Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Biologist Daryl P. Domning and theologian Monika K. Hellwig collaborate in a work, entitled, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution.  Domning professionally studies the evolution of sirenians, sea cows, while maintaining an interest in Catholic theology.  The sea cows, like the whales and the seals, are land mammals that adapted to an aquatic environment… or should I say?… niche.

0002 In terms of human imagination, sea cows associate to mermaids.  Mermaids are chimeric.  They are half woman and half fish.

0003 The titular word, “selfishness”, is chimeric as well.  It starts in Germany as an emphatic, added to a pronoun (A).  For example, I can say, “I myself” or  “you yourself” or “he himself” or “she herself” and so on.  Then, in Old English, the emphatic coalesces into a noun, “self” (B).  Then, the noun becomes an adjective with an added,”-ish” (C).  “Selfish” denotes an emphasis on self by self.  Then, the adjective converts back into a noun with an added “-ness” (D).  Selfishness (D) is the state of being selfish (C).

0004 So, there is an evolution to the word, “selfishness”, as well.

What games we play with words.

It makes me wonder whether the evolution of this spoken word has anything to do with evil in the light of evolution.

0005 If I change the mode of talk to hand-talk, I may say POINT TO MYSELF.  I may not say I POINT TO MYSELF, because the pronoun, I, is signified by pointing to myself.  I may gesture, POINT TO MYSELF twice, or with dramatic flair, but that is not equivalent to the spoken word, “self” (B) or “selfish” (C).  It may be equivalent to the emphatic, “I, myself” (A).

0006 If language evolves in the milieu of hand talk, then our distant ancestors do not hand talk the equivalent of the spoken words, “self”, “selfish” or “selfishness”.

Does this fact provide a clue to original sin in light of evolution? 

At least, it provides a clue to a divide in the course of human evolution.

The emphatic, I-myself (A), associates to hand talk and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The explicit abstractions of self (B), selfish (C) and selfishness (D) associate to speech-alone talk and our current Lebenswelt.

0007 Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

In 2006 (and perhaps, anytime before Domning reads this), the author does not suspect that there may be a twist in human evolution.  In general, evolutionary biologists have no idea.  Like Domning, they are focused on genetics and natural history, not cultural turns.  The hypothesis of the first singularity first appears in 2012 with the masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall, available at smashwords and other e-book vendors.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 3 of 16)

0017 If “selfishness” is a noun with a scientific affiliation, then what about Domning’s titular adjective, “original”?

What is “original selfishness”?

0018 To Domning, “original” means “evolved”.

“Original selfishness” is an adaptation into (what I will call) the niche of natural selection and genetics.  This niche is more complicated than my quick-and-dirty labeling.  See Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome. (Search for Razie Mah and this title.  It is available in smashwords and other e-book venues.)

This niche operates since the origin of multicellular eukaryotic life on Earth.

The adaptations promote self-preservation and reproductive success.

Here is a definition.

Figure 05

0019 Of course, “original selfishness” locates Adam as the earliest microscopic creature, perhaps the first eukaryote, appearing hundreds of millions of years ago. 

On one hand, this association may seem to be a disadvantage to Domning’s association of original selfishness to original sin.

On the other hand, Domning’s association accounts for the universality of original sin, as well as its moral reality.

Yes, that is the claim.

0020 These deficits and benefits are wrestled with in chapter 10, in a paragraph starting with, “in regards to concupiscence”.  Our disordered selfish desires act out our original selfishness.  So, the moral character (the acting out of a disorder) is distinct from the universality of selfishness (as an evolved trait, an adaptation into the niche of natural selection and genetics).  The former calls for grace and salvation.  The latter is what Christ transcends.

In sum, Domning separates the source of original sin’s universality (which, traditionally is descent from Adam, but now, Adam is a microorganism at the base of the tree of life) and its moral character (which is tied to human free will, and, to me, is the noun that “selfish” applies to).


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 4 of 16)

0021 Domning’s move is clever, except for a critical implication.  There is a sequence of adaptations within the Homo lineage that follows and builds on the primal adaptation into the niche of natural selection and genetics.  So, the universal aspect of Original Sin, dealing with descent from a progenitor, and the moral reality of Original Sin, concerning the disordered expression of original selfishness in humans, are not fully separate.

Domning offers a graphic.

Here is my re-enactment of figure 10.1.

Figure 06

0022 Original selfishness does not implicate moral deliberation.  Human selfishness does.

0023 What is “X”?

Domning places the word, “evolution”, here.

I ask, “How can this be?”

How can natural selection eventually yield human free will… er… selfish human free will?

Is selfish human free will an adaptation?

How does the Homo lineage pass from instinctive behaviors to deliberate choices?

0024 I suppose that Domning covers this challenge in chapter nine, titled, “Evolution and human ethics”. 

What does he say?

Evolutionary selfishness is one thing, corresponding to adaptation into a niche of natural selection and genetics.  Psychological selfishness is a second thing, corresponding to “original selfishness”.  Psychological selfishness that intentionally disregards the interests of others is a third thing, corresponding to “human selfishness”.

So, X describes the evolution of psychological states.  Selfish human free will, the foundation of human selfishness, evolves from original selfishness.

0025 However, I already am inclined to think that there must be another step, the evolution of self, that enters into the picture.  Why?  If human free will is to be selfish, then there must already be a self.

Here is a picture.

Figure 07

0026 Isn’t that curious?

The four waystations in the historic development of the word, “selfishness”, recapitulates the evolutionary sequence from “original selfishness” to “human selfishness”.

Okay, I immediately wonder, is there another word that also parallels some sort of evolutionary progression, from noun to adjective then back to noun?

Yes, there is.

0027 The term is “concupiscence”.

Concupiscence is a technical term used in theological discussions of the doctrine of Original Sin.  It may be derived from Latin roots in more than one fashion.

Here is a picture.

Figure 08

0028 Of course, my preferred derivation is the lower option.  To me, “concupiscence” is the state of being with Cupid.  Cupid is an implicit abstraction from two features of natural selection: cooperation (Venus) and competition (Mars).

What do I mean by the term, “implicit abstraction”?

In some way, Cupid may be stated in hand talk, in the same fashion that Cupid is portrayed in visual art.  PANTOMINE DRAWING A BOW, PANTOMIME ARROW FLYING, POINT TO MY OWN HEART.  This fully linguistic statement in hand talk does not make sense, at first.  Later, it does.

Cupid is the self, in the presence of other selves.

Cupid shoots arrows of desire, in the presence of other selves.

0029 I ask, “How could hominin awareness of the counterintuitive nature of Cupid evolve?”

This question does not surface in Domning’s chapter on evolution and human ethics.  

Ethics among animals is mediated through ritual and emotion.  The rules of the game say that cooperation may be necessary for surviving to the next competition.

In contrast, human ethics transcends an animal’s sensible and amoral tendencies.  Human ethics demands social construction.  Social construction is addressed in the masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 5 of 16)

0030 In chapter nine, on evolution and human ethics, Domning envisions a short step from an amoral psychology (original selfishness) to a moral psychology associated with Original Sin (human selfishness).  All that is required is the evolution of creatures capable of self-reflection.

Is that the same as the evolution of self?

Or, is that the evolution of cupid, the self in the presence of others?

Uh oh, the term, “cupid”, now has a technical definition.

0031 Is our capacity for self-reflection an adaptation into an ultimate niche or is it an evolutionary spandrel, an architectural feature of adaptations into diverse proximate niches?

Domning suggests the latter, by noting that intelligence is a composite of a wide variety of faculties, many of which are contradictory.  Trade-offs favor a psychological ambivalence, which looks more and more like free will.

Does this imply that human free will arises from a diversity of “original selfishnesses”, each specific to a dilemma in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, psychologically expressed as behaviors consistent with the emphatic, I-myself?

So, the “self” seems to be a spandrel, where all these architectural (and archetypal) psychologies come together to form something, that ends up labeled as “self”.

0032 Remember this one?

Figure 09

0033 Item A entails no moral deliberation.

Item D involves moral deliberation.

0034 Item B, the consolidation of psychological expressions of I-myself into a single entity, the self, does not entail moral deliberation.

Item C, the tendency to put one’s own interests above other interests in the exercise of human free will, implicates moral deliberation.

0035 Now, I would like to substitute my newly minted technical term, “cupid” (B’), in for “self” (B) and see what happens.

Figure 10

0036 Right off, the nature of “cupid” as an adaptation accounts for the spandrel-like “self”.   Its niche entails some sort of judgment (a triadic relation) in which the self is socially constructed out of a variety of psychological expressions of I-myself.

Here is the key.

Psychologically, self-interest is composed in response to other selves.  Cupid is the self becoming aware of its own self-interests in a social world where others exhibit their own interests through psychological expressions of I-myself.  In order to consolidate my self, from my own expressions of I-myself, I must consolidate the selves of others, from their own expressions of I-myself.

In brief, the self (B) does not arise in a vacuum.  Cupid (B’) designates that fact.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 6 of 16)

0037 In prior blogs, I associate a sequence of four waystations in the history of the word, “selfishness”, to four elements in Domning’s visualization of original sin.

0038 Traditional theological accounts of original sin fuse its universal and its moral realities.  

The universal reality is direct descent from Adam and Eve, as proposed by Saint Augustine seventeen centuries ago.  This universal reality has been debunked by modern genetics.

The moral reality is a corruption of human free will.  People tend to be selfish, even with moral deliberation.  This implies a fall from full rationality and self-control.

0039 Domning’s theological account separates original sin’s universal and moral realities.  But, the separation is not complete, because original selfishness (A) evolves into the self (B).

Evolutionary selfishness (pre-A) culminates in psychological expressions of I-myself (original selfishness, A), which I associate to the initial terminus of the term, “human selfishness” (D).  The passage involves the terms, “self” (B) and “selfish” (C).  Moral deliberation enters the picture with the term, “selfish”.

The moral reality, the disordered practices of human selfishness, is nothing more than original selfishness, but now with moral deliberation.

0040 The association between four waystations in the history of the word, “selfishness”, with four elements in Domning’s visualization of Original Sin appears convincing.

So, I want try my luck with another composite term, “concupiscence”.

“Concupiscence” builds upon three technical expressions.  These technical expressions associate to waystations (B, C and D) in this development of the word, “selfishness”.

Figure 11

Note that these technical definitions do not correspond to traditional definitions of these words.  I will get to that difficulty later.

0041 Once again, where am I going with this?

0042 The development of the word, “selfishness”, parallels Domning’s argument about the nature of original sin, once its universal and moral realities are separated.

The key step is the transition from the emphatic, I myself (A), to self (B), a noun.  Domning attributes this step to evolution.  The next step is the adjective, “selfish” (C), describing a tendency towards placing one’s own self above others.  Here, moral constraints may come into play.  “Selfishness” (D) reifies the adjective.

0043 Now, I want to repeat the procedure with the word, “concupiscence”.  Concupiscence is traditionally used to describe the moral reality of original sin.  The universal reality is descent from Adam, which now has been debunked by science.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 8 of 16)

0049 In the competition to cooperate (D’), one must have theories of mind.  One must be able to anticipate the desire to belong (concupiditas, C’) of others.  One must fashion the selves of oneself and others (B’) through clues, including the expression of emphatics, such as I-myself, in various situations (A).

Figure 15

0050 In the end, a deep irony emerges.

These alternate technical formulations of cupid (B’), concupiditas (C’), and concupiscence (D’) describe original justice, not original sin.  In other words, the niche of triadic relations allows forms of cooperation (associated to the goddess Venus) that are so rewarding that original selfishness drives us to compete (associated to the god Mars) in order to participate and flourish in cooperative social circles.

Does the term, “original justice”, describe the state of humans in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

Concupiscence (D’) is so adaptive that we evolved a willingness to sacrifice, even die, for one another.

0051 The most productivity-oriented social circle is the team.  Being a member of a successful team increases self-preservation and reproductive success.   Teams are task oriented, voluntary, opportunistic and spontaneous.  Teams are most effective in scavenging resources in mixed forest and savannah, where opportunities are seasonal and varied.  Teams are so successful that they share their bounties with family, band and community.  Hand talk is an adaptation to team activity.

So, why do I say that the human niche is triadic relations, rather than cooperation?

0052 Cooperation and competition already are adaptations into the niche of evolutionary selfishness.  Domning is clear on this.  Original selfishness is a psychological adaptation that spontaneously expresses one’s presence.  That psychological adaptation opens the door to the realization of self.  That realization is not a thing.  It is a triadic relation.

Is this way the technical definition of cupid (B’), proposed here, is precisely the opposite of the thing known in Greek mythology as Cupid, who is not a relation at all.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 14 of 16)

0084 Of course, there is an explanation for why our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The explanation is called the hypothesis of the first singularity.

The hypothesis is plainly laid out in The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace.

The hypothesis is dramatically rendered in An Archaeology of the Fall.

The hypothesis is reflected upon in Comments on Original Sin and Original Death: Romans 5:12-19.

0085 Here is a snapshot.

Figure 22

0086 There is a reason why all the origin myths of the ancient Near East depict recent creations of humans.  The myth tellers cannot see beyond the time horizon set by the first singularity.  In particular, the people of the Ubaid, then Uruk, then Sumerian Dynastic archaeological periods in southern Mesopotamia could not remember the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The Creation Story is the sole exception.  But, it does not stand alone.  The creation of Adam and Eve immediately follows the first chapter of Genesis, giving the impression that Adam and Eve are the first humans.

Consequently, humans are created twice in Genesis 1-4.  In Genesis 1, humans are created as images of God in an evolutionary framework.  In Genesis 2.4-3, the preamble to the creation of Adam clearly places the Garden of Eden at the confluence of four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates, during the Wet Neolithic of southwestern Asia.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 16 of 16)

0097 Original sin is the absence of original justice.

That is what Saint Thomas Aquinas claims.

The association between original justice, the state of Adam before the Fall, and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in is developed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”.

0098 This examination of Daryl Domning’s book adds depth to that commentary.

By separating the universal (descent from common ancestor) and moral (the traditional definition of concupiscence) realities of original sin, Domning offers me a path to discover one of features of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as well as one of the features of our current Lebenswelt.

0099 What games we play with words.

My thanks to Daryl Domning and Monica Hellwig for their speculative effort, trying to reconcile evolutionary science and Christian doctrine.  Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in Light of Evolution is first published in 2006 by Ashgate.  My copy is published in 2016 by Routledge.  The first edition in paperback is issued in 2021.  ISBN is 978-1-03-224358-0.


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 1 of 21)

0001 Loren Haarsma is an old man, a physics professor and a Christian.  As a fellow of the American Science Affiliation, he has lectured on the intersection of science and faith.  He is a scholarly voice in the Biologos network.

The full title of his book is When Did Sin Begin: Human Evolution and The Doctrine of Original Sin (2021, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI).

If one goes to the resources page for the Biologos.org website, then selects the topic, “Bible”, and the subtopic, “Adam and Eve”, one will find an extensive collection of essays on the concerns in Haarsma’s title: timing, evolution and original sin.

0002 How do these concerns fit into a category-based nested form?

Timing calls forth a normal context3.  The question, “when?”, implies an event.  Here, the event is a transition.  For evolution, the transition is a topic of natural inquiry.  For original sin, the transition is a topic for theologians.

Human evolution and original sin belong to the realm of actuality2.

The only item not mentioned is potential1.  Here, the question mark applies.  For human evolution2, the potential must be adaptive change1.  For original sin2, the potential is the start of sin in our current Lebenswelt1.

0003 To me, these concerns yield two category-based nested forms.

Here is a picture, following the recipe in A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form.

Figure 01

0004 These two normal contexts exclude one another.

0005 The upper normal context3 associates to evolutionary science.  The focus of attention is on natural history and genetics.

Typically, an adaptive change produces speciation.  However, in human evolution, an adaptive change may be cultural.  Human evolution is both biological and cultural.  Since natural history and genetics do not adequately describe culture, they may not be enough to scientifically describe human evolution.  Indeed, no natural science convincingly addresses cultural change.

0006 The lower normal context3 associates to theological science.  The focus of attention is on special and general revelation.

Special revelation includes Genesis 1-11.  Genesis 1-11 divides into two parts.  In the Primeval History (chapter 2:4-11), Adam is brought to life as the first human, even though um… in the Creation Story (chapter 1-2.3), humans are already intended, created and blessed, in the framework of six days of creation.

General revelation includes Greek philosophy, among other traditions.  Greek philosophy is useful for resolving contradictions.  For example, some theologians resolve the contradiction inherent in the two parts of Genesis 1-11 by claiming that Adam (in Genesis 2.4-4) is the male and female “them” that God intended, created and blessed (in Genesis 1).

Say what?

In the Creation Story, God creates them, male and female.  So, Adam must have had some sort of divided consciousness, one operating in his mind and the other working in his ribs.

Just kidding.

0007 Greek philosophy’s usefulness is not limited to resolving contradictions, no matter how silly the resolution may be.  Greek philosophy may also be used in situations where contradictions cannot be resolved.  Such a situation occurs here. Human evolution2 and original sin2 belong to a single actuality.  They both pertain to one realness2.

Here is a picture.

Figure 02

0008 Two (apparently independent) category-based nested forms intersect in the realm of actuality2.  The two constituting actualities cannot escape the one realness, because they constitute the one realness.  Certain contradictions are accidental. Certain contradictions are essential.  Greek philosophy is useful for separating the accidental from the essential.  A set of essential contradictions is called “a mystery”.


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 2 of 21)

0009 The actualities of human evolution2 and original sin2 intersect.

Here is the diagram of the intersection for this example.

Figure 03

0010  The intersection is a relational structure.  The e-masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”, available at smashwords and other e-book venues, introduces the intersection.  This relational structure associates to the message underlying the term, “religion”.  

0011 Note how all the items in Haarsma’s title are captured by elements in the above intersection.

Two transitions (3H and 3V) touch base with the question, “When?”.

Two actualities (2H and 2V) go with human evolution2H and the doctrine of original sin2V.  These two actualities join into a single reality, which I currently label as one realness.

The potentials (1H and 1V) are implied.  Let me examine each.

0012 The potential of adaptive change1H arises in response to a niche.  Typically, the niche involves some material advantage (to be exploited) or disadvantage (to be ameliorated).  For our lineage, the niche involves immaterial advantages and disadvantages.  How so?  The Homo lineage adapts into the niche of triadic relations, as discussed in the e-masterwork, The Human Niche.

0013 The potential of the start of sin1V is not so different than the potential of the Genesis Primeval History1V.  For this reason, I enter the potential of the stories of Adam and Eve1V, as the possibility underlying original sin2V.  I could also have entered the potential of the letters of Saint Paul1V.  

At the same time, the mythological character of the Primeval History comes into play.  The stories of Genesis 2:4-11 are set in the Ubaid, Uruk and Sumerian Dynastic archaeological periods.This setting is discussed in the February 2022 blog series at www.raziemah.com, entitled, Looking at Carol Hill’s Article (2021) “Original Sin with respect to Science”