Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 07

If the Adam and Eve stories are true, then what the hell happened to us?  From the perspective of Chapter 7 of Zimmerman’s text, according to the Catholic Magisterium, “bodily death” is one of the hells that happen to us.

How would An Archaeology of the Fall accord with that view?

Consider a civilization that was really getting into the organizational benefits of speech-alone talk when Spanish adventurers abruptly halted their expansion.  The Inca had a tradition where each sovereign would remain alive, and hold court, even though he (occasionally she) was dead.  The only way for a new sovereign to get a good court was through expansion.  Thus, each living Inca ruler was hell bent on getting more territory.  And every dead Inca ruler had already established a court hell for all who remained.

The Inca attitude toward bodily death was completely different from the attitude expressed in the Genesis word-play where the fruit-eating leaf-wearing “Adam” (a name that stands for earth and humans) is relegated to the law of diminishing returns and bodily annihilation; “dust you are and to dust you will return”.   Thus, we must acknowledge that even the term “bodily death”, which seems to correspond to a universal, stark and inevitable referent, belongs to a system of differences that has a life of its own.  The Inca Civilization was not Christian.

Similarly, we may consider upcoming manifestations of Progressive control: “committees for the quality of life” or “futile action committees” or whatever you want to call them other than “death panels”.   The recipients of their orders will be expected to say (or an agent will say it for them): “I have lived a good life.”   Thus, the refusal future treatment (or maybe, more proactively, the “injection”) is some sort of reward.  Again, we must acknowledge that even the term “bodily death”, which seems to correspond to a universal, stark and inevitable referent, belongs to a system of differences that has a life of its own.  The Progressive Civilization is not Christian.

Consider Zimmerman’s nugget: Death follows sin, so beware! Does it apply here?  Or is there a pattern to these examples that is far more sinister?   The words “bodily death” that almost went away but nevertheless stayed in Zimmerman’s tale in Chapter 7 float like an oil spill on a sea of symbolic orders that re-define what it means to die.  It is hideous to the waters below and to the skies above.  It is a blot because, in its place in the symbolic order that speaks the Catholic Catechism, it corresponds precisely to the universal, stark and inevitable referent that the above examples veil.


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 06

Starting with Chapter 7, Anthony Zimmerman, STD, began his descent into the question: If the Adam and Eve stories are true, then what the hell happened to us?

He started with the Council of Trent, which met in 1546.  Original sin was one of the topics before the Council.  What evidence for Original Sin is to be found in the Holy Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition?  What about the ancient councils?  How do they describe it, as opposed to other sin, and what are its consequences?  How is a person freed of Original Sin?

One claim to go was formulated in the Council at Carthage in 418.  It was one of St. Augustine’s many brainchildren: Adam would not have died if he had not sinned.  Does this mean that the “death” referred to in the Genesis text is the “death of the soul”?  Not quite, because 500 years later the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) proclaims that bodily death is a consequence of Adam and Eve’s transgression, and, as a bonus, if we had not sinned we would be immune from death.

Zimmerman suggested that the core of the Carthage-Trent-CCC concept is: Death follows sin, so beware!  He then suggested that further clarification is needed.

From the perspective of the question at the beginning of the blog, however, “bodily death” is one of the hells that happen to us.  In the next blog, I will riff on that notion with An Archaeology of the Fall in mind.


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 05

On the other side of his literary patch, Zimmerman’s text flows like water to the ocean of “Christ the Pantokrator”.  He wrote not a word about Adam and Eve setting the stage for the extinction of the Neanderthal, colonizing all the temperate continents (driving many species of large mammals to extinction in the process), and the so-called “Paleolithic Revolution” (in killing potential, especially with the invention of the bow and arrow) that his synthesis implies.  These ideas were “in the air” back in the 1980s and 1990s, the time of writing.  Why ignore them?

Perhaps, the Religion of Progressivism was already busy marketing the sin of this image of “Adam and Eve as the first of our species”: Man the Hunter, the Oppressor of Nature, Who Dominated Women, the One Who Killed the Neanderthal, Who Drove Animals to Extinction, Who Could Not Be Stopped.   On the other hand, they also made great art that we can intuitively identify with, like the Lascaux cave paintings.

The idea of “what went wrong” between the Progressive and the Christian perspectives cannot be more different.  For the Progressive, “man” was, and still is, a destructive automaton (solution: control).  For the Christian, “man” was, and still is, the locus of choosing (solution: liberation).

Naturally, Adam and Eve chose wrong.  Zimmerman quoted the Catechism (of the Catholic Church, hereafter CCC) in this regard at the end of Chapter 5:  (Point 387) … Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God, we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, and so forth.  Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for humans can we grasp that sin is an abuse of freedom that God gives to created persons …

… the freedom to do what humans were created to do.  So Adam and Eve’s wrong choice had consequences.  We (their descendants) could not do what we were created to do.  At least, not well.  So we substituted whatever we imagined “what we were created to do”.  For example, the Progressives were created to control the destructive automatons.  In this commitment, they take their version of Original Sin more seriously than Christians do their version.  Unfortunately, like all other group-thinkers who fashion that they can outfox the fox, er, out-serpent the serpent, they will not do it well.  After all, the Progressives are destructive automatons, too.

The expulsion from Eden (which Zimmerman describes in Chapter 6) drew a veil.  Once outside the garden, Adam and Eve were free to do whatever they imagined that they were created to do.

No doubt they looked back – at that weird flaming sword – and thought: What the hell happened to us?

There is immediacy to this question.  My guess is that if Adam and Eve were the first humans, then after 200,000 years, or 10,000 generations, that immediacy would be lost.  We would be used to our sinfulness.  The only solution would be control, in the same way that the domestic dog requires a leash.  In short, if Adam and Eve are to be located deep in the Paleolithic timeframe, then the Progressives are divinely inspired.


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 04

Does An Archaeology of the Fall meet the criteria formulated by Pope Pius XII in 1950, or does it fail?

Consider a crucial line from the Pope: These chapters … disclose important truths, upon which the attainment of our eternal salvation depends, and they also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the chosen people.

The Pope’s words give the impression that the origins “of the human race” and “of the chosen people” coincide.  In An Archaeology of the Fall, the origins of the human race and of the chosen people differ.  Hominid evolution differs from that moment – the transition from hand-speech to speech-alone talk – when the potential for a chosen people came into being.

The story of hominid evolution is told in a variety of places.  The text drums the slogan:  The exaptation of the hand for talking coincided with the evolution of the Homo genus.  The exaptation of the vocal tract for talking (in addition to hand talk) coincided with the evolution of Homo sapiens.   (In Evolution and the Sin in Eden, Zimmerman agrees with the latter statement.)

However, there are vignettes that point to Chapter 1 of Genesis.  In particular, Sarah’s Mother says that the evolution of the Homo genus reminds her of the “intention of man”, the “creation of man” reminds her of the evolution of Homo sapiens, and one of the final verse, “give plants to the animals”, reminds her of the adoption of stockbreeding at the dawn of the Developed Neolithic.  What a clever gal.  With her intuition, An Archaeology of the Fall points to how Genesis 1 magically parallels the origin – er, evolution – of the human race.  The maligned word “concordism” is qualified by her aesthetic intuition.  Here is an “artistic” concordism.

An account of “the origin of the chosen people” is performed (by Mom, again) in chapter 13C.  In light of the possibility that the Torah was stitched together right before the fall of Judah, then laid out as a quilt to greet the returning exiles, we might think of the origin of the Jews this way: Within the territory of Judah and Israel, popular stories of an “Abraham”, a person who came out of a Mesopotamian tradition before Babylonia even existed, combined with the Near Eastern traditions of genealogies (which are basically “lists”, see Jack Goody), could have served as nucleation sites for all the stories of Genesis.

In other words, all the Genesis stories, including the two versions of Noah and the Flood, along with the genealogies, the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so forth, could have been “popular stories” that fit together like pieces of a puzzle when Josiah’s elite band of scribes realized that the stories of Abraham were a lynchpin that allowed them to portray themselves as coming out of both Mesopotamia and Egypt, which, by God, they did.  Or maybe, the scribes just copied what the bards were already singing.

The divine irony is that the picture held by the puzzle became real (just as the serpent became real in An Archaeology of the Fall, not by Eve’s doing alone, but through what the Zygon folk call “co-creation”).   The picture became convincing enough for the chosen people to settle down in this beautiful, sublime and monstrously real theo-dramatic landscape.   And now, after we – the heirs of Judaic philo-theos and Greek philo-sophia – have started to delineate the edges of the pieces of the puzzle, surprise!  The stories of Adam and Eve become a new lynchpin.

With An Archaeology of the Fall, the Creation Story (Genesis 1-2.3) and the stories of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2.4 – on) touch base with both the familiar evolutionary point of view of human origins and a novel “scientific” perspective, in as much as semiotics and human prehistory could ever be constituted as “science”.  In doing so, they (as Pope Pius XII put it) “disclose important truths, upon which the attainment of our eternal salvation depends, and they also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the chosen people.”


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 03

Zimmerman concluded that Adam and Eve were Homo sapiens.  So he placed the stories of Adam and Eve – as the first humans – before the dates of the first appearance of fossils belonging to our species.  He reviewed the results of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA tracing to an originating population – or maybe, couple – dating to over one hundred thousand years ago.

Of course, the Genesis text indicates a couple.  After all, Adam and Eve (as a population) could not sire Seth (as an individual).

What does this imply?  Did the first genealogy cover a huge timespan, from the first humans, through the expansion of humanity to all the continents, through the dawn of civilization?  Almost unaware of the absurdity of his conclusion, Zimmerman estimated the timespan to be 200,000 years.

Zimmerman then quoted from the encyclical letter Humani Generis (Pope Pius XII, 1950):  The first eleven chapters of Genesis … have a naïve, symbolic way of speaking, well suited to the understanding of primitive people.  But they disclose important truths, upon which the attainment of our eternal salvation depends, and they also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the chosen people … (perhaps) the ancient authors drew some of their material from current popular stories … but in must be remembered that they did so under the impulse of divine inspiration which preserved them from all error in selecting and assessing the documents (materials) that they used.

After this quote (in Chapter 5), Zimmerman moves directly to a reading of Genesis 2:4 on.

The jump – concatenation – from the association of Adam and Eve to the evolution of our species to the Genesis 2:4 text is revealing.   The pope’s quote serves like a patch joining two garments.  The patch covers 198,000 years.  Even more amazing, Zimmerman does not try to show how the first association meets the criteria contained in the literary patch.

In the next blog, I want to examine how An Archaeology of the Fall meets – or fails to meet – the criteria formulated by Pope Pius XII in 1950.


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 02

This blog on Zimmerman’s synthesis belongs to “the science of Original Sin” theme.

In chapter 1, Zimmerman contemplates the relation between speech and revelation.  He noted that the image of Adam and Eve as speaking and monogamous puts both traits at the origin (as does An Archaeology of the Fall).  This image means that Adam and Eve were not children.  They also were not like hominids without language. They were aware of the meaning of the words that the Lord spoke.  They also did not have genitalia at the service of reason.  They were in love, whether or not they had figured out a way to consummate the desire.  And eventually, they would have performed the deed.

Zimmerman is fascinated with the idea of speech.  After all, speech, rather than monogamy (or sex, for that matter) is both medium and player in the Story of the Fall.

Zimmerman notes how language indicates an immaterial soul, how thought anchors itself in speech, and how God revealed himself through speech.  In addition, language would have been necessary to transmit the revelation inherent in the Fall.  These indications imply that Adam and Eve knew right from wrong.  They were responsible.  Just like us.

How did the human capacity for speech evolve?  Here, Zimmerman writes before the year 2012, because for him, speech and language are the same.  He does not consider the evolution of talk as different from the evolution of language.  He focuses on the evolution of the vocal tract, referring to the work of Philip Lieberman and arguing that speech had certain qualities not found in any other form of animal communication, such as the rapidity in which syllables may be transmitted.  These qualities not only gave speech an adaptive value, but also set the stage for a radical innovation, Eden, where God would give us something mind-boggling to talk about:  Revelation.


Thoughts on Evolution and the Sin in Eden: A New Christian Synthesis (1998) 01

At the time of writing, 1998, the author, Anthony Zimmerman, STD, was a retired Professor of Moral Theology at Nanzan University, Nagoya.  Who knows whether he still lives at the time of this writing, 2012?

The forward claims that Adam did no harm to our natural selves and that we should not be needlessly pessimistic about our “fallen” condition.  After all, without the Fall, there would be no reason to be “re-made”.  Zimmerman quotes Pope St. Leo to this regard: “Happy, had he not fallen from how God made him.  Happier, if he manages to remain as God re-made him.”

This attitude matches the feeling of An Archaeology of the FallAn Archaeology has all the trappings of a horror story.  Yet, each character manages to be “re-made” closer to “how God made her.”