Darwin’s theory of evolution transformed the life sciences and made profound claims about human origins and the human condition, topics often viewed as the prerogative of religion. As a result, evolution has provoked a wide variety of religious responses, ranging from angry rejection to enthusiastic acceptance. While Christian responses to evolution have been studied extensively, little scholarly attention has been paid to Jewish reactions. Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism is the first extended meditation on the Jewish engagement with this crucial and controversial theory.
The contributors to Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism—from several academic disciplines and two branches of the rabbinate—present case studies showing how Jewish discussions of evolution have been shaped by the intersections of faith, science, philosophy, and ideology in specific historical contexts. Furthermore, they examine how evolutionary theory has been deployed when characterizing Jews as a race, both by Zionists and by anti-Semites. Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism addresses historical and contemporary, as well as progressive and Orthodox, responses to evolution in America, Europe, and Israel, ultimately extending the history of Darwinism into new religious domains.