Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Noah's Ark story - Is it history?

Let me be perfectly clear:  I consider the biblical story of Noah's Ark (like many biblical narratives) to be, at most, a human creation with essentially no connection to history, science, evidence, and logic.  The idea that some people choose to accept it as literal fact is both astonishing to me and an apparent tribute to their gullibility.

Let's ignore the fact that the putative supreme being, creator of the inconceivably vast universe, who is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, has decided that his creations (we humans, made in his image) have turned out to be a mistake because we don't behave the way he wants, so he's going to impose nearly total genocide on those of us extant at the time, using a world-wide flood to wipe the slate clean.  If this divine being pretty much screwed up the job of creating humans on his first try (Adam and Eve, remember?), then he's not omnipotent and omniscient - such a being should never make a mistake!  And killing all but a tiny remnant of the entire human species seems pretty much the opposite of benevolent!

Putting those issues aside, then, let's consider the impossibilities and issues within this yarn.  Quick summary:  the only way the biblical account can be considered historical is through continuous magical intervention by a divine being, who must have the capability to break the laws of nature and logic at will in order to overcome the host of impossibilities through a massive set of supernatural miracles.

1.  There's just no known way to produce a rainfall that would cover the entire surface of the Earth.  That requirement is the only way to be sure of drowning all humans save for the chosen few and it must be global, not regional.  That would be roughly 29,000+ feet (about 5.5 miles - to cover the top of Mt. Everest) of rainfall in 40 days - about 30 feet of rain per hour for 40 days - at every point on the surface of the Earth.  It's physically impossible.

2.  What would be the effect on a boat that was continuously experiencing rainfall of 30 feet per hour (6 inches per minute)?  It probably would be pretty top-heavy from that continuous rain, and it might easily be swamped, especially if there were wind that produced heavy seas.  Further, the massive load of animals and food would have to be kept continuously in balance, requiring a lot of effort by a large crew (see #8).  It would be difficult, if not impossible, keep the Ark afloat during this impossible deluge.

3.  Fitting mated pairs of all living land creatures on the Ark is a physical impossibility.  To this day, we have only incomplete knowledge of all the diverse species, but back in biblical times, their knowledge of that was nearly negligible.  Hence, it would be essentially impossible today, to say nothing of the late Bronze Age.

4.  Predators would have to eat the prey animals to live, so winding up with all of them saved is impossible unless lots of extra prey animals beyond one mated pair for each species are brought on board.  That adds to the food and water needs of all those animals ...

5.  The amount of food and water necessary to keep all the animals alive for 40 days would fill the Ark completely.  It would be impossible to bring along enough food and water for all the animals on a 40-day boat ride.  Of course, the 30 feet per hour rainfall rate could alleviate any water shortage!

6.  Going to the far corners of the Earth in order to obtain mated pairs of all Earthly creatures (plus extra prey animals) would require pretty fast transportation and transport capacity for Noah.  This job would be quite a challenge even today, but such a task for a semi-civilized man in biblical times would be physically impossible.

7.  Even if Noah somehow accomplished the miracle of gathering up mated pairs (plus extra prey animals) of all the world's animals with the help of his supernatural pal, how would all those animals get back to their own parts of the world after the flood waters receded?  [Where did they come from and where did they go?]  Even if they survived and bred along their way back to their homes on all the continents, why is there no evidence of this literally incredible migration from where the Ark landed on Mount Ararat?  Would there be food to eat along the way?  How do they know which way to go?  And how hospitable would their native lands be after a mega-flood?  Such a journey is impossible since it involves different continents and would require more supernatural intervention.
8.  Sanitary conditions on the Ark would not be very good unless there were even more crew members swabbing the interior decks constantly to get rid of the urine and feces from all those animals.  The external deck might be kept clear of urine and feces by the 30 feet of rain per hour, but not the interior.  Such a large crew would add to the requirements for food and water (and living space) on the Ark.  This is another impossible task.

9.  It's not clear what the atmospheric conditions were like during this voyage.  If it was typical of conditions in the Middle East (disregarding any impact from the mega-torrential rainfall), it might not be very healthy for animals from other regions.  Some creatures might not be able to survive the voyage despite being rescued from drowning.

10.  What about microorganisms?  How would they be gathered and maintained?  This would have to include the host of pathogenic microorganisms who survive by being parasites on their hosts.  Wouldn't this have represented a challenge for late Bronze Age barbarians to even know of the existence of such living creatures?  Some might already be on board living in the mated pairs (and extra prey), but it would be impossible to select two infected individuals from each species so as to include all microorganism in the aggregate.  And those infections would be hazardous to the survival of all the large animal species during the voyage.  In fact, they could become an epidemic easily in the crowded conditions.  Another need for divine supernatural intervention.

11.  How did the land plants of the world fare during a time of being submerged for days?  How did they recover from that?  Would there be enough food available for returning herbivore mated pairs?  After 40 days of being underwater, if the sun comes out, things just don't instantly spring up again.

12.  How does a planet-wide flood kill creatures of the sea?  Or were they just left to their own devices?  What would be the effect of a gigantic deposition of fresh water (29, 000 feet of rain - a lot of distilled water) on the world's oceans?  Might be kinda tough conditions for sea animals adapted to salt water.  The story mentions no aquaria on the Ark!

13.  Depending on a single mated pair of each animal to repopulate the planet is now recognized to being a threat to the existence of each species, owing to a lack of genetic diversity.  Of course, a late Bronze Age man would have known nothing of such obstacles to the Ark story's successful outcome.

I could go on, but it's only piling more impossibilities and issues on top of these.  [I might add more later.]  The clear conclusion I draw from all of this is that the Ark legend obviously is not history.  Finding evidence for a regional flood in biblical times isn't even close to providing support for the Ark myth.  To believe so indicates tremendous gullibility and/or confirmation bias seeking to save the appearances.  This yarn is precisely the sort of mythical story that a late Bronze Age, semi-civilized man would make up as religious parable seeking to impose obedience on the faithful, in complete ignorance of the vast amount of science we've accumulated since this myth was created.  The more we learn about how the natural world operates, the less credible the Ark parable becomes.  Hoping to find evidence for the Ark narrative in the bible is similar to cherry-picking data to find evidence denying climate change, or being paranoid about "chemtrails", or believing in a flat Earth.

You can interpret the biblical Ark myth in many diverse ways, but it just can't be literal history unless you're willing to accept the requirement for supernatural intervention throughout the whole process, making the impossible possible.  It's always a logical possibility that compelling evidence to support the preposterous Ark story might be found somewhere, but in the absence of that compelling evidence, I'm of a mind to see the Noah's Ark hypothesis as a totally human fictional creation, not historical fact.  And the story's plot line was stolen from other, earlier religions, to boot.

1 comment:

atuyl said...

Another issue I don't see brought up much (although you're undoubtedly aware of it) is the timing of the supposed flood. According to a literal reading of Genesis, it must have occurred around 2300-2500 B.C. Of course, ancient Egyptian civilization began well before that, and there's no evidence of it having been wiped out and then rebuilt. Some creationists have tried various tricks to make all of Egyptian civilization fit after the flood (different kings reigning in different places at the same time, for example), but this doesn't seem believable. And that argument wouldn't work for other ancient civilizations anyway(China, India).

Also, if the human race in all its diversity descended from 7 people less than 4500 years ago, there must have been some really impressive..ahem..evolution.