Coming from Somerset, England, a large swath of which is currently under water (including the house I spent my tweenage years), floods have been on my mind. So my blog entry to day is about probably the most famous “flood”.
The infamous creation museum - where dinosaurs walk peaceably with humans in the Garden of Eden and visitors are told that the world is just a little over 6000 years old (for a review by a scientist see) is planning to build a Noah’s Ark exhibit (http://arkencounter.com/).
Although the story of a great flood pre-dates the bible and is referred to in Mesopotamian tablets dating back as far as 1800BC (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/11/noahs-ark-round-ancient-british-museum-mesopotamian-clay-tablets-flood), biblical literalists (for example http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/caring-for-the-animals
and http://icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=2465 for just a couple of examples) including the above mentioned creation museum treat the Noah story as historical fact (based on Genesis 6-8), that all the species of animals in the world were carried in the Ark, and that this is a valid and equal explanation for the existence of current biodiversity as evolution by natural selection.
Let’s for the moment overlook that fact that biblical scriptures does not agree on the exact story of Noah’s Ark, for example in one version of the story of the flood, it lasted 40 days whereas a second says 150 days, and likewise in one version version Noah sent out a dove three times to look for dry land, and the other a raven is sent out once, yet Christian fundamentalists are adamant about the version that appears in Genesis is the literal truth. Let’s look at the nature of the Ark.
The ship was six times as long as it was wide, with three decks and an opening in the side 450 ft long X 50 by 30 ‘ high or 521 ‘ x 87’ by 52’ high, depending on what version of cubit you use for determining the size.
The largest wooden ship built to date was the six masted schooner Wyoming, which was built in 1909, and which was 450’ long. This ship sank, because at that size wood is not an effective building material, and it twists and warps. Bear in mind that Noah and his sons were building a vessel that was actually slightly larger, with bronze age tools, and were not experienced boat builders with university trained engineers structurally designing the vessel.
Now, inside this vessel all the creatures of the earth would be placed two by two. Genesis 7, mentions that 7 pairs of birds and “clean” species were put upon the ark, with one pair of each ”unclean” species (there are currently 10,000 bird species, which would mean 140,000 animals, which would be a tight squeeze as the generally given dimensions of the ark would allow as average 1 ¾ foot cube per individual bird) and so conditions would have been pretty cramped. At the moment there are an estimated 8.7 million species, not including bacteria etc (Mora et al. 2011; http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001127). The biblical literalists talk about the Ark holding 7,000 to 16,000 species, including dinosaurs, and to get around the issue of size, it has been posited that the animals were all babies, in order to fit. In order for those species to have <I can see biblical literalists shudder at the thought> evolved into the number of species recorded today, approximately 6 species of animal would have had to have spontaneously arisen every 24 hours since the flood. Don’t get me started on the genetic bottlenecks involved.
Logistics of space and species diversity aside, Noah must have spent a long time travelling post flood, to, for example, taxi kangaroos from the middle east to Australia, kiwi’s to New Zealand, and must also have repopulated North America with wildlife.
So to biblical literalists I say – WTF guys?!
Now if you wanted to take the biblical stories as folk history, the Mediterranean region has had a history of earthquakes and volcanic activity, and a tsunami or other geological event that may have led to a regional flood (hey perhaps there were minor earthquakes and Noah in his wisdom preempted an upcoming biggie on its way), and Noah built a preemptive boat to carry a diversity of agricultural livestock, and perhaps some local wildlife, well maybe that makes logical and scientific sense. But increasingly biblical fundamentalists are trying to crow bar a literal interpretation of Genesis 6-8 into science classes (for example see http://ict.aiias.edu/vol_26A/26Acc_057-077.htm , http://noahsdinosaurs.wordpress.com/, http://christiananswers.net/kids/lesson-plans.html#noah, and for what to do if you encounter this issue see http://ncse.com/rncse/20/1-2/search-noahs-ark-science-curriculum for starters). It a literal interpretation of the Noah’s Ark story is to be included side by side with evolution in terms of validity you would have to disregard our current understanding of not only biology, but geology, paleontology, geography and quite frankly engineering and mathematics to boot.