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Friday, February 12, 2010

What if Eve had been a trained scientist?

This essay is a brief thought experiment meant to explore the implications of an alternate version of the story of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 2 & 3. In the alternate version Eve practices the forms of reasoning employed in modern sciences to decide what to do about the serpent's "temptation." Using these techniques the "scientific" Eve either falsifies the serpent's claims without any human being eating the forbidden fruit or, depending on how Adam and God respond to her, falsifies many of the theological/anthropological/cultural constructs underlying the Biblical version of the story. If Eve had been a trained scientist, there would have been no "fall."

I attempted a simpler form of this experiment many years ago. At that time my primary purpose was to dispatch to my own satisfaction a variant of Calvnistic/Reformed orthodoxy known as Van Tillian presuppositionalism. One of this position's claims, based on its own approach to Genesis 2 and 3, is that modern scientific ways of knowing the world are inherently prejudiced against true knowledge and love of God. Primarily, this is due to the fact that the modern scientific way of knowing does not accept the already self-evident knowledge scientists have of God from the inerrant Word of God in the Bible, the creation around them, and their own being and constitution. All of these things speak to them very clearly, and in being exposed to them scientists encounter God himself. But scientists fail to respond properly to this knowledge. Instead, they suppress and deny it; they doubt things they know deep down to be true. Or, more exactly, they doubt the One they know deep down to be Truth.

In other words, consistent methodogical doubt is sinful and disastrously counterproductive when confronted with the God of the Bible. I don't accept this at all. But I was not happy with the idea that presuppositionalism would go one way and I another and the two would have nothing to say to one another. I would press reasons and arguments starting from my set of givens and they would press reasons and arguments starting from their set of givens (primarily the Bible), and we would talk at one another but make very little progress. Ah, I thought, if I can show that the use of scientific methods by Eve would rule out the "fall," the entire presuppositionalist position is overthrown. That was my initial intent. Whether this thought experiment achieves that intent knowing readers will have to judge for themselves.

In any event, that is no longer my primary intent. I have broader goals now. For one thing, writing out this experiment is more fun for me and anyone who happens to read the posts. For another, I think the contrast between the two versions of the story will make some features of the Biblical version clearer and easier to evaluate. These are good things, no matter what your beliefs about Genesis 2 and 3.

Next post in the series coming soon!


James Jordan said...

If there had been no "fall" there would only be two people, and they'd be tended a garden for all eternity. Immortal people clearly aren't intended to procreate -- they'd run out of room fast. Clearly the "punishment" of pain in childbirth is in reality the creation of the possibility of childbirth for the human species. So rather than the "fall" being some horrible thing that ruined humanity, its the only reason you even exist. Its the only reason there are more than 2 human beings in existence.

Jim Moore said...

James, I see that you have posted a series of comments to various posts of mine, some going back quite a ways. Appreciate the interest and will put my responses, if I have any, in the appropriate post's comment section. You really need to read the 2nd post in this series if you want to get my point. As for "if there had been no 'fall' there would only be two people," you then have to explain Gen 1:26ff, where it is assumed the newly created human race will reproduce and multiply. It is probably the case that the Genesis 2-3 story existed separately from Genesis 1 at one point, but I have no opinion myself about whether some previous version of the story imagined a non-reproducing human pair living forever in the garden of Eden until they disobeyed the command. Oh, and I don't believe in an historical "fall" of any kind.