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Monday, August 18, 2008

Gen. 2:16-3:24: Adam and Eve Were Mentally Incompetent

This an article to show that Adam and eve did not know the difference between good and evil before they ate the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil therefore could not understand the consequences of what they were doing. It uses a timeline and a matrix for analysis. Points in time are defined and used to document the point along a timeline where one event occurred in relation to another. It concludes that since Adam and Eve were missing a vital element in decision making, were uneducated, had no life experience to speak of and had no reason not to trust anyone, they were mentally incompetent to be held accountable for disobeying God and causing the punishments of Sin and Judgment to be given to every human thereafter.

Another interpretation of "Fall of Man" story is that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is really the tree of all knowledge where the terms Good and Evil are used as a merism ("bookends" or "upper and lower limits") to express a range, in the same manner as the term "young and old". This is considered a common usage in Biblical Poetry. I don't use this interpretation for this document but it wouldn't change the conclusion anyway.

Keep in mind when you read this, that since Adam and Eves situation is counter-intuitive, meaning that no-one but a person with a mental handicap or a child knows what it is like not to understand the difference between good and evil. It may be hard to avoid slipping into a "normal" frame of reference when discussing their state of mind before they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (K, G & E)

Time 01 - Warning about the Tree of G&E
Here is where people become accountable for knowing about the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. At this point they still do not know the difference between good and evil and have never had any other relationships with anyone else except God whom they trust completely. God was being ambiguous and therefore deceptive by saying "you will surely die". He wasn't exercising the principle of clarity in communication.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

T02 - God decides to make a helper for Adam from the animals
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

T03 - Adam names the animals and tries to pick a helper
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

T04 - Adam did not choose a helper so God decides to make one for him from his rib, effectively making him the first mother.
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh.
22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman,'
for she was taken out of man."
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

T05 - They were naked and felt no shame.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.


T06 - Eves first experience with someone she shouldn't trust.
Eve is now introduced to her first experience with someone whose intent may be to decieve her and possibly manipulate her, and she doesn't know the difference between Good and Evil. There was evidently no warning about the snake. There are several default reasoning schemes that people commonly use and seem to present naturally. It takes education and experience to be able to overcome these. Presumably, since Eve and Adam were human, uneducated and with no life experience to speak of, they were susceptible to most if not all of these. A partial list of Cognitive Bias and Factors of Persuasion relevant to Adam and Eves situation taken from one of my other articles follows.
- People like stories and are willing to give the teller of the story the benefit of the doubt about the truth of it.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from someone they like.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it fits with what they already believe or want to believe.
- People look for confirmation of what they already believe and disregard things that contradict.
- People are more likely to believe a story if it comes from an authority.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Eve took this as new valid information and acted on it. According to the context of the story, it should not be possible to know that disobeying God was Evil. She had no concept of Good or Evil.

The snake told the truth. Even if his intent was to get Eve and Adam to disobey god, he still exercised the principle of clarity better than God did. And Eve did not have any experience with "Bad people" or know the difference between "good and evil" people. Eve gave the snake the benefit of the the doubt, she evidently did not dislike him, what he said fit what she wanted to believe and she undoubtedly took it to be authoritative about the Tree. She exercised her naturally occurring reasoning schemes.

T07 - They eat the fruit.
Neither Eve or Adam had any wisdom or knowledge of good and evil at this point, she trusted the snake because she did not have any reason not to. There is no indication that they had any idea about lying. Adam and Eve both had built in cognitive biases that come into play here, such as trusting what others say, and Desire was apparently built into Eve as described in Gen. 3:6.

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. The bible says, through inference, that she was missing wisdom. She wanted to gain wisdom.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

T08 - God calls for Adam and Eve to come out of hiding
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"
10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Because it was likely that he would trust her.

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Because it was likely that given the opportunity, this would happen.

T09 - God distributes the punishment establishing the origins and explanations of several things
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,
15 And I will put enmity
16 To the woman he said,
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
19 By the sweat of your brow

T10 - Adam names Eve
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

T11 - God makes clothes for them
21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

T12 - God realizes the fact the Adam might eat the fruit of the Tree of Life
22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from
the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

T13 - Banishment
23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

T14 - Closes Eden off
24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

This is a Hypothesis matrix testing the hypothesis that Adam and Eve didn't know the difference between Good and Evil when they disobeyed God. The data are labeled with a "C" for consistent with the hypothesis, "A" for Ambiguous (it doesn't make a difference but is worth mentioning), and "I" for Inconsistent. The hypothesis that is least inconsistent with the data is the better hypothesis.
Data Didn't Know Did know
God is all knowing A A
God is all powerful A A
T01 Gen. 2:16 Adam can eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, but he doesn't. Evidently he is not interested in it or maybe he doesn't realize what it means. God may have known that he wouldn't eat it although what God says at T12 in 2:22 contradicts his supposed omniscience. C I
T01 Gen. 2:17 Commands the man not to eat the fruit of the Tree of K, G&E or he will surely die, but neglected to tell him the truth which is that he will know the difference between good and evil and as a result will realize that he is naked C I
Until man eats the fruit he will not know the difference between good and evil C I
T02 Gen. 2:18 Adam was alone and has never had any experience with anyone he shouldn't trust C I
T06 Gen. 3:4-5 The snake could not have known the difference between good and evil unless it had acquired it from somewhere. If it did, then it had the advantage over Eve. If it didn't know the difference between good and evil then it did nothing wrong by telling Eve the truth. In any case It was smarter than Eve because it knew that she would not literally die. The serpent clearly described what would happen with the Tree of K, G&E better than God did. This is where Eve got the truth about the tree. C I
T07 Gen. 3:6 Eve trusted the serpent, evidently because she didn't know not too, she didn't know that dying was bad, or that disobeying god was bad. The desire was built into her and Humans have or acquire cognitive biases that must be unlearned. C I
T07 Gen. 3:7 After they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened and they knew that being naked was bad. This is a cultural rule, not a natural one. C I

The Hypothesis that "Adam and Eve did not know the difference between a good and an evil act" is the least inconsistent with the data, therefore, I conclude that they were not at fault. They were following the natural cognitive processes that they were born with (untempered by education), and when prompted by a new agent, they innocently did what it suggested. To suggest that Adam and Eve were somehow immune from cognitive biases that have been shown to be commonly naturally occurring in humans is pure speculation. Since it has been demonstrated by the timeline that Adam and Eve were missing a vital element in decision making, were uneducated, had no life experience to speak of and had no reason not to trust anyone, they were mentally incompetent to be held accountable for disobeying God and causing the punishments of Sin and Judgment to be given to every human thereafter.

Further Reading on Cognitive Biases and Persuasion Principles
The Role of Persuasion and Cognitive Bias In Your Church
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