A common mistaken belief about the Bible is that it discourages scientific endeavor. Typically, this point is made by a brash appeal to Genesis 2:16-17 & 3:1-7, which runs something like this:
- If God encouraged scientific endeavor, He would have allowed Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
- God did not allow Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
- Therefore, God does not encourage scientific endeavor.
Let’s examine this argument.
The Major and Minor Premises
- 1. If God encouraged scientific endeavor, He would have allowed Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The major premise of this argument presupposes that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is equivalent to a scientific endeavor, but is this is the case? While it is true that eating from the tree would, indeed, produce some type of “knowledge” regarding good and evil, it is not the type of knowledge that would square with “scientific” knowledge. And it is precisely this purposeful failure to distinguish between the awareness-knowledge resultant from eating of the tree and the (supposed) scientific knowledge (which the serpent claimed would afford Eve an advantage previously available only to God) that aids in deceiving her. Therefore, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil cannot be seen as a scientific endeavor, although this may be what the serpent had in mind when he told the woman “Your eyes shall be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5).
2. God did not allow Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s grant that eating from the tree was equivalent to a scientific endeavor we must ask: Does it then follow that God’s encouragement of scientific endeavor would necessarily include allowing Adam and Eve to eat from the tree? No, it doesn’t. As Sovereign King over His vassal subjects, God possessed the right to allow scientific endeavor in many areas of life and, with or without explicitly stating His reason(s), simultaneously disallow scientific endeavor in any other area of life. If we view God as completely sovereign over His creation, there is no contradiction here.
Considering the above, we can conclude that God was not opposed to scientific endeavor. In fact, we can confidently argue the opposite on the basis of a comparative reading of Gen. 1:1-31 & 2:18-20. The first chapter of Genesis presents us with the creation of the cosmos by the Word of God. The importance of this lies in the fact that when God creates, He is simultaneously taxonomizing His creation. The Word of God, therefore, is, quite literally, the Logos or logic of God, whereby creation is inherently ordered according to a general framework/environment (1:1-19), as well as creaturely purpose/function (1:20-31).
Therefore, when we read that “…the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them…” (2:19), we are watching God delight in the crown of His creation as he engages in the science of taxonomy. Adam is not discouraged, but encouraged by God Himself to examine the creatures in the world around him as they stood in relation to each other and to himself. Adam was the first taxonomist, and he was ordained, compelled even, to hold such an office by Almighty God.
However, let us remember that Adam’s taxonomy was finite and limited to what he could observe presently (as we see in the case of the functional-relational name change from “the woman” to “Eve”, cf. 2:23 & 3:16, 20). Not only this, but it is also subservient to God’s taxonomy, which is inherent to creation itself. God does not discourage scientific endeavor, but allows it, ordains it, and (seemingly) enjoys man’s involvement therein.