Re: Judaism and extra-terrestrial life

Shlomo Godick (shlomog@ibm.net)
Mon, 17 Feb 1997 13:30:11 -0800

Russell Hendel in v3 #22 states:
> In a previous posting I argued (quoting a Rand study) that life exists on
> other planets "in the same way" it exists here....
> Thus it seems reasonable that life evolves in the same form on every planet
> and the Torah comes after its "prerequisites"for its being written.

I'm not sure I understand what is meant in the above by "evolution".
Evolutionary theory speaks of the natural selection of changes wrought by
random mutations. As such, it is a non-deterministic process and the odds
against it repeating itself even somewhat similarly in other "worlds" are
overwhelmingly high. A fair number of mathematicians who have studied the
probabilistic implications of evolutionary theory agree that the likelihood
of _our_ world evolving in this way is infinitesimally low. A fortiori the
hypothesis of other worlds evolving in similar fashion to ours would be
statistically impossible, practically speaking.

Additionally, "evolution", as envisioned by the evolutionary theory, is
non-purposive and certainly not necessarily "benevolent" in its
consequences. Social Darwinism, for example, is a cruel social theory light
years away from the teachings of chessed of Avraham Avinu. Natural
selection would more likely favor the law of the jungle than the appearance
of a kindly person teaching the value of chessed and sacrifice.

It seems to me that the use of the term "social evolution" to describe a
purposive, teleological process of social-historical-spiritual development
is completely at odds with the usual connotation of "evolution" as blindly
materialistic and cruelly mechanistic. On the contrary, the appearance of
prophets and spiritual leaders who protect the weak against the
tyrannically strong is very un-evolutionary and testifies to the revelation
of G-d's Reality and Providential Care in what would otherwise be an amoral
physical universe.

Since Divine Revelation by its very nature transcends the physical world
and is antithetical to the materialistic presuppositions of evolutionary
theory, it makes no sense (IMHO) to invoke that theory to "prove" that
Divine Revelation has been granted to other "evolved worlds".

Shalom,
Shlomo Godick
Rechasim, Israel
email: shlomog@ibm.net