Bodily functions and blue eyes in the pre-Fall world?
Published: 22 December 2018 (GMT+10)
Did Adam and Eve have normal bodily functions, like urination, defecation, and menstruation, before the Fall? Could people have developed blue eyes and lactose tolerance before the Fall, if they are ‘mutations’? Should our notions of beauty and disgust dictate what could’ve happened before the Fall? D.J. from Sweden writes:
You at CMI seem to think humans and animals had to defecate, urinate and menstruate before the Fall. I find this, at least as it’s working now, untenable. It simply is not “very good”, it’s disgusting. For instance, imagine having a puppy prefall, then it seems inevitable that it excretes in people’s houses. Also, women often find menstruation and pain in childbirth among the negative things about being a woman.
Menstruation is also negatively portrayed in the Bible.
You also seem to think men were not intended to have blue eyes, blond hair or to be lactose persistent. This further would imply we originate from an imperfect design. So many people, including me, enjoy dairy products. Saying people were not intended to have blue eyes or blond hair seems unacceptable to me, because it’s good. Of course, if these traits arose through intended mutations I have no problem.
Perhaps someone has some better solutions to these issues?
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
How should we think about what the pre-Fall world was like?
Bear in mind that thinking about the pre-Fall condition isn’t easy. We have no experience of what it was like, and we only have three chapters of Scripture that offer any information on what it was like. We clearly lack a lot of information. And I’m not even sure Adam and Eve would be very helpful in describing it, because the Bible gives the impression that the pre-Fall condition didn’t last very long (Why Bible history matters). The best we can do is to stick tightly to what the Bible tells us, and make the most reasonable speculations we can from that. Please bear that in mind as you read material on that topic on our website, and as you read what I have to say below.
Bodily functions and the pre-Fall world?
First, do we think defecation, urination, and menstruation had to happen before the Fall? No, it’s obvious that God could’ve arranged circumstances to make those things unnecessary. But did God have to make them unnecessary? That’s the real question. And to that we say no, God didn’t have to specially arrange the pre-Fall world to avoid the possibility of defecation, urination, and menstruation. Rather, we say that since they are normal bodily functions that are not explicitly ruled out from the pre-Fall world by Scripture, it’s far more likely than not that they did happen (or at least would’ve happened, given enough time) in the pre-Fall world.
But you say that they violate the “very good” condition of Genesis 1:31 because they’re disgusting. But is your personal disgust a good measure of what counted as “very good” in the Genesis 1:31? I don’t think so (Did Adam and Eve have to eat before the Fall?). If it was, then many animals people find disgusting (e.g. slugs) couldn’t have existed before the Fall. Rather, the pre-Fall world was “very good” in the sense of moral goodness and physical health and fecundity (Was God’s finished creation perfect?). After all, look at what the Fall introduced: evil, suffering, disease, death, uncertainty in food production (see also Was the Garden of Eden a ‘sanctuary’ from a hostile outside world?). The certainty of moral and physical health and fecundity was taken away, and replaced with uncertainty that ended ultimately in death. That of course doesn’t mean that the pre-Fall world was a generally disgusting place; far from it. But to say that there was nothing in the pre-Fall world that we might find disgusting goes well beyond the biblical scope of the Genesis 1:31 “very good” condition.
So, when we look at urination, defecation, and menstruation, what aspects of the biblically informed understanding of the pre-Fall “very good” condition do they violate? Nothing. They’re not evil. Any suffering, disease and death they might produce now wouldn’t have been an issue in the pre-Fall world. And they can even contribute to the ecological system, so they’re not necessarily a detriment to productivity.
But you raise a few specific issues about menstruation. First, you mention that most women experience some level of discomfort from menstruation. But not all women do, so why should we think they must have had discomfort pre-Fall?
Second, you mention that menstruation is portrayed negatively in the Bible. You would need to be more specific, though. Nakedness is also portrayed negatively in the Bible, but Genesis 2:25 makes that irrelevant to the pre-Fall condition. Adam and Eve were naked before the Fall without any shame, and this was a reflection of their innocence before the Fall. As for menstruation, the main way it’s portrayed negatively in the Bible is that it was ritually unclean in the Mosaic covenant. But why think that matters? Seminal emissions in ordinary sexual relations were also ritually unclean (Leviticus 15:18). Does this mean ordinary sex was prohibited or impossible before the Fall? Of course not! How could Adam and Eve have fulfilled their pre-Fall mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) if they couldn’t have sex? As such, ritual impurity by itself doesn’t make something contrary to the “very good” condition of Genesis 1:31. But ritual purity is the core way menstruation is portrayed ‘negatively’ in the Bible; any other negative portrayals of menstruation depend crucially on that. But if that’s irrelevant to Genesis 1:31, then the ‘negative’ portrayal of menstruation in the Bible doesn’t imply that it was absent from the pre-Fall world.
In some circles, menstruation is referred to as ‘the curse’. There is no biblical evidence for this. But we can be sure that in a pre-Fall, “very good” creation, there would not have been any problems with pain, cramping, heavy bleeding, or endometriosis. Even today, most women’s cycles don’t interfere with their daily activities, and many women don’t have any menstrual pain.1
It’s possible that pre-Fall, women could have resorbed the endometrial lining completely as most non-primate mammals do. This is why overt menstruation is not observed in cats, dogs, sheep, cows etc. Even now, women resorb about two thirds of the lining. But the Bible doesn’t say. However, it’s logically deducible from the Bible that there would have been no pain before the Fall, menstrual or otherwise.2
What about childbirth pain? That was mentioned as part of the curse in Genesis 3:16. As such, either no pain in childbirth, or severely reduced pain in childbirth, would’ve been the norm in the pre-Fall world (see Childbirth pains and human consciousness, Pain in childbirth: result of the Fall or fear?, and Answering questions about the pre-Fall world).
DNA changes in the pre-Fall world
Do we think that humans weren’t intended to have blue eyes or persistent lactose tolerance? That doesn’t follow from saying that they arose through genetic changes. Not all genetic changes have to be bad (see Can mutations create new information?, and especially the section “What is a mutation?”). Even in the pre-Fall world, the human genome wouldn’t have been perfectly static (The four dimensional human genome defies naturalistic explanations). It needs a certain level of dynamism to it to perform its normal bodily tasks. In other words, genetic changes can be useful, even purposeful. Given that, it’s easy to envision a pre-Fall condition in which God allowed such changes to occur in the genetic code that produced persistent lactose tolerance or blue eyes, whether for purely aesthetic reasons or even useful reasons. Why not? Couldn’t God have providentially increased the beauty and productivity of His creation as we obeyed His mandate to “be fruitful and multiply”? For instance, consider Why reindeer eyes turn blue in winter. This is different from having permanently blue eyes, but it could provide some analogue for why God might allow blue eyes to arise in human populations even in a pre-Fall world; their eyes would have greater light sensitivity at higher latitudes, which would be helpful during winter.
There is so much about the pre-Fall world that we don’t know. As such, there is much we can only speculate about. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect that there is a high degree of physical continuity between the pre-Fall world and the fallen world. So, there’s no reason to suppose that the proper functioning of ordinary bodily functions was absent in the pre-Fall world. This would even include changes in DNA; the genome is designed to be dynamic. While DNA and bodily degeneration is bad, variety is the spice of life!
References and notes
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least 1 PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle. Most of these women have fairly mild symptoms that don’t need treatment. Others (about 3 to 8 percent) have a more severe form of PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric (dis-FOHR-ik) disorder (PMDD).” Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet, Offce on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, womenshealth.gov, accessed 26 November 2013.
- Experiencing pain is a good thing in today’s fallen world if your hand is getting too close to a fire and might otherwise get burnt. But it is clear that the anguish associated with debilitating pain would have been unknown pre-Fall. It’s likely that God’s sovereign upholding of His creation would have prevented harm coming to nephesh chayyāh that would produce the warning of horrific pain.