Robert Todd Carroll
The boat built by Noah, at the command of his God, to accommodate Noah's family, about 50,000 species of animals and about one million species of insects, for the duration of a divinely planned universal flood aimed at destroying every other animal and plant on earth. Those not familiar with the story might wonder why God would destroy nearly all the descendants of all of the creatures he had created. The story is that God was displeased with his human creations, apparently with all of them except Noah and his family. This method of annihilating those one is displeased with has become a familiar tactic of the followers of this and many other gods. What is good enough for God is good enough for us, I guess. There is of course, a silver lining in this supercloud with 40 days & nights of rain in it: the righteous are saved, i.e., not annihilated. The historical problem of murder in the name of religion is that nobody can be quite sure what the other guy thinks is righteous. Thus one righteous crew has been pitted against another righteous crew, generation after generation. It is a wonder so many of us have escaped the carnage.
Despite the bad example God set for Noah's descendants--imagine a human parent drowning his or her children because they were "not righteous"--the story remains a favorite among children. God likes good people. He lets them ride on a boat with a bunch of friendly animals. He shows them a great rainbow after the storm. And they all live happily ever after. Even adults like the story, though they might see it as an allegory with some sort of spiritual message, such as God is all-powerful and we owe everything, even our very existence to the Creator. Furthermore, the Creator expects us to behave ourselves. But there are some who take the story literally.
According to the story told in chapter 7 of Genesis, Noah, his crew and the animals lived together for more than 6 months before the floodwaters receded. There are a few minor logistical problems with this arrangement, but before getting to them, there is one other thing that needs commenting on. I think it is obvious that floods are no laughing matter. The destruction of life and property caused by floods have plagued many animals, not just humans, from time immemorial. To watch one's family or home swept away in floodwaters must be a terrible spectacle. To see one's children drown, one's life and dreams washed away in an instant, must be a devastating experience. But if one were to discover that the flood was not a whimsical effect of chance natural events, not unplanned and purposeless, but rather the malicious and willful act of a conscious being, one might add rage to the feelings of devastation. I suppose one could argue that it is God's world; he created it and so he can destroy it if he feels like it. But such an attitude seems inappropriate for an All-Good, Loving God. Be that as it may, let's be good fundamentalists here and examine this story for its veracity.
Stories of floods are not unique to the ancient Jews. But I am not aware of any ancient people who have a story claiming that their God flooded the entire planet in order to drown every living thing on earth. What geological or archaeological evidence is there of such a universal destruction of all human societies, all plants and all animals (except for the ones on Noah's boat)? There should be a layer of sediment all dating from the same time which contains all the bones of these poor creatures. There should be evidence that all human societies were wiped out simultaneously. No such evidence exists of a universal flood.
However, for the sake of argument, let's agree that there was a universal flood, but that somehow the evidence got twisted around so that geologically and archaeologically it doesn't appear that the flood occurred. There are still a few questions we should ask before accepting this theory. First, how big was this boat? The answer: really, really big! Would it float? Noah might have been given divine guidance here, so maybe this boat, bigger than any supertanker we've ever seen, could float. Remember that this is all done before the discovery of metallurgy, so the boat is made of wood and other natural materials. How many forests would it take to provide the lumber for such a boat? How many people working how many years would be required? Building a pyramid would be peanuts compared to building the ark. But remember, people lived a lot longer in those days. Noah was 600 years old when the project started. He must have been about 1,200 years old when it was finished. Think of the reputation he must have gained over those hundreds of years building a giant boat in the desert.
But let's say that, however implausible, such a boat could have been built using the technology of wooden boatbuilding known to the earliest peoples, Noah did it with God's help. And let's agree that however unlikely such a boat, if actually built, would float, really did float. There is still the problem of gathering the animals together from the various parts of the world that, as far as we know, Noah had no idea even existed. How did he get to the remote regions of the earth to collect exotic butterflies and Komoda dragons? How did he get all those species of dinosaurs to follow him home? By the time he collected all his species, in twos and sevens, his boat would probably have rotted in the desert sun.
But let's grant that Noah was able to collect all the birds and mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and a couple of million insects, that he is said to have gathered together on his boat. There is still the problem of keeping the animals from eating one another. Or, are we to believe that the lion was laying down with the lamb on the ark? Did the carnivores become vegetarians for the duration of the flood? How did he keep the birds from eating the insects? Perhaps, the ark was stocked with foods for all the animals. After all, if Noah could engineer the building of a boat which could hold all those animals, it would have been a small feat to add room to store enough food to last them all for more than six months. Of course, Noah would have to store enough food for himself and his family, too. But these would have been minor details to such a man with such a plan guided by his God.
Still, it seems difficult to imagine how such a small crew could feed all these animals in a single day. There is just Noah, his wife, their three sons and three daughters-in-law. The "daily" rounds would take years, it seems. Delicacy forbids me from mentioning the problems of the "clean-up" detail, but I would have to say that if the noise of all those animals didn't drive Noah insane (not to mention the insect bites), the smell should have killed him. But, at least they didn't have to worry about water to drink.
Yet, as preposterous as this story seems, there are people who claim they have found Noah's ark. Yes, they say that when the flood receded, there was Noah and his zoo perched upon the top of Mt. Ararat in Turkey. Now, all the animals must be dispersed to the far recesses of the earth: the obverse problem of how Noah collected them in the first place. More problematic, I think is how so many species survived when they had been reduced to just one pair or seven pairs of creatures. Also, you would think that the successful species which had the furthest to travel, would have left a trail of offspring along the way. What evidence is there that all species originated in Turkey? That's what the record should look like, if the ark landed on Ararat.
Still, none of this deters the true believer from maintaining that the story of Noah's ark is the God's truth. Nor does it deter those who think the ark has been found. Some of you may have seen the 1977 pseudo-documentary called "In Search of Noah's Ark" or the CBS special in 1993 entitled, "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark." The first is a work of fiction claiming to be a documentary. The second was masterminded by George Jammal, who admitted that the story was a hoax. Jammal said he wanted to expose religious frauds. His hoax was seen by about 20 million people, most of whom probably still do not know that Jammal did not want them to take it seriously.
During his show, Jammal produced what he called "sacred wood" from the ark, which he later admitted was wood taken from railroad tracks in Long Beach, California, which he had hardened by cooking in an oven. He also prepared other fake wood by frying a piece of California pine on his kitchen stove in a mix of wine, iodine, sweet-and-sour and teriyaki sauces. He also admitted that he had never been to Turkey. The program was produced by Sun International Pictures, based in Salt Lake City, and responsible for several pseudo-documentaries on Nostradamus, the Bermuda Triangle, the Shroud of Turin, and UFOs.
What I would really like to see, though, is a documentary done by creation
scientists where they rebuild the ark and show us all how it was done.
Cerone, Daniel, "Admitting 'Noah's Ark' Hoax," Los Angeles Times, October 30,1993, p. F-1.
Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths and Mysteries - Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology (Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Compnay, 1990).
Moore, Robert A. "The impossible voyage of Noah's ark," Creation/Evolution 11:1-43.
Plimer, Ian. Telling Lies for God (Random House, 1994).
Robert Todd Carroll