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 Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 10 of 21)

0070 Chapter six is titled, “Adam and Eve in Scripture”.

Haarsma asks (more or less), “What is the best way to understand the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2-3?”

0071 Surely, this is a question that humans evolve to ask.  Humans want to understand.

We encounter an actuality.  We then ask, “What normal context3 and potential1 applies to this actuality2?”

This is the start of understanding.  We understand when we construct a category-based nested form.

0072 Here is a picture.

Figure 19

0073 The best way to understand the Adam and Eve story2 is to locate the most productive normal context3 and potential1.

0074 Haarsma begins with the normal context3 of historical scholarship of the Bible3.

The corresponding ‘something’ resolves into implications of the words in the text1.

For example, John Walton concludes that the names, Adam and Eve, are assigned names, not historical names.  An assigned name is a name that is assigned by the storyteller.  A historical name may be replaced by an assigned one.

Plus, the word, “Adam”, denotes “a man of the earth” as well as a person.

0075 Advocates for historical scholarship argue that Genesis 2:4-11 (unlike other origin stories of the ancient Near East) offers an unparalleled narrative theology.  The issue is not whether Adam and Eve exist as historical persons.  The issue is the clarity of theological meaning.

0076 The problem?

What about human evolution?

Well, if theologians appreciate the stories of Adam and Eve because of their theological clarity, in contrast to the other mythologies of the ancient Near East, then original sin must be a clear insight that situates the stories of Adam and Eve.

0077 This relationship may be diagrammed as a two-level interscope.

Figure 20

The doctrine of original sin2b situates the potential of the stories of Adam and Eve1b in the normal context of a theological transition to our current Lebenswelt3b.

The situation level clarifies the content level.

The stories of Adam and Eve2a situate the potential of origin myths, as investigated by historical scholarship1a, in the normal context of the ancient Near East3a.

0078 The situation-level is also the nested form that goes into the intersection of our current Lebenswelt.  It constitutes the vertical axis.

0079 It makes me wonder, since the underlying content of original sin2V touches base with the ancient Near East, does the twist in human evolution2H potentiate the formation of civilization in southern Mesopotamia?

Consider Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 13 of 21)

0093  Chapter seven (A’) traces the history of original sin and completes the single actuality2, knitting human evolution2H(4D) to interpretation of Scripture2V (1A) and the doctrine of original sin2V (7A’).

0094 Here is a picture.

Figure 22

0095 Saint Paul, in his letters to the Corinthians and to the Romans, calls this interscope into being.  The elements are fuzzy.  The natural transition is not clear.  It is implied.

0096 Saint Augustine clarifies the theological transition.  In doing so, he posits a natural transition, whereby the rebellion of Adam and Eve passes to all humankind.  Original sin passes to all humanity through direct descent from Adam and Eve.  Why?  Procreation is bound to desire.  Desire is now subject (through Adam and Eve) to concupiscence, which transliterates into “being with Cupid, the love child of Mars, the god of war, and Venus, the goddess of love”.

Yes, that sounds a tad rebellious.  With friends like Cupid, who need enemies?  We can can get in trouble on our own, when we are subject to concupiscence.

Amazingly, Augustine’s position turns out to be unwittingly scientific.  It is so scientific as to be debunked, sixteen centuries later, by modern genetics.

0097 So, the stories of Adam and Eve do not describe a de-novo creation of humans.  Instead, the potential of these stories1V underlies Augustine’s doctrine of original sin2V as it is held, in the single actuality of our current Lebenswelt2, in contact with a twist in human evolution2H, that Haarsma is not aware of.  

0098 In fact, at this moment, no modern anthropologist is aware of the hypothesis of the first singularity2H, arising from the potential of a phenomenal change in one Neolithic culture, manifesting as the Ubaid culture of southern Mesopotamia1H.


Semiotics is not the same as science.


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 14 of 21)

0099  These comments frame the first seven chapters of Haarsma’s book as an exercise in semitic textual structure.  The pattern is A:B:C:D:C’:B’:A’.

Haarsma asks the reader to recognize a possibility.

These comments show what that possibility might be.

That possibility is the intersection of our current Lebenswelt.

0100 The natural transition3H is plainly laid out in The First Singularity And Its Fairy Tale Trace.  Implications are discussed in Comments on Original Death and Original Sin: Roman 5:12-19.

0101 The hypothesis is dramatically rendered in An Archaeology of the Fall.

The novel begins with the daughter of an archaeologist recounting the differentiation of Sumerian Gods from a primordial dyad, the waters above and the waters below.  The tale appears in Samuel Noah Kramer’s 1961 book, Sumerian Mythology.

0102 The key is differentiation.  Differentiation implies symbolization.  Purely symbolic speech-alone talk allows the articulation of distinctions.  These distinctions become real as artifacts (such as mythologies) are constructed.  Artifacts validate speech-alone words.  Artifacts validate the distinctions that speech-alone words symbolize.

I know that sounds circular.  But, so does most everything else in our current Lebenswelt.

0103 The waters above and the waters below conjugate, and give birth to the air god.  The air god separates the waters above and the waters below, before stealing everything they own.  He makes their remains the ceiling and floor of his home.

Is this a picture of the Ubaid, Uruk and Sumerian Dynastic archaeological periods?

Is differentiation intrinsic to increasing labor and social specializations?

0104 Is the deception, depicted in the stories of Adam and Eve, another picture of the same archaeological periods?


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 16 of 21)

0107 Is our current Lebenswelt a way to envision the Garden of Eden?

If so, then humans in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, created as the image of God, associate to a reification, the Tree of Life.  The tree of life is rooted in our evolved relationality.  The tree of life branches out in cultural practices that maximize the fruits of our evolved relationality.

0108 The term, image of God, offers a vision, where worship conjoins life.  Yet, our ancestors could not picture or point either “image” or “God” with hand talk.  Just as birds fly, without intellectual awareness of the abstraction of flight, hominins talk to one another with manual-brachial gestures, without intellectual awareness of the abstractions that can be drawn from their discourse.  Hand talk does not permit explicit abstraction.

0109 The term, the tree of life, is an abstraction.  The meaning, presence and message that we project into the term, the tree of life, produces an artifact that validates our projection.  The tree of life is a symbol that validates the word-symbols that compose the term.

Welcome to our current Lebenswelt.

0110 How do we define3 the tree of life2?  What meaning, presence and message1 do we project into the actuality of the term2?

In the epic of Gilgamesh, the reader finds one definition.  Gilgamesh obtains, then loses, a plant that confers immortality.

In Genesis 3:22, the reader finds the a similar rendering, uttered by the Lord God.

The tree of life confers immortality, by definition.

0111 But, does this definition represent a projection that reinforces an artifact (a particular interpretation) that validates an abstraction inherent in the spoken term, “the tree of life”?

This circularity is characteristic of spoken words.

Does the tree of life confer immortality because it is composed of the spoken words, “tree” and “life”?

0111 It makes me wonder about the term, “immortality”.

Immortality is just a word.

“Immortality” is also an abstraction.

Can one die and still remain alive?

Are there other meanings, presences and messages underlying the actuality of the term, the tree of life?