Evolution, The Garden of Eden, our Souls & the Fall

According to the Church ( catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution ):

“the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36). So whether the human body was specially created or developed, we are required to hold as a matter of Catholic faith that the human soul is specially created; it did not evolve, and it is not inherited from our parents, as our bodies are.”

Furthermore Pope Pius XII declared that ( catholic.com/quickquestions/is-my-friends-theory-that-god-created-more-than-one-set-of-first-parents-heretical ):

“original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own. (HG 37)”

But then when did we get human souls? As cavemen? As hunter-gatherers? When we developed agriculture? During the time of the ancient Greeks? How did we get original sin then? Did a caveman or hunter-gatherer defy God?

And if our bodies were created through evolution, where would that fit the Garden of Eden? We were supposed to start in a “perfect” state and then become “fallen”. How could a caveman or any previous state of humanity be considered “perfect” or to have taken place within the Garden of Eden?

It all seems to start becoming quite improbable, unless we take the story completely symbolically and just see a “perfect” state as one before advanced society or technology, where tribe were relatively peaceful and lived good lives that later became impossible with cities and big governments (like the ancient Roman government) and advanced technology. But even before then, there must have been death and infirmity. So I don’t see how this could be accurately described as the time of the Garden of Eden.

I suppose we could see man’s form and spirit as residing in a completely different celestial “place”, which when fallen would have been put into our already prepared and evolving, but physically similar homo-sapien bodies. But does this not seem like too much effort to justify the story of the Garden?

Related to this question is another. What does the Church say about the creation of human souls? Does God create every human soul individually? What about genetics? It’s been obvious, even before the scientific discovery of genes, that we inherit not only physical characteristics from our parents, but also personality traits. How does this jive with the Church’s stance on the creation of souls? I am not saying we are only physical beings, but these physical characteristics obviously have a huge impact on how we will look and act. That would seem to involve the soul in some way.

I wrote this a while ago and I think it might help with your question:

When it comes to Adam and Eve, Catholics can believe in evolution as an explanation for how the material part of man was formed. However they do not need to; a Catholic can be a creationist if they think they can support that in spite of modern scientific discoveries. But for those of us who accept the modern scientific account of man’s origin and development, it is important to point out that there is nothing in the doctrine of Adam and Eve as the first two real humans which contradicts the modern theory of our origin. Here are a few ways we can know this:

  1. Catholics only need to maintain a few principles about Adam and Eve that are drawn from Genesis 1-2 and there is room for these few points to be surrounded by much that is symbolic. The things we need to maintain mostly concern the historical actions of the first man and woman, and thus they cannot be disproved by a scientific understanding of what humanity was generally capable of at the time.

  2. We need to believe that there was a first man, and that at the beginning of his existence he was endowed with a special human soul. It is possible that mankind emerged from a primitive pre-human species. But one of them must have been the first actual man. That was Adam. His biological make-up may have been identical to his peers, or nearly-so; in fact you might not be able to tell him apart physically from other proto-humans if you set them side-by-side. But his soul was different and was special. He was endowed for a time with special holiness, an understanding of justice and a relationship with God, and he was immortal. Science cannot disprove that these qualities were in him, especially if the hand of God was involved. In fact Adam soon lost this special status, so even if science could tell us about the very person of Adam, it probably couldn’t discover his special qualities.

  3. We need to believe that the first human woman was formed from the first human man. That is a claim about the historical facts and it is not incompatible with science. Science obviously knows that women do not ordinarily develop out of men, so this must have been something like a miracle.

  4. We need to believe that Adam and Eve lived very special lives for a time. This does not mean they were not primitive in various ways. But they were protected from death and sickness and were naturally inclined toward goodness. They had a relationship with God and a marital relationship with each other, even if their understanding of marriage was simple. A divine command was laid upon them to prove their obedience to God, and Satan influenced them to sin. It may have been a simple matter or it may have involved some special observance – the tree and the fruit may be symbolic, but there was something they were not supposed to do, and they did it. The state of holiness, justice, and immortality was then lost. This is all Catholic dogma, and it is not incompatible with science because it mostly concerns a temporary historical situation regarding the first man and woman which scientific theories do not propose any obstacle to. Science can show in a general way what the state of the early primitive humans would have been like; but that does not disprove that certain ones among them were granted special status for a temporary period, and we do not need to deny that in many ways they were still primitive and returned to their primitive neighbors. Our species has developed considerably since their time, but they had something special for a period, though they lost it. For all these reasons, there can be no objection to these dogmas on scientific grounds.

  5. We need to believe that every real human is a descendant of Adam and Eve. This does not mean that there were no others who were biologically identical to them, or as identical as different members of a species can be. They may have been identical to their peers as far as biology goes, but their souls were different. When members of primitive humanity mated, only those born of Adam and Eve and their descendants were the true humans as far as the soul is concerned. Science is aware that primitive species intermated with closely-related species. The fact that Adam and Eve and their descendants were just as primitive as their neighbors makes this a pretty common-sense reality. However that may be, all modern humans derive our DNA from the original Adam and Eve. If there were anything in this that scientists could disprove, it would be here: but science shows us that we do all share a common ancestor, in the sense that one person’s genes have made it into all our bodies. Thus it is not impossible for the two original ensouled humans and their descendants to have gradually dispersed their genes throughout early proto-humanity so that not very much time passed before all the members of their species owed their existence to Adam and Eve.

I hope this explanation helps show that the Catholic doctrine of Adam and Eve can be maintained within the framework of evolution. The primary doctrines concerning them are simply not incompatible with modern scientific discoveries: namely, the special creation of Adam’s soul, his immortality and original innocence, the creation of woman from man, the transgression of a divine command, the fall from grace, and the fact that, after Adam and Eve, there existed no real human (with the human soul) who was not a descendant of them.

The first human got his soul when God created it and infused it into a material body that He had prepared to receive it. (We do not know for certain either “how” He prepared that body or “when” (date) He chose to do it.

And if our bodies were created through evolution, where would that fit the Garden of Eden? We were supposed to start in a “perfect” state and then become “fallen”. How could a caveman or any previous state of humanity be considered “perfect” or to have taken place within the Garden of Eden?

IF God chose to form a human body through evolution it would not alter the truth of what Scripture reveals about the Garden of Eden. Evolution would just describe “how” God chose to form a material body that would become the first human ---- AFTER He created the first human soul and infused it into a material body.

Any living material bodies without a spiritual human soul created and infused by God are not “human” beings, even if their bodies look like human bodies. Without a spiritual human soul they would be only “animal” creatures.

Genesis gives the name “Adam” to this first human being. With an acceptable understanding of evolution, he was made (or became) perfect when God created and infused a spiritual soul into his “evolved” flesh, thus a human being - a perfect human being.

Related to this question is another. What does the Church say about the creation of human souls? Does God create every human soul individually?

Yes, God creates every human soul individually.

What about genetics? It’s been obvious, even before the scientific discovery of genes, that we inherit not only physical characteristics from our parents, but also personality traits. How does this jive with the Church’s stance on the creation of souls? I am not saying we are only physical beings, but these physical characteristics obviously have a huge impact on how we will look and act. That would seem to involve the soul in some way
.

There is no problem with genetics. Humans are both physical and spiritual in one being; what happens in one part of our being almost always has some effect, or is reflected, in the other.

Absolutely correct. :thumbsup:

Pius XII had no problem with evolutionary theories to explain the origin of Adam’s body, as long as:

  1. they did not contradict Scripture or Tradition (for example, by denying creation ex nihilo, or endorsing polygenism)
  2. they were genuinely backed by scientific evidence and were not idle speculation.

That’s why the Catholic Church - unlike the “Satan put the dinosaurs there” fundamentalist - has room for theistic evolution (that’s more or less where I stand, with a few provisos), intelligent design, young-Earth creationism and old-Earth creationism. Like the teaching on predestination, we have wiggle room here. (Not surprising, because these are two of the hardest questions.) :slight_smile:

You have to understand that much of the Old Testament was originally passed down through oral tradition, and that much of the factual content of divine revelation may have been altered in a way that still preserves the essential truth of the passages, but sacrifices facts for stylistic appeal and, let’s face it, brevity (we are, after all, talking about a language that didn’t even have vowels in its written form). Why go through a detailed history of how humankind evolved from microbes and single-celled organisms when saying, “God created humanity from mud” conveys the same basic truth?

As for the creation of a soul, it helps to have an idea of what, exactly, a soul is. For many, the soul is the essential spark of consciousness that makes free will possible. For myself, I see the soul as the perfect understanding of the person in the omniscient mind of God. In either case, the soul is an emergent property of a biological human that transcends biology.

Thank you for that, dmar198. It did help!

I have been coming to that understanding recently. I do worry about what things like mental problems or the effects of modern technology have on our souls.

I have always appreciated that greatly about the Catholic Church. So many others seem stuck in “anti-science” game while the world is now becoming “anti-religion”. Usually, extremes are not good.

Of course, I knew it was written long ago and probably passed down orally for a long time, but I hadn’t stopped to consider these facts and their relevance anytime recently. Thank you for reminding me.

I consider consciousness an “emergent property” but it is also an interesting take on the soul.

By the way, I just realized that there is a very similar thread on this forum here: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=860315 so sorry about posting a near-duplicate.

In any case between reading the responses there and here, I think I as satisfied as I can get without either a new scientific understanding, a new theological take or a divine private revelation on this topic. :smiley:

Thank you very much for your responses!

You should take a look at Humani Generis by Pope Pius XII, it is the absolute best place to start when considering the teaching of the Church on evolution. It’ s along document, I’ve broken it down and highlighted the parts pertaining to evolution here:

- THE POPE SPEAKS ON EVOLUTIONHUMANI GENERIS

The human souls were not kept in abeyance waiting for their bodies, but each human soul is formed in and for his or her body.

This is true for each human conception as it was for A&E, however they got their bodies.

We are not told at what point the ancestral human beings received a human soul (Psyche) as opposed to an animal soul (Anima). Souls do not fossilize, and we cannot usefully conjecture from skeletal build, head shape or otherwise.

Anima allows movement, breathing, sensation and emotion; psyche allows all that and also the cognitive or human mind.

As others have said, even in a human-like body, if there is no human soul, there is no human life

ICXC NIKA

SecretCatholic,

Perhaps looking up Edward Feser on the issue might help.

edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-i.html

edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-ii.html

edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/monkey-in-your-soul.html

Those are excellent, thanks for sharing them here! :thumbsup:

If one is trying to understand the Catholic view about Eden and the Fall, it is best IMHO to start with the New Testament.
Knowing Jesus provides a perspective whereby these beliefs make a lot more sense.
The world-view that mainstream society offers, and many people operate under, seriously limits one’s capacity to appreciate the sublime.

The Bible does say that Adam’s (man/ruddy/animal/soul-Gen.2:7) *physical self *developed as a result of evolutionary processes (as being of the dust/ground/earth/mud). Only after it entered the garden (Gen. 2:8) and got *God’s image *(higher consciousness/spirit) did it become “more than animal”/homo sapiens.

I agree, the soul/psyche (*animal *principle) = man (Gen. 2:7 - of the dust/ground/mud)

Adam got a spirit/God’s image (added to its soul) when it entered the garden in Gen. 2:8. The spirit is the higher consciousness that makes us ‘more than animal’.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:4).

God is a spirit entity and that is what man/ruddy gained when it entered the garden Paradise in Gen. 2:8.

Oral tradition yes, but the otherworldly attributes were not lost as human beings may have penned the words but only as they were inspired by God (dictated by God Himself). The otherworldly attributes are only noticeable however, when you use the confirming principle (find all verses that speak of the same topic and collectively they reveal the true meaning/careful of synonyms).

As for the creation of a soul, it helps to have an idea of what, exactly, a soul is. For many, the soul is the essential spark of consciousness that makes free will possible. For myself, I see the soul as the perfect understanding of the person in the omniscient mind of God. In either case, the soul is an emergent property of a biological human that transcends biology.

soul = animal principle (man)
spirit = God’s image (higher consciousness)
Adam - combined soul and spirit

There is no problem with genetics. Humans are both physical and spiritual in one being; what happens in one part of our being almost always has some effect, or is reflected, in the other.

Agreed and I know I said it on another post, but may I reiterate:

Soul = mortal: animal principle (man/ruddy/mammal creature)
Spirit = immortal: God’s image (higher consciousness/immortal)

Adam (after the garden) = soul and spirit

John 4:4 - And he was of necessity to pass through Samaria. :shrug:

oops sorry, John 4:24 :o

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