Friday, September 7, 2012

The Historical Search For Eden At The North Pole

Biblical Paradise


An article in The Public Domain Review recounts the historical search for the biblical Garden of Eden (Gan Eden in Hebrew). Around the time Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) was becoming popular, William Fairfield Warren, distinguished Methodist minister and president of Boston University, published a book in 1881, Paradise Found, which said the biblical paradise and the origin of man was to be found in the North Pole:

Warren published this theory in 1881 as Paradise Found, The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole. The tome positively reeked with academic authority. There were long passages in French, German, and ancient Greek in the footnotes. He drew on his specialty, comparative mythology, which he described as “the science of the oldest traditional beliefs and memories of mankind.” He knew the great epic folklore of the Hindus, the Celts, the Chinese, the Persians. In the nineteenth century, this was a rare, esoteric body of knowledge, full of metaphorical echoes of Bible stories, objective “evidence” of Christian facts. The index of “authors referred to or quoted” in Paradise Found lists 580 sources — for 495 pages of text. Right next to Darwin there’s Ignatius Donnelly, who claimed that the lost continent of Atlantis was real; it was destroyed by the near-collision of the earth with a comet. His 1882 book Atlantis was wildly popular. (Donnelly had another theory — that Shakespeare’s plays might actually be written by Francis Bacon — but at the time that was considered too ridiculous to be taken seriously.) Some reviewers felt that Warren’s wanton citation did his argument no favors, but apparently many readers weren’t bothered.
Some might laugh and smirk at the idea of using the biblical account as a science text; and thus consider such men as Warren as ill-advised "religious fools." I don't, but consider his a serious and sincere attempt to integrate new scientific knowledge into standard religious views in an age that was losing its biblical understanding of the world. Darwin's ideas challenged the prevailing thinking; Warren's book was the result. 

One has to always be aware of chronological snobbery, the urge to criticize ideas of the past with current knowledge. For example, what will scientists 100 years from say now about the current Mars Curiosity mission to discover "life" on the Red Planet? One can only speculate. Today, no one is searching for Eden on Earth, least of all considering the barren North Pole the ideal spot. Even so, the idea of an Eden still has great appeal for many persons.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Public Domain Review]

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