Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inherent Doubt

       Inherent Doubt

          Once upon a time, two naked teenagers made good their escape from a young god’s petting zoo. They ran and they ran until the wall of their former enclosure disappeared over the horizon. Then they stopped to gather nuts and berries, and they took refuge in a cave.
After their meal he said, “What if he follows us?”
          She said, “Don’t worry, he thinks that banishing us was his idea.”
          He said, “It was a close call, look at what he did to poor Serpent.”
She frowned. “Better it than me!”
“I’m so sorry I told on you, dear, I couldn’t think of a good lie in time.”
          She smiled. “But I could. He’s easy to fool, he’s still just a child.”
          He said, “No kidding, he knew nothing about, well, us. When I told him I was lonely, he offered me someone, but I said no, that’s a monkey. He offered me someone else, but no, that’s a tiger. A third someone, but no, that’s a goat - ”
          She giggled loud and tackled him with a kiss. After hugs and kisses and so much more, they cuddled close on the cave’s stony floor.
He said drowsily, “Is it worth it?”
          “You mean freedom? Living our own lives, making our own choices?”
          “Choices…” he said. “Right and wrong, good and evil, trust and guile, kindness and cruelty… so many choices, half of them wrong…”
          “Well now we know about those choices, so now we have to choose. And that’s why we had to get out of that place. Did you like being a pet?”
          “No,” he admitted. “But did you like being fed?”
          “Yes,” she admitted.
          “So really, was it worth it? Is it right to know right from wrong?”
          She said, “How should I know? That’s the one thing the apple didn’t mention! So yeah, maybe I made a mistake! But maybe I did the right thing!” Her stomach growled. “That was then; right now I’m hungry and cold! I need some bloody red meat to eat, and somebody’s fur pelt to wear!”
          “I’ll go kill someone,” he promised. He kissed her, he picked up a sharp stone, he stood up, and he went out to hunt.

          Moral: You can’t prove that it’s right to know right from wrong.

“You can’t prove that it’s right to know right from wrong”; call this the  “conjecture of inherent doubt”; in contrast to the “doctrine of original sin”, which asserts that you can prove that it’s wrong to know right from wrong. The conjecture is philosophical doubt, the doctrine is religious dogma. Here I recount the aftermath of a well-known tale to illustrate an opposite moral.
          For if the doctrine of original sin is false, then it is moral nihilism, falsely accusing all judgment, so preaching it is despair; and if the doctrine is true then it is moral knowledge, which is what it denounces, so preaching it is hypocrisy.
          Whereas if the conjecture of inherent doubt is false, then stating it is moral ignorance, a flaw correctible by education; and if the conjecture is true, then it is an unprovable moral truth, and is therefore a revelation.
          So to preach original sin is at best insincere, and it might be insane; and to conjecture inherent doubt is at worst inept, and it might be inspired.

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