October 21, 2007
To The Editor,
Jewish Press, email@example.com
- re: Rabbi Slifkin's books on creation compromise core beliefs of Torah
In his latest letter, Rabbi Slifkin continues his practice of compromising core beliefs of Torah by selective cherry picking from authentic Torah authorities. As Rav Avraham Chaim Levin (Rosh Yeshiva, Telz-Chicago) put it to one of us, the process of selectively quoting authorities out of context can yield a "shulchan aruch" which would be entirely at odds with our mesorah.
Rabbi Slifkin's recent book "Challenge of Creation" (2006), for example, has no approbation from any Rosh Yeshiva or Posek, although it does have an enthusiastic approbation from Darwinist Michael Ruse who believes that "we humans are modified monkeys, not the favoured Creation of a Benevolent God". Ruse, like Rabbi Slifkin, believes in Darwin's "blind watchmaker" thesis -- that the marvels of life (the human brain, for example) originate via mindless mechanisms such as accidental random mutations and natural selection. Such evolutionary speculations are akin to the belief that global warming is produced by tea cups orbiting the moon.
By contrast, the concept of a miraculous meta-natural creation week permeates the account of creation in the Torah. Indeed, Rabbi Slifkin freely admits that his Darwinian interpretation flies in the face of every classical Talmudic and Rishonic source discussing the topic. The blind watchmaker thesis asserts that an unguided and purely material process alone was sufficient to produce the whole history of life on earth. The account of creation in the Torah, if it means anything at all, states that the production of life on earth was (meta-naturally) guided by a transcendent intelligence. You cannot have an "unguided guided" process. It is a contradiction in terms, which is why Rabbi Slifkin concedes to the atheists that God's role in the origin of the cosmos and life itself is essentially undetectable. Serious errors and omissions in Rabbi Slifkin's treatment of cosmic, chemical and biological evolution generate the false and misleading impression that naturalistic evolutionary dogma can be reconciled with the principles of our Torah (see toriah.com/wiki for details).
There are no substantive approbations to Rabbi Slifkin's book because it is a deeply flawed work from the point of view of both Torah and Science.
At the end of his letter, Rabbi Slifkin notes that his mentor was Rabbi Aryeh Carmell ob"m, one of the premier disciples of Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt"l. In a letter to Rabbi Slifkin (which is omitted on Rabbi Slifkin's internet site), Rabbi Carmell's son notes that what we should be asking ourselves is what the reaction of Rabbi Carmell's Rebbi (Rav Dessler) would have been to the ban. Even more important, what did Rav Dessler himself, rather than Rabbi Carmell, think of Darwin's theory of naturalistic evolution embraced by Rabbi Slifkin?
In Sefer Hazikaron, after emphatically rejecting Darwin, Rav Dessler writes:
- "I am employing the idiotic terminology of the evolutionist, woe to that wisdom [i.e. the study of nature] if it does not lead one to be aware of the handiwork of Hashem for behold [there is no wisdom here, rather] there is just folly animated by the desire to throw off the yoke of heaven" (Sefer Hazikaron, p108).
In a shiur given Erev Rosh Hashana in Ponevez on the fundamentals of Emunah, Rav Dessler stated that:
- "Now even if the circumstantial evidence were multiplied a thousandfold it would not come anywhere near the enormous weight of evidence for a supremely wise creator, accumulated from the millions upon millions of intricately coordinated parts of this amazing universe. Any attempt to deny this and to assert that it all came about by a series of inexplicable accidents is nothing more nor less than crooked thinking." (translation by Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Strive for Truth, V2, p222).
Rav Dessler writes that it is a person's innate sense of intellectual integrity that allows him to grasp the core truths of Torah and to reject the opposite as absurd:
- "There are two aspects to faith [emunah]. (1) Faith in the Sages of Israel -- A person believes what he is taught by his Rebeim and his parents. (2) Faith in Hashem -- A person notices the amazing complexity of creatures around him and becomes aware of the unfathomable wisdom which underlies their structure etc. Both these aspects have a common element. Both derive from a keen sense of rightness."
While Rabbi Slifkin's books quote copiously from Rav Dessler, the above statement of fundamental principle is conspicuous by its absence.
We have offered in the past, and we hereby offer again, to have a public debate with Rabbi Slifkin regarding the scientific validity of the theory of evolution (obviously with prior agreed upon protocols).
Prof. Yoel (Jonathan) Ostroff, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering, York University, Toronto.
Dr. Isaac Betech, M.D. (former Chief of Intensive Care Unit, Mexico's General Hospital), Mexico City.
Dr Shmuel Menachem Spiegel MD, FRCP(C), ABR, Toronto.