The first soul on Earth

If you believe that humans have a soul (or some sort of dualistic consciousness or spirit or whatever), who had the very first one?

If you are creationist, then your answer is likely Adam of the Adam and Eve duo.  Unfortunately, the available evidence massively favors evolution over creationism.  If you are still in favor of creationism…well there isn’t much for us to talk about anyway.

However, if you recognize that evolution is true and you believe in a soul (or whatever I’ll be using ‘soul’ for everything), then you are faced with a rather tricky problem. Who had the first soul?  The “first” human?  That is a fairly nonsensical answer.  If you were to look at all your ancestors throughout evolutionary history, you would be quite hard pressed to find the first human because each would look a good deal like the one’s adjacent to it (it’s parent and child) in the chain of ancestry.  You might be able to pin down the transition to within a thousand generations or so, but that gets you no closer to a first human.  Even if you picked a particular individual as the first human, there would seem to be a great many ancestral hominids that fashioned tools and had culture, why are they devoid of a soul?  And if they have souls, why not other apes like chimps and bonobos?  And if they have souls, which monkeylike primate ancestor was the first with a soul?  If all primates have souls, why not other mammals, why not reptiles or fish or worms or cnidarians or sponges or bacteria?

Surely we can see that there some organisms that we want to characterize as having a soul, and a good deal more that we feel should not have a soul, but evolution shows us that at no point does nature permit us to classify some creatures as ‘soul-ed’ versus ‘unsoul-ed’.  This should tell us something.

The idea of a soul is a construct.  It is a result of humanity’s fear of death and our tendency to detect intelligent agents when none are actually present.  Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for souls, I find the ‘evolutionary’ argument to be one of the most convincing cases against the existence of a soul.

The existence of a soul is an idea many accept as true without even thinking about what it would mean.  It is an idea that is also central to religion because it underpins other ideas like an afterlife, sin, redemption, reincarnation, etc and skeptics and atheists would do well to spend more time debunking it.

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