Finding Science in the Mountains

Finding Science in the Mountains

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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...Exfoliation.
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...Botany.

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...Lichenomotry
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.
SmallPuny 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.Erosion.
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.Biology.
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 SpiderArachnology.
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!


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Viewing: 161-180 of 224

BobSmith - Jan 19, 2008 4:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Well done


I don't care to hear any debate on any religious (fairy tale) tomes. I've heard all I care to when it comes to the brainwashed trying to defend their particular brand of hideous lies. Nothing good comes from religion. Religions breed ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry. The sooner it's gone from the face of the Earth, the better off we'll all be.


seanpeckham - Jan 24, 2008 3:13 pm - Voted 5/10

wing man??

Well, thanks at least for the compliments. Your 6 am Cotopaxi photo is amazing! I wish I could have spent less time in my life "keeping the sabbath holy" (indoors, of course), and de-brainwashing myself of religion, and more time in the mountains. You look like you've had some epic travels. I'd say don't sacrifice future ones just to learn in more detail why nonsense is nonsense; it's not worth it. We only have one life.

brecon35 - Jan 20, 2008 2:04 am - Voted 9/10

spread the word

This is a quote from an interview given by David Attenborough, the well-known naturalist and film-maker.
"Every society that's ever existed has felt it necessary to have creation myths. Why should I believe one? People write to me and say: 'You show us birds and orchids and wonderful, beautiful things - don't you feel you should give credit to He who created those things?' My reply says: what about a parasitic worm that's boring through the eye of a four-year-old child on the bank of an African river? It confuses me that I should believe in a god who cares individually for each and every one of us and could allow that to happen".
Religions centred on a mythical deity will undoubtedly decline to a level where their adherents will be thought of as cranks. The internet is the tool which will bring this about, (just as printing put an end to 'The Dark Ages') - as will a greater understanding of Planet Earth - a phenomenon about which our forebears knew little and cared less.


BobSmith - Jan 20, 2008 12:46 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: spread the word

That about sums it up.

Religion is a very bad idea. The concept is totally evil. There is a cure for that virus though. It's called logic.


atthecrux - Jan 20, 2008 3:59 am - Voted 10/10


Great article and an even better debate. The question of why people voted 10 came up earlier. I'd like to say that I voted 10 because the article was witty and to the point and frankly... I'm on your side Bob (the non-dilusional minority). Others said that it was sarcastic or abusive to others of different belief. Sure it was sarcastic... sometimes that's the best way! Maybe you did not intend it to be sarcastic but it's hard not to when you're talking about religion :) It's funny how people get their panties all in a bunch over this topic and just take things way too seriously. They can dish it but can't take it. Brecon & Sean, interesting posts. You would be welcome at my campfire debates anytime. I'm glad to see someone brought up Gaia. It's an interesting idea to think of all of us as one (complete opposite of organized religion IMO) Each of us having an effecton on the other, hopefully in a positive way. To me it's a spiritual but scientific idea. Spiritual in the way that you believe that all life (ie plants,animals,humans,even rocks) have some sort of connection or eneregy. They all form Gaia! But then you can look at it from a scientific point of view. Think of a food chain. Or how about this analagy... Some chemical company pollutes a river. First all the little things you can't see die... then the fish... then the local bird that usually fished those waters. Then the chemicals leach into the soil and kill all the beneficial bacteria that break down nutrients for the roots of plants. We are all connected somehow. Organized religion does the opposite. It seperates the masses. It makes you fear others that are different. That's the last thing this planet, the human race, or if you prefer Gaia, needs.
Bob, kudos on having the balls to write this article.


BobSmith - Jan 20, 2008 11:12 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Kudos!


Yes, brainwashed religionists get very upset when you point out that their fairy tales are fairy tales. After all, a violent reaction to denial of their wacko beliefs is built in to their insane religions. And what's wrong with sarcasm?

Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 23, 2008 11:50 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Kudos!

Your avatar, "atthecrux" is fairly ironic.


atthecrux - Jan 24, 2008 4:14 pm - Voted 10/10


Is my avatar not hardcore enough for you? Was just hanging out on a nice ledge at Tahquitz and thought I'd take a self portrait... Maybe I should strike a pose and it would be cooler!


atthecrux - Jan 24, 2008 6:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Ironic?

Or are you refering to my screen name "atthecrux"? (Isn't an avatar your screen picture?) You may have interpreted it as "at the crux", "crux" being latin for cross? I think of it as being at the crux (ie. difficult or not obvious) part of a hard climb. So I guess it could be ironic in that sense, I never thought of it that way... Insert my foot in mouth as usual :)

Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jan 25, 2008 9:11 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ironic?

I was referring to your screen name. Nowadays I tend to refer to both as avatars. Sorry about the lack of clarity there. I just thought it was a bit humorous.


helmut - Jan 23, 2008 9:12 pm - Hasn't voted


Sarcasm is, by definition, a tool of the narrow minded.

brecon35 - Jan 24, 2008 10:16 am - Voted 9/10


Sarcastic? Ironic? Sardonic? Satiric(al)? blah blah blah . . .
Please read the message - not just the envelope.


cbucker - Jan 24, 2008 11:21 am - Hasn't voted

Just bad science.....

To think that science can explain everything in nature is completely ignorant and very foolish. Yes, many natural, geological, and cosmic processes have been categorized and classified but, almost none of them have been given a defined origin. I am a Catholic, but believe in plate tectonics and all the great sciences you've named. I do not believe ALL was created by either, science, or creation. I would ask you to open your stern "ideals" and accepts facts which may not parallel your views. logic cannot, has never, and may never be able to explain everything and its origin. If you have some basic knowledge of world history you quickly come to realize that religion was one the main building blocks of every successful civilization since the dawn of man. To call it evil, well again is a very ignorant opinion.


radson - Jan 27, 2008 2:03 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Just bad science.....

Science does not try and explain contraire, science is always saying we dont know or our this is our best hypothesis or from our knowledge so far, we is full of humility as it is based on falsifiability . It is religion that is ignorant and foolish by trying to explain everything by one dude sitting somewhere watching his ant farm.


radson - Jan 27, 2008 2:16 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Just bad science.....

and as for building blocks of civilization..maybe to a point, but I think we are very lucky that we (western) escaped the clutches of the Roman Catholic Church through the reformation and renaissance. The Catholic church was a vile, wicked, stifling and corrupt regime as anyone with a basic knowledge of world history will attest.


BobSmith - Jan 27, 2008 2:46 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Just bad science.....

"The Catholic church was a vile, wicked, stifling and corrupt regime as anyone with a basic knowledge of world history will attest."

Still is.


cbucker - Jan 31, 2008 11:39 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Just bad science.....

Boys, when will you grow up and learn how to speak with people and not throw your opinion into everything. It makes you sound extremely uneducated. Neither of your replies have made any point to your case, everything you've mentioned is pure opinion aside from the statement about pilgrims, it's laughable to think that our whole nation was built on escaping the catholic church. You just sound like two bullies trying to batter someone down. Maybe if their was any truth to your belief that religion is "evil" you wouldn't sound so fascist.

wasatchcrack - Jan 24, 2008 12:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Excellent Article

I too live in utah, and being raised in a place where children cannot play with other children because they are not mormon. Or parents telling their kids that the kid down the street is an evil heathen, has possibly skewed my opinion of religion in general. However some of my family is mormon some is not, I have seen both sides and heard both arguments (science and evolution versus god and religion) and I have come to the conclusion that religion and god is the largest epidemic of pure brainwashing to date. Religion was started as a means to explain our presence on this earth, and the natural world itself. It was created when the human race was still in its infancy in the absence of technology. It is severely outdated. You can teach and convince a child that anything is normal at a young age, religion uses the weakest point in the human psychological development to propel and spread itself, the most impressionable period, infancy to young adulthood. I am not trying to be insensitive or preach my point. I think to many it seems arguments such as this come across as provocative, but this is merely a defense mechanism taught by religion, again at a very young age, faith is a closed minded conviction.
Anyway just climb and enjoy the mountains!


BobSmith - Jan 24, 2008 4:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent Article

I agree completely.

Christianity and Islam have a built in defense in the form of blind faith, which is a form of institutionalized insanity.

wasatchcrack - Feb 1, 2008 2:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent Article

outkasted, just the type of blind uneducated closed minded faith that this article was written because of. Now in order to see anything clearly we need to step back and take a perfectly nuetral point of view. learn each side of the argument, and thouroughly analyze something before we ever make a single judgment or declaration of faith. It is not enough to be analytical of anything alone, one must be constructively analytical, well armed with both fact and select opinion. Using the best of your logic. failure to employ this into any psychological or intelectual delvings ALWAYS result in a gross misrepresentation of the subject, not only to yourself but to all of those around you. And to resist temptation! Ha! well its because you only have one chance to make the best of the life you got, trust me i dont need god to not endulge in things that would harm my body. or someone else. if you need god to resist temptation, you my friend are a very weak person indeed

Viewing: 161-180 of 224