Ethics and the Third Person -- the fall of man

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, starting Chapter 44, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes Chapter 44, "The Fall".]

I can look at two different sets of data and infer my next conclusion independently from either of them.

If I was in total harmony with God originally, then I think my relationship to this Nature would have been significantly different than what I find it to be now. Yet, I don't ever remember being in that relationship with Nature. As far as my own memory goes, I seem to have been born in this condition.

But perhaps that is an illusion. However, I also have access to plenty of examples of other entities similar to my own type--other human persons, such as you, my reader--in all stages of life from cradle to the grave. All of them, or virtually all, are in the same relationship with Nature I am. There are some interesting hints of an improved relation here and there, among a few individuals or at particular moments in a person's life; but those hints invariably ratify the principle that to be in harmony with basic reality (in other words, to be in harmony, even if in ignorant harmony, with God) results in a significant and indeed marvelous improvement of our relationship with Nature.

Otherwise, the vast bulk of data suggests to me that human beings come into the world 'fallen'.

We come into the world in a relationship with Nature that seems to be the intrinsically hostile and dangerously inefficient relationship that would occur after we individually would choose to fall--the relationship, in short, that would signal to us something is drastically out-of-sync no matter how hard we're trying to ignore the implications of our condition.

At the same time, it seems a reasonably accurate inference from observation that humans other than myself 'sin'. For instance, a considerable fraction of the population is willing to admit that they sin; and a not-inconsiderable (yet different) fraction of the population is willing to admit that to behave in particular ways is truly ethically wrong even if they never admit to doing such a thing themselves--in other words, they testify to the principle even if they don't admit to transgressing the principle in practice.

Furthermore, it is not difficult to trace these same behaviors and states of being, as far back as the limits of recorded human history. With the first documents from the first civilizations, the condition is evident--often the condition, one way or another, has even provided the topic for the recorded communication!

The interpretations for why and how we are in this condition as a species differ formally--although they also often converge in surprising ways. This semi-convergence of interpretations, however, is not something I will use here as evidence, for I am a metaphysician and not (primarily) a historian. I am only recognizing the existence of the general principle implied by the data.

So this observation, combined with the observation that the human species tends to increase its numbers on the average throughout our history, and combined with my deduction that God would not have created us in such a lamentable state, leads me to the following conclusion:

At some point in the distant past, a certain number of humans--probably a smaller number than we find in the first recorded civilizations--essentially rebelled against God (although they may have had different descriptions or pseudo-justifications for why and how they chose to do this), and fell out of whatever original state God had created us in originally.

These last few inferences have not necessarily been deductions. That I am in such a state, I think I have deduced; that God would not create me originally in the condition I find myself, I think I have also deduced. (It is certainly a position favored by many skeptics, since they often appeal to our current general condition as evidence for arguing against God’s existence!) It seems to me a reasonably inductive further inference that humans in general are sinners, and also suffer some intrinsic result of human sinfulness from birth (even if they themselves have not yet rebelled).

If those inferences are granted, I can deduce (although it won't be stronger than any inductive argument in front of it) that we humans must have been this way for as long as we can (socially speaking) remember--the evidence necessarily entails this. From that point, I can inductively infer (subordinate to the prior sub-chain of inductive inferences) a further conclusion.

The condition seems endemic to our species, as far back as we go in history. But if my previous arguments concerning God's existence and personal character are valid, then we must not have always been that way. Yet at the dawn of recorded history, we all (as far as I can tell) are fallen. And the fallen state of our species can hardly be said to be more efficient at allowing us to live in the Nature God created, than whatever ideal condition in which He had originally produced us. (I mean the fallen condition in general must be less efficient. Granted, after the ‘fall’, we might still have increased particular sorts of efficiency beyond whatever we were capable of at the time of the fall. I don’t think we could, or can, be more efficient than we would have been had we remained unfallen as a species.)

Therefore all the probabilities are against the fallen-ness having spread effectively throughout a general population. I am not talking of something like a virus--not at the beginning anyway--but of a willed rebellious declension.

Anyone who first did this would be an object of pity (at best) in the original population, and would serve as an object lesson to definitely not do this! Also, such a person would be highly unlikely to be successful at breeding with any of the unfallens; so any contingent and intrinsically physical inclination toward that condition (as I will discuss soon) would be unlikely to be passed on. Multiple fallen members could breed easily with each other, I suppose; but the population of fallens would still have an extremely difficult time competing with the more inherently efficient unfallens. (Again, I suppose that the fallens could perhaps achieve a superiority of efficiency faster than would otherwise be prudent for them--for us--as a species; and that this would allow them to compete effectively in some ways. The question is how likely the first such fallen people would be at surviving to pass along their ideas and any contingent physical condition. Remember, by the dawn of recorded history the whole population has evidently been ‘infected’.)

The principles, along with the evidence, seem to me to point to the following conclusions:

The faster the population converts to a fallen state, the more likely the fallen population would survive to take over the species pool (so to speak). And given the conscious state of our ancestors (a condition necessary for anyone to be personally responsible ethically for their fall), it seems proportionately unlikely that a larger original population of unfallens would ever (much less quickly) convert to a fallen condition.

The highest probability for our whole species becoming endemically fallen, therefore requires (as an inverse proportion of probability) the lowest original number of the species.

And the lowest original number of any known complex species (ours in particular) is two: male and female.

I suspect, therefore, that the existence of a mated pair of humans analogous to Adam and Eve can be inferred from the data--without even resorting to scriptural authority.

This is not a deductive conclusion, I remind my reader again. I think it is a reasonably good explanation for the data, but there may be other explanations. For instance, I cannot (at the moment anyway) see any way to deductively conclude that we are not in this condition now due to prior sins we committed in a different Nature. I think can conclude, on the other hand, that proposing a reincarnated state from evidence of being sinners in this Nature does not account for the original state of human sin, but only puts the question an unknown-number-of-stages back for no gain. (This is not an argument against reincarnation per se, by the way--that might still be true, as far as it goes, and in hindsight I am not sure I can mount a deductive argument against it on the whole.)

At any rate, I conclude that God would not have created us like this to begin with, and that at some point in history the whole human population (however many that was) effectively 'fell from grace'.

And this Fall would involve horrifying consequences for the fallens; consequences which I shall discuss in the next chapter.

[Next up: the original sinners (and I)]


Jason Pratt said…
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