I had written the following and sent it to the Jewish Press as a letter to the editor in response to the discussion on evolution initiated by the article written by Rabbi Maryles from June 21st. They didn't print it though, I suppose because they wanted to move onto newer (or less redundant) issues.
In the July 12th issue of the Jewish Press, a series of letters to the editor regarding the theory of evolution was printed with the introduction: "Evolution: The Never-Ending Debate." This title is at one time as curious as it is apt.
Why is it that this ‘debate’ never ends? What about it is so intractable that the two sides are forever opposed with no means of understanding the other? Please, allow me to explain. It is all a matter of methodology.
For those on the Creationist side of the debate, the point of origin is that the Torah is the word of God and hence unimpeachable. They believe that the Torah says, and numerous Rabbinic commentators have agreed, that the whole universe and each species was specially created in six days just a few thousand years ago. This truth comes from on high and is bedrock truth no matter what the minds of men can conjure up in the forms of alternative explanations for our origins.
For those on the side for evolution, it is the physical evidence and rational methodology of science that have proven themselves reliable (since we benefit from them every day) and to which they have no choice but to accept if they wish to have a rational understanding of the world and our origins. These people accept the theory of evolution based on the merits of the science and the evidence at hand. They do not believe that man was placed on Earth with a large brain and rational mind in order to disallow their use.
When a Creationist comes upon the same evidence which so convinced the Evolutionist he has no choice but to try and tear it apart. By virtue of his preconceived bias, the evidence simply cannot be valid since it conflicts with what he believes is God’s own narrative of creation. No matter how convincing the evidence may be from an objective perspective, he ‘knows’ it is false because he believes God said otherwise. This is why the Evolutionist and Creationist can only talk past each other.
The Evolutionist posits evidence as his currency for knowledge. He speaks in terms of fossils and genetics; strata and homology. He builds up his understanding of nature from the ground up. The evidence is X which means that the theory is Y. Yet this is all worthless for the Creationst to whom the truth comes from God above. He favors a top-down approach to knowledge. Truth lies in what only can be derived from the verses of the Torah. The Torah says X, period. With such wildly different methodologies for ascertaining truth, is it any surprise that they cannot find common ground?
My only hope is that those holders of emunah peshutah realize that simple faith is for simpletons. A literal understanding of Bereishit is hardly a comprehensive understanding of our origins. While we do have the Torah, we also another text, the open book of nature with which we need to contend.