Friday, January 25, 2008


Mad Ave.

This slipped by me at the time but there has been some recent agitation within the Orthodox Jewish community in support of Intelligent Design Creationism. Specifically, at the Sixth Miami International Conference on Torah and Science last December in December 2006, where about 1,000 Jewish researchers, intellectuals, teachers and students gathered, a number of participants were urging such support:

... Moshe Tendler, an influential Orthodox rabbi and Yeshiva University biology professor, ambled onto the stage at Kovens Conference Center in North Miami. A stately figure with a wispy white beard and heavy glasses, he surveyed the 300-strong crowd of scientists and intellectuals -- most clad in yarmulkes and dark suits with tallith tassels dangling about their waists -- and urged them to spread the word that Darwin was wrong. "It is our task to inform the world [about intelligent design]," he implored. "Or the child growing up will grow up with unintelligent design Unintelligent design is our ignorance, our stupidity."
Another was Sholom Lipskar of the Shul of Bal Harbour, described as among Miami's most influential rabbis, who said:

The fundamental question the theory answers is, accidental or intentional? If it's accidental, then what's the point? But if there's design, we're here for a reason. It should be taught together with chemistry and physics [in Jewish classrooms].
The president of Miami's Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education, Chaim Botwinick, said:

Many Jewish schools are beginning to discuss making intelligent design an integral part of their curriculum.
There was hardly unanimity, however:

As soon as Tendler finished speaking, biologist Sheldon Gottlieb rushed to one of two microphones perched in the aisles. "We all know evolution is not random," he grumbled. "It goes through the filter of natural selection You cannot use those arguments with this audience." Tendler and Gottlieb sparred for about five minutes. Meanwhile, long lines began to form at the mikes. But the moderator cut the question-and-answer session short and sent the crowd home.
William Dembski was on hand to give a talk, quite literally "spinning" a tale of the bacteria flagellum. He too received less than an open-armed reception:

After about 45 minutes, Dembski wrapped up his talk, and dozens of attendees swarmed the microphones again, many of them eager to air their objections. "Our speaker has fuzzied the main issue," complained Nathan Aviezar, who teaches physics at Bar Ilan University in Israel. "The whole enterprise of science is to explain life without invoking supernatural explanations. Intelligent design is not science, it's religion, and it shouldn't be taught in science class."

The contentious Q&A lasted 25 minutes. When it was over, dozens of scientists rushed to the front to pelt Dembski with questions. The hubbub lasted so long that Sholom Lipskar of the Shul was pushed off the agenda.
Dembski showed what ID was really all about though. Saying that he hopes the conversation that began at the conference will continue, and that some Jewish scientists will eventually lend their talents to the intelligent design movement:

It would be huge in terms of PR because it would give lie to this idea that this is just a conservative Christian thing. It would also expand our talent pool immensely.
PR is ID's real name, of course. And creationism is, as we already know from Harun Yahya, a conservative Muslim thing as well as a conservative Christian thing. If it also became a conservative Jewish thing there'd be no great surprise.

As for ID's talent pool, any expansion over zero must seem immense.

That was all very interesting, but it didn't happen "last December." The story in your link is dated January 4, 2006, so apparently it happened December 2005.

I'm not bringing this up to say "you're wrong" or any such tripe, but because I think that we can surmise from the lack of follow-up that Dembski's propaganda didn't really play very well. Stein might possibly have been influenced, clearly not due to any actual grasp of science on his part. But I was also wondering if someone could find out what the status of ID is among the Orthodox Jewish community, since it is conceivable that it is being taught under the radar at Jewish schools (it's their right, of course, but lamentable if true)

I would suppose that Dover and other expositions of what a sham ID is would have had a positive effect on religious Jews, as it seems to have on the rest of society.

Glen Davidson
Ack! Thanks for the pick up. What happened was that I saw this recent item about an issue of B'or Ha'Torah Journal of Science, Life and Art in the Light of Torah that apparently extols ID. In Googling after more information, I hit the AlterNet article and leapt to the conclusion that the conference (sponsored by B'or Ha'Torah) and the issue of the Journal were related. From then on my mind (such as it is) just kept assuming the conference was this past December.

Perhaps the very fact of the Journal issue being published and the promotion by the Lubavitch (an ultra-orthodox Hasidic sect in New York) is some answer to your question.
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