Garden of Eden
|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
- This article is about a mythical location. If you're looking for drunken singing with an epic drum solo, see In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
The Garden of Eden is the mythical birthplace of all humanity, and a metaphorical place of perfect innocence.
The fact that it never existed in the first place has been a major stumbling block to attempts to "find" it. Needless to say, such minor problems have never daunted true believers. One common theory among them is it was located in northwestern Iran. John Milton located it in Mesopotamia, stretching "from a point about fifty miles south of Damascus eastward to within twenty miles of the city of Bagdad." However, Dante Alighieri placed it in the western hemisphere, in the Southern seas "at the antipodes from Jerusalem; on the restful summit of a great island-mountain set in the midst of the ocean." The first president of Boston University placed it at the North Pole, while Mormons believe it is in North America (specifically, Jackson County, Missouri). And in 1900, a former Confederate chaplain and Methodist (South) bishop placed it in none other than Charleston, South Carolina. Of course. At a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2019, the English broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough used the "Garden of Eden" as a metaphor for the geological epoch called the Holocene, which some scientists say has ended: "The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are now in a new geological age - The Anthropocene - The Age of Humans."
According to the Biblical creation story that begins in Genesis 2:4,[note 1] God made the Garden of Eden and filled it with all kinds of foods, including a tree whose fruit would impart knowledge of good and evil to whoever ate it.[note 2] God then made humans, with the male coming first (as usual) and then the female second (with any luck). A snake then convinced the people to eat the fruit, despite a direct order not to from God (despite the two not knowing the difference between right and wrong and therefore not being able to comprehend consequences of their actions). When they did so, they became ashamed of their nakedness, and sewed fig[note 3] leaves together making either "aprons" or "breeches", depending on what version you're reading. Regardless, the myth of the origin of a dress-code does not justify gender-based distinctions. God threw the two now incorrigible sinners out, setting up an angel with a flaming sword to keep them away, so they wouldn't get at the tree with the fruit of eternal life, and have no difference between them and God.
As a mystical story explaining conscience and the hardships people have to endure, it is either beautiful and haunting or downright silly — depending on your point of view. As a literal account of the early days of humanity, it does not make much sense. Much of the exegesis surrounding the story, that would be alien to the original creators of this tale, makes even less sense.
Game of Life
In Conway's Game of Life, a Garden of Eden pattern is one for which there is no possible preceding pattern — thus these can only be "intelligently designed" by the player, rather than evolve naturally through the course of the game.
An interesting note is that the existence of a Garden of Eden pattern in Life was known before any concrete examples of them were obtained. By the Garden of Eden theorem, proven in full in 1963, a cellular automaton in Euclidean space has a Garden of Eden pattern if and only if it has at least two finite patterns that evolve to the same pattern. Since the existence of the latter is easily demonstrable for Life, it followed that it had to have Garden of Eden patterns before the first explicit example was discovered in 1971.
Deistic (satirical) version
The World Union of Deists have their own version of this tale. In it, the roles of God and Satan are completely reversed. In this version, Satan kidnaps Adam and Eve soon after God created them and the world, and took them to the Garden of Eden (which now belongs to Satan instead of God). God then appeared as the snake (instead of Satan) and convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge (not the knowledge of good and evil, just plain ol' knowledge). Which resulted in them building a boat and escaping the garden, despite the protests of a rather pissed-off Satan.
The Devil later gets his revenge by impersonating God and tricking Abraham into creating his revealed religion. The Devil then repeats this process for many other religious figures, creating a world full of tribalism and ritualism. But God in this version isn't very concerned, as he knows that more advanced tribes that can think and create will eventually conquer the ritualistic ones anyway.
Of course, since most deists acknowledge the theory of evolution as proven fact, it should be pointed out that this is all completely silly, though it still makes far more sense than the biblical version it's parodying.
- Biblical scholars recognize several different creation stories, including the Priestly "in the begging", of Genesis 1 and the more figurative story in Gen 2.
- This is often taken to be what is called a merism, implying knowledge of everything between these two extremes.
- Erotic fertility-symbolism alert!
- Cosmeo.com - "The Roots of Religion" It's about a half-hour from the start of the film to actually finding Eden, so make sure you have the time to spare.
- See the Wikipedia article on Paradise Lost.
- See the Wikipedia article on Purgatorio.
- William Fairfield Warren, Paradise found, the cradle of the human race at the North Pole : a study of the primitive world (1885).
- See the Wikipedia article on Adam-ondi-Ahman.
- John Christian Keener, The Garden of Eden and The Flood (1900).
- Wilhelm Kühner, The Garden of Eden and The Flood (Annotated) (2019).
- David Attenborough, "The Garden of Eden is no more," World Economic Forum (21 Jan 2019).
- See The Encyclopedia of Protestantism. There's no mention of a bra for Eve, so perhaps the Garden played by French beach rules.
- World Union of Deists: A Deistic Take on the Fable of Adam and Eve.
- Testimony of Truth: Garden of Eden from the POV of snake