Saturday, February 28, 2015
I have lately seen the idea repeatedly floated that high (or human) intelligence is pregnant with the seeds of its own destruction. I have heard it said, for instance, that the human race will destroy itself before its large brain can find a way to make itself immortal. Another variation on that theme is that the human race will destroy the planet upon which it relies for its survival before it has devised intergalactic travel in order to sustain its existence.
These ideas have led me to musings about the Creation Myth that has come down to us from the biblical book of Genesis. Did death enter the picture precisely because humanity came to be intelligent--to "be like God"--rather than because of the disobedience of Eve, and then Adam, to a Higher Power? Does the Eden myth accurately foretell the inevitable suicide inherent to high intelligence?
The myth tells us that God created heaven and earth, and saw that it was all Good. If so, why was there a Serpent in the Garden, unless that Serpent was also Good? We are told that God is omniscient. He would, therefore, have been well-aware of the presence of that most "subtle" of all creatures, well in advance of the circumstances leading to the "Fall of Man."
We are also told that only after eating the forbidden fruit did Eve (and Adam) have knowledge of Good and Evil. Therefore, it seems that God instructed his newly-minted humans not to do something without having provided them with the equipment to understand why they should not do it. Adam and Eve, then, were not created as moral agents. They were like a pair of puppies. The only way to teach them not to do a particular thing would have been by training them not to do it by using reward and punishment. Yet, in the Eden myth we see that it was a one-shot deal. And how could our omnipotent God not have known from the git-go that this was a done-deal?
But perhaps God didn't place the Serpent in the Garden? Perhaps the Serpent came from Elsewhere, bringing with it that "gift" of intelligent self-awareness and moral agency that constitutes what we understand to be full human-ness, but at an eventual great cost?
The Eden myth ends with Adam and Even being driven from the Garden before--with their eyes now open--they should reach out and eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. Interesting... Their Creator has somehow inadvertently allowed humans to become highly intelligent (like God), and, as a last resort, strikes back at them by preventing them from becoming (like God) immortal. This being the case, it follows that Adam and Eve never were immortals in the first place. Death did not enter the picture directly as a result of their disobedience; it was, rather, a secondary effect of their acquisition of intelligence.
And the poor Serpent was transformed into a metaphor...