Sunday, August 31, 2008

Genesis and the origin of the Origin of the species

The argument that God exists based on design figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
(Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth )

There are some even in this skeptical age who still believe that God is an old man with a long beard. His name is Charles Darwin, patron saint of scientific atheists. Next year will be a double anniversary for followers of Darwin: the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. We will no doubt hear it asserted that Darwin dealt a death blow to religious belief.

That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design. This argument figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. It does not even belong to its world of thought. It belongs instead to the tradition of Ancient Greece and to the idea that the most important truths are those that can be proved.

In fact none of the most important truths can be proved: that right is sovereign over might, that it is better to be loved than feared, that every human being however poor or powerless is worthy of respect, that peace is nobler than war, forgiveness greater than revenge, and hope a higher virtue than resignation to blind fate. Lives have been lived and civilisations built in defiance of these truths, yet they remain true.

What might a religious believer say to Darwin’s heirs? The following thoughts are purely hypothetical, but he or she might say, first, that Darwin helped us to understand the “how” of God’s “Let there be”. The Creator created not just life but life that is in itself creative.

Read it all here.

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