Silver-level articleNoah's Ark

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Rescued from the

Global Flood

Icon flood.svg
Twelve of the clean kind
Merge-arrows.svg An editor believes this article contains duplicate material.
This article may have a content or subject overlap with Bringing the animals to the ark. The pages could be merged. You can discuss this at RationalWiki:Duplicate articles.
Merge-arrows.svg An editor believes this article contains duplicate material.
This article may have a content or subject overlap with Caring for the animals in Noah's ark. The pages could be merged. You can discuss this at RationalWiki:Duplicate articles.
Merge-arrows.svg An editor believes this article contains duplicate material.
This article may have a content or subject overlap with Number of each "kind" on Noah's Ark. The pages could be merged. You can discuss this at RationalWiki:Duplicate articles.
There is no possible way that Noah could've retained all ten billion species on a single boat and then distributed them appropriately, where the marsupials are all in Australia, and so forth... This is just ridiculous. It is so ridiculous, I find it embarassing for people who attempt to prove that it's true!
Michael Shermer[1]

Noah's Ark was a gigantic wooden vessel in which Noah supposedly saved every kind of animal[2] of the Earth from the great flood.[3] This myth is part of the Torah and the Qur'an and is most likely just one of a number of retellings of retellings of retellings of the same generalWikipedia's W.svg Mesopotamian flood story, an example of which is the story of Utnapishtim, the King of Shurrupak, from the Epic of Gilgamesh.


[edit] Logical and Narrative Problems

The comparative size of the vessel in question, built in the desert by a drunkard senior citizen. Or, so the story goes.

The Noah story suffers even on a narrative and logical level. When confronted with most of the problems listed below (for example, the need for enough wood), the most common non-solution thrown out by creationists at this point is "Goddidit", i.e. God provided the wood. Of course, this soon opens the door for a number of gaping plot holes. Okay, say god magicked the high-quality trees for Noah to chop down. Well, if that's the case, why didn't he simply magic the entire boat into existence while he was at it? And on top of that, why not will something a bit more technologically impressive or at least feasible for this sort of thing? Surely an all-powerful, all-knowing deity could come up with something better than a cramped, rickety wooden boat that's rotten before it even hits the water, right? Besides, wouldn't materializing a high-tech super submarine or spaceship be a far more efficient means to ferry large amount of animals and be far more convincing to future generations by talking about and describing technologies far beyond what people were capable of at the time? And for that matter, why is saving the animals even necessary? If you have the power to magic anything into existence, why not just magic the animals back into existence after you are done flooding the Earth. After all, you did it once before, so why not just do it again?

In fact, if God is truly all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving like good creationists would want us to believe, why is the flood even necessary in the first place? We're told it's because the world had become so "utterly sinful" (Which by the way, it is never defined in what way they they were sinful, Or how they were supposed to know that they "were sinful" or even what "sin" even was at that point. That little nugget of info doesn't come until Exodus and even then only to his special snowflake tribe of people) that God could not stand it anymore. For now, let's ignore the fact that the biblical "final solution" didn't even really accomplish much of anything (something an all-knowing god should know wouldn't actually have any real effect in the long-run) and people still sinned after that, or the fact that if it really did come down to "kill everybody," there are far more efficient ways to go about this (pandemic, radiation burst, mass suicidal tendencies brought about by a marathon of The Jackie Gleason Show, etc.) Instead, let's concentrate on the act itself. By definition, an all-loving god should seek to find the most humane solution possible to any problem which benefits the most people in the most even way possible. An all-knowing god (who, by definition, also knows everything there is to know about human psychology, sociology, etc. that there is to know; after all, he invented it) would know all there is to know about how to convince people to see your point of view and the most effective means of crowd organizing. And an all-powerful god would by definition have no obstacle that could prevent him from carrying out this goal.

In short: if such a being existed, surely he/she/it could, would, and should come up with a FAR better solution to the problem of "waaah, everyone's sinning, and I don't like that!" beyond simply "Delete Fucking Everything!!"

So we're left with a god that supposedly is all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnibenevolent, yet violates all 3 by being utterly incompetent, powerless to stop sin in its tracks, and needlessly cruel by not utilizing the most humane solution possible. This demonstrates the narrative problems of a God who is essentially the biggest Gary Stu in all of literature (as opposed to the Greek gods, who all had limitations, flaws, and singular roles) and using him as a Deus ex Machina. As soon as you throw around Goddidit, it welcomes aboard a whole slew of plot holes, and that's one animal no one wants along for the ride.

Of course, the only response you're likely get to any of this from some people is the "mysterious ways" escape hatch which is an inadvertent admission that they have lost the argument.

[edit] Construction

The creationist model of the ark.[4]

The construction of the Ark supposedly took at least 70 years,[5] or possibly even 120 (see below). The Bible translates that it was built of "gopher wood"[6] and was 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide by 30 cubits deep.[7] This raises the question, what's a cubit? Cubits were a form of measurement used by the Ancient Egyptians. There are two types of cubits, a standard cubit and a royal cubit. A standard cubit is approximately 18" or a foot and a half, but a royal cubit is around 22" or a foot and ten inches. Essentially, a cubit was the measurement between a man's elbow to his wrist, or to the tip of his fingers.

And here we run into our very first problem: simply gathering enough wood to build the boat. When another notoriously large ship (that was purportedly only a fraction of the Ark's size), the Great Michael, was built in 1511, it was said to have taken "all the woods of Fife" (a county in Scotland famous for its shipbuilding), as well as having to import wood from France, other areas in the Baltic sea, and cargo ships scrapped for use in its construction. A ship of Noah's size would have required tens of thousands of trees (and on top of that, high quality timber trees) to be cut for its construction, something that is not exactly feasible considering the Ark was probably built somewhere in what is modern day Iraq, which as anyone can tell you has never exactly been known for its thick abundant forests.[8]

Even if Noah could somehow acquire the positively insane amount of wood needed to construct it, however, we run into further problems. The Ark would have been a sizeable fraction of the size of an aircraft carrier or a battleship, and a wooden boat that size would have been too leaky and flexible to withstand the stresses of global flood conditions. The largest wooden ship which was definitely built was the schooner Wyoming at 330ft on deck with a total length of 450ft, and she required both diagonal iron braces for support and constant use of mechanical pumps to stop her hull flooding. While it is claimed that some Chinese treasure galleons were 400-650ft long, there is little actual evidence of this, and these ships also required iron-braced keels. Since the Bible does not list any metal components, Creationists will tend to argue that the mysterious "gopher wood" must have had properties more akin to structural steel in a bit of circular reasoning that tries to fit what we know about the problems with large wooden ships and their a priori assumption that the bible can't possibly be wrong.[9] Invoking what is simply a Goddidit escape hatch then simply raises the question of why Noah had to build the ark in the first place.

Noah's Ark, had it existed, would hold the record for the longest all-wooden ship, and yet Young Earth Creationists believe it happened in 2348 BCE.[10]

The Bible makes no mention of sails, oars, keel or rudder, and it is usually assumed that the Ark did not have any. Depictions of the Ark almost invariably show a symmetrical vessel with no clearly-defined bow or stern; some assume the dimensions are a literal description of the shape of the vessel, and so envision it as a wooden brick with squared-off ends and no keel. Without means of propulsion or navigation in the flood waters, the Ark's course would have been entirely at the mercy of the elements. It could be argued that this is understandable as the point was survival, not a voyage, but a wooden vessel as big as the Ark which lacked the ability to steer into the wind in stormy waters would have a very low chance of survival. One must also wonder how Noah and his crew could be so certain that The Ark would stay in the Middle East and not drift away to some other part of the world, like the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The absence of propulsion or steering would seem to be a very poor design choice in those circumstances.

[edit] How much water?

See the main article on this topic: Great Flood

Because the surface area of Earth is approximately 200 million square miles, and the height of Mt. Everest is approximately 5.5 miles, the amount of water that needed to be supplied (and disposed of) in the Great Flood is about 1.1 billion cubic miles.[11] The atmosphere today is only capable of holding the equivalent of one inch of precipitation (over the entire world) in the form of water vapor. The amount of rain per second that would be falling to generate 1.1 billion cubic miles of water over 40 days is almost unimaginable, the equivalent to 289 cubic miles per second. While rain is one possible source, the Bible also mentions the "fountains of the great deep"[12] as found in Genesis 7:11-12. This has given rise to the whole flood geology area of hydroplate theory and the aptly named lunar bukkake theory, which has attempted to replace rain almost entirely with water from underground.

[edit] The animals

See the main article on this topic: Caring for the animals in Noah's ark
The inevitable result of keeping carnivores and potential prey together.

According to the Bible, Noah was instructed to load the Ark with two (or seven) of every kind of animal on earth at the time. The logistics involved in rounding up the animals (chasing down every nematode, netting every last songbird and riding herd on the rhinos, though creationists state God brought the animals to Noah) and getting them on board the Ark are amusing to contemplate. Then there is the no small matter of collecting and loading a year's supply of the correct kind of food for every single species. How did they keep enough meat for all the carnivores without the benefits of refrigeration? The meat required by the T-Rex alone would have been prodigious. Keeping the predators separated from each other and from the species they would ordinarily have eaten must have proven a formidable task. Finally, disposing of the enormous quantities of fecal matter such a menagerie would produce over the course of a year must have tried the patience and fortitude of even the most devout of Noah's super-devout family. One hopes they had plenty of room deodorizer. For an image of pure bedlam one may imagine the view of Young Earth Creationists, who picture dinosaurs,[13] goats, saber-toothed cats, deer, and mastodons all happily sharing their ocean cruise on board the Ark--however, evidence exists that dinosaurs died off nearly 65 million years prior to the ark's construction. Now, Young Earth Creationists have this strange notion that the animals must have been "hibernating" or had converted to vegetarian diets during the flood. One might also wonder about the shifting of the cargo in rough seas - rough enough to carve out the Grand Canyon, after all. Picture seasick giraffes being tossed around.

[edit] A male and its mate

Genesis 7:2 (NIV) says that the animals were taken as pairs, "a male and its mate". This has a couple of interesting consequences.

Not all animals form pairs. For example, there are genera of whiptail lizards which have only females, and which reproduce parthenogenically. It would be impossible to take a male, because there aren't any. This also presents problems with eusocial animals: a male bee (a drone) and a queen bee do not make up a viable hive. One might also wonder about animals which do not form pair bonds, whether it makes sense to speak of a bull and his cow, for example.

Some creationists try to solve the space problem with the suggestion that many kinds of large animals were taken as eggs (or small babies).[14] But only mature forms have a mate. However many reptilian eggs rely on temperature-dependent sex determination, i.e. temperature determines whether an egg develops as male or female. This thermosensitive period occurs after the egg has been laid, so sex determination in these reptiles is at the mercy of the ambient conditions affecting egg clutches. For example, in many turtle species, eggs from cooler nests hatch as all males, and eggs from warmer nests hatch as all females. How the Ark was able to temperature control such eggs is not explained.

Another attempted method at space-saving is suggesting that only two of every "kind" was brought on board the ark. IE one of every "dog kind" or "cat kind" or "horse kind", and that all the other breeds and "sub-kinds" micro-evolved later on. Besides the overwhelming amount of irony in acknowledging microevolution, this also fails that, as usual, it fails to define what a "kind" is. Another irony is that this attempted explanation partly contradicts young-Earth creationism, as it suggests that macroevolution does in fact occur: the dog "kind" evolving into various species (wolf, coyote, hyena, dingo, etc.).

Add to that the fact that even if you found a pair, biology and genetics would suggest that two single individuals will not have enough genetic diversity to actually parent a healthy, reproductive, successful population of animals--assuming mutations for recessive genetic disorders existed at the time.[15] Even the alternative reading of seven pairs of "clean animals" presents a very narrow bottleneck; and the family group of Noah, his wife, their three sons, and the sons' three wives only has the variation in, at most, a population of five. Both are far below the required 40 needed. This is a clear indication that the biblical writers (and their present-day fanboys) had no idea how Inbreeding depressionWikipedia's W.svg worked. The aforementioned excuse of eggs or babies does nothing to alleviate this problem, and the latter suggestion of "only kinds" actually makes this problem much worse.

[edit] Archaeological search

See the main article on this topic: Noah's Ark sightings

Many creationists, both Christian and Muslim, have searched for the remains of Noah's ark, but in vain.

[edit] The Ark on creationist wikis

This is not a literal story. This is a story about destruction, redemption, starting over, beginning anew, forgiveness, and so on. To try to read it literally is to miss the point of the story.
—Michael Shermer[1]

Naturally, the fundie-hole Conservapedia treats the ark as a very real, rather than mythological, symbolical or even legendary vessel. They treat the Ark in the same manner as a modern vessel, using their "ship" template. Apparently Noah had 120 years' noticeimg[16] but it took him less than 19 years to build once he'd started. The fact that they give actual days of the month that the keel was laid and the ship was completed is rather impressive and certainly improves upon James Ussher's chronology dramatically.

A Storehouse of Knowledge gives a less detailed account than Conservapedia, preferring to stick with a straight biblical description. It does not branch out into actual "evidence" or bizarre attempts to make it seem like a real object, although that is undoubtedly the editorial stance of the site.

CreationWiki presents a decent rundown of the ark as a fact.[17] It primarily complains about how secular scientists don't take the Flood seriously. It also features, in all seriousness, a good, full-color picture of a model of the ark, complete with dinosaurs![18] Their excuse for why technology of the day would be unable to produce the ark is that modern society can't know what the technology of the day was, due to it being under a mile of sedimentary rock. Unlike the hyper-precise Conservapedia ship template, CreationWiki admits that the exact time that Noah began construction is unknown.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, S02E01, The Bible - Fact or Fiction
  2. For a discussion of the number of each kind Noah took with him, see this article.
  3. The Skeptic's Dictionary
  4. BTW, if the Ark doesn't have a sail or oars for propelling it, nor rudder or other means to steer it, why is it always depicted as having a prow at each end?
  5. Answers in Genesis
  6. The identity of this mysterious material is complicated by the fact that gopher woodWikipedia's W.svg only appears in this one place in the Jewish scriptures possible candidates include cypress (based on transliteration), cedar, reed (as in the reed boats built by Thor HeyerdahlWikipedia's W.svg) , or simply pitched wood (as far back as 2500 BCE, the ancient Egyptians used pitch to waterproof shipsWikipedia's W.svg) to mention only a handful.
  7. Genesis 6:14-15
  8. Skeptoid, Noah's Ark: Sea Trials
  9. Skeptic's Annotated Bible, Gen. 6:14 note
  10. Creation Ministries International
  11. For the metric kind it's about 4.5 billion cubic kilometers.
  12. The Bible; Genesis and Geology - The Fountains of Noah's Flood and the Windows of Heaven
  14. For example, this Answers in Genesis cartoon
  15. Besides, the bible says incest is bad. I guess Adam, Eve, their children, and non-human animals don't count.
  16. The 120 years notice probably doesn't work because it is after Noah is already 500 years old and the flood occurs 100 years God is like "Screw you guys, I am flooding the earth 20 years early."
  17. CreationWiki - Noah's Ark
  18. Noah's Ark Model by Rod Walsh
Personal tools