Judaism & Intelligent Design

Jewish scientists and leaders weigh in on the debate about intelligent design in the American public sphere.

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Jewish Proponents

But there are also Jewish voices in the intelligent design camp. David Klinghoffer, a Discovery Institute fellow, is an ardent advocate of intelligent design. In an article in The Forward (August 12, 2005), he claimed that Jewish thinkers have largely ignored intelligent design and contended that Jews, along with Christians, should adopt the theory because beliefs in God and in natural selection are fundamentally opposed.

Klinghoffer sees attempts to reconcile Jewish belief with evolutionary science as apologetics, arguing that any such reconciliation must inevitably "insist that whatever role God played in life's development, it is undetectable, thus unfalsifiable." In a column in the Jerusalem Post (November 8, 2006), he argued that proponents of the intelligent design movement make a more courageous claim, as "their arguments for a designer may be shot down by scientific counterevidence." Intelligent design movement advocates claim that a designer's work is detectable in particular cellular processes, but if such processes were proven to evolve without intervention, this would be clear evidence that a designer was not involved.

According to Kinghoffer, Jews who formally and publicly testify every Friday night to God's creation of the world should align their scientific understandings of the world with this religious testimony. In the Jewish Week (February 24, 2006), he wrote:

"In The Origin of Species, Darwin's working premise is that God has no role in the history of life. By contrast, in the Friday-night kiddush, a Jew gives witness to the evidence of a transcendent designer, speaking of 'all His work which God created to make.' By custom, we stand for this kiddush because it is considered a form of testimony, and in a Jewish court the witness stands. An honest Darwinist should not say kiddush."

Parallel to his understanding that evolutionary theory undermines Jewish faith, Klinghoffer argues that Jewish ethics, too, depend on intelligent design: "Without a designer, our moral precepts are simply the product of natural selection."

Klinghoffer's claim that intelligent design is an essential aspect of Jewish belief is echoed in the writings of rabbis who are similarly concerned that studying evolution may lead to an erosion of faith and ethical behavior. Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for Agudath Israel, argued in The Jewish Observer (December 2005) that Jews should speak on behalf of integrating intelligent design into public school classrooms because, "there are really only two possible perspectives regarding the universe: that In The Beginning there was either chance, or there was purpose … If a child comes to accept the idea that humanity's roots lie in pure chance, there can be no more meaning to good and bad actions than to good or bad weather; no more import to right and wrong than to right and left."

Slifkin's View

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Emma Kippley-Ogman

Emma Kippley-Ogman is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College Rabbinical School, having received a B.A. in history of science from Harvard University in 2003.