Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Trying to Make Sense of Noah’s Ark
At the time the story of Noah’s Ark was first written thousands of years ago, it actually made some sort of sense to talk about building a boat large enough to carry representative samples of each of the various kinds of animal on earth. After all, the people who wrote the story didn’t actually know about the existence of most of the different species existing on earth. Sure, they knew about camels, horses, goats, cows, sheep, wolves, cats, bears, lions, elephants, etc., but they had no idea whatsoever about, say, kangaroos and koalas, sloths, penguins, opossums, and all the rest of the animals that lived beyond their small universe of experience. So if you’re only talking about hundreds of different species instead of thousands (or millions), then it makes perfect sense to think about somebody building an ark to hold them all.
OK, so maybe not perfect sense, since you’d still have to deal with feeding them all, disposing of all their waste, and constructing such a monstrous and unseaworthy vessel in the first place using bronze age technology, but you get the point. Those are all minor issue compared to the big one of fitting millions of animals.
That was then, though. Nowadays, we are fully aware of the vast number of different animals that exist today across the globe and not even the most die-hard, blinded by faith, Young Earth Creationist would ever consider denying the existence of these animals. Nobody goes around claiming that kangaroos are a hoax perpetuated by scientists the way that they might claim that evolution is a hoax. After all, we can all go to zoos and actually see many of the animals that were completely unknown to the authors of the Noah story. So, given the fact that there truly are just way too many different species of animals that could ever possibly fit onto a single ark, even the most die-hard, blinded by faith, Young Earth Creationists have to admit that it’s just a made up story, right?
Yeah, right. And Flat-Earthers are all going to finally admit the Earth is round because NASA has provided proof that it has satellites and space stations orbiting the planet. Not gonna happen, sorry.
So, how do Biblical literalists still make sense of the story of Noah’s Ark given what we now know about the animal kingdom? Well, first of all, they claim that there were certain types of animals that Noah didn’t need to bring on board. Sea creatures, for example, could all survive in the water and many species of insects could have probably survived by hanging out on mats of floating vegetation or something similar. Forget the fact that the sudden influx of fresh water and the co-mingling of fresh and salt water would have killed off many marine creatures that have evolved to only live in fresh or salt-water environments. It all sort of makes sense, right?
Second of all, Noah only brought juvenile members of each species onto the ark. Little baby animals (even little baby dinosaurs) take up a lot less room and don’t eat nearly as much as full-grown adult animals, right? I mean, ignore the fact that this isn’t actually mentioned in the Biblical account anywhere, since it could have happened, right? Even if it did happen that way, though, we’re still talking about way too many animals to ever fit into an ark. Which brings us to…
Third, and most important of all, instead of bringing two (or, in some cases, seven) of each species of animal onto the ark, Noah brought two (or, in some cases, seven) of each “kind” of animal. Now, “kind” is not a scientific term, but Young Earth Creationists use a sort of “common sense” approach to determining what is and is not a “kind.” For example, instead of bringing representative samples of dogs, coyotes, jackals, dingos, hyenas, etc., on the ark, Noah would have just brought a pair of some “dog-like” creature (perhaps similar to a wolf). Similarly, instead of bringing lions, tigers, jaguars, ocelots, lynxes, etc., Noah just brought a pair of “cats.”
So, yeah — perfectly sensible, right?
Except… no. The problem with this explanation is that it requires the speciation of thousands and thousands of different “kinds” to occur over the last 4000 years at a speed which would make an evolutionary biologist blush in embarrassment and without anybody actually noticing it happening (Young earth Creationists love to attack things like evolution by claiming it has never been observed, but then they are perfectly willing to accept this).
Just to out this into perspective, after the ark landed at Mt. Ararat, the descendants of this breeding pair of “felines” would have had to rapidly speciate to produce all the different types of cats we see today. Yes, one breeding pair of “cat” was responsible for all the Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Panthers, Leopards, Ocelots, Lynxes (Canadian, Iberian and Eurasian), House Cats (all the different breeds), Snow Leopards, African Golden Cats, Asian Golden Cats, Bobcats, Caracals, Chinese Desert Cats, Clouded Leopards, Fishing Cats, Servals, African Wild Cats, Andean Mountain Cats, Black-footed Cats, Bornean Bay Cats, European Wild Cats, Flat-headed Cats, Geoffroy’s Cats, Iriomote Cats, Jaguarundi, Jungle Cats, Kodkods, Leopard Cats (different from leopards, mind you), Marbled Cats, Margays, Oncillas, Pallas Cats, Pampas Cat, Pumas (a.k.a Mountain Lions or Cougars), Rusty Spotted Cats and Sand Cats. And all this happened in the last few thousand years or so without anybody seeing it happen.
And that’s just cats, mind you. Repeat the same process with horses (zebras, asses, etc.), dogs (wolves, foxes, coyotes, etc.) and every other “kind” of creature for which we now have many different existing species. All of this happening far more rapidly than has ever been observed in nature, and all without a single person in history ever noticing all these new species miraculously appearing overnight (“Hey — that jaguar just gave birth to an ocelot!”).
Oh, and since dinosaurs must have lived at the same time as humans, Noah also had to bring one representative pair of “dinosaurs” on the ark as well, but they were very small. And they died off right after the ark landed. Or else they lived long enough for their offspring to cover the earth with their fossils and then suddenly died off, again without anybody actually seeing it happen even though it would have been happening right in front of us during all of recorded history.
And, of course, not only would this rapid speciation have to occur without anybody ever taking note of it, but you would also need to explain how all the animals managed to travel to all the distant parts of the word where they eventually ended up. How did the Kangaroos and Koalas make it to Australia? How did the Sloths make it to South America? How did the penguins make it to Antarctica?
The only answer to all of these questions that Biblical literalists can provide is, of course, “God did it.” How could Noah build an ark big enough to carry all the necessary animals with only Bronze Age technology? God showed him how to do it. How could such a monstrosity be seaworthy? God performed a miracle and kept it afloat. How could all the different “kinds” of animals rapidly speciate and distribute themselves globally? God made it happen. Etc., etc., etc. If you want to believe this, go for it. God is a god of miracles, after all, and with God nothing is impossible (so they say). But, please, I wish people would stop trying to come up with rational-sounding and pseudo-scientific explanations for how it was all possible or how the story could possibly make any sort of sense. Just admit it was impossible and say that God can do impossible things, end of story. Stop trying to prove that your illogical and irrational beliefs are based in science and just own your beliefs for what they are.