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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 24, Issue 3, July 2007

John T. Mullen
Pages 268-283
DOI: 10.5840/faithphil200724312

CAN EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY CONFIRM ORIGINAL SIN?

Christian responses to the developing field of evolutionary psychology tend to be defensive, focusing on the task of showing that Christians have not been presented with any reason to abandon any central beliefs of the Christian faith. A more positive response would seek to show that evolutionary psychology can provide some sort of epistemic support for one or more distinctively Christian doctrines. This paper is an attempt to supply such a response by focusing on the distinctively Christian doctrine of original sin, which presents itself as an especially likely candidate for support from evolutionary psychology. I consider five versions of the doctrine in order of increasing content, arguing that all but the last can receive such support. However, in order to argue for the fourth version (which includes the doctrine traditionally described as “original guilt”), I enlist the aid of a Molinist understanding of divine providence. A consequence of this application of Molinism is that God holds us morally accountable, not only for what we actually do, but also for what we would do in any non-actual conditions, and that He acts on His knowledge of what we would do in such conditions. Because many may find this consequence problematic, I also argue that it is both morally acceptable and necessary for the perfection of the relationship between God and human beings. The last version of original sin that I consider insists that it must be the causal product of the first sin of the first human being(s), but I argue that this is not a reasonable alternative if original sin is to be equated with behavioral tendencies inherited from an evolutionary ancestry.

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