Biblical Science – The Ark

Science in the Bible. Oh yes, it’s going to be one of those topics. But to try something a little bit different, I’m going to avoid the creation story and deal with other aspects of science in the Bible. Because it’s quite obvious that nobody is getting anywhere in the creationism arguments. So what about other parts of the Bible that are falsifiable scientific claims? [Note: If you don’t take the Bible to be a scientific text, this isn’t pertinent to your beliefs. This is aimed at the people who believe that the Bible is a scientific text, as well as historical and theological.]

So I present to you scientific inaccuracies in the Bible, starting with the story of Noah’s Ark.

  • All of the animals boarded the ark “in the selfsame day.” Gen 7:13-14
  • The flood covered the highest mountain tops (Mount Everest?) with fifteen cubits to spare. Gen 7:20
  • Noah sends a dove out to see if there was any dry land. But the dove returns without finding any. Then, just seven days later, the dove goes out again and returns with an olive leaf. But how could an olive tree survive the flood? And if any seeds happened to survive, they certainly wouldn’t germinate and grow leaves within a seven day period.  Gen 8:8-11
  • When the animals left the ark, what would they have eaten? There would have been no plants after the ground had been submerged for nearly a year. What would the carnivores have eaten? Whatever prey they ate would have gone extinct. And how did the New World primates or the Australian marsupials find their way back after the flood subsided? Gen 8:19
  • According to this verse, all animals fear humans. Although it is true that many do, it is also true that some do not. Sharks and grizzly bears, for example, are generally much less afraid of us than we are of them. Gen 9:2
  • God is rightly filled with remorse for having killed his creatures. He even puts the rainbow in the sky to remind himself of his promise to the animals not to do it again. But rainbows are caused by the nature of light, the refractive index of water, and the shape of raindrops. There were rainbows billions of years before humans existed. Gen 9:13

Water

According to the book of Genesis – and thus, according to creationists, the great flood was so massive in scale that it covered even the top of Mt. Ararat, which the Bible clearly states was under water at the time. A flood of such degree would require four and a half times as much water as is currently known to exist on the planet at the present time. This begs the obvious questions: Where did this water come from, and where did it go? Let’s go through a few of the theories put forward by creationists:

1)   Henry Morris, one of the founders of “scientific creationism”, proposed what is known as a “vapor canopy” which had been hanging over the earth (perhaps God had an inkling that he’d someday drown all life on earth). Below is a creationist’s visualization of what this may have looked like.Of course, there’s no evidence that any such canopy ever existed, or is even possible – after all, the amount of water in this canopy would be greater than that of all the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and rustic swimming holes combined. However, this doesn’t deter Morris, who even goes on to say that the canopy would have been of great value, as it would block harmful extraterrestrial radiation (although it would make it difficult to get a tan). Of course, any evidence that radiation from space is harmful is contained entirely within Morris’ head, along with any evidence that this canopy would deter them.

Image

Seriously, this is what he believes. And he says that evolution is ridiculous.

2) But vapor canopies aren’t the only game in town. Other creationists “hypothesize” (using the term very loosely) that the water came up from giant underground reservoirs. Of course, these reservoirs have yet to be detected, even by creation scientists, who could presumably ask God real nice-like to point them out. Also ignoring the fact that a mass of water underground would stretch down over a mile, putting it in temperatures above boiling point, which would make the great flood even less fun. As for how this water got out of the reservoirs? A fellow named John Woodmorappe claims that “localized hyper-hurricanes” may have been used to pressure the water upwards. Good luck with that, Johnny Boy.

Rainbows

After the flood had duly killed the estimated 255 million people Henry Morris claims were around at the time, the Bible tells us that YHWH told Noah that “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh,” because in the future he plans on using giant pseudo-locusts shaped like horses with the faces of men and hair of women and breastplates of iron and wings that sound like chariots and scorpion tails and no apparent locust-like characteristics to speak of even though they are called “locusts” (it’s true, read Revelation).

And to show he wasn’t kidding, YHWH created the very first rainbow. How’s that again? No rainbows before the flood? Morris explains this away by telling us that the pre-flood climate would be mild and free of what we would recognize as rain, much less storms. Constant, uniform weather patterns, he says, would have made both impossible, and hence the significance of the “first rainbow.”

Perhaps Morris doesn’t realize how much the absence of rain would complicate his narrative, but he certainly doesn’t seem to realize that one doesn’t need rain to create a rainbow. Rainbows can be created any time water droplets are hit by light at a low angle or altitude, so waterfalls or even jumping into a pool of water would create them.

The Ark

“Many people have gone to Mt. Ararat to try and find Noah’s Ark. I have been there more than ten times.”

– John D. Morris, creationist and apparent boon to the Turkish economy

The search for Noah’s Ark is one of those rare instances in which creation scientists have engaged in some semblance of actual field work. Of course, they’ve turned up nothing, but they’re trying, damn it!

According to Genesis, the ark was quite a piece of craftsmanship: 438 feet long, 73 feet wide, and 34 feet high, thus capable of displacing nearly twenty thousand tons of water, a feat which would not again be achieved until 1884. In fact, it could have been a bit larger than that, since two measurements of “cubit” are known, but creationists tend to use the smaller of the two to make their measurements less ridiculous.

Now, most people think of Noah’s Ark and think this:

Image

Looks pretty fun, actually.

When the ark described in the Bible would be more like this:

 z109891307

There we go, now it’s science.

The “fact” that the ship was constructed with wood presents a few more problems. Wooden ships over 300 feet long tend to warp and twist, while the hulls quickly take on water. For instance, the 329-foot wooden ship U.S.S. Wyoming was so unwieldy that it could only be sailed near the coast, as it leaked like the dickens, was unsafe on rough seas, and was thus essentially useless, much like the state it was named after.

Then again, the US Navy at the time did not have access to “gopher wood,” the mysterious material named in the Bible as the stuff the ark was to be built of. Though nobody really knows what gopher wood was, Ken Ham thinks he has an idea: he has noticed that the word “gopher” sounds mildly similar to the Hebrew word “kaphar,”  which in turn means “atonement.” Thus, gopher wood was magical, blessed-by-YHWH wood, and thus we can presumably ignore all impracticalities involved with building an ark. Unless, of course, you wish to pass this stuff off as a real science. Incidentally, in English, the name “Ham” means “ham,” which is an unclean, unholy food which YHWH forbade the Jews to have anything to do with. Just throwing that out there.

The Bible clearly states that “pitch,” a petroleum substance, was used to waterproof the ark. But Henry Morris, who also believes that all petroleum products such as “pitch” are the result of death brought on by the flood which had not yet occurred at the time of the ark’s construction, also believes that something else must have been used, because, after all, Henry Morris has already decided that pitch didn’t exist yet. And thus Morris believes that some other, yet-to-be-discovered substance must have been used. Hell, why not?

What about the construction of the ark itself? Was this improbably proportioned super-vessel really built by just eight people? If so, one wonders why the Pharaoh really needed thousands of Jews to build his pyramid when just a handful could have presumably done the job. But according to Ken Ham, Noah and his family had a few labor-saving methods at their dispersal. For instance, they “could have easily used high speed circular saws and other labor saving, precision tools in the process of building the Ark.” Let’s not touch that one. Other creationists believe Noah could have hired out contractors. Let’s just hope they spent the money before the flood.

The Animals

Perhaps the largest problem with the Biblical deluge scenario is the one presented by the 30,000 or so vertebrates and millions of insects which supposedly were herded onto the ark in a single day, apparently without any elephant-related bug squashings. Ken Ham, who apparently gives up easily, falls back on miracles, which makes one wonder why he bothered with trying to explain how Noah built the ark in the first place (or why he tries to pretend that what he is spouting is science). Anyways,  Yahweh used his Yahweh powers to get the animals on the ark in an orderly fashion (which, ignoring the insects and focusing on the larger animals, is getting a pair of animals on the ark once every three seconds for twenty four hours),  then caused the creatures to hibernate for the voyage. This solves quite a few problems, like food, excretion, scorpion attacks, the need to exercise, and the fact that Ken Ham is making this all up.

But not everybody is so quick to wuss out. John Woodmorappe wrote a book in the form of a technical report entitled – seriously – “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study,” in which he tries to explain the whole sordid affair without using a single miracle (I read it, so you don’t have to. Seriously, don’t). So if you’re looking for the most outlandish fiction you can lay your eyes upon, pick this one up at your local… well, order it from John Woodmorappe himself. You’ll find out how eight people could take care of 16,000 animals with ten-hour workdays and six-day work weeks, which would certainly be news to the zoo keeper unions.

One sort of animal that John’s overworked Hebrews didn’t have to contend with was the woolly mammoth, which many creationists agree didn’t make it onto the ark for one reason or another. Instead, several of them managed to take a wrong turn and end up frozen in giant blocks of ice, only to be found thousands of years later. This is a problem for creationists, since such deposits of ice are supposed to have not existed before the flood; even worse, we can tell from the preserved remains that woolly mammoths were, well, woolly. If the Earth’s climate was uniformly warm, breezy, and otherwise California-esque in its climate, it would hardly do for Yahweh to cover an elephant-type creature with a thick coat of hair – unless, of course, God is a spiteful prick, which can certainly be borne out by reading the Book of Revelation, the Book of Job, the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, etc. At least, this would be a problem if creationists gave a damn about consistency, which, incidentally, they don’t.

But one of the greatest problems of all concerns what happens after the ark finally landed “on the mountains of Ararat in present-day Turkey. Setting aside a hundred or so natural objections to the assertion that 30,000 animals, millions of insects, and eight humans were then able to establish themselves in a world in which all vegetation had presumably been destroyed by the flood, let’s take a look at a couple of specific assertions of the creationist crowd.

How did all those animals make it to their proper places afterwards (because now, you see, different climates suddenly existed, as they do today)? How did penguins make it to cold polar regions, tree sloths make it to Brazil, and armadillos to the sides of Texas highways? And why are there no armadillos in the Middle East, where they presumably started out, and where the climate would have suited them just fine? Armadillos are adorable, and I think we can all agree the world could use more armadillos. Perhaps if there were some in the Middle East they’d spend less time fighting and more time hugging the adorable little fuckers.

What about marsupials? How did the great majority of them get sequestered in Australia like so many British criminals? Luckily, our good friend John Woodmorappe explained this in his fine book, at least to the extent that a creationist can be expected to explain anything. “It would have been no great difficulty for a post-Babel adventurer to have brought with him seventeen pairs of marsupial kinds from the Middle East to Australia,” he explains, using the creationist word “kinds” instead of the grownup word “species,” and referring to the era after God smote the Tower of Babel and told everyone to spread out a bit and speak different languages. “Having a reminder of one’s homeland is a powerful motivator for the introduction of animals… and, if a some of the descendants of Noah’s family had grown accustomed to marsupials near the respective homes in the Middle East area, they would thus have the motivation to take marsupials with them.”

Apparently, they’d be motivated to take all the marsupials with them, and to be extra-super-careful that none of the little scamps managed to breed on the way to Australia. But one can easily imagine how one could get accustomed to marsupials in such an environment as the Middle East. Just think of how cute koalas would be, rolling over and dying because they didn’t have access to eucalyptus leaves. Aww!

One might also wonder why a “post-Babel adventurer” became “accustomed” to marsupials and not something useful, like, say, horses, which are not native to Australia. Or what sort of sick asshole just up and leaves with every single marsupial, when other “post-Babel adventurers” would have presumably become “accustomed” to those marsupials as well.

“Sorry guys, but I’m taking all the marsupials and heading out of here.”

“You suck, Jerry!”

“No, you suck!”

“Touche, old friend. You sure you don’t want any of these horses?”

“Nah, they’d just get in the way. I’ll ride the koalas.”

At any rate, this wacky sort of process apparently went on all the time in the “post-Babel” world. Someone took all the penguin “kinds” to polar regions, someone else took all the Cape Buffalo “kinds” to Africa, while some poor, presumably masochistic fellow decided to take most of the tree sloth and poisonous dart frog “kinds” to South America.

So there you go. That’s what people used to do.

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~ by kriskodisko on October 17, 2013.

4 Responses to “Biblical Science – The Ark”

  1. I think gopher wood was the adamantium of trees…

  2. Pitch, historically, was plant resin, as in pine pitch. It’s the honey colored stuff you’ll see leaking from a wounded pine, that over time (when fossilized) becomes amber — the stuff that trapped the mosquito in the movie Jurrasic Park. The term is still used to refer to plant resins as well as the petroleum product. One traditional use for pitch is sealing wooden joints (as of ships or shelters) to prevent water penetration — another is for drawing out stubborn splinters, which is what I’ve done with it.

    You might want to rethink that argument about pitch being only a petroleum product so not possibly used in the time before petrochemicals.

    • Noted. I had only heard of pitch in regards to petroleum products prior to you. I still maintain the rest of my arguments are solid, though.

      • Solid the other arguments are, indeed. I just thought you might like to know that one of ’em was faulty so you wouldn’t get caught in a potentially embarrassing position later on.

        Be well!

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