Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How Did All The Animals Fit On Noah’s Ark?

If anyone ever claims the Bible is completely true and a book to be taken seriously, I’ll point to the story of Noah’s Ark. This story demolishes any claims Christians may have that the Bible is true, that God is just or religion makes any sense. It is a ridiculous and preposterous tale that is almost too easy to knock down. But it shouldn’t be. Christians aren’t idiots they should recognise how little sense the story makes and drop it. We shouldn’t teach children this daft story based on the extermination of humanity. We shouldn’t blindly accept the story, but instead question it and ask, how did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?

The story begins on a strange note that sets the scene. Apparantly the “Sons of God” married the “daughters of men” and also “there were giants in the Earth in those days.” I’m sorry but no story involving people marrying giants or angels or whoever the sons of God are (isn’t Christianity based on the belief that Jesus is the only son of God?) can possibly be taken seriously. This apparently meant everyone on Earth was evil and doing wicked things (no explanation was given of what these things were so we can only guess). God decided that the only way to solve this vague problem was to kill every living thing on Earth! Talk about over reaction. Could he not simply have given them a talking to? After all this was supposedly before the time of Moses and Abraham so God hadn’t given any rules or commandments. Was genocide really the only solution?

It should be obvious that not every single person on Earth was evil. Were the children and babies evil? Did they deserve to die? How can you look at an entire people and declare them all evil? Isn’t that what Hitler did? He decided that all the Jews were evil and had to be exterminated. So did God. Not only that but all the animals who obviously weren’t evil would also die. Surely he could have destroyed people in a less crude way then a flood? Surely it would be less barbaric to simply convince people of the error of their ways than exterminate all life? Who thought this would be a good story for children?
God made an exception and decided that Noah and his family would be spared if they built an Ark and took two of every animal on board. (This is complicated by the fact that the Bible contradicts itself and says that he brought seven of each clean animal and seven of each bird, forgetting that God hadn’t yet distinguished between clean and unclean animals.) Now it should be obvious that are some problems with this story, namely that there isn’t a boat big enough to fit all the animals of the world on board. First of all how did all these animals reach Noah’s Ark? How did the penguins or the kangaroos (who can’t swim) arrive? Christians claim that all the animals came to Noah through some God given migration instinct. But how did they survive the journey? Animals have specific diets, so if they moved location they probably would not have access to it and starve. Travelling the length of the globe is a journey few animals could make, they simply don’t have the endurance. They would have to travel through foreign climates and expose themselves to diseases and animals that they had no defence mechanism against. Surely it’s obvious to point out that having the entire animal kingdom converge on a single spot is going to cause lots of problems?

How did all the animals fit on board? Scientists have named almost 2 million species, but all agree that this is only a tiny fraction of the true amount as there could be between 5 and 30 million species. Obviously they couldn’t all fit on the boat, especially when we know how big it actually was. How were the animals stored, after all many animals eat each other and therefore would have to be kept separate? What about the vast quantities of food that would have to be stored to feed them. What about the carnivores who will only eat fresh meat? Some snakes only eat living animals, was there a stock of live mice on board as food? What about herbivores who only eat plants, how was there food kept fresh for the entire year they were at sea? What was to prevent food from spoiling? What about cleaning up after the animals, how could only 8 people tend to thousands of animals when zoos have staffs of hundreds to deal with smaller numbers? What about ventilation and sunlight? Thousands of animals tightly packed into a confined space is a situation rife for disease. Few animals are able to adjust to captivity even where it mimics their natural life. How could they survive in dark, cramped conditions? How were animals from incredibly cold climates stored together with animals from incredibly hot climates? If a single animal died, that entire specie would go extinct. If the margin of error is zero, what happens if something goes wrong?

Christians try to get around this by claiming that insects were not brought on board (as most species are insects this greatly reduces the number). However, if they weren’t on board then they would have drowned and we wouldn’t have any insects today. They claim that the animals were infants when they were brought on board, therefore taking up less space. But infants need their parents to mind them and teach them how to survive. How else will they know what food to eat and how to avoid predators? Infants are also the most likely to catch disease and be the victim of predators, so are not the best choice for the future of a species. Christians also argue that not every animal was on board but rather one from each family group. So instead of the hundreds of different varieties of snakes, there was simply two snakes. In order to believe this you must believe evolution can occur in an extremely short space of time, only a few thousand years in this case. Evolutionary scientists know this is impossible which is why it is strange to hear creationists argue evolution didn’t happen, except in this case.
Another pseudo-scientific argument is based on comparing how many sheep you can fit into a rail carriage. The author fails to realise that not all animals are sheep. Sheep are docile and do not fight even when in confined spaces. Most animals are not like this and will probably fight. The necessity of separating animals means you cannot squash them together. While you can compact sheep for short journeys, you cannot keep them like that for a year. Animals need to move around, have fresh air, and sunlight or they will die. A year of no movement, possibly in the dark, would leave them in a greatly weakened state and prone to disease.

There are various other problems. For example, it is claimed that sea life would be fine as they would not be affected by a flood. This ignores the obvious fact that some fish live in fresh water and others live in salt water. A giant flood would upset this balance and kill a great many of the fish. The rising ocean level would also significantly change marine life’s environment and cause great disturbance. Life that bases itself in shallow water would also probably be destroyed. What about bacteria? Most bacteria cannot survive under water so it must have been on the ark. Likewise for disease, many of which require a human host. Noah and his family must have been riddled with disease.

Wooden boats are not that resilient and sunk quite easily by modern standards. What are the chances that a wooden boat built by a single family who may not have had any experience could survive the greatest flood in history? The Bible says that the flood covered even the highest mountain. If the Ark was higher than Mount Everest, then no one on board would be able to breath as the air is too thin. They would also freeze to death (ever wonder why there’s also snow on top of mountains? It’s extremely cold up there). Where did all the rain come from? The Bible says the window of Heaven was opened, but what does that mean? After the flood where did the water go? Enough water to cover Mount Everest could hardly just soak into the ground or evaporate. (There is also a scientific point that that much water would completely mess up the atmosphere and make it impossible to breathe).

What happened after the flood? When the animals were released, how did they know where to go? How did they get from Mesopotamia to the Amazon? What did they eat considering all the plant life would be dead after a year under water? What did the carnivores eat if killing a single animal would cause that species to go extinct? How could anything grow if the entire Earth is covered in sediment? There would have been no fresh water anywhere on Earth so all life would have died. Scientists reckon that any species that contains less than 20 members will go extinct, so how did only 2 animals in each species repopulate the Earth? Surely this would have required mass inbreeding that would genetically destroy a species? If Noah’s family were the only humans left, did they have to commit generation of incest to repopulate the Earth?

The best creationist response I could find was that the Earth was very different back then. They argue that there was only one continent and one climate that allowed easy migration. Or that animals had different features back then, so sloths may have actually have been fast at migrating (otherwise it would have taken generations for them to reach the Ark). Animals that have very specific diets now could have had broader palates. There is a lot of preposterous nonsense like the claim that kangaroos could have already been living in Mesopotamia. There is a strong hint of desperation and clutching at straws.

There is one possible answer to this. God could have used magic. He could have used magic to bring all the animals to the Ark, magic to make them fit on the Ark, magic to keep them alive for the duration, magic to feed them and magic to help them repopulate the Earth. The problem is that if every single step of the story requires magic, isn’t it more likely that the story didn’t happen? If he is going to use magic why build an Ark? Why not create a force field around what he wants to save and then kill the rest, instead of waiting a year? Why not just give all the evil people a heart attack and save the trouble? If everything has to die, why not recreate it afresh?

The story ends with Noah sacrificing some animals to God (what was the point of keeping them for a year). God then decides that exterminating all humanity in the world’s greatest genocide isn’t such a good idea and promises not to do again. As a reminder he creates the rainbow. This might have made sense to whoever wrote the Bible, but scientists know that rainbows come from the refraction of sunlight, if before the Flood, light didn’t refract sight would be impossible as that is how we see.

So there we have it. The most ridiculous and preposterous story that cannot possibly be taken seriously. It is a silly story about genocide and mass extermination that for some reason some people still take seriously. It didn’t happen. The Bible is not true. If this story isn’t true, then there is a good chance a lot of the other stories aren’t either. If God commits genocide he probably isn’t a loving being. It’s time to face facts, Noah’s Ark wasn’t real.

If you want to see more creationists attempts (and failings) to explain the flood see Answers in Genesis and Creation.com. For the most detailed and through criticism of every aspect of the story of Noah’s Ark see Problems With A Global Flood, while Atheism wikia is also good.

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