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Not-so-Big Bang: Religion and Science Clash in Committee.

By Israel Hayom

Two weeks ago, the Knesset Science and Technology Committee held a meeting on the subject of evolution, following a decision by the Education Ministry to expand this subject in the curriculum of religious public junior high schools. A panel of prestigious scientists and researchers invited to participate in the meeting included observant and non-observant professors from three universities in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, ecology and evolution.

Committee chairman MK Moshe Gaffing (United Torah Judaism) did not conceal his rejection of the entire theory of evolution and his disagreement with every word uttered on the matter. "I want it recorded in the protocol that I'm just a traffic cop here," Gaffing said.

Nevertheless, Gaffing conducted the debate respectably, listening closely to the scientists who explained the theory of evolution, which -- as Prof Ariel Chapman, of the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argued -- is "strong and sound, and has a very strong, clear place in modern science. It stands parallel to the theory of gravity, quantum theory, and cellular theory."

Gaffing also invited religious scientists who disagree with the theory to participate in the discussion. One of them was Prof. Avraham Steinberg, director of the Medical Ethics Unit at Shaare Zedek Hospital. Steinberg claimed that in his opinion, "what happened was that the theory of evolution has become a religion. If someone disagrees with its bible, he's a heretic, the way someone who doesn't believe in religion is a heretic. Today, no scientists can say they have a problem with the theory of evolution, because they'll be deemed heretical," Steinberg said.

Steinberg was followed by chemistry lecturer Prof. Doran Dubach from Bar-Ian University, who argued that "no one was waving a flag that separates religion and science. There's no such thing. There can be no such thing, because the Creator gave us both science and the Torah.

"Modern science is in effect a gift from the Lord who oversees the world that has a finite number of laws, all of which precisely fit the laws of mathematics that the human mind conceived. This allows us to follow along with the laws using our brain and use them to construct engineering and technology, and use the laws of nature for the benefit of humans. This is a healthy goal, but behind evolution stands a philosophy designed to basically remove the Creator from the picture. The idea of evolution is that everything happened randomly. This is a plot by the entire Western world," Dubach said.

So was there a Big Bang, or not? The religious scientists' stance aroused the ire of the secular scientists. Chapman accused Gaffing of "creating a distorted picture."

"You said you were bringing in two sides, one vs. the other, but what has actually been presented here by most of the speakers is a minority opinion that has been disproved," Chapman said. Dubach interrupted him, shouting "That's wrong! That's demagoguery. The minority opinion hasn't been disproved, it's been quashed."

Gaffing summed up the discussion, saying: "The debate held here has been decided. The Creator created the world. In six days he created Man and the whole universe. A scientist shows up and sees the high mountains of Everest and sees people and creatures and says they must have been here for millions of years; nothing else could be. From a scientific perspective it was millions of years, but it was all done in six days. That's my position. We have a scientific debate that's also a debate about faith. They won't study this in ultra-Orthodox schools. We will accept the label 'unenlightened.' In the Education Ministry, do you present both sides?"

The tone of the meeting recalled another committee session in January, when Gaffing expressed his position on the Big Bang to a room full of scientists and researchers. "The Big Bang is wrong because not one of the scientists can prove, even today, that it actually happened. If there was in fact a Big Bang, what was there before it? There is no theory that can be used to prove that this is what happened," Gaffing declared.

Prof. Elam Gross, a physicist from the Weizmann Institute for Science, cut Gaffing off. "There is experimental proof. If there is experimental proof of something, it's correct from a scientific perspective."

Gaffing responded: "Yes, fine, I know. My son, who was in a haredi school at age six, asked me what there was before, and I didn't get an answer. [Jewish sage] Rashi said that the Creator made the animals of the earth and the crocodiles and the beasts and also made man and woman, and who created them in his own image, in the image of God he created them.

"I'm telling you that if people had to create this world, it would take billions of years -- nothing else can be. But what man sees as a billion years, the Creator made in a single day, so -- unlike other religious people -- I don't jump out of my skin when scientists say they found some dinosaur from a billion years ago."
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Publication:Israel Faxx
Date:Jul 8, 2014
Words:851
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