Doubt in Eden

May 11, 2009

from Genesis

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Now, did the serpent mean: It is certain that you will not die? Or did he mean: It is not certain that you will die? Is this a purposeful ambiguity? Funny that there should be this element of doubt right at the beginning, when knowledge is given to man. Skepticism is at the root, shall we say.

Is the serpent inviting Eve into a structured risky venture, this knowlege business? An invitation to risk assessment? Perhaps she did a quick cost-benefit analysis, and it came out positive for benefit.

Science and Faith

August 29, 2007

October 25, 1945: The Oval Office

J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb, meets with Harry S. Truman, President of the United States:

…At one point in their conversation, Truman suddenly asked [Oppenheimer] to guess when the Russians would develop their own atomic bomb. When [Oppenheimer] replied that he did not know, Truman confidently said he knew the answer: “Never.”

from American Prometheus by Bird and Sherwin

Needless to say, (or is it needless?) events proved Truman completely wrong. It was obvious to anyone who thought about it for a minute that it was only a matter of time, and probably not much time.

And while we’re at it, Bertrand Russell is always good:

Belief in a Divine Mission is one of the many forms of certainty that have afflicted the human race.

from Skeptical Essays

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic. –

An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

from Unpopular Essays