Anyone holding a radical position which isn't very defensible will usually work overtime on delegitimizing his opponent's position. A good offence is, after all, the best defence.
This is quite obvious when it comes to the issue of understand the process of evolution in the context of the Torah's narration of the creation of the world. For folks on one side, there is only the literal reading of the Torah. Aware or not of the weakness of this position, they spend great effort on constructing theories that sound, to outsiders, like they're completely absurd, such as the "ready made dinosaur bones" idea. They then busily attack any who disagree as heretics who don't deserve a hearing for their ideas.
Their opponents on the skeptic/atheist side are no different. If natural history is different than the Torah's narration, then the Torah must be wrong, there must be no God, chalilah, and everything can be explained by the randomness of evolution. They then work on villifying religion as irrelevant or a source of all the wrongs in the world, despite all the evidence that it's not religion but rather the abuse of it that causes much of what is wrong out there.
But what both sides save their worst energy for is the middle ground, the group that says that there is no conflict between Torah and science. For extremists at either end, this way of thinking is the real threat to their position. Having staked out a "Things must be exactly the way I describe them" position, a working compromise that accomodates both concepts fully is a great threat.
However, this does not change the legitimacy of the middle ground, especially when it is the only position that can answer all the questions being asked without having to resort to dogmatic or scientifically incorrect statements.
This is why I was pleased to read Israeli Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz' comments on the compatibility of evolution with the Torah:
Minister Hershkowitz was asked whether the Education Ministry's chief scientist's reservations regarding evolution are just cause to oust him from his post. As a rabbi and a scientist, Hershkowitz responded that there is no contradiction between religious faith and Darwinism and that the chief scientist's position need not be a pretext for his dismissal.
Hershkowitz elaborated: "First of all, we can observe that from the perspective of faith, there is no need to oppose Darwin's theory of evolution. Harav Kook already wrote about it: '…even if we were to learn that the order of Creation was in accordance with the evolution of the species, there still is no contradiction as we gauge through the simplicity of the Torah's verses, which are much more relevant to us than any other former knowledge with which we do not have a deep connection. The Torah certainly speaks obscurely of Creation…'"
According to Hershkowitz, "It is also worthwhile to read the book by Rabbi Yitzhak Shilat, 'The Teachings of Rabbi Gedalyah' (on the writings of Rabbi Gedalyah Nadel, the student of the Hazon Ish), that shows Ovadiah Sforno, who lived more than 300 years before Darwin, proves from textual verses that the creation of man in God's image is the end of a long process that started with a non-rational creature, which belonged to the category of animals, and progressed until he had human intellect alongside the physiological structure of man with which we are familiar."
As Rav Nosson Sliffkin has already (too) famously pointed out, there are plenty of significant authorites in Judiasm who have no difficulty with the concept of an old Earth and universe. The attacks against his position have been typical, with accusations of "quote mining" from some and others claiming Rav Eliashiv, shlit"a, said something to the effect of "They could say it, we can't." None of these rebuttals have been terribly convincing. The opponents who accuse Rav Sliffkin of quote mining prove their position only by doing the exact same thing, only this time picking those commentators whose positions are favourable to them. As for Rav Eliashiv's statement, if he indeed did say it, there is a simple reply: Maybe we can't say it, but we can read that they did say it and know about it.
On the other side, there are those for whom any whiff of legitimacy to religion is equally heretical from a secular point of view. Raise questions about the holes in the theory of evolution and be prepared to face intellectual wrath equivalent to a Neturei Karta mob on a Sunday afternoon outing to burn down the local gas station. Those who are willing to discuss evolution, take it for granted that some form of it can explain the development of life on Earth but wish to see it as a process directed and controlled by God are, for the skeptics/atheists, just another form of religious fanatic.
Look, there is no quesiton that there is ample evidence that evolution has directed the development of much of life on Earth. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of natural selection can safely be laughed at. Examples happening in real time, like the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new viruse strains, abound. It is simply not intelligent to declare that this process is not happening.
On the other hand, do Darwin's theories explain everything about the current form of life on Earth? No, they don't. One quick and easy example is to look at the belief that men descended from monkeys. In fact, there is now evidence of a common ancestor of both apes and man which points to separate evolutionary pathways, something inconceivable just a few years ago. Needless to say, the famous "missing link" has already still not been found. Proponents of evolution say that this is due to gaps in the fossil record and therefore can be assume to be present. Possibly, but they have no evidence, just consistent theorizing to prove this.
Therefore a middle position understand that the Torah's account of creation is not meant to be understood in a literal sense and an embracing of the knowledge of science to help understand God's means for designing and running this world would be an emminently sensible position to take. It removes conflict, allows for belief and an examination of the evidence, and presents the most plausible explanations to many difficulties.
No wonder opponents on either side work so hard to destroy this middle ground.