Sunday, January 29, 2006

One other thought....

It occurs to me that the "ticking bomb" scenario presents us with the old temptation (anfechtung, Kierkegaard would say) of putting on some of God's knowledge, if not God's power.

God is all-knowing, we say, and so God is never plagued by uncertainty. But we are, and the worst uncertainty that plagues us is the uncertainty about the future. Is our decision right, or wrong? The cure, we are sure, is knowledge. Even if we only knew a bit more. But that isn't enough; we need to add certainty to our knowledge, or our knowledge is still treacherous. So, if we only knew a bit more, and could be certain about it.

And torture seems to be the only way to be sure we can extract the truth. Except, of course, torture is a deal with the Devil, and in a Devil's bargain, you never get what you bargained for. So even torture brings us no closer to certainty; but it does allow us to yield to the temptation to be more like God, at least to have a glimpse of what it would be like to know as God knows.

Which is a lesson you'd think we would have learned by now, even if we discard the original story as a myth. It's a story rooted in three great world religions, and as foundational to Western civilization as the myth of Romulus and Remus, or of the divine Pharoahs, or of the logos forging order out of primordial chaos.

And we even know how this story ends.

Genesis 2: 4-24 through 3: 1-24

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