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 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 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 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 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 9 of 16)

0053 What does Domning have to say about the evolution of self?

Chapter eight is called, “Evolution and human behavior”.

0054 Richard Dawkins writes a book, titled The Selfish Gene, where the organism is reduced to gene expression.  A living creature’s diverse features are really I-myselves of a self, composed of chromosomes (and its package, the cell).

Here, Dawkins projects the human term, “selfish”, which means, “to be preoccupied with one’s self”, onto an organism’s DNA, so that the organism itself is merely phenomena of a genetic noumenon.

Dawkin’s analogy is both counterintuitive and entertaining.  It gives rise to a competition to demonstrate one’s intellectual prowess by reading and discussing its quackery with other self-identified “public intellectuals”, thereby joining highly educated elites who disdain the morons who have no interest in such postmodern wizardry.

 0055 But hey, isn’t the term, “original selfishness”, also a projection?

Well, yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

0056 However, unlike the selfish gene, the selfish organism manifests psychological traits that express I, myself (A).   Thus, original selfishness (pre-A) can be explicitly defined and used as a model for behavioral traits.

So, Domning has that going for him.

0057 Of course, the problem is that the term, selfish (C), introduces a moral seed that blossoms when the adjective becomes the noun, selfishness (D).  Morals imply judgments.  Animals make judgments, but they do not make moral judgments.

Really, animals perform judgments.  Humans deliberate judgments.  Both make judgments.  But, the former does not dwell on the triadic structure of judgment.  The latter does.

0058 What exactly is a judgment?

A judgment is a triadic structure with three elements, relationwhat is, and what ought to be.  A judgment brings what ought to be into relation with what is.  When Peirce’s categories are assigned to each element, the judgment becomes actionable.  Otherwise, the judgment is contemplative.  An actionable judgment unfolds into a category-based nested form.

Here is a picture.

Figure 16

Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 10 of 16)

0059 Now, I consider the simultaneous evolution of self (B) and cupid (B’).

According to the masterwork, The Human Niche, the Homo lineage adapts into the ultimate niche of triadic relations.

A judgment is a triadic relation.

A judgment brings what ought to be (category) into relation (category) with what is (category).

The categories are firstness, secondness and thirdness.  Firstness is the monadic realm of possibility.  Secondness is the dyadic realm of actuality.  Thirdness is the triadic realm of normal contexts, signs, mediations, judgments and so on.  When categories are assigned to each element, then a judgment becomes actionable.

For animals, a judgment leads to immediate action.  For hominins, a judgment may lead to immediate action.  A judgment may also create an actuality.  The element that is assigned to secondness becomes what is for further judgments.  This is the case for the evolution of self.

0060 Can I describe the transition from manifestations of I-myself in diverse situations (A) to self (B) as an adaptation into the niche of judgment as a triadic relation?

Yes, the associations are obvious.

Figure 17

0061 This particular judgment is an adaptation into the niche of triadic relations.

This particular judgment is innate and yields self (B) and cupid (B’) as actualities.

Remember, cupid (B’) is defined as the self among other selves.

The noun, self (B), proceeds to the adjective, selfish (C), where the self becomes the actuality that one obsesses over.The noun, cupid (B’), proceeds to the noun, concupiditas (C’), the desire of oneself to be with other selves, where cooperation with others becomes the actuality that one obsesses over.