Re: Social problems and evolution

Gordon Simons (
Wed, 4 Mar 1998 12:10:35 -0500 (EST)

Since this response from George Murphy reached me on Monday evening but
his cc to the ASA has not appeared in the archive, I will forward it to
the ASA forum from here, now (George's suggestion).

Thanks, George, for your thoughtful comments.

With the delay, the thread has moved forward beyond your comments. So I
think I will not attempt to respond in any detail to what you say below. I
will simply say that you are echoing some of my thoughts in this area, and
that I generally agree with what you have to say here. Yes, I agree; the
subject at hand has been "obscured in most creation-evolution
discussions." But now it *is* being discussed; we both can be pleased.

I do find I have some differences of thought with several of Glenn's
points on this subject. So maybe I will raise these in a separate posting.

Gordon Simons

George's message follows.

> Gordon Simons wrote:
> > Glenn, since you subscribe to evolution, perhaps you could agree that
> > racism is a natural consequence of the mechanisms of evolution. Then the
> > question becomes for Christians:
> >
> > How do the "fallen nature of man" and man's evolutionary origins
> > intertwine? It seems that we have inherited our "original sin," in a
> > very literal sense, through our genes (no apple required!), -- a natural
> > tendency toward racism, selfishness, promiscuity, and a multiplicity of
> > things we Christians (should) view as sinful.
> Glenn will answer for himself, but let me note that the
> theological problem is, if anything, deeper than you suggest. It isn't
> just that we inherit tendencies to racism &c: Traditional doctrines of
> original sin would lead us to expect that. The real problem is that it
> seems that when humans first became human (whatever we may mean
> precisely by that) they carried a considerable load of tendencies toward
> sinful behavior. These would not have been sinful in prehuman ancestors
> who were not moral agents, but would be in human beings. So how can we
> speak meaningfully of humanity being created good & _voluntarily_
> choosing sin? The difficulty, in other words, is not really with the
> idea of original sin but with the doctrine of creation.
> Those opposed to human evolution will seize such conclusions to
> argue that evolution must be heretical. I do not think that helpful,
> because it seems that humanity _has_eveolved. Nor do I think it
> impossible to develop adequate theological understandings of creation &
> original sin which take evolution seriously. (E.g., Phil Hefner's
> _The Human Factor_ is an attempt in this direction.) But such work
> cannot be some kind of rear guard action in which we simply try to
> preserve as much as we can of traditional western pictures of the Garden
> of Eden. Nor can it be a purely existential approach in which the
> entire question of origins is avoided.
> I think this is _the_ real problem for theological treatment of
> evolution. Unfortunately it is obscured in most creation-evolution
> discussions.
> Shalom,
> George
> George L. Murphy