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Tuesday, November 01, 2011


It’s been a while since I posted parts of my paper concerning the Origins of Man. Life happened again.

Here is the concluding parts, where I offer my relatively original (though not completely original, I found) solution to the disagreements between the Genesis account of Man’s origins and those proposed by scientists. It’s a weird solution, but then again, so is the whole debate to begin with. It’s important, of course, but weird.

Pius concluded his three points by emphasizing, “the impossibility that the first man could have been the son of an animal, generated by the latter in the proper sense of the term” (Fr. Hardon’s phraseology).[1] Pius speaks in the realm of theology and philosophy, where the distinction between man and animal appears not in the morphology of the two creatures but in their radically different souls. Animals have a material soul that dies with the animal; human beings, on the other hand, have a rational, immaterial soul created by God that survives the body after death. A man is a composite of the soul and the body, the body being the soul’s potential waiting to be actuated. A body produced through sexual reproduction by pre-human hominids, the biological mother and father of Adam, would not be human, as Pius points out.

There is, however, a way in which God could use the normal generative power of the pre-human hominids to create the body of Adam. A successive sequence of evolutionary developments would have occurred over the thousands, if not millions, of years since God began this process. He worked with the natural causes of life, having in the living beings the “seeds” of future developments, as described by St. Augustine. God worked with these secondary causes until the right moment, when the body of the first human, perfectly designed to accept the immortal soul, developed. This perfect body would have been the product of two pre-human hominids (Homo erectus is the most likely candidate, following the evolutionary family tree). It formed within the womb of this animal mother. God then provided the rational soul. In the words of Philip Fothergill, “If these cells acted by the virtus of God to ‘receive’ a human soul when the requirements for the formation of a body fit to be human had been biologically fulfilled, then, in a sense, God would be the actual ‘father’ of Adam.”[2] When did the infusing occur? As with the infusing of souls today, there is still some debate over the exact moment of ensoulment. Conception would be the most likely case, so that at the very first moment of life, the first human was uniquely different from any other creature in existence. This first human, with a body derived from an animal but with an unevolved soul from God, was Adam, the first human. This spiritual soul puts man above all other animals, following Pius’ first condition. Man, likewise, is not the natural product of two animals but is rather a special creation by God. The theory fulfills two of the three criteria while explaining the evolution of Adam without falling into polygenism.

What about Eve? Does this theory provide for her emergence from Adam’s body? It can, though it involves a miraculous intervention on the part of God. The theory is as follows: as the cells of the single, fertilized zygote that was Adam began to divide and multiply, as is normal in animal embryonic development, the zygote split into two parts, two bundles of cells, producing twins. This is called monozygotic twinning (the opposite of which is dyzygotic twinning, where two eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm cells), and it normally produces identical twins with “the same genetic structure.”[3] The theory is that Eve is the second of the twins, formed from the side of Adam. God would have repeated the ensoulment as done in Adam, producing the first two humans. From this original pair stemmed the rest of the human race. There is one problem with this theory: Monozygotic twinning universally produces same-sex twins.[4] To accept such a theory, a scientist might say, would be to claim that God worked against nature, that he forced Adam’s human body to do something it could not do naturally. The chromosomal differences between a man and woman make it impossible for such a twinning to take place.[5] A Catholic scientist, however, remembers that such a change in the natural order is in essence a miracle: God working with nature so that nature works beyond its normal processes, though not against the natural process. This would not be the only instance of miraculous human reproduction. One simply turns to the virginal conception of Christ. Though there are examples of parthenogenesis (conception without a male) in several animal species, usually insects or reptiles, the resulting offspring is always a female.[6] Nature does not allow for male offspring through virginal birth; the Y-chromosome needed is not available in females.[7] The Catholic Faith, however, requires us to believe that Mary, a virgin, conceived and gave birth to a male offspring, Jesus. Just as God intervened in the conception of Jesus, so also He must have intervened in the special creation of Adam and Eve. The virginal conception of Christ becomes a miracle foreshadowed by the creation of Adam and Eve. This theory, therefore, provides not only an explanation of man’s creation through evolution, but it also provides a beautiful meditation on the first man (Adam) and Christ (the New Adam).[8]

If Adam and Eve are in fact twins, or even simply the first two humans, how did the human population propagate? Polygenic theories explain this problem by providing an already varied gene pool. Multiple first parents means a variety of genes, and therefore little to no risk of inbreeding. Monogenism, on the other hand, faces severe moral implications. If Adam and Eve are siblings, then their sexual propagation is incestuous. If they somehow had relations with other non-human hominids, no matter how human-like they are, they are guilty of bestiality. Scripture condemns both sins (Deut. 27:20–23). Of the two, incest would seem the lesser of two evils, since bestiality rejects both aspects of the sexual act (unifying and procreative, as concerns the promulgation of the human species).[9] However, incest’s tendency towards genetic deformities remains at the heart of the issue. How was the monogenic couple to reproduce with such a dilemma?

The answer lies in perspective. For modern man, incest is immoral. It violates the natural law and the law of God. For Adam and Eve, however, not only was incest allowed, it was essential for the propagation of the species. This is not an example of moral relativism. Rather it is an example of a moral teaching clarified or adjusted by Revelation. In the early days of man’s existence, the species needed to use incest to be fruitful and multiply because there were not any other humans. What God would later forbid was instead the norm. A similar clarification arises in the apparent conflict between the Mosaic prohibition against the unclean (discussed throughout the Old Testament) and the allowance of mixing with the unclean in Acts 10. The original law was to preserve and protect the faith of the Israelites. With the fulfillment of the law, such distinctions between clean and unclean are no longer necessary. Likewise, God forbade the Israelites from producing graven images of God (Exodus 20:4 and Deut. 4; 5:8). Christians, on the other hand, use religious art not because they reject the one God, but rather because the Incarnation made it possible to depict God visually, since God took on flesh.

A similar process occurred with incest. Today, due to “the accumulation of bad mutations during the centuries,” man’s genetic makeup is imperfect.[10] Genetic imperfections, even recessive ones, shared within families are more likely to manifest in cases of inbreeding than in cases of mixed marriages.[11] At the dawn of humanity, however, such imperfections did not exist. J. W. G. Johnson notes, “Adam and Eve were bodily perfect. In the early stages of the human race there was virtually no genetic load.”[12] Therefore, inbreeding among the children of Adam and Eve would not cause severe defects. As the human race expanded, genetic changes occurred, much in the same way that genetic changes allowed for the body of Adam in the first place. Some of these changes were beneficial while others were harmful; the genetic variances made it so that inbreeding became harmful, as genetic imperfections stood a greater chance of being passed down to future generations. God, in His divine wisdom, forbade incest even though it was necessary earlier in human history.

The debate between Creation and evolution over human origins continues and will continue despite efforts on both sides to reach a mutual agreement. There is, fortunately, hope. New discoveries draw scientists and theologians closer to an agreeable conclusion, one that allows for evolution and God’s creative power. God could have created the world and man as described in Genesis; He could have also used evolution, perhaps in a manner similar to the one described above. Any theories on this matter cannot contradict truth, no matter how convenient the results. It is the judgment of the Magisterium that is the final say on truth, and to this Magisterium one must give assent.

[1]John Hardon, The Catholic Catechism (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1975), 92.

[2]Philip G. Fothergill, Evolution and Christians (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1961), 319.

[3]Dennis Bonnette, Origin of the Human Species (Atlanta, GA: Rodpi, 2001), 117.

[4]Fothergill, 327. Fothergill does not subscribe to the monozygotic twinning theory, instead favoring dyzygotic twinning as the origin of Adam and Eve. The issue with dyzygotic twinning is that Eve does not come from Adam, instead forming in the same way he did.

[5]All mammals have two sets of chromosomes, X and Y. Females have two sets of X chromosomes (XX), where as males have only one X and one Y (XY). These chromosomal differences determine masculine and feminine traits. This chromosomal difference would require, in the hypothetical Adam and Eve monozygotic twinning origin, that Adam come before Eve, as there must already be Y chromosomes for a male. The female XX chromosomes could not spontaneously produce Y chromosomes.

[6]In the first scientifically recorded example of mammalian virginal birth, a laboratory mouse in Japan developed from an unfertilized egg, eventually growing to maturity. The virginally conceived mouse was a female (Tim Radford, “Virgin Mouse Gives Birth,” The Guardian [22 April 2004], available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/apr/22/science.highereducation, accessed 7/19/11). See also Fothergill, 321.

[7]Recent evidence, however, shows that scientists in a laboratory can manipulate the genes controlling gender. God, of course, can do on anything a scientist can do in a laboratory, and one wonders if such a genetic manipulation occurred with Christ. Hannah Devlin, “Scientists find single ‘on-off’ gene that can change gender traits,” The Times (December 11, 2009), available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/genetics/article6952050.ece, accessed 7/21/11.

[8]Bonnette, 117.

[9]John Paul II, before he became pope, toyed with the possibility of Adam’s relations with a pre-human hominid, and the ethical allowance given to such a relationship (Leyshon, 7).

[10] J. W. G. Johnson, Evolution? (Los Angeles, CA: Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Inc., 1986), 133.

[11]Gareth Leyshon, “The Problem of Original Sin in an Evolutionary System,” (2011), available at www.drgareth.info/Polygenism.pdf, accessed 7/12/11, 4.

[12]Johnson, 133. Emphasis in the original.

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