to them and transcending whatever condition their body may be in at a given moment–fetus, child, or adult, sick or well, conscious or “vegetative”–then extinguishing a human life when it seems convenient to us becomes very easy to justify. 

The social consequences range from animal-liberation terrorism to modern eugenics, right-to-die initiatives, euthanasia, abortion and more. In the state where I live, Washington, voters just this past November overwhelmingly approved an assisted-suicide law, the second in the nation (after Oregon). It permits doctors to help patients identified as “terminally ill” to take their own lives.

And this is not our fight? The Darwin-Hitler connection would be enough reason to acknowledge the evolution debate as one in which religious Jews have a profound stake. The moral and hashkafic aspects of the fight make it, without any doubt at all, ours, perhaps more than it is anyone else’s.

##

David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and the author of The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy, and other books.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(12)
post a comment
R Hampton

posted April 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm


“Not because Darwin was an anti-Semite (he wasn’t),”
CORRECT! Darwin was not anti-Semitic, but Hitler was. Do not confuse the two.
“but because his worldview is all about explaining life and its mysteries in purely natural, material terms, leaving no room for God.”
INCORRECT! The Vatican and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences accept Evolution and God, but rejects “Intelligent Design” as promoted by the Discovery Institute:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and deserted and darkness covered the abyss and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). The Bible itself, as can be seen, alludes to the universe’s passing from a formless and chaotic state to a state on the path of progressive formation and differentiation of creatures and mentions the Spirit of God as the principle of this passage or evolution. This passage is presented in the Bible as sudden and immediate. Science has revealed that it extended over millions of years and is still in action. But this should not create any problems, once we know the purpose and literary genre of the biblical account.
– Father Cantalamessa’s 1st Lenten Sermon (03/15/2009)
http://www.zenit.org/article-25366?l=english



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted April 7, 2009 at 7:48 am


“…Darwin argued that a purposeless, unguided process–natural selection operating on random genetic variation–explains the whole history of life’s development…”
This comment is somewhat disingenuous. Contemporary Evolutionary Theory does not subscribe to the process as being unguided. Quite the contrary is true; the process of evolution is guided by what provides an advantage. In particular, many evolutionary theorists would argue, the process is guided by whatever would provide an evolutionary adavantage to produce offspring that will be able to produce offspring of their own.
“…But frum Jews have no doubt that life was purposefully designed by our Creator….”
C’mon, one of the many things that sets Jews apart from our christian friends is that Jews have doubt and encourage doubt. It is this skepticism that has kept us ahead of the game in educating our youth. If we don’t continue to “preach” a skepticism to our children, we will surely perish.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted April 7, 2009 at 11:25 am


Klinghoffer shows that his knowledge of Darwin is as bad as his knowledge of science with this:
“because his [Darwin's] worldview is all about explaining life and its mysteries in purely natural, material terms, leaving no room for God.”
Darwin’s early writings on evolution suggested that God may have started life, and one finds this in Origin of Species:
“To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.”
Indeed, there is nothing the slightest bit odd in mainline theology about considering God to be the Primary Cause, while “secondary causes” are held to be the outworking of His wisdom. Whether that is a good view or not depends upon one’s religious views, but Darwin never claimed that evolution left “no room for God,” primarily because he understood both science and theology. As far as I can tell, Klinghoffer understands neither.
It is true that Darwin became agnostic later, but at least the triggering factor was a personal matter, the death of his daughter, similar examples of which have tried many souls.
Frankly, it’s more than a little bizarre for Klinghoffer to make this unsupported claim, when Darwin himself invoked the Creator and his laws in the seminal work on evolution. Not only had Darwin brought the life sciences into congruence with the other science, he had brought the life sciences into agreement with the predominant view of theology, the understanding of the unfolding of the universe as being according to orderly laws set by the Creator.
Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592



report abuse
 

JosephU

posted April 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm


R Hampton mentions that:
“The Vatican and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences accept Evolution and God”
As a Catholic parent, I would like to bring to your attention an on-line summary of some magisterial Catholic statements on the subject of Creation.
(partial quote)
What Does The Catholic Church Teach about Origins?
http://www.kolbecenter.org/church_teaches.htm
- God created everything “in its whole substance” from nothing (ex nihilo) in the beginning. (Lateran IV; Vatican Council I)
- Genesis does not contain purified myths. (Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909[1])
- Genesis contains real history – it gives an account of things that really happened. (Pius XII)
- Adam and Eve were real human beings—the first parents of all mankind. (Pius XII)
. . .
- The body of Eve was specially created from a portion of Adam’s body (Leo XIII). She could not have originated via evolution.
. . .
- All the Fathers who wrote on the subject believed that the Creation days were no longer than 24-hour-days. (Consensus of the Fathers of the Church)
- The work of Creation was finished by the close of Day Six, and nothing completely new has since been created—except for each human rational soul at conception (Vatican Council I)
. . .
- Evolution must not be taught as fact, but instead the pros and cons of evolution must be taught. (Pius XII, Humani Generis)
The second page summarizes the teaching of evolution
and how cutting edge science says “No” to evolution.
e.g.
- The specific complexity of genetic information in the genome does not increase spontaneously. Therefore, there is no natural process whereby reptiles can turn into birds, land mammals into whales, or chimpanzees into human beings.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted April 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm


A commenter above wrote: “Contemporary Evolutionary Theory does not subscribe to the process as being unguided. Quite the contrary is true; the process of evolution is guided by what provides an advantage. In particular, many evolutionary theorists would argue, the process is guided by whatever would provide an evolutionary adavantage to produce offspring that will be able to produce offspring of their own.”
The writer is using the word “guided” in a way that is inconsistent with the way it’s normally used.
“Natural selection is supposed to produce endless forms most beautiful from an unguided, purposeless mechanical process. But chance is not a process! Oh, but the randomness in variation is selected by the environment, the Darwinist says. Well, guess what: the environment is random, too, so this reduces to chance acting on chance. Folks, chance is not a law of nature. Chance is not a mechanism. Chance is not an explanation. Chance is nothing.” – CF



report abuse
 

Tara

posted April 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm


Took a look at stormfront.com — found a software company (!)
Figured it out, and yep, stormfront.org is pretty creepy!
Also, it amazes me that so many folks are willing to put complete faith in “guided” evolution (guided by whom?), but NOT so open-minded as to consider a deliberate, purposeful creation event by an omniscient creator — despite the mind-boggling amount of information (both historical and scientific) available to anyone who wants to do his or her own thinking.



report abuse
 

R Hampton

posted April 8, 2009 at 9:04 pm


JosephU,
John Paul II addressed those very points made by Pius XII:
Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis considered the doctrine of “evolutionism” a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and as though one could totally prescind from revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return.
Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. [Aujourdhui, près dun demi-siècle après la parution de l'encyclique, de nouvelles connaissances conduisent à reconnaitre dans la théorie de l'évolution plus qu'une hypothèse.] It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.
Address of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 22, 1996)



report abuse
 

Steve

posted April 11, 2009 at 1:41 am


David Klinghoffer wrote: “Darwin argued that a purposeless, unguided process–natural selection operating on random genetic variation–explains the whole history of life’s development.”
First, Darwin didn’t know about genes.
Second, as Glen D posted, Darwin used the word “creator” in the first edition of Origin of Species. Darwin wrote: “To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.”
Although he definitely was an at least an agnostic later in life (and maybe an atheist), it is more questionable what he was when he wrote the fire edition of Origin of Species. I’m an atheist. I believe that there are zero Gods. But it is less clear what Darwin was when he wrote the first edition of Origin of Species.
Third, Darwin realized that sexual reproduction played in important in role in causing some organisms to be as different as they are from other organisms.
Finally, evolution is true. For instance, some of my ancestors are fish. That’s just the way it is. Here is a link to some of the kinds of data that has helped me determine that some of my ancestors are fish:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
Also, Ernst Mayr was one of the great biologists to ever live. Here is a quote from his book What Evolution Is:
“Astronomical and geophysical evidence indicate that the Earth originated about 4.6 billion years ago. At first the young Earth was not suitable for life, owing to the heat and exposure to radiation. Astronomers estimate that it became liveable about 3.8 billion years ago, and life apparently originated about that time, but we do not know what the first life looked like. Undoubtedly, it consisted of aggregates of macromolecules able to derive substance and energy from surrounding inanimate molecules and from the sun’s energy. Life may well have originated repeatedly at this early stage, but we know nothing about this. If there have been several origins of life, the other forms have since become extinct. Life as it now exists on Earth, including the simplest bacteria, was obviously derived from a single origin. This is indicated by the genetic code, which is the same for all organisms, including the simplest ones, as well as by many aspects of cells, including microbial cells. The earliest fossil life was found in strata about 3.5 billion years old. These earliest fossils are bacterialike, indeed they are remarkably similar to some blue-green bacteria and other bacteria that are still living” (p. 40).
Whether some people’s believing that some of my ancestors are fish has contributed to their doing bad things is completely irrelevant to whether I know that some of my ancestors are fish. Analogously, maybe some people’s believing in heliocentrism contributed to their doing bad things (for instance, Louis the 14th). But I’m quite sure that the earth revolves around the sun.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted April 12, 2009 at 12:58 am


Steve points to a talkorigins article. I trust he read the Camp rebuttal, plus the counterrebuttal, plus the counter-counterrebuttal?
Also, since Steve talked about Darwin’s faith and likes Ernst Mayr, he might like to know what Mayr wrote about Darwin’s faith:
“It is apparent that Darwin lost his faith in the years 1836-39, much of it clearly prior to the reading of Malthus. In order not to hurt the feelings of his friends and of his wife, Darwin often used deistic language in his publications, but much in his Notebooks indicates that by this time he had become a ‘materialist’ (more or less = atheist).” American Scientist May 1977 p. 323



report abuse
 

Steve

posted April 12, 2009 at 1:44 am


Your Name wrote: “Steve points to a talkorigins article. I trust he read the Camp rebuttal, plus the counterrebuttal, plus the counter-counterrebuttal?”
I don’t know a “Camp rebuttal.” Could you post a link to it or tell me what he or she has argued? Although the Talkorigins article by Douglas Theobold that I linked to has its limitations, it does present some of the kinds of data that has helped some people determine that some of my ancestors are fish. I just provided the link — rather than argue on my own — for my convenience. But I’d be happy to talk about it in more depth.
Your name wrote: “Also, since Steve talked about Darwin’s faith and likes Ernst Mayr, he might like to know what Mayr wrote about Darwin’s faith:”
I do think Mayr was a great biologist. And I did write the following: “Second, as Glen D posted, Darwin used the word ‘creator’ in the first edition of Origin of Species. Darwin wrote: ‘To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.’
“Although he definitely was an at least an agnostic later in life (and maybe an atheist), it is more questionable what he was when he wrote the [first] edition of Origin of Species. I’m an atheist. I believe that there are zero Gods. But it is less clear what Darwin was when he wrote the first edition of Origin of Species.”
However, what specific quotes from Darwin did Mayr refer to in the 1977 American Scientist article? It might be that Darwin was an atheist when he wrote the first edition of Origin of Species. I don’t know. However, he did include the language that I referred to — including the word “Creator” — in the first edition of Origin of Species. I suppose that passage is prima facie evidence that it at least isn’t certain that he was an atheist when he wrote the first edition. But maybe he was an atheist then. Do you have any quotes one way or another?
In Janet Browne’s excellent biography on Darwin, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, she talks about a discussion Darwin had with Edward Aveling in 1881. Aveling asked Darwin if Darwin was an atheist. Darwin said that he preferred the word “agnostic.” They agreed that Christianity is false. Darwin said, “I never gave up Christianity until I was forty years of age. It is not supported by the evidence.”
Also, in 1882, Darwin wrote an autobiography for his granddaughter. In it, he discussed his views on religion, including the following quote: “I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”
Here is a link to the full passage in his autobiography on his views on religion:
http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/cd_relig.htm



report abuse
 

Don

posted September 11, 2009 at 10:27 am


I’m writing a research paper, and I thought your information might be of benefit. It’s useless because you have no citations whatsoever.



report abuse
 

David Klinghoffer

posted September 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm


Sorry, Don. If I’d known I was going to be doing you’re homework for you, I would have put in the citations.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another Blog To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Kingdom of Priests. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Kabballah Counseling Happy Reading!

posted 11:24:22am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Animal Wisdom: The Voice of the Serpent
Our family watched Jaws together the other evening -- which, in case you're wondering, I regard as responsible parenting since our kids are basically too young to be genuinely scared by the film. The whole rest of the next day, two-year-old Saul was chattering about the "shark teeth." "Shark teeth g

posted 3:56:33pm Mar. 16, 2010 | read full post »

Reading Wesley Smith: Why the Darwin Debate Matters
If the intelligent-design side in the evolution debate doesn't receive the support you might expect from people who should be allies, that may be because they haven't grasped why the whole thing matters so urgently. I got an email recently from a journalist whom I'd queried on the subject. "All told

posted 5:07:12pm Mar. 15, 2010 | read full post »

The Mission of the Jews
Don't miss my essay over at First Things on the mission of the Jews to the world. This, I think, the key idea that the Jewish community needs to absorb at this very unusual cultural moment, for the time is so, so right. Non-Jews are waiting for us to fulfill the roll God gave us in the Torah. Please

posted 6:14:16pm Mar. 05, 2010 | read full post »

Darwin at the Mountains of Madness: Evolution & the Occult
Of all the regrettable cultural forces that Darwinism helped unleash, perhaps the most surprising and seemingly unlikely is its role in sparking the creation of modern occultism. Charles Darwin himself could not have been less interested in the topic. But no attempt to assess the scope of his legacy

posted 2:04:11pm Mar. 04, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.