Knowledge of our natural world seems to expand every day. As scientists discover new things about ourselves and the universe there are some who argue the relevance of religion. They say that the stories we tell of our origins have less meaning. I want to look back at what our tradition says.
As far back as the 11th century, Rashi, the great Torah commentator, spoke of creation not as a story of six defined days but rather that God created all the potential on the first day. What came later grew out of that primordial soup. Rashi was writing 700 years before Darwin; he wasn’t responding to a scientific attack on religion. Instead, he was presenting an interpretation of the story in Bereshit, a story that teaches many things including the interconnectiveness of us and the environment in which we live. Rashi seemed to know on some level that the story did not lend itself to the observations of how the laws of nature truly work. Instead of rejecting the story he looked for deeper meaning. It is not the six twenty-four hour days that are important; it is the fact that the earth and all it contains can be made sacred by how we manage it.
February marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Many religious institutions around the country took time to acknowledge that evolution is not a threat to religion with Evolution Weekend, an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic - to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. The founder of Evolution Weekend is Michael Zimmerman, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University, The Torah is a story of the Jewish people with many things to teach us; however, it was never meant to prevent us from asking questions about our universe. The two go hand in hand.