Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why people are bad (it's not because of evolution); why original sin is so intractable

Humans are like someone standing with one foot in the sea and one foot on land. The foot in the sea is our physical body and brain, the foot on land is our 'mind' in the 'world of conscious awareness'.

A brain is distinct from a mind. Although the mind is based off the brain, the mind is not the brain. The mind arises out of the brain, and has many distinct properties (e.g. qualia) not possessed by the brain.

What do the brain and mind each contribute to making us who we are?


Every act of intellectual reasoning
All knowledge (except knowledge given through the Spirit - 1 Cor 2:13-14)
Something to express free choices with


Consciousness / Mind / Qualia
Love / A moral sense
Free will

So we don't work out the answer to any problem in the world of mind. Every act of intellectual reasoning comes from the brain.

This helps to explain why humans are bad (it's not because of evolution) and why original sin is impossible to overcome even though we have genuine free will.

Our intellectual reasoning and moral sense belong to different worlds. Our intellectual reasoning belongs to our brain in the universe, and is shared by such things as computers and calculators. Our moral sense belongs to the image of God, which is not the same thing as the brain, in whatever kind of thing/reality that involves.

Our moral sense gives us our highest moral ideals, and tells us that we should never do wrong. But our intellectual reasoning can't understand how a person could have reasons for doing the right thing in every circumstance.

The closest that intellectual reasoning can come to morality is 'You should do the right thing out of rational self-interest' - game theory. 'You do a good thing for me and I'll do a good thing for you' - tit-for-tat morality (the flip-side of tit-for-tat is 'Hurt me and you're going to suffer horribly').

This is a bad thing in circumstances where the self-interested thing is the wrong thing morally.

If you combine this reasoning with free will, then what you get is everyone choosing to sin because our reasoning leads us to make choices in a certain 'rational' (i.e. game theoretic) way.

You don't need to appeal to evolution to explain why humans are basically selfish - you can appeal to humans having a form of intellectual reasoning that tempts us with game theory, tit-for-tat, self-interested, etc. reasons for acting.

So original sin is essentially the curse that we'll work out good and evil for ourselves, instead of copying what God thinks.

The only way to circumvent original sin would be to act 100% on faith, to not even think about one's choices but just do the right thing all the time. That's the only way that someone could act on their moral sense in every possible situation. That's impossible for humans, like walking purely by faith.

That's why original sin is so devastating to morality: no one is going to act on their moral ideals all the time because there is no way that our intellectual reason can understand why we should ever do that. It's not because of evolution, but because God had to make us with a form of intellectual reasoning that makes selfishness make sense from a rational point-of-view.

I'm not saying that intellectual reasoning is bad, by the way. Like everything that God has made, it's good. We need intellectual reasoning to do stuff. But it has bad side-effects when it tempts us to do evil. And we couldn't have God's form of intellectual reasoning which doesn't have this side-effect.

Here's an overview of this:

Human sinfulness = free will + self-interest appealing to our rational faculty (think of game theory, tit-for-tat, reciprocal altruism, and the like...)

Original sin = free will + self-interest appealing to our rational faculty + God not protecting us from thinking in terms of rational self-interest.

God cannot be tempted by evil = free will + a moral sense + a second level added to the moral sense that is intellectual, not intuitive. This 'rational' moral sense is how God thinks intellectually, and always honours moral intuitions. Only God gets to have this.

Continued here.

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