Evolution “problematic” for Orthodox Jewish ‘faith schools’

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Government plans to place greater emphasis on evolution in biology classes as part of its proposals to reform GCSE content have been criticised for "causing problems" for strictly Orthodox Jewish faith schools.


The criticism followed last week's publication of subject content proposals for Biology by the Department for Education. Under the new proposals students would be required to describe how evolution occurs; evaluate the evidence for evolution to include fossils; describe the work of Darwin and Wallace in the development of evolution theory; and explain the impact of evolution on modern biology.

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Michael Cohen, an adviser to Orthodox schools, said: "I don't see Charedi [ultra-Orthodox] schools going along with it. It is something that flies in face of their ethos and culture. It is clear this kind of proposal is definitely going to create difficulties for Charedi schools."

According to the Jewish Chronicle, modern Orthodox schools feel able to reconcile evolution with Jewish teachings on creation but Charedi schools regard it as opposed to traditional doctrine. There is currently just one Charedi Jewish school in the state sector.

Written By: National Secular Society
continue to source article at secularism.org.uk

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  1. Rabbi Avraham Pinter, principal of the state funded Chasidic girls’ secondary school, Yesodey Hatorah, told the Jewish Chronicle:
    “sometimes Charedi schools, if they find anything in the paper which could be offensive to parents, advise children to avoid that question”.

    Funny how facts have that nasty habit of being offensive.

  2. Strikes me all this “teach the controversy” rubbish has just served to highlight evolution, when i was at school 33 years ago you hardly noticed evolution in O level biology classes now it lurks like a massive elephant in the room.

    • In reply to #6 by jjbircham:

      Strikes me all this “teach the controversy” rubbish has just served to highlight evolution, when i was at school 33 years ago you hardly noticed evolution in O level biology classes now it lurks like a massive elephant in the room.

      You are right, I never noticed it. I didn’t find out what it really was until I was an adult and read Dawkins. Then what I thought I knew about evolution exploded into a whole new universe of understanding of how incredible it really was.

  3. Just have the parents who send their kids there sign a statement that acknowledges that the education received will be sub-standard and will make it difficult for their kids to get decent jobs. Fixed!

    Steve

    • In reply to #7 by Agrajag:

      Just have the parents who send their kids there sign a statement that acknowledges that the education received will be sub-standard and will make it difficult for their kids to get decent jobs. Fixed!

      This wouldn’t bother them. For the Charedi, boys are supposed to spend their lives studying the Torah (many are on benefits or in low-paid work that allows them to do this), and girls are supposed to be mothers and housewives. A Guardian interview with a Charedi headmaster a few years ago made plain he didn’t want ‘his’ girls to go to university. While the rest of Judaism blossomed intellectually with emancipation and the ending of ghettoisation, the Charedi remain in a self-imposed ghetto of the mind.

    • In reply to #8 by Roedy:

      Surely the Torah advices against lying. It advices common sense. It advices soberly weighing evidence.

      To embrace creationism requires a con man’s heart.

      All religions instruct followers to always tell the truth, and what do they all do? Teach lies and falsehoods to their followers!

  4. How about this: take representatives for the Charedi school and modern Orthodox schools, put them in a room, tell them to put the evidence on the table for their opposing views, tell them to consider the evidence and come to a conclusion as to which side is correct. No one is allowed to leave the room before they are done. When they have come to a final verdict, they can be proud that the first time in human history interfaith dialogue has actually solved a question, and everyone are on the same page. The side which won the debate can be proud that they taught some ignorant people something instead of allowing them to live in a lie, and the side which lost the debate can be thankful that they had the chance to learn something and correct their severely mistaken view of reality. Does this sound completely ridiculous? Have I been brainwashed by those pesky sciency people to think that evidence matter when deciding what is true?

    If the outcome is that the people leaving the room are all convinced that evolution is real, we don’t have a problem. Reason has won. If, on the other hand, the representatives of the Charedi school get their way and everyone are convinced that evolution is a problematic view, then the government can pull all funding from all Jewish schools knowing that they are factually wrong in their teachings. And the world continues spinning…

  5. Judaism just might be the single most difficult religion to bend so that it jibes with reality. According to the Torah, this September 5th (Rosh Hashanah), the universe and all life as we know it will be exactly 5,774 years old. The best that idiots like Dennis Prager and Michael Medved can come up with is “Well, perhaps back when the event took place, a year wasn’t the same amount of time as a year is nowadays.” If you ask me, this takes the whole discussion down to the level of Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot Sketch,” and that statement is the metaphoric equivalent of “He’s pining for the fiords.”

    • In reply to #16 by Aber ration:

      Stop taking public money then. Simples.

      I agree. But, while children are being educated in a jurisdiction, then that jurisdiction has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens receive an education which gives them the truth. Theology aside, that means maths, science, literature etc have core truths, meanings and implications which students should understand. Government has to put its foot down, which means more than cutting the money. It has to ensure that in faith schools, private schools, home schools, the whole curriculum is taught, and taught properly.

      This goes beyond science instruction. When I was a lad, even for my A levels, we were given bowdlerised texts for Shakespeare and some other literature. In RI we avoided large parts of the bible. In a Catholic school, biology didn’t figure (too risky, you’d have to include sexual reproduction). Imagine trying to answer the questions on humour in S’s tragedies, when you were woriking from censored texts!

      • In reply to #17 by Kevin Murrell:

        In reply to #16 by Aber ration:

        Stop taking public money then. Simples.

        I agree. But, while children are being educated in a jurisdiction, then that jurisdiction has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens receive an education which gives them the truth.

        I’m with you. UK state-funded faith schools have far more influence than is reasonable (or, obviously, rational).

        There is a very simply way to deal with this. Make it clear that there will be questions on evolution in GCSE exams which will not be optional. And if anybody gives answers on the lines of “evolution does not exist” they fail the exam.

        If that’s a problem, they can go and live somewhere else that indulges their lunacy, and stop subsidising dangerous superstitions at the expense of the UK taxpayer.

        This issue is also likely to be a “problem” for some Muslim schools, where we are undoubtedly talking about more than one school in the UK. So we really do need to draw a line in the sand.

  6. I approach students of mine who have a problem with evolution by telling them. You are free to choose to believe in evolution or not, but evolution is a scientific fact, this means it is falsifiable (I then explain what this means). I then tell them it has survived every scientific challenge thrown at it for the past 150 years. If you want to be the first to over turn it the first thing you are going to need to do is understand what you are actually arguing against.

    If you want to ask questions about specifics along these lines or challenge the theory I am more than happy to discuss it with you in lunch hours but as I only have a few weeks to get this across to you I need you to keep non-science based questions out of the classroom (ie. don’t tell me it can’t be true because god says it isn’t).

    Over the past few years I’ve had a couple of students take me up on this debating with me while I’m on playground duty. After a couple of years even reading a few of the laughable books they thrust at me and shooting them down in flames again and again without ever questioning their faith once both now accept evolution fully. 2 for 2, millions to go.

    • In reply to #18 by Reckless Monkey:

      I approach students of mine who have a problem with evolution by telling them. You are free to choose to believe in evolution or not, but evolution is a scientific fact, this means it is falsifiable (I then explain what this means). I then tell them it has survived every scientific challenge thrown…

      2 out of 2 seems extremely optimistic.

      Talking about creationist books: A friend loaned me the book “In Six Days – why fifty scientists choose to believe in creation”.

      I was anticipating genuinely interesting arguments about god, biblical inerrancy, evolution etc. i.e. some of the best arguments that might be made on such a topic, especially seeing as the contributing authors are all professional scientists, mostly in biology. No point in messing about with frivolous theological objections. Best to stick with genuine, fundamental, and scientifically oriented criticisms. The best that can be articulated. That might have given me a chance to illuminate the real issues.

      But I haven’t yet come across a single page where there isn’t some obvious logical or factual error that undermines the attempted point. There are also indications of each author’s failure to comprehend the nature of science. (Interesting, given these are apparently all PhD degree holders in their specialty areas. Popper’s observations from the 1970s that many scientists don’t comprehend the nature of science may still remain relevant.) E.g. If not successfully demonstrable in a lab then not science. Which would make things like a lab-based hydrogen bomb detonation unsuccessfully unscientific – which might probably a good thing.

      Much of the contents is supported by selected quotes from various famous scientists, all apparently supporting the idea of creation in 6 days. It’s not obvious that these scientists are stupid or lying to support their beliefs. It seems they genuinely have very little idea of what evolution really is. Possibly a consequence of the autobiographical details many of the authors include in their articles. E.g. Being raised in a creationist family, and being urged as teenagers to ignore the implications of evolution for biological science. Presumably knowing with certainty that something must be a fraud relieves them of the responsibility to comprehend the details of that fraud.

      The problem is that many religious people who aren’t professional scientists are relying on the opinion of these ‘professional scientists’ regarding theories that those non-scientists are unwilling to comprehend. Possibly this is the origin of the ‘teach the controversy’ perspective. There are people who see ‘scientists’ arguing on both sides of the question. Without realising there is no other side and that there isn’t even a question. And that being trained or engaging in paid employment as a scientist is not necessarily the same thing as actually being a scientist. It’s not that different to elected representatives being known as a ‘statesman’ or an ‘honourable member’.

      It looks like it is pointless to attempt to comprehend the nature of the creationist argument: because there isn’t an argument that makes logical sense. They are either arguing against something that isn’t actually the theory of evolution. Or they are employing arguments that aren’t relevant to the point they are making. E.g. Statistical inanities like Feyman’s car registration plate or thermodynamics laws that only allow information to diminish and prevent information ever from accumulating. The book is totally dependent on motivated reasoning and ignoring any contradictory evidence. Focussing only on ‘confirmation’, which is more of a legal or pseudoscientific argument than scientific.

      I had thought to maybe make a comparison of creationism with other popular fallacies to illuminate the real nature of science. E.g. The faking of the moon landings, Keynesian economics, nutrition theory of balanced diets and the fat theory of disease, vegetarianism, proportional representation in democracy, etc. But I suspect that might be futile as creationists would likely be prone to also believe this other stuff for similar reasons. I.e. The only reason a creationist would not assume that the moon landings were faked by NASA is that they have never yet been exposed to the argument from apparently credible sources. Similarly, they may not be Marxists or Keynesians but that may merely be because they haven’t studied economics with credible economics professors. Any exposure to unscientific biases, combined with some emotional incentive to believe, would likely have produced the infection. They are all potential vegetarians who just haven’t yet heard the good news from an apparently credible source.

  7. Judaism has usually been exempt from the most scathing ridicule because a) Jews claim a racial identity and people are timid about appearances of racism b) The majority of Jews in the US (and I think in the UK) are very secularized and observe Judaism as custom rather than doctrine, and c) the victim card is too quickly and easily drawn.
    But clearly, Judaism as a doctrine is just as stupid and anti-reality as Christianity and Islam are. I suspect one reason so many Jews are secularized and custom-focused rather than doctrine-focused is because they know the OT (with the exception of the poetry parts) is savagely violent, disgusting, and insane.

  8. Criticism? by whom? the Charedi [ultra-Orthodox] schools? Not relevant.

    Parents do have a right to educate their children in accordance with their religious convictions

    And the state has a duty to teach the truth to school children.

  9. These religious schools don’t have any right whatsoever to deny the children under their care to receive the scientific education that has been previously tested and verified. The Government is causing problems? Not at all. It’s the religious schools that are causing the problems by sticking to ancient fantasy legends deprived of any logics, written in the Bronze Age, with no proofs or evidence of their veracity. Sooner or later the Education Authorities will have to do something to protect the rights to Education of these children.

  10. Believers call evolution ‘just a theory’ most of the time…but obviously they fear it so much that they ban their children from even hearing about it ?….If it were just another ‘theory’ as they put it…they wouldn’t bother to ban it…..so we know that they know its true and they are actively covering it all up to their kids – Denial !!!….The more media controversy about it, the better as we all know banning something is a good way to make most kids seek out what is banned…..

  11. What a strange outlook these Charedi people have. So the teaching of evolution will be “causing problems” for them. Tough.

    I find their “ethos and culture” of removing baby boys’ foreskins and regarding women as breeding machines offensive to my “ethos and culture”. And I’m sure I’m in the majority on that. Always special pleading for the spooksters to teach anti-science garbage.

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