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Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 15:33:30 -0500
From: James Jordan 
Subject: Re: (urth) God in the Machine

         Some interesting stuff here, but I have to correct one item before 
I leave the country for 3 weeks. The notion that the fall of Adam was a 
good thing since apart from it he would not have acquired a moral sense 
will not stand up to the way the Biblical writers use the 
phrase  "knowledge of good and evil." The idea of a "felicitious fall" is 
an old heresy in Christendom, though an important piece of Mormon theology.
         There are two ways to understand Genesis 2-3. The traditional one 
is that Adam would learn the differences between good and evil by 
interacting with the forbidden fruit either way. By rejecting it, he would 
learn about good and evil, but from the side of choosing the good. By 
eating it, he would learn about good and evil, but from the side of 
choosing the evil.
         This is a decent notion, and probably has truth to it. BUT, the 
fact is that the phrase "knowledge of good and evil" in the Bible means 
"knowledge of how to pass judgments" not "moral knowledge." This emerges 
from Genesis, where God SEES and pronounces things GOOD (or before Eve was 
made, in Genesis 2, "it is NOT GOOD for the man to be alone"). Let me refer 
you to the following passages that show the meaning of the phrase (you can 
look them up):
         Seeing (Adam's eyes were opened): Jeremiah 32:18-19; Psalm 11:4; 
Ezekiel 5:11; etc.
         Knowledge of good and evil: 1 Kings 3:9; 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 
19:27; Deuteronomy 1:39 (children are not mature enough to make judicial 
pronouncements); Hebrews 5:13-14; Genesis 31:24.
         Adam began as a "child" (naked), not yet mature enough to make 
judicial pronouncements. That was something he would grow into over time. 
But he was expected to know moral right from moral wrong, and nothing 
indicates that he didn't.
         Now, this is all a bit off the point, since Wolfe is not a 
practising theologian, and probably has not studied out this phrase. But as 
an orthodox Catholic, Wolfe is not going to believe that it was necessary 
for Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in order to acquire a knowledge of 
right and wrong. Whatever he might do with Genesis 2, it won't be that.

Patera Nutricious

At 04:32 AM 10/9/2002, you wrote:

>I'd intended to lurk around for (at least) a while longer, since the other
>thoughtful posts on this list are much more interesting to read than my own
>newbie contribution will be. But the theological chem vs. bio discussion got
>me musing over a few things, so I've thrown caution to the wind. (And since
>I've missed a few of the recent posts, I apologize in advance if any of the
>following is repetitious.)
>Roy said:
>"As I have tried to show, chems were never intended to be "people" (the term
>used by Rose). "Clever tools" comes closer to what Typhon intended them to
>be. Chems did, however, come to be self aware (though they were always, to be
>sure, self aware) in a manner and to a degree not intended and not provided
>for by their creators."
>I found the possible Genesis parallel here particularly interesting. Roy's
>description of "tools" originally lacking the requisite self-awareness for
>moral agency sounded very much like a description of Adam and Eve before they
>became aware of Good and Evil.
>Which implied, in my mind, that Wolfe's views of God and Typhon might
>actually be similar in some respects. Unless of course one assumes that God,
>being both omniscient and omnipotent, _intended_ His creations to acquire
>their moral sense by means of their tragic Fall.
>But one is then left to wade through questions about divine predestination
>and the Gnostic doctrine of God as Author of All Things: both Good and Evil
>alike, both obedience and disobedience alike. (I've read elsewhere that Wolfe
>is, or was, very intrigued by Gnostic beliefs.)
>Which in turn raises one of the oldest theological questions regarding
>Original Sin: if Adam and Eve weren't moral agents before partaking of the
>fruit of (moral) Knowledge, how might the Fall have resulted from their
>breaking a moral commandment? Pragmatic human conventions like "Ignorance is
>no excuse from the law" presuppose some basic moral agency, after all. (We
>don't apply such judicial conventions to toddlers, for example.)
>In the context of Wolfe's chems, another question rears up: _whose_ "tools"
>had the chems originally been intended to be?
>At the end of Chapter 7 of LotLS, Silk asks the talus he confronts: "Don't
>you fear the immoral gods, my son?" To which the talus retorts: "I serve
>Does the talus serve a goddess? Or a woman digitized into the mere semblance
>of a goddess? The same questions that apply to chems (sentient beings created
>by humans, in their own image) apply to all the gods in Mainframe as well,
>don't they?
>I'n the James Jordan interview, discussing _There are Doors,_ Wolfe remarks:
>"Laura is my idea of what a pagan goddess might be who survived into the
>Christian world. One of the places where I probably split off from
>conventional Catholic thinking is that I believe that the gods of paganism
>were real...Now, if Aphrodite were to survive into the contemporary world,
>what would she be like? Well, Laura was a shot at trying to show what she
>might be like." What sort of theological status Wolfe grants such entities
>(Laura doesn't seem like the Christian conception of a demoness), I don't
>know. But in the context of his invented Mainframe gods, the question seems
>worth speculating about.
>At any rate, if the talus in LotLS is correct, the Whorl's chems weren't
>intended to be the tools of its human "cargo," but of the AIs who supervise
>it. That the gods themselves were the tools of _Typhon_ (who I suppose was a
>kind of man) doesn't simply bring the issue back to Man versus his Objects
>again, since the human cargo inside the Whorl were likewise Typhon's tools.
>Roy also said:
>"I can't tell from the text whether or not Wolfe thought 'the Outsider loves
>them as persons'."
>I don't know whether Wolfe agrees with his protagonist on the subject, but
>Silk's words to the talus in LotLS are at least worth mentioning: "'I don't
>want to hurt you,' Silk told it. 'It's evil--that means very wrong--to
>destroy chems, as wrong as it is to destroy bios, and you are very nearly a
>chem.'" Then, after killing the talus in self-defense, Wolfe says of Silk:
>"His chant was flat and almost mechanical at first, but as the wonder and
>magnanimity of divine amnesty filled his mind, his voice grew louder and
>shook with fervor."
>The passage seems to confer some measure of spiritual significance on the
>talus--at least in Silk's rapidly enlightening mind.
>(On the other hand, it's worth noting that Silk (or Wolfe, anyway) doesn't
>invoke the Outsider during the ritual--which he had been doing with bios in
>similar circumstances.)
>For myself, I suspect Wolfe sees both chems _and_ bios as slaves: not only
>(on occasion) in relation to each other, but (always) in relation to God.
>St. Paul's Stoical attitude seems to dovetail with Wolfe's here, as in so
>many ways: "Slaves, obey your human masters with the reverence, the awe, and
>the sincerity you owe to Christ. Give your service willingly, doing it for
>the Lord rather than men. You know that each one, whether slave or free, will
>be repaid by the Lord for whatever good he does. Masters, act in a similar
>way toward your slaves. Stop threatening them. Remember that you and they
>have a Master in Heaven who plays no favorites." (Ephesians 6: 5-9)
>Daniel Goss


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