Evolution and the problem of evil


With EC as the premise, I’d like to take that approach and ask how God has spoken through evolution; if/as God created the universe that way, there should be no contradiction with scripture.
To me the the knowledge of good and evil is an inevitable part of the evolution of human consciousness, and consciousness in an imperfect creation is by definition sinful. God sets the stage for eventual salvation and redemption.

The quote by Aquinas above seems to imply that natural evil exists. Is this the view of catholics?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #27

I suppose one could appeal to earlier creation commands for life (including humans) to fill the earth - or to “be fruitful and multiply” to be earlier, and positive, if indirect mentions of the birthing process. But it is true that the later focus specifically “inaugurates” the involved pain (…as some say, though I think it a more faithful reading to say it “reveals” involved pain).

You can always edit your past posts by clicking the grey pencil icon underneath that post.

(Christy Hemphill) #28

I think of the curse as describing reality, not creating it. I think it was written at a point in time when women had been suffering through childbirth and experienced being ruled over by their husbands for as long as anyone could remember. Childbirth is painful because human babies have relatively large brains/heads and the shape of our pelvises is optimized for walking upright. Those two evolutionary developments are in tension. I don’t believe that God altered the biology of humans (changed our brain sizes and pelvises at the Fall) any more than I believe he magically transformed herbivores into carnivores and invented thorns and parasites.

There’s also a lot of good stuff on the image of God as a corporate vocation for humanity. Which makes more sense in the ancient context.


I’m trying to see if there is any significant link behind the story of childbirth, pain, good & evil, etc. that we are to understand from scripture. You bring up an interesting point. The capacity to know good and evil would require a larger brain, so in a sense knowledge of good and evil in humans did bring about a particularly painful birth experience. Also, the biology of pregnancy and reproduction alone is enough to skew the balance of physical “dominance”. It adds another layer in understanding the weight of consciousness in carrying the image of God. The harmony of truth in fact and story, that’s what I’m after.

(Shawn T Murphy) #33

If you are looking for the deeper meaning of the painful birth as stated in the Bible, I have one to offer. This comes from Salomo, die Königsquell.

At the time of the Fall, Raphael was pregnant with their 13th child. (Raphael and Lucifer had 12 children at the time of the fall.) When this child was born, it was the first time in Heaven that a divine birth happened without the father present. This pain was unknown to Heaven.

The three Archangels that remained true to Jesus were responsible for preparing the way for Jesus’ incarnation as a human - Raphael (Salomon), Gabriel (Isaiah) and Michael (Ezekiel). When Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, part of the Heavenly story came through in this duet. Of course, none in Heaven have suffered as much from the Fall as Raphael.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #34

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

If God has such regard for the life of all creatures, then why does he use a system which requires animal death to achieve his aims, when he could merely have created animals instantaneously?

Of course, the God I believe in is impersonal, so I have no such problem.

(Mitchell W McKain) #35

Yes everything in Genesis 3:14-19 is a direct consequence of the fall or a measure to save us from those consequences. For example, living by the sweat of our brow is to teach us that blaming everyone but ourselves is pointless, we have to live by the consequences of our own choices.

As for this reference to pregnancy this is only one of many hints pointing towards the sexual nature of the fall, the most obvious being the way that Adam and Eve immediately covered their genitals. There is nothing in the entire Bible that shouts symbolism louder than the names of those two trees in the garden and making the story about magical fruit, golems of dust and bone animated by necromancy, and talking snakes is to reduce the story to a Walt Disney production for children – very entertaining but not very meaningful for human life.

The tree of life is a NOT a magical fountain of youth but is and always was a symbol for the life giving relationship with God. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is NOT a magical fruit to impart knowledge forbidden because God didn’t want us to have any moral discernment – that is completely absurd. The tree of knowledge of good and evil represented a shortcut to becoming like God with the authority to say what is good and evil, whether we have any actual understanding of good and evil or not – something that is quite unavoidable with parenthood. Yes, as hinted by so many things in the story, the fruit eaten in the fall was a premature sexual relationship. And the resulting parenthood before Adam and Eve were ready for that responsibility is indeed quite believable as the root of all human problems. So why the increased pain in childbirth because of the fall? Isn’t it obvious? To add a measure of seriousness to human parenthood, so we are not dropping infants with no more concern than pooping.

(Mitchell W McKain) #36

Now one might wonder how this all fits with evolution?

Did not the homo genus live for millions of years having sex and giving birth to infants? Of course. And were not those infants helpless and requiring considerable care by their parents in order to survive? Of course. So how does this whole fall scenario fit in with that?

Easy peasy…

With Adam and Eve something crucial had changed. It wasn’t just biology anymore. We now had a mind operating on a level of abstraction with its own needs and inheritance to make it a living organism to rival and even overule the body and its biological needs and instincts. The results is, all that was learned in the evolutionary process no longer held us in thrall. Instead we also had choices between the ideas from God of personhood, love, and doing what is right, and the self-destructive habits initiated by Adam, Eve, and their descendants. Suddenly things had become considerably more complicated, and the plain fact is that human beings can and do ignore the instincts of parenthood to behave rather careless and callous in the pursuit of all kind of personal interests having nothing to do with the survival of their species.

(Tim) #37

So from Adam to Jesus, God was our judge and source of condemnation? Jesus only restored the parental relationship that was lost?

(Mitchell W McKain) #38

There is only one thing that can sever a parent-child relationship. And that is for the presence of the parent in the child’s life to do more harm than good. You can certainly say this doesn’t really sever the relationship in the abstract sense, but in the practical sense it does. And this is what happened when by this bad habit of blaming everyone but themselves for their own mistakes Adam and Eve turned God from the perfect teacher into the perfect scapegoat. Jesus changed this because He showed us that God will do anything to help us and we will do anything to stop Him, killing those God sends to help us, even when perfect as God Himself. And this is what we are faced with when choosing to receive Jesus into our lives as the one who died for our sins. It is a choice to accept that we are the problem for God will make the ultimate sacrifice and die in torment to save us. What God can/will not do is accede to inconsistent childish demands that He change the rules themselves because they are the very substance of life itself.


Perhaps this works within your framework, but it doesn’t provide much value to me. With EC as premise I’d like to focus on understanding more of how scientific fact and revealed story are harmoniously intertwined. Replacing story with myth will require further extraordinary evidence.
That the acquisition of knowledge of good and evil could be described as part of the evolutionary process of acquiring consciousness as humans acquired more neocortical matter, which naturally made childbirth more excruciating and burdensome to women, provides parsimony and understanding that I did not expect from this passage.

@mitchellmckain I don’t see the need to ascribe sexual nature to the fall. As far as I can tell, that was one thing that was not sin in the scenario. I see the fall as an inevitable consequence of imperfection.

Yes this naturally follows from the story of the fall of Man carrying the image of God.

(Mitchell W McKain) #40

I don’t think sex is a sin either. That has absolutely nothing to do with my explanation. And yet the fact is that a parent’s concern about their children getting involved in premature sexual relationships is such a huge factor in human life that it dominates all books and films about teens. No I do not think this is a matter of hangups and archaic thinking. The concern is justified. I lived growing up as a child with the results of the preposterous premises of the free love culture and it is bullmalarky through and through!

Besides, I don’t think eating the fruit was the first sin. I reject the identification of sin with disobedience as an artifact of religion twisted into a tool of power. Sin consists of self-destructive habits of thought and action NOT disobedience! The first sin was not the mistake of eating the fruit but in the response of Adam and Eve when God confronted them on the matter – discarding love out of fear and blaming everyone but themselves for their own mistake – THAT was the first sin! To be sure, eating the fruit was a mistake – going against God’s instructions, and would have had significant consequences.

Its like when a parent tells his children “do not play in the street or you will surely die.” Does this mean that if a child plays in the street, death is the automatic result? No. The point is that doing so is mortally dangerous. Sex is not a sin, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous, BECAUSE IT IS! That is why it is considered an activity which is only appropriate for mature adults.

(Albert Leo) #41

Really??? To believe this, I would be forced to choose between my Faith and my joy in learning what science teaches us. Just goes to show the marvelous variety displayed in God’s method of creating the human mind.
Blessings to you.
Al Leo

(Albert Leo) #42

This is exactly what drew me to Teilhard’s worldview that humankind ushered in the third sphere in the History of the Universe: The Noosphere (sphere of the Mind and its ideas) which is as real as the Cosmosphere and Biosphere that preceded it. And unlike biospheric evolution, in which the participants have no say so as to the direction it takes, humankind can overrule their biological evolution to direct their future toward what they learn is the Creator’s wishes; becoming, in a real sense, co-creators. An earthly Eden is not something ‘forced’ on a humankind which was created perfect and subsequently Fell. It is something which must be earned with great effort on our part.

Your posts always make good sense to me, Mitchell, and the wording of your views helps me express mine more clearly.
Al Leo


I’m not saying sex is sinful, I just don’t think it’s necessary to posit that the first sin was specifically sexual.

(Phil) #44

Since we are on the problem of evil, here is an interesting blog I read this morning, discussing theodicy and the dogma of creation ex nihilo

(Mitchell W McKain) #45

A lot of things are not necessary. It is not necessary to believe God exists.

Apparently you did not read what I wrote. I said that I do not believe that the first sin was sexual because the first sin (first self-destructive habit) was not eating the so called “fruit.”

Nevertheless the hints and suggestions in the story pointing to the eating of the fruit being sexual in nature are quite numerous. So once you abandon the Walt-Disney version with magical fruit and start looking for what the two obviously symbolic trees actually represent. You are going to be rather quickly led to the conclusion that the forbidden tree was something of a sexual nature. And bad parenting is right at the core of the vast majority of human problems, so as an explanation for how things went so terribly wrong it makes more sense that the alternatives which are generally rather lame.


I read what you wrote and was trying to understand.
Do you consider just the fruit and trees as being symbolic in this story?
I believe the story speaks of the human condition as creations who are less than what God intended humans to be. Sin as disobedience is a pretty good general definition. The abstract symbolism of eating the fruit of knowledge doesn’t point to a particular act, but at minimum it’s giving into doubt. Premature sex as the root of all human problems… I don’t see the hints. Extra pain in childbirth as a means to add more gravity to parenthood-- as mentioned previously, the biology of human reproduction seems to be a more natural explanation. Bigger head = greater pain.
I just don’t see the certitude and obviousness of what you speak. Understanding Genesis is essential and I want to get it right.

(Mitchell W McKain) #47

No. The two trees are just the most obvious symbols. The talking snake is one commonly recognized as representing a angel Lucifer because of passages elsewhere especially in Revelation. But I don’t consider Adam and Eve to be symbolic, for example

Yes… the story is about the origin of evil and thus seeks to explain the reason for human problems.

It is a VERY good definition for those seeking to use religion as a tool of power. It is not a very good definition when one is considering whether religion, the Bible, and Christianity has any positive value. That definition only supports the atheists proposition that religion, the Bible, and Christianity are evil.

  1. Adam and Eve cover their genitals in shame after eating the fruit.
  2. Pain in childbirth is one of the consequences of the fall.
  3. An alteration of the relationship of men and women is one of the consequences of the fall.
  4. The story uses the word “to know” as a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
  5. The use of the snake to represent Lucifer also connects with the rather common use of the snake in religion and mythology to represent fertility, especially in that area of the world.
  6. It is only AFTER (immediately after) the fall that the story speaks of Adam and Eve having offspring.

(system) closed #48

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