Interesting question – and ensuing discussion. I'd never considered that an alternate argument could be put forward for why the Christian god (and co.) decided to put an end to the Tower. The story, as I was taught it, was that it was done because man's cockiness had got a bit too big for his boots. I remember asking how it was that God got all upset about a tower back then and now didn't seem to perturbed about man not only clearing the heavens but setting foot on the moon. I was told it was because nowadays God no longer resided in the heavens; that God distanced himself over time (for example, during incidents like when they didn't want God as their king and God acquiesced by installing king David, etc;).
However, Mitch's alternative explanation is thought provoking. I find it immediately interesting because it negates the need to explain where God's home actually is; especially to people who live in an age where 'up' is a relative term in a three dimensional universe. However, this explanation brings with it its own set of problems. As KTR points out, it's not very plausible that had the Tower been built mankind would have been held in the grip of a single social order. I mean, the world's a big arsed place to a bunch of people with a galloping horse representing the fastest mode of transportation. Does anyone think that Nimrod could have really kept an eye on what groups of dissenters were doing thousands of miles away? Not going to happen. So, whilst this alternative explanation is immediately interesting, unfortunately, like all good fiction, for me at least, it's only interesting for as long as I don't think about it too hard.
While I am thinking about it though, I couldn't help but revisit the concept of multiple languages creating confusion through the perspective of an older set of eyes. This made sense to me when I was a youngster, but now... not so much. I mean, I'm imagining myself building this tower and suddenly I can't understand those around me. And it occurs to me that walking off would be the worst possible thing I could do for the sake of my survival. Let's assume I'm a humble slave whose forced job description was brickie's labourer. I don't have any hunting (or gathering) skills. What would I do for food and shelter? I'm a slave which means I don't have any money. Storming the grain silo isn't going to be too bright an idea 'cause even if I can't understand the words coming out of the guy's mouth guarding the silo, I'm still going to understand the pointy end of a sword or spear being levelled at me by that same guy. Perhaps the guy guarding the silo decided to grab what he could carry and leave, leaving the silo unguarded? Perhaps, but very unlikely. I mean, if you take enough to try and have food for as long as it takes you to grow a new batch (and taking into account it would take some time to find somewhere safe enough to grow a new crop and assuming that the seasons were in your favour and you'd be able to plant a new crop as soon as you found a safe area) chances are you'd be robbed. I mean a man's got to sleep sometime. It sounds like, to me at least, it would be suddenly more imperative than ever to guard that silo with your life, because it literally depended on it. What about my friends? Even if they're common cause kind of friends, bonds would still have been formed. Would I really just walk away from the ones I can't understand? Can't see myself doing that.
What I'm getting at, is that it would have made a lot more sense for God to have confounded language BEFORE the plan was formulated – to stop it from happening. But to do it shortly before completion? It's kinda lame, really. I mean it's not like he suddenly changed the meaning of sentences so that, for example, “Can I have some more gruel?” translated to “Your wife multi-orgasms with me”. No, all he did was introduced a plethora of languages (from memory, 72, according to the Qur'an – the Bible is silent on numbers). So, all the 'other' person would have heard is gibberish. It still means you've got a 1 in 72 chance of being able to understand someone. And, the way I see it, how bad would that have been, really? I mean, we squabble on this forum because we quite often don't understand what the other party is saying and we're all speaking (typing) English! One could almost make a case for a language barrier being a positive thing!
I think the reality would have been that we'd have learnt to understand each other while proceeding with the already well established and rehearsed objective. You know, I think about my mother and father meeting in Australia as immigrants. Mum was Yugoslavian, dad Italian. They met, fell in love and learned each other's language and got married. It's really hard to see language as the insurmountable barrier that Genesis 11 would have us believe it is.
Finally, if his strategy was about stopping a single social order to come into effect and to allow mankind to compete with itself on moral and social values, in my mind it also begs the question of why he didn't think of dispersing mankind through confounding language instead of flooding them in the first place? It would have improved Noah's quality of life no end...
Moving on to AI or SI (synthetic intelligence) as it's now known (and is a bit annoying because SI is more commonly an abbreviation for swarm intelligence) even though synthetic is a better word than artificial. Will the Christian god smite us for creating it if he got his knickers in such a bunch over a Tower?
When I was a Christian, I firmly believed that it was always going to be one of those things we'd never get to achieve (along with other things such as cracking the immortality barrier, travelling at velocities approaching the speed of light, etc;). I always believed it was one of those things that was sufficiently out of our grasp that we'd never get there before Christ's return. And whilst I believed no one knew the exact time of Christ's return, it was going to happen soon. All the indicators were that it was going to happen in my lifetime. Probably within my parent's lifetime. NOTE: This is what happens when you let your impressionable young be taught by SDA's.
Nowadays, I kinda almost miss there being a Christian god to keep us in line 'cause I can't help but think Skynet approaches ...and time travel doesn't. The only thing that gives me comfort is that we are also surprisingly good at fixing our fuck ups. Nevertheless, I find myself agreeing with Mitch's sentiment here:
Mitch wrote:And if we create "children" for other than the best intentions then our "children" may exterminate us and who could blame them really?
And if that happened, well, ummm... Long live evolution, I guess...