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Virtual Talmud


The Taxonomy of Wonder

Let me start by saying that I think that evolutionary science provides the best description we have of how life came to exist in its present form, that intelligent design is junk science (at best), and that Judge Jones made exactly the right decision in the Dover School Board case. I.D., which is just creationism by another name, has no place in a public school curriculum. That said, the concept of intelligent design is central to my understanding of what it means to be Jewish.

Before we eat, we say a berachah (a blessing). When we wake up in the morning, we say a berachah. When we see the first buds blossoming in the spring–we say a berachah. A berachah is a way of acknowledging how astonishing the world truly is, of looking at everything around us with radical amazement and gratitude. More specifically, the berachah acknowledges God as the source of all of these wonders, honors the divine flow of life that animates the universe.

Intelligent design is rooted in a similar sense of awe and wonder. Science can describe the cellular structure of an apple, tell us how it grows and propagates in great detail, explain the organic compounds that make it sweet. But science cannot tell us that the apple is a miracle; intelligent design can.

Intelligent design at some level means acknowledging that the world around us is beyond our comprehension, cannot be fully described in terms of equations and chemical reactions–and I agree. Perhaps this is because as a rabbi, I am more interested in meaning than in mechanics.

Evolution, with its doctrine of survival of the fittest, would be a dismal model on which to base a system of ultimate moral meaning. The Jewish religious approach to how to understand the world–with radical amazement, with a sense in the world’s abiding goodness and purpose–is far more in keeping with intelligent design than with evolution.

When I say “intelligent design” here, I should be clear I’m not talking about a pseudo-scientific political movement for which I have no sympathies, but rather the core values that underlie the desire to see the world as more than the sum of concrete, describable parts. These values are mine as well, and I hope to pass them along to my children, pray never to take the world and its precious resources for granted.

But this is my choice and my role–the lens I use to see the world as a rabbi is just one of the many possible lenses that we can use and that people do use in this country. There are other religious traditions, and there are those who stand outside of any religious tradition at all.

The job of the public schools is to nurture the mind, and then families can decide how to nurture the soul. This is not the Dover School Board’s job, and I don’t want them teaching my children what to believe.

Let’s teach our children evolution in school so they will be educated, and the wonder of God in synagogue so they will be wise.



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eastcoastlady

posted January 27, 2006 at 1:20 pm


Let s teach our children evolution in school so they will be educated, and the wonder of God in synagogue so they will be wise. I think this sentence sums it up.



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Boadicea

posted January 27, 2006 at 2:14 pm


Mostly, I just wish that religionists would realize that evolution has N*O*T*H*I*N*G to say about ethics and/or morals. Ethics and morals belong with philosophy and religion, not science. Using evolution to explain and/or justify ethics and morals is like using a cookbook to perform brain surgery. You’re going to run into big problems and end up with a big mess on your hands. Just like we have now. (sigh)



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Elan Netser

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:05 pm


“The job of the public schools is to nurture the mind, and then families can decide how to nurture the soul. This is not the Dover School Board s job, and I don t want them teaching my children what to believe” Hurray!! Finally is saying out lowed and in the open what should have been said decades ago. Yes the role of the schools is to educate bout facts. Nothing else. Morals, beliefs, ethics, those are the domain of the family. There is a responsibility of the parents and the extended family to raise their children “properly”. I applaud you Rabbi for putting this onus once more where it should be: In the home.



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Larry Lennhoff

posted January 30, 2006 at 4:56 pm


Yes the role of the schools is to educate bout facts. Nothing else. Morals, beliefs, ethics, those are the domain of the family. There is a responsibility of the parents and the extended family to raise their children “properly”. I have to disagree. When I was young, we had courses in ‘cvics’ aka social studies- teaching us it was our responsibility to vote, to take part in community life, to be proud of living in a republic, and other topics that in no way could be considered facts. Do you really think these things have no place in school?



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Mike Schoenberg

posted January 31, 2006 at 11:39 am


Larry, “facts” is a kind of loose term when it comes to education. How much of history +/or literature is fact. Civics though, in these days when voter turn out is so low and people seem to have such a low regard for the country seems a useful course.



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David Segsworth

posted February 2, 2006 at 11:16 pm


At one time, witchdoctors were the final arbeiters of fact. Do facts change?



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JimT2803

posted February 17, 2006 at 2:27 pm


Rabbi Waxman you confuse me at first you say that ID is junk science and that Darwinism is not and you continue declaring ID is real and Evolution is junk. Do You proof read your stuff before you publish. Rabbi I either read it wrong or your mind is faster then your keyboard.



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JimT2803

posted February 17, 2006 at 2:30 pm


We are all brainwashed growing up and its tough getting soap suds out of the brain and to think clearly.



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