The essay, by David Kornreich, essentially, is a rehash of Hume's famous argument against induction* but that's not the funny part. I think Kornreich is correct when he says that what the Torah calls "The Six Days of Creation" were not ordinary time; indeed the Darrow character makes a similar point at the conclusion of Inherit the Wind when he asks the Bryan character to explain how days were measured before the creation of the sun. We don't know what happened during the 6 Days. If they were not ordinary time, the claim that the universe is bilions of years old might be exagerated. Or the uniformity we observe in nature today may have begun at the end of the 6 Days. But so what? It makes absolutely no difference. Whether the universe is 5000 years old or 500 billion years old nothing significant changes about Judaism.
All of this is argued badly by Kornreich, in lanaguage that is neither clear not compelling, but I got his point, and found myself agreeing with most of it - until the end, when Kornreich deliberately misconstrued a quote from Samson Rephael Hirsch:
Judaism is not frightened by the hundreds of thousands or even millions of years which the geological theory of the earth's development bandies about so freely. Judaism would have nothing to fear from that theory even if it were based on something more than a mere hypothesis, on the still unproven assumption that the forces we see at work in our world today are the same as those that were in existence with the same degree of potency, when the world was first created."As Kornreich takes it, Judaism "is not frightened" because those "hundreds of thousands or even millions of years" exist only in the imagination of the scientist. But Hirsch meant something else, as the rest of the quote makes clear:
R' S. R. Hirsch (Educational Value of Judaism Collected Writings #7p265): Judaism is not frightened even by the hundreds of thousands and millions of years which the geological theory of the earth's development bandies about so freely. Judaism would have nothing to fear from that theory even if it were based on something more than mere hypothesis, on the still unproven presumption that the forces we see at work in our world today are the same as those that were in existence, with the same degree of potency, when the world was first created. Our Rabbis, the Sages of Judaism, discuss (Midrash Rabbah 9; Chagiga 16a) the possibility that earlier worlds were brought into existence andsubsequently destroyed by the Creator before He made our own earth inits present form and order. However, the Rabbis have never made the acceptance or rejection of-this and similar possibilities an article of faith binding on all Jews. They were willing to live with any theory that did not reject the basic truth that "every beginning is from God." In fact, they were generally averse to speculations about what was in the past and what will be in the future, because, in their view, such questions transgressed the limits of that which is knowable to man, or, at best, they did not enhance man's understanding of his moral function. In the view of our Rabbis, the Book of Books was intended to be mankind's guide for life on earth as it is at present, to teach man to recognize God, in the here and now, as the everlasting Creator and Master of the universe, and to worship Him by faithfully obeying the laws by which He governs mankind.Rather than being an argument against scientific inqury into the past, as Kornreich believes, Hirsh is actually saying that attempts to debunk science are unneeded. Per Hirsch, Kornreich's whole approach is waste of time: Judaism has nothing to fear from the truth. If science is right, Judaism is unaffected, so let it go. [Related]
*Short summary: Induction relies on the assumption that nature is uniform, ie: that is contains and repeats the same patterns throughout. This assumption, however, can only be justified via experience. But because it is impossible to directly observe that nature is uniform, we must infer that it is uniform from what we have directly observed. But such an inference is itself inductive, meaning our justifcation for induction relies on induction itself. That's a circular argument, people, and unacceptable.