Synthesis, Part 1: I want your ugly, I want your disease

Hey, it’s a change of pace from all the Adam and Eve scenes, and it might get the post more hits!  😉  Actually, there is  a logic here, as I’ll show later.  Seriously, we’re going to take all the ideas we’ve been developing about the Fall of Man and try to start putting things together and see where that gets us.

For those who may not have read the series thus far, it begins here and proceeds thenceforth (there are too many links to embed at this point).

Last time, we looked at criteria that any successful account of the Fall of Man must meet if it is to be taken seriously.  Given its strong mythological and allegorical tendencies, I think the Gnostic view could satisfy them all; and the Evagrian view no longer exists as a living theology in any branch of Christianity that I know of.  As to the orthodox Christian understanding, I think most non-fundamentalists have long since made peace with evolution and a massively old cosmos.  The two points that I think are the crux, because they are not addressed by traditional Christian theology are points three, that evil pre-existed mankind; and four, that human origins may be polygenetic.   I think the first of these is the less problematic, so I’ll save it for later.  The second I want to talk about here.The traditional view of the Fall in the West is that Eve and then Adam disobeyed God by eating the Forbidden Fruit.  As a result of that, they and all their descendants were tainted with Original Sin.  This makes all humans prone to sin and error, and excludes them from Heaven.  Christ, the righteous Second Adam, by dying on the cross, undoes the effects of Original Sin, and by instituting Baptism, gives a means by which humans can erase the guilt (though not the effects) of Original Sin, be restored to God’s favor, and be capable of attaining Heaven.  Those righteous before Christ, and others, depending on the particular theology, may also enter Heaven, but only because, for reasons we won’t go into here, they have the equivalent of Baptism.

In Western theology, both Catholic and Protestant, Original Sin is said to be automatically transmitted from parents to children, quasi-genetically.  Since all humanity has a single pair of progenitors, Adam and Eve, all inherit Original Sin.  In a sense, this is the unified field theory of traditional Christian theology.  All humans are sinful, because they all inherit Adam’s sin, because they’re all descended from Adam.  Original Sin is our ugly, and it is our disease in an almost literal sense.  Since all humanity was represented by Adam (which is possible because he and Eve are the unique primal progenitors), all humanity can be represented by Christ, the Second Adam.  Baptism or its equivalent is necessary since Original Sin must be removed; and since only the Church can confer Baptism, it follows that only the Church is the true religion by means of which God wishes to relate to all humanity.

Thus, polygenesis, be it soft polygenesis (humans evolved from one common population but not from one common set of two parents) or hard polygenesis (the human species evolved in different times at different places on Earth; this would automatically entail no founding couple, also), is an obvious threat to all this.  If there were alongside Adam and Eve other couples–Jack and Jill, Dick and Jane, George and Gracie–who were also sinless but who did not fall, and whose offspring thus did not inherit Original Sin, then the whole system, as traditionally structured, collapses.  What to do?

One could deny that Jack and Jill, et. al. were in fact created innocent, but that would be rather perverse and contradictory, for obvious reasons.  One might say that when Adam sinned, Original Sin was automatically imputed to all the other humans, but that seems rather perverse as well.

One theory, that I’ve heard a couple of times, and which was proposed over here by A. Sinner is as follows:  Only Adam and Eve, out of the original human population (which may have been Homo sapiens, or may have been an earlier species), had souls, given directly by God.  Therefore only they were really, truly human, and only they could sin.  The other members of the original population, while identical in all other respects to Adam and Eve, lacked souls. They were thus, in a sense, animals who merely seemed human, or to put it another way, they lacked qualia (essentially, individual awareness) and were basically philosophical zombies (p-zombies).

The descendants of Adam and Eve at first mated with these p-zombies.  The soul is (by this theory) heritable like any other trait.  Thus if even only one parent has a soul, then the children all do, too, even if the other parent is a p-zombie.  Eventually, through interbreeding, given the small population, all humans would eventually be besouled (the dominant trait “having a soul” having spread through the population) and thus all humans thenceforth are (by descent of their souls, if not of their phenotypes) are sons and daughters of Adam.

This just seems wrong on so many levels.

First, the idea of Original Sin descending like some kind of genetic disease is metaphysically problematic.  How does that work?  How does our ugliness, our disease (there’s the title reference!) of Original Sin function like a gene for hair color?  Even worse, how does that work with souls?  God is said to create human souls directly at conception, so in what way can besouledness be said to be hereditary, unless one takes the rather whimsical notion that God decides to ensoul every child born of at least one souled parent?  Heck, if He sees that besouled Seth is going to mate with (literally!) soulless Jane, why couldn’t he give Jane a soul before she and Seth get together?

Second, if the soulless hominids are really in all visible, physical, and behavioral aspects indistinguishable from ordinary humans, then it’s difficult to see how one can even argue for the meaningfulness of the concept of a “soul” to begin with (I realize that Aquinas’ view of the soul is more subtle than most Christian takes on it, but I still don’t think it works here).

Third, the idea of a souled and a soulless human mating just seems creepy and wrong.  Presumably the besouled partner would love his or her spouse and to the extent that there was belief in an afterlife, would want the spouse to join him or  her there.  Of course, lacking a soul, the spouse upon dying would perish utterly.  This seems not only perverse but cruel.  Of course, there is also the aspect of near-beastiality involved here.

Finally, I think the whole theory is rather ad hoc–it tries to save the appearance of the traditional view with a non-provable theory.  This, in my mind, would be enough even without all the other manifest problems.

Thus, I think we have to look the problem square in the face.  There was no original pair from which all humans descend.  By any meaningful use of the word “human”, it must imply possession of a soul.  Thus, we must assume that the entire original population of humans was besouled.  To put it another way:  we must assume that after millions of years of evolution, an initial population of humans (of whatever species) existed and that God ensured that they all came to have souls.  We have to assume (on the grounds of the traditional understanding) that they were all free of sin, innocent.  Finally, we have to assume that at some point after this, they all were fallen, marked by Original Sin.  Now, the question is clear:  How do we account for all this?

That’s what we’ll look at next.

Part of the series Legends of the Fall.

Also part of the series The Lady Gaga Project.

Posted on 24/05/2012, in Bible, Christianity, philosophy, religion, theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

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