Prof. Carolyn King



Meeting the Serpent in a Space-Age Garden

The story of the Fall poses obvious conflicts with science, which have long inhibited understanding of its central insight.  Now, the advance of medical science offers us a way to translate ancient truths embedded in myth into new stories conveying the same truths in contemporary terms.

The human brain is a complicated structure of three co-ordinated parts, each with a different history. The hind brain, with functions inherited from our reptilian ancestors (represented by the serpent), controls unconscious urges. The mid brain adds the hormones and emotions we have in common with other mammals. The forebrain, evolved only by humans, adds consciousness, intelligence and moral capability. This paper explains how the ancient conversation around the apple tree describing the Fall can be retold in terms of the conflicting interactions of the parts of the modern human brain, leading to a more informed and compassionate view of original sin.


Carolyn (known to friends as Kim) was born in England, and studied at Liverpool University and at Oxford, from where she moved to New Zealand in 1971to join DSIR Ecology Division as a scientist specialising on introduced carnivores, especially stoats. Between 1977 and 1994, when family concerns took priority, she worked part time, writing papers and editing scientific journals for the Royal Society of New Zealand. From 1995 she taught zoology at Waikato University, until she retired from full time commitments in July 2018. She has remained connected to the university as an Emeritus Professor, writing books and papers and encouraging local conservation groups.

In 1999 Kim took a second PhD in religious studies, specialising in the interface between evolutionary biology and contemporary theology, resulting in a 2002 book Habitat of Grace, and several papers in theological journals. She has always enjoyed exploring the fascinating dialogue between science and serious, intelligent faith, and has run workshops and contributed many talks on this topic to the general public. Since completing most of her scientific commitments, this work occupies most of her attention. She has recently been formally appointed Science Adviser to the Bishop of Waikato. She lives in a country house outside Hamilton.