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Noah's Ark

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1493 depiction of Noah's Ark.
Rescued from the
Global Flood
Icon flood.svg
Twelve of the clean kind

In Abrahamic lore, Noah's Ark was a gigantic wooden vessel in which Noah supposedly saved every kind of animal of the Earth from an alleged great flood.[1] This myth appears in the Torah and in the Qur'an; it most likely represents just one of a number of retellings of retellings of retellings of the same generalWikipedia Mesopotamian flood-story, as exemplified by the story of Utnapishtim, the King of Shurrupak, in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Any Bible-believer (for example, a creationist) who wants to argue that the Noah's Ark narrative is a scientific/historic story needs to give a clear answer to all of the questions outlined below - without invoking an act of God.

How was the ark built?[edit]

The construction of the Ark supposedly took at least 70 years,[2] or possibly even 120 (see The Ark on creationist wikis). The Bible translates that it was built of "gopher wood"[note 1] and was 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide by 30 cubits deep (Genesis 6:14-15). 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.

How much wood?[edit]

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

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. The Wyoming, the largest wooden ship ever built, used 3100 tons wood and 300 tons metal.[3] 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 been known for its thick abundant forests.[4]

Even if Noah could acquire the impossible 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 330 ft on deck with a total length of 450 ft, 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 400-650 ft 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.[5] 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.[6]

How strong was it?[edit]

The creationist model of the ark, with a prow at each end.
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.[note 2] 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.

How any non-divinely-protected vessel could survive this is unimaginable.

And this does not address the vexing question.. Where did all this water come from/go to?

How did it navigate?[edit]

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.

Creationist response: God did it![edit]

Noah didn't have an engineering degree, so he built the boat a little too small...
See the main article on this topic: Goddidit

The most common non-solution thrown out by creationists at this point is "Goddidit" — God provided the wood, held its planks together, etc. This opens the door for a number of gaping plot holes:

  • If God magicked high-quality trees for Noah to chop down, why didn't he simply magic the entire boat into existence? Noah was a several-hundred-year-old senior citizen — and no carpenter. Why make him go through that?
  • On top of that, why not create something a bit more technologically impressive? Surely an all-powerful, all-knowing deity could come up with something better than a cramped, rickety wooden boat that's rotten before it hits the water? Wouldn't materializing a high-tech super submarine or goddamn spaceship be a far more efficient means to convince future generations?

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?

Or alternatively, why not either teleport or time-travel the animals so they don't have to suffer for the sins of man? They could be made to reappear after the environment has recovered enough that they'll have something to eat instead of bare rock and mud.

Not to mention this is all running on the assumption that the flood was even necessary in the first place. Surely an all-knowing god can come up with a better solution than killing everything, let alone through a horribly inefficient method such as this.

Mathematical Issues

Engineering requires training in advanced mathematics and physics.[7] There is no getting around it, plain and simple. Fields such as Calculus and General Physics were not discovered till around the 1700's. Engineering a ship as massive as the ark would require intelligence and skill in said fields. Even if such fields were known to a degree (needless to say there's no single mention of something unknown in the Bronze Age era), doing the calculations would have been time consuming and Noah's family would have been drowning long before the ark was completed. Even modern technology would not exactly save the ark either as the Ark Encounter built in Kentucky (with taxpayer money) was heavily damaged during a flood.[8]

How did Noah get the animals to the Ark?[edit]

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[9]
A goat who missed the boat.
Noah's Arc.jpg

The story of the Global flood, as related in the Bible, maintains that at least two of every clean large animal were present in a vessel somewhere in the Middle East. For young-Earth creationism to hold true this mandates that animals from all over the world had to travel thousands of miles to the ark.

There are dozens of major problems with taking the story of Noah's ark literally. These concentrate on the issues observed with getting the animals to the ark, preferably in one piece and within the time between Noah being informed of the flood (and ordered to build an ark) and God being a massive douche and slaughtering everything else on Earth.

The number of animals[edit]

The sheer number of animals on the ark is an issue on several levels. 10 million species on one boat? That this insanely high number of beasts would need to be transported to the ark is an issue in itself, a logistical nightmare if nothing else.

However, creationists do, as always, have plenty of excuses to get out of this. As John Woodmorappe duly noted in his authoritative analysis, Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, "[m]odern anti-creationists continue to resurrect long-discredited tomfooleries about the overcrowded Ark (sic)." [10] According to this creationist idea, the ark contained fewer than 16,000 animals (the number of "baramins") rather than millions (the number of species). However, this response requires creationists to believe that just 16,000 baramins (with just 2-14 living members each) developed into billions of species in less than 4000 years. As such, they believe that the diversity currently seen within the animal kingdom is a result of rapid post-flood macroevolution and speciation within created kind. This explanation is somewhat ironic as those who accept the flood tend to reject evolution (or at least speciation) outright — and this explanation requires a massively sped up evolution with speciation. (In fact, the timeline might be just a few hundred years. The dietary laws given to Moses during the Exodus, sometime around 1491 BCE, less than a thousand years after the Flood in 2348 BCE, note many distinct species. There are a few references in the story of Abraham (the "Call of Abraham" is sometimes dated at 1921 BCE) which hint at a modern variety of species — distinguishing species within "baramins" such as sheep from goats (both in the subfamily Caprinae) and donkeys from horses (genus Equus).)


There are some animals that are too slow to make the journey. The sloth, for example, has an average speed of 5 feet per minute.[note 3] Even if the sloth could take a straight line from Central America to the Middle East — see further down for a creationist attempt to rationalize it, it would still be a journey of more than 7000 miles — which would take roughly 14 years. This is assuming that it doesn't die en route, as described above.


Animals unique to Australia, Madagascar, the Americas, and every miscellaneous island would have been forced to cross oceans to reach their destinations. The claim that animals could swim this distance is bizarre, and at best just unconvincing. Most land mammals have very limited swimming capabilities. Monkeys, llamas, snakes, moose, and countless other animals would drown within minutes. Even if for a miracle all these animals were proficient swimmers they would have died of dehydration and starved to death long ago while they were swimming. So, short of saying that God magically whisked them to the right spot (i.e., Goddidit, which is boring and unimaginative), there's not much hope for the ark being remotely possible in a literal sense.


The change in climate would also render the movement infeasible. Animals adapted to cold climate such as polar bears would die in the Middle East. This, again, assumes they didn't die en route due to drowning or starvation.


Those lions and leopards will surely behave around the sheep, deer, and rabbits.

Predators would also render the migrants' journey a futile one. Penguins would be preyed upon mercilessly as they lack the mechanisms to defend against the predators of Africa or Asia and even dogs [12]. Even if the entire Antarctic had been depopulated and the penguins began a stoic journey across the ocean through Africa and then on to Israel the chance of even one surviving is a long shot. The nearly-ubiquitous and voracious dogs and predators of the savanna: jackals, lions, and other predators would still outnumber them and the penguins would be unable to escape. Dodo birds would also be unable to make it, being confined to a single island with a population numbering only several hundred. Being flightless and with little or no ability to swim, the journey — had they attempted it — would have killed them.


Terrifying depiction of leopards outside the Ark Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Some animals have very restricted diets: Koalas eat only eucalyptus leaves, a species not normally found in the Middle East; Pandas prefer bamboo, which has the same problem. To get around this, Noah and his family would have had to bring the animals and sufficient food with them (again, a logistical nightmare, even for thousands of individuals working with modern technology), or perhaps creationists imagine Mr. and Mrs. Koala making one hell of a packed lunch before heading out.

Creationist response: Every species lived next to the Ark[edit]

Some creationists have suggested that all the animals before the flood would have lived in close proximity to the ark. This creates more problems than it solves. If all animals were suddenly lumped together in a small sliver of land in the Middle East there would be mass extinctions, as all animals would not be able to coexist in the small climate; animals such as polar bears and penguins require cold environments while others such as cold blooded desert reptiles require hot environments. If it is suggested that the animals got those features after the flood, such pathways requires a mutation rate much higher than what evolution is currently accounting for, so it takes super-evolution to deny evolution, in a sense.

The lesser animals would also fall victim to the higher predators. Dodo birds and penguins do not have what it takes to compete with wolves and large cats. Marsupial mammals (such as kangaroos) don't do well competing with placental mammals (virtually every mammal outside of Australia, except for opossums in the Americas).

Creationist response: Supercontinent[edit]

AIG suggests that, before the flood, all land was in a single supercontinent,[13] with some literalists using as proof of it Genesis 1:9 and/or Genesis 10:25. This is a completely defective argument. Saying that the world was a single supercontinent only 4,500 years ago creates innumerable problems. It is true that there have been a number of supercontinents in Earth's history, but the most recent, Pangaea, broke up over 200 million years ago.[14] We know that the world 2,000 years ago was about the same as it is now, so creationism requires that all the tectonic activity of 200 million years be compressed into 2,500 years. Tectonic shifting is what causes earthquakes, so if the continents were to rearrange themselves so quickly it would be recorded in history and in the geological register. Primitive people would most likely be impressed by earthquakes measuring 10+ on the Richter scale happening every two weeks, not to mention volcanic activity next to which Jupiter's moon IoWikipedia would be a vacation spot.

Creationist response: Homing instinct[edit]

AIG sometimes claims that the animals would have been brought to the ark by "homing instinct". To wit:[13]

The animals simply arrived at the Ark as if called by a “homing instinct” (a behavior implanted in the animals by their Creator) and marched up the ramp, all by themselves.

Though this was probably a supernatural event (one that cannot be explained by our understanding of nature), compare it to the impressive migratory behavior we see in some animals today. We are still far from understanding all the marvelous animal behaviors exhibited in God’s creation: the migration of Canada geese and other birds, the amazing flights of monarch butterflies, the annual travels of whales and fish, hibernation instincts, earthquake sensitivity, and countless other fascinating capabilities of God’s animal kingdom.

  1. "Wow, isn't nature beautiful? Let me just distract you from the utter non-scientific nature of Noah's Ark with a brief tangent."
  2. Let's go back to the sloth. If the sloth was experiencing a "homing instinct" and walked nonstop — without sleep and over bodies of water — in a straight line to Noah, it'd take 14 years. More realistically, we could estimate a lower bound of 30-50 years.

How did Noah care for the animals on the boat?[edit]

The inevitable result of keeping carnivores and potential prey together.

The story of the global flood in the Bible has Noah and his immediate family (8 persons in total)[15] caring for two of every kind of animal in the entire world. In his book Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, creationist author John Woodmorappe asserts that only 8,000 kinds of animals would have been taken on the ark.[16] The total would probably have been a lot more, but we shall concede this point for the purpose of expediency. Even if only 16,000 animals were to be brought on that ark, eight people could not possibly have cared for them all.


Each animal would have to be provided with sufficient fresh water each day. If we say that watering an animal took only 20 seconds then that gives us 88 human-hours of work watering animals per day.

More problematic would be the source of the water itself.

If the flood waters were used, some method of purification would be needed to remove the silt, salt, and other high concentrations of toxins. Distillation would require a tremendous quantity of fuel and labour. Filtering it through sand would be painfully slow and would require tons upon tons of sand weighing a minimum of 90 pounds per cubic foot.[17] The sand would then have to be changed periodically due to mineral buildup. Solar distillation would require sunlight, which would be lacking for the first forty days of rains, and vast surface areas for water to evaporate and condense. Chemical purification and boiling, ignoring the impossible logistics, would do nothing to diminish the toxic levels of minerals. No matter the purification method, a method to move thousands of gallons per day, from the waterline to upper levels, would be needed.

Storing water from before the flood would have been even more absurd. Assume that at least 100 of the animals had at a minimum the water requirements of a goat. A goat requires more than two gallons of water per day to survive.[18] Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. For these 100 animals alone, 200 gallons of water would be needed each day, weighing in excess of 1600 pounds. To last 376 days, 75,200 gallons, weighing almost eighty tons would have to be brought aboard and stored, without compromising the buoyancy and stability of the Ark — for just these 100 animals.

It is conceivable that a system of ducts could have captured rainwater and watered the animals for the first forty days of heavy rains. However, the problem remains that 336 days of water would need to be stored, purified, and/or captured. Only by heavy, regular rains would this be conceivable, which of course contradicts the statement that the rains stopped on the fortieth day.


Feeding all the animals would be literally impossible. If we accept a generous estimate of each person being able to feed one animal every 30 seconds, this means that 133 human hours of labor would be needed to feed every animal each day (Keep in mind, eight people equals a maximum of 192 people-hours per day). Perhaps some of the animals could be used to replace the human toil, if the design of the ark included provisions for this — but there is no note of such engineering in the Guide to Truth Bible.

Also, making the lions and tigers and bears to eat pellets of grain for 40 days and 40 nights, all while surrounded by nice warm living sides of T-bone steaks and New York Cuts and filets mignon would have been a difficult task. The carnivores would probably have needed fresh meat on a daily basis, leading to the extinction of many unfortunate species.[note 4]


One big pile.gif

Living in piles of their own dung is very unhealthy for most animals, and before long their health would suffer. The animals on Noah's ark would have to have their cages cleaned periodically. In most places that care for animals, this is done once a day. Eight people cleaning 16,000 cages a day is absurd. A healthy human, working hard, can clean roughly 100 or so "average" cages or stables in a really tough workday. Remembering the above, we also had to allocate time to providing water and food.

Let's take a closer look at what it takes to clean an animal's cage.

  1. Setting the estimate low we could say the process of removing the dung took 60 seconds for a large cage, 10 seconds for a small cage. We could say the average time spent per cage would be 30 seconds.
  2. The dung would have to be thrown overboard eventually, so, again setting the estimate low, we could say the cleaner would have to empty his waste container only every 20 cages.
  3. The time taken to empty the waste overboard would vary on the position of the cage being cleaned. The ones working on the deck below the water would take longer to empty their waste than the ones on the upper decks, while the ones working in the center of the ark would take longer to empty their waste than the ones on the edge. Setting the estimate low again we are looking at 3 minutes to empty waste.
  4. Calculating this out we are looking at 17 human hours of labor removing dung.

Of course, if Noah had built various magical machines (mostly powered inclined planes and those "screw" things), the disposal of the poop would have been a bit easier.

An alternative explanation is that each animal cleaned its own enclosure periodically. However, given the lack of opposable thumbs for most of the species on the ark, this explanation is implausible.

In other words, the amount of shit you need to believe to accept the literal biblical flood narrative is just about as much as the amount of shit that would be on the ark if it was real.

Certainly since Scripture related nothing about the places which we said were set apart for the excrement of the animals, but tradition preserves some things, it will appear opportune that silence has been maintained on this about which reason may sufficiently teach of its importance. And because it could less worthily be fitted to a spiritual meaning, rightly, therefore, Scripture, which rather fits its narratives to allegorical meanings, was silent about this.
—Origin (AD 184/5-253/4)[19]


Animals also pee. Animals on the top deck would not need to have their urine dealt with because the decks could theoretically be slanted so the urine would flow out into the ocean. (God must have supplied really detailed blueprints for Noah to get all this right.) The urine on the bottom decks, however, would have to be manually removed or else it would build up and sink the ship. Say there were only 10,000 animals on the bottom two decks. Say, setting the estimate low, each animal only peed on average one fourth of a cup per day. That gives us 2500 cups (165 gallons) of urine that needed to be bilge pumped per day.

Now, reasonably, the most a person can carry[note 5] is about eight gallons per trip.[note 6] That results in roughly twenty trips per day of "piss duty".

How did animals survive?[edit]

One often overlooked aspect of Noah's Ark is how the animals would have even survived their journey even if they were non-eating flesh robots that produced no waste. The pitch and roll of a ship would have tossed animals about in their cages, creating a constant source of injury to anything larger than a mouse. Under the extremely severe weather conditions posited by the global flood even if the ship's integrity would have held (it wouldn't have) most of the 'higher' animals would have been turned into chunky salsa after a few months of this treatment. The larger animals could have been hooked up to some sort of hammock device inside the cages to stop them from being thrown about too much, but this would require (yet again) much more space.

Fun Problems For Both Humans and Animals[edit]

The issue of piss and shit has been covered to a degree. Now the fun really begins — Zoonotic diseases. A Zoonotic disease is a pathogen that can spread between humans and animals. Because animals and humans are in a confined space, disease will spread between them. Obviously soap and clean hot water would not be available. The people on the ark would have to handle pee and poop; that would have some germs there. Due to people being exposed to animal droppings and animals being exposed to people droppings, disease would kill everyone on the ark. It is not like there would be proper nutrition either.

Anyone can become sick from a zoonotic disease, including healthy people. However, some people may be more at risk than others and should take steps to protect themselves or family members. These people are more likely than others to get really sick, and even die, from infection with certain diseases. These groups of people include:
  • Children younger than 5
  • Adults older than 65 (which was literally all 8 of the people on the ark)
  • People with weakened immune systems
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[20]

A zoonotic disease that has been a threat to the health of both humans and animals is the rabies virus. Rabies is a highly infectious pathogen that is spread by bodily fluids, scratches and bites.[21] In modern times rabies is prevented by vaccination and isolating infected animals and or people. Now due to the Ark story taking place over a thousand years ago, vaccinations and medical knowledge did not exist. So if a wolf became infected with the virus, it would rapidly spread and kill everybody aboard.

An irony[edit]

Immediately after the Ark landed and the animals exited the Ark, the first thing Noah did was to offer a sacrifice from each of the clean animals. After all that work, man? Come on.

Creationist response: Swamp theory engineering[edit]

An alternative is to design the ark so that it will carry an entire ecosystem similar to a swamp, so the bacteria and plants will utilize the urine and fecal matter, and have water vapor for collection (via metal plates or glass). However, the size of such a swamp will far exceed the assumed dimensions of the ark, given the number of animals on board. Water makes up a large proportion of the mass of a wetland such as this, and of course water is tremendously heavy. Assuming a pound of waste material per animal per day (the larger animals which produce many pounds of fecal material per day balancing out the smaller creatures), from 8000 animals in a 376-day period equals approx 1500 tons of waste material during the Great Flood. To avoid becoming a fetid, dead swamp, and to allow the natural waste digestion process to occur, the waste products would have to be extremely diluted, with the swamp having perhaps at least fifteen times the mass of all waste products produced by the animals. Thus the swamp could perhaps have to weigh over 20,000 tons, which would require a HandysizeWikipedia cargo ship to carry this waste processing swamp alone. The Ark would have had to be a vast ship to carry such a mass along with all the animals and feed. Also, a sophisticated plumbing system would have to be employed, because such a swamp would be on the top deck of the ark (it requires sunlight), while urine and fecal matter would need to be transported from the lower decks. Even if you have only one deck for everything (with caves or shelters for the animals; remember it's raining most of the time so animals roaming free to self-distribute probably wouldn't work) plumbing is still needed because those have to be manually distributed across the entire swamp. As pumps and other sophisticated plumbing devices are not available for thousands of years, we can safely assume they are manually transporting the urine and fecal matters into the swamp.

How many animals did Noah get?[edit]

The number of each "kind" that were to be brought on Noah's Ark during the global flood is inconsistent within the Bible. The contradiction can be found between Genesis 6 and Genesis 7 when God is telling Noah the number of animals he is to bring. Furthermore, the passage in Genesis 7 is an anachronism in Biblical chronology, because which animals are clean and which are unclean was only revealed in laws given to Moses after the exodus of Israelites from Egypt.

Biblical scholars have several different models for the origins of the Bible, including Genesis. One model is the documentary hypothesis, which holds that the Bible was assembled from multiple independent sources, each written centuries apart from the others, in a process of redaction. This means that one or more ancient Jews "spliced" different versions of different stories into one long book (or rather, five longish books), resulting in noticeable duplications and contradictions (such as the separate creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, and of course, the issues discussed on this page). Another possibility is that the Bible did begin as a single narrative, and over the centuries various stories, rules, and commentaries were added and subtracted to it — rather like a wiki. Either way, it is believed that the command to bring seven pairs of clean animals was a later variation, added to the story so that Noah has some clean animals to sacrifice at the end without making them extinct.

Number of animals contradiction[edit]

In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to bring two of all living creatures including (as is logical) several of all birds. The King James translation makes it slightly more flowery, but the meaning "two of each" is still clear.

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.
—Genesis 6:19-20[22]

In the next chapter, Genesis 7, God directly contradicts himself. Instead of two of every animal, male and female, God tells Noah to bring seven of every clean animal - although this is also read by many as seven pairs. How can one bring seven of some animals if he is already only bringing two of all animals? Genesis 7 also contradicts God's statement in the previous book by stating that instead of two of all birds, seven of all birds were to be brought.

Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.
—Genesis 7:2-3[23]

Mosaic law anachronism[edit]

The second quote from Genesis 7:2-3 also contains a gross anachronism. Which animals are ritually clean and which are unclean is only revealed in Leviticus 11, many hundreds of years later. If Noah knew the Mosaic law and passed it on to his children, there would be no point in God revealing it to Moses and Aaron later in Leviticus. In order to get away from this, you need to maintain one of two things: either Noah used his own intuition to discern which animals were "clean", or Noah was revealed at least parts of the Mosaic law, which were then lost at some point after the Flood.

Of course, there's also the much more plausible explanation that the story was invented by a Jewish writer who was so accustomed to thinking about animals as clean or unclean that he did not spot this chronological inconsistency.

Creationist position[edit]

Because the Biblical statements are so obviously contradictory, literalists have abandoned their usual tactic of denying the contradiction.[note 7] They instead declare that any translations that contain the contradictory statements are, in fact, mistranslations.[25] The problem with this statement though is that every translation of the Bible contains this logical error. If a few were found not to contain it, the mistranslation idea might hold water, but it would still not really matter because the vast majority of translations would still support the contradiction. It is logical to assume that statements that appear in nearly one hundred percent of all translations are correct, and are the correct translation and as close to the original meaning as possible. Below is a chart of the several verses in various Bible translations; those translations that need more explaining are in their own subsections.

Version Genesis 6:20 Genesis 7:3
KJV "Of fowls ... two of every sort"[26] "Of fowls also of the air by sevens"[27]
ESV "Of the birds.....two of every sort"[28] "and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also"[29]
NCV "two of every kind of bird"[30] "seven pairs of all the birds"[31]
YLT "Of the fowl....two of every [sort]"[32] "of fowl of the heavens seven pairs"[33]
AB "Of fowls and birds...two of every sort"[34] "Also of the birds of the air seven pairs"[35]
NASB "Of the birds...two of every kind"[36] "also of the birds of the sky, by sevens"[37]
TM "two of every species of bird"[38] "seven pairs of every kind of bird"[39]
NKJV "Of the birds...two of every kind"[40] "also seven each of birds"[41]

Creationists so far have not addressed the anachronism in the second verse.

New Living Translation[edit]

Some creationists have suggested that the New Living Translation or the NLT does not contain this "error", because in Genesis 6:20 it uses the word "pair" in the plural form: "Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive."[42] However, the preceding verse, Genesis 6:19, makes it clear that the plurality of "pair" refers to the plurality of species, rather than the plurality of pairs from a single species: "Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood."[43]

"A male and its mate"[edit]

Genesis 7:2 (NIV) says that the animals were taken as pairs, "a male and its mate". This has a couple of interesting consequences, and it's also telling that the female animal is treated as an extension of the male.

Not all animals form pairs. For example, there are genera of whiptail lizards which have only females, and which reproduce parthenogenetically. 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).[note 8] 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 (i.e., 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 in 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, dingo, etc.).

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.[note 9] 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 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.

How did animals not included on the Ark survive during the flood?[edit]

See also:

Archaeological search[edit]

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.

The Ark on creationist wikis[edit]

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[9]

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[note 10] 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.

Not (quite) what's depicted on Creationwiki.

CreationWiki presents a decent rundown of the ark as a fact.[45] 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![46] 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.

Media about the story[edit]

One of the weirder things about Noah's Ark is the sheer amount of strange media that uses it as a basis. Below are just a handful of the various times the story has been adapted in some notable way.

Noah's Ark (1928)[edit]

One of the first talkies ever made, the film is notable for being a piece of lost media, with thirty-five minutes of the movie never being seen since its original premier in New York almost a century ago. The flood scene is also an infamous moment in film history, because according to the Lost Media Wiki, it "reportedly drowned three actors, critically injured another, and almost claimed the life of a young John Wayne (cast as an extra in the scene)." The page goes on to note that "The longer version of the flood scene apparently was more unsettling, and reportedly even contained shots of some of the actors of whom were drowning."[47] However, given the footage has never been seen by the public outside of a small handful of people, it is impossible to verify if this is true or not.

Super 3D Noah's Ark (1994)[edit]

The strange cartridge of the game in question.[48]

A video game made by Wisdom Tree with the help of id Software, who let the company use the engine from Wolfenstein 3-D and having the honor of being "the only [unlicensed SNES game] to receive a commercial release in North America."[49] However, its unlicensed nature meant "it could only be run by stacking an officially licensed game cartridge on top of the Noah's Ark cartridge."[50]

The game is a first person shooter where you play as Noah, who has to go around feeding all the animals on the Ark. You use a slingshot to throw food at the animals, and despite what the Bible says, there are way more than a mere two of every animals you have to fight against.

El Arca (2007)[edit]

Have you ever wanted to see the story of Noah's Ark with gags thrown in? How about the story of Noah told from the perspective of the animals, who are anthropomorphic and, in some cases, drawn oddly sexually? If so, then the 2007 film El Arca is for you, as this adventure is one that TV Tropes notes is "best known for being a retelling of Noah’s Arc with highly curvaceous female felines, especially Panthy and her giant bust."[51] The page goes on to write that the film fits the trope for "Uncertain Audience," saying:

It's an animated retelling of the story of Noah's Ark, but the movie seemed to have no idea who its audience was supposed to be. Christians who would have been interested in the film for its Biblical story were turned off by its blasphemy and raunchiness, the aforementioned sexual themes made the movie unsuitable for children when its art style seemed geared for them, and everyone except for a few members of the Furry Fandom were repulsed by a few heavily sexualized animal characters. And to cap it all off a large number of furries are put off by the biblical themes.[51]

With that said, the vulgarity could be blamed on it being from another culture, as the page notes "A lot of the more adult themes can be chalked up to family-friendliness standards in Argentina and indeed most of Latin America being different than those in the USA, generally more tolerant of sexual humor." However, "even then, though, relatively few push the boundaries this movie attempts to cross."[51]

If one wishes to watch the film with these themes toned down, Shout! Factory released one in English in 2014.[52]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The identity of this mysterious material is complicated by the fact that gopher woodWikipedia 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 Heyerdahl,Wikipedia) or simply pitched wood (as far back as 2500 BCE, the ancient Egyptians used pitch to waterproof shipsWikipedia) to mention only a handful.
  2. For the metric kind it's about 4.5 billion cubic kilometers.
  3. One foot/minute = 99.6115088 miles/year.[11]
  4. Such as the Grestevask and Drobenbear.
  5. For the purpose of the discussion we do not assume God has revealed to Noah about technologies such as plumbing, pumps and siphons, so it does have to be carried away if the animals are within their individual partitions of the ark.
  6. That's sixty four pounds, reasonable for a tough Bronze Age farmer.
  7. Except for those people who simply ignore the bits they can't deny, like these people.[24]
  8. For example, this Answers in Genesis cartoon[44]
  9. Besides, the Bible says incest is bad. I guess Adam, Eve, their children, and non-human animals don't count.
  10. The 120 years notice probably doesn't work because it is after Noah is already 500 years old and the flood occurs 100 years later… so God is like "Screw you guys, I am flooding the earth 20 years early."


  1. Noah's ark The Skeptic's Dictionary.
  2. Yes, Noah did build an Ark! reply by Bodie Hodge & Jonathan Sarfati to "Did Noah really build an ark?" by Jeremy Bowen, Presenter (24 March 2004; Updated 26 March 2004) Answers in Genesis (archived from December 8, 2004).
  3. Schooner Wyoming fact sheet, Maine Maritime Museum, Jan 28, 2013
  4. Noah's Ark: Sea Trials by Brian Dunning (Podcast #279; October 11, 2011) Skeptoid.
  5. Genesis 6:14-15: Note Skeptic's Annotated Bible.
  6. Timeline of the Bible Creation Ministries International (archived from June 1, 2020). "This timeline was printed in Creation magazine to faithfully represent the details provided by Archbishop James Ussher in Annals of the World. His timeline was a statement about history."
  7. Engineering Science University of California Berkeley.
  8. [1],
  9. 9.0 9.1 Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, S02E01, The Bible - Fact or Fiction
  10. Woodmorappe, J: Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, page 3. Institute for Creation Research, 1996.
  11. Speed of a Sloth The Physics Factbook.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Was There Really a Noah's Ark & Flood? by Ken Ham & Tim Lovett (October 11, 2007) Answers in Genesis (archived from December 15, 2009).
  14. Breakup of Pangaea (200 mya — Present) by Christopher R. Scotese, PALEOMAP Project.
  15. Essentials Of The Unification Principle: 11. Noah's Family by Thomas Cromwell, Sun Myung Moon, FFWPU and the Unification Church in their own words (archived from February 15, 2002). "Noah's Family had eight core members".
  16. How did all the animals fit on Noah's Ark? by Jonathan Sarfati (March 1997) Answers in Genesis (archived from December 4, 2004).
  17. Weight Per Cubic Foot And Specific Gravity Reade Advanced Materials (archived from October 29, 2004).
  18. Livestock Water Needs by Bryan Smith (06/16/2002) Cooperative Extension Service, Clemson University (archived from August 31, 2006).
  19. Homilies on Genesis 2.1 (page 75) translated Ronald E. Heine Catholic University of America Press, 1982 volume 71 of The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation
  20. Zoonotic Diseases (Page last reviewed: July 14, 2017) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  21. [2], CDC website.
  22. Genesis 6:19-20 (NIV)
  23. Genesis 7:2-3 (NIV)
  24. Answering The Atheist, Volume 1, Issue 8 (April 29, 2001) Limestone Church of Christ (archived from April 20, 2003).
  25. Chapter 27: The New Answers Book 2: Chapter 27. Isn't the Bible Full of Contradictions? by Paul F. Taylor on August 12, 2010) Answers in Genesis (archived from June 27, 2019).
  26. Genesis 6:20 (KJV)
  27. Genesis 7:3 (KJV)
  28. Genesis 6:20 (ESV)
  29. Genesis 7:3 (ESV)
  30. Genesis 6:20 (NCV)
  31. Genesis 7:3 (NCV)
  32. Genesis 6:20 (YLT)
  33. Genesis 7:3 (YLT)
  34. Genesis 6:20 (AB)
  35. Genesis 7:3 (AB)
  36. genesis 6:20 (NASB)
  37. Genesis 7:3 (NASB)
  38. Genesis 6:20 (TM)
  39. Genesis 7:3 (TM)
  40. Genesis 6:20 (NKJV)
  41. Genesis 7:3 (NKJV)
  42. Genesis 6:20 (NLT)
  43. Genesis 6:19 (NLT)
  44. Dinosaurs — Too Big? by Dan Lietha (July 23, 2001) Answers in Genesis (archived from April 14, 2015).
  45. Noah's Ark CreationWiki (archived from ).April 10, 2009).
  46. Noah's Ark Model by Rod Walsh CreationWiki (archived from April 14, 2015).
  47. Noah's Ark (partially lost film based on Bible story; 1928)
  48. Bible Games - Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN)
  49. YMMV / Super 3D Noah's Ark
  50. Video Game / Super 3D Noah's Ark
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 YMMV / El Arca
  52. Western Animation / El Arca