Here is a short story I wrote inspired by the comments in this thread on PZ Myer’s blog. Enjoy!
Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Knowledge
“I got here as fast as I could!” gasped the old man. He put one hand on the hood of the squad car and bent over as he tried to catch his breath.
The annoyed chief stared at the man waiting for him to explain who he was because the chief didn’t recognize him at all. At last, the balding and sweating gentlemen stood erect and stared back at the chief expecting some word of thanks or gratitude from him. But the chief was silent.
“Well, don’t you want my help?” the old man snapped.
“I don’t know who you are,” the chief grumped back.
“Don’t you know who you’ve got up there?” the old man gestured in the direction of the top of a seven story building that was the object of all the attention.
The chief shrugged, irritated, “Two people threatening to jump?”
The old man scowled.
“This is what I’ve been trying to tell you, chief,” said a police officer standing nearby.
“What? Just tell me already!” the chief cried out, slapping his hand on the hood of the car.
“That’s Adam and Eve,” the old man snarled, “and I’m Dr. Stein Franken.”
“Good grief,” the chief exhaled. “Give me those binoculars!” Officer Todd handed them over and the chief gave a closer look to the man and the woman standing on the edge of the building. “Good grief,” the chief said again, adding some profanity under his breath.
Dr. Franken put his hands on his hips and assumed a posture that had proven itself effective over the years. “Now, tell me what’s going on? How did those two get up there?”
“Well,” the chief began, “as near as I can tell, it began about an hour ago at the local book store. These two had gone in and got themselves caught switching books in the mythology and science sections-”
“That’s not a crime,” Dr. Franken snapped. “I myself take books out of the science section and put them in the mythology section where they belong. I do that all of the time.”
“No, they were doing it the other way around,” said Officer Todd.
Dr. Franken gasped in shock, “Why, that’s a felony.”
“Exactly,” said the chief.
There was irony here but Dr. Franken didn’t realize it. It was specifically because of Dr. Franken’s scientific achievement that it had become a felony to place mythological books in the science section, though that wasn’t exactly how the law was framed. More accurately, it had become illegal to present as factual and true that which was clearly mythological and ancient. Dr. Franken’s creation of Adam and Eve had proven to the world that unguided evolution was indisputably true. It had been said previously that those who denied it were ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked, but after Dr. Franken’s accomplishment, it was believed. Legislation quickly followed to curtail the various forms of child abuse inherent in many, if not all, of the mythological systems. How ironic that the impetus for that legislation had now been caught violating it!
All of this was lost on Dr. Franken, however. What was on his mind was the potential embarrassment if his creation were thrown in prison. After all, a great deal of psychological effort had gone into conditioning the two with the finest behavioral theories. For them to have misfired so dramatically would certainly mean the loss of funding for someone. For someone, but Dr. Franken would ensure that someone was not him.
Dr. Franken gazed out in space for awhile contemplating possible scenarios until it slowly dawned on him that there was a much more serious problem in front of him. Adam and Eve had possibly committed a felony, yes, but that would pale in comparison to the fall out if they jumped to their deaths. When he finally focused his mind on the problem at hand, Dr. Franken found that several others had joined them. One of them was shaking his hand.
“Dr. Franken, good to meet you. I’m Dr. Michael Hawkings. I’m the police psychologist,” said the man.
“Yes, very good,” Dr. Franken replied automatically.
“And I’m Jessup Graves, in charge of the tactical team,” said the one named Jessup Graves.
“Tactical team? What do you mean to do?” Dr. Franken lashed out suddenly.
“Relax. We’ll only take action if we can’t talk them down,” Graves soothed.
“Take action?” Dr. Franken howled. “Don’t you know who you’ve got up there? What they represent? Thousands of the world’s finest minds, equipped with tens of thousands of the most powerful computers, making use of the data crunching powers of millions of computers otherwise sitting idle in the homes of average citizens, combined with millions and millions of dollars of research funds… and an advisory team head up by the most esteemed scientists of this era- led by myself, of course- worked together to show once and for all that blind, dumb, unguided nature could create something as complex and sophisticated as the human being. We did what no one else had done…”
Dr. Franken was on a roll and was not to be stopped.
He continued, “We created them from scratch. Not from existing genetic material or from gene splicing or from stem cells of any kind. We built them practically from dirt. Oh sure, we made extensive use of amino acids and other ‘starter’ materials, but the point is that we showed conclusively that we could break a human down into all of its constituent parts and then re-assemble them. Adam and Eve were the first.”
Graves was well practiced in calming down irate individuals but evidently hadn’t the experience required to relax scholars. He said, a little too bluntly and not very delicately, “I thought I read that you couldn’t just use a computer model of the human genome and had to use an actual sample to use as the template and you used some cells from your…”
Officer Todd snickered.
Dr. Franken blushed a deep red, “That was just a vicious rumor, a joke really. Honestly, why would anyone want to use cells from their butt to create new humans?”
“To prove they could?” Dr. Hawkings offered.
Officer Todd snickered.
“It’s a lie, a bloody lie,” declared Dr. Franken. His words did not persuade, however. If there had been any doubt before that Adam and Eve had been fabricated in part from Dr. Franken’s ample rear end, it was removed now.
“Well, at any rate,” Dr. Hawkings added, “Didn’t you also spend millions and millions of dollars in psychological conditioning for these two?”
“Of course. Since we literally knew what every little bit of a human consisted of, we knew what every gene did, what every possible mutation might do, and so on and so forth. The reductionist programme was established as absolutely true and thoroughly reliable,” Dr. Franken huffed.
“I don’t want to belabor the obvious,” said the chief, “But it looks like something didn’t quite go right.”
“Indeed,” said Dr. Hawkings.
Dr. Franken didn’t reply.
“Well, let’s get to the part where you tell us how you can help us,” the chief suggested.
Dr. Hawkings interjected, “You might begin by telling us if anything out of the ordinary happened today. Something that may have set them off, perhaps.”
Dr. Hawkings didn’t think much of mythology anymore then Dr. Franken did but there was one critical difference between the two men. As a police psychologist, Dr. Hawkings had to deal with real live humans in crazy situations thinking crazy thoughts all of the time. If the mind could so thoroughly be reduced to raw brain that theoretically you could change behavior by carefully throwing the right ‘switch,’ this knowledge hadn’t been made practically available yet to those who actually interacted with real people. In his experience, ’cause and effect’ was as true in the brain as in a game of billiards. This meant that there almost certainly had been a catalyst of some sort that set the two off but it also meant that Dr. Hawkings knew that tracing it, or understanding it if you could trace it, was often very difficult. Nonetheless, good headway was often made in the attempt.
When Dr. Franken didn’t reply, Hawkings repeated, “So, did something happen to set them off?”
Dr. Franken stammered a bit and wiped his brow.
“You said you wanted to help us. This is your chance,” the chief said.
“Uh, yes, see, well. How to say it. I didn’t think much of it. Only, it seems that the rumor we alluded to before was a rumor that they had recently heard for themselves, and, I, well, we had a conversation about it where of course I denied it…”
Naturally, those who heard Dr. Franken’s explanation deduced immediately that Adam and Eve had concluded the same from Dr. Franken’s denials as they had.
“Alright,” said Dr. Hawkings, “Adam and Eve have learned that… or are under the impression, at least, that they were created from your butt. One might suppose that they weren’t all that thrilled by that. Maybe this explains it.”
“What are you implying?” Dr. Franken snarled.
“Not a thing. I’m just trying to understand the mindset of our jumpers,” Hawkings retorted.
“Let’s say its true, the rumor. So what? Isn’t that what science is all about? Curiosity? Finding out if something can be done? Knowledge just for the sake of knowledge?”
In Dr. Hawking’s mind he wanted to submit something about ethics, morality, and even common sense, but he knew better. Such considerations had long been removed from the realm of the common man and put squarely into the hands of those alone who were competent to handle them- the scientists themselves. He had no strong feelings opposed to this development but there did seem something a bit off about creating humans nearly from scratch but using one’s own butt cells as a template for the unguided, undirected, creation of those humans. He certainly felt that if it had been him he wouldn’t have been happy. Could he have put his finger on why? Probably not.
Besides, it was all irrelevant. If it was wrong to have done (‘improper’ would be a better word without the insinuation that there are actual standards of morality) then certainly people smarter then he would have said so. Dr. Hawkings had read his history and science books and learned nothing about black men from Tuskegee, or Dr. Eugene Saenger, or, together, Richard H. Gross, Alan Cox, Ruth Tatyrek, Michael Pollay, and William A. Barnes. He had heard a great deal about the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and of course, poor Galileo. Clearly, it was a good thing that the religionists had been taken out of the picture and the ethics boards of scientific organizations packed with people who knew about reality the most- scientists themselves.
“Is there anything else that you talked about?” Dr. Hawkings asked.
“Well, they wanted to know more about why they had the names they had…”
“And you told them?” the chief cried out, incredulous.
Dr. Franken buried his head in his hands. “Worse,” he moaned. “I showed them the text itself.”
“He’s right,” Officer Todd declared. “Adam’s got a book in his hand!”
“Let me talk to them,” Dr. Franken said.
“Oh my,” gasped Officer Todd.
“What is it?” inquired the chief.
“You’d just better look…”
The chief put the binoculars to his eyes and gazed up to the top of the building. Adam and Eve were pointing and gesturing at Dr. Franken. Evidently, they had noticed his presence. That they were not pleased with him was demonstrated by the vulgar gestures that Eve was making in his direction and by Adam dropping his pants and exposing his backside to the good doctor. Adam was slapping his own bare butt in Dr. Franken’s direction and chortling in scorn.
“I don’t think they want to talk to you…” the chief trailed off.
“I’m going up,” Dr. Franken said. He didn’t wait for permission. He stalked into the building and very soon found his way to the roof and past the police who were close by. Dr. Hawkings was close behind.
“Adam… Eve… it’s me, your father…” Stein cooed. The two only laughed in contempt. He reasoned with them, “What difference does it make where you came from or how you got here? You’re here, right? This is all the meaning there is and it doesn’t make any difference whether you were made in a laboratory or born of a thousand successive generations…”
Eve gave him the finger.
“Really, now. The nerve. Look, this all isn’t worth dying for. Don’t you know how important you are? Think of all we can learn by studying you. Think of all the people you might help. You’re being selfish.”
Adam stared at the doctor, stony-faced.
“Alright then,” Dr. Franken continued, “What about me? What about what you mean to me? I mean, I might lose my funding… my research might come to an end and just think of all the knowledge that might be lost…”
It was perhaps the very worst thing to say. Adam took Eve’s hand and the two glanced at each other with what might be regarded as mischievous and knowing smiles. They inched closer to the edge of the building and then Adam said something to Dr. Franken that was very naughty.
And then they both stepped off the edge.
“Oh dear,” said Officer Todd.
Two bone crunching thuds in quick succession accompanied the sight of Adam and Eve plunging to their deaths before the eyes of the many onlookers below.
In spite of the insanity of the act he had witnessed that day, the police chief went to bed that night with the lurking sensation that the pair had been the sanest of them all.
Dr. Hawkings fell asleep wondering about the lengths that people will go to deny that in fact they are wrong… demonstrably wrong. Even when the truth is staring them right in the face, they’ll grasp at straws rather then admit an embarrassing overstatement or mischaracterization. It was a behavior profoundly unique to humans and he just couldn’t get it to add up.
“Look Bill, the affair was messy. True. But let’s not make more of it then is warranted.”
“Geraldo, you’re nuts. What you’ve got here… you know, I’m a good read of people… what you’ve got here are two individuals who testified with their lives that knowledge isn’t just a plaything. The argument that knowledge is always valuable just for its own sake and if you don’t agree you aren’t a fan of science is just nonsense. Knowledge can hurt people, and whatever the materialists say, there is more to humanity, and to reality, than meets the eye. This doctor went where only God ought to go. That’s what this incident proves.”
“With all do respect, that’s just the old ‘God of the gaps’ assertion… and if there is no God then why shouldn’t humans step into the gap?”
“No, you misunderstand. I’m not talking about what we can do but what we ought to do. I think Adam and Eve learned the truth and decided that they much preferred this other account, this account where people are the creation of a loving entity that desires a relationship with them over the truth in this case which was that they were just the product of the curiosity of a butt load of other humans.”
“Butt load, right, a pun. Seriously, Bill, what’s wrong with curiosity?”
“Where did I say there is anything wrong with it? I’m just saying that there are lines, there are boundaries. We’re probably well over it as far as the cloning issue goes. People are more than the sum of their parts. You know, a person’s family, his father and mother, his grandparents, these sort of things, these make up a person’s identity and you can try to short circuit it but people are people and they know better. You can do things in the name of knowledge that actually conceals truth about humanity, and in the concealing, hurt people. Alright, there ya go. Show’s about over… I’ll give you the last word…”