This weekend, my brother-in-law is taking some teens from his church on a field trip to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Like most atheists, I can’t stand Ken Ham and what he teaches, and he especially bothers me when he attempts to indoctrinate children and impressionable people with attractions like the Creation Museum and his new 100 million dollar Ark Encounter attraction. In honor of these teens’ trip, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the errancy of the Noah’s Ark story and the ways that Christians try to justify it.
For now, I’m going to skip past some of the most glaring contradictions that this bible story brings forth, one being that God created every living creature only to select a very, very small percentage of his creation that he wanted to save from an unfathomably massive natural disaster that he uses to destroy his own creation. Today, I’ll focus on more of the logical and geological implications that can make us wonder how a story of this nature could be anything but fictitious.
Since the Creation Museum and Ken Ham’s work are grounded in Ham’s apologetics ministry, Answers in Genesis, I want to present some of the biggest questions to be proposed for the Flood story’s legitimacy, followed by responses that could be considered “answers in Genesis.”
Question: Where did Noah get that much wood in the ancient Middle East?
Answer in Genesis: There may have been wood there before the flood, because the flood changed the geological makeup of the Earth.
Question: Who taught Noah how to build a ship, and how did he do so with only eight people?
Answer in Genesis: He could have hired workers, or used machines. The Egyptians found some way to build the pyramids, which was a much bigger feat than this small wooden ark, so Noah and his family or team of workers could have easily done so. Just because it was so long ago doesn’t mean that Noah and his family were too incompetent to build a ship or make the machinery required to build a ship that can keep at least 2,000 animals and stay afloat for a year. Sure, the world’s most skilled shipbuilders could have built a smaller wooden ship called the Wyoming in the early 1900s, after many thousands of years of technological advancements, only for it to twist, bend, leak, and sink, but Noah and his family were intelligent and fully capable of building the Ark.
Question: How did Noah collect, care for, and house millions of animal species?
Answer in Genesis: He wouldn’t have needed to. He could have used families of animal kinds, or common ancestors who then evolved (very quickly—11 new species per day) into the extremely diverse amount of species that we have today. Another response that I’ve heard is that he used DNA samples, which is completely possible because Noah’s family wasn’t incompetent, meaning that they were able to gather DNA samples from thousands of families or millions of species before the concept of DNA had even been discovered.
Question: How did eight people care for all those animals?
Answer in Genesis: There could have been more family members on the ship, like Noah’s grandchildren. Ten or so young children would have been very helpful in feeding and caring for at least 2,000 animals.
Question: How did they keep the food from spoiling without refrigeration?
Answer in Genesis: They had live animals that were on the ship solely for the purpose of being eaten by other animals and they weren’t killed until it was time for them to be eaten (so they would have had to have been cared for until then). As for the plants…. no one knows, since they either would have rotted from not being refrigerated, or died without sunlight.
Question: How did the koalas and kangaroos get to and from the ark?
Answer in Genesis: They traveled across an Australian land bridge (no one died on the way, which is why there are no kangaroo fossils between the middle east where it landed and Australia where they now live), and now it is gone with no evidence.
Question: Where were the plants?
Answer in Genesis: There were no plants on board except those that were used for food. Only “living creatures” made it on, and plants, bacteria and fungi don’t qualify. We don’t know how plants survived since they were all killed because they were too deep underwater to be reached by sunlight, and they weren’t brought aboard the Ark, but that’s okay.
Question: How did Noah figure all those insects out?
Answer in Genesis: We don’t know if insects count as living creatures with the breath of life, so we don’t know if Noah included them or not (so we don’t know how insects survived, but again, that’s okay).
Question: What about the fish?
Answer in Genesis: There was no aquarium on the ark, so they somehow survived in the floodwaters without food, since all plant life died from lack of sunlight, and they also survived in saltwater for a year, since there was no way that freshwater and saltwater couldn’t have mixed with the entire planet being covered in water.
Question: At at least 29,000 feet, how could they have lived without oxygen supplements?
Answer in Genesis: If the Ark was somehow made to be airtight.
Question: Where did the ark go?
Answer in Genesis: It could have been buried under the lava of Mount Ararat.
So what has been the point of attempting to assemble answers to patch up the biggest problems with the Noah story? It is this: even the most radical, ridiculous, seemingly impossible fable can always have some explanation, some answers that make it just barely cooperate with reality, but that by no means makes it true, and definitely doesn’t make it infallible.
In a class that I took last year, we learned an analogy for basing our worldviews off of evidence. The analogy went something like this: someone comes home to see that his TV has been stolen, and his window has been shattered. He thinks that someone broke in and stole his TV, but his friend thinks that aliens came in through the front door, smashed the window, stole the TV, and left again, locking the door behind them. Clearly, the first explanation is far more likely. Of course, the second could have happened, but no one is jumping at the chance to justify that explanation.
Similarly, there could be a deity that spoke the universe into existence 6,000 years ago, write a book detailing what he did, then did everything that he could to fool us into thinking that the universe is actually billions of years old. There could have been a night when the Earth just stopped rotating so that the stars appeared to stand still so that some magi could find a holy baby born in a barn. And there could have been a global flood in which every “kind” of animal somehow found its way onto a wooden ark built by a family of eight, lived in an airtight container for a year at 29,000 feet altitude, and left peacefully, with the koalas going across the disappearing Australian land bridge.
It might be safer just to say “you know what? That all seems…pretty unlikely. I’m going to stick with the assumption that none of that ever happened.”