Life and the global flood
|Rescued from the
|Twelve of the clean kind
This article is intended to refute arguments that life as we know it could have survived the flood. It should be clear that the story of Noah's Ark and the flood is a myth. Unfortunately, because of the growth of creation "science", actual scientists are forced to run studies with computer models to demonstrate the obvious to fundamentalist Christians, who usually don't listen anyway.
During the global flood, many plants would have been killed off. Some plants with tough, long-lived seeds might have been able to germinate, but those with short-lived seeds, or seeds without strong protection against harsh environments, would have become extinct. "Lower" plants such as algae would have their environment altered so drastically it is unlikely they would have been able to survive at all.
Most "higher" plants evolved on land, and their seeds are not able to survive a prolonged soaking in salt water. A small number of specialised plants, which have evolved to survive at the littoral zone and whose seeds actually use oceanic currents to colonize new areas, could conceivably have survived a global flood.
A longer term effect would have been salinification of the soil, which would have caused permanent soil damage and left it unable to support most forms of plant life. As an example, one-third of the arable areas flooded after Hurricane Katrina suffered permanent salt damage. A year-long, worldwide flood would have had permanent consequences — the extinction of most plant life.
The unprecedented currents which would have occurred during the inundation would have destroyed many plant seeds.
There are only three possible explanations as to how we have plants today that are not capable of surviving a year underwater:
- The flood simply did not happen. But since the bible disagrees, either:
- Plants have evolved to their current forms (of not being able to survive) in the few thousand years since the flood, or
Many people regard the Biblical story of Noah's Ark as literal truth. This attitude produces a slight problem: the story is impossible. In an attempt to make feeding the animals on the Ark during a global flood a little less impossible, many creationists will claim that Noah would not have needed to feed the insects that he brought on board. The problem of insects can be easily demonstrated by the sheer number of species and their diversity of habitat. Even taking into account baraminology, the varieties of insects are massive in number. It is easy to see why someone would want to get around this problem:
“”They are the most diverse group of animals on the planet and include approximately 2,200 species of praying mantis, 5,000 dragonfly, 20,000 grasshopper, 82,000 true bug, 120,000 fly, 110,000 bee, wasp, ant and sawfly, 170,000 butterfly and moth, and 360,000 beetle species described to date. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million, with over a million species already described.
No Answers in Genesis (AiG) claims that insects could have survived outside the ark on "floating mats of vegetation". This, like every other idea used to try and validate the Ark story as "truth", is impossible. Insects are fairly good survivors, but very, very few species are ocean-going, and anyway most would be unlikely to survive for a year (or even for forty days) on the waves.[note 1]
The idea that insects were not on board also violates scripture. Any Biblical literalist like the young earth creationists at AiG, must confine their views within what is written in The Bible, otherwise their position becomes untenable; if minor details can be wrong, then medium-sized details may be wrong and then larger details may be wrong. The Bible clearly states in relation to what died in the flood:
“”And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.
|—Genesis 7:21 (KJV)
"…Creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" — This very, very clearly includes insects. No mention that some were left floating on rafts or that some were spared.
No mention is made of freshwater fishes. Although many fish are conveniently small, the survival of those fish would have required Noah to build either one giant fish tank or many tiny ones. Although there would be no shortage of fresh water from rain, any excess could have easily caused fish to be floated out of their enclosures to be swept into the sea and of course to die in the sea. The absence of technology for making fish tanks, let alone air pumps to keep oxygen in the fish tanks, did not exist in Noah's time; this precludes the collection and maintenance of freshwater fish.
The New International Version, however, translates this verse as "Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind". Although this doesn't specify creepy, crawly insects as directly as the King James Version preferred by modern fundamentalists, it still features the quite clear phrase "Every living thing that moved". In short, according to the Bible, and working within the framework that Biblical literalism allows, anything NOT on the Ark would be dead.
Problems with the survival of aquatic life
Noah did not take any fish, or other marine life, on the ark, so every species of fish, mollusc or crustacean observable today had to survive out in the open ocean for the 367 day duration of the flood. This would have presented numerous insurmountable problems. The mixing of salt and fresh water would have killed many fish, tremendous oceanic turbulence would have killed others, and still others thrown out of their normal habitat would die of starvation.
Changes in salinity would have killed many of the fish. Most marine life cannot survive in water of reduced salinity, and likewise most freshwater creatures cannot tolerate increased salinity. This is a simple fact due to the nature of their evolved osmotic membranes, which tend to allow water itself to move in only one direction - into the animal in salt water, and out of it in fresh water.
Models of the global flood result in ocean currents fluctuating between 40 and 80 meters per second, a speed of 4000% (40 times) as fast as the fastest ocean currents today, which peak at 2 meters per second. This would have caused massive turbulence that many species would be unable to survive.
Aquatic species such as the various stingrays, which spend most of their time in close proximity to the ocean floor, would be repeatedly bashed against the bottom of the ocean, a collision they would be unable to survive even once. All coral reef fish, and the reefs themselves, would meet a similar fate, and yet the fossil record oddly contains perfectly preserved coral reefs in strata that creationists claim were deposited by the flood.
The global flooding and the extreme turbulence caused in the Noah's Ark myth would have stripped the Earth of topsoil. This would have caused extreme problems for aquatic species that require clear water, and they would choke on particulate concentrations nearing 30%.
Coral reefs, which consist of the accumulated calcareous exoskeletons of tiny invertebrate polyps, provide a habitat for many creatures. They are also very sensitive to changes in salinity, temperature and depth (which includes higher pressures and lower levels of sunlight); the corals would not have survived such a massive inundation.
The flood would have caused a fluctuation in the water pressure that would kill many animal species either from decompression or excess pressure.
Post flood survival
A major problem with the global flood myth, as told in the Bible, being a real event is that the flood would have destroyed all available food. Hence, discounting the intellectually lazy cop-out of Goddidit, the entire menagerie Noah assembled would have died of starvation shortly after they disembarked the ark. There are a few "solutions" to this problem posed by creation "scientists", but few of these solutions are even remotely realistic.
The herbivores among the animals would have no plants to eat, except the olive leaf brought back by the dove and the olive tree itself. Every plant would have died during the 376-day flood. There is no way the animals could have remained alive long enough for the plants to grow back.
The standard creationist answer to this situation is that the herbivores ate seaweed. This claim, while looking good on the surface, carries no weight. Seaweed grows only in depths of up to 70 meters (even then, in crystal clear water) because water absorbs a massive amount of sunlight, reducing the energy that it can impart to photosynthetic organisms — in fact, this is why some seaweeds are colours other than green, to maximise absorption of light that does get through that much water. Since the water covered all the mountains in the entire earth only the top 70 meters of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (K2 is 237 metres lower than Everest) would have had the sunlight required to support seaweed. Even on the top of the mountain you wouldn't have found much terrestrial plant life because there is no good growing soil, another key factor for plant growth of any kind. This would leave us with only a tiny amount of seaweed nowhere near enough to support the thousands of herbivores on the Ark. Furthermore, no large crops of seaweed (i.e. kelp forests, etc.) would have grown in just over a year. Finally, all the seaweed would have rapidly rotted away when exposed to the air, long before more plants had an opportunity to grow, assuming Noah had the forethought to collect and store seeds from the Earth's vast variety of plant life, and ignoring the fact that saltwater-saturated soil is very bad for growing most land plants.
The carnivores would have been in an even worse position. There would be nothing left for them to prey on except the animals Noah had saved. This would have caused a mass extinction. Remember, of the majority of creatures ("unclean animals"), only two animals of each "kind" were taken on the Ark, so if the carnivores had eaten even a single one a species would go extinct. The excess clean animals could have provided at best one or two meals for thousands of predators, since Answers in Genesis asserts (correctly) that: "the vast majority of animals are not clean." The carnivores would in actuality have eaten all the herbivores then gone extinct themselves. (Unless the herbivores could reproduce very quickly indeed, like one individual producing hundreds of young every second)
John Woodmorappe, in Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, claims that the carnivores could have eaten the corpses of pre-flood animals. This is completely impossible, since medium size corpses can fully decay under optimal conditions in 50 days, while corpses underwater will decay about twice as slowly, so the vast majority of the corpses would have been completely decomposed by the termination of the Ark's voyage. The picture on the right shows what happens to a chicken's corpse after just a few weeks. In any event, the carnivores would have been unable to get at any corpses because they would have been buried under sediment.
If you accept the absurd (and extra-biblical) creationist concept of baraminology, that means that there was one pair of "great cat kind" and seven pairs of the animals they feed on, "horse kind." Great cats eat at least one "horse kind" every two weeks so that would mean that horse kind would have been made completely extinct after 3 and a half months. Even if the "horse kind" had immediately reproduced, that would still be at most 28 "horse kind" which would have only provided six months of sustenance for "cat kind."
And then there's the problem of getting the animals to their home territories. Making sure that the koalas migrate to Australia, and only to Australia (and that kangaroos only migrate to Australia and New Guinea). That the horses don't get to the Americas (they were extinct in the Americas until the Europeans brought them). There is no need to spell out the problems of land animals swimming vast oceans or traveling across deserts and mountain ranges, finding appropriate food (and avoiding being eaten) and establishing viable populations.
Genetics and inbreeding
Two founders for every extant species on Earth would mean that after a very short time no species on earth would have members more genetically distinct from each other than siblings. The probable results of this are left as an exercise for the reader. An interesting thing to note is that creationists will often use the genetics of humanity to "prove" the existence of Adam and Eve (since we have used genetics to show it is possible humanity may have come from two individuals though at separate times (Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam), but what they fail to notice is that would also disprove Noah's Ark. This is because we think humans came from an individual because we see there is a lot more genetic diversity in other animals. If each unclean animal was reduced to 2 separate kinds, and the vast majority of animals are unclean, we should expect to find that the vast majority of animals have a gene pool as constricted as humanity. However, we don't.
A lot of animals have very specific habitat needs. Pandas, for instance only eat bamboo, which is part of a very delicate ecosystem. The flood would have killed all the bamboo, so even if they survived the journey, they would still have starved. Many other species on the ark would also become extinct because their food supply would be damaged, their habitat destroyed, or simply of the stress of coming into a place they are not used to. This can happen to wild animals brought into captivity, so if even that can stress animals to that degree, imagine what would happen if their habitats had been so drastically altered, or, as is much more likely, completely obliterated. All in all, the flood is bullshit.
The story of Noah and the Ark presents severe problems for anyone who, as creationists often do, wishes to view said tale as an accurate record of historical events. One of these problems: Exactly what did all those animals eat after the Flood had receded (and what did they eat while on the Ark)?
If we take the Bible's account of the Flood as accurate, every plant that grows on the ground was completely and utterly submerged under thousands of feet of salty water for well over a year. Thus, there would have been no plants on which herbivores could feed, and all herbivores would soon have starved to death. Once there are no herbivores to feed on, all carnivores starve to death; as soon as the last herbivores and carnivores are dead, it won't take long for the scavengers to join them. A few unicellular creatures, such as algae, might survive and adapt to the post-Flood conditions. The only eukaryotic organisims that would stand any chance of survival would be protists and perhaps some unicellular fungi.
In addition, deposition of silt, especially in the hydroplate model, would have seriously disrupted soils and especially soil nutrients so even after surviving the effects of salination of the soils, productivity of soils would be low. Also just in the days after seasons are presumably still in effect and there is a delay before very productive plant life would be available and the herbivores still needed to eat; overcropping would have been a serious transitory problem. Bacteria and other micro-organisms are also critical for soil quality and even symbiotic connections to plants and these conditions would also have been disrupted.
The predator animals needed to be eating something moments after emerging from the Ark so with a sparse supply of prey animals, what did the predators hunt? Or perhaps this temporary shortage of prey is the cause of some undocumented mass extinction of prey species. While the gestation period for mice might be short, young antelope would take a while, and most predators either hunt the old and sick or the young. Lions and tigers and cheetahs would have had slim pickings for a few years.
Sea food supply
So much for the land. What of the seas?
As it happens, the oceanic food web is critically dependent on plankton and phytoplankton, microscopic animals and plants which live within a few centimeters of the surface. Since the Flood requires adding some 3.3 times the Earth's existing supply of water to what was originally there to begin with, it follows that the salinity of the Flood would be significantly reduced. If one assumes perfect mixing at all times, the salt content of any given cup of Flood-water would be 23% as much as that of any given cup of ocean water. If one takes into account the fact that [a] there was 40 days and 40 nights of salt-free rain depositing fresh water on top of the Flood, and [b] salt water is heavier than fresh water, it is clear that the salt content of the uppermost layer of the Flood, that small part of the ocean within which plankton and phytoplankton live, would be much, much lower than one would expect with perfect mixing.
From lots of salt to practically no salt within 40 days: For creatures that are adapted to a saline environment, this is a recipe for extinction. Once the plankton and phytoplankton are gone, all creatures which feed on them starve to death, followed by all creatures which eat plankton-feeders, followed by…
End result: The oceans become just as dead as the land.
Ecosystem dependent species
The spotted owl controversy of a few years back highlights another problem: some species depend for their food on very specific ecosystems. Many woodpeckers, for example, require large standing groves of very old yet living trees to provide a food source for the insects on which they feed. Without old-growth forests, they have no place to live. There would have been no old-growth forests after the flood. Were the woodpeckers supposed to wait decades or centuries for the forests to regrow and then grow old before they could start eating?
Problems of this sort abound. Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is a plant that lives in a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil fungus. The soil fungus, in turn, lives off of certain species of trees. Indian pipe seeds will only grow in soil permeated with the fungus and the fungus only grows with the trees it feeds off of. Again, the Indian pipe seeds will need to wait decades or longer to find soil in which they can grow. This is far longer than their seeds can survive. (Of course, they wouldn't have survived the flood to begin with, but that's another article.)
The answer to all these points
Since they claim He could do that, when creationists are asked why God didn't simply destroy all the sinners and not bother with the need for an ark and a flood, they have no clear answer (other than "God works in mysterious ways"… which would appear to be verbal shorthand for "We don't have a good answer to that"). Also creationists don't seem to believe in Occam's razor.
As a bonus, they can also use 2 Peter 3:3 onwards, which doubles as yet another sign of the End Times being nigh, and considering how humans by default are wicked, corrupt, creatures who give by default their backs to God and mock Him.
- Many insect species have lifetimes shorter than this so would have died of natural causes away from a suitable environment in which they could reproduce.
- Salt Damage to Agricultural Fields in South Louisiana
- How did all the animals fit on Noah's Ark?
- Answers in Genesis
- A critical look at Noah's voyage, from the Internet Archive
- ICR:Patterns of Ocean Circulation Over the Continents During Noah's Flood
- Gulf stream velocities
- See the article on manta rays at wikipedia.
- Why the flood is not global Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
- AiC:Noah's Flood
- Answers in Genesis
- Seawaeed New Zealand's Underwater Life(archived from June 18, 2009).
- Answers in genesis
- AiG: How did all the animals fit on Noah's Ark?
- Talk Origins
- Death online
- The decay process
- How did the animals fit on Noah’s Ark? — AiG
- Wild cats
- Clutton-Brock J, 1996. Horses in history. In: Horses Through Time, 1st ed (Olsen S, ed). Dublin: Roberts Rinehart Publishers; 83–102.