Maverick philosopher asks here whether the doctrine of Original Sin is empirically refutable by evolutionary biology. He argues not, because it is absurd to suppose that the doctrine of the Fall 'stands or falls' with the truth of a passage in Genesis literally interpreted. I think he is right if it is the literal interpretation – of original biologically human parents – that is the intended target. But, as I argued earlier, evolutionary biology addresses the ‘spiritual’ interpretation of the Fall also. The doctrine of Original Sin is roughly this:
1. We are beset by a host of evils (e.g. crime, illness, sexual desire) that make our existence in this life wretched.
2. This present wretched state is a punishment.
3. The punishment is for an act committed by distant ancestors.
Interpreting ‘evil’ as a threat to our survival, evolutionary biology explains this as the result of life having evolved by competition for survival. Since competition for survival always involves the danger of extinction, it is only natural that our life should be ‘wretched’ in this sense. (That sexual desire is an evil is a view of Augustine’s that we should leave for later).
The second assumption – that this state is a kind of punishment – is in no way consistent with evolutionary biology. In evolutionary biology, there is no one to mete out punishment. And the third assumption, that we are being punished for something that others did, makes no sense for the same reason. And even if others committed a crime, it violates natural justice to suppose that we should be punished for what they did, without participation or choice in their act.
Augustine’s argument is that since God allows young infants to suffer, original sin must exist. An all-powerful god would not allow innocent beings to suffer, therefore even children cannot be innocent. And since they have done nothing in their own life to merit punishment, it follows that they are being punished for the sins of their distant ancestors. Evolutionary biology entirely rejects this argument, of course.
In summary, evolutionary biology rejects a spiritual, as well as a literal, interpretation of the theological doctrine of original sin.