In terms of the early evolution of what would become the human species, having offspring was key. Jesus may have taught that “the meek shall inherit the earth,” but we havenʼt inherited much from them genetically. Rather, it is the “disproportionate replicators” who left their mark on us, those whose drive and passion got their DNA into children who would continue passing down that drive and passion. You wonʼt find many shrinking violets in your ancestry. We are here because we had ancestors who did what it took to reproduce and survive in a world that was filled with competing groups of primates, pain, death and extinction events, long before modern humans arrived. What we inherited from them is not some taint of sin, but the very traits that allowed them to produce more of their kind. In other words, we are the genetic success stories of our ancestorsʼ behaviors, and such behaviors could be quite rough and selfish at times, but without them our species would not be here. One might say that taking what one could get was a ‘blessing’ to some extent in the past and such ‘sinful’ greedy behaviors helped create the human species.
Lamoureux, a Christian apologist for evolution, claims that “Adam (as an individual) never existed, and therefore suffering and death did not enter the world in divine judgment for his transgression.” But he fails to see the implications when he also claims that “the divine revelation in Gen 3, Rom 5-8, and 1 Cor 15 is very simple: humans are sinners, God judges sin, and Jesus died for sinful men and women.” But evolution raises one glaring question in response to Lamoureuxʼs view, the question being— Men and women are “sinful” because of what? Evidence suggests it is because of the very process God employed to bring about the human species.
Consider the “anger reaction” in vertebrates. We all lapse into angry outbursts from time to time. This is to be expected, because our threat system has evolved so that it is activated rapidly, because defenses that come on too slowly may be too late. We have been prey more than predators, even for most of human evolutionary prehistory, and there isnʼt much time to react when the tiger is about to pounce. Having a rapid-response amygdala for threat response is not our “sinful” fault; it is part of the way our brains evolved to function.
Christian apologists object that such a purely biological interpretation tends to reduce sin or evil merely to our acting on long evolved biological impulses, ignoring forms of evil made possible by our transcendence—evils such as idolatry of self, viewing other people as mere objects, and the like. But such traits could just as well be explained as being rooted in our survival instincts. As the anatomist and Christian Daryl Domning admits, our “sinful” human behaviors do appear to exist because they promote the survival and reproduction of those individuals that perform(ed) them. He adds that “there is virtually no known human behavior that we call ‘sin’ that is not also found among nonhuman animals. Even pride, proverbially the deadliest sin of all, is not absent.” Domningʼs “conclusion” is that animals are “doing things that would be sinful if done by morally reflective human beings.” Moreover… “Logical parsimony and the formal methods of inference used in modern studies of biological diversity affirm that these patterns of behavior are displayed in common by humans and other animals because they have been inherited from a common ancestor which also possessed them. In biologistsʼ jargon, these behaviors are homologous. Needless to say, this common ancestor long predated the first humans and cannot be identified with the biblical Adam.”
Or to quote Ed Friedlander, “We do not like to be reminded of the ways in which we resemble animals. We sinners like to think our motives are more holy than those of animals. And since we generally assume animals cannot have eternal life with God, thinking about animal deaths and about our own place in nature frightens us.”
Or to quote Sally Carrighar, “A preacher thundering from his pulpit about the uniqueness of human beings with their God-given souls would not like to realize that his very gestures, the hairs that rose on his neck, the deepened tones of his outraged voice, and the perspiration that probably ran down his skin under clerical vestments are all manifestations of anger in mammals. If he was sneering at Darwin a bit (one does not need a mirror to know that one sneers), did he remember uncomfortably that a sneer is derived from an animalʼs lifting its lip to remind an enemy of its fangs? Even while he was denying the principle of evolution, how could a vehement man doubt such intimate evidence?”
On the brighter side, to temporarily get off the topic of the evolution of “anger,” and of how the “meek” were not the ones whose genes gave birth to our species, letʼs just be happy that so many members of our species learned the benefits of agreeing collectively on certain moral ideas after coming to live in ever larger, more fixed societies rather than just roaming bands of kin. Aggression and selfishness help the individual or oneʼs kinship group survive but typically do not promote the flourishing of much larger communities.
Many Protestant and Catholic theistic evolutionists believe that at some point a soul appeared in two (or more) of our animal ancestors. One of these, or perhaps their representative, was assigned the name “Adam.” These ensouled humans were spiritual orphans, apparently. Their parents would have looked and acted much like them, with only a handful of DNA mutations distinguishing them, biologically, but these first ensouled humans would have suckled at the breasts of a soulless mother, and picked up their first lessons on how to behave by observing and interacting with soulless parents and friends.
Having acquired a “soul” that, according to Christian theology, now needed to be “saved,” what kind of salvation was available to our ancient ancestors who first chipped stones, carved spears, built fires, and later drew pictures of animals on the walls of caves in France? They seemed pretty involved in simply staying alive and noticing animal life, perhaps practicing some sort of religion involving the recognition of animal spirits. Which reminds me that besides the cave paintings from long ago, the oldest known human-made religious structure was built about 12,000 years ago, and is decorated with graven images of animals which would be prohibited by Exodus 20:4 thousands of years later. Early human artists also left behind carved images of large breasted women. No doubt the folks who pursued the healthiest women that could also keep their man warm at night, not necessarily the most “sinless” women, gave birth to the most offspring, leading to our species with its genes and behaviors.
Another question, how might a scientifically savvy Christian bridge the chasm between natural and supernatural conception in the case of Jesus? Did the Holy Spirit employ a set of freshly constructed chromosomes that fused with Maryʼs? In that case, some divinely produced DNA would need to be produced that appeared to have come from a human father with a long evolutionary past of his own. Thatʼs because the divinely implanted paternal chromosomes have to line up right beside the naturally evolved maternal chromosomes in Maryʼs zygote. So letʼs say the Holy Spirit injected a ready-made Y chromosome into Mary (along with 22 others from falsified meiosis in a non-existent human father), complete with endogenous retroviruses, fossil genes, and other hallmarks of evolution that would be capable of lining up beside Maryʼs chromosomes to form a fully complementary set. So the Holy Spirit would have had to add a Y chromosome that was faked to look like it had been passed down, with occasional mutations, from an endless line of evolutionary descendants. And we know what “those” guys were like. Weʼve already gone over that.
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