Most Americans believe the Noah story is literally, word-for-word true, but the problems with the story are so overwhelming that it can only be myth.
The ark was over a hundred meters long, making it the largest wooden ship ever built. It would have required tens of thousands of big trees. Where did the wood come from? Could Noah and his three sons have built such a ship by hand?
How could all the world’s species fit on board? Some Christian literalists suppose there were only a thousand or so animal “kinds” (the Bible’s term), and they furiously evolved after the ark landed in about 2500 bce to create the millions of species we have today. These same Christians often reject evolution, the very force they need to create today’s species.
What did the carnivores eat while on the voyage? There were a few spare animals and birds for sacrificing, but what was available for the tigers and wolves? What did they eat after they were released from the Ark? Eating even a single rabbit or zebra would have made that species extinct.
What did the herbivores eat? Hay might store well, but what about the hummingbirds that drink nectar and bats that eat fruit? Flowers and fruit wouldn’t last the many months of the journey. How did they collect local foods for each animal, like fresh bamboo for the pandas?
What did the insects eat? Biologists today would be unable to provide the right kind of food and living conditions to ensure one hundred percent survival for all known insects. It’s hard to imagine how Noah and his sons were supposed to have managed this.
Even the fish would have had a hard time. The earth was covered by a single body of water, which was turbulent and muddy. With no separation between lakes and ocean, the freshwater and saltwater fish couldn’t both have been happy.
How did land animals travel from faraway places and then get back home afterwards? How did the penguins and polar bears get to Mesopotamia and stay comfortably cool during the voyage? How did the kangaroos get back to Australia and the sloths to South America?
Could all the world’s plants have survived months of immersion in seawater to recolonize the land? And how long would this sterile ecosystem need to recover before Noah and his family could have found food?
A worldwide flood would have buried the bodies of animals from the same ecosystem together. For example, we might expect fossils for hippos and sauropod dinosaurs together if they lived in the same marshy environment. The fossil record doesn’t show this.
One can imagine a miraculous resolution to each problem, but if miracles are the answer, why bother with this elaborate, unworkable myth? God could have just killed all the bad people in an instant, leaving Noah and family to repopulate the earth.
Geologists tell us there is no evidence for a worldwide flood, and the logistical problems surveyed here would have sunk this project. Worse, global genocide can’t be the handiwork of a loving Creator.
Continue to chapter 3.
Image credit: Wikimedia, public domain
Most Americans believe the Noah story is literally, word-for-word true: For 60 percent of Americans (2004 poll) the Noah story is literally, word-for-word true. For Protestants, that figure is 73 percent. For Evangelicals, it’s 87 percent. “Six in 10 Take Bible Stories Literally,” ABC News, February 10, 2004, abcnews.go.com/images/pdf/947a1ViewsoftheBible.pdf.
the largest wooden ship ever built: “Noah’s Ark: Sea Trials,” Skeptoid podcast, October 11, 2011, skeptoid.com/episodes/4279.
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