Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? is the eye-catching title of a book published in 2000 by Martin Gardner, the mathematician and critic who writes more books than some journalists write coherent sentences. Subtitled Debunking Pseudoscience - two of the most important words in any skeptic's vocabulary - it is a collection of twenty-seven columns Gardner wrote for Skeptical Inquirer, and one for Free Inquiry. Not all of the book is really about pseudoscience; some of it concerns controversial beliefs held by otherwise respectable scientists, and some of his investigations are into downright nonsense with no pretence to being science.

This last category appears to be the correct one for the chapter from which the book takes its name. "Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?", which opens the book, is a brief look at the history of this venerable religious question. The issue which has vexed theologists for so long is that if Adam and Eve did have navels, it would imply a birth they never experienced; but if they did not have them, they would not be perfect human beings. See this node's other writeups for discussion on the topic.

Most of the book is at least a little more serious. Gardner covers topics in "Evolution vs. Creationism", "Astronomy", "Physics", "Medical Matters", "Psychology", "Social Science", "UFOs", "More Fringe Science" and "Religion". There are too many chapters to describe each one, but some of the more interesting are as follows:

David Bohm: The Guided Wave - this is not about pseudoscience, but rather the much-maligned pilot wave theory proposed by the physicist David Bohm to resolve the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, a debate in quantum physics. Gardner is sympathetic to Bohm, mentioning his "sad life" and "depressions", and asserting that his theory deserves to be better known. (Essentially it states that sub-atomic particles are not sometimes waves and sometimes particles, but always particles, and have a pilot wave.)

Urine Therapy - here Gardner presents a brief account of medicinal urine drinking, a practice which in earlier times was esteemed by such authorities as the historian Pliny the Elder and the chemist Robert Boyle. Particularly amusing is the mention of homeopathic urine therapy, in which one's urine is diluted beyond measure and then drunk in the belief that this will bring medicinal benefit. Judiciously, Gardner admits, "I do not know whether drinking urine is harmless or not, and would welcome hearing from any knowledgeable physician on this point." But he finishes the chapter with the warning that, "I shudder at the thought of readers who are seriously ill, and who may be so persuaded that drinking urine will cure whatever ails them that they will not seek medical help that could save their lives."

Freud's Flawed Theory of Dreams - Gardner describes how Freud's dream theory - that dreams represent our unconscious desires through the use of symbolism - is unscientific, lacking in support, and generally abandoned by the modern establishment. He tells of a Time magazine piece called "Is Freud Dead?" (which concluded yes), and quotes the writer Tom Wolfe as saying "Freudianism was finally buried by the academic establishment in the 1970s, ending its forty-year reign in the United States. By 1979 Freudian psychology was treated only as an interesting historical note."

Is Cannibalism a Myth? - it has long been assumed by anthropologists that cannibalism was once widespread in traditional cultures but, Gardner notes, a 1979 book by William Arens entitled The Man-Eating Myth opened up the issue with a strong argument in favour of the belief that cannibalism has never been prevalent in any culture. Gardner notes that claims of institutionalized cannibalism have always been made by enemies, never the tribes themselves, and have usually proven hard to follow up. He refrains from taking sides but admits "My sympathies at the moment are with Arens."

Alan Sokal's Hilarious Hoax - a summary of the infamous Social Text affair, in which the physicist Alan Sokal had an article published by the Social Text journal despite the fact that it consisted entirely of meaningless postmodern babble snipped from various sources and pasted together into one ludicrous whole. The scandal revealed that much modern sociology and philosophy is either banal, needlessly verbose or anti-scientific. As Gardner puts it, "In a fundamental sense scientists and sociologists of science may not disagree. It's just that the sociologists and postmoderns talk funny. So funny that when Sokal talked even funnier in one of their journals they were unable to realize they had been had."

The Internet: A World Brain? This chapter is about the predictions of H. G. Wells. Although the correct are outnumbered by the false ones, Wells made a number of surprisingly accurate predictions on the future of mankind, including the collapse of communism, atomic bombs, "a world war started by Germany's invasion of France in the middle of the twentieth century", and a network of "projectors" called the "world brain", which would house what he called the "Permanent World Encyclopedia". As Gardner notes, this "world brain" is surprisingly close to the modern internet.

Isaac Newton, Alchemist and Fundamentalist - Isaac Newton, although a great physicist, was also a fundamentalist Christian (at least by modern standards) who believed in the literal truth of the Bible and even predicted the date of the Second Coming (at first 1876, but later revised to the twenty-first century). This was the "second Newton", beside the physicist. The third Newton, as Gardner puts it, was the alchemist, who wasted much of the prime of his life on fruitless attempts to turn base metals into gold. In fact, his forgettable writings on both Christianity and alchemy far outweigh his essential contribution to physics.

The Religious Views of Stephen Jay Gould and Darwin - although I'm not quite sure what it has to do with pseudoscience, this is an interesting summary of the two men's views. Stephen Jay Gould - who is quoted praising Gardner on the back of the book - is well known for his insistence that science and religion are compatible, although he calls himself an "agnostic inclined towards atheism" according to Gardner. According to Gardner, Charles Darwin, who had initially studied theology, was a confirmed theist who struggled, apparently successfully, to reconcile his belief in God with his revolutionary theory.

This is an entertaining little book and a generally light-hearted scientific read. Even by modern standards Gardner's writing is highly informal, often deadpan, and the parts of the book dealing with the more way-out nonsense (e.g. egg-balancing, urine therapy and the "Senator from Outer Space") are fairly amusing. He likes to end each chapter with a selection of jokes on the topic, most of them terrible (e.g. "A couple of cannibals are eating a stand-up comic. One of them says, 'Does this taste funny to you?'")

As well as Stephen Jay Gould, the book has also been praised by the sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke and the linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, a trio which in modern academia would be difficult to better.

Seeing how Darwin has effectively answered the chicken or the egg conundrum, this question is my new favourite thought exercise. It's also a neat way to wind up people that believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. So then, did Adam & Eve have belly buttons?

  • No - But then that means that Adam & Eve were phsically different from Cain, Abel and Seth. And seeing as Adam & Eve were created in God's image, then that means that we aren't. Which screws up the Bible after page 5.
  • Yes - Again, the problem is the image of God. If Adam & Eve had belly buttons, then so did God. Which means that God had a mum. Which screws up the Bible after the first sentence ("In the begining, there was morning sickness...").

    Of course real fundamentalists might try to say...

  • Yes. God gave them to Adam & Eve for the same reason that he placed dinosaur fossils in rocks - Bill Hicks response to this was "um sure, but doesn't it bother you even slightly to think that God is fucking with you?"

    Coming soon...Does God have nipples?

Maybe God had a belly button, that didn't come from being born. Maybe He just had one, for the same reason that He had a beard and fingernails - He just did. So, he made Adam and Eve in his image, and He made Adam's and Eve's belly buttons from scratch. Then, He decided that the simplest way of making belly buttons was to make them remnants of the umbilical cord, and He designed the umbilical cord so that it would, after it no longer bound mother and child, put in the final detail that made man in His image. If He hadn't had a belly button, then we wouldn't have anything left of the umbilical cord - God would've set it up so it would heal smoothly.

I totally disagree with b_o_leary's conclusions:

The Bible says we were made in His image, not that we all look like Him still. Plus there are so many different types of humans already- black, white, red, yellow, short, tall, skinny, fat, innies, outties, etc. Heck, just considering that some humans have penises and some don't (plus have larger breasts) is enough of a difference to make the addition of a belly button insignificant.

Along with the above varying differences, does God have lungs? a heart? feet? toes? Whatever He looks like, I think the only things we can say for certain is that He has two legs, two arms, a head, two ears, two eyes, a nose, mouth, etc etc. There's also another interpretation that "God's image" merely refers to "God's idea of what he wanted to do".

Either or, I'd say they didn't.

I would agree with the first part of AU's writeup, but the last point I don't agree with. Being created in God's Image, Imago Dei, doesn't always mean God's physical image. Some scholars and theologians have argued that being created Imago Dei means the ability to think, comprehend and know God. Being created in the image of God provides us the ability to know there is a God and have fellowship with Him.

As far as I know, God is never described as a person, with acutal physical descriptions, thus the whole part about God having two eyes, two ears, etc might not be the case. The "person" of God is Jesus Christ. After His resurection, we know that He had a body that was physical just perfect and we know that He ate and drank with the disciples.

So back to the main issue here, Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? I would lean more towards the no side of things. As mentioned previously, I think, the belly button comes from the umbilical cord and if you have no mother, then there is no reason the belly button, case closed

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.