Re: [asa] Introducing Sin (once again)

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Oct 07 2009 - 16:15:44 EDT

Heya Murray,

I'm more than willing to grant that what makes a human "human" is a
tremendously complicated topic. There are biological considerations, mental
considerations (including those heady topics of philosophy of mind, soul in
its various forms, what the ultimate nature of matter is, etc), social
considerations, spiritual considerations, relation considerations, and so

So I'd agree that there may be no clear "scientific delineation". I'd also
point out that, at least for myself, that's not much of a concern anyway.
Say that defining "human" in so particular a way is ultimately a
metaphysical question - again, I'm quite fine with that. I'd simply stress
that this sort of categorization can really be done, one way or the other. I
don't even need to personally be privy to the moment, the method, or even
the standards for defining that category - affirm that God only knows, or
that we can grasp such things but only imperfectly, etc. At the end of the
day, with whatever qualifications are made, we still have (or more
precisely, 'can have') a human defined, and therefore we open the door to
talk of first human(s).

While I'm writing this, I see Bernie has amended his question from whether
or not there was a first human to whether or not there was a first human
'biologically speaking'. My own response would be that this invites the
question of what it would mean for there to be a first human "biologically
speaking" one way or the other. I imagine one could ask if, atomically
speaking, humans have ever existed whatsoever - and answer in the negative
(on the grounds that there is no 'human' at the atomic level. All things are
just collections of atoms and quanta, and anything above that is a mere
useful fiction or worse, some sort of delusion.) If I qualify my question
such that, atomically speaking, I mean atoms in a given form or of a given
development, with whatever collection of properties or attributes or
emergent qualities instantiated at once, I can answer in the positive.
However, with similar qualifications I could answer the 'biological'
question in the positive as well (again, back to "the first to have all
these given biological or (etc) traits in tandem").

Perhaps the big lesson here is that these questions don't really exist in a
"science vacuum" - the philosophy and metaphysics, unspoken or spoken, never
really goes away.

On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 3:07 PM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:

> Hi Keith,
> I'm glad you raise this point of defining "human" as it's really critical
> at two levels;
> First, it should be obvious that some traits we consider fundamental to our
> identity as "human" - and I'm thinking here particularly of language and all
> the physiologial, neurological, psychological, and social adaptations
> required in its development - simply don't allow of a clear _scientific_
> delineation of the sort I think many people are hoping to discover.
> Second, it needs to be acknowledged (as you do) that we are making
> reference to _scientific_ delineations here. Even with such delineations we
> are still no closer to answering the theological question as to the
> fundamental essence of humanity.
> I don't know that I have anything more to add on the subject except to
> express my thanks for such concise expression of a fundamental issue which,
> in the discussion so far, remains by-and-large unaddressed.
> PS. I like that you take "image of God" in relational terms as that, in my
> view, constitutes the primary theological message of the Genesis 2 story.
> Blessings,
> Murray
> Keith Miller wrote:
>> The question is whether it is appropriate to define "human" in biological
>> terms, sociological terms, or something else.
>> From a biblical perspective I think that the proper context is the
>> meaning of the "image of God." I do not think that this has anything to do
>> with biology, sociology, or even psychology. I understand the "image of
>> God" as fundamentally relational. It has to do with our relationship to
>> God, to one another, and to the rest of creation. It is these relationships
>> with which the Bible is concerned, and it is these relationships that are
>> damaged in the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience.
>> Now it is entirely consistent with all scientific evidence to argue that
>> God was revealed to a single pair of individuals to whom the "image" was
>> imparted (who were first placed consciously in relationship to God.) This
>> is not a position that I think is demanded of the text, nor one that I
>> currently hold. However, it can be held without doing any violence to the
>> scientific evidence. In this case there would be a first "human" in the
>> theological sense.
>> I really think that this is fundamentally a theological questions not a
>> scientific one. That which makes us in the image of God is not something
>> accessible to science - again, it is relational.
>> Keith
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Received on Wed Oct 7 16:16:20 2009

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