In this video on khan academy, Khan makes a few theological points regarding evolution. His main point is that evolution can be reconciled with intelligent design by saying that God could have created a set of "simple and elegant basic ideas" from which complexity emerged. (there is a more detailed outline of his points below).

What does Judaism have to say about this?

Outline of his points:

Trying to reconcile evolution with Intelligent design

Some things seem too complicated to be made from set of random processes (uses eye as example)

  • There is no perfect eye- points to evolution

"Belief in all powerful, universal God would not point to a God who designs each particular"

Gods created "simple and elegant basic ideas"

  • complexity emerged from those ideas"

This is a very profound design and it speaks to the art of the designer, as opposed to designing each of these entities [separately]"

“Always getting more suited to its environment as it changes and that, to me, is a better design"

Brings fractals as example of complexity emerging from simplicity (in case you don’t know what fractals are, he starts this point @ 8:04)

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    Please post the details ASAP. This question is way to vague without them (not to mention that the video is a little on the long side). Apr 9, 2012 at 21:05
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    This sounds like you're asking how to rectify the Genesis creation story with evolution, which would be a dupe of judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/30/berieshit-vs-science Apr 9, 2012 at 21:45
  • @YaakovKuperman, I disagree that this is a dupe. This is asking about one particular potential line of reasoning regarding evolution in particular, whereas the other question was dealing with the much more broad question of Bereishit and science in general.
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 10, 2012 at 18:42
  • A duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/60346/…
    – Al Berko
    Jan 27, 2018 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


Khan is echoing Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who wrote ~150 years ago about this new theory called evolution:

... if [evolution] were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, ... Judaism would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures.) This would be nothing else but the actualization of the law of le-mino, the “law of species” with which God began His work of creation. This law of le-mino, upon which Judaism places such great emphasis in order to impress upon its adherents that all of organic life is subject to Divine laws, can accommodate even this “theory of the origin of species”.

(Collected writings volume 7; I'm trusting that website's translation from Hirsch's original German.)

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    This is beautiful! Apr 9, 2012 at 23:16
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    Very iffy translation. I have seen this quote many times in translations from different sources, with a (slightly) different translation of the text preceding the bold. Rather than hinging evolution's legitimacy on "complete acceptance by the scientific world" I have seen quotes that made it contingent rather on the evidence; something to the extent of "if it ever proves to be more than a vague unsupported hypothesis". This has a significantly different implication.
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 19, 2015 at 23:51
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    Well I found one trans. with the following ", not even if the latest scientific notion that the genesis of all the multitude of organic forms on earth can be traced back to one single, mot primitive, primeval form of life should ever appear to be anything more than what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact. Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought" (found [here] (simpletoremember.com/vitals/…)
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 20, 2015 at 0:00
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    According to this translations, both parameters are given, with "vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact" being contrasted with "this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world". Accordingly the latter was merely cited as being indicative of the former. Accordingly the question shifts from whether or not the consensus is for the theory (likely depending on the definition of consensus) and whether or not it remains the "vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact" that R. Hirsch described it in his day (highly debatable). It seems prudent to edit in the previous cont
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 20, 2015 at 0:04
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    line into the quote to better express R. Hirsch's view.
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 20, 2015 at 0:05

As with many questions within Judaism there are multiple correct answers.

Rav Kook has the approach that evolution is the striving of all creation to be more God like (I dont have a source for this sorry)

RaMBa"M seamed to have no problem in principle to rereading parts of Breishis as metaphor, neither did Saadiah Gaon (though of course neither had ever heard of evolution) (Moreh Nevuhim and In Emunot V'Deot quoted in the shiur link below)

Rav Natan Slifkin does a pretty good job of addrsssing the issue in his book The Challenge of Creation even addressing the objections of the likes of the RaShBa"M.

This link is to a shiur given by Rav Jeremy Weider on this topic which is comprehensive and in my opinion fantastic.

Lastly, there are people, among them Gedolim within the Torah world who reject Evolutionary concepts as false and against Torah. The chalenge with this approach is that one then must 'invent' a lot of Torah and a lot of science inorder to square this idea with Torah and the world around us.


I don't think it would be heretical to believe that God just created "simple and elegant basic ideas" and the rest of the development of the universe and life was apparently natural. However, it does go against the traditional understanding of creation as being a process that God was involved with. It also could lead to Deism, the belief that God is never involved in this world, which does go against Judaism. Scientists have not yet shown how life could have plausibly developed in a completely random unguided manner, so there isn't a real reason to re-interpret the traditional understanding of creation.

Whatever you think of his discussion of evolution, I'm pretty sure you can still watch his math videos.

  • Please add some sources. Otherwise this answer is pretty much an unsupported person feeling.
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 19, 2015 at 23:52
  • "It also could lead to Deism, the belief that God is never involved in this world, which does go against Judaism." Maimonides was a deist. Deism does not go against Judaism.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 22, 2021 at 3:32

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