Maybe the clearest example of social engineering in the Bible is the well known creation myth of the Garden of Eden.

Social engineer means acting in a way to make another person act as you wish, especially through deception or by exploiting another their weaknesses.

The passage reads like this,

“  1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. “

New International Version, via http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+3&version=NIV
Here, of course, the serpent is playing off of human weaknesses;  human beings always want more and always fear death.  In short, humans want to be closer to divine.  The serpent promises Eve that there will be no ill consequences from eating the fruit, that it is in her benefit.  In this, the snake is sating eve’s fears: Eve fears death and the snake, unconcerned with the reality, simply says this is not true.  This deception helps Eve to hear the next bit of the pitch — that this will make humans closer to God.

Further, this corruption plays on the human tendency to share — Eve thinks eating the pomegranate or apple or whatever fruit is beneficial — and gives it to Adam.

Finally, Adam and Eve eating the fruit directly disobeys God’s direction to not do so.
So the snake is playing of the hopes and fears of humanity.  It understands a bit of the nature of humanity and plays off that nature to accomplish a goal.  That mirrors our likelihood to ignore what we have been told if we don’t think it is congruent with what we think is is best.  Nonetheless, even from this early myth of the Bible, it is clear that ‘social engineering’ has been prevalent across much of humanity, and the idea that we can force outcomes by exploiting knowledge — for the better or worse — encompasses a bit of how we interact with the world and with other people.

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