1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’ve always thought the snake and fruit story made a lot of sense. Early humans were no more (or less) stupid than we are. I’m sure they recognized a profound difference between them and other animals they knew. And, as is our wont, we come up with stories to explain stuff we don’t understand. It’s a myth about becoming self-aware.

  2. John Morales says


    It’s a myth about becoming self-aware.

    That’s one interpretation.

    But I was raised Catholic, and to them it’s the Original Sin.

    So: a myth about the consequences of disobedience.

  3. says

    The purpose of the snake myth is to inflict a state of permanent guilt upon those who hear it and create a dependence on the religion that tells it. “We say you’re flawed, and the only way to fix it is to obey us! Give us money and unsupervised access to your children!”

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    John and Intransitive: Yeah, that’s how established churches present the story. The great thing about myths is that they can be tweaked to “teach” whatever you like. In at least some Gnostic traditions, the serpent was a good guy.

    Whatever moral one ascribes to it, the story itself describes a sort of awakening, and the burden that comes with that; awareness of self, and one’s vulnerability and mortality. A very human story.

    I certainly don’t think someone sat down thousands of years ago with the idea of writing a story that could be used to keep the rubes under control.

  5. consciousness razor says

    I certainly don’t think someone sat down thousands of years ago with the idea of writing a story that could be used to keep the rubes under control.

    Why not?
    Are you certain people weren’t controlling each other thousands of years ago? Are you certain they weren’t doing it in this particular way, even though you obviously have the text as part of your evidence? Or I don’t know what … if there’s some reasoning behind your statement here, then what do you think that may be?

  6. file thirteen says

    In the stupid myth, A&E are punished for daring to think for themselves. The only way to get close to GOD is to stop questioning and devote your entire life to satisfying the priests’ instructions, duh.

  7. Sam N says

    @1, Rob. I always like when someone points out that humans had all those complex behavioral traits, such as theory of mind and political calculation thousands of years ago. Some of us have a much better command of powerful explanatory theory of natural phenomena, but reading the political science of today I don’t see clear evidence of much improvement in understanding what motivates populations beyond shrewd politicians of the past such as Isabelle of Spain or Caesar of Rome or Genghis of Eastern Asia.

    I was at a bar a couple evenings ago when this myth came up. My take was it’s about growing up and taking responsibility for your own actions. Eden is a perpetual state of childhood. The world is where actions matter and have consequence. I never was fond of the Catholic interpretation, even if my psyche has unfortunately internalized feelings of perpetual guilt. There is more than one way the Roman Catholics have abused children over the ages.

  8. says

    The Adam and Eve story substantially predates the idea of Original Sin, obviously. As Rob notes, these stories are really just frameworks that you hang whatever morals you’re selling today on to.

    The biblical one is ambiguous. It is clear that there are both pluses and minuses to the eating of the forbidden fruit. Attempts to preserve the exact text of Genesis have led to a pretty muddled up collection of stories that don’t always make sense. There are some clear splices in there, for starters. At this point it’s as much a Pile Of Words That Mustn’t Be Touched as anything else. You can hang Original Sin in there, but you can just as well hang This is Why We Kill All Snakes onto it (that one actually fits a lot better).

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