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The origins of Man

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 16, 2007 5:14 am

"Surely it can have emotional and mental effects as well, but certainly not spiritual."

So are you saying that if a priest comforts a sick person with words - it is a spiritual effect, but if a doctor comforts that same person using those same words, then it is only having an emotional/mental effect? My problem trying to follow your line of logic is, I suppose, that you haven't and don't seem to be able to define what you mean by the Spirit. If you cannot define what the Spirit is, then I cannot begin to understand it, using current methods of logical thinking. This I submit is probably something peculiar about me, for I acknowledge that there are millions of people out there happy to believe in something that they do not understand what it means. (It's probably those old genes at work on all those carriers of information).

Lacking much detail knowledge about theology, let me try another way to show you why the theory about Mitochondria makes me believe that there is a theological problem with it:

¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, 1 Cor. 11.7 after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Mt. 19.4 · Mk. 10.6



You may not see any theological problems with Mitochondria but I now tend to think of Genesis along the following lines:


And God created man in his own image but in order to enable Man so that he could be loved and worshipped he had to add the soulless animal known as mitochondria which enriched man and let the spirit enter.

Could Mitochondria itself be the Spirit? It is after all an important biological entity which seems to have given Man the possibility of a Spiritual dimension.

If Man works along the lines laid down by biology, I cannot see how Spirituality can work in Man on non-biological lines.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 16, 2007 5:42 am

You're right; I have not yet adequately defined what the spiritual is. In you example of a priest comforting a person, it would be the same emotional/mental effect as a doctor doing the same. But if the priest prays for or with the person, that is a spiritual effect.

It's hard to define but to me spirituality generally means invoking divine or miraculous power that is clearly not of the physical world. For example, when I speak to God in prayer, I know I am not talking to anything physical. It's hard for a non-believer to understand, since to an atheist it is impossible for something to exist without being physical in nature. Of course, to a believer, the spiritual is just as real as the physical. I normally tend to think of it as two parallel and intertwined worlds: a physical world and a spiritual world.

As for your scripture quote, that passage is from Genesis, not 1 Corinthians, as you labeled it. I still don't see mitochondria as posing a problem, however, especially if all life has souls or at least some form of spirit. Considering that we are nothing but a bunch of inanimate parts that are somehow very much alive, I simply don't see how that can be possible without a soul.
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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 16, 2007 7:40 am

I agree with you entirely that there should be no theological problem concerning mitochondria if, as you say, all life has a soul or a spirit, even if I cannot understand the concept of Spirituality. For the moment I am living in a physical world and I do not have certain proof that any other type of world exists.

But my memory tells me that my Catholic upbringing did in fact mention that animals did NOT have souls and that we could therefore do what we liked to them and with them. There was never any mention of looking after them, unless it was for our own self-interest. Thus, I have to ask again, are you sure that the Vatican agrees with you that "All living things must have souls"? If they do, then the church has certainly changed its position on the subject over the last 60 years, but I doubt that they could do so on such an important concept as The Soul. It would be like doing away or upgrading Genesis or the Old Testament itself.

The quote that I took from Genesis mentions Man being made in the image of God. There is no mention of doing the same with other animals. It only mentions animals to say that Man may have control over them. That does not sound to me as though Genesis means you to understand that animals also have a soul.

So, whether from the Church or somewhere else in the Bible, you can show me where it is stated, that "animals have souls", I have to infer, for the time being, that the problem of us Humans beings finding ourselves 95% subordinate to an animal does not square up with the concept that we are special and made in the image of God.
If God does exist, then the church has not done its work properly. As Martin Luther observed- perhaps we do not need a priest or a church to be able to communicate with God.

As you know, I have elsewhere suggested that the concept of Faith is embedded in our genes through the action of Natural Selection. We already have that "Drive" within us. There is no need for it to be interpreted by others.
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Postby MichaelXY » Sun Sep 16, 2007 8:00 am

I think this is a really good thread. I must say that I am impressed by both of you. This has been a civil dialect and argument. You both make good points. Keep the post going, you both really have me going Hmm--thinking.

My hat off to you both.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 16, 2007 4:27 pm

The Church's official position is that animals have a spirit sufficient to keep them alive but this spirit does not equal a true soul. I myself have never really understood the difference, and from what I've studied of animal intelligence, I doubt if there is one. It is one of very few disagreements that I hold with the Vatican, but both the Church and myself do agree that life cannot exist without spirit.

Whether or not animals have souls is in fact a very minor issue in Catholic theology. The Church sees its primary role as moral, and whether or not animals have souls does not affect moral law or what is right and wrong. Indeed, it probably affects us not at all. That is probably why the Church hasn't addressed the issue at all in quite a few centuries. The Church has its hands full trying to deal with the rampant immorality in this world.

I think you're mistaken on a fundamental point concerning mitochondria, and that is by saying that it means we are dependent on another animal. When mitochondria first evolved, this might have been true, but today, the DNA in mitochondria is entirely human, and no genes of the organelle's bacterial ancestry remain. Today it is just like any other organelle, no longer another animal.

I already explained earlier what that passage of Genesis means to me. Man's special place in the world is due to our intelligence, technology, and ability to control the world around us in a way that no other species can. Common sense tells us that we do in fact have a certain power over our environment and a sense of responsibility tells us to use that power responsibly.

There is plenty of evidence that some sort of spiritual existence does in fact exist. Miracles, which by definition cannot be explained naturally, are only the beginning.
Generally speaking, the more people talk about "being saved," the further away they actually are from true salvation.

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Postby genovese » Sun Sep 16, 2007 4:59 pm

Thanks for that explanation on the Church's thinking on animals. I must say though that on reading that passage in Genesis - I would come to a different conclusion.

As for Mitochondria - I thought that they reprodcued independtly from the rest of the host cell, suggesting that not all their DNA had been transferred, and the fact that DNA is held (perhaps temporarily) by the host nucleus does not prove that it cannot act independently from the host. Viruses (?souls) often interact with the host DNA, but they still remain viruses and they can even have severe carcinogenic effects on our genetic material. So, having lost bits of your DNA to the host does not negate your origins.

But putting all that aside, I am pleased to learn that my "mitochondrial worries" are not a problem for the Vatican.
Thank you for your excellent participation as usual.
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Postby alextemplet » Sun Sep 16, 2007 10:44 pm

To me, "Let us make man in our image" cannot be physical in any way; since God is spirit, He has no physical appearance. Thus "image" has to be some sort of symbol for something other than a physical appearance. I personally think it means that, like God, man has an intellect and a sense of morality. Man is clearly not nearly as intelligent nor anywhere close to morally perfect, as God is, but humanity is still capable of reason and has a sense of right and wrong. It is also worth noting that the Bible does not say that man was the only creature created in this image, nor does it say that all animals were created in some other image. All it says is that man was created in that image. Again from what I've studied of zoology, I think at least a few species are also capable of such intellect and morality. However, humanity alone still possesses the capability to save or destroy the planet, which is why we were given the responsibility of caring for it.

My earlier statements on mitochondrial DNA were based on what I learned in high school. A quick glance at wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondria) has shown that you are in fact correct; mitochondrial DNA is different from nucleic DNA. I'm not sure if this means they are a separate species altogether, instead of just two lifeforms that have merged into one, but even if they are I don't see a theological problem. Humans being dependent on another lifeform is not unique at all, and such symbiotic relationships can be found everywhere in nature. For example, we are incapable of digesting food without the help of bacteria that live in our intestines. So even if mitochondria are a separate organism, they're not unique in our dependence on them for survival.
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Postby genovese » Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:41 am

"I personally think it means that, like God, man has an intellect and a sense of morality." That of course sums up the problem when trying to understand what is written in the Bible. Your personal interpretation does not quite square up with that of the Vatican, and squares up even less with my interpretation. When I read Genesis I CLEARLY read that Animals have no souls, are inferior and are there soley for our use.

As for your argument that the Bible doesn't mention that animals don't have souls - that I find weak and not helpful to your position. I would not expect or demand that the Bible ought to mention everything on the Earth that does not possess something.

As for Mitochondria, I think you ought to update your information by reading up the subjet. Not only are they independent but their genetic code is different to ours. Sure, they may have dumped some of their superfluous genes into our Genome, because they are using some of our systems symbiotically and there is no point in coding for the same protein twice over. (I only wish that the Bible was as easy to understand as Biochemistry).

Even if we are NOW using them rather than THEY using us, the fact remains that without them we would never have been able to believe in much at all and certainly we would not have had enough energy to believe in such an etheral thing as the presence or absence of deity in that parallel world of the spirit which you mentioned. And my wild uncontrollable imagination now has the fear that if at some stage a biochemist finds that some of our genes have been dumped into those of the mitochondria -what then? Are we then primarily Mitochondria with spirits but no souls and are we humans at all? I hope for the Vatican that this scenario does not present itself.
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Sep 17, 2007 5:23 pm

As I said before, the exact nature of mitochondria makes no theological difference. Even if it does turn out to be a completely independent organism that lives inside us in a symbiotic relationship, that's far from unique. I already gave the bacteria living in our gut as an example. The simple fact is that, like all other life, we are dependent on a range of other organisms both inside and outside our bodies. Nothing strange about that.

The explanation I gave for the meaning of "Let us create man in our image" is the same as that taught by the Church, as is my explanation of man's "dominion" and responsibility over all other life; it is only on the issue of animal spirits/souls that I differ with established teaching. And as I said before, that is a very minor issue as far as the Church is concerned. If it every becomes important (I seriously doubt it will.), the Church will more than likely investigate the matter using the exact same methods of ecclesiastical investigation that produced the big bang theory.
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Postby genovese » Mon Sep 17, 2007 8:00 pm

"I already gave the bacteria living in our gut as an example. Even if it does turn out to be a completely independent organism that lives inside us in a symbiotic relationship, that's far from unique."

Sorry to be nit-picking and argumentative but bacteria within our gut are not technically or biologically inside our bodies. The gastrointestinal tract is "outside" the body from which organisms are easily and regularly expelled. Would you please tell me which animal is living symbiotically inside our cells other than Mitochondria? I believe that it is unique - that is why this theory is so shattering. Perhaps the Vatican ought to give the theory some thought.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Sep 18, 2007 1:13 am

If you define "inside" as inside our cells, then I am sure mitochondria are unique in that respect. However, how does that make them significantly different (in a theological sense) from any other organism on which we are dependent?
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Postby genovese » Tue Sep 18, 2007 5:19 am

So, if we recapitulate, we now agree that Mitochondria are unique in being animals living within us symbiotically. For a scientist this is quite something but in science we are getting used to the unexpected and all reasonable people practicing this discipline should have "open" minds so as to adapt to new theories as they come along.

Can the same thing be said about theologians, who are tied to a book that hasn't ever been changed?

Now this book," to me" clearly states that animals have no souls. If the church wishes me to think otherwise, let it show me the evidence, for I have been taught that every word in the bible is sacred and cannot be changed.

So, the idea of God allowing a souless creature to be so important an element in our make-up, so that we can love and worship Him, simply does not make sense.

Either the Vatican should come out straight and condemn the theory and risk being ridiculed once more or it needs to change its view on whether animals have souls. They need only come out and say that "Mitochondria have souls" - after all, the Bible (using your negative way of arguing) does not say that Mitochondria do not have souls.
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