In Judeo-Christian religions, the place in Genesis where Adam and Eve originally live. Contains the Tree of Knowledge. When Adam and Eve eat from the Tree, they are banished. Since then, an angel has stood at the gates with a flaming sword to keep people out.

This is the Garden, hack. All of this.

To put it better: when God slapped Adam and Eve down on this bit of rock and grass, they did not yet know what good and evil were -- they did not know that some things were good and some bad; they did not yet know that some things were perfect while others were imperfect -- they did not have the power( the flaw?) to see the imperfection in the world around them and thus, their world was perfect.

When they gained knowledge from the tree, they necesserily banished themselves from The Garden of Eden for now they could see the problems inherent in the world, they could see that they would die eventually, they could feel pain, and they found for the first time that they had trouble communicating even between themselves.

In a very real way, the story of the Garden is a story of man's gaining of sentience and the beginning of human knowledge -- it is the point in history when mankind stepped from the animals... the point where moonwatcher touches the monolith to you 2001: a Space Oddysey buffs out there. The Garden is all around us, but we traded it for civilization. We traded perfection for freedom.

The Garden of Eden is generally considered to have been located in Mesopotamia, an area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This area is, indeed, now part of Iraq. Mesopotamia is in the Fertile Crescent, so it's understandable why the ancients considered the place to be Heaven on Earth.

Personally, I prefer the Land of Nod, which is East of Eden.

Intriguingly enough, the Garden of Eden is noted for it's great abundance of flora and fauna.

When flora and fauna die and are buried they form... petrochemicals. Oil, that is. Black Gold.

Now... If we were to look for the largest source of oil in the world, we'd say the Middle East, which is, curiously enough, the area in which the Garden of Eden would have existed.

Perhaps you see the connection here? If there really was a Garden of Eden, and it was denied to humans (by, for instance, burying), then what would the evidence be? Lots of oil.

That's where I think the Garden of Eden is. In your gas tank, and your plastic toy - it's all gone to oil.

(When do I think this all occured? During the Flood, of course... when else could you bury a freekin' huge garden thousands of feet under the ground?)

Eden is a Sumerian word, translated as steppe. In other words, referring to the Garden of Eden is basically calling it the garden of the savanna wasteland. Mind, not that I believe in an historical garden of paradise, but the origin of the myth points to the wilds of Sumeria.

In this sense, the paradise lost was the drive of the individual from the wilds to the creation of society and civilisation. Origin of evil? I wonder what Hobbes would say about this.

If i remember my Dante, his cosmology claimed that the Garden of Eden was on the top of the Tower of Purgatory, diametrically opposite Jerusalem.

Of course, his cosmology also claimed that the stars and planets revolved around the Earth, and that the entire southern hemisphere was covered by water except for the island of Purgatory... but at least he accepted that the Earth was round, right?

(note: please forgive the representation of Earth as a hexagon)

          
     _______+______
    /  \    H    / \ 
   /    \   E   /   \
  /      \  L  /     \     <-- Hemisphere of Land
 /        \ L /       \
/          \ /         \
\           *          / 
 \          |         /
  \         |        /     <-- Hemisphere of Water
   \        |       /
    \_______|______/
         \Purga/
          \tor/
           \y/
            *  
 -----------------------

A Garden of Eden pattern in John Conway's Game of Life is a pattern which is not the successor generation of any other pattern.

Some patterns are the successor generation of many other different patterns. For example, a 'pattern' with all dead cells is the successor of a pattern consisting of one live cell; the same pattern is the successor of a pattern consisting of two live cells. This pattern:

OO
OO
is the successor generation of itself, and it is also the successor generation of this pattern:
O.
OO

Garden of Eden patterns, however, are patterns such that no pattern will generate them. There is no previous state which will become a Garden of Eden pattern (ever). The name is a very appropriate one - it suggests that the patterns are 'supernatural', the result of a Creator which does not have to work within the Laws of Physics.

One Garden of Eden pattern is the following:

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OO.O.OOO.OOO.OO.O.O.O.O.O.O.O.O.O
O.O.OOO.OOO.OOOO.OOO.O.O.O.O.O.O.
OOOOO.OOO.OOO.OOOO.OOOOOOOOOOOOOO
O.O.OO.OOO.OOO.O.OOO.O.O.O.O.O.O.
OOOO.OOO.OOO.OOOOO.OO.O.O.O.O.O.O
.OO.OOO.OOO.OOO.O.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOO
OO.OO.OOO.OOO.OO.OOOO.O.O.O.O.O.O
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Source: Glossary.doc, A Brief Illustrated Glossary of Terms in Conway's Game of Life, compiled by Al Hensel, and some example files found on the Web.

I'd like to propose an idea - kind of an attempt to reconcile religion and science. You don't have to like it.

What if...

Adam and Eve really weren't the first two people on Earth. This doesn't have to mean God doesn't exist. You know that singularity that created the Big Bang? Infinite mass in zero volume? That was God. He set everything in motion way back then. He is God after all - he exists outside of our concepts of "time" and "space". So God set the universe in motion and let it all unfold. Billions of years later, the first building blocks of life (polypeptide chains and amino acids have been created artificially in labs) come together and we have the first living organism. Fast forward through another couple of hundred million years of evolution and the first Homo Sapiens are walking the planet. They are nothing more than animals, behaving purely on instinct. Except for Adam.

Adam was the first man to realize his sentience. He was the first man of thought and righteousness, and because of this, God made him a messenger to the rest of the humans of the time. He was told to go forth into the Garden and preach the word of God, which was no more than a few simple guidelines at that time, to those who would listen, but he was to avoid one specific tree.

This tree was not a literal tree that bore fruits of knowledge, but a family or group of people instead. He was told not to approach these people as they would show arrogance and would mock the word of God. Nonetheless, the rebelliousness inside all of us (the serpent) took the best of Eve and she convinced Adam to go and preach to these people.

Now I can't tell you exactly what happened in this confrontation, but Adam and Eve were both shamed deeply by its outcome. Perhaps there was some sort of dispute or scandal. Regardless, God told them to hide their shame and continue living their lives as pious humans.

I know it may sound different, but I believe this story to be the truth. This is not my own personal attempt to make religion work with modern science, but actually the words of much wiser and holier men than myself. I think, when we approach science with the idea of God in mind, and free ourselves from the strict definitions of "the Gospel" (which is actually a purely human concoction - see "Council of Nicaea"), we find that God is not at odds with science; rather, he is actually behind it.

In a cellular automaton (i. e. John Conway's Game of Life), a Garden of Eden is a configuration that cannot be reached from any other configuration (assuming, of course, that one follows the rules of the game). This means that a Garden of Eden is a configuration that must be specifically created as such (in "the zeroth turn") and will never exist again.

Even if it's a relatively simple concept in theory, it's hard to come up with such a configuration. Indeed, even proving that this configuration exists in a given lattice and with a fixed set of rules is an undecidable problem. A computer is able to reverse-search every possible parent (or predecessor) of a given configuration and if none exist, to decide that it is, in fact, an orphan. However, this brute force approach is not efficient, as the number of potential parents grows exponentially with the area of the pattern.

Currently, the smallest known Garden of Eden in a regular Game of Life is known as Garden of Eden 6, found by Marijn Heule, Christiaan Hartman, Kees Kwekkeboom, and Alain Noels. More about this pattern here. I reproduce the actual pattern below:

□ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ 
□ □ ■ □ ■ ■ ■ □ ■ □ □ □ 
□ □ □ ■ □ ■ □ ■ □ □ ■ □ 
□ ■ □ ■ ■ ■ □ □ ■ ■ □ □ 
□ □ ■ □ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ □ ■ □ 
□ ■ □ □ ■ □ □ ■ ■ ■ ■ □ 
□ ■ ■ ■ ■ □ □ ■ □ □ ■ □ 
□ ■ □ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ □ ■ □ □ 
□ □ ■ ■ □ □ ■ ■ ■ □ ■ □ 
□ ■ □ □ ■ □ ■ □ ■ □ □ □ 
□ □ □ ■ □ ■ ■ ■ □ ■ □ □ 
□ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ □ 

However, the concept of a configuration with no parents is not exclusive to cellular automata.

A few years ago, yours truly had the pleasure of reading Michael Ende's The Mirror in the Mirror (original title: Der Spiegel im Spiegel). It's a collection of 30 short stories inspired by some illustrations made by Edgar Ende, surrealist painter and Michael's father. The stories are connected to each other in spirit ("by the use of literary leitmotivs"), but are otherwise independent.

Several of these stories feature impossible scenarios. One, for instance, speaks of a soloist dancer, waiting for his cue. He is standing in the middle of the stage with only a spotlight above him so that the only thing he can see is the heavy black curtain in front of him. He recalls that the curtain will begin to rise just as the orchestra starts playing and he must start his routine just as the music reaches his ears; otherwise he will fall behind and will never be able to recover, making a fiasco of the whole performance.

He waits and waits and waits. He's waited for so long that he wonders if his manager has forgotten about him. Maybe the manager hurried him to the stage and the performance has been delayed. Maybe the whole event has been canceled and no one bothered to tell him. The darkness around him is so deep that he can't see anything beyond a few steps away; maybe the sceneshifter is giving him a visual cue from the sides, but is completely invisible.

He thinks that it might be a good idea to go and ask what's happening, but he can't do it without risking his perfect execution. What if the music starts just as he moves away from the spotlight? He doesn't remember how long the stage is, maybe he'll never make it on time. The only thing he can do is to slightly alter his position to shift his weight from one leg to the other.

Scenes like the one above are only possible by creating them as such. We see a dancer who has been waiting for what seems to be an infinite time and it will apparently stay there waiting for an infinite time. The timeline of the event extends infinitely on both directions of time and we're only seeing one point of it, a cross-section.

Arguably, there was a moment in the past where he was not on stage but even he can't remember it. There's no logical way of how he got into this situation without a creator (the writer) putting him in the middle of it.

I admit that this exegesis might be a stretch of my imagination and maybe I'm reading it completely wrong. Still, I like the idea that creative works (writing, in my case) are able to create configurations that are possible only by design and not by evolution of the ruleset. Please note that the concept of a Garden of Eden does not, in any way, imply that creationism and intelligent design are valid scientific theories.

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