Who Was Your First Ancestor to Have an “Afterlife”?

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Discussion by: Quine

Lately, I have taken to asking my religious friends and family this question: "Who was your first ancestor to have some kind of supernatural life after death (often received as asking about Heaven and Hell)?" I typically get some answers about expectations of seeing long lost relatives in a happy forever spiritual world, but then I clarify the question as not being about the ancestors you remember, or even just know about, but rather going back as far as anyone has had ancestors. Blank looks tend to indicate (of those I talk to, anyway) that this question is not the usual mental rumination. Many break out of that by falling (so to speak) back to Adam and Eve, which then opens the can of misunderstanding of Evolution that stops so many religious people from looking deeply at their own biological history.

 

Having opened that can, the first thing I usually have to get through is explaining the difference between the fact of common descent and the theory of how mutation and selection generates new species. We have facts from geology and the fossils and the DNA of all living things that allows us to make a direct factual inference building the Tree of Life. We know about our biological ancestors; that part is not theoretical in the common sense as differentiated from fact. Even if someone rejects the Darwinian mechanism of Natural Selection, and insists on faith that a divine hand makes the selections, we still have common descent, and can trace our ancestors back along the branches of the Tree of Life to simple cells a billion years ago.

 

Sometimes the discussion stops right there. No mater how factual common descent may be, it is not going to be accepted by people who want the story of Adam and Eve to be literally true. A 'just' metaphorical A&E story is a problem because lacking that discontinuity in the chain of ancestors, even if the chain is divinely directed, one runs up against the question of when in our common ancestors did a person first have an immortal soul, who has ever since been enjoying or suffering an "afterlife," that was not the case for his or her parents? It really is a difficult question because each of our ancestors going all the way back to the start of life, itself, was almost identical to its (yes, going back to before there was even gender) parent or parents. Yet if someone believes that he or she possesses a "soul" that is going to live on and meet up with long dead friends and family, that had to start sometime, but no such start can be found.

 

This explicit necessity of discontinuity in a chain that demonstrably has none, is an application of a way of thinking that I began considering while posting here on the old consciousness thread. Consciousness, is not an all or nothing thing so it can develop to some level gradually over time (as in the Sorties Paradox) with no supernatural discontinuity needed. However, not so for an "immortal soul"; you cannot "evolve" a supernatural afterlife. The question of when it came to be answers itself: it didn't.

 

 

80 COMMENTS

  1. There are cat and dog Christians for whom heaven would be incomplete without Fluffy. I gather they think all living things have souls, even perhaps wheat plants. So heaven becomes an infinite attic where every crop of plants and animals is preserved.

    Ever since I was little, the Christian story that the human species was treated specially in this soul/afterlife business just did not make sense. What’s so special about humans? We are just one of many species of animal. This is just human vanity.

  2. If you believe in evolution and the afterlife (a strange combo), you might think like this. There are some boundaries in the evolution of primates when a new species emerged. At the boundaries, typically the number of chromosomes changes by a mutation. This makes breeding with the old species fail. Where does an individual find a partner with a similar mutation? Presumably a sibling. (The wickedness at the heart of existence.)

    God apparently decided that homo sapiens deserved an after life. He may also have given it to a few steps back as well. It is an arbitrary choice, and God does not have to justify his choices to us. He might have given it to some Neanderthals, but not others. With god you can make it up any way you please.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      … There are some boundaries in the evolution of primates when a new species emerged. At the boundaries, typically the number of chromosomes changes by a mutation. This makes breeding with the old species fail …

      Not until enough generations go by to make enough difference in the content of the chromosomes. See a discussion of that here.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      If you believe in evolution and the afterlife (a strange combo), you might think like this. There are some boundaries in the evolution of primates when a new species emerged. At the boundaries, typically the number of chromosomes changes by a mutation. This makes breeding with the old species fai…

      I’m guessing you come from the US where that might be seen as unusual, but it is the position of the Catholics and Anglicans.
      It’s for that reason that I find the term “christian” fails as too generic a stereotype, or is abused in a dishonest fashion (principally by Baptists) in an attempt to make their views sound more mainstream than they actually are.
      Most believers (at least in the UK) seem to go for the “every animal has a soul” concept with only a few hard-liners marking humans out as unique. Even belief in reincarnation is regularly popping up amongst them.

      • In reply to #15 by Mr Greene:

        Most believers (at least in the UK) seem to go for the “every animal has a soul” concept with only a few hard-liners marking humans out as unique.

        This usually extends Quine’s principle but depends on a vague concept of “animals”. Some are happy to believe in “doggy heaven”, but probably stick at fishy heaven, insect heaven, or bacterial heaven.

        “Animal” to the biologically illiterate usually means “mammal” or “vertebrate”!

        I recall a children’s art competition, where the judging artist disqualified pictures of birds – because the competition rules specified a picture of “animals”!

        • In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

          This usually extends Quine’s principle but depends on a vague concept of “animals”. Some are happy to believe in “doggy heaven”, but probably stick at fishy heaven, insect heaven, or bacterial heaven…

          Vertebrates seems to be the most common cut off point, enough have pet lizards/snakes/fish to make that jump.
          I suppose it would be pushed back further if pet octopi or cuttlefish were more common.

          • In reply to #19 by Mr Greene:

            In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

            This usually extends Quine’s principle but depends on a vague concept of “animals”. Some are happy to believe in “doggy heaven”, but probably stick at fishy heaven, insect heaven, or bacterial heaven…

            Vertebrates seems to be the most common cut off point, eno…

            What about my pet sea monkeys???

        • In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #15 by Mr Greene:
          I think eternal life works like this. It does not depend on the species, but of the attachment to the creature of a particular Christian individual, which might be a chameleon, snail, Dahlia etc.

          IIRC JWs say that if you are wicked you just stay dead. If you are good, you get resurrected with a repaired body at some point in the distant future and live in a park in a theocracy forever. If they are right, that is a pretty good argument for doing something wicked.

      • In reply to #15 by Mr Greene:

        In reply to #2 by Roedy:

        If you believe in evolution and the afterlife (a strange combo), you might think like this. There are some boundaries in the evolution of primates when a new species emerged. At the boundaries, typically the number of chromosomes changes by a mutation. This makes breedin…

        I’m guessing you come from the US where that might be seen as unusual, but it is the position of the Catholics and Anglicans…

        This is pretty much how my 10 or 11-year-old Catholic self worked it out on her own. And in my mind, god had set everything rolling with the Big Bang and then let it all develop for itself (it’s more fun that way). Then, on whatever planets life evolved to an acceptable point, he made himself known to them.

        On the other hand, since we were taught we would have bodies in heaven, I imagined a whole “world” full of plants and animals anyway, because we had to go somewhere, right? So the distinction of who has a soul or not would be meaningless.

        Anyway, I didn’t worry too much about that. It was issues in this life that made Catholicism problematic for me.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      There are some boundaries in the evolution of primates when a new species emerged. At the boundaries, typically the number of chromosomes changes by a mutation. This makes breeding with the old species fail. Where does an individual find a partner with a similar mutation? Presumably a sibling.

      I realize you’re only presenting the argument rather than advocating it, but it’s worth critiquing all the same. The chromosome fusion in our ancestors is neither a cause of speciation (because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t upset any stage of reproduction) nor common among primates (what happened in us seems to be the only case). As for the idea we get a soul when telomeres are joined together, that’s just a magic rule pulled out of nowhere.

  3. Creationists have a problem. What do they make of the fossilised remains of

    1. Australopithecus
    2. H. habilis
    3. H. gautengensis
    4. H. rudolfensis
    5. H. georgicus
    6. H. ergaster
    7. H. erectus
    8. H. cepranensis
    9. H. antecessor
    10. H. heidelbergensis
    11. H. rhodesiensis
    12. Neanderthal
    13. H. floresiensis

    Are they presumed to be friends of Noah? Are they artifacts created by god for mysterious purposes? Are they fakes created by god-hating pagans? Are they early versions of man that died out on the first day? Why did they refuse a seat on the ark? Why don’t they exist today? Were they also god’s chosen species? Did they have dominion over the earth? Did they have souls? Did they suffer from original sin? Was it possible for them to sin? Why did not the bible mention them, also the dinosaurs?

    • In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      Creationists have a problem. What do they make of the fossilised remains of…

      They’re neatly divided up into a) ape b) hoax or c) human with some skeletal issue (like arthritis)

      • In reply to #4 by Kim Probable:

        In reply to #3 by Roedy:

        Creationists have a problem. What do they make of the fossilised remains of…

        They’re neatly divided up into a) ape b) hoax or c) human with some skeletal issue (like arthritis)

        Who is dividing this list into these three categories? You? If it is you, why?

        Have you really studied this subject?

        • In reply to #5 by Ben_Griffith:

          They’re neatly divided up into a) ape b) hoax or c) human with some skeletal issue (like arthritis)

          Who is dividing this list into these three categories? You?…

          No, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school. I don’t buy into this stuff – that’s just how it was explained in every Bible class as well as a number of Christian “science” texts refuting evolution.

          • In reply to #6 by Kim Probable:

            In reply to #5 by BenGriffith:_

            They’re neatly divided up into a) ape b) hoax or c) human with some skeletal issue (like arthritis)

            Who is dividing this list into these three categories? You?…

            No, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school. I don’t buy into this stuff -…

            Honestly, I can’t tell if you are serious or not. If you are, do you not see the mistake in just trusting what one group of people (christians) tell you?

            Do you think that it would be wise to study a subject before coming to a conclusion?

            EDIT: Maybe I completely misunderstood your comment. Were you saying that Christians (and not yourself) would categorize them like that? If so, I apologize.

          • In reply to #7 by Ben_Griffith:

            Do you think that it would be wise to study a subject before coming to a conclusion?

            This is a summary of 3 different Christian schools (one affiliated with the Baptist church, one affiliated with another large network of churches, and one belonging to an evangelical megachurch that has hundreds of offshoots worldwide, so not a small audience), a couple different science textbooks written for Christian schools, and a dozen other science books and DVDs sold at Christian bookstores. I realize there are Christians who are fine with evolution, but this is a general summary of what I was taught from various sources who are very much against the idea. You can find plenty of websites making these claims as well. I even have books that show Peruvian pottery (known to be fakes) of people fighting and riding dinosaurs as proof that people and dinosaurs co-existed. These beliefs don’t belong to an obscure group.

          • In reply to #9 by Kim Probable:

            In reply to #7 by BenGriffith:_

            Do you think that it would be wise to study a subject before coming to a conclusion?

            This is a summary of 3 different Christian schools (one affiliated with the Baptist church, one affiliated with another large network of churches, and one belonging to an evangelica…

            Yes, I understand. If you read my edit on my last comment, you will see that I grossly misunderstood your comments. I thought you were one of those christians just dismissing any scientific evidence as ‘work of the devil’.

            I apologize and rejoice that you are not a creationist.

            After writing this, I discovered Michael’s comment. Thanks for pointing it out. I am only a few days old on these forums, otherwise I may have already known she is a damned heathen just like me.

            I feel a little ridiculous when I think that I was trying to open your mind…. haha.

          • In reply to #7 by Ben_Griffith:

            Hi Ben

            I think if you look back through Kim’s commenting history you’ll see she isn’t a creationist.

            Michael

          • In reply to #12 by mmurray:

            In reply to #7 by Ben_Griffith:

            Hi Ben

            I think if you look back through Kim’s commenting history you’ll see she isn’t a creationist.

            Michael

            Yes, former Mormon boy, this is a good way to see where someone stands, especially since you’re a newbie. Welcome.

          • In reply to #7 by Ben_Griffith:

            In reply to #6 by Kim Probable:
            In reply to #5 by BenGriffith:_
            Who is dividing this list into these three categories? You?…

            Read him more carefully. His just describing how creationists dismiss the fossil evidence, not his own thinking.

            No, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high schoo…

          • In reply to #6 by Kim Probable:

            In reply to #5 by BenGriffith:_
            No, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school

            What made you eventually reject this teaching?

      • In reply to #4 by Kim Probable:

        In reply to #3 by Roedy:
        They’re neatly divided up into a) ape b) hoax or c) human with some skeletal issue (like arthritis)

        But we have Neanderthal DNA, and did we not get some Denisovan too? What about the others? Do creationists reject the notion that different species have different DNA?

  4. I wrote this piece from a phylogenetic standpoint, but there is always the associated ontogenetic question: when you started dividing from a single cell, how many cells did you have to get to so as to have an “afterlife”? Of course the religious tend to be annoyed when you start asking about the nature of the afterlife one expects to attain having died as a clump of four or eight cells. Millions of such deaths happen each month in the world because of natural development, or uterine attachment and carry, problems. If those “go to Heaven” we would expect Heaven to be populated more numerously with souls who had never been born, than those who had seen the outside world (and even that group would be heavily represented by deaths in the first six years). Seems an odd way to spend all eternity, to me.

    • In reply to #10 by Quine:

      I wrote this piece from a phylogenetic standpoint, but there is always the associated ontogenetic question: when you started dividing from a single cell, how many cells did you have to get to so as to have an “afterlife”? Of course the religious tend to be annoyed when you start asking about the nat…

      Let’s you died after attaining 2-cell hood. Presumably you acquired a soul at conception. So what is heaven like — floating in a sugar solution or having a human-like existence similar to what you would have had had you survived to adult hood? When people make up stories, they have a heck of a time making all the lies interconsistent. It is a bit like composing Star Trek to be consistent.

      There is no evidence for any of this nonsense even if you count the bible as evidence.

      • In reply to #34 by Roedy:

        In reply to #10 by Quine:

        I wrote this piece from a phylogenetic standpoint, but there is always the associated ontogenetic question: when you started dividing from a single cell, how many cells did you have to get to so as to have an “afterlife”?

        One of the reasons I put that sub-question is because the idea of ensoulment changes based on the theological standpoint. It has been argued over the ages in various flavors of Christianity, and in Judaism it is simply left open (some think it is at the first breath after birth). On one hand, it is easiest to peg it at conception because that event is truly unique, but it is also the point when we are most clearly modeled as biochemical machines, essentially no different from all other animals starting from a single cell, with the exception of a small percentage of unique DNA sequence. When you are only a singe cell, having an immortal soul doesn’t show, and may be as useful as a bicycle is to a fish.

        • In reply to #44 by Quine:

          In reply to #34 by Roedy:

          In reply to #10 by Quine:
          at first breath after birth

          I recall reading that in the middle ages this magic moment was “quickening” when the mother could first feel the fetus moving. Maybe they though the being came into existence at that point.

          We could tease the Christians about why the bible is silent on such an important matter, especially when it is used as justification for murdering abortionists.

  5. We don’t understand exactly when salvific grace was capable of being received willfully by our earliest ancestors, but we have faith that such a time occupies a real place in our history even if only known to God in whose image we are created. Now excuse me, but have you read Aquinas’ Five Proofs?

    That’s the answer I suspect non-fence sitting Catholics would give. For the fence sitters, however, I think you make an excellent point, Quine, which will make a welcome addition to my conversational tool kit.

    Thanks!

    Mike

  6. In trying to answer the original question, leaving aside the other issues raised, it is well to remember that it is impossible, without a written record, to determine who was the first human who might have thought or voiced a belief about eternal life.

    There are, however, references in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamish, and in the Babylonian Enuma Elish (the Epic of Creation), to the gods having eternal life, but not humans. In the 2620 BC Sumerian Epic, Gilgamish, the fifth king of the second dynasty of Uruk, had heard that Ziusudra, a man from Shuruppak, had built a magurgur (barge) to save himself, his family, and what he had of farm animals, to escape a flood ordered by the gods to wipe out mankind, and because Ziusudra was a pious man, his god had given him and his wife extended life. In the Semitic Babylonian translation, the name of the hero is transcribed as Utnapishtim, both names mean extended breath of life.

    Gilgamish then takes a boat down to Dilmun (thought to be today’s Bahrain) where Ziusudra’s barge had landed after the flood, to seek the secret of eternal life. Gilgamish found it and lost it, and his journey was for nothing. If we choose to believe the Epic, then Ziusudra was the first man to attain eternal life. If we choose not to believe it, then at least we can understand from the story that the earliest man in recorded history to have a belief in eternal life was either Gilgamish, or the story-teller. Other stories about eternal life were written long after the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamish and cannot, therefore, have priority.

    • In reply to #16 by ZedBee:

      In trying to answer the original question, leaving aside the other issues raised, it is well to remember that it is impossible, without a written record, to determine who was the first human who might have thought or voiced a belief about eternal life.

      There are, however, references in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamish, and in the Babylonian Enuma Elish (the Epic of Creation), to the gods having eternal life, but not humans. In the 2620 BC Sumerian Epic, Gilgamish, the fifth king of the second dynasty of Uruk, had heard that Ziusudra, a man from Shuruppak, had built a magurgur (barge) to save himself, his family, and what he had of farm animals, to escape a flood ordered by the gods to wipe out mankind, and because Ziusudra was a pious man, his god had given him and his wife extended life. In the Semitic Babylonian translation, the name of the hero is transcribed as Utnapishtim, both names mean extended breath of life.

      It is well known that Gilgamesh was likely to have inspired the Noah story.

      However there is evidence of religion much earlier.

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text

      Known as Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.

      • In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

        Hi Alan,

        1) I think there is little doubt, if any, that the “Noah” story was plagiarised from Tablet XI of the Babylonian recension of “Sha nagba imuru” (He who saw everything) known to us as the Epic of Gilgamish, almost certainly by Ezra the Scribe who was one of the 400 or so of Nebukhednesser’s exiles near Babylon, and who chose to remain there together with a number of other scholars for many years after the Israelites were released by Cyrus II in 539 BC.

        2) Thank you for the article, I read it, but apart from admiring the excavated totems, I can’t tell from the article whether the hunter-gatherers of Göbekli Tepe had left a written record, or had developed a formal religion, let alone leaving any clue to a belief in eternal life, which is the subject of this topic.

        3) Perhaps the ancient Britons started Stonehenge (at about the same time as the Pyramids of Giza) with religious intent. Perhaps they too believed in eternal life, but without a written record all we can do is speculate. Perhaps the Neanderthals who buried their crippled relative at Shanidar some 65,000 years ago, with flowers in his grave, also believed in eternal life. This would also apply to the Incas, Toltecs, Hindus, Chinese and others. However, it was the invention of writing that left not much room for speculation about what the ancients chose to believe. As far as I know, that goes back to the first known pictographic tablet found at Kish and dated back to about 3500 BC.

        • In reply to #28 by ZedBee:

          2) Thank you for the article, I read it, but apart from admiring the excavated totems, I can’t tell from the article whether the hunter-gatherers of Göbekli Tepe had left a written record, or had developed a formal religion, let alone leaving any clue to a belief in eternal life, which is the subject of this topic.

          It is difficult without written records, and I am not convinced of some of the claims made in the article. Interpreting carvings is likely to be quite speculative.

          However as you appeared to be looking for earliest dates in that geographical area, I thought you would find this archaeology interesting.

          • In reply to #31 by Alan4discussion:

            Hi Alan,

            I did find the article very interesting archaeologically, and I thank you for it, but as far as a belief in eternal life (the main thrust of this topic), it is very difficult, without written records, to know if that is what the ancients had in mind when they carved their totems or built their henges, ziggurats, and pyramids. For an insight into their thoughts we need a written record, and for that we can thank the hieroglyphic and cuneiform scripts which emerged at about the same time in history.

        • In reply to #28 by ZedBee:

          In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

          Hi Alan,

          1) I think there is little doubt, if any, that the “Noah” story was plagiarised from Tablet XI of the Babylonian recension

          The Discovery channel promotes the hypothesis that the Noah flood was actually the Mediterranean suddenly breaking through and flooding a lake which was situated in the middle of what in now the Black Sea. This may have occured about 8 thousand years ago.
          The problems with this:

          • Noah said the flood was caused by fresh water rain
          • Noah said the flood covered the tallest mountains on earth
          • Noah said the flood violated to conservation of matter, both appearing and disappearing over the entire planet.

          I wrote an essay on my website about why the Noah story could not possibly be true. Even if it were miraculous, the bible does not describe it correctly. Given that a big flood is an almost universal human experience, it seems plausible every culture would have a flood myth.

          • In reply to #36 by Roedy:

            Given that a big flood is an almost universal human experience, it seems plausible every culture would have a flood myth.

            There are various theories about the flooding of the Black Sea basin. There have also been numerous river floods and breaking ice-dams etc.

            Sea Level During Last Ice Age

            During the last ice age (above) sea level was at least 394 feet (120 m) lower than it is today (below) [see map on link], exposing much more area on the continents.

            Many changes took place as sea level rose, among them the disappearance of the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, the appearance of Britain and the islands of Southeast Asia, and the filling of the Hudson Bay.

            Given an overall rise of 120m, coastal plains and river valleys throughout the world have flooded as the ice melted. – Most of them fairly slowly and steadily.

          • In reply to #40 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #36 by Roedy:

            Archaeologists are missing out on a most interesting territory, the areas just off the coasts (now submerged) where people would have lived during the ice age. Perhaps robotic submarines will get better and cheaper and open this up in the next century. I suspect humans have a history going way back of living on the coasts. We may have some really big surprises when we can get a look.

            In BC, the coastal indigenous people lived a quite luxurious existence with plenty of high-quality food and leisure. This lead to some of the best art work and interesting legends. We may see that pattern in the deep past as well.
            .

          • In reply to #36 by Roedy:

            Hi Roedy,

            The “Black Sea Deluge Hypothesis” is adequately covered (see the link below) and there is nothing I can add to it, except to say that the piece of wood found in the Black Sea (not in this article) and thought to have been a piece of Noah’s Ark has two problems. First, it is not gopher wood, and, secondly, carbon dating showed that the tree from which the piece of wood came was no older than a couple of centuries..

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis

            There have been countless local deluges which occurred all over the globe, but they have nothing to do with the Noachian universal deluge which was based on the Sumerian story of 2620 BC, and exaggerated beyond belief by the guy who inserted it into the Old Testament.

            Apart from Ziusudra’s barge being in the form of a cube (Tablet XI lines 56 & 57), which seems very strange, there seems little else to question in the Sumerian story. The Euphrates broke its bank some 15 kilometres north of Shuruppak, flooding the Sumerian world dotted along this river all the way down to the Gulf. The Euphrates deposits mud on its base and sides, and with the passage of very long periods of time, its base rises above the surrounding countryside. Therefore, when the Euphrates breaks its bank in the flat land of Sumer, it empties the whole of its massive content and changes course. Aerial photographs show that this had happened a number of times in its history. Tablet XI is a record of the flood that occurred in about 3050 BC.

            A small number of animals that Ziusudra had on his farm and rescued on his magurgur (Tablet XI lines 80-85) is, with a pinch of salt, just credible. Rescuing a pair “of every living thing of flesh” (Genesis 6:19) with their food and water (Genesis 6:21) is incredible even with a mountain of salt the size of Ben Nevis, particularly because the absolute displacement of the “Ark” (water to the gunnels) in rain water is 41,786 tons, or 42,809 tons in sea water, slightly smaller than the Titanic at 46,328 tons, which also had 51,000 horsepower to drive it, and hydraulic rams to steer it.

            The duration of Ziusudra’s flood of about a week (Tablet XI line 127) is credible. A flood lasting a whole year (Genesis 7:11) isn’t.

            To drown flat Sumer, nothing more than Euphrates water is required. To drown all the mountains on earth, an extra 4.394 billion cubic kilometres of water is required, or 3.2 times more than there is in all the seas and oceans on earth. If some of Noah’s water came from “the deep” then the continents must, right now, be floating on oceans of water. If Noah’s water came from the sky as rain, then the atmospheric pressure immediately before the deluge, and immediately after to this day, under a rain-cloud 54,000 kilometres thick, must be 3.155 million pounds per square inch, the equivalent of 805 BMW 320s on every square inch of our bodies at sea level. If the biblical scribe had given us the proportion between the two sources, then we could calculate the volume of the oceans on which the continents are floating, the rain-water and cloud thickness exactly, but he chose not to.

            I can go on with details of at least 50 god-defying miracles required to shoehorn Noah into some kind of biblical credibility, but that would go into 34 pages of A4. However, to return to the topic, Noah only managed 950 years on earth, and hasn’t been heard since.

          • In reply to #36 by Roedy:

            a big flood is an almost universal human experience,

            It’s a long stretch to mean it was the SAME flood everywhere. Like there’s only ever been one hurricane, or one tornado, one tsunami.

          • In reply to #66 by OHooligan:
            >

            It’s a long stretch to mean it was the SAME flood everywhere. Like there’s only ever been one hurricane, or one tornado, one tsunami.

            True! – But YECs never were much use at dates or time-scales!
            With blinker specs. any flood or floods can be interpreted as “Biblical”, when believing that de Lawd was saving those good souls and punishing non-believers! .
            (They aren’t much good at calculations of depths, heights or volumes either!)

  7. Before the invention of ‘Hell’ I presume this made a lot more sense.

    You see originally, acording to some versions of the old testament, those who weren’t blessed by Yahweh, or who commited greivous sins, weren’t punished for all eternity, they just died like all other life, only those who were accepted by the almighty were granted an afterlife.

    The term ‘sheol’ was used, which is synonymous with grave, no mention of eternal suffering, just death.

    This knits perfectly with evolution. No life on earth, including human life, is therefore expected to have any kind of afterlife, but if the almighty wishes it so, he can grant you an afterlife, as a kind of bonus prize. He therefore arbitrarily grants this bonus to those with the capability of having faith in him, therefore only humans allowed.

    Of course it takes a rejection of the new testament to accept this and so Christians tie themselves in knots trying to overcome it’s blatant paradoxes. Nothing new here.

    I suoopose this is compatible with a sort of deistic view as well, if we assume the prime mover doesn’t interact with but can view our universe and therefore pick and choose who he wants to invite into his universe.

  8. I like this question

    I guess for xtians, no one got an afterlife before jesus came along and was the first person to come up with the idea of not hating everyone or being a prick so heaven 2000 years ago was probably quite empty. Nowadays it’s like Ibiza with iron-age clubbers moaning how “it’s nothing like it used to be”

    • In reply to #21 by SaganTheCat:

      if all life has an afterlife then the afterlife has bacteria and viruses and the associated illnesses killing things off and making them come back in the after-after-life

      By now there must be billions of heavens, then.

  9. In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

    According to Catholic doctrine, “ensoulment” takes place at conception. This means purgatory and heaven are filled with blastocysts and zygotes which failed to implant or naturally aborted!Fetal development – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm

    That sounds positively rupulsive. Imagine the number of aborted gestations compared to the people who have grown into adulthood, heaven would be billions of people wallowing around in some kind of zygote-fetus soup.

  10. Today, Hermant Mehta put up a piece on his blog about Richard Dawkins and comments that tie into expectations of an afterlife, and especially about keeping people in line by fear of Hell. We have discussed this before in terms of the so called “Pascal’s Wager” in that to compete with other theological systems one needs the most terrible Hell, and that horror needs to go up to balance out the low probability that it exists, at all. This also applies to the question I have asked, because one would have to wonder who was the first of our ancestors to go to Hell? If that possibility came into existence at some point in Evolution, how would we expect the brain development (genetics) and cultural development (memetics) to be advanced enough so as to not come as a very big surprise to wake-up-dead-in-Hell?

  11. I think Christians don’t quite understand how long forever is. It is much longer than 200 years, much longer than 1000 years, much longer than 1,000,000 years much longer than 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000… years. There is a lot of time to get bored living in a park with a bunch of JWs nitwits gathering grapes and singing hymns. No escape for any reason? Why does anyone see this as desirable? It sounds like something Jean-Paul Sartre would come up with.

    I don’t even want to have sex with the cutest humans on earth that long.

  12. Although I have no time for souls or any supernatural afterlife, I think that our natural afterlife began with the first self-replicators. The methods for getting (half of) our essence into the ‘next life’ have become more complex, sophisticated & generally satisfying, and there are unbroken lines from the beginning of life to all of us, so we each have a very long ‘beforelife’ to discover, investigate, contemplate & celebrate.

    Therefore, natural afterlife has been around for about 3.5 billion years, which is getting close enough to eternity for me.
    So, this is our ‘heaven’ and, short & difficult as it can be, it’s still a lot more desirable than the ‘Heaven’ that numerous sky fairies have supposedly bribed us with… 8-) Mac.

    • In reply to #41 by Roedy:

      Quine, what sort of answers were you expecting from your friends and relatives?

      I had no expectations and was (still am) interested in anything that would logically justify the insertion of a discontinuity (sudden existence of ‘afterlife’) in an otherwise continuous parent to offspring chain, with no unique physical transformation at any specific link. The Catholics have been trying to gloss over this so that they don’t have to go up against the facts of Evolution, but I am using the question as what Dan Dennett calls an “intuition pump” to get them to see more of the serious logical problems with the dogma of “souls” and “life after death.”

  13. I posted this Comment yesterday, but don’t see it here, so I’ll try again….?

    Although I have no time for souls or any supernatural afterlife, I think that our natural afterlife began with the first self-replicators. The methods for getting our essence into the ‘next life’ have become more complex, sophisticated & satisfying, and there are unbroken lines from the beginning of life to all of us, so we each have a very long ‘beforelife’ to discover, investigate, contemplate & celebrate.

    Therefore, natural afterlife has been around for about 3.5 billion years, which is getting close enough to eternity for me.
    So, this is our ‘heaven’ and, short & difficult as it can be, it’s still a lot more desirable than the ‘Heaven’ that numerous sky fairies have supposedly bribed us with… 8-) Mac.

  14. Quote –
    Alan4discussion
    “Animal” to the biologically illiterate usually means “mammal” or “vertebrate”!

    I recall a children’s art competition, where the judging artist disqualified pictures of birds – because the competition rules specified a picture of “animals”!

    I’m forever correcting people who talk about “Birds and animals” or “insects and animals” – mixing their kingdoms with their classes. Perhaps I’m pedantic but it irritates me no end.

    • In reply to #50 by El Rico:

      Quote – Alan4discussion – “Animal” to the biologically illiterate usually means “mammal” or “vertebrate”!

      I recall a children’s art competition, where the judging artist disqualified pictures of birds – because the competition rules specified a picture of “animals”!

      I’m forever correcting people who talk about “Birds and animals” or “insects and animals” – mixing their kingdoms with their classes. Perhaps I’m pedantic but it irritates me no end.

      You see this sort of thing with posers who have found and misread, some academic paper on genetics or evolution, making “nonsensical authoritative assertions” (contradicting biologists) about animal evolution, while they illustrate that they do not even understand the definition of the term “animal”, in the basic school biology nomenclature of classification , or the basic forms of reproduction across the life forms.

  15. In reply to #51 by Smill:

    That’s such a clever question Quine… So smart of you to outwit those ‘believers’! (yawn…)

    I find that outwitting people does not usually change their minds, but encouraging them to think through the logical consequences of their unexamined beliefs, sometimes does.

  16. Thanks for the article, Quine. Putting the question is precisely that way does show up clearly how the scientific position on biological evolution and speciation is incompatible with even the evolution-accepting kind of Christian position that nonetheless maintains that at some point in the evolutionary process God zapped some ape with a spiritual infusion, causing it to be rationally conscious, indeed made in the image of God, and thereby creating a new species in one generation! So long as the role of the brain in generating consciousness was not understood, that may have seemed a reasonable position, but that is no longer the case.

  17. Ben Griffiths comment 7
    Honestly, I can’t tell if you are serious or not. If you are, do you not see the mistake in just trusting what one group of people (christians) tell you?

    No Kim Probable is purely and simply answering the question correctly. The question was what do creationists make of the fossils and the answer is ape, human or deforned in some way human.

    That is what you will find on any creationist website if you type in any of our ancestral fossils. And I first found it mentioned in Jerry Coynes excellent why evolution is true.

    Just stating you know what a group believes is not actually agreeing with them. Kim was right and I doubt very much Kim agrees with them and I suspect Kim thinks what they think is 100% nonsense.

  18. Just as a preface to my remarks, I must say over the years I have been a poster here, I have always found Quine‘s posts to be always intelligent, thoughtful and thoroughly based in reality. Thank you Quine ! Bay Area I believe ? London myself, but I used to live in San Francisco.

    The whole concept of the afterlife, as understood by religios is completely ridiculous. Yes we all know our individual atoms came from stars, and when we die the atoms that make up our bodies will continue to do their stuff. Hardly an “afterlife” though ! The whole concepts of heaven and hell, afterlives and judgement have no basis in reality. How does Jesus keep the fiery lake at boiling point for eternity ? How does God keep enough room for new arrivals, especially if all organisms are incorporated ? Do the “souls” of the rabbit, Mr Macgreggor and the lettuce all co-exist happily ? With a current world population of over 7 billion, heaven will be in need of some expansion. I’m reminded of Hilbert’s Grand Hotel where there is always room for an infinite number of guests, plus any more who turn up !

    I suppose hell is more like Hotel California where “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” ?

    Here endeth the theology.

    • In reply to #55 by Mr DArcy:

      Thank you, Mr DArcy, for your kind words. My goal is to encourage people to think just a bit more than they might be inclined to do. I had a teacher once who claimed that the difference between students who were “good at math” and the rest was “five minutes.” He thought those good students were they who were willing to spend five more minutes trying to solve the problem, or “get” the idea, than their natural “give up” point. In having discussions with the religious, here, among my neighbors and elsewhere on the web, I have come to see that so many have a “give up” point in looking into their own beliefs. In many cases they did ask the important questions as children (some you referenced), but were conditioned out of asking and that translates to not thinking past a point of comfort as adults. I want to encourage people to go past that point.

  19. Quine whenever I’ve put this question to various normal science accepting (ie not creationist or extremists) they’ve all come up with the notion of a soul and the notion that at some point in our evolution, unknowable, we became intelligent enough are were given a soul. They suggested it would be when our ancestors became intelligent enough to have a concept of consciousness and self. So close to homo sapien. But unknowable.

    An RC priest who attends the same astronomy club as I do, suggested that his notion of when that ensoulment of an intelligent hominuid species first occurred would probably tie in with my atheist speculations of when the notion of a soul and afterlife first arose in whatever species it did arise in.

    That I think their conclusion is that it is unknowable but we all agree that the notion of an afterlife is a powerful one. My own opinion is that it was the originator of religious belief and the reason it persists.

    • In reply to #56 by PG:

      Quine whenever I’ve put this question to various normal science accepting (ie not creationist or extremists) they’ve all come up with the notion of a soul and the notion that at some point in our evolution, unknowable, we became intelligent enough are were given a soul.

      Thanks for your comment, PG. Just yesterday I got into a discussion over at the NCSE blog where a religious person wrote me just such a justification for belief that what we know from facts about Evolution does not rule out ‘his’ doctrine of “The Fall.” I am just now gathering my thoughts to write back to him about that, but in doing so I will be using the intuition pump of the conflict of a discontinuous event (getting a ‘soul’ or having ‘The Fall’) in an otherwise near continuous process of either phylogenetic or ontogenetic development. Our ancestors did not suddenly (in a single generation) realize the complete moral responsibilities of their actions, any more than you did one fine day when you were 6 or 7 (or maybe 23) years old. It simply does not fit together that humans began being born with ‘immortal souls’ that their parents didn’t have, but somehow that their children will have.

      • In reply to #58 by Quine:

        . . . Just yesterday I got into a discussion over at the NCSE blog . . .

        Hello Quine, it’s been a while…. 8-)

        I’ve followed NCSE for years, but had not yet Commented on their Science League of America Blog. I read your bits, and then down the other Comments, where Robert the Cdn Creationist got my attention, so I felt moved to respond to him.

        I’ll leave you to respond, with your usual skill, to the ‘philosophical nuances’ in your Thread, but I was a bit more blunt with the ignorant & mildly literate Robert from my country, where we also have too many YEC types trying to drag us backwards into another Theocratic Dark Age. I wonder what he’ll say back to me, if anything… Mac.

        • In reply to #59 by CdnMacAtheist:

          In reply to #58 by Quine:

          . . . Just yesterday I got into a discussion over at the NCSE blog . . .

          Hello Quine, it’s been a while…. 8-)

          Good to hear from you, too. I am thinking over how I am going to reply at NCSE because that commenter did the kind of side-step we see so often. It reminds me of the line in Life of Brian: “Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.” They know the A&E story cannot be actually true, but they still need to hang on to some metaphorical “Fall” so as to justify redemption (they want it to be just as good as if The Fall really did happen, but not be pestered by the conflicting evidence). But, the point I am making on this thread re an “afterlife” also applies to the mythical Fall, as in, when was your first ancestor needing redemption? I doubt the small mammals trying not to be eaten by dinosaurs were in such need, so when did that discontinuity happen in what was an otherwise continuous descent line? Punting to metaphor does not help, because that still has to apply to some first ancestor, and trying to tie to some unspecified moral sense also does not work because that can come on gradually, through the generations, with no first person responsible. (The analogous argument is a defeater for a special significance to qualia in the consciousness discussion. No first ancestor had qualia that was not available to her or his parents. Same for ‘Quantum Consciousness.’)

    • In reply to #56 by PG:

      Quine whenever I’ve put this question to various normal science accepting (ie not creationist or extremists) they’ve all come up with the notion of a soul and the notion that at some point in our evolution, unknowable, we became intelligent enough are were given a soul. They suggested it would be wh…

      I believe you’re absolutely right. People are scared to death . . . of death.

  20. Quine comment 58 I am just now gathering my thoughts to write back to him about that, but in doing so I will be using the intuition pump of the conflict of a discontinuous event (getting a ‘soul’ or having ‘The Fall’) in an otherwise near continuous process of either phylogenetic or ontogenetic development. Our ancestors did not suddenly (in a single generation) realize the complete moral responsibilities of their actions, any more than you did one fine day when you were 6 or 7 (or maybe 23) years old. It simply does not fit together that humans began being born with ‘immortal souls’ that their parents didn’t have, but somehow that their children will have.

    If its any help I’ve checked with religious friends and with our head of RE, and the literal fall is not considered necessary for any of them. What is considered is the fact that adults develop at some point a conscience and that there are bad things happening caused by evil people. That there are evil people is a fact admitted by all of us, look on the other threads where the taliban are threatening to shoot Malala or where women are being stoned for having mobile phones.

    There doesn’t need to be a literal fall, evolution has provided us with the brains to know what we’re doing and a conscience. Therefore Adam and Eve don’t need to exist. The head of RE said they are metaphors for humanity. The soul part cannot come into play until the point in our evolution where we were fully capable of understanding that. The analogy they used was the fact that the law only recognised crimes after a certain age.

    Hope that is some use, its an argument that is impossible to win when the people you are arguing with are full science accepters and intelligent beings. It’s very easy with the loony creationists, who are far more moranic.

    • In reply to #62 by PG:

      Quine comment 58 I am just now gathering my thoughts to write back to him about that, but in doing so I will be using the intuition pump of the conflict of a discontinuous event (getting a ‘soul’ or having ‘The Fall’) in an otherwise near continuous process of either phylogenetic or ontogenetic deve…

      If its any help I’ve checked with religious friends and with our head of RE, and the literal fall is not considered necessary for any of them.

      Hi PG. I got the same reply over on the thread I mentioned. Here is what I wrote back:

      I must say that your position is common to the religious people I have met who reject literal scripture, but want to keep their “metaphorical” interpretation, none the less. However, that interpretation is in the eye of the beholder, and usually a post facto justification for what one wants to be true.

      It is true that people (and other species) do harmful things as well as helpful or neutral things. The fact that these harmful actions are done is not evidence for the objective existence of “evil” as a thing in itself, and thus no justification for believing in “The Fall.”

      The evidence for evolution indicates that there never was one of our ancestors who was significantly different form her or his direct parents. We come from a continuum of tiny genetic changes spreading in a breeding population that was never fewer than a couple of thousand individuals. Our feelings for what we should or should not do (so called “moral sense”) are extensions from the basic drives to care for offspring that are common with our early mammalian ancestors who were hiding in the rocks trying not to be eaten by dinosaurs.

      As language became more complex, our ancestors began to pass ideas and culture along together with their genes. Early humans could think about what we should and should not do from progressively more abstract positions, and as you note, attribute justification to imagined intentional magic beings, as they did for so many of the aspects of the natural world around them. Later, as our ancestors began to carefully examine the natural world, they slowly lost supernatural justifications for rain and wind and lightning and earthquakes and disease, etc. Now, we are just getting to dropping the supernatural justifications for our culturally extended moral sense, as well.

      It still boils down to the same reasoning. The continuous way we evolved does not comport with a discontinuous event such as a “Fall.” Without such, the natural development has no foundation for the idea that we are lost and have to be “saved,” or that somehow have an “afterlife” coming. … Do you really believe that, at a point, a specific ancestor was born who is now enjoying or suffering an eternal afterlife, while his or her parents simply “went into the ground” with all their ancestors? You can get a moral sense, a little bit at a time, but not an eternal afterlife.

  21. In asking this question, you pushed people into the “minute zone”. That’s the zone where a religious or wooish belief is subject to a minute’s worth of critical thought. If the question you pose is sufficiently cogent and the person is not stupid, they should come out of this zone with less confidence in the religious or woo belief than before.

    What they do with this flicker of reason is up to them. They could snuff it out with the cold water of irrationality, or they could add some logs of reason and evidence.

  22. This might sound silly, but I’ve always wondered about people who believe in an afterlife. So, when Jane dies, she assumes she will hang out with her mother Dorothy. Dorothy will hang out with her mother Sally, Sally will hang out with her mother Sandy. Sandy will hang out with her mother Melanie. Melanie will hang out with her mother Debbie…………If we’re going back in time hundreds of thousands of years, how will this work out? And I haven’t included fathers, sons/daughters, cousins, aunts/uncles, friends. There would literally be millions of people to hang out with! How would you do it?

    • In reply to #65 by Expos:

      This might sound silly, but I’ve always wondered about people who believe in an afterlife. So, when Jane dies, she assumes she will hang out with her mother Dorothy. Dorothy will hang out with her mother Sally, Sally will hang out with her mother Sandy. Sandy will hang out with her mother Melanie….There would literally be millions of people to hang out with! How would you do it?

      Good question: it seems that Paradise would involve an awful lot of cups of tea / glasses of wine / emails / etc. I guess that’s why you’d need eternity to fit everyone in.

      (Heaven as the Eternal Tea Shop. Never ending sandwiches with the crusts neatly trimmed. Now there’s a thought….)

      (Not)

  23. This is another way of asking if there is a heaven for chimpanzees, or for dogs. In essence it says, Man is a mere animal, so the notion that Man is somehow specially beloved to whatever power controls this world appears to be unreasonable. I agree completely with this line of reasoning.

    But though it may be completely preposterous, is not illogical to propose that only at Time X did human souls come to occupy the bodies of ancestral hominids.

    • In reply to #69 by Markovich:

      But though it may be completely preposterous, is not illogical to propose that only at Time X did human souls come to occupy the bodies of ancestral hominids.

      I am trying to understand how “Time X” had such, but their parents did not? Can you explain that?

      • In reply to #70 by Quine:

        In reply to #69 by Markovich:

        But though it may be completely preposterous, is not illogical to propose that only at Time X did human souls come to occupy the bodies of ancestral hominids.

        I am trying to understand how “Time X” had such, but their parents did not? Can you explain that?

        I myself don’t believe in souls. But I said that it is not illogical, by which I mean it is not self-contradictory, to assert that at Time X a supposed god imbued every hominid then existing with a soul. Or perhaps, declared that everyone conceived after Time X would have a soul. Under the latter supposition, there would have been a period during which persons who had souls would have parents lacking souls. Preposterous, perhaps. Illogical, no.

        It may also be worth noting that some religions assert that all living things have souls. On that basis, whatever was the first, life-originating event was also the first, soul-originating event. So the argument presented in the OP only attacks some religions, not all.

        Further, maybe the ability to have a soul is indeed genetic in origin. A certain genetic arrangement would be sufficient for the soul’s formation. However fantastic that notion may be, it is in no way illogical, and it shows the limitations of the OP.

        • In reply to #71 by Markovich:

          However fantastic that notion may be, it is in no way illogical, and it shows the limitations of the OP.

          There are ideas that conflict with our scientific knowledge such that they can be discarded with reasonable certainty. For example, we can discard the Adam and Eve story as the origin of the human species because we can scientifically show that our ancestors go back to a common point with the other great apes, and the minimum breeding population of those ancestors was never below a few thousand individuals. (A big problem for Young Earth Creationists.) However, as Bertrand Russell famously noted we have no conflict (however fantastic the notion may be) that there is a china teapot orbiting between the Earth and Mars. Yet, any number of such non-conflicting notions can also be discarded as having no reasonable foundation even though we cannot prove that they are not true. I would hold the notion that some genetic combination unlocks eternal afterlife is just such a notion because we don’t have any evidence of afterlife or any indication that matter and energy connect to anything immaterial.

          I phrased the OP in the form of the question I asked because that makes it analogous to asking when did Russell’s Teapot first get in orbit? Now, someone can come along and say that after a time X it was just miraculously placed into orbit. Some may find that a sufficiently satisfying answer, but any small child with a good mind will keep asking how that was done until one tells him or her to just stop asking (as in religious training).

          What we can see is how Evolution shaped our ancestor’s brains over time to have more and more capability to do abstract thinking, and to attribute intentionality to “others.” We have developed an expectation to be alive in the future, and to remember our past life and the people we have met. I believe our visions of an afterlife are simply those natural projections. However, now that we know how life works, we know that our memories and sense of self are operations of physical cells, destroyed when parts of our brains are damaged giving no justification for that idea of projection beyond death. Again, it is not disproved, it is shown to be without known support. Asking when someone thinks she or he can first find support for an ancestor with an eternal afterlife, is my way of getting the thinking going.

        • In reply to #71 by Markovich:

          Further, maybe the ability to have a soul is indeed genetic in origin. A certain genetic arrangement would be sufficient for the soul’s formation. However fantastic that notion may be, it is in no way illogical, and it shows the limitations of the OP.

          I think that depends on what you think the OP is doing. I see it as a further reminder of how absurd the conventional Christian story is. The more science we discover the more absurd it gets. Many believers don’t notice the absurdity because they have been brought up in the religion since childhood. It’s good to remind them of how silly their beliefs are.

          Michael

          • In reply to #77 by mmurray:

            In reply to #71 by Markovich:

            I think that depends on what you think the OP is doing. I see it as a further reminder of how absurd the conventional Christian story is.

            As an atheist, I fully agree. But I don’t think the OP is a terribly serious confrontation of modern Christian faith, which can readily encompass some post-origin-of-life, soul-conferring event or set of events. The counter-argument that such a thing is quite unlikely works well with atheists, not well at all with Christian believers.

            In any case, I think that arguments with Christians in particular are given a somewhat exaggerated importance in the atheist community. There are many strands of belief other than Christian. The OP is no challenge at all to Hindu belief, which posits that a soul resides even in the lowliest form of life.

          • In reply to #79 by Markovich:

            The OP is no challenge at all to Hindu belief, which posits that a soul resides even in the lowliest form of life.

            Which is why I did not phrase the OP question in terms of a “soul” but rather in terms of an afterlife as is commonly envisioned in western religions. In many forms of ancient philosophy “soul” is equated with a special property that gives life to otherwise inanimate matter. The whole discussion of what constitutes a “soul” is old and fruitless now that we know there is no élan vital and that the person that you consider yourself is made of the interactions of your neurons in your brain, and has nowhere “to go” when that brain is gone.

          • In reply to #80 by Quine:

            Which is why I did not phrase the OP question in terms of a “soul” but rather in terms of an afterlife as is commonly envisioned in western religions. In…

            Perhaps it is only a quibble, but even though I as an atheist and a materialst agree with what you just said about the soul, I am not at all sure that a modern Christian would agree. Surely if there is an afterlife, it is an afterlife of the soul. But since you and I agree, I am not the one to pursue a dispute along these lines. There must be some modern Christian writings that explain why, in the view of some, there is no contradiction between evolution and the immortality of the soul, but I myself don’t have enough interest in modern Christianity to seek it out.

  24. The question of when humans acquired their souls is not revelent to Christians — they believe that souls were part of the diagram devised by god from the beginning, don’t they? Most likely, the same applies to Muslims. And, both religions, blaming Eve for the fall of man from grace, grant her & her female descendants a smidgeon less soul than the guys are equipped with.

    • In reply to #72 by Barbara Necker:

      The question of when humans acquired their souls is not revelent to Christians — they believe that souls were part of the diagram devised by god from the beginning, don’t they?

      I think it breaks into two main groups: Young Earth Creationists and then those who claim to accept Evolution. The myths of the YEC group are directly dismissed by scientific evidence. The accommodationists in the latter group usually believe that immortal souls are created one at a time, as needed, at or close to the time of conception. This runs into some problems when they come to understand the biology of embryonic attachment and development with its high failure rate. My question in the OP is for the religious who claim to accept Evolution. If you do find someone who thinks all immortal souls were created before our world, the question is still the same, when was your first ancestor who got one of those?

  25. In reply to #62 by PG:

    If its any help I’ve checked with religious friends and with our head of RE, and the literal fall is not considered necessary for any of them. What is considered is the fact that adults develop at some point a conscience and that there are bad things happening caused by evil people. That there are evil people is a fact admitted by all of us, look on the other threads where the taliban are threatening to shoot Malala or where women are being stoned for having mobile phones.

    There doesn’t need to be a literal fall, evolution has provided us with the brains to know what we’re doing and a conscience. Therefore Adam and Eve don’t need to exist. The head of RE said they are metaphors for humanity. The soul part cannot come into play until the point in our evolution where we were fully capable of understanding that. The analogy they used was the fact that the law only recognised crimes after a certain age.

    So what is original sin and why did Jesus have to sacrifice himself to lift the burden of it from the rest of us?

    Michael

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