In our prior issue (in an essay archived at www.koltorah.org) we introduced Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s (visit www.geraldschroeder.com) worthwhile approaches to resolving conflicts between Torah and science. While his are not the sole authoritative approaches regarding this important issue, he presents interesting ideas demonstrating that science, if understood properly, actually supports the Torah. This week we present Dr. Schroeder’s responses to issues regarding the age of man and to those who utilize the Theory of Evolution to show that life could have been created without Hashem.
Age of Man
Scientific American’s April 2012 edition includes a cover article that reports on the discovery of fossils of human beings that scientists date as being two million years old. One could argue that just as a 1959 edition of Scientific American reported that most scientists accept Aristotle’s theory of eternity and was proven wrong (as discussed in our prior issue), so too that which appears in the April 2012 edition of Scientific American will eventually be proven wrong as well. Dr. Schroeder presents an alternative approach: “Adam was the first human, the first Homo sapiens with the soul of a human, the neshama. That is the creation listed in Genesis 1:27. Adam was not the first Homo sapiens.” Dr. Schroeder adduces three proofs to this remarkable assertion from pre-modern Torah sources. First is the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim (1:7) describing “animals co-existing with Adam that were identical to humans in shape and intelligence, but because they lacked the neshama, they were animals.” Dr. Schroeder explains a Mishnah (Kil’ayim 8:5) which “discusses ‘masters of the field’ (Adanei Hasadeh) that were animals but so identical to humans that when they died one could not tell them apart from a dead human. Masters of the field implies farming - a skill that predates the Adam by at least 2000 years according to pollen studies in the border area between Israel and Syria.” He also cites Ramban, who, in discussing BeReishit 2:7, “details the flow of life that led to the Adam, the first human. [Ramban] closes his comments there with the statement that when this spirituality was infused into the living being, that being changed to another kind of man. Not changed to man but another kind of man, a homo sapiens/hominid became spiritually human”
Dr. Schroeder concludes:
“So from where did these ancients get the knowledge of the pre-Adam hominids? They learned it, correctly we discover, from the subtle wording of the biblical text. Those animals in human shape and intelligence would be the "adam" listed in Genesis 1:26, when God says "Let us make Adam." But in the next verse God creates "the Adam," the Adam, a specific being.”
During Dr. Schroeder’s talk at TABC he mentioned that archaeologists date the beginning of the creation of cities as coinciding with the Torah’s date of the creation of Adam. Dr. Schroeder explained that man without a soul is entirely selfish and would not live a communal existence. Only man with a soul would desire to live a communal existence. Thus, Dr. Schroeder concludes, science does not contradict the Torah, if understood properly.
One may ask, however, for what purpose did Hashem create a human being without a Neshamah? One may answer based on a remarkable assertion of the Tosefot Yom Tov (commenting on Avot 3:14). He argues that although all human beings are created “BeTzelem Elokim” (in the image of Hashem), this refers to divine potential. However, those people who do not observe the seven Noahide laws requiring basic decency such as refraining from murder, theft, and adultery, are not considered to be created in the image of Hashem.
Accordingly, we argue that Hashem might have at first created human beings without a Neshamah to serve as a warning that human beings have the potential to regress to a being without a soul. Indeed, “monsters” such as Hitler and Stalin (Yemach Shemam) may be described as human beings without a soul. According to this approach, one may describe a human being’s Neshamah as “use it or lose it.” One who does not respect and express the basic spiritual drives of one’s Neshamah loses his Neshamah and regresses to a type of human that existed prior to the creation of Adam HaRishon.
Please note that Dr. Schroeder’s fascinating argument that the world is both 5772 years old (and created in six days) and billions of years old is necessary to support his view that human beings without a soul could exist two million years before the creation of Adam HaRishon. We shall present this argument in next week’s issue b”n and iy”H.
Rejecting Random Evolution
We will focus on the section of Dr. Schroeder's website entitled "scientific myths." Dr. Schroeder disproves the assertion that scientific discoveries and the fossil record have proven Darwin's Theory of the Gradual Evolution of Life. Dr. Schroeder writes that
“The exact opposite is the case. As Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC, wrote in the New York Times, ‘The fossil record that we were told to find for the past 150 years (since Charles Darwin) does not exist.’ Darwin insisted that nature does not make jumps. In fact, the flow of life as recorded in the fossil record has many jumps in complexity. Never did I expect to read in the esteemed, peer reviewed journal, Science, the following: ‘Did Darwin get it all right?’ And the sub-title was no, species appear with a most un-Darwinian rapidity.”
Dr. Schroeder does not reject evolution per se as an explanation of how the world developed. He simply argues, based on evidence such as those cited above, that there must have been a Director. Jumps in complexity do not happen spontaneously.
Another argument made by non-believers is that the mystery of the origin of life has been solved. Dr. Schroeder responds:
“Of all the many mysteries in nature, the origin of life is one of the three key [challenges] that have resisted solution. At the present there is no viable explanation for how the complexity of even the "simplest" of microbes arose over many stages, but starting with rocks, water and a few simple molecules. The other two conundrums are why there is something rather than nothing, why there is existence of any thing in any form; and, what is the origin of consciousness, self-awareness in life that arose from seemingly inert, non-living matter”.
Thus, since no natural explanation exists for these phenomena, it is most reasonable to conclude that they are a result of supernatural intervention by a Director.
We often hear skeptics argue that “very occasionally monkeys hammering away at typewriters will type out one of Shakespeare's sonnets.” Dr. Schroeder responds:
“Not true, not in this universe. A wrong assumption that randomness can produce meaningful stable complexity. This impossibility of randomness producing order is not different from the attempt to produce Shakespeare or any meaningful string of letters more than a few words in length by a random letter generator. Gibberish is always the result”.
Dr. Schroeder concludes in an essay on evolution that appears on his website:
“Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory calls out for randomness to set the course of life's development. Evolution, Bible style, also sees life develop from the simple (day three and day five) to the highly complex (humanity on day six), but realizes that in this world, random reactions are simply not up to accomplishing that task. Random reactions alone simply do not and can not produce stable order. That is the lesson of the laws of thermodynamics.”
We should note that the points raised by Dr. Schroeder are self-evident and any reasonable individual could arrive at these conclusions. Nonetheless, it is edifying to hear an Orthodox Jew who is a world class scientist who earned two doctorates in science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology validate that which believers in Hashem understand as self-evident truths.
Next week we shall conclude this series by presenting Dr. Schroeder’s fascinating approach to the age of the universe.