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When Judaism Meets Science

“a rare masterpiece”
– Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, HUC

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– Rabbi David Teutsch, RRC

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– Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, Sinai and Synapses

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Welcome!

Welcome to a discussion about Judaism and science, about fact, fiction, and faith. Now in its eighth year, this site has already explored a wide range of issues, from archeology to zygotes and from adam (mankind) to t’filah (prayer). And we have done so unsponsored and unencumbered by any particular denomination.

Along the way, we have encountered some interesting ideas, met some fascinating people and even gained some new perspectives. And our journey has really just begun. All who are interested in a thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue are invited to participate.

Biology and Genesis: Are they compatible or irreconcilable?

Friday, February 8, 2019 @ 11:02 AM
posted by David Haymer

Credit: Malka Rappaport

Introduction

Biology is the scientific study of life, and Genesis is the biblical story of life. Both address matters ranging from the origin of life to how we find life today, and both contain lessons that are important for our continued existence. And despite the fact that differences of interpretation of Genesis and the Bible in general have been the source of much discussion about perceived conflicts between religious and scientific ideas, perhaps these perspectives need not be considered so divergent.

Genesis is the first book of the Hebrew Bible, and most Jews accept the idea that it contains metaphors and should not be intended to serve as a substitute or alternative for valid scientific textbooks. However, it is also true that close reading of these stories can reveal perspectives and themes in common with many contemporary issues of scientific interest and importance. For example, the field of biology is now reaching an unprecedented peak of experimental power. We can now change our own biology in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. This is not to say that we should not move ahead, but we need to do so carefully. Because of this unprecedented power, though, all biologists today would be well served to incorporate ethical and moral considerations into their work to consider what should be done, not just what can be done. The stories in Genesis can help here because they directly address many biological issues of current interest, and they may provide valuable philosophical and ethical perspectives. read more

The Battle for Jerusalem and the Origin of Fake News — 2700 Years Ago

Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 11:02 AM
posted by Roger Price

Sennacherib Prism,
Oriental Institute, U. of Chicago

 

How can you tell what is true and what is not in the Hebrew Bible (the “Tanakh”)? How can you separate fact from fiction and fable? In some instances, science can help. For instance, both geological and archaeological records confirm that the whole earth was not submerged in flood waters during the last six thousand years, and evolutionary biology demonstrates that all land animals and birds do not owe their existence to creatures that were on a vessel floating on those mythical waters. Similarly, we know that the Sun did not stop in the sky for twenty-four hours during a battle at Gibeon, for that would have meant that the Earth ceased to rotate during that period of time, which, in turn, would have caused cataclysmic consequences neither reported in the story nor elsewhere. (See Gen. 7:6-8; Josh. 10:12-14.)

From a modern perspective, then, it is reasonably easy to identify some biblical stories that are not factually accurate. They may well contain worthy moral or other lessons, but as factual recitations of actual occurrences, they fail.

At the same time, there are other stories in the Tanakh that seem quite plausible, even contemporary in their nature. How can we tell if they are historically true or historical fiction or simply imagined? One such story concerns the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (pronounced Seh-NACK-er ib) during the reign of the Judahite king Hezekiah about 2700 years ago.  read more

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