Seeing Is Not Always Believing: A Worldview Lesson from Sequoia Trees

by Sean McDowell

Sequoias are the largest trees in the world. Redwood trees are taller, but sequoia trees have the greatest mass.

The General Noble Tree, which now exists as the Chicago Stump, is perhaps the largest tree ever cut. It takes about eighteen men standing with arms outstretched to surround the stump completely (You can see me sitting in the stump in the picture accompanying this blog). Before it was cut, the General Noble Tree was roughly 3,200 years old, which means it started growing roughly two hundred years before the time of King David!

Sequoias are so large that when they were first discovered nobody believed a tree of this size could exist. Why not? The issue wasn’t a lack of evidence—people had seen photos and heard personal testimony to their existence. The rejection went deeper.

To prove that sequoias were real, the tree was cut down and shipped in pieces to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where it was reassembled for spectators. Would this be enough to convince skeptics? Nope. Amazingly, the tree was reassembled, and viewers still believed it was a hoax. In fact, it was referred to as the “California hoax.” The physical remains of the tree itself was not enough to persuade people of its existence. But why?

People rejected the existence of sequoias not because of a lack of evidence, but because of pre-existing beliefs about the possible existence of such large trees. In other words, they had already determined the size limits of trees before weighing the facts, and so they dismissed compelling physical evidence…

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Seeing Is Not Always Believing: A Worldview Lesson from Sequoia Trees