Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Take a Look at Noah's Flood

According to the Book of Genesis, the global flood took place when Noah was 600 years old. Now, if you assume, as the Christians do, that the world was created in 4004 BCE, this would place the flood at about 2400 BCE, give or take a decade or two. In other words, right about the same time that the pyramids were being constructed on the plains of Giza. In other places around the world, the dynastic civil war was settling just which one of four brothers would be king of the Akkadians in Mesopotamia, the first Great Kingdom was forming up to rule what would later be known as Korea, and the city of Lothal was being founded in India.


Lots of things happening, in other words. And in -- well, in wherever the Noah story was supposed to be taking place, the entire world got covered with water as it rained for forty days and forty nights.


I’ve always found it hilarious that the Christians claim the entire world was drowned under water, but the Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Chinese, Koreans, Olmecs, Celts and so on were all going about their business without noticing that they were supposed to be drowning under mountains and mountains of rainwater. You’d think they could hardly have missed such a thing, but apparently, they did.


Historical records from all those other civilizations show that at no time were their civilizations suddenly wiped off the face of the map by a global flood, or a slow repopulation afterward. Nowhere in the world is there any evidence of such an event. Not archeological evidence, not geological evidence, not historical evidence. Nothing indicates that a flood wiped out the world and drowned all the people on it except one eight-person family.


But “no evidence it ever happened” is only one of the multitudinous reasons to not think the flood of Noah, as described in the Book of Genesis, is actually true. Take, for instance, the problem of the boat itself. The Bible describes Noah’s Ark as being “300 cubits by 50 cubits by 40 cubits,” which translates to approximately 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet tall. Were this for real, the ark was four times as large as the largest wooden ship built by any civilization in the history of the world, and certainly out-sizes any other ship built by any other ancient civilization that existed during the second millennium BCE.


The stresses navigating the open ocean place on large wooden ships were severe, and the larger the ship, the greater the stresses. There is a reason why the ships built by Bronze Age civilizations were much smaller than those built by post-Dark Age civilizations. To be blunt, the technical advances later civilizations developed to enable a large wooden ship to survive ocean travel just did not exist in the Bronze Age.


In point of fact, no ship the size and weight that we are discussing was known to have been built and successfully sailed until the year 1900 CE. These ships, built as I note in 1900, were nine-masted schooners some 300-feet long (150 feet shorter than the ark). They were so long they visibly undulated with waves and required large diagonal braces made of steel -- a substance unheard of in 2400 BCE, a time when bronze was the new big thing when it came to metal -- to keep it from breaking in half. And even with these reinforcements, the stress regularly caused gaps in the ship’s hull; these schooners would leak like sieves and required constant bailing with automated pumps that ran -- quite literally -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And even with all this, these overs-sized schooners were never taken out of sight of land, because if taken out onto the open sea they’d be battered to pieces by oceanic waves. They were used for coastal traffic only.


The fact that these large transport ships had so many problems was one reason why the world’s navies turned to steel ships during the last years of the 19th Century and the years prior to World War I. And this was only 116 years ago, as I write this on January 17, 2016, folks.


Think about it. We’re supposed to believe that a ship 4000 years ahead of its time was built by Noah -- a man who was not a nautical engineer but a shepherd and farmer -- and survived the open seas during a catastrophic, raging flood. We’re supposed to believe that this 600-year old farmer solved engineering problems, all by himself and without the use of modern metallurgy, construction techniques, or physics knowledge, that every navy in the world could not manage to beat 4000 years later. And then, after the flood, the knowledge of how to build these super-ships was apparently forgotten because no other ship of this type would be built, ever.


So that’s the lack of evidence and the implausibility of the ship itself. Let’s consider the live cargo of the ark for just a moment. If we accept the most generous version of the Noah story, Noah was commanded by God to carry seven of every “clean” animal and two of every “unclean” animal on the ark along with himself and his family. But there was only so much space within the hull of the boat, and if you look at the list of known animal species, even restricting it to just two -- much less seven -- means that the boat would be carrying an awful lot of animals. (And it just gets worse if -- as logic dictates we do -- we include not just the animals that exist today but every species of animal known to have gone extinct between 2400 BCE and present day.) Its obvious that even in a boat with some 1,518,750 cubic feet of space (450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet tall, remember) the ark would simply not have enough space for all the animals.


Some creationists have gotten around this by arguing that Noah didn’t take two (or seven) of every species, but rather seven (or two) of every “kind.” And, they argue, after the flood the “kinds” would then vary and produce all the new species we see today.


I’m not kidding. That’s what they say. Let me quote from The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb: “For all practical purposes, one could say that, at the outside, there was need for no more than 35,000 individual vertebrate animals on the ark. The total number of so-called species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians listed in Mayr is 17,600, but undoubtably the number of original kinds was less than this.” (The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications, Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, p.69)


Thus, according to creationists, Noah didn’t have to make room for a pair of lions, a pair of tigers, a pair of leopards -- and so on -- on his boat. All he needed was one pair of a “cat kind” and things would be fine. (For now, we’ll ignore all the problems regarding the subject of “kinds.” I’ve got an entire other essay in the works on that subject.)


There are multiple problems with the creationist view. For example, its often assumed that aquatic animals like otters and seals and dolphins -- being aquatic -- wouldn’t be endangered by the flood since, you know, aquatic! Thus, they wouldn't need space on the ark. Unfortunately, if enough fresh water were to fall on the earth to cover it past the top of the tallest mountains, the salt-content of the oceans would be so diluted that no marine organism, be it fish, plant, mammal, or bird, would be able to live in it. Very few salt water animals can survive fresh water. Such creatures swell up, suffer tissue damage, and die when forced to abide in fresh water for two long.


“No problem,” say creationists. “The fountains of the deep must have sprewed sufficient salt to keep the salinity high enough for marine animals to survive.”


That just reverses the problem, though. Fresh water animals that have to abide in salt water dehydrate and die as the fresh water is leeched from their tissues by the salinity differential. Some creationists have tried to have it both ways by arguing that there were pockets of fresh water and pockets of salt water that were somehow kept from intermixing. How this took place while the churning flood waters were utterly destroying the surface of the earth is something creationists never explain. Whitcomb and Morris speculated that, “All fish must be adaptable to at least a certain range of salinities”, but don’t actually provide any evidence that this is so, or even give examples of what sort of fish qualify.


In any case, anyone with a home aquarium and no qualms about slaughtering your fish can disprove this nonsense. Just add a cupful of salt to your freshwater tank -- or a cupful of fresh water to your saltwater tank, whichever you have -- every morning in order to raise and lower the salinity. Then see what this does to your fish.


Anyway, back to the problem of space on the ark. Not only isn’t there enough room for the animals, there’s also the problem of food for each of these beasts and for Noah’s family. Large herbivores -- elephants, for example -- eat about 350 pounds of vegetable matter a day. Large carnivores -- tigers, for example -- eat about 75 pounds of meat per day. In addition to storage space, the food has to be kept fresh and edible for over a year -- and remember, modern refrigeration technology is the product of the late 19th Century. Naturally creationists have no explanation for these problems.


They also can’t explain what the animals ate after the flood. According to the creationists, there were two “cat kind” animals, two “antelope kinds”, and so on. Presumably, the cats got really, really hungry while on the boat, to the point that its entirely conceivable that the first thing they did when they got off the damned thing was immediately pounce on the antelopes and chow down. Thus, antelope kind would have ended in 2400 BCE, and we wouldn’t have gazelles, sprinkboks, oryxes, and so on today.


Now, its possible that the cats didn’t eat the antelopes, but rather ate the antelopes offspring. Okay, that’s a good thought. That would have taken care of the cats for about a week. Then what? Unless we were to assume that antelopes had a baby a week for a year, we have to assume that the cats -- and for the purposes of this argument, we’ll ignore the wolves, the wolverines, and the other predators -- either ate all the antelopes within the first day or else starved to death. And the same goes for the snake kind, the frog kind, the anteater kind, the owl kind, and so on. Obviously, creationists know little to nothing about the relationship between predators and prey.


Since they cannot admit the entire story of the flood is implausible, they have to try and present some explanation. And they do. They present the same old explanation they use for everything.


“God did it.”



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