A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!

Antoine, I have found the debate between you and @mitchellmckain of considerable value in adjusting my worldview (largely Teilhardian) which sees the Noosphere (realm of ideas exchanged through language) emerging from the Biosphere (realm governed by an ‘improved’ Darwinian evolution.) To make my attempts more rational, I need an improve “exegesis”, not only of Genesis, but of societies’ Laws governing criminal behavior, especially by psychopaths. In defining when and how we became truly human, I am convinced that it cannot be confined to a single moment nor to a set of simple, easily recognizable criteria.

Antoine, I’m sure you will agree that, as a distinct species, Homo sapiens, did not appear in a single moment but rather, over a period of time. Later, as their brains acquired the ability to convey ideas thru language, enabling the formation of more complex societies, they reached a level we refer to as humankind. Again, the earliest civilizations were formed over a period of time–widely dispersed over the globe and NOT momentarily. As you state: “there is a clear anatomical and genetic difference between Homo sapiens and any other animal species”. But you go on to imply that the same (biological) difference confers mental capabilities and morality.

I disagree. Following Teilhard, I propose that, in the case of early Homo sapiens, evolution had enlarged the primate brain with the potential to operate on levels far beyond the immediate survival requirements. With some rewiring of the +80 billion nerve cells in the brain of newborns (thru ‘use it or lose it’ mechanism, plus some yet unknown programming), an effective ‘super computer’ resulted–and a new Universal Sphere, the Noosphere, followed upon the Cosmosphere and Biosphere. This Noosphere was marked by the invention of language, which in turn solidified larger clans and eventually led to civilizations. As you state in the first sentence above, this criterion (forming civilizations) can serve to inform us as to when God made ‘human persons’. I believe that only as members of a moral society are we Images of God. For example, I believe the Aztec priest gouging out the beating heart of a captive in a religious rite is a human being in the biological sense, but not in the spiritual (Noospheric) sense. Such a priest has NO human rights outside the evil society he supports.

We have good evidence that by 50K BC Homo sapiens have spread over most of th globe (e.g. Australia), and invented their distinct languages as they went. To me, at least, this is a more rational explanation of the Tower of Babel than believing God’s wrath was unleashed because humans attempted to contact Him by building Ziggurats.

This brings us to the sticky subject of honoring individual human rights while acknowledging that belonging to an ideal society offers the best chance of any individual to achieve the purpose for which God created humankind–to become images of Him. The multiplicity of languages is a real barrier to achieving that ‘ideal society’. I have always considered psychopaths as totally lacking in empathy, and empathy is difficult to attain if misunderstanding is rampant. Perhaps someday medical science will uncover an error in the wiring or “software” in the psychopath’s brain that explains this misunderstanding
Stay well
Al Leo

Also for me has been the exchange with @mitchellmckain very valuable, as it is the exchange with you.

Which is the standard to define what is “ truly human”?

If you believe, as I do, that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), then it is obvious that this standard is the humanity of a God who becomes man. So far, this is also a very Teilhardian perspective!

Therefore, there is “a set of simple, easily recognizable criteria” for ascertaining which creatures are “truly human”: the specific features of the body of God’s Son. Being “truly human” means first of all to share a body which is like that of the Son of God, and thereby be in image of (the Image of) God.

Now, in Genesis there is a moment when God declares that “God made mankind is in the image of God”. At this very moment God defines the type of body his Son will assume to become the “son of man”, and thereby the clear recognizable criteria to ascertain which creatures are truly human.

Antoine, you are much better acquainted with Teilhard’s relationship with the Vatican and its dogma than I am, and perhaps I have made some erroneous suppositions since I must depend on others to ‘decipher’ his rather abstruse writings in French. (My French is limited to scientific reports.) Is it not a FACT that the Vatican considered the way he taught evolution in French schools was so close to heresy that they reassigned him to China where he could do less ‘damage’? I surmised that he purposely used somewhat obscure phraseology in his post-China writings to avoid complete excommunication. Even so, some of his works ended on the Index, did they not?

The apostle, John (1:14), also phrased Jesus’ human nature in rather obscure fashion, and Jesus’ reference to himself as Son of Man, and stating the Father is greater than I, both are more easily interpreted with a Teilhardian perspective than with that found in the Catholic catechism.

In this life we are unlikely to fully understand the mystery of Jesus’ combined human/divine nature. As fully human, we (both Jesus and I) are occupants of the two spheres: biologic and noospheric. I think both Teilhard and I believe that the word analogy, applies only to the latter, the noospheric, and the only role our eyes play in discerning it is to create the paintings and statues that fill in for our biological shortcomings. Only Jesus is the optimized product of the latter. but each of us is encouraged by God to raise our position in it. I believe that the primary Joy of Heaven will be that full understanding of God-- AND of the loved ones who have accompanied us on life’s journey.
Al Leo

Hi Leo,

What’s your best argument that the so-called “noosphere” isn’t a Gnostic viewpoint?

“my worldview (largely Teilhardian) which sees the Noosphere (realm of ideas exchanged through language) emerging from the Biosphere (realm governed by an ‘improved’ Darwinian evolution.)”

Are you familiar with Belgian cyberneticist Francis Heylighen’s “global brain” hypothesis? Afaik, the furthest this had been previously theorized with less than a systematic basis, was McLuhan’s notion of “Global Village”. Otherwise, the language you’re using has few adherents, and the notion that the “noosphere” emerged from the “biosphere” - mind from matter - is one of the things that got Teilhard in constant trouble.

The term “nous” is notoriously difficult to work with, though that doesn’t mean it lacks important meaning. It is still part of Eastern Orthodox teachings, though doesn’t seem as active a topic among Roman Catholics these days, except for a slight bump from Pope Benedict XVI. Teilhard’s views certainly weren’t “orthodox”!

The Extended Mind Thesis is a more advanced theoretical understanding than the older notion of a “noosphere”. The Extended Knowledge Project at the University of Edinburgh studied this from a “social epistemological” viewpoint. I was there, and the topic of “noosphere” not surprisingly did not come up, while McLuhan’s work did.

“Even so, some of his works ended on the Index, did they not?”

Were you not aware of his sanctions even though you consider your worldview “largely Teilhardian”? Check out this post up thread that addresses the recent news about Teilhard discovered in Vatican archives.

Teilhard’s problem was that he had to first fully embrace Christian heresy, for which he was sanctioned, in order for his “theological anthropology” to appear to make any sense. And it made more sense to the secular naturalists than to the religious theists speaking as Teilhard did. Hindsight has a way of teaching this.

I agree that Homo sapiens becomes as distinct as it is today once all the intermediate varieties between Homo sapiens and chimps/bonobos disappeared, and Homo sapiens reached the full set of features we see in living people today. This arrived by the end of the Pleistocene.

Now, you are speaking about Homo sapiens at the moment of “the formation of more complex societies”, and you refer to “Homo sapiens at this moment” as “humankind”.

But is “Homo sapiens at this moment” identical with the “humankind” Genesis 9:3-6 refers to as being made in the image of God?

If YES, how do you get to this answer?

Gregory, I wish we got in contact a decade or two earlier. I think you could have provided me with sources that would have improved my understanding of “Teilhardian theology”. And I have not delved into Gnosticism enough to know how it might relate to the Teilhardian Noosphere–or my own version of it. I certainly need to learn more of the Extended Mind Thesis and McLuhan’s works. I was aware of Teilhard’s clear denunciation of the monogenism which appears necessary to blame Adam & Eve for Original Sin. That was part of my worldview before I heard of Teilhard.

So it is rather surprising that, even after disclosing my worldview to my pastor, he still invited me to become a Eucharistic Minister–an experience that reinforced my Faith that Roman Catholicism, for all its faults, was the best aid to my Salvation.

It’s a strange World we live in!
Al Leo

I firmly believe that each human has the potential to become an image of our Creator. Our purpose in life is to forever strive towards that goal. Jesus is the only human to fully achieve it.
Al Leo

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The term “each human” in the context of your claim clearly refers to each living body with the full set of features we see in “the only human to fully achieve the potential to become an image of our Creator”, that is Jesus.

So to ascertain when God endowed Homo sapiens with “the potential to become an image of our Creator” for the first time, we have to establish when Homo sapiens reached the full set of features we see in Jesus’ body, which are the same features we see in living people to day, and also the same of the people living at the time when Genesis was written.

While I believe that both worldviews, yours and mine, provide reasonable pathways to ‘salvation’, we do disagree on the evolutionary pathway that gives us the potential of become Images of God. I believe that the unique human features, such as bipedalism or opposable thumbs, are just accidental–not essential. What I consider essential is, that in the primate line some 3 million years ago, their brains began to expand beyond their immediate needs for survival–i.e., by EXAPTATION. By the time their brain volume reached 600 ml, each contained ~50 billion nerve cells, each cell capable of connecting and interacting with hundreds of others. Given an optimal network, plus some sort of programming, it could outperform a Supercomputer. By the time Homo sapiens appeared on the scene, (brain volume ~1,000 ml.) there was enough variety of experiences (e.g. in clan formation) to push networking towards ‘optimal’, and language was invented.

Had not the Dino-killing asteroid not impacted the earth, I see no reason these events could not have occurred in a reptile species, such as the velociraptors. Had the earlier version of this species evolved with exapted brains, they might not have been as fearsome as seen in Jurassic Park.
Al Leo

However, regarding this potential you claim that:

Accordingly, it is essential to refer to Jesus to explain what this potential is all about, isn’t it?

True. But I don’t believe the Image depends upon the physical appearance of the earthly body Jesus occupied, unless, of course, God had His reasons intervene directly in guiding biological evolution over millions of years.
Al Leo

Hi Albert (sorry for starting with your last name first),

Well, now isn’t a bad time for reception either! :smile: Timing is quite “different” in the electronic era with the internet. Things sometimes just “pop up” unexpectedly, that enables interests of the past to be re-kindled, or to follow paths of discovery that were previously closed.

As for me being able to help with better understanding “Teilhardian theology”, that isn’t really my intention, no offense meant to you. I’m pretty convinced of the need for anti-Teilhardianism, at the end of the day.

Curiously I did mention “noosphere” to someone, as a result that you’ve raised it here, in the context of “original sin” (Catholic), rather than “ancestral sin” (Orthodox). But this person doesn’t mean now what Teilhard did then, when he wrote of “nous” -> “noosphere”, as far as I can tell.

As for Roman Catholics, the Canadian Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984) seems much more palatable, credible, and of course “insightful” (see his list of books to get the pun) to me than was Teilhard de Chardin. Likewise, former Templeton prize winning physicist and priest Michal Heller is more “scientifically” valid today than Teilhard was then. But that’s not “origins of human life” focus, in case that is the main thing that interests you.

I’d suggest that Bonnette, Kemp, Carroll, and Transancos all combine positively for mainstream Roman Catholic thought on this topic. Teilhard to me is marginal figure who one should be very careful with, as the RCC itself was, justifiably so based on Teilhard’s heterodoxies. There are several links one can easily find pointing to most of these in a 30 minute search on G-o-gle. That’s why he was required to sign the Propositions as linked above and highlighted again.

Why don’t you start a new thread, Albert, rather than continuing with Teilhard in this one, where you outline the specific features of what you call “Teilhardian theology” that you most appreciate and why you believe they are especially valid with the understanding/knowledge/information/etc. available to us (humanity) today? It would be great if you put “Teilhardian theology” in the title, so people could more clearly identify it “on the map”, as a way to consider your Roman Catholic “worldview”.

Frankly, I’d find writing such an OP quite difficult to do. Probably you’re the right person here at BioLogos Forum best tasked and prepared to show us what you find so appealing about Teilhard’s theology for our times. I’d be indeed curious and interested to see such an attempt made here, if you should find the available time and interest to try it.

The earthly body of Jesus has obviously “a physical appearance” and, as a matter of fact, it is the appearance of a human body.

By deciding to create the world, God decided to incarnate as well, since we are taught that Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

This means that since the very beginning of creation God knows the physical appearance His Son will get at incarnation.

Thus it is fitting to assume that since the Big-Bang God guided the evolution of the universe and life to bring about humanity and the human body, that is, the body of God’s Son. Regarding life God did this “over millions of years”, although not through “genetic engineering” but by means of highly complex ecological regulations, as you rightly suggest.

Antoine, I must admit that I cannot wrap my mind around the implications of the concept that God operates outside of the dimension of time. In the quote above you state that God knows (i.e. present tense), and in the same sentence "His Son will get (future tense).

I agree that this is one possibility and the most simple one IF the earth is the only location of intelligent life in the entire Universe. Since I consider the odds are good that other planets support creatures that want to communicate with their Creator, I want my Faith to be consistent with that possibility, but I do not blame Paul (Col. 1:15) for not considering it.
Al Leo

You could also see things the other way around:

Paul as an inspired author is uttering the Word of God, and implicitly “considering that possibility” in Colossians 1:15.

Accordingly, the statement that Jesus Christ is “the first born of all creation”, includes possible “creatures in other planets that want to communicate with their Creator”.

Therefore, if such creatures exist, they have the physical appearance of Jesus Christ, that is a human body.

This is quite fitting with evolution as a “experimental” scientific theory, as it would provide evidence that evolution is repeatable!

Notice also that for assigning rights coherently it is necessary an observable basis. Accordingly, in order such creatures can live together with us under the Rule of Law it is compulsory they have a body like our body. Otherwise letting them to meet us would be baloney on the part of God.

So, I dare to propose the following statement:

Either “aliens in the image of God” have a human body like Jesus Christ, or the Bible cannot truly be the Word of God.

Thanks, Antoine, for making perfectly clear to me your position on what you consider was absolutely necessary for Jesus to be considered truly human while also filling the role of Christ as humanity’s Savior. Your position is certainly more orthodox (Roman Catholic) than mine, since I can see the New Testament as inspired even though its authors did not have the knowledge to consider the possibility of intelligent life on other planets which may have body forms differing from ours.

It seems to me that this statement tries to use Biblical passages to support scientific theories rather than the other way around. I agree with Jay Gould’s premise that evolution is NOT repeatable–e.g. if we could reset the clock back to the Jurassic, reptile evolution would not produce a humming bird. Reptiles might have developed feather-like appendages (as insulation?) that later enabled flight which proved useful to fill an environmental niche. I believe this is called ‘convergent evolution’. Thus bats evolved membranes for flight rather than feathers.

I hope you will agree that such scientific knowledge, while interesting, is not vital to living a life pleasing to our Creator.
Al Leo

Notice that what we call “scientific theories” are descriptions of reality on the basis of the ordinary observations we HUMANS perform. This means that necessarily “scientific theories” assume as an axiom that HUMANITY is the ultimate aim of the evolving universe.

Accordingly, evolution as a “scientific theory” is necessarily REPEATABLE with relation to the end result of bringing about the OBSERVERS. But it is not necessarily repeatable regarding intermediate steps, as Gould suggests.


What I am stating is that evolution without relation to the happiness of humanity is meaningless.

Accordingly, you have the alternative:

Meaningful Evolution:
Jesus-Christ, Deus-Homo , “the exact representation of his [God’s] being” (Hebrews 1:3) and “the first born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). In this way (by means of highly complex ecological regulation) God brings about distinct species, and at a certain moment makes Homo sapiens to “humankind in the image of God” (Genesis 9:3-6). Since this moment Homo sapiens :

  • defines the body Deus-Homo (Jesus Christ) will have in history;

  • forms the people of God’s children, called to form one body in Christ (Romans 12:5) and become Deus-Homo at the end of time (in line with Teilhard’s proposal for an “Omega Point”).

Meaningless Evolution
“Nothing” is sustaining evolution. It is evolution itself that produces “God”, the new species Homo Deus” that supersedes Sapiens. Homo Deus is an ocean of algorithms in which each of us becomes processed as a bunch of data. This is the new proposed religion of “Dataism” to which we will be forced to adhere by giving up our personal identity. Harari has the merit of making plain the sad “tomorrow” we are heading toward by dismissing Deus-Homo, the incarnated God.

In whichever way you look at it, if you want “living a life pleasing to our Creator” it would be better acknowledging “meaningful evolution”!

Hi Antoine,

The delay on finishing your article in the OP is still in effect. Perhaps will get to it before the end of the year.

Just to clarify: “meaningful evolution” the way you define it is a non-scientific expression, topic, and question, is that correct? Iow, for people to perceive “meaningful evolution”, it must occur “within” a religious worldview. At the same time, “meaningless evolution” signifies a “scientistic” view about “natural history”, rather than a religious one, yes?

Iow, since an atheist would not agree with your definition of “meaningful evolution”, this is instead how you are suggesting religious believers, specifically Christians, should interpret natural history. Is it right?

The fact that the Vatican has come to embrace the idea of evolution–even deeming it "meaningful"–is extremely important to me. During my years in parochial school (the 1930’s) we were taught that we were put on earth as a sort of ‘testing ground’; i.e., to see if we were worthy of admission to Heaven, our true home. We were to think of our earthly life as an “exile”, rather than the opportunity to become as nearly like our Creator as possible. For me at least, meaningful evolution puts a different perspective on the Scriptural story of the Fall of Adam. & Eve and Original Sin.
Al Leo


I try to clarify outgoing from the following question:

Which living creatures are referred to by the term “humankind in the image of God” appearing in Genesis (1:26-27; 5:1-2; 9:6)?

Answering this question is crucial for people believing that “the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God”.

Undoubtedly, we acknowledge that Homo sapiens today is “humankind in the image of God”. The same holds for Homo sapiens at the time of Jesus Christ, and also at the time when Genesis was written (about 2,500 BP).

But how far back in evolutionary history can we go on equating “humankind in the image of God” to Homo sapiens ? Iow, at which time did Homo sapiens become “humankind in the image of God”?.

I call “meaningful evolution” a logically consistent explanation that answers this question on the basis of

  • the available data about when the species became as distinct as they were at the time of Jesus and are today,

  • and evidence documenting accountability relationship.

So “meaningful evolution” is both, a scientific and a religious worldview.

What you call a “scientist” view is always implicitly a “religious worldview” as well: Homo Deus is a paramount example of this! Harari acknowledges that humankind longs for bliss, immortality, and divinity. Homo Deus as evolved Homo sapiens is the response evolution gives to this longing. If you don’t want an evolution originated in, sustained by, and aiming to Deus-Homo (“meaningful evolution”) you end by invoking an evolution that produces the godlike species Homo Deus, an algorithmic Leviathan in which godlike elites will reduce us to a bunch of data and process us as they wish.

Notice also that Richard Dawkins’ arguments are conspicuously heavy on theological content and implications!

Paraphrasing @mitchellmckain I would like to state: There is no sharp black and white line between scientific and religious worldviews!

I am very interested in your comments in order to progress discussing the “Transmission” question.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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