The Origin Of Sin, Not Species


This is really another post-script to our series on Adam and Eve and Darwin. My own view is that there can be no conflict between eternal truth and empirical facts, because God is without error. And so the Genesis story is not disproven by Darwin; Darwin actually helps us understand its deeper spiritual, metaphorical truth.

That truth is that at some point in human history, as homo sapiens emerged, a human mind and soul struggled sporadically into existence. The first homo sapiens who saw a bison, as this terrific post from Michael O'Flynn notes, and thought of "bison" as an idea to represent the collective reality of bison, might have been a lonely fellow. But he and those women like him would eventually find each other and civilization as we know it will have begun its epic and tortuous journey:

Adam is different.  Having a rational human form in addition to his sensitive animal form, he is capable of knowing the good. As Paul writes in Romans 2;12-16,  the law is written in the heart. God being the author of natures is, in the Christian view, the author of human nature in particular; hence the law "written in the heart" was written there by God.  But for Adam to know the good means that Adam is now capable of turning away from the good.  Thus, when Adam wills some act that is contrary to what his intellect tells him is good, he is acting in disobedience to "God's commands written in his heart."  A turning away from the good is called "sin" and, since no one had ever been capable of doing so before, it was the original sin.

This is what Genesis is about: how homo sapiens came to know what it was to know, to think, to reflect, to be aware, above all, of impending death, to rise above mere instinct and feeling into the "thinking reed" that Pascal so beautifully limned. And in this world-historical shift, the terrible responsibility of moral reasoning, existential dread, and thrill of life emerged from the goop.

And what Genesis is really about is the danger of human pride in this transition. It is a warning against the notion that because evolution gave us these extraordinary gifts, we are masters of the universe. (The same can be said of that other myth, "The Tower Of Babel"). But we are not masters of the universe. We are ni ange ni bete. We are in between heaven and earth, the first creatures to imagine a higher conciousness still, and find ourselves longing for it, while running away from it because of our weakness and pride:

Whilst this Deity glows at the heart, and by his unlimited presentiments gives me all Power, I know that to-morrow will be as this day, I am a dwarf, and I remain a dwarf. That is to say, I believe in Fate. As long as I am weak, I shall talk of Fate; whenever the God fills me with his fullness, I shall see the disappearance of Fate. I am defeated all the time; yet to Victory I am born.

"To Victory I am born" is what Jesus taught us was possible. "I am defeated all the time" is what Genesis is trying to remind us, to warn against hubris and a man-centered world. All of this isn't just compatible with modern science, it is made more explicable, more profound, more wondrous given what we know about how we came to be.

One day, Christianity will see science as the wondrous gift it is, rather than as a threat to a cultural neurosis masquerading as faith.

(Photo: Human Embryo, 7th week of pregnancy.)