The Original Noachian Narratives

[Parent Article]

The Jahwist Version

YHWH saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. YHWH regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So YHWH said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH.

YHWH then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family,because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

And Noah did all that YHWH commanded him. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.  And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. Then YHWH shut him in.

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.

Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. 

And the rain had stopped falling from the sky.The water receded steadily from the earthAfter forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

Then Noah built an altar to YHWH and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

The Priestly Version

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah.

Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

And he sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

The Story Of Noah, With Sources Revealed

[Parent Article]

Genesis 6:5 – 9:17

YHWH saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. YHWH regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So YHWH said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH.

This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

YHWH then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family,because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

And Noah did all that YHWH commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then YHWH shut him in.

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and he sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Then Noah built an altar to YHWH and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

The Story Of Noah

[Parent Article]

Genesis 6:5 – 9:17

YHWH saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. YHWH regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So YHWH said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH.

This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

YHWH then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family,because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

And Noah did all that YHWH commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then YHWH shut him in.

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Then Noah built an altar to YHWH and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. YHWH smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Nietzsche: God is Dead

Context

It is no secret that human beings are terrible about thinking about politics and religion.  Every in-group has its own collection of pet ideas (its own semiosphere). And every single one of these massive cultural apparati are apt to go awry:

  • Arguably, some pro-intellectual groups have gotten history wrong (c.f., the Galileo affair).
  • Arguably, some anti-intellectual groups have gotten biology wrong (c.f., natural selection).
  • Arguably, some anti-religion groups have gotten philosophy wrong (c.f., logical positivism).

Today, I’d like to illustrate a “culture war” meme whose origins some pro-religion groups have gotten wrong: the phrase “God is dead”. I do this for three reasons:

  1. The meme is still misused frequently, yet its correction is less well-known than to the three other errors above.
  2. Nietzsche is an exceptionally interesting writer.
  3. To explain why I view the cognitive science of religion as a subject worthy of our attention.

Below I reproduce where “God is Dead” comes from: a parable.

From Nietzsche’s The Gay Science

The Madman

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the marketplace, and cried incessantly, “I seek God! I seek God!” As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

“Whither is God” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? …

Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was the holiest and most powerful of all the world has yet owned, has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us – for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out. “I came too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way – it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder requires time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard.

Analysis

Before reading on, please ask yourself:

  1. Who is Nietzsche addressing in this passage?
  2. Is Nietzsche discussing theology, or sociology?
  3. What is Nietzsche’s point?

Give yourself a minute to get comfortable with your answers.

Here’s my summary of what Nietzsche scholars think:

Nietzsche, speaking through the madman, is addressing atheists rather than theists. The theist is thus in a position to observe an inner dispute, in the midst of the “other team”. Nietzsche is in no way making a theological claim; rather, he is calling attention to the social and cultural consequences of the atheism. “God is dead” refers to how the tides of secularism are affecting the idea of God.

What is Nietzsche’s message? N is offering an (extremely) sharp condemnation against the uncritical atheism. His core message is that those who idly hope that the secularization thesis is true, without considering its consequences, are hopelessly naive. Religion, according to Nietzsche, is much too important public life to pass away without impact. He begs, he pleads, he cajoles nonbelievers to consider the implications of their disbelief.  (What does calling religious belief “the entire horizon” say about his views of the importance of religion?)

Concluding Thoughts

The above interpretation, in addition to being prima facie compelling, is fairly closely aligned with what you’ll hear  from nearly all professional philosophers (c.f.,  this article).  Of course, Nietzsche had many negative things to say about religion elsewhere (and yet, I have had conversations with Nietzschean Christians).

The first reason for this post was a simple correction. Perhaps misleading posters such as the following will now raise a few more eyebrows:

nietzsche_vs_god

The second reason for this post was to present Nietzsche’s artistic talent. Perhaps you’ll find yourself sufficiently motivated enough to step through my summary of his Genealogy of Morals. (I should eventually get around to outlining how N has influenced my thinking.)

The third reason for this post was to draw attention to the cognitive science of religion. One of my great pleasures in Nietzsche is his psychological incisiveness (e.g., he influenced later theorizing about the subconscious). Here, Nietzsche puts his thumb on the peculiar power religion has over the mind of man, particularly in his search for meaning.  The religious impulse of our species is undeniably strong; you can even witness it within secular communities (Atheism 2.0 is an interesting illustration of this).

I have two books on my wish list that I intend to help accelerate my theorizing about religious cognition:

Ultimately, this research will find a home within my larger project of building a mental architecture!

[Excerpt] The Robot’s Rebellion

Original Author: Keith Stanovitch, Robot’s Rebellion
See Also: [Excerpt] Replicators and their Vehicles
Content Summary: 1400 words, 7 min read.

Setting The Stage

Imagine it is the year 2024 and that there exist cryogenic chambers that could cool our bodies down and preserve them until sometime in the future when medical science might enable us to live forever. Suppose you wanted to preserve yourself in a cryogenic chamber until the year 2404, when you could emerge and see the fascinating world of that time and perhaps be medically treated so that you could then live forever. How would you go about “preserving a safe passage into the future” – that is, assuring that your cryogenic chamber will not get destroyed before that time? Remember you will not be around on a day-to-day basis.

One strategy would be to find an ideal location for your cryogenic capsule and supply it with protection from the elements and whatever other things (perhaps sunlight for energy, etc) that it would need for the ensuing four hundred years. The danger in this strategy is that you might pick the wrong place. Future people might decide that the place you were in would be better used as the world’s millionth shopping mall and use the (then current) laws to trump your (old) property rights with their new ones (in the same way that we currently build shopping malls on the ancient burial grounds of American Indians). So this strategy of staying put – what might be termed the “plant” strategy – has some flaws.

An alternative, but much more expensive, strategy is the “animal” strategy. You could build a giant robot – complete with sensors, brain, and capability of movement – and put your cryogenic capsule inside it. The robot’s superordinate goal is to keep you out of danger – to move itself (and hence you) when its location does not seem propitious. It of course has many other tasks it must accomplish in order to survive. It must secure a power source, it must not overheat itself, etc.

Your robot would of course need considerable intelligence to be able to react to the behavior of humans and other animals in its environment. It of course would move out of the way of proposed shopping malls, and it would avoid herds of elephants that might turn it over simply out of curiosity. However, note that your robot’s task would be immensely complicated by the ramifications of the existence of other robots like itself wandering the landscape in search of energy and safety. Conjure in your imagination hundreds of robot companies cold-calling prospective customers with supposedly “cheaper deals” on a robot that has “many more features” than the first ones that had been built around 2024. The market (and landscape) might become flooded with them. Governments might begin to regulate them and sequester them in certain desert areas. Some states of the United States might try to encourage their cryogenic capsule robot industries by becoming unregulated states – letting robots roam freely throughout the state (just as now certain desperate municipalities encourage the waste management industry to come to them so as to “create jobs”).

Your robot’s task would become immensely more complex with other robots present, because some of the other robots might be programmed with survival strategies that encouraged them to interact with your robot. Some of the fly-by-night companies selling robots might have cut their costs by building robots deliberately under-powered but with a strategy that told them to disable other robots in order to use their power sources.

Of course it is obvious that you would want your robot to flee from all attempts to sabotage it and its goals. That much is obvious. But not all of the interactions with other robots will be so simple. In fact, the main point here is that your robot would be faced with decisions hundreds of years later that you could not possibly have imagined in 2024. Consider the following two situations:

Situation A: The Battered Robot

It is 2304, still almost one hundred years from the day in the future when you will be unfrozen. Your robot is battered and its circuits are unreliable. It probably will survive only until 2350, when it will collapse, leaving your cryogenic capsule still with its own power source but vulnerable to the elements and history in the same way that the “plant” strategy is. But since 2024 the cryogenic preservation industry has advanced considerably. There now exist supertanker-sized robots that carry hundreds of cryogenic capsules. In fact, some of these companies have found market niches whereby they recruit new clients by offering the old-style singleton robots the following deal: The supertanker companies offer to take the cryogenic capsule from the singleton robots and store it for one hundred fifty years (plenty of time in your case). In exchange, the robot agrees to let the company dismantle it and reuse the parts (which, as the actuaries of the future have calculated to the millionth of a penny in a dystopia of efficiency, are worth more than it costs to store an additional capsule in the supertanker).

Now what decision do you want your robot to make? The answer here is clear. You want your robot to sacrifice itself so that your capsule can exist until 2404. It is in your interests that the robot destroy itself so that you can live. From the standpoint of its creator, the robot is just a vehicle. You are in a position analogous to your genes. You have made a vehicle to ensure your survival and your interests are served when, given the choice, your vehicle destroys itself in order to preserve you.

But if the capsule occupant stands for the genes in this example, then what does the robot represent? The robot, obviously, is us – humans. Our allegiance in the thought experiment immediately changes. When the robot is offered the deal, we now want to shout: “Don’t do it!”

Let’s look at one more example to further illustrate the paradoxes of long-leash control.

Situation B: The Social Robot

Your robot enters into an agreement with another singleton robot. When one robot is low on energy the other is allowed to plug in and extract enough energy to get itself over a particularly vulnerable energy-hump. Your robot often takes advantage of the deal and thus enhances its own chances of survival. However, unbeknownst to your robot, its partner, when tapping in, siphons off not just energy from your robot but also from the power supply of the cryogenic capsule, thus imagine it and making you successful unfreezing in 2404 less likely. Paradoxically, by entering into this deal, your robot has enhanced its own survival probability but has impaired yours. The possibility of the robot serving its own interests but not yours is opened up once the robot’s psychology becomes complex.

Implications

More generally, a self-conscious robot might think twice about its role as your slave. It might come to value its own interests – its own survival – more highly than the goals that you gave it three hundred years ago. In fact, it doesn’t even know you – you are inert. And now that the robot exists as an autonomous entity, why shouldn’t it dump you in the desert and go about its own business? And as for allowing itself to be dismantled so that you can get aboard the supertanker in order to make it to 2404 – forget about it! Which, when you think about it, is just what we should be telling our programmers – those freeloaders who got where they are, by in the past sometimes trying to immortality at our expense: our genes.

As modern human beings, we find that many of our motivations have become detached from their ancestral environment context, so that now fulfilling our goals no longer serves genetic interests. Ironically, what from an evolutionary design point of view could be considered design defects actually make possible the robot’s rebellion – the full valuing of people by making their goals, rather than the genes’ goals, preeminent. That is, inefficient design (from an evolutionary point of view) in effect creates the possibility of a divergence between organism-level goals and gene-level goals.