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Finding Science in the Mountains

Finding Science in the Mountains

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Finding Science in the Mountains

Page Type: Article

Object Title: Finding Science in the Mountains


Page By: BobSmith

Created/Edited: Jan 1, 2008 / Jan 1, 2008

Object ID: 369463

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Page Score: 97.44%  - 80 Votes 

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Spare me!

When I was sixteen years old, I was sitting on the cliff face of Charlies Bunion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with one of my best friends, T---. We were in the midst of a two-week backpacking trip with a pair of other  
Taken on Charlies Bunion two...
Charlies Bunion, early 1970s.
friends from school. Part of this excursion was a series of very leisurely strolls of only a few miles from shelter to shelter along the AT before we would reach Newfound Gap and a ride from his parents to another point farther south along the Appalachian Trail.

As T--- and I surveyed the amazing topography before us, under ideal  
This is one of the major...
conditions of clear, blue skies and cool breezes, my friend sat up from where he was reclining on the ancient rock and exclaimed, “How can anyone look at this and not believe in God?”

And I said, as I generally do, the first thing that popped into my head. That thing was, “How can anyone look at this and not believe in Plate Tectonics and erosion?”

“You asshole,” T--- exclaimed, rising and stalking off to where our other two friends were standing, joining his Christian company. Leaving me, as usual, sane man out.

I stitched this panorama...

This has always been an amusement to me: how others see supernatural silliness in the landscapes of the mountainous terrain of this planet. I can understand how any person can be emotionally spurred by a panorama of peaks and ridges and forests and gorges and hollows and canyons and ice and rock. But to see the hand of a super-being that doesn’t exist is  
I liked the colors and...
laughable. I finally understood that this tendency to see this kind of thing in the workings of physical science lay not in spontaneous emotions, but in lifelong brainwashing that generally begins in very early youth.

When I look upon the mountains, I see the real world in action. I see how the movement of tectonic plates grinding one against the other can thrust the very crust of the planet skyward. I see faults in the Earth, forming commanding ranges that loom above lower terrain. I see rift valleys  
created by the moving away of one plate from another. I see volcanic peaks rising high above hot spots. I see wind and rain and snow and Mr. Gravity (Ha! Let’s personify physics!) pulling and drawing inexorably on the work that opposing forces have made in molding the ranges.

LeConte from Sevierville, the...
Plate tectonics.

When I was sitting there in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I knew that I was within one of the world’s great areas of floral diversity. In this park alone, there were almost three times as many species of trees than there was in the entire continent of Europe.  
Puny human.
Almost everywhere one looked in the forests and on the rocks and in the dark loam there were blossoms of many types. Here, there were dozens of mammal species, reptiles, amphibians; hundreds of types of birds; and as-yet uncounted kinds of insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates. From whence this dizzying array of living things?

Well, not from any god.

I have never, in all of my life, seen the hand of anything supernatural in the vast lands where I most love to hike. In fact, my longing for the solitude of the mountains comes not from seeing any weirdness such as religious origins to the Universe. The reasons that I go to walk these  
Blackwater Canyon.
ridgelines and to explore these valleys and walk among these forests is to escape from the insanity of religion, the most evil creation of Mankind. I go there to get away from your god, whichever god others may believe in and worship.

For myself, I don’t see any wacky god in the phenomenal details of a butterfly’s wings. I don’t see any god at work in the absolutely  
Red newt.
astounding complexity of a red newt. When I see a newt consuming a worm, I don’t for one second think that this tiny drama was wrought by some silly god existing with his googleplex of fingers on every atom. The idea is inherently preposterous and, I would add, insane.

There is no magical power at work in the science of mountain building. There is no human incarnation of some idea in the tearing down of thrust
Wolf Spider
faults by wind and rain and the constant drag of gravity. There is no god in the mountains. There is no god in the valleys. There is no god on the cliffs. There is no god in the gorges. There is no god in the trees. There is no god on the forest floor. There is no god in the sky. There is no god.

However, I am there. And my companions are there, when I hike with friends.

Best of all, though, there is solitude when I go to hike alone. There is, quite often, only me and the physical world that amazes me when I go to hike and scramble and sleep among the mountain peaks in the high country that always draws me up to the highest points. Sometimes I encounter insects scrambling across the earth or up an old tree. Occasionally I spy an elk in the woods at the edge of a field. There are times when I note a raptor soaring on thermal waves that I cannot see. But the nicest thing about these times and these encounters is that none of them bring along a god; and I am content.

From a cliff near the summit...
No people!


Sam Knob


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BobSmithHey Zeus


Hasn't voted

What does financial success have to do with being an atheist? I wrote the article in reaction to a religious sack of crap posted on summitpost.

I've received roughly 100 private emails thanking me for writing the article, and about three nastygrams from religionists.

Religionists should be told they're full of crap, and often. I don't have any close religious friends. In fact, all of my close friends are atheists. I couldn't tolerate hanging out for an extended time with an idiot who thinks there's a god controlling the universe. I have zero respect for the intellectual capacity and judgment of anyone who believes in god.

I didn't invest very much time in that article. It's quite short and to the point. Took me just a few minutes to write. But thanks for thinking that it took me a huge investment in time.
Posted Feb 1, 2008 12:53 am

outkastedRe: Hey Zeus


Hasn't voted

It's sad that you've never left the Appalachian Mountains because there are people out there who believe in God, but don't have religion and think for themselves. I can't stand people who live everyday by the bible either. You can't base your views on religious people from the southeastern United States. That is why it's called the Bible Belt. Stop thinking that you are mentally superior to everyone else. You are sorely mistaken and I feel sorry for you.
Posted Feb 2, 2008 12:46 pm

seanpeckhamRe: Hey Zeus


Voted 5/10

Bob, I think religion is idiotic too, but human beings have a remarkable ability to be idiotic in some ways at the same time that they are brilliant in others. I know a lot of highly intelligent people who have religious beliefs that are unfathomably insane. But there are other dimensions to these people besides that, and I'm sure I'm insane in some nonreligious ways from other people's points of view as well. I'm glad that back when I had insane religious beliefs, before I got enough education to abandon them, I didn't get immediately written off as an idiot by the nonreligious people I knew.

I've been getting increasingly disappointed with your comments here, and to hear you say you couldn't tolerate hanging out with someone just because they believe in a god, has pushed me over the line. I'm dropping my vote.
Posted Feb 4, 2008 2:55 pm



Hasn't voted

Christians are often criticized for being intolerant.

Bob Smith uses these statments about anyone who belives in God:
"I couldn't tolerate"..."I have zero respect for the intellectual capacity"..."religious sack of crap"...etc.

Who is intolerant???
Posted Feb 1, 2008 5:50 pm

robfitzWhat is is what is.


Voted 6/10

All of what is is what is. Call it whatever u want. Just dont give it moral imperatives like dancing might be sinful or eating pork will send u to hell.Belittling people who think they have a big daddy in the sky is perfectly acceptable. Awe is real. Sacred perhaps. Sure is way bigger than puny humans. Love uall........
Posted Feb 4, 2008 12:38 am

Sarah SimonFaith in Science

Sarah Simon

Hasn't voted

is faith, nonetheless. -Sarah
Posted Apr 23, 2013 11:10 am

ferdinandverboomnature is beauty


Hasn't voted

I see nature not as primarily functional. For me, it is primarily beautiful.
And I experience beauty as something divine. God you might call it.
It's just a feeling which comes over me when I'm out in the wild.
Often the thought comes to my mind that I see it just this way because I'm born and raised with that idea. But in spite of that, I still experience beauty.

And never think your 'opponent' is evil or dumb. As a wise teacher has learnt me. Something I could read through your lines... take their considerations serious as they ought to take yours serious as well.
Posted Apr 23, 2013 2:14 pm

BobSmithRe: nature is beauty


Hasn't voted

What you feel is probably a lot like what a dung beetle feels when it finds a pile of shit. Or when a maggot wakes up in a mass of rotting flesh.
Posted Apr 24, 2013 7:16 am

yatsekI'm sorry


Voted 3/10

Sorry to hear you are so oppressed by all these religious people in the States. Why don't you leave for a saner country, such as North Korea?
Posted Apr 26, 2013 7:26 am

BobSmithRe: I'm sorry


Hasn't voted

Why don't you go fuck yourself?
Posted May 2, 2013 7:54 pm

yatsekRe: I'm sorry


Voted 3/10

It can't be ruled out that when you were teenagers your friend T. was an asshole himself but now - consumed with your obsession - you've become one. Without doubt, your reply is typical of an asshole.
Posted May 3, 2013 8:44 am

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