It’s actually a big group of problems rolled into one three-chapter story. Only one of the
problems stood out for me at first, and that was the capacity of the ark itself versus what it
was required to carry for the story to make sense. Later, it didn’t help when I learned there
was no geological record of a worldwide flood. But there are a dozen other issues too, which I have
For me though, the first is the most important and most damning, because it doesn’t require
extensive scientific or historical knowledge and evidence. It requires only math and knowledge of
animals and their eating habits.
Capacity Of The Ark
The problem is the capacity of Noah’s Ark, and which animals, exactly, were on it.
The Bible gives precise measurements for the ark
6:15) of 300 cubits long, 50
cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Even using the longest possible
cubit (21 inches), the ark that Noah built is
only 525 feet long, 87.5 feet wide, and 52.5 feet tall. Using the more standard 18-inch cubit, the
ark would have been significantly smaller. With such measurements, even assuming a boxy shape
— which provides for more volume than the stylized curvy designs often pictured — the
largest possible interior volume would be 450,000 cubic cubits, or 2.4 million cubic
To put the cubic feet into perspective, 2.4 million cubic feet is about the volume of a 13-story
building that’s 133 feet wide and 133 feet long — a fairly large building by small-town
standards, or a relatively small building by large city standards. For comparison, the Empire State
Building’s volume is about 37 million cubic feet, and the Chicago building formerly known as
The Sears Tower occupies about 53 million cubic feet.
(Perhaps obviously, the volume listed above includes the volume of the wood itself, and thick
beams are assumed, which leaves somewhat less actual space for humans, cargo, and livestock.
Also, the cubit is generally understood to be 18 inches, not 21.)
So, the volume of Noah’s Ark —
again, I’m using the exaggerated 21-inch cubit — is equal to about 22 floors of the
Sears Tower. That’s a lot of space, and would hold a lot of animals. But could it hold all
of them? And all the food they needed for their trip?
6:19 says the ark will hold
“two of all living creatures”, and subsequent verses specify that this includes
“two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves
along the ground”. In addition, Noah was to take enough food for himself and all the animals.
But wait, there’s more: Gen.
seven pairs must be taken of every “clean” animal — it’s only the
unclean animals that get just one pair. And also “seven pairs of every kind of bird”.
(Scripture does not explain the discrepancy, why Noah was first commanded to take two of every
living creature, including specifically “two of every kind of bird”, and then just a
few verses later commanded to take seven pair of every kind of bird. This could be seen by
some as another problem with the story.)
How long were they in there? About a year.
7:11-13 says the rains began on
the “17th day of the second month” and “on that very day” Noah and his
family entered the ark. In Gen.
8:14-18, a year later, it was “the 27th day of the second month”. Commentators
disagree on how Genesis’ author measured months, but the estimates I found ranged from 364
days to 378 days. For our purposes, it’s safe to say: “About a year.” Note that
the animals were in the ark seven full days longer than Noah and his family, so for them a range
of 371 to 385 days.
It’s worth noting that the literal biblical believer must include dinosaurs on the
ark’s manifest, since dinosaurs would have been created along with all other animals, and thus
would be included in “all living creatures” that God wanted on the ark.
We don’t really know what dinosaurs ate, or how much, but the amount is a known quantity for
other animals. The elephant, for example, eats about 350 lbs. of vegetation each day, so two
elephants would have consumed 255,500 lbs. of food in a year. That alone fills a good bit of one
floor of the Sears Tower analogy. As for cows, I found only information for dairy cows, which
weren’t bred separately in the days of Noah, but they drink about 16 gallons of water per
day, and eat anywhere from 50 to 100 lbs. of food each day (11,700 gallons and 55,000 lbs. of food
for two cows for a year). A hippo eats 80 lbs. of grass every day (58,400 lbs. per year for two of
them). I mention here only the larger animals, since their food and water would take up most of the
cargo space in the ark. (A mouse, for example, would eat very little relative to any of them.)
The calculations then boil down to what “kind” means in Genesis. In other words, did
the seven pairs of birds and clean animals, and one pair of every unclean animal, represent every
species? Or some broader group? This is unknown.
Despite it being unknown, every Christian reference I’ve ever seen always stipulates
that the “kind” is a very broad group — definitely not species, and probably
genus. One popular Christian organization, which claims to have done calculations on foodstuffs
needed for the ark, says some of the “kinds” brought on the ark would represent entire
genera, and “the ‘kind’ may in some cases
be as high as the family”.
These folks then say that Noah wouldn’t have brought every type of horse or donkey or zebra
aboard, but just one pair of breeding equines — which later resulted in every equine
type we see in the world today (though they still insist evolution is impossible).
They go on to assume that of all the animals on the ark, most were not fully grown (especially the
dinosaurs), that many of them hibernated, that the foodstuffs brought on board were
“compressed and dried... and probably a lot of concentrated food”, that the floors were
sloped and the cages slatted (so urine and feces could fall away — to where?), that the animals didn’t
require as much space for exercise as “skeptics” assert, and other possible — but
increasingly unlikely — scenarios.
Most base their assertions on John Woodmorappe’s book “Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility
Study”, which assumes that Noah spent part of the preceding 100 years training
thousands of animals to survive on the ark — to defecate and urinate on command into buckets,
to leave cages (and return) on command, and so on. Snakes and bats, which only eat live food, were
purportedly trained to eat inert food. Woodmorappe goes on to say Noah must have bred the animals
prior to the flood to minimize the downsides of inbreeding after the Flood, to maximize the
likelihood of hibernation, to come up with a pair of Koalas who would eat dried (rather than fresh)
Eucalyptus. He acclimatized cold-blooded animals to the temperatures they would endure on the
ark. Of course, he must assume all of this, because it’s the only way possible for
the story to be true.
There are also quite a few inconsistencies with Woodmorappe’s book (as there are with others
who have attempted similar works), such as his claim that there wouldn’t have been snails or
earthworms on the ark, then elsewhere saying snails were brought for food and earthworms helped to
decompose the waste of the ark’s larger animals. There are tables that purport to show how
much drinking water would have been brought on board, how much heat and water vapor each animal
would produce, and so on, and there are problems with these as well.
He says vegetables could have been grown hydroponically on the lowest levels of the ark, that Noah
and his family could have used “luminous gems” to light their way inside.
It boils down to biblical literalists (using hundreds of contingencies like those listed above) say
the ark could hold all the necessary animals, food, and water, with a little space left over, while
scientists say there’s no possible way.
For me, it sounds like the author of Genesis wasn’t fully aware of the great diversity of life
on the planet. Clearly he didn’t know about the Amazon rain forest, or polar bears, or the
Americas, and all the types of life in those places. In truth, he probably didn’t know about
dinosaurs either, since they had died out millions of years earlier. If he had known all these
things, he might have accounted for them in his story.
But God must have known (if he existed), and is said to have inspired the author.
To believe the story of Noah’s Ark, as it is written, means you believe that all of
today’s land animals and birds are descended from those that rode in the ark. Genetic science
says there just wasn’t room to contain enough animals with enough alleles to account for
the diversity of life we see today. Creationists who’ve studied this make some surprising
(and unfounded) assertions about the way genes and chromosomes must have worked in Noah’s
Not Enough Time
There were eight humans on the ark. By the most conservative count, there were as many as
10,000 “kinds” of animals aboard, though most calculations give a much higher number,
like 30,000, 50,000, or well over 100,000 (scientists). Even using the lower number, there
wasn’t enough time in the day for these eight people to feed the animals.
(This is why the creationists who write books on this subject must assume that many of the
animals hibernated for much of this journey, or that they were trained to feed themselves from
food stores without overfeeding or trampling what was left over.)
Not Enough Light
It was dark inside the ark. At most, there were few very small windows near the top, and these
were (according to the Bible) shuttered for much of the journey. It’s generally assumed that
Noah and his family would have used torches or lanterns of some kind to light the way inside.
(Remember, they had thousands of animals to feed and water every day.)
However, the thousands of tons of animal feces that collected inside the sealed ship would have
produced enough methane to make an explosion very likely if anyone used fire. So it’s
unlikely that they did.
So writers of explanatory books have come up with glowing gems and other explanations for how
Noah and his family could have had light inside.
What About The Fish?
No marine animals were taken aboard because the ancient author assumed any water-dwelling creature
would survive a worldwide flood just fine. Today we know that many, if not most, marine life is
fairly delicate in that it cannot survive in a much-changed habitat, including changes to the
salinity of the water that must have occurred with such a Flood as Noah’s. And many species
of fish cannot survive in salty water at all. Others require that it be extremely salty.
What About The Insects?
Since the Bible specifies that only animals with “breath in their nostrils” went
aboard the ark, insects were not included. It can be assumed that some went anyway, following
the stinky animals they live near, but most would have died in the flood, leaving a nearly
insect-free world today.
Authors strive to explain this by saying the insects survived on “floating mats of
debris”. Biologists say this is only possible for a small percentage of insects; most
would have died, making it impossible to see today’s diversity of insect life around the
Stack And Stacks Of Eggs
Some literalists have suggested Noah could have brought dinosaur eggs (to explain how everything
fit), but there would have been no way to tell whether the incubating beasts were male or female.
Further, the Bible says
animals “came to Noah and entered the ark”, not that Noah went around collecting
them. Eggs can’t find their way to the ark and get on by themselves.
Even stipulating that he did bring eggs for some creatures, there is no known species whose eggs
last more than a year before hatching. Many birds (which remember, are descended from dinosaurs)
require only days for eggs to hatch — two weeks for songbirds, 21 days for a
fertilized chicken egg, 28 days for most ducks, 35 days for a penguin egg, and no more than 45 days
for an ostrich. Among today’s reptiles, times vary — five weeks for many lizards, 65
days for alligators, 80 days for crocodiles. Among the very longest are Komodo Dragons, which
incubate their eggs for seven or eight months.
Noah and his family would then have been left caring for hundreds of freshly-hatched baby
dinosaurs instead of big ones they’d spent a hundred years training to sit in cages.
No Geological Record
Geologists have indeed uncovered records of extensive flooding in the Middle East, some of which
coincides closely with when Noah’s Flood must have happened. However, the problem is that
these floods did not occur at the same time.
The biblical record is clear: this single flood covered the entire Earth and the highest mountains
thereof. It didn’t say “in this area” or use any other qualifier, which would
indicate the guiding hand of an infallible, all-knowing God helping the author. Instead, the author
is at pains to make sure the flood is described as covering the entire world.
Those who say the Flood story is literal must by necessity assert that all modern
scientific dating methods are inaccurate, and they do assert this. They’ve even gone as far
as to say that the Flood was responsible for much of the stratification of Earth’s surface,
including the compression necessary for the formation of fossil fuels (since this is the only huge
cataclysmic event mentioned in the Bible). So for them, with the dates in the Bible overriding the
dates provided by geologists, there is a geologic record of a worldwide flood.
Further, we have historical records of ancient civilizations that existed during that time
period — Young Earth Creationists typically date the flood at around 2350 BCE. For
example, Egypt’s Old
Kingdom flourished then, and had already been building pyramids (which show no signs of
having been buried under many tons of sea water). The Egyptian civilization did not experience
a gap — which it must have if there was a worldwide flood at this time. The ancient
Minoans on the island of Crete are
to have had a thriving civilization as early as 2600 BCE, and evidence on Crete shows continuous
occupation through the next thousand years or so — no gap from a flood. Very recent
genetic tests have shown that today’s Greeks are closely related to those Minoans, which
would be impossible if the flood had wiped them out and the area had to be repopulated from
civilization of central Asia shows continuous occupation from about 6,000 BCE through well after
the alleged global flood. And perhaps the largest example is that of the
Indus Valley civilization,
with a population of over 5 million at its peak, which existed continuously from well before
Noah’s time to well after — and which developed out of earlier cultures in the same
Too Much Water
The Bible says the floodwaters covered “all the high mountains under the entire
heavens” to a depth of “more than 15 cubits” (about 22 feet). Where did the water
come from, and where did it go?
The highest (above current sea level) mountains in the world are all in the Himalayas, 12 of them
more than five miles high. Assuming there was no miraculous/magical flattening of the Earth’s
landscape just before the Flood (and/or a miraculous/magical growing of the world’s
tallest mountains just after it), then most of the mountains we know today existed 4,000 to 5,000
years ago — the time of the Flood.
Therefore, the amount of water necessary to cover the mountains is something like 1 billion cubic
miles (4.5 billion cubic kilometers).
7:11 says that not only rain, but
“all the springs of the great deep” contributed to the mass of the water. It does not
say how long the springs gushed — though
8:1-2 indicates they lasted as long
as the rain — but it does say rain fell for “40 days and 40 nights”. No ratio is
listed for how much water came from the rain versus from the springs. But assuming a 1:1 ratio,
that means half a billion cubic miles of water came from rain, which is (divided by 40 days), about
60,000 times more than the current daily precipitation total for the world.
Here is the first major issue. The amount of water vapor necessary in the air for that much rain
would have rendered the atmosphere unbreathable before the flood. That negates the
necessity of the flood itself; just getting the air that saturated would have killed off nearly
every living thing on Earth. All God needed to do was provide breathing apparatus for Noah’s
family and a few hundred thousand animals and plants. Done.
The second major issue is that an atmosphere sustaining that much water vapor would also be
drastically heavier than is normally considered survivable — perhaps 500 psi instead of the
14 or so that we live with today. Much of life on the surface would simply be crushed — if it
hadn’t already drowned just from breathing.
Even if the spring-to-rain ratio was far from 1:1, the atmosphere is still a problem. Of course,
the Bible doesn’t list a ratio, so almost all of the water could have come from these
mysterious springs that have never been found anywhere.
Some literalists have “solved” these problems by introducing various other sources of
water, including interpreting the “firmament” (found earlier in Genesis) as a giant ice
or vapor canopy around the Earth that then fell as rain during this time, supposing that comets
(heavy with ice, as far as we know) crashed into the planet at this time, or imagining huge
underground chambers full of a billion cubic miles of water that somehow exploded out of the
Earth’s crust in liquid form (in reality it would be steam). There are serious problems with
all of these theories, mostly involving tremendous amounts of heat and therefore complete
sterilization of the Earth’s surface of all life.
Once the water was all over the Earth’s surface, completely covering every mountain, God then
“sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded... The waters receded steadily from the
earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down...”
8:3-4). Where did it go?
One of the most popular answers provided by literalists is that all that water formed today’s
current oceans. This of course requires us to believe that prior to the Flood, the oceans did not
exist in their current form, and they say that too — that the power of the Flood helped
create the shape of today’s ocean beds.
Sadly for them, today’s oceans contain less than a third (about 28 percent) of the necessary
volume of water. That leaves the mysterious giant underground caverns that were emptied to make
the flood; the water could have drained back into them.
The author could not have known about the life that marine biologists have found at the bottom of
the deepest ocean trenches within my lifetime, life that can survive only at very great —
and specific — pressure. These creatures could not have existed prior to the Flood if the
oceans were very shallow in previous years, and would have died during the Flood due to
extreme pressure increases from the sheer weight of the water required to cover the tallest
Animals From Different Climate Zones
Even stipulating the miracle of God gathering all the animals from around the entire world, many of
them could not have survived the journey to the ark, nor the ride. Those from other continents
would have had to be miraculously transported over the (allegedly very shallow) seas. Many, like
koalas, require special diets found only in small parts of the world. Others, like some
cave-dwellers, not only can’t survive in daylight, but don’t even survive when
moved to a different cave. There are hundreds of these.
All types of animals from all over the world were stuffed into the same boat and expected to
survive in the same climate as all the others.
Physical Limit To Wooden Ships
Also unknown to the author of Genesis, since no large wooden ships existed in his time, is that
there is a physical limit to the size of wooden ships — about 300 feet. A few wooden
vessels in history have been known to be longer, and all of them suffered from leakiness. The
larger a wooden vessel, the more flex there is in her beams. And the more they flex, the more they
leak. Wooden vessels known to be over 300 feet have all suffered this issue. Water pumps were
required to keep them from sinking; even then, none of them survived for a year.
Noah’s boat would have been on much rougher seas, especially given the incredible volume of
water and no land to break up the waves. It’s been estimated that some waves could reach
miles in height under those circumstances.
There is zero evidence that the ark could have been “amazingly seaworthy in even the
roughest seas”, as
asserted by some.
Technology To Build The Ark
Counting backward from today using ages and dates in the Bible, the event
is dated to about 2350 BCE, or more generally, 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. This is smack in the
middle of the Bronze Age. Shipbuilding was
known at the time, but not in the modern sense.
Egyptians, for example (whose kingdom arose long before the Flood and continued through 2350 BCE
without apparent interruption), were sailing in boats like the
Khufu ship — which was sealed into
a pyramid around 2500 BCE and discovered in 1954 CE. It was 143 feet long and 19.5 feet wide, and
like most boats at the time it was intended for navigating rivers and small seas, not wide open
oceans. It wasn’t until much later that large ocean-going vessels were developed. Even then,
they kept very close to the landmasses where they originated. The majority of boats on Earth were
hollowed-out logs or rafts made of reeds, though a few cultures had begun to build hulled boats
with wooden planks.
This is relevant to the story of Noah since no technology existed at the time for building such a
large vessel. There were no shipyards capable of building such a ship, and few large trees with
which to make giant wooden beams — it is supposed by almost everyone that Noah would have
built the ark in what is now Iraq. Even using the smallest cubit size (18 inches), the Ark
would have been the largest wooden ship ever built, requiring more trees than were likely
Assuming Noah and his sons traveled to a far off wooded land or miraculously grew a forest of
cypress (“gopherwood” in the Bible is often understood to be cypress) right there in
the desert, the time taken to fell the trees and form beams would have been tremendous. (All
during the time Noah was supposedly training the animals to hibernate and poop into buckets.)
Metal tools were available in the day, though not yet iron or steel; just bronze. It wasn’t
terribly conducive to chopping down 10,000 trees and forming them into beams. Constantly
replacing tools that had blunted and broken would have been a major time-consumer as well.
And perhaps most astonishing of all is that Noah had the know-how to built such a giant floating
structure. You can’t simply nail a bunch of beams together and expect the whole thing to be
solid when it starts floating. The largest wooden ships known to history (all from the 1800s CE)
were the result of hundreds of years of practice, apprenticeships, and compounded knowledge of
how to fit the beams together properly and how to alleviate stresses on the joints. And they all
leaked, and none of them lasted very long.
Once Noah and his family gained this know-how, taking ship-building from a non-existent art to
the peak of perfection, unknown to the rest of the world, they completely abandoned the
knowledge as soon as the floodwaters retreated. Obviously, they had to spend a few years building
new homes, growing the first-ever post-flood crops, and making sure the animals returned to the
many continents safely, not to mention having a bunch of descendants to result in modern
humanity. But Noah lived 350 years after the flood; his sons even longer. They did not pass on
their superior shipbuilding knowledge to any of their descendants, who (according to
archeological finds) went right on building small wooden rafts and reed boats until many hundreds
of years later.
Replenishing The Earth
Perhaps the primary responsibility of Noah and his family after the flood was to have children.
Lots and lots of children. (In case this isn’t obvious to the reader, Genesis specifically
clarifies in 9:19:
came the people who were scattered over the whole earth”.)
Some critics have trouble with this because the global population is said to have remained steady
throughout that time period, but it’s easy to counter that those
population statistics are
just educated guesses. And they don’t agree with each other. One set says the population
grew from 44 million to 72 million during the 3000-2000 BCE period, while another estimate shows
a growth from 14 million to 27 million over the same time period.
According to the Bible, Noah’s three sons provided him with 16 grandsons. No daughters are
listed, but we can assume they were there too; otherwise the race dies out quickly. That gives
us a generation of (guessing) 32 people, giving us an increase of 5.3 times the previous generation
of six people. If that rate held, then the second generation born after the flood has 171 people.
The third, 905. The fourth, 4,794. In fact, if that same rate of birth continued, the 10th
generation after the flood could easily have over 100 million people. And, with all the long-living
going on, many older generations would still be around too, putting the population closer to 125
million after just 10 generations — even assuming older first-time mothers, 10 generations is only
So, if the sheer numbers aren’t the problem, what is? There are actually two problems.
One is that the archeological record doesn’t support a huge decrease in human population
around this time. There is also no apparent gap in written history, which had begun to emerge in
Egypt and Sumeria by this time.
Another problem is DNA. Geneticists have determined that humans have “virtually
identical” DNA, compared to other species like chimps, but still far too much genetic diversity
to have come from five people 4,000 years ago. (Five, because Noah’s three sons would have
had the same genetic material as their parents. Only Noah, his wife, and his three daughters-in-law
would have [presumably] had unique DNA.)
A recent study points to a
“genetic bottleneck”, but of about 2,000 people and about 70,000 years ago. A group of
five people, even assuming no repeated genes, couldn’t account for the genetic diversity
among humans today.
No Plant Life On Earth
Except for the plants (and hopefully seeds) that Noah brought on the ark with him, there would have
been no plant life left on the planet after the flood. Not only were all land-based plants buried
under vertical miles of water — which would have crushed them to bits — but it
was salt water — even if diluted by freshwater rains.
Plenty of kinds of plants — including their seeds and spores — would have died during
the extended submersion. Other plants do not reproduce by seeds (like the St. Augustine grass in my
back yard) and would have been wiped out completely.
Further, most who believe the Bible is literal truth credit the Flood with shaping the planet as we
know it, including raising mountain ranges, depositing miles of sediment, and even carving giant
canyons like the Grand Canyon as the water drained off. Such an ecological upheaval would not have
left a living plant on the surface, certainly not what we know as forests, grasslands, etc. In
fact, all of that is what was buried by the flood to form fossil fuels, according to the
Noah, his family, and the animals would have exited the ark after one year to a completely broken
ecosystem: no grasses for the larger animals to graze, no forests or jungles in which the monkeys
could take up residence, or trees on which the birds could perch (nor branches or twigs for them
to build nests).
Assuming Noah brought seeds on the ark, it would have been years before anything resembling
living space would be available to the animals on board. This means the ark had to have contained
extra years worth of food — something to sustain them while waiting for all new plants to
And remember, there are hundreds of thousands of kinds of plants today. Noah wouldn’t have
gotten by with a few jars of seeds or even a wall of drawers. A great portion of the ship must have
been devoted to storing and organizing these seeds, keeping them in perfect condition for
sprouting after the flood (not to mention living samples of non-seed-bearing plants in complete
darkness for a year). And all of these new plants would have to be able to survive in the
ecosystem near where the ark landed — unless Noah built a new, unmentioned ship to transport
the seeds to the various continents.
Preponderance Of Ancient Flood Stories
At first glance, it might seem like supporting evidence for the Bible’s Flood story that
other cultures — a great many of them — described an ancient flood that destroyed the
world and saved only a small number of humans.
However, in light of the problems with the story listed above, it seems much more likely that the
biblical author of the Flood story was simply passing on a longstanding cultural myth —
something everyone at the time would have accepted as fact, and then stamping the YHWH imprint on
top of the popular story.
Even if certain aspects of the story aren’t literally true, it’s reasonable to
suppose there could have been a humanity-endangering flood at some point in the distant past. If
so, stories of the survival would have been passed down orally through many generations, likely
picking up embellishments along the way.
As humanity spread throughout the world and written language was developed, it also seems
reasonable that various scribes would have set down this important story in writing. Each culture
would have added its own touches. The Israelite writer of Genesis would have worked it
into the framework of the current YHWH religion.
The Moral Problem
For many people, this problem would be listed first. The problem is the morality of God’s
Genesis 5, the chapter before the Flood story begins, lists the descendants of Adam. Every male
listed, including Adam (but not Noah), had unlisted “other sons and daughters”.
Unless we assume that only the sons of the named men lived, which would be silly, then we must
assume that the “other sons and daughters” were marrying and having children as
well. If “sons” (plural) means two or more and “daughters” (plural)
means two or more, then these folks were having a lot of children. The point of this paragraph is
that by Noah’s time, the Earth — or at least the area immediately surrounding the
original Garden of Eden — would have been somewhat heavily populated. Conservative estimates
show that a million people could have easily existed by Noah’s time. In fact, Genesis 6
begins by mentioning that “human beings began to increase in number on the earth”
Unexplained is that “the sons of God” also fathered children by the “daughters
of humans”; perhaps those half-god-half-human people (YHWH’s grandchildren) lived on
Even if we accept YHWH’s pronouncment that humankind had become too evil for him to
accept, we cannot accept that newborns, infants, toddlers, and children could be included in
this number. But YHWH did include them in that number. The Bible doesn’t
specifically mention children here, which it would have if none had existed at the time —
this would have been an easy out on the moral question of killing thousands or millions of
children, just adding a few words: “God made sure no one gave birth for a few years, so
no children were killed in the flood.” But it doesn’t say that. It several times
makes clear that “all the people”, “all mankind”, “every living
thing on the face of the Earth” was killed.
We are to believe that every child, every baby on the Earth at the time was “wicked”
and deserved to die by drowning. It’s not a stretch, if you believe the Bible; God
often killed women and children for the sins of their husbands
and fathers, or ordered them to be killed. But it
is a stretch to modern, Western morality, if you then insist this same God is
moral and just.
For some people, me included, this point alone means either that the story is not true, or that
the God of this story is not worth worshipping.
In light of various known facts — including physical limits of wooden ocean-going vessels,
the genetic diversity of life on Earth today, the size of the Earth (and thus the volume of water
necessary to cover it), written histories from Egypt and other ancient societies, the
pressure-sensitive nature of deep-sea fish, and the dating of geological flood records in various
parts of the world — it’s almost inconceivable that the biblical flood story is
I say “almost” because biblical literalists have one ace in the hole: miracles.
There is an almighty God behind all of this, they affirm. That indeed could explain a lot. If He
created the universe out of nothing, He could certainly create water out of nothing, and then
make it disappear later. There is no question he could have protected the animals from various
climates, held the ark together, provided food stuffs (like the “manna” He brought to
the Israelites in the wilderness), and miraculously saved certain plants on the surface under
all the water until the floodwaters receded. If you stipulate this deity,
then all of it is possible.
Even if I stipulate miracles for each of these problems, it’s an improbable way to go about
things. As I mentioned near the bottom of another page, God would
have had no reason to perform so many miracles to accomplish his purpose. He could have used his
power just once — kill all the unrighteous people, for example.
If I suppose an almighty, all-knowing God, I simply cannot suppose one that (1) foreknew how badly
the Genesis author would tell the story, and therefore (2) made it happen just that way. Nor can I
suppose that this God would create such an event on purpose and then (perhaps jokingly?) make sure
to cover all traces of such an event by confusing the geological evidence, making sure no one ever
found the decayed ark itself, causing Noah and his family to mysteriously forget how to build
gigantic ships, adding species into the mix later, and so on — just so the Flood story would
This is the updated version of this page. To see the original version,
click here. Known edits are listed below.
• EDIT, 2016.01.23: Added link to
original version of this page. Moved in-page navigation to
top of the More menu. Added link to
this Edits section in the More menu.
Reworded next-to-last paragraph of Capacity section. Reworded second
sentence of Time section. Added the Moral Problem
• EDIT, 2017.08.02: Added meta tags into header (invisible to
most readers). Added information about ancient Minoans and other civilizations, in the