Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 2 of 16)

0008 Here is a more technical presentation of the previous blog.

How does the term, selfishness, come to be?

The term comes into fullness through four waystations.

0009 What does it mean to define a spoken word?

A particular category-based nested form is foundational to the masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”.

A definition3 brings a spoken word2 into relation with the potential of meaning, presence and message1.

0010 The emphatic, I-myself (A), is the initial actuality2.

Figure 01

This emphatic is consistent with iconic and indexal sign-qualities of hand talk.  It expresses a psychological aspect of an ongoing situation.  Under what conditions would one have to emphatically POINT TO MYSELF, or emphatically POINT TO ANOTHER SELF, in the environment of evolutionary adaptation?  I suspect that social situations involving larger social circles, such as band (50), community (150), mega-band (500) and tribe (1500) might require emphatics.  So, the emphatic may have first appeared as a formality.

0011 The term, “self” (B), is the second term.  The step from “I-myself” to “self” involves an explicit abstraction.  Emphatic expressions are consolidated into a noun, indicating a thing.  Moral deliberation is not required.  Social intelligence is.

Figure 02

This explicit abstraction is consistent with the purely symbolic qualities of speech-alone talk.

0012 However, this first step carries a suggestion of an implicit abstraction.


This first step feels very natural, even though few other animals succeed in self-recognition experiments.  Animals act as if they are selves, but they don’t realize that they are selves.  So, there is something implicit in the abstraction.  The “self” involves a theory of mind.

0013 Then, “self” is turned from a noun into an adjective, with the addition of “-ish” (C).

This involves an explicit abstraction.  “Selfish” is a quality where the “self” puts its own interests ahead of others.  One gets the impression that the interests of others should be taken into account.  This implies that morality enters the picture.

Figure 03

This explicit abstraction requires the purely symbolic character of speech-alone talk.

0014 Then, “selfish” is turned back into a noun, with the addition of “-ness” (D).  The message1 underlying the term, “selfish”, becomes the presence1 underlying the term, “selfishness”.  The quality of “selfish” becomes a psychological state.  Moral overtones cannot be ignored.  “Selfishness” entails moral deliberation.

Figure 04

“Selfishness” has another notable facet.  The term is scientific.  One can observe and measure behaviors where the interests of one party obviously override the interests of others.  These situational measurements may be modeled as instances of “selfishness”. 

0015 The sequence of development for the term, “selfishness”, is as follows.

(A) The first term appears as it would in hand-talk.  Its definition is nascent.  Moral deliberation is not required.

(B) The second term is an abstraction to noun.  This abstraction may be implicit (more on that, later).  Here, it is explicit, since I am discussing the steps in the development of another spoken term.  Moral deliberation is not required.

(C) The third term is an explicit abstraction, requiring fully symbolic speech-alone talk.  The noun is turned into an adjective, describing a particular behavioral quality.  Moral deliberation is implied.

(D) The fourth term is another explicit abstraction, building on its immediate predecessor. The adjective is turned into a noun.  A quality is turned into a general property.  Moral deliberation is required.

0016 Domning intends to connect the doctrine of original sin to the scientific facet of the term, “selfishness”, leading me to wonder, “Do our ancestors adapt to the niche of selfishness, in the same way that the ancestors of sea cows adapt to the niche of waterways?

Or, is selfishness itself an adaptation to a niche?

What interesting questions.


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 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 7 of 16)

0044 The development of the word, “concupiscence” (D’), from the originating emphatic, I-myself (A), produces technical definitions of words, that are at odds with traditional definitions.  Cupid (B’) starts by labeling the presence of self among other selves.

Figure 12

Cupid (B’) associates to self (B).  If self (B) labels the intensional awareness of an internal consolidation of various, situational I-myselves, then cupid (B’) labels an extension of that awareness.  This extension occurs, in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as individuals cooperate in social circles, the family (5), intimates (5), teams (15), bands (50), communities (150) and so on.  So, the consolidation that produces the self (B’) is motivated by a competition to perform as a self among other selves in various social circles.

That competition entails concupiditas (C’), the desire to perform as a self among other selves.  Concupiditas (C’) corresponds to selfish (C).  Concupiditas (C’) is an adaptation that satisfies the biological criteria of evolutionary selfishness and conforms to Domning’s criteria for original selfishness, manifested in the emphatic, I-myself (A).

0045 Here is a picture.

Figure 13

0046 Like cupid (B’), the technical term, concupiditas (C’), does not align with common parlance.

A contemporary example of a concupidic behavior (C’) takes place in bars and houses around college campuses.  Drinking games meld competition and cooperation.  Each participant is a cupid (B’), competing to shoot an arrow into a keg of beer, in order to endear oneself to others in the drinking group.

One must compete in order to cooperate?

How twisted is that?

0047 Concupiditas (C’) is situational.  Concupiditas entails human choice.  Concupiditas introduces rules to the game.  Concupiditas is being with others, in particular situations, where performance is congruent with belonging.

The rule of the drinking game is simple.  Drink as much beer as you can.  This rule is given precedence over other rules, such as long-term cooperation necessitates that other selves are not injured.  The drinking game entails risk.  Concupiditas (C’) entails a human choice about which game to play.  The games belong to concupiscence (D’).  The choice belongs to the person and concupiditas (C’).

0048 Concupiscence (D’) corresponds to selfishness (D).  One must compete to cooperate.  One must perform in every social circle that one belongs to.  That performance entails risk.  Sometimes one is born into a social circle (the family, band and community).  Sometimes one must choose (intimates, team).  Concupiscence (D’) is the state of competing to cooperate.  Each self desires to cooperate, because those who cooperate take the greater risks and enjoy the greater benefits.  Each self desires to be among other selves.  Each self has its own original selfishness.  Every game and every social circle has rules, established by tradition.

Figure 14

We compete to belong to and to flourish within social circles.  We compete to cooperate. 


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 13 of 16)

0079 Domning is on target, even while completely missing his intended endpoint.  Evolution is red in tooth and claw.  Evolution is also the most economic means to an end, the glory of God, in the abundance and diversity of life on Earth.  One cannot pick and choose.  God creates the world.  God calls it “good”.

But, one can misread the creativity of natural selection, by insisting that all niches are potentials of material things.  There is one niche that is the potential of an immaterial thing, the triadic relation.  That is the human niche.

When I consider this unique niche, then the evolution of concupiscence (D’) produces a definition that inverts the traditional theological term.

0080 There is a reason for this inversion of meaning.

These alternative definitions apply to the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

Here is a list.

Figure 20

0081 What does this imply?

The traditional definitions apply to our current Lebenswelt.

Here is a list.

Figure 21

0082 The alternate definitions describe original justice.

The traditional definitions describe original sin.

0083 What else does this imply?

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


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 5 of 21)

0038 I summarize.

Chapter four covers human evolution.

Haarsma engages in a discussion of human evolution2H as if it does not intersect with original sin2V. Yet it does, otherwise Haarsma would not write a book about it.

Haarsma’s titular question2V, “When did sin begin?”, should place the hypothesis of the first singularity2H side by side with the doctrine of original sin2V.

But, since Haarsma is not aware of the hypothesis of the first singularity, the term, “human evolution”, goes into the slot for actuality2H for the normal context of natural change3H.

This does not work, of course, and leads to a winding path, back to the crucial intersection between the first singularity2Vand original sin2H.

0039 The path starts by asking, “What contributing actuality2V, in a theological framework3V, corresponds to human evolution, as Haarsma discusses the topic?”

The answer comes from Thomas Aquinas’s suggestion that original sin is the lack of original justice.  Original justice is entangled with human evolution.

Figure 11

0040 If human evolution2H is one of the actualities in an intersection, the corresponding actuality is not original sin2H.  The corresponding actuality is really the stuff of the Creation Story2V.

The structure of Haarsma’s text validates this suggestion.

Chapter four, titled, “Human Evolution”, is preceded by chapter three, “Suffering and Death Before Humans”, and followed by chapter five, “The Soul, the Imago Dei and Special Divine Action”.   Chapters three and five point to Genesis 1:26-31.


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.