Adam and Eve Were Set Up
The Plot Hole
Have you ever watched a great movie that had a bad plot hole? Something that could potentially ruin what is otherwise an amazing film? This can be pretty discouraging, but the good news is, you can fix it. In nearly every one of these situations, you can make something up that doesn’t actually happen in the film but that happens in your mind to fix the plot hole.
A perfect example is Back to the Future 2. I apologize to anyone who loves that movie for what I am about to say, that is unless you’ve already noticed this plot hole before. The film begins within minutes of the events that conclude the first film. Marty and Jennifer watch as Doc Brown hurriedly brings the DeLorean time machine to a halt in Marty’s driveway and begins to refuel with garbage. He tells Marty and Jennifer that there is a problem in the future that deals with their kids and that he needs Marty to come back to the future with him to fix the problem. Marty, Jennifer and Doc hop into the DeLorean, which is now able to fly. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
The plot hole has already occurred. This opening scene takes place in 1985. When Doc, Marty and Jennifer travel to the future they should never see themselves, much less their kids. They shouldn’t exist in the future. But why? Because they left with Doc Brown in 1985. Think about it from a different perspective. Imagine you’re Marty’s mother in 1985. You watch from the kitchen window as Marty and Jennifer leave in the Time Machine. They are gone. They don’t exist in her timeline any more. For years, she will wonder what happened until one day in 2015, they mysteriously appear in Hill Valley and will not have aged a minute. Marty’s mother is understandably very happy to see them. But the point is there is no other Marty and Jennifer in her timeline. She doesn’t have a grandson that would need helped out of the situation with Griff’s gang.
This plot hole is devastating to the film. But it’s such a fun movie I don’t want to ruin it for everyone, so let’s see how we can fix it. It turns out to be more difficult than you think. You have to turn to the idea of multiple but not infinite timelines. Doc’s Time Machine can access these thereby allowing them to travel to the 2015 where Marty’s son gets in trouble even though he took Marty from the timeline in 1985. Perhaps we can say that just using the Time Machine creates these alternate timelines.
There. That fixes the problem. Kinda.
A Logical Fallacy Arises
So we fixed the problem with Back to the Future’s major plot hole. There is a problem, however. In order to fix this problem we had to resort to making things up for which we have no evidence, or perhaps very little. Sure, it makes sense in our heads and it *could* have happened, but aside from our desire for one of our favorite films to make sense, we have no reason to believe that our solution is actually the case. In particular what we know of the flow of time and cause and effect contradicts even our own made-up theory. But hey, it’s just a movie, right? In a film with pizza that hydrates in a few seconds, what’s the harm in ignoring the laws of physics? True, it’s just a film and this solution works fine. But should we apply this same reasoning to real life topics? The answer is no.
This is called Ad Hoc Rescue and it is a type of logical fallacy. To put it simply, we often encounter evidence that is contrary to a belief that we hold. In order to fix this dissonance, we make something up that could be true and then we accept that as our explanation for the evidence. Here is an example:
Marty: The American Founding Fathers were all deeply faithful, devout and pious Christians that founded our country as a Christian nation.
Doc: Actually, Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in the supernatural parts of the Bible and wrote his own version that stripped them out. Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason that he believed in one God but that it was not the god of Judaism or Christianity or any other religion of the world. Benjamin Franklin was also a deist who stopped attending church regularly. John Adams wrote in a treaty that the “United States is in no way a Christian nation.”
Marty: Well, they were still Christians and wanted America to be Christian. They probably just didn’t want to be forthcoming about it and were just appealing to the intellectuals of the time. I’m sure they were either practicing it privately or had death-bed conversions.
Marty fixed the problem here with an Ad Hoc Rescue where he simply makes an assumption for which he has no evidence. If what he said happened to be true then it would “fix” the problem, but there is no reason for any of us to believe it just because it could have happened that way. In fact, we have evidence to the contrary.
In the Garden of Eden
This brings us to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve. First of all, I do not believe these events actually occurred but I’m going to make an argument about them as if they did actually happen.
One of the creation stories (there are two in Genesis) tells a story of YHWH creating man, before any wild plant had yet sprung up or it had ever rained. YHWH then plants the Garden of Eden and put Adam there to cultivate and take care of it. Then from the soil, YHWH creates animals, which Adam names. The animals weren’t suitable companions, so he fashions Eve from Adam’s rib. Note that this differs from the first creation story in Genesis 1, where God (Elohim) creates plants and animals before man and woman (more on this topic in a future post).
Eve is then tempted by a snake to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake tells her that her “eyes will be opened” and that they will be like gods, knowing good from evil. She also saw that the fruit was “good to eat and pleasing to the eye”. These two statements are very important. Eve eats the fruit, gives some to Adam, they then notice their nakedness and make fig-leaf loincloths. YHWH then curses the snake, Eve and Adam then banishes them from the Garden of Eden.
Thus we have the story of the Fall of Man and the beginning of a world of suffering, pain, difficulty, strife, conflict and death. God gave Adam and Eve free will and they abused this free will to disobey God and commit the first sin. This first sin would thereby be inherited by all mankind, necessitating God’s cosmic plan of salvation, whereby if we follow his rules we may get to enjoy eternal life in Heaven or a Paradise on Earth and if not, suffer eternally in Hell or simply be annihilated (depending on the beliefs of your variety of Christianity). This story is a critical, foundational belief for many Christians and Jews.
But there’s a plot hole here.
Adam and Eve Were Set Up
From a very young age I had a few questions about the Adam and Eve story, totally unrelated even to science or evolution (I didn’t accept Evolution until my mid-20’s). I wondered why God allowed the snake in the Garden in the first place. Or why Eve was so gullible and Adam so easily followed suit. It seemed to my young mind that we could have avoided thousands of years of pain, suffering and death had the snake not been allowed in the Garden and Eve had been made with more self-control.
I didn’t dwell long on these questions at the time, but it turns out they are legitimate questions. I have since come to the conclusion that Adam and Eve were set up by YHWH. What I mean by this is that it seems to me like The Fall was practically inevitable and that the deck was completely stacked against these two poor folks. I am making the claim that there are several parts of this story that significantly decrease the chances that Adam and Eve would have remained obedient and that these things were beyond their control. Finally, I have a counter-example that is believed in by many Christians that shows exactly how The Fall could have been easily prevented by God.
I know that for many believers in this sounds pretty heretical but let’s examine the situation more closely before you come to any conclusions.
Point 1 – The Snake
While it’s not the topic of this post, I would first like to at least point out that nowhere in Genesis nor anywhere in the Protestant Old Testament is this snake ever said to be Satan. It is an Ad Hoc exegesis of this passage. But that’s another topic for another day.
The snake plays a very big part in this story. It is because of the snake that Eve is tempted to eat the fruit. It is the snake’s tempting explanation that influences Eve to look at the fruit of the tree even though she had been told by the Ultimate God of the Universe in person that she should not do this or she would die. The snake then lies and says that she will not.
The presence of the snake at all decreases the chances that Eve can resist temptation. The influence of the snake cannot be discounted and it is the whole point of its existence in the story. The snake was a bad influence. Many religious believers are very specifically instructed to avoid people of bad influence. Why? Because these people can deceive, they can spread false doctrine, twist words and bring you to ruin.
So why were Adam and Eve never advised to avoid the snake?
The snake was clearly a bad influence. God had to know about the snake. He’s God, after all. Yet God allows the snake into the garden and does not alert Adam and Eve to its presence or instruct them to avoid it.
You could possibly say that it wasn’t Eve, but it was Adam who was instructed in-person to not eat the fruit. Therefore, Eve was getting her information second-hand. Since she didn’t hear it directly from YHWH, she was more likely to be tempted by the snake, which is why the snake targeted her. But this supposition actually makes the situation even worse and even further decreases the chance that Eve would resist temptation.
Point 2 – The Fruit
The fruit itself decreased the likelihood that Eve would resist temptation. It specifically states that it was “good to eat and pleasing to the eye and enticing for the wisdom that it could give”. In other words, YHWH created the fruit to be tempting to humans.
Because YHWH created both the humans and the fruit, he would know exactly how to create the fruit so as to be tempting to the human and it is apparent that he did so. This decreases the chances of Eve resisting the temptation. The fruit could have been made stinky, slimy and repulsive, therefore helping Eve resist. That way the only virtue it would have had is the wisdom it could give.
But even that virtue is another aspect of the fruit that YHWH specifically created so as to be tempting to humans. The snake also realized that this wisdom would be tempting and it used that as his main selling point when it tempted Eve. The snake said it would make them like gods.
But why would Eve have any desire to want to be like gods? Because YHWH made her that way, further decreasing the chances of her resisting the temptation.
Why was the Tree put there in the first place? Why couldn’t YHWH have simply planted the garden, put Adam and Eve there and told them to have fun? The traditional answer here is that there had to be some rule for them to follow, otherwise they couldn’t demonstrate their obedience to YHWH. But this isn’t true either. Most Christians also believe in the Fall of Satan. Satan didn’t require temptation by fruit. He fell all on his own. Even that story prompts the question of why God created Satan to be susceptible to pride. Free will is usually invoked again here but this leads to even more questions so I will end the argument here.
In any case, the properties of the fruit were designed to tickle Eve’s fancy and weaken her resolve.
Point 3 – A Single Point of Failure
When engineers design systems of complexity, one of the most important things to eliminate are single points of failure: any component of the system that if it were to fail, would disable the entire system. This is why computer networks have backup connections, multiple redundant servers, routers and switches, duplicate network connections, battery backups, data backups and redundant hard drive systems (RAID). This way, if one hard drive dies, the others take over and can even rebuild a new drive. If one network connection goes down, the other immediately picks it up seamlessly. If one router dies, the other is still there to do the job. If an employee accidentally deletes their entire documents folder, it can be restored from backup.
When God created the world and started it with only one couple, he created a system with a single point of failure. All it would take to ruin this whole system is for one of them to disobey, and this is exactly what happened. Eve sinned and doomed billions of people.
But what if God had a backup couple? What if he had created Adam and Eve and then Mary and Bill? That way if one couple screws up, the other couple is still there to continue living virtuous, obedient lives. In fact, since this is the Almighty Creator of the Universe, why not start with say 5,000 couples? It would seem to me to significantly decrease the chances of mankind being doomed. Surely at least one of 5,000 couples could resist temptation. You could just allow the others to die when they sin and prevent them from procreating. It seems like a pretty neat and tidy system to me. You obey, you live forever and have children. You disobey, you die. And if all 5,000 couples sin, then that sounds more like a design flaw in the human being.
The effectiveness of these last three points can be easily seen in my fourth point: the fact that many Christians right now believe in a system where all of these factors are eliminated and everything is just fine.
Point 4 – The Future Paradise
Whether you believe you’ll get to go to Heaven or that Paradise will be here on Earth, the typical Christian belief is that if you do what you’re supposed to do, you are rewarded with eternal life in a place of ultimate happiness where there is no suffering or death. There will be no sin and everyone loves and worships God like they are supposed to. Satan will be destroyed or thrown in a pit of fire for eternity, unable to influence the world any more.
But does that mean we will lose our free will in Paradise? Well of course not, what would the point be then? This is what I’ve been told by every person I’ve ever asked this question. That we will retain our free will in Heaven/Paradise, yet there will be no sin. Satan will not be there to tempt anyone and presumably the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil will be totally unnecessary.
So this demonstrates that there could be a system where people would have free will but would not sin. In fact, many believe that this is exactly what the future holds.
There are also two possibilities here worth mentioning. In this Paradise, there will be no sin, yet we still have free will. This means that we will either have no desire to sin or that those who do sin will be immediately destroyed while everyone else lives on in eternal bliss.
In either of those cases we have reached the crux of my argument (no pun intended).
Why didn’t God just start the world with the conditions that are claimed will exist in the Future Paradise?
- Free will but no inclination for sin -OR-
- Free will, you can still sin but you are destroyed
- No Satan or snake to tempt
- No Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to tempt
- No single point of failure
The very belief in this future Paradise shows that there is a set of conditions that God could have started with but did not. YHWH is a poor designer.
The deck was stacked against poor Adam and Eve.
Ad Hoc to the Rescue
The only way to solve this plot hole is through Ad Hoc Rescue. You now have to make up possible scenarios for which we have no evidence in order to explain why God did not begin Creation in the same way that many people believe it will end (i.e., the Better Way). You have to come up with reasons for why Satan was allowed to live or the snake allowed in the garden, why Adam and Eve would value wisdom enough to disobey God, why God never told them about the snake, why Eve would believe a snake instead of the Creator of the Universe who apparently walks through the garden in the cool of the morning, why God didn’t create more than one couple (which would also have the handy side-effect of genetic diversity and not requiring incest to propagate the species).
But Ad Hoc explanations aren’t explanations at all. They’re fine to explain plot holes in fiction, but not to explain real life. However fiction is exactly what we’re dealing with here.
Conclusion – An Etiological Myth
The Adam and Eve story is, of course, not true. It is what is known as an “etiological myth”, which was very popular in the ancient world. You find them in almost every religion and mythology in existence. These myths explain everything from where evil comes from, why there are so many languages, the origins of different races and even why peacock feathers have many spots that look like eyes. The Garden of Eden is another etiological myth that was written not as history, but a literary composition to explain a number of things. It even contains Hebrew puns and wordplay, including one pun that could date back to a Sumerian mythological tale where the god Enki, after eating forbidden fruit in a garden (in the east) created by the gods, was made ill. To heal him eight gods were created, including one named “Ninti” who healed his rib. This is a pun in the Sumerian language as “ti” means both “life” and “rib”. This could be evidence that the story of the creation of Eve was influenced by earlier Sumerian myths.
The Garden of Eden story explains the following phenomena
- The origin of the names of the animals
- The origin of man and woman
- Where “sin” and “evil” originate
- The origin of our knowledge of good and evil
- The origin of the fertile Euphrates/Tigris valleys
- Why we wear clothes and are ashamed of nakedness
- Why snakes don’t have legs
- Why women have pain during childbirth
- Why women lust for men and should be submissive to them
- Why humans must resort to manual labor and agriculture for food
- Why brambles and thistles exist
- Why we die
Why there is a mysterious tree guarded by angels with flame swords in southern Iraq
This myth is no different than those from the many other ancient cultures and it reads similarly too. Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Babylonian writings all have myths as well that attempt to explain the nature of our world in a similar fashion. Pandora’s Box is a perfect example. The Garden of Eden story is contradicted by science in numerous ways, poses more questions than it answers and makes much more sense when one considers it to be an etiological myth.
The problem is that the Adam and Eve story is so fundamental to the doctrine and theology of many religious sects that many attempts are made to explain it. Any time this is the case there is very strong motivation to find reasons to continue to believe in its validity, including Ad Hoc explanations. Furthermore, there are many liberal Christians and theologians who agree that it is myth but come up with Ad Hoc explanations for all of the doctrines that depend on The Fall, including the origin of sin and the need for salvation itself. But this is not a way to find truth.