I think it's a mistake to think that only spiritual death was the result of Adam's sin. If Adam have not sinned, He could have lived an immortal and incorrupt life, and might even eventually through growth and maturation, and through the incarnation of Christ, bring the rest of the world with him. However, the rest of the world did not partake of the grace of incorruption and immortality as Adam. Therefore, I also would agree that Adam had to have born and lived an incorrupt life with God in the Paradise of Joy away from the world. Adam brought death upon the human race, a race that wasn't supposed to die. I think the question lies centrally on whether all plants and animals around Adam even before Adam existed died or not. And to that, I think the answer according to the material evidence we find, yes. That is how I personally have been able to reconcile the science of evolution and the faith of the Church fathers.
Hm, well I guess this is where I disagree, since we have e.g. St Simeon the New Theologian, who at least in the EO Church enjoys enormous authority, saying explicitly that there was not even any animal death before the fall; St Gregory of Sinai is another father who explicitly taught that there was no death of any kind originally. Also, the teaching that the earth was cursed for Adam's sake makes much more sense if the earth was not cursed before his sin, i.e. that death in the rest of creation followed upon Adam's disobedience (since Adam was the crown of the material world). Paradise was not, in my understanding, a place where death was exceptionally absent, but it's main significance was as the location of the tree of life. Also, after the earth was cursed, Paradise was removed from the earth and remains uncursed as the abode of the saints.
I understand that, when we use the UP to work out the relative age of various animal and plant remains, we find that they are older than the oldest remains of humans. But again, it's about the UP and whether we give it completely free rein when investigating the distant past.
This is a topic I am really interested in, but the timing of this conversation is not compatible with my schedule and this post is more or less to leave a bookmark.
I do have some initial questions because the topic is confusing and for that reason my thoughts are rather simple minded:
In order for something on earth to die it has to be a living organism. Is that incorrect? (I never know what I do not know until someone tells me.)
1) Are plants living organisms in the eyes of God?
2) Are bacteria living organisms in the eyes of God? (and I still think they are the pinnacle of evolution or creation)
3) Are invertebrates like molluscs and insects living organisms in the eyes of God?
A no answer to any of the questions 1-3 represents a slippery slope for further questions. (position A)
A yes answer for all three questions means that all sustenance is provided by God. (position B)
How many examples are there between positions A and B in scripture or Church Fathers or any E/O Orthodox writer?
Right now only position B seems logically viable to me. But in this case, all organisms on earth are not what they appear to be prior to the fall, they are all just drawings with no distinctive attributes. A Tyrannosaurus Rex (which by the way' would be incompatible with foraging for seeds, nuts, algae in position A) would be equivalent to a clam in its attributes. All branches of life appear superficial, so why even give them a name?
Just some initial thoughts