Human Evolution and sin

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Mon, 7 Dec 1998 17:12:48 -0400

>PS
>Human evolution...
>
>The other more important issue is the belief that humans are evolved and
>being evolved they are the puppets of their genes - Robert [?]Wright's
>contention in "The Moral Animal". To an evolutionary Calvinist that may
>make sense, and the Fall would be related to the evolution of
>"sin"/genetic selfishness. However others may find it erosive to any
>concept of responsibility. What do we believe? Can we see an
>evolutionary origin for sin? Does "sin" have a basis that science can
>seek to understand? Does conscience?

I have not read "The Moral Animal", but the claim that we are puppets of
our genes is all too often a thinly-disguised attempt at denying personal
responsibility, and tends to be applied inconsistently (e.g., people who
want to be promiscuous like chimpanzees do not want to eat termites like
chimpanzees, not to mention that the exact pattern of promiscuity among
chimps is not likely to be accepted in humans even in rather permissive
cultures).

I suppose I would be an "evolutionary Calvinist". As a rule, there are
many ways to meet a particular evolutionary challenge. Based on the Bible,
some of these approaches are ethical for humans and others are not.
Co-operation and taking good care of yourself (and others) can improve your
likelihood of evolutionary success, but so can hostile competition. Also,
God has revealed that a proper relationship to Him is more important than
evolutionary success. As a result of the Fall, our will is inclined to
choose hostility and turn to ourselves rather than God. Thus, I see our
evolutionary heritage and genetic predispositions as one of many things
that may be used for good or for evil but that the Fall predisposes us to
use for evil.

There are obvious parallels between the pattern of sin and the
pattern of genetic inheritance, but I do not know of much evidence, much
less a convincing answer, as to exactly how our spiritual nature connects
to our genetic makeup. de Chardin (in a heterodox manner) and Lewis (in a
fairly orthodox manner) have suggested that the change from worldly to
Christian can be viewed as an evolutionary change, though certainly de
Chardin and probably Lewis were thinking of evolution as progressive.
Biological evolutionary theory has abandoned the idea that biological
evolution itself can aim for any goal beyond surviving and reproducing.
God can use it as a means to His ends, but this is outside the scope of
biology.

David C.