Hi, friends. Does anyone else have that friend or family member they can talk to about philosophical or intellectual thoughts? My dad is one of them for me. This post is inspired by a couple of our chats.
A while back, I was piecing together an argument in support of theism based on the difference between humans and other animals. Why do humans seem to have innate moral compasses? Why is it evil if a human mother eats her baby, but it’s not evil if an animal mother eats her baby? [Incidentally, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis begins with the topic of the innate moral compass, and he argues it convincingly.]
We discussed my argument in the car on a family trip–that the emotional and intellectual divide between humanity and other species supports the notion of a creator/designer…but my brother replied that most of the “morals” I attribute to humans derive from the deep-seeded biological imperatives of social creatures.
My dad threw another wrench into my argument. He said that some people believe humans are inherently good and could hypothetically exist in a utopia if they didn’t need anything (which reminded me of the paradoxical “noble savage” trope in my literature studies) but he disagrees. He said that society is the thin veneer that keeps humans from acting animalistic; according to him, if electricity went out around the world for a week, people would already have reverted to anarchy.
I have to say based on scripture that creation is good since God declared it so, but I know what my dad meant. He doesn’t believe that humans would choose to be honest, noble, and kind if society didn’t keep us all in line. Some evil doesn’t have a rational or psychological origin; it just exists. The worldwide horrors of the twentieth century echo that truth.
If humans are just tame animals, my argument for the divide between humans and animals is easily rebutted…or is it?
My dad and I had a similar conversation months later. We were speaking of the human pattern of building up and tearing down; I said that humans need conflict, struggle, violence. Everyone claims to hate drama, yet there’s always drama.
And it hit me. Adam and Eve lived in a utopia; though technically composed of flesh, they were “spiritual” beings created for communion with God. When they ate from the tree of knowledge, they rebelled against that communion founded on complete trust…showing that, like animals, they could survive without that reliance on God. Hence, the part of them made of flesh like every other animal was activated; animalistic survival instincts were awakened in humans, so we struggle with lust, selfishness, etc…while our “innate moral compass” still lingers because we were created in His image.
Now the human need for conflict, or “human nature,” makes sense in the context of the creation story; we need burdens because of our survival instincts that we gained due to the original sin. So no, I don’t believe that humans could ever be happy in a utopia (if such a system were even possible) after the fall of man.
We are part animal, part spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the animal part and develop our spiritual side. [Though writers like Lewis argue that our animalistic urges are less dangerous than our uniquely human urges, such as the desire to gain power. One could argue that the desire for power is still rooted deeply in survival instinct. Just depends how much credence you give to the argument that humans and animals differ.]
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the creation story, why humans need conflict, or any subject related to the post. Feel free to bring a different perspective; I like to consider myself open-minded.