By: George Rudzinski
Re: Ark 1 of 15
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Creation/Evolution XI (Volume 4, Number 1)
Special Issue:The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark
*Robert Moore, a writer on religious subjects, has testified at hearings on
church-state issues and is an experienced mountain climber (with no intention
of joining any ark expedition).
Copyright @ 1983 by Robert A. Moore
The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark
Robert A. Moore*
Suppose you picked up the newspaper tomorrow morning and were startled to see
headlines announcing the discovery of a large ship high on the snowy slopes of
Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey As you hurriedly scanned the article, you learned
that a team from the Institute for Creation Research had unearthed the vessel
and their measurements and studies had determined that it perfectly matched
the description of Noah's Ark given in the book of Genesis. Would this be
proof at last--the "smoking gun" as it were--that the earliest chapters of the
Bible were true and that the story they told of a six-day creation and a
universal flood was a sober, scientific account?
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is no. Even this sensational find is not
enough to validate a literal reading of Genesis. Our continuing skepticism is
in the tradition of philosopher David Hume, who wrote that "the knavery and
folly of men are such common phenomena that I should rather believe the most
extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence than admit of so signal a
violation of the laws of nature." As we shall see, the story of the great
flood and the voyage of the ark, as expounded by modern creationists, contains
so many incredible "violations of the laws of nature" that it cannot possibly
be accepted by any thinking person. Despite ingenious efforts to lend a degree
of plausibility to the tale, nothing can be salvaged without the direct and
constant intervention of the deity.
Building the Ark
The requirements of the story.
To make this point clear, let's start at the beginning of the biblical
narrative and follow the story step by step. From the moment the impending
storm is announced (Genesis 6:7, 13, 17) and Jehovah sets forth the design and
dimensions of the ark (Genesis 6:14-16), problems start appearing.
The ark is to be made out of gopher wood according to a plan that for
the ark to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits
tall (450x75x45 feet, according to most creationists. See Segraves, p.11). It
is to contain three floors, a large door in the side, and a one cubit square
window at the top. The floors are to be divided into rooms, and all the walls,
inside and out, are to be pitched with pitch. Since the purpose of the ark is
to hold animals and plants, particularly two of "every living thing of all
flesh . . . to keep them alive with thee" (Genesis 6:19), it will have to be
Most creationists simply breeze through this description of the size and
requirements of the ark without a second glance ("It is hard to believe that
intelligent people see a problem here"--LaHaye and Morris, _The Ark on
Ararat_, p.248), often with a passing comment about the architectural skill
of ancient peoples as manifested in the Seven Wonders of the World. But Noah's
boat-building accomplishments have not been fully appreciated by his fans.
In the first place, the analogy with the Seven Wonders does not hold. Only
one, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, comes within two thousand years of Noah's
day, and it is really the only one whose construction could conceivably
approach the level of sophistication of the ark. But the Great Pyramid did
not spring _de novo_ from the desert sands; rather, it was the culmination of
over a century of architectural evolution, beginning when the "experimenting
genius," Imhotep, inspired by the ziggurats of Babylon, built the Step Pyramid
around 2680 _BC_, passing through some intermediate step pyramids to the Bent
Pyramid of Snofru, then the first true pyramid, and finally the masterpiece at
Cheop (Stewart, pp.35-39).
On the other hand, in an era when hollowed-out logs and reed rafts were the
extent of marine transport, a vessel so massive appeared that the likes of it
would not be seen again until the mid-nineteenth century AD. Before he could
even contemplate such a project, Noah would have needed a thorough education
in naval architecture and in fields that would not arise for thousands of
years such as physics, calculus, mechanics, and structural analysis. There
was no shipbuilding tradition behind him, no experienced craftspeople to offer
advice. Where did he learn the framing procedure for such a Brobdingnagian
structure? How could he anticipate the effects of roll, pitch, yaw, and
slamming in a rough sea? How did he solve the differential equations for
bending moment, torque, and shear stress?
Ancient shipbuilding did achieve a considerable level of technological
sophistication, so much so that marine archaeologists are divided over its
history (Basch, p.52). But this was for vessels that were dinghies compared
to the ark, and this skill emerged slowly over many centuries: nearly a
millennium passed while Egyptian boat lengths increase from 150 to 200 feet
(Casson, p.17). Despite this, the craft remained a prescientific art, acquired
through long years of apprenticeship and experience, and disasters at sea due
to faulty design were so persistent that the impetus was strong for a more
scientific approach (Rawson and Tupper, p.2). Obviously, the astronomical
leap in size, safety, and skill required by Noah is far too vast for any
Not only was the ark without pedigree, it was without descendants also
Creationists Kofahl and Segraves tell us that civilization quickly redeveloped
after the flood because the survivors carried over the prediluvian culture:
Noah lived 350 years afterwards, Shem 502 (_The Creation Explanation_, p.227).
During this time, people were fanning out and "replenishing the earth,"
carrying with them reminiscences of the deluge that would someday excite
American missionaries from Sumatra to Spitzbergen. Yet Noah's primary to humanity, his incredible knowledge of naval
engineering, without a trace, and the seafarers returned to their
hollow logs reed rafts. Like a passing mirage, the ark was here one day and
gone the , leaving not a ripple in the long saga of ship-building.
The needs of the animals.
As if the rough construction of the ship weren't headache enough, the internal
organization had to be honed to perfection. With space at a premium every
cubit had to be utilized to the maximum; there was no room for oversized cages
and wasted space. The various requirements of the myriads of animals had to be
taken into account in the design of their quarters, especially considering the
length of the voyage. The problems are legion: feeding and watering troughs
need to be the correct height for easy access but not on the floor where they
will get filthy; the cages for horned animals must have bars spaced properly
to prevent their horns from getting stuck, while rhinos require round "bomas"
for the same reason; a heavy leather body sling is "indispensable" for
transporting giraffes; primates require tamper-proof locks on their doors;
perches must be the correct diameter for each particular bird's foot (Hirst;
Vincent). Even the flooring is important, for, if it is too hard, hooves may
be injured, if too soft, they may grow too quickly and permanently damage
ankles (Klos); rats will suffer decubitus (ulcers) with improper floors
(Orlans), and ungulates must have a cleated surface or they will slip and fall
(Fowler). These and countless other technical problems all had to be resolved
before the first termite crawled aboard, but there were no wildlife management
experts available for consultation. Even today the transport requirements of
many species are not fully known, and it would be physically impossible to
design a single carrier to meet them all. Apparently, when God first told Noah
to build an ark, he supplied a complete set of blueprints and engineering
details, constituting the most intricate and precise revelation ever
vouchsafed to humankind.
Problems for the builders.
So Noah grabbed his tools and went to work. LaHaye and Morris tell us that
Noah and his three sons could have built the entire thing by themselves in a
mere eighty-one years (p.248). This includes not merely framing up a hull
but: building docks, scaffolds, workshops; fitting together the incredible
maze of cages and crates; gathering provisions for the coming voyage; the timber and producing all the various types of lumber
from bird bars to the huge keelson beams--not to mention wrestling the
very heavy, planks for the ship into their exact location and fastening
them. 's worse, by the time the job was finished, the earlier phases
would be away--a difficulty often faced by builders of wooden ships,
whose took only four or five years (Thrower, p.32).
Faced with such criticism, the creationists quickly convert the humble,
righteous farmer into a wealthy capitalist who simply hired all the help he
needed (Segraves, p.86-87). It is estimated that the construction of the
Great Pyramid required as many as 100,000 slaves; Noah could have probably
gotten by with less (there were, after all, "giants in the earth in those
days" according to Genesis 6:4), but what he lacked in numbers he sorely
needed in experienced and highly skilled craftsmen. How did he learn when to
fell a tree and how to dry it properly to prevent rot and splitting, when the
larger beams might take several years to cure (cf. Dumas and Gille, p.322)?
Did the local reed-raft builder have equipment to steam heat a plank so it
could be forced into the proper position? A shipyard in nineteenth-century
Maine would have been overwhelmed by the size and complexity of this job, yet
Noah still supposedly found enough time to hold revivals and preach doomsday
throughout the land (Segraves, pp.87-90).
God told the patriarch to coat the ark, both inside and out, all 229,500
square feet of it, with pitch, and, in fact, this was a common practice in
ancient times. But when Noah hurried to the corner hardware store, the shelf
was bare, for pitch is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon similar to petroleum
(Rosenfeld, p.126), and we know that oil, tar, and coal deposits were formed
when organic matter was buried and subjected to extreme pressure during the
flood (Whitcomb and Morris, pp.277-278, 434-436), so none of it existed in
the prediluvian world. Morris (1976, p.182) tries to say that the word for
"pitch" merely means "covering," but not only do all other Bible dictionaries
and commentaries translate it "pitch" or "bitumen," but creationist Nathan M.
Meyer reveals that all the wood recovered by arkaeologists on Mt. Ararat is
"saturated with pitch" (p.85). Thus it seems that God accommodated Noah by
creating an antediluvian tar pit just for the occasion, and we have another
Finally, our farmer-turned-architect had to confront the gravest difficulty of
all: in the words of A. M. Robb, there was an "upper limit, in the region of
300 feet, on the length of the wooden ship; beyond such a length the due to the differing distributions of weight and
buoyancy became , with consequent difficulty in maintaining the hull
watertight" (p. ). Pollard and Robertson concur, emphasizing that "a wooden ship
had great as a structure. The absolute limit of its length was 300
feet, and it liable to 'hogging' and 'sagging'" (pp.13-14). This is the
major reason the naval industry turned to iron and steel in the 1850s. The
largest ships ever built were the six-masted schooners, nine of
which were between 1900 and 1909. These ships were so long that they
required iron strapping for support; they "snaked," or visibly
undulated, as passed through the waves, they leaked so badly that they had
to be pumped , and they were only used on short coastal hauls because
they were in deep water. John J. Rockwell, the designer of the first
of this , confessed that "six masters were not practical. They were
too long for construction" (Laing, pp.393, 403-409). Yet the ark was over
100 feet than the longest six-master, the 329 foot U.S.S. _Wyoming_,
and it had endure the most severe conditions ever encountered while
transporting the critically important cargo ever hauled. Clearly, God had to
imbue this assembled gopherwood with some very special properties
to fit it the voyage.
So it should be clear by now why "intelligent people" somehow see a "problem"
in the building of the ark.
Accommodating All Those Animals
The requirements of the story.
With the huge freighter near completion, the time was drawing near when its
colorful cargo would clamber aboard. We now turn to this subject to see if we
can learn who and how many made the fateful trip.
Genesis 6:19-20 declares that two of each kind of animal were to be collected
and brought on board. This is repeated in Genesis 7:8-9, and it is explicitly
stated that this applied to clean and unclean beasts as well as to birds. But
Genesis 7:2-3 specifies that clean beasts and birds were to be taken by
_sevens_. Whatever the numbers, it is clear that no animals could be left out.
Genesis 7:4 states that "every living substance" that God made was to be
destroyed "from off the face of the earth" by the impending flood. Genesis
7:23 repeats the point and adds that only those things with Noah in the ark
Limiting the cargo to "kinds."
Creationists realize that the ark had a limited amount of room and they are
aware of the large number of species in the animal kingdom. Therefore, they
have employed various tactics to reduce the population needed on board.
Probably the most important tactic is to restrict the command to "kinds"
rather than species and to argue that the former are much fewer in number
than the latter.
A kind (or "baramin" in creationist jargon) is the unit of life
made by God. Within each kind is an enormous potential for variation,
LaHaye , during the past six thousand years or so, in a large
number of animals that scientists classify into species. Meyer
contends that He created into the reproductive apparatus of genes and
chromosomes the of endless hereditary combinations producing the
possibility of variety within each 'kind'" (p.37). By juggling the number
of kinds, and Morris reduce the total population aboard the ark to ,000
(p.247), Whitcomb and Morris reduce it to 35,000 (p.69), while Dr. Arthur
Jones squeezes it down to a bare bones total of 1,544 (quoted in Balsiger and
Is this a valid argument? Without going into the details of genetics, it can
be stated that every inherited trait, however small, is coded for by one or
more genes, and each gene locus may have a substantial number of variants
(alleles), which accounts for the great variety observed in a given population.
Any specific individual, however, has at most only two alleles per locus--one
from each parent. As James C. King writes:
There is good evidence for concluding that every message coded in the DNA
exists in any sizeable population in numerous versions, forming a
spectrum grading from grossly defective alleles--such as the one for
albinism--at one end, through the slightly deviant, to the normal at the
other end. And the normal is probably not a single version of the message
but a collection of slightly different alleles. (p. 55)
Hence, for a trait such as human pigmentation, "we can visualize not merely a
few dozen interacting loci but an array of perhaps a dozen or so alleles at
each locus" (p.60).
From this we can see that the original canine baramin in Eden would
needed a fantastic set of giant chromosomes with alleles for every trait that
would someday be manifest in coyotes, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingos, fennecs,
and the myriad of minute variations in hair color (twenty-four genes at nine
loci), height, face shape, and so forth that are seen in the domestic dog (cf.
Hutt). So, too, for the feline kind, within which creationists Byron Nelson
(p.157) and Alfred Rehwinkel (p.70) both place lions, tigers, leopards, and
ocelots as well as housecats. Similar giant chromosomes would be required for
the bovine kind, equine kind, and so on.
In the centuries before the deluge, these strange progenitors must have
rapidly diversified into their potential species, as the fossil record shows.
The equine kind developed not only zebras, horses, onagers, asses, and quaggas
but Eohippus, Mesohippus, Merychippus, and other now-extinct species that
paleontologists have misinterpreted as evidence for evolution. (Remember that
creationists hold that the flood is responsible for the burial of most, if not
all, fossil species. Therefore they had to already exist prior to the deluge.)
Then one day, many centuries later, the Lord told Noah to take two canines,
two felines, two equines, two pinnipedians--one male and one female each--and
put them aboard the ark. The trick is, which does our ancient zoologist
choose? A male kit fox and a female Great Dane? A female lion and a male alley
cat? An Eohippus and a Clydesdale? Which two individuals would possess the
tremendous genetic complement that their ancestors in Eden had, to enable the
many species to reappear after the flood? How could Noah tell? Creationist
Dennis Wagner tells us that the original kinds degenerated through inbreeding
so that their offspring would "_never again_ reach the hereditary variability
of the parent" (quoted in Awbrey; my emphasis). Yet the unique couple aboard
the ark needed the full genetic potential of the original kind, if not more,
for a vast new array of climatic and geographic niches was opened up by the
Speaking of a hypothetical group of six or eight animals stranded on an
island, King says, "Such a small number could not possibly reflect the actual
allelic frequencies found in the large mainland population" (p.107). What,
then, of the single pair on the ark?
These criticisms apply to the eight humans aboard the boat as well (Genesis
6:18 and 7:7). Creationists still cling to obsolete stereotypes concerning the
"three distinct families of man" descended from Noah's three sons (Custance,
p.204) and even talk candidly of the Afro-Asian "Hamites" being "possessed of
a racial character concerned mainly with mundane matters" and subject to
displacement by "the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites
and the religious zeal of the Semites" (Henry Morris, 1977, p.130).
In reality the ethnic complexity found throughout the world cannot be derived
from the flood survivors in the few centuries since that time. The human
genetic pool was reduced to five individuals--Mr. and Mrs. Noah and their
daughters-in-law (the three sons don't count because they only carry of the genes present in Mr. and Mrs. Noah, unless
creationists willing to admit to beneficial gene mutations). And even if, by
some freak , the five people never had a variant in common, there
would still far too few alleles to account for humankind's diversity. Nearly
a third of genes are-polymorphic (Bodner and Cavalli-Sforzi, p.589), and
some, as the two controlling A and B antigens, with thirty varieties
(p.589), require substantially more people than Genesis makes available.
If creationists allowed beneficial mutations to produce the thirty different
antigens of the A and B series in the HLA region, it would still not solve
their problem. Individuals are only heterozygous at a fairly low percentage of
loci (5 to 20 percent), while the population could be polymorphic at nearly
half the loci. It's questionable how viable an individual would be with a high
percentage of heterozygosity (Dobzhansky, Ayala, et al., p.72).
Creationist Lane Lester recognizes the force of these facts, but he believes
that supergenes, several genes acting in concert, would solve the problem
(p.251). This, however, only confuses the concept of supergenes, which control
several characters in an organism, not one, and thus cannot produce the
observed variety in a population from two parents (cf. Parkin, p.141). How
this horizontal evolution would be realized is even more mystifying. Since
each generation would receive a huge set of variants, including maladaptive
recessives, a wholly random mix of oddball creatures should result, and the
rapid, efficient adaptations necessary in the hostile post-flood climate would
prove impossible. How could the arctic fox branch of the canine baramin be
assured that only those alleles permitting tolerance to extreme cold would
dominate? Why shouldn't freshwater fish hatch offspring manifesting the genes
of their saltwater relatives? Furthermore, strangely shaped chromosomes and
odd-numbered sets of them (necessary to contain the excess genes) usually
disrupt meiotic cell division and produce sterile offspring (White, pp.172,
On the other hand, it seems puzzling that such diversification should occur at
all, for the originally created kinds were "good" and their "devolution" would
"reduce the ability of the animal to survive in nature" (Whitcomb, 1972,
p.80); since the baramins, after all, prospered and replenished in the bleak
desolation of post-diluvian Armenia, they should feel comfortable in any
environment today. The impetus for speciation is lacking in this model, and
there is no reason why, say, a snow leopard should evolve when the superior,
better-fit "feline-min" migrated into an alpine environment. We can only
conclude with creationist Walter Lammerts that "intelligent design" was
activating and controlling this entire process (p.261).
The taxonomy of kinds is another bewildering subject. The only clear thrust of
creationist writing seems to be ridiculing the concept of species, a term
usually rendered with quotation marks. We respond with White that, "if we were
to give up the notion of species altogether, most discussions in such fields
as ecology, ethology, population genetics, and cytogenetics (to name only a
few) would simply become impossible" (p.5).
Aside from this, the creationist baramin can vary anywhere from the level
of genus to order (Siegler, 1978)--or even to phylum (Ward, p.49)--although
there seems to be a vague consensus approximating it with the biological
family. The most often-cited instance of a kind, for example, is the family
Canidae, which has fourteen genera and thirty-five species (Siegler, 1974).
But Sciuridae (squirrels) has 281 species, and the _genus Rattus_ (old world
rats) has several hundred. Would creationists recognize the eighteen families
of bats, with their eight-hundred-plus species, as eighteen distinct kinds, or
would they make the order Chiroptera into a single bat kind? Would they
distinguish the nearly thirty families (two thousand species) of catfish? At
the other extreme are many families with but a single species, and even higher
categories, such as the orders Tubulidentata (aardvarks) and Struthioniformes
(ostriches) or even the phylum Placozoa, with but one representative. Why did
the creator endow rats, bats, catfish, and mosquitos (twenty-five hundred
species in family Culicidae) with such adaptive potential but withhold this
potential from aardvarks, ostriches, and placozoans, especially when we learn
that "each baramin was intended to move toward maximum variation" (Ancil, p.
124)? What becomes of the science of taxonomy under this basis or when the
"major categories" (phyla?) are sea monsters, other marine animals, birds,
beasts of the earth, cattle, and crawling animals (Henry Morris,
The theory of kinds is incoherent and confusing. Since it runs counter to all
the known facts of genetics and taxonomy, the burden of proof is upon the
creationists to verify it. Where are the fossil baramins? What findings show
that such ideal creatures ever existed? If complete sets of kind alleles could
survive twenty-four hundred or more years of radiation before the flood, it
should be possible to find specimens today with inexplicably large chromosomal
complements; perhaps in undiversified families. Unfortunately for "baramin
geneticists," studies _have_ been done on such families (cf. Loughman, Frye,
and Herald), and nothing extraordinary has been discovered. Still no are forthcoming from the ICR to test its hypothesis. It
is, in , "armchair science" without a shred of evidence, and we are
justified in it entirely and assuming that "two of every sort" means
two of every species.
Leaving Some Things Behind
Another foil used to lighten the ark is the assertion that many, in fact most,
species could have survived outside the ark and, _eo ipso_, did. Creationists
somehow do not mind that this gambit is contradicted by Scripture (Genesis 7:4,
23). So, starting with fish and marine invertebrates, the list is expanded to
include aquatic mammals, amphibians, most other invertebrates, sea birds, and
"land animals that could not have survived otherwise" (LaHaye and Morris, p.
246), culminating in John D. Morris's spectacle of dinosaurs "somehow surviving
outside" (1978, p.201; cf. Whitcomb and Morris, pp.68-69). From this it is
but a short step to the ancient Eastern legend that the giant Og of Bashan
survived by wading after the ark! But can the great ship be so easily emptied?
We can dismiss the waterlogged Stegosaurus splashing about for 371 days as an
idea as absurd as Og of Bashan's big swim; amphibians and other animals that
need some terra firma can be passed by as well. Let's go directly to those
creatures that spend all of their lives in the water.
Although creationists seem to think that once you're wet it's all same,
there are actually many aquatic regimes and many specialized inhabitants in
each. Some fish live only in cold, clear mountain lakes; others in brackish
swamps. Some depend on splashing, rocky, oxygen-rich creeks, while others,
such as a freshwater dolphin, a manatee, and a thirteen-foot catfish, live
only in the sluggish Amazon. In all these instances plus many more, the
environment provided by the deluge waters would have no more suited these
creatures than it would have the desert tortoise or the polar bear.
The salinity of the oceans would have been substantially affected the
flood; Whitcomb and Morris lamely address this concern by noting that some
saltwater fish can survive in freshwater and vice versa and that "some
individuals of each kind would be able to survive the gradual mixing of the
waters and gradual change in salinities during and after the flood" (p.387).
We are asked to believe that a storm so vast that the tops of the mountains
were covered in forty days was so "gradual" that fish could adapt to these
In reality, although some species can inhabit both fresh and saline waters,
most freshwater fish dropped in saltwater shrivel and die, while saltwater
fish dropped in freshwater bloat and die. Creationist E. Norbert Smith
theorizes that the denser saltwater would not have mixed with the flood's
freshwater and thus both varieties of fish could have made it through. But his
own experiment, in which a goldfish thoroughly mingled the two types of water
in a fishbowl in fifteen days, shows how long the separation would last during
the violent shiftings of the earth called for in the creationist flood model.
Arguing over salinity is, however, a moot point, for the environmental hazards
of the flood had to be so great that the salt content would be a fish's least
concern. We must remember that, according to creationists, the deluge, in one
year's time, deposited nearly all of the sedimentary rocks present in the
world today. To get some idea of how muddy this would be, we should note that
creationist flood theorists maintain that the original ocean basins were
greatly enlarged to their present depths to receive the retreating flood
waters (Whitcomb, 1973, pp. 35, 38); therefore, the quantity of water in the
oceans is basically equivalent to that of the flood. This volume is 1,350 x
l0^6 cubic kilometers. The volume of Phanerozoic sedimentary rock ("flood
deposits") is 654x10^6 cubic kilometers (Blatt, Middleton, and Murray, p.34).
The ratio of water to rock is thus 2.06:1. Try mixing two parts water to one
part sand; double or even triple the equivalent to that of the flood. Try
mixing two parts water to one part sand; double or even triple the amount of
the water, and then stick your pet goldfish into the muck and see how long
Then, too, most of the world's volcanic activity, sea-floor spreading,
mountain-building, and continent-splitting was supposed to have occurred at
this time as well, filling the seas with additional huge volumes of rock, ash,
and noxious gases. Undersea volcanoes usually decimate all life in the
surrounding area (Buljan), and their extent had to be global during this
terrible year. The earth's prediluvian surface would thus have been scoured
clean, and forests, multi-ton boulders, and the debris of civilization hurtled
about like missiles. Finally, this tremendous explosion of energy would have
transformed the seas into a boiling cauldron in which no life could possibly
Accurate calculations are nearly impossible, given the creationist penchant
for vagueness; but by multiplying the amount of heat generated during a
typical volcanic eruption (cf. Macdonald, p.60; Bullard, p.288) by the total
volume of such material (Macdonald, pp.350-351)--most of which would have
poured out in the few months under consideration--we arrive at a mind-boggling
3.65 _octillion_ calories. This is enough to raise the temperature of the
oceans by more than 2700oC! Obviously, nearly any concessions, any margins of
error, can be granted to the creationists within their geological framework
and the flood water would remain a churning, boiling inferno, easily God's intention of destroying the world.
Yet amidst all of this, creationist icthyologists aver that life went on as
usual, with a few minor adjustments to the "gradual" changes. The salmon swam
to their (long-vanished) riparian breeding grounds that fall as they always
had; sea anemones clung to their rocky perches, which were on the beach one
month and the abyssal plain the next; blue whales continued to strain for
krill even though their baleen plates were choked with mud; corals, which grow
in clear, shallow water, somehow grew anyway; hapless bottom dwellers, their
lives carefully adjusted to certain conditions of pressure and temperature,
suddenly saw the former increase by more than 5,000 pounds per square inch
and the latter fluctuate in who knows what directions.
Backhaus tells us that "aquatic species would pay for any attempts at with their lives or, at any rate, would not survive
for very " (p.194). Most are highly sensitive to changes in salinity,
temperature, , oxygen, and even trace elements (cf. Bond; Hill). The
conclusion is : barring a special miracle from God, nothing but the
hardiest could have survived the flood outside the ark.
Of course, the omnipotent deity could have performed several million miracles and preserved representatives of the
invertebrates, , amphibians, and even dinosaurs outside the ark; but, if so,
why not the coverage to the few remaining terrestrial vertebrates
and dispense the boat altogether? Again, by some freak combination of luck,
we may one male and one female octopus surviving the disaster and
somehow each other between Japan and California to renew their
species, the only way Noah, as designated curator of the world zoo,
could have their persistence was by bringing them aboard. We must
conclude, , that every species of the animal kingdom had at least
two members the ark.
So now we are back to fitting all the animals on board. Yet creationists still
have another method of saving space. They postulate that many full-grown adult
animal forms were left behind and that only young and thus smaller specimens
were taken or--the ultimate economy--that eggs were sufficient for the
preservation of the dinosaurs (John Morris, 1980, p.66). Most zoologists,
however, would agree with Neill when he writes that "the mortality rate is
usually very high among seedling plants and young animals; but once the
critical juvenile stage is passed, the organism has a good chance of reaching
old age" (p.388). In birds, for example, as many as 80 percent die before
reaching maturity (Dathe)-- facing everyday hazards. Furthermore, the young of
many species cannot survive without parental care and feeding (imagine two
tiny unweaned kittens shivering in their stalls!), and, even if they can, the
lack of a normal social environment often results in severe behavioral
disturbances. The luckless animals aboard the ark were confronting the gravest
challenge to their endurance ever known, and they needed to be the strongest,
healthiest, and most virile representatives their species had ever produced;
juveniles would not do. As for the dinosaur eggs, how did Noah know whether
one would yield a female, the other a male--or even that both were fertile?
And since no eggs require a year's gestation, he soon would have had a hoard
of fragile hatchlings on his hands.
Plants and seeds.
Noah's responsibilities did not end with animals, for without plants all life
would perish. Whitcomb and Morris grant that many seeds were aboard the ark in
the food stores (p.70) but quote fellow creationist Walter Lammerts to the
effect that "many thousands" of plants survived either upon their own "arks"
of floating debris or simply by experiencing a rather thorough watering and
then sprouted again as soon as the sun came out. George Howe, too, referring
to an experiment where three of five species showed germination after twenty
weeks of soaking in sea water, concluded that the survival rate through
dormancy would have been high (December 1968). However, two of these three
sprouted only when their seed coats were scarified (cut). This presents a
special problem. The abrasive force of the deluge would have easily scarified
the seed coats, but this would have been too soon. The seeds would have
sprouted under water and died. But after the flood waters receded and the
seeds were exposed to dry land, what would guarantee their being scarified
then? Howe's experiments failed to properly duplicate the conditions required
by the flood model and hence his work offers no support for seed survival
during the deluge.
In reality, seed dormancy is a complex affair and involves metabolic and
environmental prerequisites for entrance into and recovery from the state as
well as several forms of quiescence. The vast majority of seeds which become
dormant do so in order to endure cold temperatures or prolonged drought, and
in the warm flood waters most would germinate immediately and then drown for
lack of oxygen (cf. Villiers).
The waters weren't the only thing that would bury them, however, for huge
deposits of silt and lava would have been laid down as well, entombing entire
forests and paving the way for coal and oil formation. Today the surface of
the ground consists of 80 percent Phanerozoic rock and only 20 percent
Precambrian ("pre-diluvian"), the latter found mostly in large shields and
entirely absent in many areas (Kummel, p.87). These shields themselves would
have been eroded to the bedrock by the flooding ("the vegetation would have
been uprooted . . . leaving no protection at all for the exposed soils"--
Whitcomb and Morris, p.261), and in the rest of the world the few seeds that
may have survived would have faced the task of pushing up a sprout through
thousands of feet of mud and rock.
Floating is also unsatisfactory as a means of riding out the storm. Less than 1
percent of sermatophytes produce disseminules which drift for as long as one
month, much less a year (Gunn and Dennis, p.4). And although many debris rafts
could have been torn loose during the early days of the storm, such vessels
tend to break up in rough water (Zimmerman, p.57), so they would not have
lasted very long. If somehow a few of them did, how would they know where to
unload their precious cargo afterward?
Suppose, for example, that a hefty chunk was torn loose from a grown
forest and managed to swing through a sparse desert area, where such rafts
presumably wouldn't form, to pick up seeds from a few rare cacti. After a year
at sea, what is the likelihood that these seeds would be dropped in an area
where the temperature, rainfall, soil, and light would be suitable for their
growth? As the retreating waters evaporated, the topsoil would become with salts much like the beds of dry lakes in arid
regions, and all the hardiest halophilic plants would find the ground too toxic
for any . Seawater contains thirty-five grams of salts per liter, and
most cannot tolerate one-tenth this concentration (Levitt,
p.371); the left in the soil would clearly be excessive. Finally,
assuming that seeds did reach a survivable spot, how long would their
flowers have to before the birds and insects arrived from Ararat to
cross-polinate them? the many species indigenous to the New World hold on while the
transatlantic trip was made?
Isaac Asimov observes that the ancient Hebrews did not regard plants as alive
in the same sense animals are (p.49); therefore they no doubt had no problem
picturing olive trees enduring a year's drowning and sprouting immediately
afterward. Today's fundamentalists should have learned some botany since then,
but they still carry on about the "hardiness" of olives (Whitcomb and Morris,
p.105), and Nathan Meyer knows of a bristlecone pine that was five hundred
years old when the big rains came and is still living (p.42)!
If we are to take the deluge seriously, we must be much more skeptical about
such stories. The creationists need to soak seeds in very deep, muddy water
for a year and then plant them in unconsolidated, briny silt in an unfavorable
climate without insect or avian pollinators to see what happens. Have their
mathematicians, so skilled at calculating improbabilities for protein , ever determined the odds of a seed enduring the flood
and then in the right soil and climate rather than being swept out
to sea by retreating waters or coming down in Antarctica?
It seems that Noah needed to have not merely "many" seeds but many samples of
all the seeds and spores of the 420,000-plus species of plants in order to
guarantee their survival--or else we must tally up a few million more miracles
of divine preservation.
Sizing Up the Load
Getting an accurate count.
We can finally begin to make some calculations. Robert D. Barnes lists the
number of living species for each phylum, ranging from the sole member of
Placozoa to the 923,000 in Arthropoda (pp.12, 85-88). Using his figures, we
arrive at a total of 1,177,920 species.
In addition, there are many animals that are as yet unknown. Wendt estimates
that only 2 percent of all the parasitic worms are known, which would easily
add another million species (p. 83). This includes as many as 500,000 , although only 15,000 have been described (Levine, p.1).
Ten new species of insects are discovered every year, yet
still only a fraction of those in existence have been found (Atkins, p.45).
All of those creatures were known at one time, for Adam gave them all names
(Genesis 2:19-20), and, since they exist today, they must have been on the
ark. But we shall be extremely generous to the creationists and add only
500,000 undiscovered species to our figure of 1,177,920--thus giving a mere
1,677,920 species with which Noah had to contend.
To this number, we must add the myriad of extinct prehistoric , which
creationists assure us were alive at the time of the flood, making tracks in
the Paluxy River, and which were known to Job afterward (John Morris, 1980,
p.65). This would vastly increase the numbers, since "only a tiny percentage
of the animal and plant species that have ever existed are alive today" (Kear,
p.10). However, since creationists do not believe in transitional forms, we
can again give them the benefit of the doubt and add to our total only the
200,000 different fossils that have been described. This brings the number to
1,877,920 species or animal pairs that were to be boarded onto the ark.
Of course, we can't forget that Genesis 7:2-3 (particularly in the Revised
Standard Version) makes it clear that only unclean animals come in single
pairs, male and female; the clean animals and birds come in seven pairs, male
and female. That means fourteen of each clean animal and each bird. But since
figures for the number of clean animals are hard to find, we will have to let
creationists off the hook and ignore them. Birds are another story. There are
8,590 species of birds. Since they have already been calculated into our
figure of 1,877,920 species or 3,755,840 individual animals on the ark, we
need only six more pairs of each species of bird to make it come out to seven
pairs. That brings our count up to a grand total of 3,858,920 animals aboard
the ark--two of each species, except birds which number fourteen each.
Problems with the biblical limits.
This figure may seem excessive at first glance, but in reality it is so small
as to be unrealistic. Many animals need more than a single pair to reproduce.
Bees and other hymenopterans live in colonies and "apart from the community
[they] cannot properly function or survive" (Lindauer, p.l28). Many types of
flies engage in reproductive swarming. Some birds will not mate unless they
are part of a flock (Conway, p.205; Kleiman, p.255), and many fish spawn
only as part of a school (Bond, p.434). In fact, "animals which unite into
colonies for purposes of reproduction are by no means rare phenomena" Wendt, p.118).
The whole process of mating, egg-laying, gestation, and the survival of the
fragile young is a risky business that can easily be aborted by many factors,
including predators, disease, exposure to the elements, and so on. In many
species of spiders, given the chance the female will kill and devour the male
_before_ they mate; on the ark, the hapless husband would have to be fleetfooted or his wife would unwittingly exterminate
her ! Infanticide is another significant concern and occurs
frequently even primates. Dayflies, so named because their mature stage lasts
only a few , form a tiny cloud of dancing males trying to attract
females, with a mating rate of at most 1 percent (Wendt, p.135). Even the
prodigious rabbits fare poorly outside many-chambered warrens, the work of
numerous individuals (Andrewartha, p.134).
Locating one's mate can also be tricky. The Sumatran rhino depends on points in its range, and, if it can't visit these, it
loses with others and reproduction doesn't occur (Lang). The
tick, _Ixodes , mates only on a sheep which must browse through a field
and by pick up both a male and a female tick--and even then these
poor can't find one another if they are too far apart on the
sheep's body Andrewartha, p.55). Imagine the microscopic parasites of a bull
elephant, to two per species by Sacred Writ, searching for each other
on the cosmos of their host's body!
Competitive social behavior between males is often necessary to achieve
successful androgen levels (Kleiman, p.247); an isolated male is effectively
impotent. Individual incompatibility between a pair of animals is another
commonplace, often thwarting the most determined zoo keepers' efforts at
All told, with but a single male and female apiece, or even seven pairs of
birds and clean animals, every species on earth would be well below the margin
of endangerment, and the chances of successful survival, especially in the
devastation of the post-diluvian world, would be so small that they can he
considered nil. Conservation biologists estimate a minimum size of fifty for a
species's survival. Hence our grand total could be multiplied many times and
still represent only the most tenuous hold of life on earth.
Was there room enough on the ark? It contained 450x75x45=1,518,750 cubic feet
of space if it was exactly rectangular with no curve on the keel or elsewhere.
Part of this was occupied by the quarters for Noah and his family. Room had to
be provided for the orderly compartmentalization of plants and seeds. An
immense storage area for food, fresh water, and waste was needed. Also, the
ark had to have corridors throughout, large enough for the passage of the
bulkiest animals to their stalls when boarding and unboarding and at least
large enough for the crew to pass into the most remote corners of the vessel.
There would finally be a considerable volume lost in wood alone; the decks,
larger cages, supporting beams, and so on would occupy a considerable space.
The six-masted schooners had keelsons 7 feet high and 8 feet wide running the
full length of the hull and often used 20 x 20 inch beams (Snow); the switch
to iron construction increased cargo capacity by upwards of 20 percent (cf.
If we conservatively allow all of these requirements to consume 30 percent of
the space, this leaves 1,063,125 cubic feet to be divided among the nearly 4
million animals, resulting in a mere 0.275 cubic foot per individual! No
arrangement of cages, however ingenious, no high-density packing of minute
invertebrates, could squeeze everyone into this amount of room. For , a sable antelope or red hartebeest needs a crate of 57
cubic feet the brief journey from capture to quarantine; a zebra, 77 cubic
feet; -sized giraffe, 99; eland, 110; hippopotamus or small
elephant, 214 adapted from Hirst, p.121). These seven species alone, male and
female, more than 5,600 times the allotment per specimen for a trip
that exceeds three days. For the 371 days of the flood, the area
would need be greatly enlarged--for crowding and lack of exercise would be
extremely , if not fatal, to most (cf. Young, p.137; Voss, p.157).
Many birds have high roofs with room to fly, and even a pond snail needs
a gallon of for adequate living (Orlans, p.85).
Probably the greatest space requirements are involved in keeping aquatic
organisms. Many fish swim continually, even when sleeping, and the general
rule is 100 gallons of water per pound of animal weight (Atz, p.180). Gruber
and Keyes state that "the primary cause of mortality in captive pelagic sharks
is that their living space is not large enough" (p.376). Marineland of the
Pacific has an 80x22 foot circular whale stadium of 640,000 gallons, four small whales and some dolphins; the many large
whales would aquaria "the size of a football stadium" (Hill, p.151).
All of this would have constituted a tremendous weight. Filby would put a mere
hundred tons of animals aboard, with a few thousand tons of supplies (cited by
Montgomery, p.58). However, a mature sheep (the creationists' average-sized
animal) weighs 120 pounds, and at this rate the vertebrates alone would exceed
4,500 tons. When the huge volume of food and drinking water, the hundreds of
thousands of gallons in the aquaria, and the giant dinosaurs and prehistoric
mammals are included, it is clear that the ark would have sunk like a brick
the moment it was launched.
At this stage, further discussion of the overcrowding becomes rather . We leave the conundrum in the laps of the creationists,
recalling words of theologian Johannes Weiss, "The apologists . . . can
get the of any historical result whatever" (quoted in Schweitzer,
p.234). God performed a miraculous miniturization on the animals;
as the flood takes on more and more of an Alice-in-Wonderland air,
anything becomes possible.
Before moving on, we must briefly take note of an argument so popular that
nearly every ark theorist uses it: that the interior of the ark could have
held literally hundreds of standard-sized railroad stock cars and thus was
quite roomy. But while the figures for rail car size and capacity are cited
with fair accuracy, ignored is the federal law which requires a train on a
long haul to stop every twenty-eight hours, to unload the stock, to feed and
water them, and to give them a five-hour rest period (Ensminger, p.1062).
This may be just a minor inconvenience to American ranchers, but it would have
been quite impossible for Noah. Thus the analogy collapses. The fact that
every creationist has triumphantly trotted out his train statistics, yet
overlooked this decisive flaw, demonstrates once again the sloppiness of
Gathering the Cargo
Having drawn up a passenger list, the next order of business is to gather them
all at dockside. At this point, the creationists themselves are unable to
propound any sort of scenario in which Noah and his sons could perform such a
feat, so they resort to the convenient dumping ground of the inexplicable:
miracles. God himself intervened by implanting in the chosen pair from each
species the instinct of migration, and by this mechanism they gathered from
the four corners of the world and headed for the Plains of Shinar (Witcomb, p.
30). LaHaye and Morris (p.251) even spice things up with an added ability to
instinctively "sense imminent danger," but in any event a cheetah here, a
penguin there, here an ant, there an ant, all dropped what they were doing and
made a beeline for the ark. That this is not too farfetched we can see today,
say creationists, for many animals still migrate, and this is the most
"scientific" explanation available for their ability to do so.
A closer look reveals that a miracle is indeed called for in the gathering of
the animals, but it is a much larger and more complex one than merely "premonition" and migration. In the first place, a glance
at 's Atlas of _Animal Migration_ shows that of all the birds,
fish, and animals whose paths are shown, only one, the common
crane of Russia, currently migrates to the Mesopotamian Valley.
Therefore, God only programmed the animals to go to Noah's place before the
flood, but he deprogrammed most of them and rerouted all the rest
except the crane--a reverse miracle. Incidentally, it is noteworthy
that many creatures migrate, a faculty whose origins the creationists
find unless these creatures were also sent to the ark.
However accurate their suddenly acquired instinct, for many animals it could
not have been enough to overcome the geographical barriers between them and
the ark. The endemic fauna of the New World, Australia, and other remote
regions, as well as animals unable to survive the Near Eastern environment,
would find the journey too difficult no matter how desperately they yearned
Flood theorists are unperturbed by such obstacles, however, for they simply
gerrymander the map to give us an antediluvian world of undivided continents
and a uniform, semitropical, springlike climate, and--_presto_!--all the
animals become evenly distributed and hence within a short stroll of the ark
(Whitcomb and Morris, p.64). But this resolves one question only to raise
another: in such a world, where did the animals which are found today in the
arctic, desert, alpine, and other specialized postdiluvian niches live? The
polar bear, caribou, walrus, yak, snow leopard, and many more would suffocate
in the warm tropics; many desert dwellers could not have endured the excessive
humidities they would have encountered.
Creationists would no doubt respond that these creatures evolved within their
" kinds" after the flood, but we have already found that concept so vague as
to be meaningless. Besides, since in their chronology the ice age immediately
followed the deluge and started freezing woolly mammoths, the rapidity of
intra-kind evolution would be far greater than any Darwinist ever dreamed
possible and there could be no logical justification for continuing to rage
against interkind transformation. On the other hand, there may have been a
small desert here, a tiny tundra there, to house these specimens for the few
centuries from the creation to the time their regular habitats appeared, but
that puts us back on square one wondering how they struggled through the heat
and humidity to the ark.
Other creatures had it even rougher. Hundreds of species live only in caves
and are so sensitive that many cannot survive in caverns just slightly
different from their own and many may be killed by exposure to light (Vandel,
pp.37, 399). For these cavernicoles, even a very short journey from their
homes would prove impossible. Could Noah have fetched them himself to save
them from a fatal march? Could he have distinguished the 293 species of
pseudoscorpions and picked out a male and female of each?
Aquatic animals would also find the trip challenging. Did all the of the oceans, lakes, and streams overcome their
sensitivities normally lethal changes in environmental conditions and swim up
the ancient or the "mighty Hiddekel" to the docks nearest the ark?
How did the sessile species, from sponges and corals to anemones and
barnacles, themselves and waddle through however brief a trip it may
have been? A analogous to that of terrestrial arctic and desert dwellers
would be exotic inhabitants of the abyssal and hadal zones of the ocean
depths. In instance, too, creationists have postulated only shallow seas
before the , precluding the very existence of deep-sea dwellers. In
reply, we again either that such accelerated evolution occurred that
creationists have themselves out of a job or else that there was a trench
somewhere in "shallow seas" specifically for these organisms.
Parasites and diseases.
Some important complications arise with that extensive group of organisms
known as parasites. Hundreds of thousands of species are known, and a very
large proportion of them are host specific and must spend all or part of their
lives within the host animal. Therefore the single pair of animals from each
species had to carry aboard the ark the parasites that were adapted to living
within or upon them. Although many of these are harmless freeloaders, , others
are pathogenic and often fatal to their host. Yet the fact that such organisms
exist today demonstrates _that_ they survived the flood, and the fact that
they must inhabit their host shows _how_ they survived.
The example of _Homo sapiens_ will show the seriousness of the problem. Humans
are sanctuary to over one hundred parasites, and many are host specific.
Although the four species of human malarial parasites undergo sexual in mosquitos, they must undergo further development in
humans. , a member of Noah's family must have had malaria at some
point in his and must have remained infected after the flood until the
earth became repopulated that the parasite passed to others. In
similar , the vectors of many other parasitic infections are also
specific to , such as the tapeworms _Taenia saginata_ and _T. solium_,
the intestinal _Ascaris lumbricoides_, the hookworm _Leishmania tropia_, the
pinworm vermicularis_, three agents of filariasis, two species of
_Schistosoma_, three species of lice, and many dozens more (Jones). Also, of
course, the five types of venereal disease bacteria cannot survive outside
their human abode.
These eight unfortunate souls were afflicted with enough diseases and
discomforts to support a hospital--all as their part in "preserving life"
through the great flood. And nearly every other animal on board--from Shem's
lice to the right whales--had parasites of their own to cope with. What
remarkable creatures they must have been; in order to ensure their survival
they had to be the strongest, healthiest, most fertile pair possible, while at
the same time they had to carry a full set of debilitating parasites so as to
guarantee _their_ survival.
How was Noah assured that the proper complement of viable tapeworms was
present in each rodent and each lizard waiting to come aboard? How could he
confirm the presence of microscopic fauna in their tiny stalls? If a passenger was lacking an essential flea, what could be
done? Was opportunity to correct any errors?
If just one of the teeming hoard of animals turned out to be sterile, that
species would become extinct. Could Noah verify everyone's fertility? For that
matter, could he even verify that the couple on the gangplank were male and
female, when a great many animals, including 30 percent of the birds and even
some mammals, are sexually monomorphic and cannot be distinguished without
modern veterinary techniques or even hormonal analysis? Most fish are as juveniles and will only become male or female when
mature Bond, pp.415-416), while some female worms will change into males
when (Hapgood, p.78). No wonder Segraves proposes a miracle here
Creationists insist on a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis; so when
those animals which reproduce by asexual budding, or the over one thousand
thelytokous (all-female) species from insects to lizards, converged toward the
ark, another special miracle would have been called for to fulfill the
explicit command to take both male and female aboard. By the time Noah
encountered the sea star, _Asterina gibbosa_, which begins life as a male and
eventually becomes female, he must have been ready to throw in the towel in
Difficulties of Travel.
The journey of the animals presents other remarkable facets. They traveled
over hill, over dale, through the dense jungles, and across the mighty Edenic
rivers without a single accident. No limbs were broken, no drownings occurred.
Amazingly, not one perished at the paws of a predator; from the tastiest
earthworm to the freshest frog, all marched past the hungry inhabitants of the
forest with impunity. Orr stresses that "migration is hazardous. For species
that engage in long migrations it may be a great strain on the bodies of the
participants. There may be extended periods without food as well as long hours
of travel.... Attrition through predation may be higher during migration" (p.
239). He also notes that getting lost can be a problem, especially for those
traveling singly as opposed to flocks and herds (pp.175, 240). But if the
divine instinct often fails today's travelers, what chance did such unlikely
way-farers as eyeless cave fish, giant sloths, and sea urchins have of
locating a specific acre in Asia? St. Christopher was clearly in his finest
hour, performing literally thousands of miracles every day.
The botanical garden.
Perhaps with a vivid imagination we can picture this divine Pied Piper saga in
action; but no such excuse can save Noah from his responsibility for gathering
the seeds of the nearly half million plants that survived the flood. No
premonition, however urgent, could cause a pine cone to commence rolling
toward the ark; someone would have to go get it. Our biblical botanists would
have to be able to identify fertile seeds and spores, find them at the proper
season, and make sure that the storage area aboard ship would be suitable. In
the damp depths of the ark, most seeds would either rot or sprout and then die
for lack of nutrients and light. How did Noah prepare and maintain the special
low-humidity containers necessary to ensure their dormancy? How did he control
insects, rodents, and fungi? Seed storage is a complex technology and, without
proper techniques, "no seed can maintain its viability for long" (Thomson, p.
In addition, God told Noah to gather food for the various animals (Genesis
6:21), many of whom, as we shall see, have highly specialized diets. Hence,
even if the animals could reach the ark unaided, an overwhelming burden would
be placed upon our heroes with regard to the plant kingdom.
Boarding the ark.
At last this remarkable menagerie gathered before the gaping door of the great
ship. Still the protective aura hovered over them, for natural enemies stood
side by side without conflict: the mighty carnivores ignored countless
opportunities to fill their stomachs; the panicky impulses of animals in
strange surroundings were subdued; even the centipedes and beetles escaped
extinction from the chance misstep of the elephant. This surreal tranquility
extended to animals that were not among the elect--for the sounds and smells
of the teeming throng undoubtedly piqued the interest of the denizens of the
surrounding jungle, yet none of them took advantage of having a meal spread
out before them on a silver platter.
The peaceful scene was about to come to an abrupt end, however. All at once
the command went forth to board the ark, and pandemonium erupted. The Bible
emphasizes that all the animals and human passengers entered the ark on the
_same_ day (Genesis 7:11-15). Simple division of our grand total shows that
44.66 creatures had to dash up the gangplank and through the door every second
in order to fill the ark within twenty-four hours! Even if we grant that the
parasites could hitch a ride with their hosts and many insects could go
through at once, and if we simply count the vertebrates (including the seven
pairs of birds), this still averages out to two per second. This was not
merely a mad scramble for the door but involved weaving through the intricate
maze of corridors until the correct cage--that one specific stall exactly
designed to meet that animal's needs--was located, entered, and secured. It
includes Noah's unenviable task of getting clams and piranhas, barely visible
mites, and killer whales, into their quarters. How did our overworked crewmen
wrestle all the huge aquatic creatures from the river to their aquaria in half
a second, especially when improper handling can severely injure such animals?
How did the "migratory instinct" guide the panicy porcupine to the right stall
in the twinkling of an eye?
Looking back over this entire wonderful journey, from the flicker of
that separated two grazing gazelles from their herd to the
frantic stampede to their stalls, one can only conclude that Jehovah should
have had access to a _Star Trek_ script and simply beamed the animals aboard,
saving everyone a whole heap of trouble and conserving a substantial supply of
his own mirific energy.
Surviving the Flood
Those that died.
No sooner had the last snail slithered aboard than the Lord accommodated Noah
once again by supernaturally shutting the enormous door of the ark (Genesis
7:16). From this moment on, the die was cast, and everyone outside the ark
was doomed. Sinful man and all his works were to be washed away.
It is worthwhile to pause here and wonder what became of this lost world,
especially when we learn that it may have had as many as twenty-five _billion_
inhabitants and a fairly high cultural level (Henry Morris, 1977, p.80). Yet
aside from some supposedly human footprints in early strata and two artifacts (Balsiger and Sellier, pp.44-45), not a
trace of this or its renowned giants has ever been found. All of the
hominid that have been found--from Olduvai Gorge to the caves of
France-- degenerate post-diluvian tribes (Kofahl and Segraves,
pp.130-131). Morris (1974, p.119) suggests that these billions of people
fled to the and thus escaped burial while their cities were entombed
so deeply they can never be found. What remarkable tenacity these
prediluvians had, to the mountain tops even though they were submerged for
five months the waters surged "to and fro" ! And their cities wouldn't have
been buried deeper than the ocean floor dwellers whose fossils are exposed
abundantly. Nelson, we are forced once again to the _deus ex machina_:
"_It was God's purpose to leave no vestige of prediluvian man
remaining_" (p.161, emphasis).
The flood not only destroyed wicked humanity. All of the innocent creatures on
earth suffered and died in this God-ordained cataclysm (Genesis 7:21-23). Why?
Whitcomb and Morris reveal that "sub-human creatures" which have been used as
instruments of sin are punished (p.465). But surely every animal on earth,
many of which had never even seen a human, didn't deserve to be summarily
drowned. What cruel hand of fate selected the two of each species to board the
ark leaving all the others behind without hope? These issues are beyond the
scope of this article, but we merely mention them to indicate some of the many
additional quandaries a literal acceptance of the flood story entails.
The size and effects of the flood.
We have alluded to the immensity of the deluge already, but to really
appreciate it we should savor some of the remarks of the experts:
The Flood was accompanied by violent movements of the earth's crust and by
volcanic activity of momentous proportions. Tremendous tidal waves and
rushing currents scoured and deeply eroded the continental surface. Entire
forests were ripped up and transported large distances to be dumped where
the currents slowed. (Kofahl and Segraves, p.226)
Even after the first forty days, when the greatest of the rains and
upheavals diminished, the Scriptures say that the waters "prevailed" upon
the earth for one hundred and ten days longer. This statement . . . would
certainly imply that extensive hydraulic and sedimentary activity
continued for a long time, with many earlier flood deposits perhaps re-
eroded and reworked.... The only way in which land could now appear again
would be for a tremendous orogeny to take place. Mountains must arise and
new basins must form to receive the great overburden of water imposed upon
the earth. (Whitcomb and Morris, pp.266-267)
Yielding of the crust at even one point, with resultant escape of magmas
and water or steam, would then lead to earth movements causing further
fractures until, as the Scriptures portray so graphically, "the same day
were all the fountains of the great deep broken up" (Genesis 7:11). Truly
this was a gigantic catastrophe, beside which the explosion of the largest
hydrogen bomb, or of hundreds of such bombs, becomes insignificant!
(Whitcomb and Morris, pp.242-243)
The worldwide ocean of the Genesis flood was swept by wind storms that
would make modern tornadoes seem like a zephyr. (Schmich, p.121)
There are perhaps five hundred active volcanoes in the world, and possibly
three times that many extinct volcanoes. But nothing ever seen by man in
the present era can compare with whatever the phenomena were which caused
the formation of these tremendous structures. (Whitcomb, 1973, p.85)
For once we can agree that creationist rhetoric has not been exaggerated. A
cataclysm that could accomplish the largest percentage of the geological
activity in earth's history in one year--events that uniformitarians assign to
billions of years--would be so overwhelming that we cannot begin to imagine
what it would be like. Yet into the jaws of destruction sailed a rickety
wooden boat--oversized, leaky and unsound, carrying a cargo whose safety and
protection was all important! It is utterly inconceivable that it could have
survived even a few days of this maelstrom without being blasted to --unless
it was protected by the unceasing intervention of the deity.
The survival of the ark.
Curiously, when the talk turns to the fate of the ark, diluviologists suddenly
paint a much rosier picture. Whitcomb, for example, has read that tsunamis
(so-called tidal waves) in the open sea are of such low amplitude as to be
hardly noticeable and would "thus have had very little effect on Noah's Ark"
(1973, p.73). But why mention these and omit wind-driven waves, which have
been known to exceed one hundred feet in an ordinary hurricane? The winds that
would make tornadoes "seem like a zephyr," blowing over the unlimited,
unobstructed fetch of the entire globe, would have generated waves many times
higher; arkeologist Meyer suggests a height of several _miles_ (p.57)! And
what sorts of waves would be produced by the breakup of the "fountains of the
great deep," the splitting of the continents, and the worldwide orogeny? The
shock waves from present-day submarine earthquakes have been known to damage
or destroy vessels far from land (Thrower, pp.90-91).
Furthermore, there were at least two occasions when the ark was not in the
open sea. As she sat on the Plains of Shinar, her first encounter with the
deluge would most likely have been a mountainous tidal wave or flash flood or
both, smashing her to pieces just as easily as it uprooted "entire forests."
At the other end of the trip, the vessel was slammed into the side of Mt.
Ararat and battered a few more days by the violently receding waters.
There were other hazards as well. Volcanic ash and molten boulders filled the
air, while at least in the early stages of the storm vegetation rafts and the
debris of civilization shot through the water like torpedoes. For most of the
time, the ark was the only object projecting above the sea's surface, and, as
such, it must have been subject to a continuous barrage of lightning,
producing fires, splitting beams, and electrocuting soaked animals.
Then we have the puzzling currents of the flood, which flowed hither and yon,
burying some places one week and uncovering them the next. For example,
creationists tell us that the Llano Uplift of Texas remained a haven for men
and dinosaurs while eight thousand feet of sediment was being deposited nearby
(John Morris, 1980, pp.182-185). Hence the ark should have also encountered
swift-moving, riverlike currents and whirlpools, with frequent collisions
against the outcrops that broke the surface. Noah neglected putting any kind
of steering mechanism on the ship, leaving it completely at the mercy of the
savage storm (Segraves, p.11).
In what must be a first, creationists Balsiger and Sellier actually conducted
an experiment (pp.117-118). They had a scale model of the ark tested in a
hydraulics lab and concluded from this that it could have withstood waves of
over two hundred feet before capsizing. But even higher seas must have been
commonplace in that fateful gale, quickly sending the boat to the bottom. It's
a moot issue, however, since the entire test is vitiated by overlooking the
ship's excessive size. which would have rendered it unsound in any
Arkeologists cannot have their cake and eat it; they can't have a cataclysm of
the magnitude of the biblical flood and still expect the ark to survive. Each
year approximately two thousand ships succumb to the forces of the sea, in
conditions that are like the horse latitudes compared to the deluge. These
include structurally sound steel freighters larger than the ark, some of which
have vanished so fast in a "mere" hurricane that people have even suggested a
paranormal force behind their destruction (cf. Kusche, pp.246-247). Who can
forget the 229,000 ton supertanker, _Amoco Cadiz_, which ran aground off
Brittany in March 1978 and was quickly broken in two by swells that were calm
compared to those lashing Mt. Ararat? Yet the ark was adrift, without rudder
or sail, for 150 days (Genesis 7:24) in a storm that would make "hundreds of
hydrogen bombs" seem insignificant!
The fate of the cargo.
But mere survival is hardly the proper criterion of the voyage's success. The
animals, many of them so sensitive that they have never yet been kept in zoos,
had to make it through in good enough condition to reproduce and to spread
over the earth. Hirst tells us that "wild animals should be subjected to a
minimum of jolting and rolling during transport.... Rapid acceleration, sharp
cornering, and sudden deceleration are to be avoided at all times" (p.124).
Broken legs and necks, bruises, and cuts are important considerations in even
short hauls by truck, not to mention the panic most of the overcrowded
creatures would experience. Even fish in tanks are severely affected by
sloshing and jolting (Van den Sande). If indeed the ship avoided being reduced
to toothpicks, anything on board larger than a grasshopper would have been
pounded into a bloody, shapeless mass long before the last tidal wave crashed
against the creaking hull.
Caring for the Cargo
Assuming that the chaos outside could somehow be drastically reduced, what
special problems did the cargo pose? According to the time periods given in
Genesis 7:9-11 and 8:13-14, based on the Hebrew Lunar Year of 354 days, the
inhabitants of the ark remained there 371 days. How did Noah and his family
take care of their charges during this long stay?
Our Bible-believing biologists have devised a clever mechanism for easing
Noah's task: hibernation. LaHaye and Morris tell us that the ability to
hibernate is an "almost universal tendency" among animals and that, faced with
"adverse conditions" and "extreme stress" they would slip into this state and
hence be easily manageable (p.252). Henry Morris agrees, attributing this
behavior to "divinely ordered genetic mutations," and asserts that this is
the best explanation available for these abilities today (1977, p.98).
This "solution" is apparently an ad hoc idea into which none of its advocates
even bothered to delve. If they had, they would have found that hibernation is
far from "universal." In fact, only three orders of placental mammals--the
Insectivora, Chiroptera, and Rodentia--plus some reptiles and amphibians
display true hibernation. These are all small creatures; larger animals,
including bears, are too big for true hibernation (Mount, p.142). Most fish,
birds, and invertebrates do not become dormant in any sense, and other forms
of torpor, such as reptilian estivation, are physiologically dissimilar to
winter sleep and could not occur in the same environment.
Furthermore, animals respond to "extreme stress" with panic and flight--not
hibernation, which is a response to lack of food or cold temperatures. Crowded
into the ark like sardines with every other species all about, tossed and
slammed against their cages with the ear-splitting roar of the upheaval
outside, quiet inactivity is the last thing one would expect to happen. Many
animals are so nervous that they are difficult to keep in an ordinary zoo; if
even true hibernators like bats are aroused by touching, what chance is there
that any specimen would quietly curl up for a year-long nap?
Hibernation is not a simple siesta. Rather, "during the period prior to
hibernation, an animal must make a considerable number of gradual and metabolic adjustments" (Mayer, p.962). These
include an of fat deposition, gradual readjustment of body
temperature, heart , and metabolism, preparation of the den and storage of food,
and so on. and salamanders frequently overwinter in large aggregates;
other sleep only under forest litter or in a few inches of icy
water; construct a mud cocoon. Timing is also vital, for, if
exposed to at the wrong time of year, a hibernator will increase its
activity in to keep warm.
What opportunities did the migrating hoards have to prepare themselves and
their cages for the long rest? Were the ark's spartan stalls provided with
cozy dens and burrows? Newly arrived from near and far, the animals were
stampeded, still exhausted from their march, into strange, frightening cells
and, only a week later, were violently jolted onto their wild ride (Genesis
Finally, hibernation is a risky affair, rather than the refreshing nap
portrayed by creationists. The animal loses about 40 percent of its body
weight during the winter; prorated into the 371 days on board the ark, each
would have been reduced to little more than a skeleton by the time the door
opened. Even bones and teeth deteriorate, and the young frequently starve
(Yalden and Morris, pp.84-85). In snakes, the mortality rate may be as high
as 30 to 50 percent (Shaw and Campbell, p.84). On page 964, W. V. Mayer
The hibernator apparently is balanced on a very narrow line between
the maintenance of life at a level that makes recovery from hibernation
possible and a reduction of metabolism to a level that will lead to
death. Evidence obtained from tissues indicates that the process of
hibernation is a precarious method of survival at best and one from
which many animals do not awaken. As a mechanism of species survival,
hibernation seems effective; for the survival of the individual,
however, it is an uncertain and dangerous process.
Yet on the ark, there were _only_ individuals, hibernating in extremely
adverse conditions for more than double the time that any animal normally is
dormant. We must conclude that the animals on the ark did not experience any
type of dormancy in any way resembling these phenomena in nature; the "divine
mutations" produced a state closer to suspended animation, a sort of celestial
cryonics (Segraves, pp.83-84)--and we have another very impressive
Feeding the animals.
This supernatural quiescence has a curious twist, however, for the Bible
plainly informs us that Noah was to take food on the voyage for the animals
(Genesis 6:21). Hibernators do awaken from time to time to eat, and apparently
these supersleepers did so also. Why? If the Lord was going to perform such a
substantial modification of natural physiology as this impossible hibernation
involved, why not make the miracle complete and dispense with the storage
space for the food and the inconvenience to the crew of the feedings?
This is especially pertinent when the magnitude of the task is examined. For
the total number of creatures on the ark, if each one received but one feeding
during the voyage, and if all eight of the crew worked sixteen hours per day
at the chore, each animal would wind up with just 44.3 seconds of attention
during the entire year-long period! Some would have their meal on the first
day, while others waited until they were nearly starved. The poor attendants
would have to carry out their chores in the violently pitching vessel and in
inky darkness (since lanterns could easily drop and start a fire). They would
have to find the correct food and somehow locate the right cage in the mind-
numbing maze. When they found it, they would have to arouse an animal that
could sleep through the raging chaos; the food could not be left in the
troughs for it would spoil or spill. Then it's back down the slippery corridor
to the storage bins for the next meal--on a perfect schedule, without
duplicated efforts or mistakes--all in less than a minute!
Unfortunately, many animals are not physiologically capable of surviving on an
occasional meal, however large, and a meal once a year--or once a week--would
mean death. Some birds eat continuously during daylight and suffer when taken
to regions with short winter days (National Research Council, 1977, p.28),
and some fish brouse constantly and are unable to utilize infrequently given
foods (Wickins and Helm, p.117). Rodents, cud chewers, and insectivores are
others in the "continuous feeder" class (Gersh, p.60). Thus it appears that
the "hibernation model," cleverly concocted to relieve Noah of an unmanageable
work load, is vitiated by the simple scriptural requirement of providing food
for the voyage.
Special dietary needs.
There are many other problems associated with the feeding. The first concerns
the carnivores: where did Noah get the huge quantities of fresh meat required
by these animals? The creationist response is that God (miraculously) altered
them so that they could thrive on a vegetarian diet during the voyage.
Although some aver that the eating of meat never occurred anywhere until after
the flood, Whitcomb and Morris discuss at length the change from herbivorous
to carnivorous physiology, which they date to the Fall of Adam (pp.461-464).
Thus these animals were originally vegetarian, then became meat-eaters after
the Fall, vegetarians again for the year of the flood, finally returning to
their carnivorous ways afterwards. Three times the Lord magically changed the
physiology and anatomy of a substantial proportion of the animal kingdom. And
if this is true of carnivorous mammals, it must also be so for insect-eating
birds, amphibians, reptiles, for the multitudes that live on fresh fish and
other aquatic creatures, and for arthropods which eat other invertebrates.
Were the slender, sticky tongues of tamanduas, pangolins, and other anteaters,
so difficult to feed in zoos, altered to eat hay? Were vampire bats and
mosquitos able to substitute tomato juice for fresh blood? Did the whales
adapt to kelp instead of krill? And what of our ever-troublesome parasites?
Were tapeworms and leeches content to spend a year sucking on an old log? God
was remodeling digestive systems right and left!
Even if everyone ate only plants, there were still enormous obstacles. Many
animals have highly specialized diets: koalas eat only certain types of
Eucalyptus leaves; the giant panda eats bamboo shoots; three-toed sloths so
prefer Cecropia leaves that they are almost impossible to keep in captivity.
Primates need fresh fruit; many birds develop cramps and spasms if they don't
get sufficient calcium; desert rodents are poisoned by excessive protein; and
the list goes on (cf. Wallach and Flieg; Fiennes). How did Noah know what
foods to get, how much and where to get them?
How were the stores kept from rotting during the lengthy voyage? hay
rapidly become moldy and unusable.
Young insists that feeding troughs be cleaned daily and uneaten food removed
to prevent decay (p.137). Giraffes and moose must have their troughs high or
they can't reach them, while animals with large antlers can't get their mouths
into a basket placed against a wall. Carnivores deprived of bones to chew
develop peridontal disease (Bush and Gray); rodents, too, need to gnaw or
their teeth will overgrow (Orlans, p.247). The tearing beak of eagles, the
seed-cracking beak of parrots, the bill strainer of flamingos also overgrow
if unused (National Research Council, 1977, p.27). Many animals, from fish to
snakes, penguins to bats, will only eat living food because they must see it
move to sieze it (Fiennes; Gersh). Even praying mantises eat only live food
and will eat each other if nothing else is available. Did Noah know this?
Storage of food and water.
Where did Noah find room for all these provisions? Even if the animals ate
only a few times during the voyage, these must have been hearty meals and a
lot of feed was required. Elephants consume three hundred pounds of hay per
day, hippos eighty to one hundred pounds. A large walrus eats forty pounds of
fish daily, a lion sixteen pounds of meat; what would be the equivalent in
grain? Whales consume several _tons_ of krill per day when feeding (Lockley,
pp.87-88), and many insectivores and birds eat their body weight every twenty-
four hours. Neubuser says that in the Frankfurt Zoo each year "sixty tons of
horse, cattle, and whale meat are required to satisfy the demands of the
carnivores. The boxes of cereals and oil seed, each containing about a
hundred-weight, if put end to end, would stretch for a distance of over half
a mile. The annual consumption of fruit, vegetables, roots, and green clover
would fill fifty freight trains; hay and straw, thirty-five goods wagons"
Lest these burdens start to overwhelm us, we find Rehwinkel discussing a
theory that Noah possessed a "mysterious oil" of supernutrative powers--one
drop of which would sustain life (p.75). In the creationist Land of Oz, why
Although water was the most abundant substance around, it was muddy, salty,
and full of volcanic pollutants. Even the water falling from the skies would
have been useless, since the tremendous level of volcanism would have turned
it to poisonous acid rain. For his animals, Noah needed large quantities of
fresh, clean water, kept in troughs and inspected frequently. Where did this
come from? How was it stored and distributed? Conditions being what they were,
it must have splashed out of the troughs shortly after they were filled, mixed
with food and waste to form a stinking, slippery swamp all over each deck,
while the reserves were rapidly choked with algae to form an undrinkable
Sanitation and water disposal.
The mention of waste brings attention to that problem. All authorities on
animal care insist on the cleanliness of the stalls, urging the daily removal
of waste and soiled bedding. Neubuser remarks that "the removal of zoo waste
presents almost insuperable difficulties" (p.170); on the ark these must have
multiplied manyfold. Creationists Balsiger and Sellier suggest that the bottom
deck was used to store slurry, which accumulated to 800 tons during the
voyage. However, a single adult elephant could produce 40 tons during this
time (Coe), and there were many creatures even larger. Our average animal, the
sheep, produces 0.34 tons per year; poultry, 0.047 (Sainsbury and Sainsbury,
p.110). Multiplying the number of vertebrates by 0.34, the seven pairs of
birds by 0.047, yields 25,508 tons of waste--six times heavier than the ark
itself! Of course, hibernation would greatly reduce this quantity, while the
invertebrates and dinosaurs would add to it. Whatever the total, it would have
been an awesome amount on the overcrowded boat, a breeder of infinite numbers
of pathogens, and a source of noxious, choking fumes.
A comparison with Lamoureux's Guide to _Ship Sanitation_ is instructive.
Complex plumbing systems of pipes and pumps, air-gaps and back-flow valves,
filters and chemical treatments are necessary to provide potable water and
dispose of sewage. Waste is treated and dumped overboard, not discharged to
the bilge as on the ark. Such technology was clearly beyond Noah's ability and
the maintenance capabilities of his tiny crew; yet, if ever it was needed on a
voyage, this was it.
Specialized needs of animals.
"The animals in a modern zoo require a thousand and one small, seemingly
insignificant attentions and we must constantly strive to discover their
needs. " Thus writes Dr. Heinz Hediger of Zurich Zoo, introducing us to a
host of additional headaches with which Noah would have to deal.
Many animals would not survive long in barren stalls but would need to have
elements of their natural environment present. Squirrels and sloths need trees
to climb; the latter are almost helpless on the ground. Armadillos, viscachas,
and others require soil in which they can scrape and burrow; capybaras and
tapirs must have pools of water for bathing; and otters require running water.
The extremely delicate platypus would have to be maintained with a device
consisting of a water tank, a nest, and tunnels with rubber gaskets to squeeze
water out of the platypus's fur to prevent the nest getting wet and the animal
developing pneumonia. Ungulates in transport should be made to stand up
_hourly_ to revive circulation in their limbs. Elephants and hippos develop
dermatitus unless they can bathe frequently (cf. Crandall; Hirst;
Wading birds develop leg weakness and should be transported in special
stockings; peacocks and long-tailed pheasants may need their tails splinted
and wrapped in bandages. Woodpeckers' cages would need a special coating, and
many other animals, from termites to rodents, would gnaw through a normal
stall. Excessive moisture is "extremely deleterious" to most reptiles Kaufield). While low humidities would prove fatal to many
amphibians. invertebrates, such as worms, crabs, and clams, will
perish without substrate.
Perhaps the greatest difficulties arise with marine organisms. Most of them
are extremely sensitive to slight changes in temperature, salinity, pH value,
and other factors, and their aquaria require constant monitoring. Many need
large, round tanks to prevent them from knocking against the sides, and some
tanks must have a polyurethane foam to guard against injury from rubbing.
Complex filtering systems--unavailable on the ark--are necessary to remove
waste; most fish require a high degree of cleanliness. Hadal dwellers must be
kept in special high-pressure tanks (cf. Backhaus; Hawkins). Of course, a
system of active aeration is necessary or the fish will suffocate--yet a
fragile jellyfish can be damaged by an oxygen bubbler. Some sharks will
sustain tissue damage from lying still as little as five minutes and may have
to be stimulated by an attendant when in a captive environment (Gruber and
Keyes, p.383). Even humble planarian worms are likely to die if their water
becomes "even slightly contaminated" (Orlans, p.49). The National Research
Council concludes: "Despite the best care and equipment, some marine species
will not tolerate capture and transport" (1981, p.53).
Ventilation would have been another major concern. The Bible tells us that
Noah placed a window one cubit square at the top of the vessel (Genesis 6:16).
Creationists, basing themselves on "eyewitnesses'' who have seen the ark in
modern times, enlarge this to a row of windows along a catwalk on top of the
ship and postulate a "wind-deflecting system" to get the air below decks
(Schmich). In any ease, the window(s) had shutters, for Noah opened them to
release the raven and dove. Considering the mountains of water constantly
washing over the ship, they were probably closed most of the time to prevent
Open or shut, the arkeologists' enthusiasm is premature. Sainsbury and
Sainsbury give a number of equations and tables for calculating the
ventilation of barns (p.166ff), and it is clear that when the openings are at
the same elevation on the building, especially if near the top, air
circulation will be very poor. This would be particularly acute in the densely
packed, three-tiered ark: virtually no fresh air could reach the lower decks.
The result would be a rising concentration of dust and microorganisms,
condensation on bedding and floors, and resultant chilling, loss of appetite,
and susceptibility to respiratory disease.
The lack of ventilation would produce particularly dire consequences with
respect to the tons of waste accumulating in the no-man's-land of the bottom
deck. Besides being a nursery for every conceivable pathogen, it would also
unleash large quantities of such toxic gases as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and
methane. Hydrogen sulfide, for example, leads to appetite loss and at concentrations as low as twenty parts per
million--yet of stored slurry, incessant on the ark, can elevate
levels to 800 (Sainsbury and Sains bury, p.207). These gases also pose the
potential an explosion. Methane which composes roughly 55 percent of
typical landfill gas, is highly explosive at concentrations of 5 to 15 oxygen
(Emcon Associates, p.35; Noble, pp.157-158). At this ratio, even a few
hundred tons of waste would rapidly convert the ship into a floating bomb,
needing only a flash of lightning, a glowing volcanic cinder, or the
inadvertent lighting of a lantern to blast the vessel and its priceless cargo
to the bottom of the sea.
Light and temperature levels.
In the depths of the ship, far from its tiny, shuttered windows, with thick
cumulo-nimbus and dense layers of volcanic ash above, the darkness must have
reminded many of the cavernicoles of the black tunnels they had recently
vacated. Lanterns, as we have mentioned, posed too much of a fire hazard to be
used--this was a danger in even ordinary sailing conditions (Thrower, p.85).
Yet animals deprived of light, particularly the young ones which creationists
wish to put aboard, often have poor vision and even suffer deterioration of
optic nerves and retinae (King, pp.30-31). Aquatic creatures, too, are
sensitive to even slight variations in the quality of light
Fish are also highly sensitive to temperature, and separate tanks at carefully
regulated levels are necessary for successful aquaria (Atz). How did Noah
accomplish this? As his boat sat in the sweltering Shinar tropics waiting for
the rain, the heat inside must have become suffocating to many. Polar animals
could not have made it through. Chinchillas, snow leopards, and many others--
even frogs--are also apt to perish in hot conditions. Reptiles not only
require an optimum temperature level, dangerous if exceeded, but must have it
reduced cyclically to simulate diurnal and seasonal rhythms (Peaker). As the
flood progressed, the temperature may have remained high due to volcanism;
alternatively, it may have begun declining with the lack of sunlight
(remember, the Ice Age followed immediately afterward). Either way, as the ark
sat perched at fourteen thousand feet on Mt. Ararat and the seas slowly
subsided, air pressure and temperature declined until the luckless lowlanders
found themselves in thin alpine air and the first snows of the new
dispensation as they waited to disembark. If you endured the oven at the
beginning, you froze at the end!
Problems for the crew.
It is useless to continue discussing the animals. We must pass over the
problem of exercise for the beasts and birds and not even contemplate the
broken limbs, bruises, lacerations, and concussions from the nightmarish ride.
The diseases, too, were far beyond Noah's veterinary competence. And what
about reproduction? Some creationists deny that it took place; others say it
did. Segraves suggests a kind of divine birth control (p.85). In either case,
we can feel confident that flies, mosquitos, and all sorts of vermin
multiplied astronomically even if no higher species did.
Yet even with the miracle of hibernation, the task facing Noah and his crew
was absolutely insuperable, barring yet another titanic intervention by
Jehovah. A random sampling of over one hundred zoos from the 1980
_International Zoo Yearbook_ showed a ratio of 25.4 animals per zoo staffer--
experienced workers supervised by highly trained experts in conditions
infinitely superior to the ark's. At this ratio, the great boat would have
needed a staff of 151,926 to care for every creature aboard! Noah
Still other chores awaited our harried helmsman. Although he was fortunate not
to have had to navigate or to manage engines that might break down, some
maintenance would still have been necessary. Boat rot is present in every
wooden vessel and is enhanced by moisture and poor ventilation. Duffett
recommends a thorough inspection from stem to stern, with flashlight, awl, and
hammer, every two months (p.149). There would have been trouble with teredos,
tiny, wormlike mollusks that eat their way through wood and riddle planks and
timbers with small holes, which makes them the "greatest hazard to wooden
hulls" (Noel, p.85). Then, too, in this awesome storm, there would undoubtedly
have been major breakage and splintering of stalls, beams, floors, and myriads
of other accidents which normally entail substantial time in drydock--all of
which would have had to be located in the dark and somehow patched well enough
to last until the ship made Ararat. We have already noted how leaky were
large, overburdened wooden ships, and, in these mountainous seas, continuous
pumping would have been essential to keep the ark afloat. Smaller, better-
built vessels can take on a foot or more of water an hour; therefore, "crews
could become so completely exhausted by pumping as to be barely capable of
working the ship" (Thrower, pp.89-90). A much larger, more experienced crew
would be necessary for maintenance alone, not counting the impossible
Balsiger and Sellier talk about the life of leisure aboard the ark, even
mentioning the "woman's touch" in the family quarters (p.134). Segraves speaks
of an entire deck devoted to "recreational facilities" (p.16). Such is not the
picture that emerges from our study.
Seafaring life was never easy in olden times: food was monotonous and rationed
and often spoiled; water was scarce; sanitary conditions were incredibly bad;
fire and storms posed constant threats; and diseases, such as cholera, yellow
fever, and malaria, often decimated entire crews (Pohjanpalo, pp.100-101). On
long voyages, scurvy was a constant terror, and extra men were always taken
because many died or became too ill to work. The "romance of the sea" was so
unattractive that, despite poverty and high unemployment, no nation ever had
enough sailors to crew her ships (Phillips-Birt, pp.213-216). Thrower
The conditions of life for the ordinary sailor must have been little
short of grim throughout the history of sail.... Think what these ships
were like ... wet and stinking, bad food, sea scurvy and fluxes rampant,
and incessant toil. Then there were the bugs, the rats, and the
What was grim for these poor souls must have been pure hell on board the ark.
It is a wonder that anyone limped off the sacred ship except the flies.
Landing on Ararat.
Finally one day, a typically gargantuan wave sent the ark crashing into the
cliffs on Mt. Ararat, and the long voyage was through. But Noah's luck was
still running badly, for he had literally gone from the frying pan into the
fire, landing on an active volcano. LaHaye and Morris tell us that Mt. Ararat
more than doubled its height during the flood, and they know of lava from
these very eruptions that is hot yet today (p.8)! Imagine what life was like
during the 214 days between the ark's grounding and the animals' release
(Genesis 8:4). Constant rumblings, earthquakes, and landslides threatened
destruction; fumaroles vented hot steam and sulfurous gases on all sides;
occasional showers of ash and perhaps even lava added to the misery; and
thunderstorms, with lightning, hail, rain, and snow, made many nostalgic for
the open sea.
Before he set the animals free, Noah devised a scheme to determine if the land
was dry. He went to the ravens' cage, and later to the doves', and, without a
second thought, aroused them from a dormancy that all the chaos of the deluge
had been unable to disturb. Out the window they went: the raven never
returned; the dove came back twice, then she too disappeared. Noah concluded
that the earth was safe once again (Genesis 8:6-12).
After the dove failed to return, Noah decided that it was just about time to
disembark. Instead of simply opening the door, he "removed the covering" of
the ark (Genesis 8:13). Balsiger and Sellier indicate that his means that Noah
tore holes in the top deck, which modern visitors to the wreck claim to have
seen. Noah did indeed have his eccentricities! For fifty-six more days they
remained on the ark while the earth dried, waiting for God to sound the
liberty call--time enough to allow rain, snow, and mudslides to cascade
through the holes in the roof and torture the miserable animals inside.
Release of the animals.
Hirst advises, "The release site should be level, free of holes, large stones,
and low shrubs, and should have adequate visibility" (p.125). A more different
location for the ark's survivors would be hard to imagine. Tired and weak,
battered and bruised, nearly blind from a year's darkness, they began their
exodus by clambering up through the roof and leaping forty-five feet to the
rocks below. From here it was a perilous trek across hoof-splitting fields of
jagged lava, through rushing, boulder-strewn streams and icy snowbanks, and
onto the mud flats far below. Landslides and volcanic hot spots were
ever-present dangers. Modern-day Ararat has often bested experienced
mountaineers; what were the chances for the miserable wretches from the ark?
They should have panicked in the radically unfamiliar terrain and stampeded
over the nearest cliff.
While the descent was difficult enough for most animals, for some it was
simply impossible. Tree-dwelling sloths, eyeless cavernicoles, tropical
snails, the legless caecilians of Seychelles--these and countless others
should have seen the sun set on their species on the harrowing heights of
Ararat. And the myriads of aquatic creatures, from starfish to sharks, had to
be crated and hauled down the mountain by the eight aching crew members and
deposited in the nearest river in the hopes that, before they died, they could
somehow swim to waters suitable for each. How they managed this with hundred-
ton whales is just one more mystery for the creationists to ponder. It is
evident once more that supernatural assistance was required in this phase of
Survival and redistribution.
The animals had just endured the longest, most severe hibernation ever known
and would have expected to awaken to a springlike world with abundant food.
Instead they were treated to a landscape like that of Mt. St. Helens--only
As we have seen, plant seeds lay beneath thousands of feet of sediment and
lava and the surface was barren except for one miraculous olive tree, which
was no doubt chewed to the stump immediately. Creationists maintain that the
ground was littered with carrion. This, too, is doubtful; but, even if true,
it would be the occasion for another remarkable marvel: herbivores turned
carnivores turned herbivores were changed once more into meat-eaters, only
this time they were specifically given a craving only for rotten, water-logged
carcasses rather than the tasty living animals stumbling all about. Then,
somewhat later, after sufficient "replenishing" had taken place, they were
altered one final time into their present forms! In actual fact, it seems that
there must have been a period when all the animals were programmed like the
serpent in Eden to subsist on "dust."
For Noah, one more task remained. After disembarking, he built an altar to the
Lord and offered burnt offerings "of every clean beast and of every clean
fowl" (Genesis 8:20). Biblical scholars generally state that the reason why
Noah took a dozen more of each clean animal was so that he could have extras
to sacrifice--a sacrifice that must have amounted to the destruction of
hundreds of thousands of the precious animals which had endured all the perils
of the storm. So the animal population was drastically reduced in this manner,
and the Lord savored the smell and said that he would never send a flood again
But for the luckless animals that remained after the sacrifice, no doubt
terrorized by the smell of their cooked comrades, many months of toil and
tears still awaited as they began repopulating the earth. A large number of
marsupials, found today only in Australia, made the long journey to that
continent, which, strangely enough, is the only place where fossils of their
progenitors are found. Even stranger is the fact that such fragile creatures
as the platypus and the blind marsupial mole raced across the land bridge
quicker than Malaysian tigers and other robust placentals. In a similar vein,
the ceboids (New World primates) found their way to South America, again, the
very region where their fossil ancestors had thrived. The elephant bird, a
nine-foot, thousand-pound giant, decided not to remain on the mainland like
the ostrich but splashed across the sea to Madagascar. In similar fashion,
the dodo headed for Mauritius, the solitaire to Reunion, the white dodo to
Rodriguez, the kagu to New Caledonia, and the kiwi to New Zealand--all
flightless birds who swam to remote islands to make their only homes.
The fish of family ("kind") Comephoridae somehow crossed Asia to live in Lake
Baikal, while the family of electric eels opted for the trans-Atlantic trip to
South America. The gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard, the only members of
family Helodermatidae, chose not to stay in convenient Asian deserts but
journeyed through Siberia and across the Bering land bridge, Alaska, and
Canada to arrive in the American Southwest, accomplishing this feat during the
same Ice Age that creationists say decimated dinosaurs and buried mammoths!
And all of this occurred despite the reproductive bottleneck of a single male
and female, in which the slightest mishap, even a chance separation in the
unknown wilderness, would have meant instant extinction.
The plant seeds that Noah had stored on board had to somehow be distributed
around the world to climates and soils where they could grow. Two thousand
species of cactus had to find their way to the New World while avoiding the
arid lands of Asia and Africa. The giant sequoia and redwood trees had to
reach the Pacific coast of North America and produce, from the handful of
seeds in the ark, the magnificent forests that date to within a few centuries
of the flood. Who carried the double coconut to the Seychelles, its only home,
or planted the endemic flora atop the towering peaks of Venezuela's "Lost
World"? How did the post-diluvian botanists determine which seeds would sprout
only on the tundra and which required brakish marshes? The Bible has our
patriarch and his family return to the simple pastoral life they once knew,
leaving no one to handle the impossible chores of re-establishing the global
But why go on? The geographical distribution of animals and plants is a
powerful piece of evidence for evolution and is satisfactory explained only by
that theory. In a simple creation model, biogeography becomes merely quixotic;
when the straitjacket of the flood is added, with a rapid distribution from a
single point in the Middle East, during an Ice Age, resulting in a few
centuries in the complex ecological patterns seen everywhere on the earth
today, the whole thing becomes completely impossible and incomprehensible. So,
the most tremendous series of miracles of all brings down the curtain on this
The nature of the story.
When one reads the story of the great flood in the book of Genesis, one is
struck by the matter-of-fact style of the narrative. While it definitely has
the larger-than-life flavor typical of legends, the reader would not suspect
that he or she is dealing with the bizarre impossibilities we have detailed
above. After all, the ancient Hebrews lived on a small, disc-shaped world with
a dome overhead and waters above and below. There were only a few hundred
known animals, and subjects such as ecology, genetics, and stratigraphy were
not even imagined. The deluge was a mighty act of God, to be sure, but nothing
that the ancient Hebrews would have found too extraordinary.
When, however, this same story is brought into the twentieth century and
insisted upon as a literal account of historical events, a considerable change
is observed. No longer a simple folk tale, it has become a surrealistic saga
of fantastic improbabilities. Events which seem relatively straightforward at
first glance--building a boat, gathering animals, releasing them afterwards--
become a caricature of real life. The animals themselves are so unlike any
others that they may as well have come from another planet; genetic with completely unnatural social, reproductive, and
dietary , they survived incredible hazards yet remained amazingly
hardy and fecund.
In fact, these sixty-eight verses of Scripture, when interpreted literally,
are crammed with more miracles than any comparable piece of literature
anywhere on earth--miracles that are often pointlessly complicated and
unedifying. Building one large ship of wood rather than many small ones,
landing it on a volcano instead of a plain, preserving all five varieties of
venereal disease while permitting thousands of species to become extinct--
these examples plus more add up to a thoroughly senseless level of . If there was ever a situation in which Hume's
distinction the credibility of miracles and the credibility of
miracle-tellers applies, this is it.
How can we account for this transformation? Put simply, the tale of the ark
grows taller in inverse proportion to the advance of science. Two centuries
ago, when biology and geology were in their infancy, the theory of a worldwide
flood as a major event in the earth's physical history seemed perfectly
plausible and, in fact, was advocated by various scientists. But as geology
progressed and as evolution gradually achieved a position of fundamental
importance, the concepts of biblical literalists were shown to be untenable
and were falsified. At the same time, the disciplines of biblical criticism,
comparative religion, and archaeology uncovered the true origins of these
stories and myths and showed that they were a natural part of the religious
development of the Near East.
The nature of creation-science.
Most people, including most Christians, have been able to accommodate
themselves quite satisfactorily to these changes. But there are others who
cannot and who, with a flush of bravado, have clung tighter to their beliefs
the more impossible they have become.
We would ask the creationists if they would consider simpler alternatives to
their present ark theory. Since one ship is far too small, how about several?
Since eight people are far too few, why not crew the ark with eighty? For that
matter, what is wrong with having a flood of many years, long enough to
accomplish everything diluviologists demand, during which righteous Noah and
his family were whisked to safety aboard a fiery chariot, Elijah-style, with
the animals and plants simply being re-created afterwards? These or any number
of additional hypotheses would simplify the story and would require
substantially fewer miracles. Even re-creating all life would expend far less
divine energy than the complicated manipulations needed to preserve it.
But merely to pose such questions is to answer them, for the creationists
already "know" what occurred and seek only to confirm it. As Henry Morris
concludes, "But the main reason for insisting on the universal flood as a fact
of history and as the primary vehicle for geological interpretation is that
God's word plainly teaches it! No geologic difficulties, real or imagined, can
be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary
inference of Scripture" 1970, p.33).
It is within this framework that creation "science" sets about its task, with
the predictable result being nothing more than old-fashioned apologetics--just
enough rhetoric to assuage the doubts of those who are ready to believe
anyway. Most of the difficulties, from ancient shipbuilding skills through the
destructiveness of the storm to the landing on an active volcano, are swept
aside with one or two irrelevant comments. What little research is done, such
as on the hardiness of seeds or the capacity of freight trains, is vitiated by
considerations so simple they seem hard to overlook. Ad hoc hypotheses, such
as the theory of kinds or the hibernation model, are cooked up to suit the
occasion, reminding one of historian W. E. H. Lecky's remark about "the
tendency . . . to invent, without a shadow of foundation, the most elaborate
theories of explanation rather than recognize the smallest force in an
objection" (I:345). By the time we read of fish adapting to the "gradual"
change in salinities or of dinosaurs "somehow surviving" outside, we begin to
wonder if the creationists can take themselves seriously.
When even these nonsensical suggestions fail, the apologists have no qualms
about resorting to the interpretive wastebasket: miracles. Had there been any
scenario for the gathering of the animals and for their care aboard the ark
which had any semblance of plausibility, we can be sure that it would be
highly touted as "proof" of the scientific accuracy of Genesis. As it is,
a virtue is made of necessity and we are told that the supernatural is an
essential element demonstrating the divine character of the catastrophe
(Whitcomb, 1973, pp.17-42).
But since miracles are by definition violations of the laws of nature and
hence beyond experimental scrutiny, any theory that must employ them loses its
status as science. As Mueller has recently written, "Science . . . became a
unique attempt to explain the observed world in its own terms--that is,
without introducin supernatural forces. In all history, science has never
been forced to resort to a supernatural or miraculous hypothesis to explain a
phenomenon" (p.17). Yet for creationism, the deluge, with its miraculous
rescue of the animals, is not a minor incidental but a key feature. Without it
there is no creationist explanation for sedimentation, orogeny, large-scale
erosion, fossils, coal and oil, glaciation--or even the phenomena of migration
and hibernation. The universal flood is a part of all "scientific" creation
models and of most draft creationism legislation being pushed across the
nation. Yet by its proponents' own canons, it is not scientific and
consequently has no more business in the science classroom than a
The failure of the effort.
It has by now become abundantly clear that the case for the ark utterly and
completely fails. Despite the clever ingenuity of its proponents, nothing,
from the trickiest problems to the tiniest details, can be salvaged without an
unending resort to the supernatural.
This includes so many pointless , so many inane interventions for no reason
other than to save a literalistic Bible, that religion itself is cheapened
in the process, not to mention the total abandonment of any semblance of
science. No doubt in days to come some erstwhile arkeologists will concoct
"solutions" to some of the difficulties we have raised, but no
intellectually honest person can any longer pretend that the legend of
Noah can possibly represent a historical occurrence.
It is also quite obvious that the creationists are not engaged in any
meaningful search for the truth concerning origins. They are committed in
advance to a particular creed, and the facts exist only to be explained away.
Apparently they are not even sincerely curious about prehistory, since they
maintain that Genesis contains all the information on this subject that we
need to know. As Henry Morris writes, "If we are to know anything about the
creation--when it was, what methods were used, what order of events occurred,
or anything else--we must depend _completely_ on divine revelation" (1977,
In fact, the real _raison d'etre_ for the entire creationist movement has
nothing to do with science at all; it is evangelism pure and simple. Kofahl
candidly confesses that "supposedly scientific theories such as evolution
which contradict the Bible can cause some people to doubt the Bible and thus
hinder them from coming in humble faith to Jesus Christ for salvation" (p.
141). In the specific instance of Noah's ark, its "confirmed discovery . . .
would open the door for witnessing to many people who may before have been
indifferent" (John Morris, 1973, p.109) and "our attention should then be
focused on . . . our present day Ark of Salvation, Jesus Christ" (Ikenberry,
p.69). Before our eyes, creationism--complete with seminars, debates,
institutes, "technical" journals, and major campaigns to sabotage public
education and scientific autonomy--dissolves into nothing more than a scheme
to proselytize conversion to fundamentalism.
Our study of the epic of Noah has two results: we have shown beyond any
reasonable question that such a voyage never took place and could not possibly
have ever occurred. And we have demonstrated that those who accept this tale
are using not knowledge but faith--faith of that irrational variety expressed
in the old quip as "believing something that you know isn't true."
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... Thank you Bonnie Blair. You are an inspiration.