Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pulling the Plug on Noah's Flood

I used to believe that Noah's Flood was a true story. It had to be, because it's in the Bible. If the Flood didn't actually happen, the Old Testament's truthfulness is hurt. Since the New Testament writings depend completely on the Old Testament's truthfulness, they'd go down with it. For example, Jesus himself likens his second coming to Noah's Flood:
  • Luke 17:26-27 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
So Christians have a strong motivation to defend the truthfulness of the Old Testament, including Noah's Flood. But, did the Flood actually happen?

With a little Googling, one quickly gets the impression that today the Flood story is on par with the flat-Earth theory. From perusing the scientific evidence (I'm not a scientist!) it seems the summary is this: a global flood would have utterly devastated the Earth in detectable ways, but the Earth clearly shows a lack of such devastation.

We all saw the destruction wreaked by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Imagine how much greater the destruction of a global flood. Not only because it affects the whole planet, but the amount of water battering each location is over a mile deep instead of only a few feet. It would have destroyed all Earth's delicate structures, so that today there would be no delicate structures older than the flood date.

But Earth does have many delicate structures which are older than the Noah story, such as polar ice-caps, coral reefs, stalagmites, and even trees. Most critically, Earth's geologic column and fossil column show a lack of global flood devastation. Earth's strata is precisely in-tact throughout the time-scale when a global flood would have certainly churned it up. Creationists have come up with several "rapid growth" theories to account for the apparent old age of these structures, and to account for the existence of multiple human races (funny that creationists require evolution to defend the flood). It's clear they're committed to their religious conclusions here, not following the evidence.

Geological failings aside, the Noah story makes no sense logistically. Did polar bears swim/travel to the middle East to board the ark, and then swim to Canada afterward? What did carnivorous animals eat on the boat? How did animals from all different climates survive together in one climate for several months? Climate controlled cabins? There's an awful lot of magic involved if Noah's flood actually happened.

My favorite part is, after pulling off the extraordinary feat of keeping all the animals alive on the ark, Noah immediately burns some of them for God, who "smells the soothing aroma" and decides not to destroy things so much anymore.

Many Christians today have acknowledged the implausibility of a global flood, and have resorted to saying it was probably a large local flood. However, the whole premise of the Bible story and the language usage clearly doesn't gel with a local flood. Quoting the Bible:
  • Gen 6:6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth...
  • Gen 6:17 And behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything in which is the breath of life, from under heaven, everything which is on earth shall perish.
  • Gen 8:19 And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.
  • Gen 7:23 ... only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.
  • Gen 8:17 "Bring out with you every living thing... that they may breed abundantly on the earth..."
As the story goes, God promises to never again flood the earth. If Noah's flood was indeed just a local flood, God has broken that promise many times now. I think there's no escaping that the Bible tells of a global flood.

I've also heard Christians say that many ancient civilizations have reports of a massive flood. However, these reports obviously pertain to a local flood, otherwise those civilizations would not have survived to write about it. Again, I think the Bible story clearly depicts a global flood.

The last nail in the coffin for Noah's Flood story is that it's not the earliest version of the story! The Epic of Gilgamesh is a work of Sumerian mythology written hundreds of years before Genesis, and contains a Mesopotamian flood story which is nearly identical in form to Noah's Flood story. The similarities include:
  • God(s) was displeased with man
  • God(s) decides to send worldwide flood to kill all living creatures
  • God(s) knew of one righteous man
  • God(s) ordered this righteous man to build a wooden ark
  • The ark was to be multi-storied, sealed with pitch, and have one door
  • The righteous man, a few other people, and a sample of all the animals boarded the ark
  • A great rain flooded the land and covered the mountains
  • The righteous man sent out birds to detect dry land, and the third bird was successful
  • The ark landed on a mountain
  • The people exited the ark and offered burnt sacrifices to God(s), who smelled the aroma
  • God(s) express a changed attitude toward the flooding
  • The righteous man is blessed
Christians are aware of the problem that the Epic of Gilgamesh poses, and have made fairly humorous efforts to address it, such as this effort from the Institute for Creation Research (quotes taken from
  • "...these two flood accounts, it has been generally agreed that there is an obvious relationship."
  • "Dating of the oldest fragments of the Gilgamesh account originally indicated that it was older than the assumed dating of Genesis."
  • "The divine inspiration of the Bible would demand that the Genesis account is the correct version."
  • "Genesis is viewed for the most part as an historical work, even by many liberal scholars, while the Epic of Gilgamesh is viewed as mythological."
So Noah's Flood story is incompatible with science, logistically silly, requires accepting all sorts of weird theology like God being sorry he created man and being soothed by the smell of burning animals, and is a retelling of older Sumerian mythology. I think the only sound conclusion is that Noah's Flood never happened.

I also now see this story for how disgusting it really is; it's a story of the intentional suffocating of all life. It teaches us of a murderous god who is very disappointed with us and appeased by death and the smell of burning flesh sacrifices. And this is what Christians are teaching children in Sunday schools, using cute cartoons.