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I want to ask about the ethical impact of being a scientist and belief in the Torah, but I'm not sure how to keep it from being opinion-based.

A member of my shul, an award-winning bio-chemist who was on the short-list to win a Nobel a couple of years ago (he was in the top 5 of scientists in the field that was recognized for the Chemistry prize, for which only two were recognized). He made an interesting point about his own ethical issue. As a scientist involved in biology, he must assume the existence of biological evolution, and this conclusion is apparent in the papers he writes which discuss how cell biology and behavior evolve over time. On the other hand, he religiously believes that the Torah's account of creation is the truth, although perhaps not literal in all respects. Are there responsas that address this issue for scientists? I note that there have been some pretty amazing rabbinic scholars who were also scientists, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, for one. So I would imagine there must be something, but I don't want to raise the issue and find that all there is are opinions and no rabbinic analysis. Suggestions?

  • Did you end up posting the question? If so, please share the link! – DD1 Dec 31 '14 at 16:31
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Sounds like a good question to me. I suggest you emphasize in the question that you're looking only for what rabbinic authorities have written on the matter and not for seeming proofs according to the answerer's view.

Something similar has been done before — though those questions restricted answers to those that cite sources and you can go a step further and restrict to those that are wholly sourced with nothing novel by the answerer at all.

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As previous answers have indicated, there's no reason you can't post a question and specify very clearly that you are only interested in answers that come from [particular types of] sources.

I would add that, as previous answers seem to have taken your proposed question to be about rabbinic analysis of evolution itself, rather than of the ethical quandary you've outlined here, you should also make it very clear that you are only looking for sources that address this sort of quandary and not for sources that analyze the viability of the concept of evolution in the first place, if, in fact, that's what you want.

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I'm sure you can ask this question specifying that you are asking for specific rabbinic opinions not personal ones. This page has several rabbinic opinions justifying supporting evolution by some highly respected names.

I think the opinion of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch quoted in that article has an elegance to its conclusion, basically that whatever science finds still glorifies the Creator. There is also a list of works (some by rabbis, some by physicists and biologists) that could contain useful pieces for an answer, but they are not quoted at length; one would have to have those specific books to quote from them.

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    The proposed question, if I read it correctly, is not asking for rabbinic views of evolution but for rabbinic views of this particular ethical quandary presented to a scientist who believes religiously in rejecting evolution. – Isaac Moses Dec 29 '14 at 16:39

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