The Big Bogus Boat

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It’s time to talk about “Noah’s Ark”. I’ll be pulling some material from both “Answers In Genesis” and the “Institute For Creation Research“.

First up: how did all the animals fit on the ark? AiG makes the following points: there were 16,000 animals total, these animals were young (but not newborns), most animals are small, the largest of them would only be a few hundred pounds, and many of them could have been housed in groups.

Let’s grant the 16k number for the sake of argument (at least for the moment), and do some math. The ark was 300 x 50 x 30 cubits (Gen 6:15). Cubits were likely either 18 inches, or 20.7 inches. Let’s even use the longer cubit. So, the available space on the ark is: 6210 x 1035 x 621 inches = 517.5 x 86.25 x 51.75 feet = 2309828.90625 cubic feet. Let’s round up to 2.31 million cubic feet. That certainly seems like a lot, doesn’t it? It is a pretty good sized amount of space.

I’m not going to attempt to guess at the average size of an animal on the ark; because there’s a much bigger problem with this than whether the animals themselves could fit. The problem is fresh water. I’m going to make the assumption that Noah didn’t have a desalinization plant on the ark. I’m also going to make the assumption that during the “40 days and 40 nights”, he could have used rainwater for both his family and the animals. The problem comes afterwards – this went on for a year after the rain stopped. There’s 7.48 gallons of water in a cubic foot. Noah would have needed at the very least 5000 gallons of water a day for drinking and cleaning, and this is being extremely conservative. 5000 x 365 = 1825000 gallons / 7.68 = 237,630 cubits of space taken up just by the water. So now we’re down to roughly 2 million cubic feet of space.

He would have needed food too. Let’s say a cubic foot of food a day for each animal on average, which is again extremely conservative. So that’s 16,000 x 365 = 584,0000 cubic feet of food. Now we’re down to 1.42 million¬† cubic feet for the animals.

We also need to knock off a certain amount of space taken up by supply storage, the construction of the inner decks, waste disposal systems, etc. It’s hard to quantify how much space this would take up, so let’s make a conservative guess and knock it down to 1.2 million cubic feet for the animals.

And finally, of course animals aren’t perfect cubes. They need at least a little bit of space to move around. In terms of area, let’s say each animal needs an enclosure twice its body size to move around. So that’s going to cut the space in half, to 0.6 million cubic feet. That’s only a quarter of the ark’s total space, or roughly 130 x 86 x 51 feet.¬† This only leaves 37 cubic feet for each animal on average. That’s about a 3.3 foot cube space for each animal.

Of course, these numbers are all extremely conservative. ICR says, “Noah was told to take two of each “kind” of animal on board, probably represented by today’s “families” or “genera” rather than species.” Here’s a list of various amounts of families, genera, and species:

Stinkbugs – 896 genera [1]

Frogs and Toads – 31 families, 300 genera, 5000 species [2]

Turtles – 14 families, 97 genera, 300 species [3]

Lizards and Snakes – 50 families [4]

Birds – 235 families [5]

Spiders – 111 families, 3747 genera, 40288 species [6]

Mammals – 155 families, 1243 genera, 5773 species [7]

Flies – 209 families [8]

This is far from a complete list, but it serves to illustrate a point: “kinds” cannot be species, obviously; there’s no way Noah had 80,000 spiders crawling around, along with 10,000 frogs and over 10,000 mammals. If kinds are genera, there’s still well over 16,000 animals that need to be on the ark (remember, I haven’t even included every genera in this list). So, kinds have to be families, or a higher taxon. But this can’t work, as it would require a bizarre, super accelerated hyper-evolution to give us the huge number of species (in the millions) that we see today. Every birth after the flood would have to be a speciation event for years and years. To get 5000 species of frogs from just 31 pairs in such a short time is ridiculous.

The problem of space just gets worse and worse, though.In addition to all these animals, Noah would also had to have plants on the ark. Many plant species cannot survive a year of submersion, especially not at the depths of the flood. He would need fish too, as well as tanks to keep them in, and equipment to keep the temperature, lighting, oxygen, and salt levels within tolerable levels. Most fish require very specific water compositions to survive, conditions which the flood would have extraordinarily upset.

ICR says “It’s well known that all animals can survive on a meatless diet.” Ok, maybe – with modern food processing techniques which let us produce nutritional animal feed. But Noah didn’t have any meow mix to feed his tigers. But anyway, let’s move on to the post-flood world.

So, the waters finally subside and Noah steps off the ark with his family and all these animals. He looks around, and sees the ultimate dystopia. Everything is dead – not just animals, but plants too. The world is now a barren wasteland. There’s nothing to eat, and the land is ruined. Nothing will grow for decades anywhere. What’s worse, due to all the water, the entire world now has a tropical climate that will remain for hundreds of years. Life which requires any other climate is doomed.

He decides to eat the polar bears first.

The wolves pick at some decaying corpses they found. Flowering plants seem doomed, because the bees all died on the ark. He had a male drone and a queen, but didn’t take any female worker bees. Noah sees the lions take down a gazelle, and a frog snatch a fly out of the air. This could be a problem.

A few months later, the rabbits are looking kind of funky. Many of them are being born with twisted jaws, some of them are bleeding for no reason, and some of them just die at birth. Maybe reproducing with siblings isn’t such a good idea.

The plants go extinct first. The cows, which somehow managed to avoid the lions, ate all the grass. The giraffes ate all the leaves off the trees. The herbivores soon follow. If they’re not eaten by the carnivores, they die of starvation. Finally the carnivores die out. They lasted a good long while, but most of them can’t eat decaying meat. Noah’s family dies too. The host of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can’t live outside the human body get the better of them after a year on the ark followed by a few months of starvation. Due to a lack of fruits and vegetables, one of his sons actually dies of scurvy before the malaria he contracted from close proximity to the mosquitos on the ark does him in.

The bears finally die – hibernation can’t be permanent. The buzzards and hyenas are doing well, though, at least for now. In a few years there won’t even be any carrion left for them to eat. And even if there was, they’re being born with two heads, or no feathers, after a few years.

Almost everything is now dead. There’s only a few dozen species left, including a small tribe of Noah’s grandchildren; about 8 of them. There were more, but these people have gone feral and fight to the death for food or mating privileges when there’s not enough to go around; and there almost never is. After seeing the rabbits years ago, they at first were very careful about breeding, but the conditions of the post-flood world have created a lord of the flies situation.

One of them was born with a harelip today.

————————————————————————————————-

[1] http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndsu/rider/Pentatomoidea/Classification/Genus_Species_Numbers.htm

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Anuran_families

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Testudines_families

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squamata

[5] http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/list.html

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_taxonomy#Table_of_Families

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammal_genera

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_families_of_Diptera

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23 responses to “The Big Bogus Boat”

  1. Tafacory says :

    Excellent post. I think you raise many great and serious objections to the truth value of Noah’s Ark. Of course, a Theist could just argue “God’s omnipotent; He could have sustained their lives through His will so that they wouldn’t have needed to eat, sleep, poop, or reproduce.” C’est la vie malheureusement.

    • Robert says :

      Well yeah, I guess they could. But the fact remains that the world doesn’t look like it was flooded globally. And simply claiming a miracle (as opposed to providing evidence for one, as is commonly done for the resurrection of Christ) is generally recognized as a bad strategy. And of course, if God was going to miraculously sustain lives through the flood, why not just do it instead of all this business with the boat?

      • Tafacory says :

        And then I could argue that God did not want to directly interfere that much in their lives.

  2. Tafacory says :

    Reblogged this on Tafacory Ideas and commented:
    A pretty devastating critique of the claim that Noah’s Ark could possibly and did occur.

  3. twistedphilosophy says :

    Excellent post! Props for being generous to the “theist-side” for the sake of the argument (i.e. generous in the amount of space on the boat and the number of animals). I also wonder what the odds are that many animals would have went extinct before the flood was over. When you consider that there were only two of each kind, taken out of their natural habitat and forced to go against their instincts somehow and willingly eat a meatless diet and, unless they were very healthy or gave birth to healthy offspring in a timely manner, there are decent odds that many of the animals would have died off completely before even leaving the ark.

    • Robert says :

      I suspect that most arthropods would probably die. Birds and herbivorous mammals might be ok. Most carnivorous mammals would be in trouble, as would most fish and amphibians. Reptiles would be hit or miss, depending on species. Dunno about molluscs or worms.

      • twistedphilosophy says :

        Thanks for the reply. It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for awhile, but I don’t know enough about the survival of animals in extreme conditions to say yes or no. I found it hard to believe that many of the animals on the ark, given the conditions they were in (some in the complete opposite extremes of their natural habitat), would even survive to the end of the flood before reproducing.

  4. rowanwphillips says :

    Reblogged this on rowanwphillips and commented:
    I really enjoyed this take on Noah’s Ark

  5. rowanwphillips says :

    If an omnipotent god could make them not need to feed etc, why did he bother telling Noah to make the Ark in the first place? Couldn’t he have just started the whole creation thing again?

    • twistedphilosophy says :

      You have a very good point here. So many times, theists will just counter that through God anything is possible. If that’s the case, why did He choose the most inefficient solution possible?

  6. cgosling says :

    I loved the Noah’s Ark post. Very clever. Of course, when I present these facts to Creationists they simply reply, “With God, anything is possible. That is what miracles are all about.”

  7. sixpointnineme says :

    Excellent post. Bravo! Bravo!
    Very nicely put into perspective.
    I will have my eye on your future writings.
    Thank you.

  8. uglicoyote says :

    Reblogged this on The Road and commented:
    Think of the daily cleanup. Who drew that duty?

  9. Robert says :

    Thank you to everyone who liked/followed/commented!

  10. Sylandra says :

    I always find myself laughing when I read another take down of Noah and his ark. It is so nonsensical that it seems impossible for any adult without brain damage to believe in Biblical nonsense like this in the first place. Of course Noah was a fictional character just like Bible God and Jesus. Grow up, children!

    http://ravingatheists.com/forum/showthread.php?p=664943#post664943

    • Robert says :

      Actually, the scholarly consensus even among atheists is that Jesus existed. Jesus mythers are taken about as seriously in historical studies as astrologers are in astronomy (not at all).

    • fatimasaysell says :

      Hi, Sylandra,
      I don’t believe in God or the bible, but I think Jesus was real, if not the son of God, at least someone who tried to help and comfort people around him. I put him in the same league as Ghandi and Mother Theresa. Just a good bloke trying his best to cheer people in difficult times. No religion necessary.

      Fatima

  11. fatimasaysell says :

    Like I said before: the Bible is full of fairy tales in order to explain the world to a largely ignorant population. I never thougtht we were meant to take it literally or believe everything that’s in it. It’s just a huge parabole to try and make head or tail of the beginning of life at a time when science was ver rudimentary.
    Entertaining blog entry, though. Thank you.

  12. Gio says :

    Nice post. Though a Christian, I personally find most literalist interpretations of the flood to be lacking in evidence to the point of not deserving my respect. Another good objection to literalist interpretations is that there isn’t and wasn’t enough water on Earth for a flood of that size to have happened.

    It’s perfectly possible, if not more likely, from a Biblical criticism standpoint that the Ark story was either an exaggeration or completely fictitious allegory meant to make a theological point, which is where my money is.

  13. arkenaten says :

    The animal logistic problem is often tackled, and the Creatonists love such a challenge. What is truly impossible to refute is the re- population of the earth by those 8 humans. Even more impossible to explain is the question of The Americas; where no record of monotheism exists among any of the indiginous peoples. And this is just the tip of the problem This issue is just a tad more difficult to ‘wish away’ .
    Good post.

  14. cipscis says :

    Nice post. It’s worth noting that you’ve also been generous in the numbering of pairs. Genesis 7:2-3 (NIV) reads:
    “Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.”

    Then, of course, there are the other massive holes like “where did the water come from?” and “where did the water go?”, as mentioned by Gio, and the geographical distribution of biodiversity. If the flood story were true, we would expect the resting place of Noah’s ark to be the epicentre of Earth’s biodiversity, and offshore islands like Madagascar would presumably only have certain types of life, like birds.

  15. Chuck says :

    Wow, you don’t do much research, do you? Straw man, selective citing. Definitely not an honest or complete representation of what creationists actually believe.

    • Robert says :

      Well I never thought I’d see another comment on this blog. What do you know.

      Anyway, my sources for “what creationists believe” are AiG, ICR, and the bible itself. If you’ve got a source that says they believe different, why don’t you show it to me? Simply telling me I’m wrong is useless. Argue your case or GTFO.

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