Whence comes intelligent design?

May 19, 2006 | By | 11 Replies More

In a recent post (http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=166), I discussed God’s attractive nuisance in His garden of Eden:  the Tree of Knowledge.  Let’s take that discussion one step farther.  Not only did God plant his deadly tree smack in the middle of His garden (bad garden design), not only did He fail to put a barrier fence around his deadly tree (bad barrier design), but why did He then give the Tree its appealing name, “Tree of Knowledge” (bad label design)?  According to the Bible, Eve ate the apple because she wanted to gain wisdom, so God’s name for the Tree obviously played a key role in her decision.  Why didn’t God simply call His tree something less appealing?  Indeed, why didn’t God call His tree what it was:  the Tree of Death?  Even with the Tree planted in the middle of His garden, even with no fence around it, God might have dissuaded Adam and Eve from eating its fruit with a simple name change.  Unfortunately, God botched that, too.  God was like a parent who stores poisons in the house, fails to keep the poisons locked in a cabinet, fails to put “Mr. Yuk” stickers on the poisons, fails to prevent His children from playing near the poisons, fails to adequately supervise His children when they do so, then refuses to take the blame (indeed, blames His children) when His children die of poisoning.

This raises the question:  if God could not even PLANT A TREE without violating every rule of good human factors design (not to mention obvious elements of criminal negligence), then why should anyone believe that living creatures are the result of God’s “intelligent design?”

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Evolution, Meaning of Life, Religion

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (11)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    The other option: God is cruel.

  2. Jason Rayl says:

    Actually, bad advertising. If eating of that tree supposedly imparted wisdom, both Adam and Eve would (a) gone straight to the Tree of Life and "become like gods" and/or (b) understood that being naked was nothing to be ashamed of and that the best way to undo the problem would be to apologize at once. Instead they acted like a couple of teenagers caught necking in the back of mom and dad's car, unable to explain themselves, and tongue-tied by embarrassment.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    But God was omniscient, so they say. He knew that Adam and Eve would be sneaking around behind God's back (whatever that might mean). Couldn't God have used the Eden version of a "baby gate" to keep civilization going on "upstairs"?

    Maybe it's all for the best that Adam and Eve failed, actually. If Adam and Eve and those before us hadn't transgressed, fast forward to the present day. I (and many others who are part of this blog community) would then be sitting around sorely tempted to bite into that first apple. I not confident that I would have the inner stamina to stay away from that doggoned tree.

  4. Jason Rayl says:

    You know, your last comment reminded me of something I said in the heat of an argument once that I think bears more consideration.

    Who said Adam and Eve failed?

    The Fall is a reassessment based on Catholic dogma more than anything else.

    Maybe God was just waiting for them to get smart enough or brave enough to FOLLOW THROUGH on what he/she/it wanted them to do in the first place. He put the tree there so they WOULD stand up on their hind legs and disobey him. Must have been pretty dull around this planet until then.

  5. Yana says:

    Jason, your last comment is rather interesting because it takes into account the fact that traditional Christian dogma holds curiosity and the desire for knowledge and wisdom to be a sin if it leads you to break one of God's nonsensical rules. I personally believe that in order for something to be considered morally reprehensibe (i.e. a sin), it should actually hurt someone. A victimless crime would, therefore, not be considered a sin (keeping in mind that if it hurts the one commiting it, or society as a whole, it cannot be considered "victimless"). Now, let's face it: eating a fruit because of a desire to gain knowledge is an inherently benign act. In fact, it would be considered virtuous by my standards, because knowledge (as opposed to ignorance) is a virtue. Moreover, it isn't fair for God to blame Adam and Eve for eating the fruit when it was clearly human nature to do so–human nature that God Himself allegedly created in us. Why would He make the human mind prone to "sin" and then blame the humans for the inevitable behavior that follows? It's clearly unfair.

    But if it is as you suggest, and God intentionally put the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the garden to see whether Adam and Eve would be smart enough to eat from it, why would He punish them for eating it? Also, why would He try to confuse them by making them disobey Him in order to achieve His desired result? If obeying God is a virtue (and disobeying Him is a sin), then the only way they could have done what He was "waiting for them to do" was by sinning. If, on the other hand, obeying Him is not always a virtue, then God is obviously deceitful and unfair, blaming people for sinning when they just tried to do what they thought was right; how were people supposed to know when God seriously wanted their obedience and when He didn't? It just doesn't add up.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Yana and everyone else:

    Speaking as a parent, I know that parents sometimes have mixed and/or confused motives when it comes to child care. At least back then, in His pre-Virgin Mary days, God was a single parent. He shouldered all of the responsibility for creating at least one universe. He was probably fatiqued after six days of Creation that, despite its successes, probably left him a bit frustrated (human eye nerves in FRONT of the rods and cones–DOH!). He didn't have access to any parenting manuals or parent enrichment classes. Like most parents I know, He might have felt under-appreciated, especially given that he was the Creator of . . . well . . . everything. Maybe his parent-issues resonated extra-deeply and painfully. After all, He doesn't speak at all of his own lineage. He might have been an over-compensating orphan like Charles Foster Kane, the Tree of Knowledge being his Rosebud. But perhaps this is somewhat speculative . . .

    Back to the conflicted parent theory. Saying "Don't DO X" while simultaneously hoping (somewhat) that someone actually DOES X sounds so very . . . human. Could this ambivalence be even further evidence that the Big Fellow was created in Man's image and likeness?

    I don't really know what to make of my own comments here. Perhaps, it's this: IF there really was a God and IF He created Adam and Eve, if He really had a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, if if if and if . . . then maybe I'm trying to say that I excuse his fumbling and inexact ways.

  7. Yana says:

    Erich:

    If your comments about God as a confused parent are correct, then they clearly imply that God is imperfect and by no means omniscient or omnipotent (in fact, neither). Indeed, his mistakes are so blatant that it's hard for me to see how an average human being with an ounce of love for his creation would act the same in His place. I know that if I were God, I wouldn't be so incredibly unfair to the humans, deliberately setting them up for disobedience and then punishing them so severely.

  8. Jason Rayl says:

    Yana:

    It's a question of disequilibrium being the only means to spark new growth. Consider the theory of the Big Bang, that the universe, in its primordial seed, was utterly stable, complete equilibrium, and expansion only occurred due to some appearance of disequilibrium…

    It wouldn't have worked for God to just tell them he wanted them to disobey–that wouldn't have accomplished anything. They would have been smarter, maybe, but no closer to–to use a somewhat anachronistic phrase–"being their own persons."

    Now, a lot of this I'm saying with tongue firmly in cheek. Given that humans wrote about it–and probably made it all up–then you have Erich's mix of confused parenthood expressing itself in pride that they took the initiative and anger that taking the initiative is so damn hard!

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    Yana's comments to Jason and Erich are right on target, so I'm going to stir the pot a bit by trying to respond to them in a way that I think a God-fearing Believer might respond:

    First, everything God does is divine and perfect. Therefore, God *must* have had a divine and perfect reason for doing what He did in the garden of Eden, and we mere humans just don't understand what that reason was. Thus, to the extent that God's behavior *seems* aberrant and unjust to us mere humans, it is because we are not divine and, therefore, we should not expect to always understand God's actions. Sure, to us God's behavior might seem like that of an abusive parent, but we must trust God that it is all part of His overall plan for humanity. In other words, God can do no wrong; therefore, if it seems to us as though God has done something wrong, it is because we mere humans are wrong; i.e., all blame rests with us.

    Second, "sin" is more than doing things that are morally reprehensible or that are contrary to what God wants us to do. Sin is defined much more broadly: it means "distance from God;" i.e., sin is anything you do that separates you from God in any way. Thus, it encompasses not only things like moral failures and disobedience, but even things like failing to think about God during your routine daily activities. The ubiquitousness of sin is the reason why humans are perpetually in a state of sin and require the intervention of Jesus to wash away our sins.

    In sum: God is not responsible for anything "bad" that happens, because God is perfect and can do nothing "bad." Likewise, humans (and Satan) are responsible for everything "bad" that happens, because we are inherently "sinful."

    Thus (to put my grumpypilgrim hat back on now), the problem of good and evil reduces to a tautology that lets God off the hook: everything God does is perfect and good, because God is defined to be perfect and good. Accordingly, all of Yana's (perfectly valid) questions vanish in the Believer's circular logic. They are questions that a Believer does not ask, because to ask them would require changing the Believer's accepted definition of God. It makes no sense qo ask questions about an imperfect God, because, to a Believer, "imperfect God" is an oxymoron.

    BTW, if any Believers read this comment, then I hope you will respond with your own views, becasue I am merely repeating the sorts of arguments I have heard Believers use in the face of questions like the ones Yana raises. Theism contains a LOT of circular reasoning. (Good example: How do we know God exists? Because the Bible says so. How do we know the Bible is correct? Because it is the Word of God.)

  10. Edgar Montrose says:

    "Loss of Innocence" metaphors do not need to be logically consistent.

    I just wish that more people could relax their literal-interpretation-death-grip on the Bible long enough to realize that.

  11. Edgar Montrose says:

    (My previous comment not aimed at anyone at Dangerous Intersection, but at those who insist upon literal interpretation of the Bible in spite of its inconsistencies.)

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