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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Teaching about Torah and Science

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Professor Nathan Aviezer recently gave a talk as a part of Yeshiva University's Midreshet Yom Rishon program On Contradictions Between Torah and Science: the Creation of the Universe. This is obviously a very popular subject for many of our students, especially in high school, who are first being exposed to evolutionary biology in their science classes and are trying to reconcile it with their religious worldview.

I have been searching for useful resources to share with them containing both serious science and high-level Torah in a format that is easily accessible for our students. Although there is a dearth of websites meeting these criteria, I have found a few which appear below.
  • http://aviezer.org/ This visually appealing website by Professor Nathan Aviezer contains an entertaining cartoon video series geared towards high school students. It is accompanied by a teaching unit which can be acquired by contacting Professor Aviezer. I have not been able to preview the teaching unit yet but the videos are worth a look. 
Here is the first episode:



  • http://geraldschroeder.com/ This site contains a number of articles with detailed point-by-point analysis of various scientific issues which might be construed as contradicting with Torah including The Big Bang, The Age of the Universe, and Evolution. It also dispels many common myths including problems with the flood and the accuracy scientific dating method and the Big Bang Theory and the existence of G-d.
An application of these websites for the classroom is to assign a WebQuest where students look at these websites in light of the story of creation in the first chapter of Bereishit and create their own an oral/visual presentation attempting a reconciliation of Torah and science.

2 comments:

  1. I just found this article from Edweek that might be worth reading with my blog posting: The Evolution of Evolution http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/02/11/21thr_evolution_ep.h30.html?tkn=UVPFawOax0ZYmL3UeA8pg+4WyceHfNC1Ir1p&cmp=clp-edweek

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  2. Before discussing the Theory of Evolution, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the work of both Professor James Shapiro at the University of Chicago and Professor Sean Carroll at (I believe) the University of Wisconsin.

    I am in the middle of watching this lecture from Professor Shapiro right now: http://vimeo.com/17592530. It's an important watch I think.

    I took a quick look at that article that you linked to, but didn't finish it. I think the biggest problem with teaching the theory of evolution is that despite the public claims by some, the theory doesn't have the mathematical, evidential, experimental or predictable power of theories like the Big Bang theory (and even that theory is facing some interesting challenges).

    It seems to me that the future for the theory of evolution is some sort of combination of Professor Carrol's and Shapiros work. Even then, it seems to me that they have a long way to go in terms of evidence to build up the solid theory that every one claims exists (more on that another time).

    Finally, in terms of Intelligent Design - despite the fact that the ID movement is clearly religiously motivated, they shouldn't be ignored. They have some interesting points to make - one of the most interesting one is the importance of discovering information in the natural world.

    I think they are right that this is much more earth-shattering then contemporary science or philosophy wants to consider. Information really does imply an intelligence - not because we don't understand it (as the G-d of the gap argument would suggest), but because of its very nature. Information requires sequencing, sequencing (as far as we know) requires an intelligent agent. There is certainly no reason to ignore this point in a private orthodox school.

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