Neanderthals, megafauna, and original sin

Reading paleontologist Ross Barnett’s excellent book, ‘The Missing Lynx’, he makes the interesting point that Neanderthals weren’t a major cause behind the megafaunal extinctions in Europe, a point which my friend, a biology student, has also made, unlike Homo Sapiens, who seemingly caused mass extinctions wherever we went, in Europe, in the Americas, in Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand, etc.

Many people in the theistic evolution camp seem skeptical of original sin, but sometimes I feel as though original sin is actually an interesting way of accounting for the historic relationship between Homo Sapiens and the rest of creation. I’m not saying this proves Christianity is true, but it does suggest that Homo Sapiens do indeed seem to be ‘uniquely’ evil creatures.

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I personally don’t believe in original sin because I don’t believe it’s even a concept taught in scripture. OS was a doctrine developed to state that unbaptized babies went to purgatory or hell. Over time that concept evolved into humanity is evil by nature. But the reality is that prior to “ humans having some evil nature created by Adam snd Eve and biologically passed down to everyone ) Adam and Eve both decided to sin. So they could sin from the very start.

Humans have the ability to reason more and we are more self aware and able to think beyond ourselves. But we also see many animals being able to do the same. My dog knew it was wrong to chew on the couch. Sometimes he would and when I came gone before I even seen it he would act ashamed. He knew what he did. He understood.

Sin is one thing. It’s choosing to disobey the truth and righteousness of God or additionally to go against your conscience. If all animals was intelligent like us and was told not to do this or that they would also be in the same boat.

There is also a lot more complications to the idea that OS exists and is biologically handed down through Adam. It would mean fixing a more literal reading of his descendants giving us a firmer actual time frame. We would also run into the issues mentioned on the podcast, Becoming Adam. Which seems to have ended.

But I agree that sapiens have indeed went on to do a lot of damage.

I agree it isn’t explicitly found in scripture, hence why I didn’t use scripture to argue for it, but (paleo)anthropology.

Neanderthals are part of the megafaunal extinction achieved by the new apex predator on the block. Evolution is a sin eh?

This is another one of these unhelpful existence questions. Arguments about the existence of God are often so fruitless because they are not even arguing about the same thing. Too often, when you look closer, neither actually believes in the god that the nonbeliever is arguing against. The more fruitful question is always, “what is it?” not “Does it exist?” Then you will find that there are quite few things that both don’t believe in.

I certainly don’t believe in any evil nature in human beings, let alone one handed down biologically. But what about a first human sin? Does that not exist? Is there nothing that we have inherited from Adam and Eve that affects our relationship with God? I may have started with the scientific view before reading the Bible, so I was never going to accept a magical creation of Adam and Eve. But I just don’t see how science can claim that two people never existed and that humanity not only began with them, but something happened which had a devastating effect on all of us.

On the other hand, I have never accepted the claim that animals don’t have any morality. And there are certainly some evolved strategies that seem downright diabolical. It gives a stark demonstration how the possibility for evil is inherent in the very nature of life, just as it gives an equally vivid demonstration of the immense power to be found in the strategy of cooperation, i.e. tremendous goodness as well. I for one, deeply believe that the foundation of our humanity is not any these evil strategies but a humungous leap in our ability to use cooperation through language.

However, it is also obvious that any power comes with danger of being used for a purpose which is counter to life itself (i.e. evil). And with the power to use cooperation through language, we also have the power to deceive both others and ourselves with habits which are self-destructive. With any advance of power and abilities there is an accompanying minefield of evil and abuse. It would be quite correct to say that without language, animals don’t face the same problems with morality and by comparison they are but babes in the world of moral challenges.

I find this equivalence of ecological impact with evil to be quite amusing. With the great power we have obtained, it is inevitable that we would have an ecological impact. If not from hunting then from farming. It is well known that our impact on the CO2 levels began far back in time with the conversion of land to agricultural purposes. To equate this with evil is like calling a child evil because their room is in a mess. Such an extreme imposition of values on another person is absurd. It is only natural that we would have to learn the consequences of our own actions and make choices according to what is important to us. That is another thing that only we can do – look at the big picture and decide that biodiversity is worth some effort to preserve. The closest we are going to find to this in animals is the extinction of species which fail to some balance with their environment, which isn’t quite the same.

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