A question torturing me

my name is Alexandre and I am a student at the B.A in Anthropology at Laval University.

To keep this short, when we look at the evolution of human beings we find out that humanity evolved from great apes millions of years ago, and even before that from a tiny mammal that looks like a big rat. How then can we talk about Adam and Eve in such a context? How can we talk about original sin? What kind of original sin would that be?

If man evolved like this over millions of years then there never was any original sin human’s committed no more than for lions or horses or any other animal. And, of course this means Jesus and Christianity is irrelevant since there would be no original sin to save us from.

How does a Christian like me reconcile the scientific evidence available from physical anthropology and paleoanthropology with the word of the gospels?

Thank you for your replies!

Adam and Eve are simply the first two creatures, along that evolutionary path, into which God infused a human, immortal soul, and with that, human intellect and human will. For me this is no problem at all.

Yes but theproblem is that evolution dosen’t work like that, its a continuity, so theirs no way to say who are the two ‘‘first’’ homo sapiens, rather is a group of MANY individuals, a population rather than 2 of them. Where is original sin in all of this?

Original sin is not literally Adam and Eve eating the apple (we assume, we can’t really know until we’re dead). Original sin represents the choice by our first parents to reject God. We do not really know what form this rejection took, only that a rejection occurred.

Also, evolutionary biology does not negate teh concept of Adam and Eve. Being as not all creatures posses human intellect, you must admit that it developed in us at some point in history. The first two people to have this intellect are Adam and Eve. I don’t understand the issue you’re having with this. Even if they were among a group of hundreds of Hominids, they were the only ones with the gift, and were therefore the first true humans.

There is no way of knowing WHO was first, only that there was a first, and this first two are represented as Adam and Eve in the Bible.

I’ve been told the evolution theory can be reconciled with our Faith. I also see the possibilites on how. However, as long as eugenicists like margaret sanger and hitler come forward, after streching the theory to their liking, Im not a fan of the theory.

But then again there never was a first two, evolutionnary theory renders this impossible, their was a first group of hominids that exibited the characterictics of the genre homo sapien but never a first two. What about the neanderthals? they also had this intellect, recent findings even show that they were not that different from us homo sapiens, infact its even possible that we may have interbreeded with them at some point, why did God make them go brutally extinct? Also what is exculsive to human intellect? Is it morality? Chimps, it was shown can have a notion of right and wrong. I think that mabe the fall was not a litteral fal, that is that we must take it as a methaphor or something… but im not satisfied with this.

Of course evolution can be reconciled with faith, but im having problems reconciling evolution with the Biblical account of the fall, and this seems to me to be a very important point because if there was no fall then its hard for me to keep the faith.

Just because a person took a theory and twisted it, does not mean that the original theory is wrong or bad. By that reasoning, the message of Christ should be discredited because “cult leaders” have used his message for unsavory purposes!

The catechism teaches us that we as Catholics, are free to believe in a literal interpretation of the creation story or view it as a symbolic story** IF **we believe that a some point in human history humans were endowed with a soul and made a conscious decision to turn against God (original sin).

You’re misunderstanding the concept of a first two.

Not the first two to display hominid characteristics, but rather the first two that God chose to impart a soul onto. One is determined by evolution, the other by God. It has nothing to do with physical characteristics, it has to do with the soul.

We do not know at what point in history God chose to impart this gift. It may have been just prior to the evolution of neanderthals, we won’t know until we ask Him. Also, why do you say brutally extinct. They were wiped out by superior genes (possibly, this is not actually the overriding theory. Rather, a mix of a wide range of stimuli that resulted in the end of the pre-homo sapien humans) just as occurs in our time. People (generally) seek to breed with those who will produce viable, intelligent, strong offspring, as such a group of hominids emerged who were more adept, and therefore took mastery over the others. I don’t see where this contradicts God giving us a soul and us rejecting Him.

What is exclusive to human intellect is the capacity to reason, and knowledge of Good and Evil. Humans Know that something is wrong because it has been imprinted on our soul. Animals do not. This is the same argument to be used against people who say taht homosexuality is ok because it occurs in nature. Cannibalism, murder, infanticide and other activities that are morally objectionable to humans also occur in nature. Animals do not possess rational souls and therefor CANNOT know the difference between Good an Evil, therefore their actions have no morality attached to them.

The fall, as stated, was a conscientious choice to reject God. We cannot know what form that rejection took because we cannot look into the past, but we accept it as a matter of faith that there was a rejection, and that rejection is what is known as original sin.

Keep in mind, the Biblical account of the fall is likely a metaphor used to describe an event which is, honestly, outside of human understanding, as is much of Genesis. People at the time couldn’t comprehend of the processes used to create teh Earth, so God informed them in a fashion which allowed them to acknowledge the miracle for what it is, God’s work, regardless of means or method.

(Again, please keep in mind that we won’t really know until we’re dead. For all i know, the Biblical account could be 100% accurate. I do not believe this because the rationality God has given me, and the science that this rationality has created, has found significant evidence to the contrary. This does not undermine God, but rather it helps us to understand Him and His creation, which is the true purpose of science.)


I’m an undergrad in biology. Physical anthropology is just a study of biology that focuses of human beings.

You are 100% correct that it’s a challenge to reconcile the two.

I can’t help you because I’ve found no way to reconcile the two.

However, I keep in mind what the limitations of biological and anthropological studies are.

For one thing, there factors like prestige and money from research on the line. As my intro physical anthropologist professor stated in lecture one day, some of the claims of some anthropologist of have discovered the fossils of new species is rather dubious. So, dishonesty and fame-seeking infect even scientists and peer-reviewed papers.

Another thing… the biological and anthropological narratives are constructed - and infer from - the sum of theories and evidence we have to date. But theories can be overturned - including the theory of evolution and the descent with modification that produced man.

While more branches of science are drawn from to study fossil remains than the Catholic cult of saints with its skeletal fragments… they both often construct narratives (e.g., Out of Africa Theory). The Catholic narrative usually evolved from living witnesses. In my view this lack of eye witnesses is one of the weaknesses in anthropology when dealing with fossils that predated written history. For example, how the Americas were settled by humans and even who settled the Americas originally has not been settled. Narratives are simply created from artifacts etc.

I believe in Jesus as God more from personal experience than from reading the Bible. So, some questions I may not have answered in my life time. Such is life. And it is said blessed they who have not seen yet believe.

Granted that we take the creation story as a symbolic story, but then when was that in history that men were endowed with souls? I see no mention in the Bible or in tradition about humans being granted souls ‘’ at some point in history’’. Also what could be the kind of decision to turn against God undertaken by early humans? These primitive humans were not atheists, they had idols and a rich spiritual life as demonstrated by archeological findings. It seems rather unfair then to say they all at the same time decided to turn against God… Did the neanderthals in all manners similar to homo sapiens have souls??

You wouldn’t see mention of when it happened because when it happened is about as important as what the first human had for breakfast. It doesn’t matter WHEN it happened, only THAT it happened.

We can’t know, plain and simple. We know that at some point Humans were given a a soul, and shortly thereafter they chose to reject God (probably with all that idol worshiping you just mentioned)

I went over all this in my post…

There are a lot of resources over is on catholic.com, as well as several books on the subject. Maybe you should study what the theologians and archaeologists have to say on the subject before you let your own, less-studied interpretation influence you too much; that’s how all these branch religions purporting to know “the real truth” get started… amateur theologians touting their interpretation as fact.

This is the weakness of theology. It always modifies itself - attempting to use logic and convey an historical or scientific “truth” - so that it’s proposition can never be falsified.

I think theology is a legitimate academic field of inquiry but I think theology does not need to attempt to modify and align itself (creating new narratives) for every new theory held high in the sciences. It might just be better to say we don’t know yet believe. That we trust in God and like the Eucharist much to us as Christians remains a mystery.

I’m not sure everything needs to be solved.

This also may protect Christian apologetic and theology when a scientific theory is either modified in light of new evidence or discarded altogether.

What you say is right, as augustine said, faith is to believe what you do not see, the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. Its true that many sometimes opposing theories are proposed in paleoanthropology, ( such as the african eve theory ( I like the name!) clonflicting with the regional theory etc etc). I also think some of the narratives put forth by some anthropologists are quite silly and mere speculation. But its quite depressing when facts demonstrate that these early humans were not this romantic depiction of adam and eve nor even the depiction of ferocious hunters, but rather scavengers and hunters of weak and sick animals, forced into a bipedal lifestyle solely by random climate changes.

No, when it happened is important, many differnet genres of humans (now extinct) existed simultaneously at almost equal time periods in different regions (Following ergaster that marks the first homo: Homo heidelbergensis, antessesor, erectus all contemporaries, then solensis Neanderthal, sapiens… ) WHY werent’t these not endowed with souls? Primitive humans worshipped idols because they had no notions of the one true God, how can we reject that wich we do not know? I will look at the ressources you linked me in hope of finding a satisfactory answer.

Boy, God is really going to busy when you get to heaven answering all these questions! It’s going to feel like a comp exam!:rolleyes:

At the end of the day it’s faith. To answer the last few questions would require a deep knowledge and research in history, anthropology, and other disciplnes. The fact is we DON’t KNOW and we may NEVER KNOW. Faith calls us to believe even though we see “through a glass darkly”.

yes he will:p

Pope John Paul II put it very nicely when he said that evolution was an accepted theory, i.e. the evolution of the physical human body from primates, but that God implants the soul. So we can talk about an original implantation of the soul in some primitive human, and the initial rejection of God’s will (as original sin). You can read this paraphrased very well in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the second of the “out of the silent planet trilogy”. See also cin.org/jp2evolu.html
There is also the question of monogenism vs polygenism, i.e. whether there was 1(2) original humans (monogenism) or whether homo sapiens originated at more than one site (polygenism). There are opinions that the Dogma of Original Sin requires monogenism and other opinions that it does not–as far as I know, the issue is not settled. There is an obscure monograph by the German theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, which I’ve gone partially through. There is, I believe genetic evidence of human descent from one African woman, the so-called mitochondrial Eve, but that in itself does not confirm (or would deny, if it were disproved) the notion that God implanted the first soul. And if you believe that there is a soul, that our mind is not a jelly computer, then the belief of a soul implanted by God (the Holy Spirit) and the consequent Original Sin, is a reasonable article of faith.

Trust me, I understand your curiosity completely. When I die, assuming I go to heaven, and assuming that all knowledge isn’t revealed to me immediately (honestly, I hope it’s not, that would be kind of boring IMO) I am going to borrow God’s ear for a millennium or two :stuck_out_tongue:

There is so much that i want to know about our origins, about how society developed, about why this society did this and that society did that. Maybe those Netherlands didn’t have human souls, and by extension their worship of idols couldn’t be wrong because they would have no direct knowledge of God.

Maybe they did, and this worship of idols is what we refer to as the fall.

None of that is really important though. At the end of the day, I know that none of this really matters to my faith. I know that God did give us souls. I do not know when, I do not know why, and I do not know how, but I know it happened, and that’s all that’s really important. You have a soul, and taht’s what you should be worried about.

Please do look at what more intelligent people than me have written. They know far more about the subject than I ever will. I hope they are able to help you.

God Bless!

Im reading stuff William lane craig wrote about the subject, I think he does a really good job of explaining this.