Monday, October 17, 2005


Jewish Congregation Studies Science, Intelligent Design, and Creationism on Yom Kippur

RSR has been corresponding with Jonathan Greenberg, a rabbinic intern in his final year of seminary at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He sends along this report of a presentation on science, intelligent design, and creationism that he gave to a congregation in Dayton on Yom Kippur:

I just wanted to let you know that the class was a great success. I’m just the rabbinic intern and, because of interest in the topic, I outdrew the class the rabbi taught. We had to switch rooms so that I had more space. By the time we started, we had about 50 people (about 80-90 people stayed between the services and there were three classes from which to choose).

I handed out a packet that included the fantastic page you recommended from the AAAS as well as some ID stuff (with which the congregants were NOT impressed). It also included two articles – a recent Times piece on the yahoos who lead creationist trips into the Grand Canyon and one from Moment magazine on an Orthodox rabbi who was just banned for his views on evolution.

Before looking at the specific issue of Evolution and ID, we studied the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 and did a side-by-side literary comparison with some texts from Mesopotamian mythology (pre-dating the Bible by about 1000 years). For most people who are not clergy or biblical scholars, criticism can be pretty dry – but the class seemed really interested. Very few of the participants had realized there were two separate (and, often, contradictory) accounts of creation. That really set them off.

Afterwards, we read through the AAAS and ID Network stuff. Some people were amazed that the proponents of ID could have the audacity to call what they do science. More than one participant noted that the ID Network material uses lots of scientific lingo to, basically, say nothing. We had a few people who wanted ID to be taught in schools right next to evolution – not because they support ID, but because they believed NOBODY exposed to such drivel could believe it (sadly not the case).

We talked about our theologies – especially what God can and cannot do. We talked about randomness. One congregant talked about science as the reason he DOES believe in God. It was a great discussion.

All-in-all, participants walked out having learned something about the Biblical text and being able to confront and challenge it, seeing its relevance in today’s society, understanding Intelligent Design a little better, having resources to pursue further information (including, I hope, some visits to your site), and being able to articulate better their own understandings of the issues at hand.

RSR believes this is just the sort of discussion we need to begin to have in many churches and synagogues across the country.


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