How to Save Adam and Eve from Genetics and Darwin

Darwin and genetics have blown up the idea that Adam and Eve had a special creation physically. No new species tends to bottleneck down to two (unless perhaps two stray birds get isolated on an island and start a new species). In any event, geneticists tell us that humans have never had such a species bottleneck. So, if you’re a fundamentalist or religious traditionalist, what can you do to save Adam and Eve?

The Thomist philosopher Edward Feser has a solution: make Adam and Eve have an undetectable special creation of souls. In other words, to save Adam and Eve we need a singular mutation–a soul mutation–to demarcate a new species boundary that is undetectable by geneticists.

That is, Feser posits an event that is beyond any appeal to evidence.

Yes, he’s that brazen.

Recall that an evolutionary lineage (such as from bacteria to you) knows only a continuum, but a literal Adam and Eve can have a discontinuous moment that demarcates them as the beginning of a new species in possession of a power that evolution could not have evolved in them naturally: a soul power. This soul power gets spread to their offspring. (And because Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, think original sin here–and Augustine’s idea that their offspring inherit it.)

So geneticists can be correct materially (humans evolved), but incorrect spiritually (Adam and Eve had a special soul implantation that set them apart from all other members of their species).

Physically, no geneticist says, “With this single mutation, I now declare a new species boundary.” There are numerous mutations from all across a population before one says, “This is different enough to declare a new species.” There’s no single couple so wildly different from their parents, because of a singular mutation, that a new species is declared straight off from that one event.

But theologians don’t have this limitation. They can have God enter the scene and implant souls into two soulless primates that magically transforms them into Adam and Eve–the first true humans. And souls can then spread to their offspring without material detection. Problem solved.

Convenient.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to How to Save Adam and Eve from Genetics and Darwin

  1. But then the critical thinking 12 year old will ask “how do we know that we have a soul?” and the fun starts all over again

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually, Catholic theology states that all humans have an immaterial soul directly created by God, not just Adam and Eve.

    I wonder how you think science can detect any soul, whether human, animal or plant.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I suppose one would have to define soul pretty specifically before going in search of one. If, for example, the soul is (virtually) indistinguishable from form, and in need of form to exist, then it would be pretty tricky to get at the distinction (scientifically and logically). And since form is always on the move (transforming), it’s hard to say why one would want a soul. It seems like it would be as transient as form.

      What, for instance, goes to heaven at death, and what’s the difference between the soul hypothesis and 19th century vitalism? I would think a 21st century person would abandon the soul hypothesis for the same (good) reasons scientists ultimately let vitalism go.

      Something that would certainly give a bit of circumstantial evidence to the soul hypothesis would be the existence of miracles (people use mental powers of prayer or speech over material things, and this changes the course of things). Other telling phenomena would be ESP, poltergeists, ghosts, devils, angels–but there’s no evidence that anything mental exists independent of brains.

      What would also be suggestive of a soul is if, when the corpus callosum is cut in epileptics, you didn’t get the seeming split of the person into two.

      Also, it appears the brain is modular and wholly integrated into a transient inner and outer material environment, so where’s the eternal you (the soul) located in all this modularity and interconnection? Where’s the dividing line in the continuum between self and environment?

      So ecology suggests (at least to me) that the soul doesn’t exist.

      On the other hand, psychedelics and near-death experiences seem to open up doors of perception that one can’t access in normal states of consciousness. I’m open to surprise, therefore, on the question, but don’t see much by way of evidence.

      And then there’s the issue of interaction: how does a soul or mind that is independent of the brain and environment influence the course of brain and environment?

      Another issue is whether one could ever really distinguish one soul from the others, and whether it would make sense to simply consolidate them into a universal mind or soul of the world. The individual soul hypothesis may therefore be akin to polytheism v. monotheism. How would one ever know whether the multiple souls were not simply the variant expressions of a single soul?

      And one would need to be a bit discerning of any soul hypothesis hidden strictly in metaphysics (away from empiricism). One might ask whether any metaphysical claim impervious to evidence is merely a convenient way of keeping science away from upending a religious claim.

      So there are lots of ways science could get at the soul hypothesis so long as it’s not hidden in metaphysics. I’d also like you to note that you said the soul comes from God, “not just Adam and Eve.” In other words, you’re having it both ways.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I’d also like you to note that you said the soul comes from God, “not just Adam and Eve.” In other words, you’re having it both ways.”

    I think you misread the post. Catholic theology states that all human souls are directly created by God….you, me, Adam and Eve. Your post implied that only Adam and Eve received a soul directly from God and then souls were spread to their progeny per this statement: “This soul power gets spread to their offspring.”

    You claim to have read Professor Feser’s books, yet you don’t come close to presenting A-T philosophy accurately. You’ve posted before about hylomorphism, and the list of questions here make it appear that you’ve never heard of it. I’m getting a little concerned about you. Are you well?

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