Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Because The Bible Tells Us So

Believe it or not, I do have some intellectual interests other than the war on drugs. And one of those interests is creationism or, if you prefer, intelligent design. Now I’m not exactly what you would call a religious person, so I don’t actually believe in the “theory” of creationism. And it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with science. But you have to give the creationists credit for one thing: they have an answer for everything. Although the details vary depending on the issue, the bottom line of every one of their arguments is simply, “because the Bible tells us so.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all preachy on you. Or try to justify the use of recreational drugs based on a tenuous interpretation of some obscure Bible verse (thank Jah). But whether or not you believe you can glean something about the meaning of life or the history of the universe from the Bible, I think you have to admit that the Bible can at the very least teach us something about human nature. Especially the Old Testament. And I think it is somewhat significant that the very first lesson in human nature that the Bible teaches us is fairly simple, straightforward, and not easily misinterpreted: Prohibition doesn’t work.

That’s right, the very first lesson we learn, after finding out about the creation of the universe, comes in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were allowed to eat the fruit of any tree in their garden except for one, the tree of knowledge. They were warned quite clearly that if they ate from that particular tree that they would die. Of course they did eat the forbidden fruit, and the rest is history (at least according to the Bible). So what does that teach us?

First, prohibition cannot be based on lies or misinformation. Eating the forbidden fruit turned out not to be fatal after all. When Adam and Eve realized that they had been lied to about the true nature of the fruit, what else could they do but eat it? They were, after all, only human.

Second, a powerful enforcer of the law is not enough. Even the creator of the universe, who knows all and sees all, could not stop Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit. So how could a mere government and their police force hope to do any better?

Third, even the threat of the most severe punishment, death, is not an effective deterrent. Especially when the “crime” is something that goes against human nature. In this case, the law attempted to prevent people from gaining knowledge. As we all know, people are always asking questions and learning new things. That’s what people do. Such a behavior cannot be controlled with legislation.

Fourth, you can’t watch everybody all the time. Even with a population of only two and an omniscient enforcer, the law was still violated. That kind of makes what the DEA is trying accomplish seem pretty pointless (as if it didn’t already).

And finally this story teaches us a lesson that every parent has eventually learned. If you tell an adolescent not to do something, they often will, if for no other reason than to make a point (“you’re not the boss of me”). But if you give people some freedom, within some reasonable limitations and boundaries, more often than not they will come to the right decision on their own. In other words, given the opportunity to act like adults, most people will.

So I think there’s a lesson to be learned here, especially for those who justify the war on drugs on moral grounds. Regardless of how they might interpret the Bible with respect to what sort of recreation is acceptable or forbidden, there can be little doubt about the Bible’s position on prohibition as a solution: It has, since the beginning of time, never worked, and can’t possibly be expected to ever work, even under the most ideal of circumstances. Amen.

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