How can the bestowal of the soul on humans be an elegant concept given evolution?

It is my understanding that the Church allows for the belief in the creation of the human body through theistic evolution but teaches that the soul is created immediately by God. In a recent debate, I ran into the following common argument:

Given evolution, there would have to be an instance in our ancestral past where God gives a human soul to some child, but not to his parents. This seems arbitrary and inelegant, since there would be little perceptible difference between the child and his parents, and hence no particular reason why the child should exist eternally while his parents do not. Thus, the inherent inelegance introduced makes accepting this doctrine ad hoc as opposed to the simpler solution of rejecting it.

One could suggest that the soul is a prerequisite for sentience and/or personhood, but that seems to open up another complicated can of worms. If nothing else, a debater would claim that evolution entails the gradual development of sentience.

I would just like to know if anyone has had thoughts about this or would like to share.

The Church actually teaches that every living thing has a soul, but only humans have a rational and immortal soul. While it may appear to be intelligent, we are only human and have a limited understanding of the universe we live in. There could be a deeper, elegant, and possibly even incredibly important reason for bestowing an immortal soul on particular children. Though, considering Adam and Eve in the creation story were created as adults, I wonder if God bestowed Adam and Eve with human souls as adults.

but it is all just speculation, as we will not know until we get to heaven how God did everything, and even that isn’t a guarantee.

That’s IF you accept evolution. It is hardly a given.

This topic was on CAF a few years back. Hopefully, this time the discussion will remain civil and charitable.:slight_smile:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraphs 355-368 have good information about human nature, body and soul.

This is a recurring idea here that has no basis in science or Catholic teaching. It is a wish.

Evolution is a banned topic.


I can understand why. It is as volatile a subject as abortion.

Hi Hyalus, you’ve presented an interesting issue. I guess I’ve a couple of points to make:

  • God doesn’t “give” a human (rational) soul to some child; the soul is integral to what the child is as a human person, therefore, however we understand human origination (monogenism, polygenism, etc.), the first “human” or “humans” had souls as part of their essential being in a way that was not true of their ancestors (who had souls but not human or rational souls).
  • There would have been a vast and distinct difference between a hominid with a rational soul and one without. While they may have looked similar, the human being would have had mental and spiritual capacities which his or her ancestor lacked. We don’t know what this means for the ancestor and eternal life. Since they may have had souls capable of communion with God in some way, God might grant them some form of eternal life.
  • What we have with the genesis of Man is something like a mutation. Certainly, there may be biological continuity between human beings and their ancestors, but there is certainly not mental or spiritual continuity. Endowing humanity with a rational and immortal soul seems “arbitrary and inelegant” only because we are looking at biology.
  • I don’t think evolution can explain the emergence of human reason and sentience.

God bless.


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