Thoughts on Judaism

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

School science and Creationism

How should the evidence of geology, biology etc. as it relates to the frum school be taught? Much ink is spent on this subject in eduction circles. How can we temper the evidence of science with the Torah account of creation, the early earth and the early human race. The answer is shockingly simple, so simple in fact that the great educational minds of our century have cleanly missed it.

TEACH THEM SCIENCE!!!! And put those stones away! I can explain. I said, PUT IT DOWN! That's better.

In science classes we should teach students all about science. Unique approach. Teach them what a scientific theory is, what a scientific method is, why they are important. Teach them what observation is, what interpolation and extrapolation are, why we might conclude X or Y from this evidence, what the premises are. Teach them the history of each theory, what questions it answers, what questions it leaves open, what its strengths and weaknesses are. In short, teach them to think critically with all the facts in front of them. Teach them the same way we teach Talmud and everything else. Make them ask questions; questions are good. Give them science's answers or tell them we have none. Tell them that new discoveries may answer these questions next year or in 200 years.

Then what will become of Chumash? It will be a catalyst for yet more questions. And it will be a springboard for answering questions, because the children will have learned that there is nothing wrong with questions, nothing wrong with not having answers today, and that few questions that do not merit further exploration. Allow them to form an opinion. Allow them to make it their opinion, rather than just a copy of someone else's "correct" opinion.

We must resist the urge to teach dogmatically. Let them hear it all, absorb it all, and understand what is observed, what is extrapolated and what the difference is. Teach them where the Torah seems to contradict these theories and where it seems to sustain them. Teach them to respect knowledge and reason. If we don't, we may find that they turn their disrespect against what we want them to hold dear.

Let's resist the urge to obfuscate facts to sustain dogma. If we do not trust them to form opinions, they will grow up to suspect yours. We may unwittingly teach them that there are facts that we fear. Are there facts that you fear? If there are, you may not want to use your education as a template for that of your children.

That's it in a nutshell. Teach science in science class. Teach Chumash in Chumash class. Trust your child to be the Chacham and not the Aino Yodeah Lish'ol.

Just a short conclusion on "intelligent design". In the old days, it was considered "weak faith" to go to doctor, because G-d is our doctor. However, we understand that it is G-d who gives the power to the doctor to heal. The same is true of intelligent design. We should learn in Torah classes that the universe was created by intelligent design, regardless of the mechanisms that we discover in science class. It is not "weak faith" to believe that G-d created the universe in this or that particular way. If it seems to contradict something inTorah, let the question be asked, not swept under the carpet. We may just find the sky isn't falling.


  • If the torah is true, then why are we afraid of science?

    That implies a lack in our emunah, rather than the other way around

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:44 PM  

  • This post is from years ago, so I wonder if anyone receives email notification when a comment gets made, but here goes. The above post is refreshingly optimistic, and idealistic. Is it just fantasy, or it is real life? Caught in landslide? Escape to Reality? Open your eyes and see! I'm just a poor boy. Easy come, Easy go, little high, little low. Teach them about Galileo, figaro. Will you let me go?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:25 PM  

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