DISCLAIMER: Though I am a firm supporter of the theory of evolution, I believe that there is a higher power/energy/being at work in this ol' universe.
I was listening to XM Broadway Radio (as I often do) and on came a selection from the Off-Broadway cult favorite, Children of Eden. Children of Eden explores the stories of Adam & Eve (Act I) and Noah (Act II) with strong themes of parents and children, their relationships, and interactions.
Children of Eden
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Book: John Caird
Based On: Book of Genesis
Debut: Paper Mill Playhouse
At one point in the show, Eve asks "Father" about the Tree of Knowledge: "But Father, if the tree isn't good for us, then why did you put it here?" Good question, Eve! You're much more insightful than your insect-alphabetizing companion. So here's the thing: God's perfect, right? Eden's perfect, right? All the fruit-bearing trees in Eden are perfect for eating, right? So what's the deal with this one tree you can't go near? How is this tree not perfect if God's perfect? Hmmm..... That got me to thinkin'.
In response to Eve's query, "Father" laid down the law and said, "Guys, stay the frak away from that tree. Don't ask why, just go play naked someplace else and name some animals. That tree is OFF LIMITS." And that worked great for about five minutes until a cunning little serpent convinced the nudists that it's all good and they should check out the forbidden goods anyway (Sidenote: other than notoriety for deception, what did the snake ever get out of all this coercion? Usually one tempts others for some sort of personal gain, so what's his story? Maybe God bet him to see if he could get Adam or Eve to go first. I wouldn't be surprised. Paradise must get boring).
Here's my personal theory: That tree was totally, absolutely, no doubt placed in the garden on purpose. It was supposed to be there and we (humanity) were supposed to find it and eat from it. I don't know if Father necessarily wanted his children to gain knowledge and therefore leave paradise, but it seemed inevitable with such a resource sitting in the garden. Just like any parent tries to protect and preserve their children's innocence, the security bubble eventually bursts or dissolves as children are exposed to the big, scary world. So I believe that the tree was perfectly placed for perfectly curious humans to find.
But if that's the case, why were we given paradise in the first place? You may say that God gave us the choice to stay ignorant and naked in a perfect garden, but we chose free will instead. Or maybe God intended for us to stay his children forever and we were punished for our disobedience. Well I see it differently. I think the Garden of Eden was never meant to be a permanent gift to humanity. I think it was more of a orientation to life, baby shower-ish gift. Just as youngsters mature and graduate from baby food and training toilets, humanity matured from perfect, constant leisure into a world of intellect, conflict, and responsibility. I think humans can only handle everything being fed to them for a certain amount of time before they start to develop their own thoughts and wants and feelings. Sure, it would be nice to be spoon fed and have our asses wiped and have every problem or thought solved for us by some almighty deity, but isn't it more meaningful to be able to choose what you want to eat or where you shit or have an opinion of your own?
So I believe that that garden was, in a nutshell, the infancy and childhood of humanity. It was our haven of simplicity and innocence before we would eventually have to grow up, leave our safe little nest, and explore the world and ourselves. Some people may be resentful for being cast out into the wilderness, but ya gotta take the bad with the good! Think about it (and the fact that you can think for yourself rests my case), what loving parent or "Father" would want their child to be a dependent automaton? So yeah, it's our nature: we're born, we grow, we learn, we develop, we make mistakes, we think. Thought and free will is probably our biggest pain in the ass as well as our greatest gift. So thanks, God!
...Either that or God didn't want them near that tree because it's where he kept his porn.