Sunday, January 14, 2018
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Problems with a Global Flood
Second Editionby Mark Isaak
1. Building the Ark
2. Gathering the Animals
3. Fitting the Animals Aboard
4. Caring for the Animals
5. The Flood Itself
6. Implications of a Flood
7. Producing the Geological Record
8. Species Survival and Post-Flood Ecology
9. Species Distribution and Diversity
10. Historical Aspects
11. Logical, Philosophical, and Theological Points
reationist models are often criticized for being too vague to have any predictive value. A literal interpretation of the Flood story in Genesis, however, does imply certain physical consequences which can be tested against what we actually observe, and the implications of such an interpretation are investigated below. Some creationists provided even more detailed models, and these are also addressed (see especially sections 5 and 7).
References are listed at the end of each section.
Two kinds of flood model are not addressed here. First is the local flood. Genesis 6-8 can be interpreted as a homiletic story such that the "world" that was flooded was just the area that Noah knew. Creationists argue against the local flood model because it doesn't fit their own literalist preconceptions, but I know of no physical evidence contrary to such a model.
Second, the whole story can be dismissed as a series of supernatural miracles. There is no way to contradict such an argument. However, one must wonder about a God who reportedly does one thing and then arranges every bit of evidence to make it look like something else happened. It's entirely possible that a global flood occurred 4000 years ago or even last Thursday, and that God subsequently erased all the evidence, including our memories of it. But even if such stories are true, what's the point?
Wood is not the best material for shipbuilding. It is not enough that a ship be built to hold together; it must also be sturdy enough that the changing stresses don't open gaps in its hull. Wood is simply not strong enough to prevent separation between the joints, especially in the heavy seas that the Ark would have encountered. The longest wooden ships in modern seas are about 300 feet, and these require reinforcing with iron straps and leak so badly they must be constantly pumped. The ark was 450 feet long [ Gen. 6:15]. Could an ark that size be made seaworthy?
Bringing all kinds of animals together in the vicinity of the ark presents significant problems.
Could animals have traveled from elsewhere? If the animals traveled from other parts of the world, many of them would have faced extreme difficulties.
- Some, like sloths and penguins, can't travel overland very well at all.
- Some, like koalas and many insects, require a special diet. How did they bring it along?
- Some cave-dwelling arthropods can't survive in less than 100% relative humidity.
- Some, like dodos, must have lived on islands. If they didn't, they would have been easy prey for other animals. When mainland species like rats or pigs are introduced to islands, they drive many indigenous species to extinction. Those species would not have been able to survive such competition if they lived where mainland species could get at them before the Flood.
Could animals have all lived near Noah? Some creationists suggest that the animals need not have traveled far to reach the Ark; a moderate climate could have made it possible for all of them to live nearby all along. However, this proposal makes matters even worse. The last point above would have applied not only to island species, but to almost all species. Competition between species would have driven most of them to extinction.
There is a reason why Gila monsters, yaks, and quetzals don't all live together in a temperate climate. They can't survive there, at least not for long without special care. Organisms have preferred environments outside of which they are at a deadly disadvantage. Most extinctions are caused by destroying the organisms' preferred environments. The creationists who propose all the species living together in a uniform climate are effectively proposing the destruction of all environments but one. Not many species could have survived that.
How was the Ark loaded? Getting all the animals aboard the Ark presents logistical problems which, while not impossible, are highly impractical. Noah had only seven days to load the Ark ( Gen. 7:4-10). If only 15764 animals were aboard the Ark (see section 3), one animal must have been loaded every 38 seconds, without letup. Since there were likely more animals to load, the time pressures would have been even worse.
To determine how much space is required for animals, we must first determine what is a kind, how many kinds were aboard the ark, and how big they were.
What is a kind? Creationists themselves can't decide on an answer to this question; they propose criteria ranging from species to order, and I have even seen an entire kingdom (bacteria) suggested as a single kind. Woodmorappe (p. 5-7) compromises by using genus as a kind. However, on the ark "kind" must have meant something closer to species for three reasons:
- For purposes of naming animals, the people who live among them distinguish between them (that is, give them different names) at roughly the species level. [Gould, 1980]
- The Biblical "kind," according to most interpretations, implies reproductive separateness. On the ark, the purpose of gathering different kinds was to preserve them by later reproduction. Species, by definition, is the level at which animals are reproductively distinct.
- The Flood, according to models, was fairly recent. There simply wouldn't have been time enough to accumulate the number of mutations necessary for the diversity of species we see within many genera today.
What kinds were aboard the ark? Woodmorappe and Whitcomb & Morris arbitrarily exclude all animals except mammals, birds, and reptiles. However, many other animals, particularly land arthropods, must also have been on the ark for two reasons:
- The Bible says so. Gen. 7:8 puts on the ark all creatures that move along the ground, with no further qualifications. Lev. 11:42includes arthropods (creatures that "walk on many feet") in such a category.
- They couldn't survive outside. Gen. 7:21-23 says every land creature not aboard the ark perished. And indeed, not one insect species in a thousand could survive for half a year on the vegetation mats proposed by some creationists. Most other land arthropods, snails, slugs, earthworms, etc. would also have to be on the ark to survive.
Were dinosaurs and other extinct animals on the ark? According to the Bible, Noah took samples of all animals alive at the time of the Flood. If, as creationists claim, all fossil-bearing strata were deposited by the Flood, then all the animals which became fossils were alive then. Therefore all extinct land animals had representatives aboard the ark.
It is also worth pointing out that the number of extinct species is undoubtedly greater than the number of known extinct species. New genera of dinosaurs have been discovered at a nearly constant rate for more than a century, and there's no indication that the rate of discovery will fall off in the near future.
Were the animals aboard the ark mature? Woodmorappe gets his animals to fit only by taking juvenile pairs of everything weighing more than 22 lbs. as an adult. However, it is more likely that Noah would have brought adults aboard:
- The Bible (Gen. 7:2) speaks of "the male and his mate," indicating that the animals were at sexual maturity.
- Many animals require the care of adults to teach them behaviors they need for survival. If brought aboard as juveniles, these animals wouldn't have survived.
The last point does not apply to all animals. However, the animals don't need parental care tend to be animals that mature quickly, and thus would be close to adult size after a year of growth anyway.
How many clean animals were on the ark? The Bible says either seven or fourteen (it's ambiguous) of each kind of clean animal was aboard. It defines clean animals essentially as ruminants, a suborder which includes about 69 recent genera, 192 recent species [Wilson & Reeder, 1993], and probably a comparable number of extinct genera and species. That is a small percentage of the total number of species, but ruminants are among the largest mammals, so their bulk is significant.
Woodmorappe (p. 8-9) gets around the problem by citing Jewish tradition which gives only 13 domestic genera as clean. He then calculates that this would increase the total animal mass by 2-3% and decides that this amount is small enough that he can ignore it completely. However, even Jewish sources admit that this contradicts the unambiguous word of the Bible. [Steinsaltz, 1976, p. 187]
The number and size of clean birds is small enough to disregard entirely, but the Bible at one point (Gen. 7:3) says seven of all kinds of birds were aboard.
So, could they all fit? It is important to take the size of animals into account when considering how much space they would occupy because the greatest number of species occurs in the smallest animals. Woodmorappe performed such an analysis and came to the conclusion that the animals would take up 47% of the ark. In addition, he determines that about 10% of the ark was needed for food (compacted to take as little space as possible) and 9.4% for water (assuming no evaporation or wastage). At least 25% of the space would have been needed for corridors and bracing. Thus, increasing the quantity of animals by more than about 5% would overload the ark.
However, Woodmorappe makes several questionable and invalid assumptions. Here's how the points discussed above affect his analysis. Table 1 shows Woodmorappe's analysis and some additional calculations.
|Log mass range (g)||0-1||1-2||2-3||3-4||4-5||5-6||6-7||7-8|
|Ave. mass (kg) (p. 13)||.005||.05||.5||5||50||316||3160||31600|
|# of mammals (p. 10)||466||1570||1378||1410||1462||892||246||7424|
|# of birds (p. 10)||630||2272||1172||450||70||4||4598|
|# of reptiles (p. 10)||642||844||688||492||396||286||270||106||3724|
|total # of animals||1738||4686||3238||2352||1928||1182||516||106||15746|
|Ave. yearling mass (kg) (p. 66)||.005||.05||.5||5||10||100||300||1000|
|Total mass after one year||8.7||234.3||1619||11760||19280||118200||154800||106000||411902|
|Total mass assuming adults||8.7||234.3||1619||11760||96400||373512||1630560||3349600||5463694|
|Additional clean birds||1575||5680||2930||1125||175||10||11495|
|Additional ruminants (138 genera)||260||420||10||690|
|Additional clean animal mass (yearling weight, kg)||8||284||1465||5625||4350||43000||3000||47600|
- Collecting each species instead of each genus would increase the number of individuals three- to fourfold. The most speciose groups tend to be the smaller animals, though, so the total mass would be approximately doubled or tripled.
- Collecting all land animals instead of just mammals, birds, and reptiles would have insignificant impact on the space required, since those animals, though plentiful, are so small. (The problems come when you try to care for them all.)
- Leaving off the long-extinct animals would free considerable space. Woodmorappe doesn't say how many of the animals in his calculations are known only from fossils, but it is apparently 50-70% of them, including most of the large ones. However, since he took only juveniles of the large animals, leaving off all the dinosaurs etc. would probably not free more than 80% of the space. On the other hand, collecting all extinct animals in addition to just the known ones would increase the load by an unknown but probably substantial amount.
- Loading adults instead of juveniles as small as Woodmorappe uses would increase the load 13- to 50-fold.
- Including extra clean animals would increase the load by 1.5-3% if only the 13 traditional domestic ruminants are considered, but by 14-28% if all ruminants are considered clean.
In conclusion, an ark of the size specified in the Bible would not be large enough to carry a cargo of animals and food sufficient to repopulate the earth, especially if animals that are now extinct were required to be aboard.
Special diets. Many animals, especially insects, require special diets. Koalas, for example, require eucalyptus leaves, and silkworms eat nothing but mulberry leaves. For thousands of plant species (perhaps even most plants), there is at least one animal that eats only that one kind of plant. How did Noah gather all those plants aboard, and where did he put them?
Other animals are strict carnivores, and some of those specialize on certain kinds of foods, such as small mammals, insects, fish, or aquatic invertebrates. How did Noah determine and provide for all those special diets?
Fresh foods. Many animals require their food to be fresh. Many snakes, for example, will eat only live foods (or at least warm and moving). Parasitoid wasps only attack living prey. Most spiders locate their prey by the vibrations it produces. [Foelix, 1996] Most herbivorous insects require fresh food. Aphids, in fact, are physically incapable of sucking from wilted leaves. How did Noah keep all these food supplies fresh?
Food preservation/Pest control. Food spoilage is a major concern on long voyages; it was especially thus before the inventions of canning and refrigeration. The large quantities of food aboard would have invited infestations of any of hundreds of stored product pests (especially since all of those pests would have been aboard), and the humidity one would expect aboard the Ark would have provided an ideal environment for molds. How did Noah keep pests from consuming most of the food?
Ventilation. The ark would need to be well ventilated to disperse the heat, humidity, and waste products (including methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia) from the many thousands of animals which were crowded aboard. Woodmorappe (pp. 37-42) interprets Genesis 6:16to mean there was an 18-inch opening all around the top, and says that this, with slight breezes, would have been enough to provide adequate ventilation. However, the ark was divided into separate rooms and decks (Gen. 6:14,16). How was fresh air circulated throughout the structure?
Sanitation. The ungulates alone would have produced tons of manure a day. The waste on the lowest deck at least (and possibly the middle deck) could not simply be pushed overboard, since the deck was below the water line; the waste would have to be carried up a deck or two. Vermicomposting could reduce the rate of waste accumulation, but it requires maintenance of its own. How did such a small crew dispose of so much waste?
Exercise/Animal handling. The animals aboard the ark would have been in very poor shape unless they got regular exercise. (Imagine if you had to stay in an area the size of a closet for a year.) How were several thousand diverse kinds of animals exercised regularly?
Manpower for feeding, watering, etc. How did a crew of eight manage a menagerie larger and more diverse than that found in zoos requiring many times that many employees? Woodmorappe claims that eight people could care for 16000 animals, but he makes many unrealistic and invalid assumptions. Here are a few things he didn't take into account:
- Feeding the animals would take much longer if the food was in containers to protect it from pests.
- Many animals would have to be hand-fed.
- Watering several animals at once via troughs would not work aboard a ship. The water would be sloshed out by the ship's roll.
- Many animals, in such an artificial environment, would have required additional special care. For example, all of the hoofed animals would need to have their hooves trimmed several times during the year. [Batten, 1976, pp. 39-42]
- Not all manure could be simply pushed overboard; a third of it at least would have to be carried up at least one deck.
- Corpses of the dead animals would have to be removed regularly.
- Animals can't be expected to run laps and return to their cages without a lot of human supervision.
Where did the Flood water come from, and where did it go? Several people have proposed answers to these questions, but none which consider all the implications of their models. A few of the commonly cited models are addressed below.
Vapor canopy. This model, proposed by Whitcomb & Morris and others, proposes that much of the Flood water was suspended overhead until the 40 days of rain which caused the Flood. The following objections are covered in more detail by Brown.
- How was the water suspended, and what caused it to fall all at once when it did?
- If a canopy holding the equivalent to more than 40 feet of water were part of the atmosphere, it would raise the atmospheric pressure accordingly, raising oxygen and nitrogen levels to toxic levels.
- If the canopy began as vapor, any water from it would be superheated. This scenario essentially starts with most of the Flood waters boiled off. Noah and company would be poached. If the water began as ice in orbit, the gravitational potential energy would likewise raise the temperature past boiling.
- A canopy of any significant thickness would have blocked a great deal of light, lowering the temperature of the earth greatly before the Flood.
- Any water above the ozone layer would not be shielded from ultraviolet light, and the light would break apart the water molecules.
Hydroplate. Walt Brown's model proposes that the Flood waters came from a layer of water about ten miles underground, which was released by a catastrophic rupture of the earth's crust, shot above the atmosphere, and fell as rain.
- How was the water contained? Rock, at least the rock which makes up the earth's crust, doesn't float. The water would have been forced to the surface long before Noah's time, or Adam's time for that matter.
- Even a mile deep, the earth is boiling hot, and thus the reservoir of water would be superheated. Further heat would be added by the energy of the water falling from above the atmosphere. As with the vapor canopy model, Noah would have been poached.
- Where is the evidence? The escaping waters would have eroded the sides of the fissures, producing poorly sorted basaltic erosional deposits. These would be concentrated mainly near the fissures, but some would be shot thousands of miles along with the water. (Noah would have had to worry about falling rocks along with the rain.) Such deposits would be quite noticeable but have never been seen.
Comet. Kent Hovind proposed that the Flood water came from a comet which broke up and fell on the earth. Again, this has the problem of the heat from the gravitational potential energy. The water would be steam by the time it reached the surface of the earth.
Runaway subduction. John Baumgardner created the runaway subduction model, which proposes that the pre-Flood lithosphere (ocean floor), being denser than the underlying mantle, began sinking. The heat released in the process decreased the viscosity of the mantle, so the process accelerated catastrophically. All the original lithosphere became subducted; the rising magma which replaced it raised the ocean floor, causing sea levels to rise and boiling off enough of the ocean to cause 150 days of rain. When it cooled, the ocean floor lowered again, and the Flood waters receded. Sedimentary mountains such as the Sierras and Andes rose after the Flood by isostatic rebound. [Baumgardner, 1990a; Austin et al., 1994]
- The main difficulty of this theory is that it admittedly doesn't work without miracles. [Baumgardner, 1990a, 1990b] The thermal diffusivity of the earth, for example, would have to increase 10,000 fold to get the subduction rates proposed [Matsumura, 1997], and miracles are also necessary to cool the new ocean floor and to raise sedimentary mountains in months rather than in the millions of years it would ordinarily take.
- Baumgardner estimates a release of 1028 joules from the subduction process. This is more than enough to boil off all the oceans. In addition, Baumgardner postulates that the mantle was much hotter before the Flood (giving it greater viscosity); that heat would have to go somewhere, too.
- Cenozoic sediments are post-Flood according to this model. Yet fossils from Cenozoic sediments alone show a 65-million-year record of evolution, including a great deal of the diversification of mammals and angiosperms. [Carroll, 1997, chpts. 5, 6, & 13]
- Subduction on the scale Baumgardner proposes would have produced very much more vulcanism around plate boundaries than we see. [Matsumura, 1997]
New ocean basins. Most flood models (including those above, possibly excepting Hovind's) deal with the water after the flood by proposing that it became our present oceans. The earth's terrain, according to this model, was much, much flatter during the Flood, and through cataclysms, the mountains were pushed up and the ocean basins lowered. (Brown proposes that the cataclysms were caused by the crust sliding around on a cushion of water; Whitcomb & Morris don't give a cause.)
- How could such a change be effected? To change the density and/or temperature of at least a quarter of the earth's crust fast enough to raise and lower the ocean floor in a matter of months would require mechanisms beyond any proposed in any of the flood models.
- Why are most sediments on high ground? Most sediments are carried until the water slows down or stops. If the water stopped in the oceans, we should expect more sediments there. Baumgardner's own modeling shows that, during the Flood, currents would be faster over continents than over ocean basins [Baumgardner, 1994], so sediments should, on the whole, be removed from continents and deposited in ocean basins. Yet sediments on the ocean basin average 0.6 km thick, while on continents (including continental shelves), they average 2.6 km thick. [Poldervaart, 1955]
- Where's the evidence? The water draining from the continents would have produced tremendous torrents. There is evidence of similar flooding in the Scablands of Washington state (from the draining of a lake after the breaking of an ice dam) and on the far western floor of the Mediterranean Sea (from the ocean breaking through the Straits of Gibralter). Why is such evidence not found worldwide?
- How did the ark survive the process? Such a wholesale restructuring of the earth's topography, compressed into just a few months, would have produced tsunamis large enough to circle the earth. The aftershocks alone would have been devastating for years afterwards.
Austin, Steven A., John R. Baumgardner, D. Russell Humphreys, Andrew A. Snelling, Larry Vardiman, & Kurt P. Wise, 1994. Catastrophic plate tectonics: a global flood model of earth history. Proceedings of the third international conference on creationism, technical symposium sessions, pp. 609-621.
Brown, Walt, 1997. In the beginning: compelling evidence for creation and the Flood. ( www.creationscience.com/onlinebook)
Baumgardner, John R., 1990b. The imparative of non-stationary natural law in relation to Noah's Flood. Creation Research Society Quarterly 27(3): 98-100.
Baumgardner, John R., 1994. Patterns of ocean circulation over the continents during Noah's Flood. Proceedings of the third international conference on creationism, technical symposium sessions, pp. 77-86.
A global flood would have produce evidence contrary to the evidence we see.
How do you explain the relative ages of mountains? For example, why weren't the Sierra Nevadas eroded as much as the Appalachians during the Flood?
Why is there no evidence of a flood in ice core series? Ice cores from Greenland have been dated back more than 40,000 years by counting annual layers. [Johnsen et al, 1992,; Alley et al, 1993] A worldwide flood would be expected to leave a layer of sediments, noticeable changes in salinity and oxygen isotope ratios, fractures from buoyancy and thermal stresses, a hiatus in trapped air bubbles, and probably other evidence. Why doesn't such evidence show up?
How are the polar ice caps even possible? Such a mass of water as the Flood would have provided sufficient buoyancy to float the polar caps off their beds and break them up. They wouldn't regrow quickly. In fact, the Greenland ice cap would not regrow under modern (last 10 ky) climatic conditions.
Why did the Flood not leave traces on the sea floors? A year long flood should be recognizable in sea bottom cores by (1) an uncharacteristic amount of terrestrial detritus, (2) different grain size distributions in the sediment, (3) a shift in oxygen isotope ratios (rain has a different isotopic composition from seawater), (4) a massive extinction, and (n) other characters. Why do none of these show up?
Why is there no evidence of a flood in tree ring dating?