“The Garden of Eden … was a place where we could be human, but without limits. … Yet this limitless existence somehow proved an affront to the core human instinct; while idyllic, we found it far from ideal.”
—D. Hartman, Putting God Second
After more than 30 billion years, God looked across the vastness of the universe and felt lonely. Galaxies, constellations, solar systems, red dwarfs and white giants, deep space, meteorites, and black holes—but nothing companionable for God. “I must do something about this,” she thought. “My work’s not done.”
So, God set out to build a garden laboratory on the planet earth because of it profusion of lush green vegetation—a place to experiment with various life forms until a companionable creation was found. It was a beautiful garden. “Edenic,” thought God. In its center was a lush fruit tree. God sampled the sweet juice fruit. After one bite, God had a new idea. “That was good! Not just tasty, but good!” And a design goal began to form in her mind.
God continued developing proto-type creatures, hoping to find at least one that could be a suitable companion; one with whom God might spend some time. First there was a huge beast—leathery skin; four legs, each like a tree trunk; and a nose like a fire hose. Then, a feathered creature with wings and a huge tail which, when fanned out, was a beautiful array of iridescent greens and blues. God then tried a water creature—eight arms, with suction cups covering their underside. And there were many, many more. God had not yet named the proto-types (that would come later).
After each was transformed from schematic drawing to a real live creature, God sent them off to the testing department. She gave each of them explicit directions, “Go to the middle of the garden complex. There you will find a tree heavy with tasty, juicy fruit. Don’t eat the fruit from that tree because it will change your life in ways you cannot expect. Anyway, when you get to the tree, take a right and go about 100 meters. There you will be greeted by the snake who is the head of my beta testing department. He will put you through your paces and determine your future.” One by one they all ventured off to find the testing department and its department head, the snake.
“I have just one test for you to perform,” said the snake. “Go back past that big tree with the juicy fruit. Venture out into the garden and find food, shelter, and some community for yourself. And, by the way, don’t pay any attention to what God said about that tree. Go ahead and pick and eat some of its fruit. It won’t hurt you.”
Each of the proto-type test subjects went out, stopped at the tree and thought, “What should I do? Pick some or pass on by? Who should I believe? Who will I follow? God or the snake?” That last question resolved the dilemma—if you had to chooses between God or a snake, would any of you would choose the snake? I didn’t think so!
Test subject after test subject was roaming the garden. The snake tracked each of their movements and finally reported back to God. “Boss,” the snake began, “I checked each proto-type as they came through my test lab. I collected all the evidence from their field tests. I have come to one conclusion. Almost all of them could forage for food and build a shelter. Most found some other proto-types like them and formed various types of community. Some preferred, however, to go it alone. (And they seemed to succeed in that venture.) But the tree was a puzzlement. They all seem cowed by your prohibition. They didn’t want anything to do with that sweet, juicy fruit. So, I don’t think they would make very good companions for you—pets, maybe; but not the kind of companion you are looking for.”
God looked down at the ground, as if in resignation. “All that work, and for what? A petting zoo?”
“Wait,” chimed in the snake, a wry smile caught up in the next hissing sound. “I’m not finished yet! There was one proto-type pair that seems to hold some promise. They were only so-so in finding food, shelter, and security. But they passed the tree test. The picked the fruit and ate it with gusto and delight. The juices from the fruit squirted all over their faces and ran down their chins. Before long, they were covered from head to toe in juice. I think it was the juice that did it. As they were wiping the juice off their bodies, they all of a sudden realized that their bodies were constructed somewhat differently. It was as it their bodies fit together. It looked like companionship to me. And, since they had enough character to decide on their own whether they were going to follow your directive or mine, it is clear that only they fulfilled your design goal for a sentient, discriminating creature who could choose between right and wrong when confronted with conflicting circumstances. I would say that part of the testing went well. In many ways, they truly resemble you and your dispositions. However, I must say, they are still a little rough around the edges. I think they need to be sent out of the garden into the rest of the world, so you can complete their training.”
“I think I have found my companions!” said God with a smile. “Now comes the training phase of our work. Let’s put the to the test!”