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Please be considerate in your answers.

We are an observant jewish family, although I was educated in secular institutions. I feel that I have a wealth of knowledge that I want to pass to my kids that I don't see they'll ever get in a religious school.

More specifically: My kids are currently toddlers, and their DVDs and books abound in creationist explanations and absolutely no science. I grew up with science and I want them to learn it from an early age. My wife wasn't taught science at school either and would need a serious paradigm shift to understand evolution. I try to avoid the issue.

I still want my kids to learn our values, have faith (which means for us to take life in a mature way and with patience), be part of our warm community and stay away of the lousy mainstream. -I don't mean to offend anybody-. I don't want them to be confused or overwhelmed either. I believe in evolution myself and think the creation story is figurative.

What's the proper way to handle this? How can I make my kids passionate in science and technology while spiritual and connected to Judaism?

I respect this forum and I hope I wrote in the right place and in the proper manner.

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    Related: Bereishit vs. science on Judaism.SE, which addresses the contradictions between the Biblical creation story and modern scientific thought. – Scimonster Apr 4 '15 at 19:17
  • I don't have a specific answer, you've got enough. I just want to say that I am happy for your decision and I wish you luck! (I'm a religious person and a scientist myself.) – yo' Apr 4 '15 at 22:21
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    Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name - wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it. Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good? Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier... – user6497 Apr 6 '15 at 3:58
  • Asimov resolved the issue really well. – dotancohen Apr 6 '15 at 9:10
  • Find the mutually supportive facets of science and religion. Don't invent the wheel though, there are people out there that are already on this path. Thomas Campbell with this book My big TOE did a great job in my opinion. You can even read the trilogy completely free on Google Books. – Mike de Klerk Apr 7 '15 at 8:32

11 Answers 11

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Rest assured that science and religion are not neccessarily a contradiction. Some of the best scientists of past and present time were deeply religious - and came from different religious backgrounds. As one commenter wrote, Georges Lemaître being one relatively modern example.

The question of how to connect religious beliefs and teachings and scientific observation and the consequences thereof has been a subject of discussion from Galilei over Keppler to the leading figures of quantum physics and atomic theory (Heisenberg, Einstein, Bohr,...) the ethical implications of their work even more important with regard to WWII, Nazi Germany and Hiroshima.

In my - admittedly very personal - experience, neither science nor religion alone is sufficient for a well-rounded education and upbringing of a child.

Religion is one cornerstone of our societies (different countries and religions, but the same principles apply). Even if you personally choose not to believe, the base values and teachings can be found in many aspects of life, from manners via morals to law. Religion may serve as moral compass and give (perceived?) additional value to an individual's life. A sense of community, connection and acceptance is often (albeit not exclusively) found in groups with a religious background.

Yet, science serves a better purpose in understanding the mechanisms of the world around us - if I want to explain how water freezes to ice or evaporates or why a light bulb emits light, I choose scientific fact without batting an eye.

Your children are still small, so you have plenty of time to work with their natural curiosity: They will observe many things that lead to scientific explanations. The dualism of religious teachings (e.g. how the world was created) vs. scientific observations (as most observant kindergardeners will notice at some point - there are no dinosaurs in the scriptures...) will spark many interesting discussions in your future, but so will questions on friendship, loyalty and first love that may lend themselves to referring back to the teachings of whatever religion you belong to.

Work with these occasions, conduct age-appropriate scientific experiments and encourage their natural curiosity. Then trust in their ability to find the balance between religion and science that works for them. You sound like an excellent role-model.

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    I ike this Werner Heisenberg quote: "“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” – Stephie Apr 1 '15 at 7:13
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    Claiming that Albert Einstein was deeply religious in this context seems misleading to me. Why do religious people feel the need to spread this kind of misinformation? – Carsten S Apr 1 '15 at 10:01
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    @CarstenSchultz I don't think it's intended as pro-religious propaganda, so much as a useful example of how personal faith, however strong, can be successfully reconciled with intellectual curiosity. Noone is claiming Einstein was an evangelist or a religious leader, just that you can be intelligent and rational without necessarily being an atheist. – CodeMoose Apr 1 '15 at 12:04
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    @CarstenSchultz: I choose Einstein because he a) is obviously well known b) comes from a saecular jewish backgound and c) has struggeld with the various concepts of religious beliefs all his life. - He was far from being atheist or agnostic. I did not, however, want to imply that he was "the poster boy of a religious scientist". afaik his more detatched religious views developed later in life, partly due to changed political views and the development of the A-bomb, but that would be too complex to discuss here. I'll edit and come up with less controversial names later when I have more time. – Stephie Apr 1 '15 at 13:35
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    @CarstenSchultz "He was far from being atheist or agnostic." This is not true. Here's a quote from the wiki which claims he was agnostic: "He called himself an agnostic, while disassociating himself from the label atheist." It's important to note that the definition of atheist and agnostic isn't necessarily the same as what it used to be (the stigma has changed as well). Finally, you're really clouding the issue by including him in this answer. I would reconsider removing him. As an atheist, I agree that you can be religious and scientific. – MiniRagnarok Apr 1 '15 at 17:50
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I personally don't think that science is inimical to faith and faith-based values. It can be a magnificent way to explore the intricacies of creation.

You're probably versed in Ancient Near Eastern culture. There is nothing deceitful about a God who communicates with His people in a way they can understand, and in the ANE, that was through stories. Scripture has poetry, metaphor, song, prayer, and other literary "devices". That Genesis isn't literal doesn't necessarily disprove God's existence.

I think you're wise to be concerned about your children learning science. Children who aren't exposed to science and evolution might, as young adults, feel betrayed when they realize, either in college or by continual exposure due to their own curiosity, that science isn't the lie it was portrayed as being. In rejecting the stories they learned about creation, many reject other things about their faith as well.

I can't address rabbinical teachings, but I have been exposed to Christian creationists extensively. I'm bewildered by their general mistrust of science when it has clearly been beneficial in other areas of their lives. The cognitive dissonance that develops in intellectually honest people has lead many to a crisis of faith. In those that hold on to their creationist views, their distrust of scientists in general can also leave them vulnerable to distrusting science in medicine, etc.

It's not impossible to live in both worlds. Francis Collins, the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project, is a scientist of deep and abiding faith. There are many others. Maybe reading about them, and how faith and science coexist in their minds and lives, will help you to find peace in your desire to teach your children science. For me, the world would be a much less exciting place without it.

Edited to add:

How can I make my kids passionate in science and technology while spiritual and connected to Judaism?

The only advice I can offer here is to avoid making them mutually exclusive.

I started teaching my children about science well before they were able to read. There are so many resources available to help you teach science to children in a wonderful way. Speaking about it in everyday matters around the home should help, too. Kids are so naturally curious, it came pretty easily at our house.

One of my fondest memories in this area is their reaction on teaching them about gasses. That something invisible can have physical properties you can observe seemed almost like magic to them. But, unlike magic, the fascination doesn't dissipate when they learn "secrets" behind it. baking soda, vinegar, some containers, and candles are all that's needed for an amazing lesson!

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    "The only advice I can offer here is to avoid making them mutually exclusive." Absolutely. Loosely speaking, science teaches "how". For religious people, faith teaches them "why". These things don't generally intersect without someone trying to force them to. When they do intersect, children can be encouraged to look at the situation from different perspectives and decide which is more applicable at that time. Talking at length about how dead things decompose might not be wise at Grandma's funeral, for example. Talking about how precious and short life is might be a better choice. – Calphool Apr 6 '15 at 21:03
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Science is a tool. Whether it is good or bad depends on who wields it. For all the controversy, things that allegedly conflict between science and religion rarely come up in practice. Personally, I find an evolutionary process to be a rather logical way to effect a creation for someone with infinite time and insight. Even if I didn't, I had to spend all of a week on Darwin in 9th grade biology, pass a test, and that was it.

With young kids, you can just focus on the discovery and exploration. You don't need to address the controversy until they're prepared to deal with it. Search science kids on Pinterest to get a wealth of fun activities that have absolutely nothing to do with religion. My kids love these sorts of activities, and learn a lot from them as well.

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Wonderful question!

If you can steer away from the dogma that the written Word is literal truth (with all the contortions you have to go through to reconcile internal inconsistencies), you can focus on the bigger picture.

Science and exploration comes naturally to small children. Fill a balloon with helium and watch it float up. Plant seeds or bulbs in the spring and watch them grow. Buy fertilized eggs and let them hatch. Play with water, weights, levers, heat, light (prisms and burning stuff by focusing sunlight with a magnifier were my favorites). Go online and look at the pictures that Hubble has taken. Browse through back copies of National Geographic. Hike the woods, and see how life is everywhere. Exploration becomes science without ever needing the name.

Once your children are hooked on the beauty of creation, you can re-establish the link:

This is the world that our Creator made, we need to look after it and each other, and follow the teachings.

It will feel completely natural.

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Science and religion need not be in conflict. You may be able to teach your children that science and religion both have parts to play in teaching people about life, the world, and the nature of God. There is no need for religion to teach one about the nature of molecules, nor is there need for science to teach about the nature of sin or spiritual promptings.

When there is an apparent contradiction, it's useful to consider the reason for needing to know. If one is exploring their closeness with eternity and their own spiritual nature, the creation story has some insight that may prove useful. If one is exploring genetic heritage, it is worth considering evolution as a framework in which to pose questions.

There are people that feel a need to reconcile the two frameworks, but teaching children that both frameworks are useful allows them to develop empathy for others - to see that two people can view the same thing and see two different things. This will allow them to be able to enjoy learning, and when they are faced with perspectives different than their own, they will be able to evaluate them without the emotional necessity of determining absolute truth.

Help your children to love to learn, and to use different frameworks appropriately from a young age. Don't be afraid to tell them, "I don't know", to look at questions from different angles, and to expose them to frameworks outside your faith.

If you want them to develop a strong love for your faith, you merely need to demonstrably and openly live it, and show, by example, how it blesses your life and the life of your family. Teach it, live it, and at the same time help them to understand there's no real conflict, and as they grow they will continue to hold to their faith while learning other fields of thought without necessarily falling away from their faith.

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"For me there has been no serious difficulty in reconciling the principles of true science with the principles of true religion, for both are concerned with the eternal verities of the universe." - Dr. Henry Eyring, chemist

These words from Dr. Eyring have motivated me in my own life as I simultaneously pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics while being very active in my own religious faith. I have realized that both science and religion are primarily concerned with the finding out and application of the truth that exists in the universe and that any supposed discrepancies between the two are due to our imperfect understanding of one, the other, or both. Dr. Eyring has also said, "Some have asked me: 'Is there any conflict between science and religion?' There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men." Our understanding of both science and religion is as yet imperfect and so we can expect, at best, an imperfect harmony between the two.

In short, I think the most important thing is teach your children to highly value, seek out, and live by truth no matter the source, then explain that science and religion are both important and valuable ways that we use to discover truth.

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To answer the part of your question about how should you teach science and help engender a passion for science in your kids, I would suggest that focus on science as experimentation and investigation of the world we live in.

What happens when we add this to that, count how long between thunder and lighting. What falls faster, a feather or a leaf. How big a tower can you build out of lego without it falling over Etc.

Not only is this a great way to start learning about the world and how it works, but your wife and community surely cannot be unhappy with your children investigating and learning about the awesome wonderous world that God has created for us.

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It strikes me that discussion of science and religion, while seeking out different kinds of truth, need not get wrapped up in questions of certainty and belief, at least not in the first place. First, both religious faith and science involve radical kinds of doubt: faith without doubt is pretty empty (no 'leap') and science without doubt is just incoherent. So perhaps one route into the discussion is to talk about the different ways we think about and seek to be human through doubt.

Second, from the little I know about Judaism (I'm very happy to be corrected of course), it emphasises practice and routine as a route to the divine. Perhaps ideas of practice and ritual are also good routes into the conversation: that both seek their kinds of truth through pretty strict believes about what it is to practice the search for truth, why ritual is so important, what it communicates to others, and why it is special. So (that I understand it) God is to be found through the laws as practices, and scientific truth is a facet of a kind of ritualised method.

I hope this helps. In short: there are many ways of thinking about truth and perhaps sometimes the special thing to focus on is the search.

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Watch David Attenborrough's nature shows a family staple. We used to gather on the big bed with a computer and watch them together. There are dozens, many on Netflix. My oldest is now studying conservation biology in college. Just coincidence? Maybe . . . .

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Hmm, that seems a strange question to me. I'm a software developer and a scientifically-minded person, and I'm also a Fundamentalist Christian and a creationist. I don't see any contradiction there, it's more "I study and respect science, and THEREFORE I am a Christian". I have studied the evidence and this is where it leads me.

Many of the greatest scientists in history believed the Bible. Isaac Newton formulated the theory of gravity, invented calculus, and built the first reflecting telescope. He also wrote books defending the Bible from atheist attacks in his time, for example, his "History of the Ancient Kingdoms". Kepler said that the job of the scientist is to "think God's thoughts after him". Roger Bacon, the man sometimes credited with "inventing science" because he was the first to describe the modern scientific method, in the same book called for schools to teach Hebrew (and Greek) so young people could study the Bible in the original language. Dr Mortimer Adler is a well-known science writer, who was Jewish (messianic) and a creationist. Jew Paul Ehrlich won a Nobel Prize for his work in bacteriology, and he was a devout Jew. Ernst Chain was another Bible-believing Jew who won a Nobel Prize. Etc.

When people talk about "the conflict between religion and science", what are they talking about? Please give examples of this conflict. Usually it comes down to one or two things, like the Bible teaches creation while most modern scientists believe evolution, and maybe something about miracles. One or two points of difference is not a fundamental conflict. I've often read things in the newspaper that contradict what I was taught in school, especially when discussing economics. Would you therefore say that there is a "conflict between education and journalism"? That any serious person must decide whether he will believe education or believe journalism? No. You'd say that this one story in the newspaper contradicts what you learned in this one economics class. Of course there are individual points of difference! The fact that SOME scientific theories conflict with SOME religious theories is somewhere between "so what?" and "well, of course". It would be absurd to expect that every means for gaining knowledge ever invented would always get exactly the same results, given the natural fallibility of human beings.

So how? I'd say, teach your children analytical, objective thinking. Teach them to look at the evidence before drawing conclusions, and don't believe something just because "everybody knows that" or because they heard it on TV. Then discuss both scientific and religious theories in these terms. I never told my children that they should believe the Bible because I said so or because that is what our family believes. I always told them to study the facts and evidence for themselves, on this and every other subject. In our family we have always talked about religious ideas in exactly the same way that we talk about scientific ideas: What are the facts? Yes, finding the evidence is a lot harder than just dogmatically saying that this is how it is. But it also gives your children a solid basis for their beliefs.

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To me, the Jewish identity is not just about obeying the Torah verbatim. It's mostly about the community and the cultural identity. The community is very tight-knit, of course, which is one of its strengths. It seems clear to me that rote obedience to ancient prescriptions is not what most Jewish people consider fundamental to being Jewish. I went to a Passover dinner recently, and the mother and father of the house joked with me about how they were going to make me read agonizingly long passages next year. They are both Israeli, both read books and newspapers in Hebrew, and both are obviously guided by their Jewish identity. And, they believe evolution is real, that the Earth is billions of years old, and that it's perfectly acceptable to operate a light switch on Saturday.

Now for the main question. You cannot reconcile science with religion anymore than you can reconcile gasoline with a lit match. They don't mix because they are diametrically opposed. One demands to have its statements believed based solely on the supposed authority of whoever is making the statements. The other refuses to take anyone at their word, and demands to be shown proof for why one explanation or story should be believed to the exclusion of all others.

It's good that you want to raise them to know about science. They probably won't spend their lives in kibbutzim, so it's better if they have access to modern scientific knowledge, rather than being made to fill out coloring books claiming that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that scientists are either lying or mistaken. These points of view are already held as utterly ridiculous by the vast majority of the first world, and will only continue to recede faster and faster as the decades pass. Based on your post, I know that you see it too.

If you have books or DVDs that tell them that God made the Earth in six days, THROW THEM OUT. I wouldn't give them to another family, either. "Educational material" that tells you the Earth is 6,000 years old is not educational. It is incorrect. We can call this a lie, or a conceit, or blind faith; but the evidence for an old Earth is vast, and there is no credible evidence of a young Earth - at all. It's this simple: do you want to teach them stuff that they're going to have to un-learn later? Why not teach them stuff that's actually correct the first time around?

You see, this is much, much bigger than the question of how to integrate science into a Jewish upbringing. The world is full of people who will try to tell them flowery stories in order to earn their trust, and thereby take advantage of them. Don't let this happen. Teach them to think critically, and to consider that people who tell them fanciful things may have hidden motivations, or be under the thumbs of others who do. Teach them that if someone can't rationally explain why they believe something, they aren't in any position to demand that anyone else does.

I know that you want to keep the peace and avoid offending anyone, but sometimes you have to disappoint people in order to secure the best future for your kids. If someone comes to the door to sell you college student's supplies, do you buy them even though your kids won't be there for years, just to keep that guy happy? If they're raised to believe these things, it will have negative consequences for them - not just because they believe things that have been disproven, but also because they will have learned to believe things "just because." Give them the benefit of critical thinking.

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