Judaism & Intelligent Design

Jewish scientists and leaders weigh in on the debate about intelligent design in the American public sphere.

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The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee issued press releases in support of the ruling, and continue to offer resources to communities where intelligent design becomes an issue in public schools.


Although Klinghoffer claims that the Jewish press has largely ignored the intelligent design movement, many Jewish leaders and institutions have given it a clear response. As intelligent design theory coursed through the secular and Jewish press in 2005-6, writers from across the Jewish spectrum responded with their understanding that the science of evolution and the religious thought and practice of Judaism are complementary.

This coexistence may require delineation between evolutionary theory and the societal arguments that some have attached to it. The claims of Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer and his intellectual heirs--that, for instance, social programs to aid the poor undermine the process of natural selection in human populations, inhibiting the true progress of the species--are anathema to the Jewish commitment to help the poor.

In an article in Reform Judaism (Spring 2006), Rabbi Harold Schulweis separates Spencer's conclusions from evolutionary theory and responds to them directly: "Spencer religionized Darwin. This is not science; it is scientism, and it is precisely such an illicit conversion of facts into values that Judaism rejects."

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Emma Kippley-Ogman

Emma Kippley-Ogman is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College Rabbinical School, having received a B.A. in history of science from Harvard University in 2003.