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The Garden of Eden - in China?
Could the unforgiving Taklamakan Desert once have been the location of the Garden of Earthly Delights?
Imagine it’s a long, long time ago. As the legend on the map says: “Before the upheaval of Central Asia. Before the subsidence of the Pacific Continent. Before the change in the position of the Polar regions. Before the Deluge.”
Ah, the Deluge. That gives us a pretty specific time frame. To Biblical literalists, sacred history comes with a very real chronology; the universe was created one weekend about six thousand years ago, the Great Flood is less than four and a half thousand years old . In contrast, those who prefer their world view seasoned with a generous helping of science, will be more inclined towards the hypothesis that it all started with a Big Bang, some 13 billion years ago.
Even without going into the whole Creationism versus Evolutionism debate , the massive imbalance in the size of their back stories seems to work in favour of the thesis with the bigger reserves of time. Antiquity suggests validity. It’s much more difficult to argue with the vast aeons at the disposal of the Big Bangers than with the puny millennia of the Adam and Eve crowd. Put another way, the former have more logical explanations for phenomena like past extinctions and climate changes than the latter.
But sacred history does have one big advantage over natural history - it has better stories. In the darwinist reading, the path from past to present was forged by impersonal forces: either big accidents (meteors, climate change) or slow evolutionary changes (frontal lobes, opposable thumbs). The ‘supernatural’ version in the Bible actually is the more ‘humanist’ one: it gives centre stage to Mr and Mrs Sapiens, and explains history as a consequence of the choices they face .
For Darwinists, our dog-eat-dog world merely is the successor to a previous, dinosaur-eat-dinosaur incarnation. In science, there is no Garden of Eden. The idea of Eden - that once there was a perfect state of affairs, when truth and happiness were not opposed , and virtue as pure as the world was young - is a powerful and attractive one , explaining the continued popularity of the sacred version of history, in spite of some obvious logical problems .
So imagine it’s a biblically long time ago. It’s the age of innocence, and life is good in the Garden of Eden. But where is this Garden? The hunt for the exact location of humanity’s original home is a fascinating quest, and a centuries-long cartographic conundrum . If they chose to include it on a map, cartographers usually picked a location in the Middle East, that cockpit of hallowed history.
These two maps, however, are quite extraordinarily different. Eden is placed far away from its more usual location in or near Mesopotamia  - The Garden is moved East of Eden, to borrow Steinbeck’s title .
They are the work of Tse Tsan-tai (1872-1938), a Chinese revolutionary, newspaperman and Christian propagandist. Born in Sydney and baptised James Yee, Tse moved to Hong Kong whence he started agitating for the Qing dynasty on the mainland to be replaced by a democratic republic. The plot failed to come to fruition, and Tse had more success co-founding the South China Morning Post in 1903.
In 1914, Tse wrote The Creation, the Garden of Eden and the Origin of the Chinese, in which he attempted to prove, based on the geographical description in the Bible, that the Garden of Eden was located in China.
Tse’s outlandish theory was an attempt at proving that at least some Biblical events had taken place in China - and that therefore Christianity was not alien to the Middle Kingdom . The book was meant to dispel the notion that Christianity in China was a tool of foreign powers, at a time when the countries sending the missionaries were the same ones bullying a weak China into granting them coastal concessions .
The first map gives a global overview of the Bible-based world history as seen by Tse, and as opposed to others: two black dots represent the usual presumed location of Eden, in what appears to be either Iraq or southeastern Turkey. A red circle represents Tse’s hypothesis. It places Eden in the far west of China, in what was then known as Chinese Turkestan (and now as Xinjiang).
The location picked by Tse corresponds to the description in the Bible, referring to the course of four rivers near the Garden of Eden . Apparently unconnected to the Edenic claim are red lines on the map, that indicate ancient shorelines, and point to a giant sunken continent stretching from Papua New Guinea almost all the way to South America. It remains unexplained what this continent is, and which Bible verse it is based on; but it is reminiscent, shape- and location-wise, to the lost continent of Mu .
The map also shows an X in Tse's handwriting, marking a spot in Greenland that is supposed to have been the Antediluvian North Pole, Latitude 75˚, Longitude 40˚. Again, the Biblical foundation and any connection to Eden remain unexplained on the map.
Finally, the colour scheme on the map shows the world as peopled by Noah’s descendants. Biblical tradition holds that the world’s population descends from no more than three men  - the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japhet, the forefathers of the Semites (in the Middle East, and on this map, much of Asia and all of America), the Hamites (Africa, Arabia, India) and Japhetites (Europe). The Semitic expansion into Asia provides blood links between China and the Bible.
The second map gives an indication of the geopositional shoehorning Tse applied to the geographical indications in Genesis, identifying India with Havilah . The result is the location of Eden in what appears to be a most unlikely place: an area between the Tarim River and the Kuen Lun Mountains better known today as the Taklamakan Desert. The area, now the world’s second-largest sand desert after the Empty Quarter in Arabia, is one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
But ruined cities buried beneath the sand seem to indicate that the Taklamakan may not always have been as unforgiving as it has been for the last few millennia. In fact, its very name may hold a clue to its climatological past. Often, and erroneously, translated as something like ‘Once you enter, you’ll never make it out’, or ‘Sea of Death’ a more recent etymology suggests the name might actually mean ‘Land of Poplars’ .
Could it be that today’s sand desert once really was a garden paradise?
Many thanks to Heather Hausman at Atlas Obscura for informing me of a lecture by Brook Wilensky-Lanford, the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (see footnote 7).
Strange Maps #583
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
 James Ussher, a 17th-century (Anglican) Archbishop of Armagh, famously calculated from hints in the Book of Genesis that Creation started at dusk on Saturday 22 October 4004 BC; he placed the Flood at 2348 BC, resulting in a total of 1656 years for the entirety of the Antediluvian era.
 It really isn’t a debate. But that’s a non-debate better held elsewhere.
 Albeit always in relation to God, and usually in the sense that they cheese Him off.
 The current paradigm holds that knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss.
 In religion as in politics, the lure of the ‘good old days’ is as age-worn and as common as the lament that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
 Where on that limited time scale do you place the dinosaurs?
 See ‘Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden’ for at both those clues and the eventual locations, with an overview of some of the most crucial attempts at mapping the original location of Eden.
 Greek for the Land between the Rivers, i.e. the Tigris and Euphrates. This well-watered land of ancient cultures is now divided between Iraq, and parts of Syria and Turkey.
 Who borrowed it from the Bible: And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. (Genesis, 4:16)
 Nestorian Christianity was present in China from the mid-7th century onwards, but was extinct by the year 1000.
 Control of a string of coastal towns was wrested from the Chinese Empire by Austro-Hungary (Tianjin, 1902-’17), Belgium (ibid., 1902-’31), Great Britain (Tianjin and half a dozen other concessions, all extinguished before 1945; and Hong Kong, ruled as a colony from 1841 to 1997), France (five concessions, all ended in 1946), Germany (Tianjin and two others, ended in 1917), Italy (Tianjin, until 1947), Japan (seven concessions, and Taiwan, administered as a colony), Portugal (Macau - the oldest, and last European colony in China: 1557-1999), Russia (four different territories) and the United States (in Shanghai).
 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14).
 The presumed source information for which is Mayan rather than Biblical. See #47.
 Curiously, recent advances in genetic biology means that science too now can pinpoint a common ancestor for all mankind - ‘Mitochondrial Eve’.
 More commonly identified with locations on the Arabian Peninsula, such as the Hijaz Mountains in western Saudi Arabia, or parts of Yemen.
 According to research by Qian Boquan , historian of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences in Urumqi.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
The next era in American history can look entirely different. It's up to us to choose.
- The timeline of America post-WWII can be divided into two eras, according to author and law professor Ganesh Sitaraman: the liberal era which ran through the 1970s, and the current neoliberal era which began in the early 1980s. The latter promised a "more free society," but what we got instead was more inequality, less opportunity, and greater market consolidation.
- "We've lived through a neoliberal era for the last 40 years, and that era is coming to an end," Sitaraman says, adding that the ideas and policies that defined the period are being challenged on various levels.
- What comes next depends on if we take a proactive and democratic approach to shaping the economy, or if we simply react to and "deal with" market outcomes.
A new MIT report proposes how humans should prepare for the age of automation and artificial intelligence.
- A new report by MIT experts proposes what humans should do to prepare for the age of automation.
- The rise of intelligent machines is coming but it's important to resolve human issues first.
- Improving economic inequality, skills training, and investment in innovation are necessary steps.