To any still in doubt, Noah is not history

English: Noah. Mosaic in Basilica di San Marco...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kyle Hill at But Not Simpler on the Discover Magazine site, has a post up debunking the Noah story.  I almost didn’t read it, because debunking Noah feels a bit like debunking the Easter Bunny, but then I looked at the comments there, and remembered that somewhere between 33 and 46 percent of Americans believe the story of Noah literally happened.

I’ve said this before, but since so many out there appear not to understand it, it’s worth doing my part to repeat it.  There’s room to debate the existence of God, but not room to debate young earth creationism including the idea that there was a world wide flood a few thousand years ago.  You have to throw most of modern science under the buss to believe it.

There’s no geological record of a world wide flood.  We have archaeological evidence of human cities going back thousands of years before the flood or before the purported creation, and of human habitation going back hundreds of thousands of years, not to mention all of the fossil evidence going back billions of years, or the astronomical evidence of a 14 billion year old universe.  And genetic evidence has pretty conclusively shown that the human population never went through a bottleneck of less than 1000 people.

All of this is aside from all the logistical issues of rounding up and cramming millions of species of animals into the ark, feeding them, or explaining how all the land plants survived.

Take the story of Noah as a metaphor for something if you’d like.  Take it as a morality tale of some sort.  Or simply take it as a founding myth that ancient Mesopotamians told each other in their quest to understand reality.  But insisting on it being literally true, despite all evidence to the contrary, and getting upset about whatever liberties a move adaptation might be taking with it, is simply equivalent to getting upset about a movie taking liberties with Greek mythology or Aesop’s fables.

Hundreds of millions of religious believers hold their belief while accepting the scientific worldview.  If they can do it, so can you.

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22 Responses to To any still in doubt, Noah is not history

  1. Excellent closing statement.

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  2. Brett says:

    It’s a pity a lot of people can’t just accept it as the mythology it obviously is. To me, it’s one of those “boundary stories” telling the story of how the magical, mythical past became the non-magical, mundane present. That’s one thing the “Noah” movie gets right, with the Antediluvian Earth having stuff like stone angels and lost civilizations.

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  3. nannus says:

    I think the problem is these people are not thinking in scientific terms at all. The don’t know any science and they will refuse to learn any.
    The human mind is not inherently rational. It is a myth to think that we are the “annimal rationale”. The human mind instead is universal in that it can think almost anything, including stupid ideologies and irrational nonsense. A mind unable to think nonsense would not be universal again to be intelligent.
    People who are too afraid of that universality and the demand to think themselves that goes along with it will prefer to live in an easter bunny world with ready made solutions. The price to pay for that is to switch of most of the possibilities of your brain and become stupid. As a result, the kind of rational thinking you need to be convinced by such arguments is absent in them.

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    • You’re right, but I don’t know any way to handle it except to state the truth and hope that some on the boundary are swayed by it. I think just having people say it repeatedly helps, at least to some extent.

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      • nannus says:

        I think there is hope. 33 to 46 % sounds horrible, but a couple of centuries ago, it was something near 100 %. It takes time. Here in Western and northern Europe, it is less (but maybe because all those people emigrated to America). Probably once people’s attitudes have hardened with age, most of them will not change again, but every new generation is a chance. And yes, there are people at the boundary. Keep up this work!

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  4. James Pailly says:

    The Noah’s Ark story is one of my least favorites in the Bible. It feels too much like a children’s book. Listening to people argue that it’s true is like listening to people claim “The Cat in the Hat” is true.

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  5. amanimal says:

    “If they can do it, so can you.”

    I’m not sure that’s entirely true ‘SAP’ – if we are the products of our biology(genes) and environments(experiences), and I believe we are, then it seems to me that our beliefs happen to us rather than our consciously choosing them, but …

    … that said, voices like yours are important in providing the experience to creationists/literalists that may someday tip the balance to alter the brain-created model of reality that presently insists on the literal truth of the Bible.

    In other words, well done and don’t stop!

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  6. agrudzinsky says:

    I’m not saying that the Noah story is a literal truth, but some spectacular floods at the end of the last glacial period (15,000 – 13,000 years ago) are fact.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods

    I think, it’s possible that the story of Noah may have some factual basis (not the ark, but the flood part). If this is true then it’s interesting how the story was preserved until it could be recorded. Oral tradition going back 15,000 years?

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    • Interesting stuff. I’ve read speculation before that the late glacial period floods might have inspired the flood myths. I’m actually somewhat skeptical though. We’re talking about stories enduring orally for ten thousand years. The ancient myths generally seem to have no memory of hunter-gatherer life, prehistoric migrations, or usually any archaeologically verified view of the society more than a few centuries before they were written.

      That said, from what I understand, in a much later era, Mesopotamia cities experienced periodic floods, and they may well have been the seed of the Babylonian, Jewish, and Greek flood myths.

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      • agrudzinsky says:

        You may be right. With the human tendency to exaggerate, the flood myth might have been inspired by something much less epic than the glacial floods.

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      • agrudzinsky says:

        The Missoula lake flood was far more impressive than any biblical stuff.

        http://www.glaciallakemissoula.org/story.html

        The water began to build up behind the 2,500-foot ice dam filled the valleys to the east with water, creating a glacial lake the size of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined. The water continued to rise until it reached its maximum height at an elevation of 4,200 feet. As the water rose, the pressure against the ice dam increased, ultimately, causing the dam to fail catastrophically. The failure occurred when the water reached a depth of 2000 feet. The water pressure caused the glacier to become buoyant, and water began to escape beneath the ice dam by carving sub-glacial tunnels at an exponential rate.

        It is estimated that the maximum rate of flow was equal to 9.46 cubic miles per hour (386 million cubic feet per second). This rate is 60 times the flow of the Amazon River, the largest river in the world today. At this rate, the lake probably drained in a few days to a week. Water moving at speeds between 30 and 50 miles per hour raced across eastern Washington.

        9.5 cubic miles per hour flow – 60 times of the Amazon river moving at 50 mph. Noah with his ark couldn’t stand a chance. They say, the Willamette valley was flooded up to the upper storeys of the today’s highest buildings in Portland, OR (perhaps, up to the level from which this picture was taken or higher)

        Reality can be more amazing than any myth or fantasy. On one hand, I agree with you, “yeah, the story of Noah, probably, didn’t ever happen”. On the other hand, the Missoula flood makes the story of Noah sound fairly trivial – not a big deal, really.

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        • Interesting stuff. I’ve always been fascinated by the prehistoric world and the challenges that humanity faced back then.

          Very much agreed on reality often being more amazing then any myth or fantasy.

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