Evolution and the Soul

Well, my first post on here degenerated into a bit of a shouting match and was closed :flushed: so I hope this can be a little more productive.

What are the implications of human evolution on our understanding of the soul? Traditional Christian understanding, at least today, seems to be that humans have a soul, and are made “in the image of God,” and animals do not. The soul is what lives on after physical death. We now have very substantial evidence that modern humans share a common ancestor with all life on earth, most recently with the great apes. This raises a multitude of questions for me.

Is it true that Homo Sapiens are the only organisms which possess a soul? If so, when in our evolutionary history did that “infusion” transpire?

Or, is that understanding inaccurate? Do all animals have a soul? Do plants? Do bacteria? Should I feel bad for eating a chicken? What about swatting a fly?

There are tremendous implications, I believe, regardless of what the answer is. I’ve attempted to boil it down to the simplest dichotomy.

What do you all believe about the soul, and how does it inform your life and faith?

  • Hope springs eternal, eh?

Rebellions are built on hope.

Perhaps Blade Runner is of relevance here?

The problem being we do not know enough about this life let alone what may or may not come after it.

You can easlly end up with Stovokor from Klingon mythology. Or maybe the next emination from Voyager.

I know there is at least one here who refutes the whole notion of the soul as Greek religion rather than Christian.


Well, Caleb, most of the discussions tend to deteriorate after a dozen or so posts. So don’t feel bad about it. Something to do with entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics that makes the evolution of discussions highly unlikely, but also speaks against Intelligent Design in their development.
I think you have a good question here, though. One follow up question might be “What is a soul?” Your statement that it is what lives on after physical death is a good start, but seems a little lacking, in that we also believe in the bodily resurrection. What would a disembodied soul look like? I certainly have more questions than answers.


If, as has been the case for everyone that I can remember hearing define it, the soul refers to “non-physical, spiritual component of a being”, then I would say “yes” to the first question, and “I don’t know, but definitely sometime between about 100,000 and 10,000 years ago” to the latter.

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Animals are called souls and have the breath of life as well. It says it in the story of Noah. The Bible project has a good podcast series on the soul.

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Not much that I can see, unless you confuse our humanity with our biology.

I mean, I don’t believe in the rational soul of Greek philosophy, the Gnostics, and eastern religions. There is nothing non-physical which makes something alive or a person. We are alive and a person because of the measurable characteristics of our physical existence.

I believe in the human mind and the spirit. The human mind made from language is the difference from the animals, and the spirit is something which all living things have. The mind is physical and the spirit is not. But not physical means it isn’t a part of the space-time structure of the physical universe. Thus the spirit is not something which inhabits the body in space-time. The spirit represents an existence beyond death and is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.

Yes a lot of Christianity has accepted this idea of Greek philosophy and the Gnostics.

I don’t believe that. We are simply a “very good” image as opposed to one which is “good.” With language we became capable of understanding abstract ideas communicated by God. And thus we have an inheritance directly from God making us more His children. All the rest of living organisms are rather limited… a lot like babies which never grow up. But all living things have a spiritual aspect to them not just humans.

There is no non-physical hocus pocus which makes something alive or makes it a person when added to matter. Homo sapiens are a biological organism no different from other animals. Humans are homo sapience with something more – an inheritance of the mind from God. The difference is language, with abstraction and representational capabilities surpassing that of DNA and thus the basis for the life of the human mind. There is no evidence for it, but if we found a species with that kind of language, it would be very exciting and we should welcome them as equals.

What happened was when God spoke to chosen homo sapiens at the beginning of human history. This is the story of Adam and Eve told in the Bible.

All living things have a spiritual aspect. Life is about imposing our own order on the world and thus we must constantly fight against organisms which threaten this. Morality is about the need for individuals to govern their behavior in order to promote the well being of the community which they are a part of. Only human beings have the capacity to extend that community beyond their own species to all living things on the planet and thus feel bad about exterminating species without good reason.

  • Free people don’t rebel, but can certainly hope.

From the Hebrew, humans do not “have” a soul, a human is a soul – but so are animals.

The language of Genesis 2 tells us that humans are mortal (made from dust) but yet more than merely mortal (life breathed in by God). It is this divine in-breathing that sets us apart.

The idea of a soul as a distinct entity that survives the death of the body comes from Greek thought where it is closely tied to the idea of reincarnation; in the scriptures it is the spirit that has some independent existence.

In terms of evolution, I really have no opinion on when humans became living souls, i.e. got that in-breathing from God.


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