Sunday, July 09, 2006

On Evolution

Updated July 16, 2006

In his article entitled "The Myth of Scientific Objectivity" (The Jewish Observer, May 2006), Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum quotes the following sentence from the brochure for the British Museum of Natural History's 1981 exhibit on Darwin:

Evolution by natural selection is not, strictly speaking, scientific, because it is established by logical deduction rather than empirical demonstration.

I don't know whether natural selection is "scientific" - that's an uninteresting semantic debate. The important, and true, point, in my estimation, is that natural selection's being the exclusive origin of species is qualitatively different from most other scientific theses. I've tried to express this idea on several occasions; this brochure did it nicely.


Mike said...

Very interesting blog you have here - I'll definitely be back to read more!

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly an evolutionary biologist, but I am pretty sure that natural selection has a strong empirical (i.e. "experimentally" demonstratable) basis.

DES said...

It does, but on a very limited scale only. The evolution of new families of organisms, for example, has never been demonstrated empirically.

Anonymous said...

Rosenblum is confusing common ancestry with evolutionary mechanisms. He doesn't understand what he's talking about.

DES said...

I didn't read the whole article and I don't know whether Rabbi Rosenblum understands what he's talking about. I'm just quoting a line from his article because I think it's useful and true.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum quotes the following sentence from the brochure for the British Museum of Natural History's 1981 exhibit on Darwin

This is sort of the hallmark of polemics. Cherry picking sources to build a tower which isn't really there.

Frankly it is *exactly* the equivalent of citing a Jewish Museum brochure on a 1981 exhibit to try to make a point about the halakhic process. R. Rosenblum would rightly dismiss it is irrelevent.

DES said...


If you're commenting on Rabbi Rosenblum's article, that's fine. I neither agree nor disagree, since I have not read his entire article.

If, however, your comment is directed at me, let me clarify a few points:

1. I quoted Rabbi Rosenblum's article only because I try always to cite my sources.

2. The fact that the museum is the source of the quote is somewhat significant, though I think the statement would be correct and worth quoting anyway. I assume the statement isn't being taken out of context in a material way given that as presented it is, after all, true.

3. My post is in no way intended to express my opinion on the age of the universe or on whether evolution occurred. My actual position is that I don't know. Does the world look billions of years old? Yes. Could it be much younger than that? Yes. If I were convinced that, according to the Torah, the world is quite literally 5766 years old, would I believe it? Yes. Am I convinced the Torah says that? No. Some Torah scholars whom I respect say it does, while others say it doesn't. If the former are right, the earth is young. If the latter are right, the earth is old. Who's right? I don't know. That's where I stand.

DES said...

Update: I just realised that I didn't say exactly what I meant in the original post. I've corrected the penultimate sentence by adding the words "being the exclusive origin of species" (plus the apostrophe-s appended to "selection").

cheamyname said...

nice blog.
if u get a chance visit mines.
all the best.

S. E. Thomas said...

I like your blog. I wrote a book about the prophet Habakkuk--no doubt you, being Jewish, know who he was. I am a Christian (I even go to one of those feared Southern Baptist churches). My book hasn't been published yet. Apparently, it's too long for a first novel, so I'm seeking other writing avenues currently. One is by publishing another book of mine chapter by chapter on my blog site--but that's not why I'm writing you. On my site I posted 10 Theoretical Statements Both Christians and Atheists Can Agree On. Though I didn't write it with Jews in mind, I'd love to have your honest opinion on them. A note of warning: though they "can" agree, not all "will".
Again, loved your blog.