Why The Myth Of Noah's Ark Makes No Sense, According To Science

Why The Myth Of Noah's Ark Makes No Sense, According To Science

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

The Genesis story of the flood has long been disproven by science; so most people take it as a mere metaphor. Yet, some actually try to conciliate the story of the ark with the laws of nature. Here's why the myth of Noah's ark makes no sense, according to science.

Centuries ago, people used to take the Genesis narrative in the Bible literally. Today, most consider it a metaphor, and wisely so—current science has made it impossible to seriously believe.

Yet, many are still trying to hold on to a literal interpretation of their sacred text, and they even go as far as to claim that the whole affair could be explained by science. Indeed, if it could, then the story would have some credence to it. Unfortunately for literal creationists, it can't. 

Consider that to invoke miracles is not scientific. Not once has science needed to talk about divine intervention to explain a set of phenomena. The more miracles we invoke in our "theory", the less scientific this theory becomes. With that in mind, here's why the myth of Noah's ark makes no sense, according to science.

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

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noahs ark makes no sense according to science

What the Bible required Noah's Ark to be

In Genesis 6:7, 13, 17, the impending disaster is announced. Noah is chosen by God to begin preparations that would assure the survival of all species on Earth, old and new. In Genesis 6:14-16, the make-up and dimensions of the ark are given. It is to be made of gopher wood and measure 300 cubits long, 50 wide, and 30 tall; which most creationists translate as 450x75x45 feet. 

That's a massive ship, obviously. And it needed to be. Its purpose was to accommodate two members of every single species on the planet—millions of animals, plants, and fungi. The interiors had to be build accordingly. The task was more monumental than building any of the known wonders of the world, especially since wonders took many hundreds of years to build with thousands upon thousands of people working on it. For the ark, four people had to build it in less than a century, according to Genesis.

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

An unlikely team

Noah and his three sons supposedly built it in 82 years. Four people. To build a structure comparable in complexity and scale as the Pyramids of Egypt.

Some creationists of course see the problem with this, so they turn to fan fiction to accommodate their story. They suddenly, and conveniently, picture not the humble Noah portrayed in the Bible, but a powerful magnate capable of hiring hundreds of thousands of helping hands. Or maybe he just convinced them all to build it. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

A rotten ship

Even if thousands collaborated to build the massive structure, 82 years is still both a long and a short time to effectively finish the task. It's too short because the ship is so big and complex and gathering the materials alone would have taken many decades, that it's hard to believe it took less than half a millennium. And it's too long because, as is usually the problem in wood shipbuilding, by the time the later layers of the ark were placed, the earlier wooden pieces would've rotten away already. 

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This is obviously not enough to "disprove" the facticity of the ark. But it's certainly enough to find the whole tale highly suspicious. At any rate, it gets worse.

Challenging the basic laws of physics

The ship would've been too big for its structure to support itself. According to shipbuilding experts, among them A. M. Robb, there is an upper limit to the possible length of any given wooden ship. Anything above 300 feet would start to bend and deform under its own weight when put to the test of the sea in actual navigation.

noahs ark makes no sense according to scienceThat's the nature of wood, and that's why all the ships that even come close to that size are made of iron and steel. Shipbuilders turned to more resistant materials in the 1800s, not because it was more practical, but because such large wooden ships are simply impossible to make.

Consider that the largest wooden ships ever built, the six-masted schooners, required long iron strappings to support them. And even these couldn't resist a lasting voyage even in shallow water, let alone the violent conditions of the flood. And the ark was supposedly over 100 feet even than these. God must have either performed a constant miracle to keep the ship together, or give Noah instructions as to how to build such a structure through a long-forgotten technique. 

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If it was the former, then any scientific pretensions are thrown out the window. If it's the latter, it raises the question about what happened to this technique. Noah was supposed, according to Genesis, to share his pre-diluvian knowledge—yet the greatest piece of information in the tale, a shipbuilding method beyond what science itself has conceived, was lost within a generation. After the flood, we're supposed to believe people were back to navigating nothing more than small canoes for centuries still, magically unaware of how to build even medium-sized ships.

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

The cargo needs

Too many animals

All that is enough to question the whole affair. But there's more. Suppose God magically created the ark in front of Noah's eyes. Would that solve everything? Far from it. The troubles have only just begun.

There are millions of species living on the planet, and the story requires at least two members of each to make it onto the ark. According to estimates, the conservative number of current species stands at about 8 million. Consider that creationists, or people who take Genesis literally, don't believe in evolution as traditionally understood. At least not in "macro-evolution." For them, the species that exist now must've existed before the flood. 

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But there are also those species that have become extinct since the days after the supposed flood—so whatever the number of current species, we must add a vast amount on top that didn't make it to our day. Those still must have been given a place, according to the Bible. In total, the ark must have been able to harbor no less than 20 million individual animals (remember: at least two of each species) of varying sizes—some as big as to take entire areas, some as small as to fit through the tiniest holes between the planks.

noahs ark makes no sense according to scienceYet even if a pair of each species were enough to rebuild a whole genetic lineage, there's simply no room for that amount of flora and fauna in a single boat—not even with the ark's massive dimensions.

Facing this problem, many creationists try to reduce the number of species needed onboard to produce the variation we see today. But that doesn't help. First, reducing the animal couples on the ark to any reasonable number would give us far less variation than we have now—6,000 years are simply not enough produce it out of the numbers needed. So that would make no scientific sense (unless, of course, God performed another miracle here as well). 

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Too few genes

Second, all animals, humans included, require genetic variation to survive. Human genes were reduced to just the lineage of Noah and his wife—a single line. The same for all other animals, if we take the tale literally. That's absurd. All in all, conservation experts estimate that it takes a minimum of 50 organisms of a single lineage for it to survive, depending on the species. And even that is debatable. 50 leaves no room for error; if only a few were to die, say, by hitting their head after violent winds rocked the ark (which must've happened), then that's that. And that's with 50. Two is simply impossible. In fact, many biologists argue we'd need around 150 specimens to account for minor incidents—and far more to account for severe situations. 

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

Too little space

All living beings require much space to survive, especially aquatic animals. Considering the ship's dimensions, and the amount of space that would be taken up by food and waste storage, corridors, supporting beams, and other essentials, there would be little room left for each individual—far less than most would need to live. Especially considering that, unlike today's long train hauls carrying animal cargo, the ark needed to hold them all in for over 370 consecutive days without any chance to stop and rest. 

Nothing could ultimately account for both the space and the genetic variation needed to make the ark's tale even remotely believable. Nothing short of a miracle, anyway. So, there can be no scientific credence for the story at all.

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All-powerful gatherers

But even if we ignore all the previous flaws in the story, it still makes no scientific sense. Of all the millions of species mentioned above, Noah and his sons had to gather them all—an impossible feat in itself. Consider the size of the Earth and the distribution of each species across seas and hemispheres. They would've needed to visit every single island in the world, given many species live exclusively on their own piece of land in the middle of nowhere. The Galapagos Islands are a good example. 

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

Creationists often argue that animals migrated to the ark through some divine miracle. Here again, therefore, the ark lacks scientific weight. Also, animals cannot survive in just any climate with very special accommodations, which the ark couldn't have possibly provided except through divine intervention. 

Nothing to show for it

The flood was supposed to be an event of such magnitude that it wreaked havoc across the world, leaving only death and destruction behind. Tidal waves struck continents to the very top of their highest mountains, volcanic eruptions scorched the planet, violent currents rushed through the land ripping entire forests apart. And this is true not only for continental masses, but throughout the oceans as well. The ark was adrift for 150 days without means to navigate (Genesis 7:24), and neither it nor its passengers and cargo would have survived the massive winds (which would've created enormous waves all over the seas) without constant protection from God. 

If you need God at every single moment, performing billions of miracles per second to keep you alive, one wonders why She would go to all this trouble in the first place. The amount of pointless miracles dedicated to preserve life overshadows the striking simplicity of saving Noah and a few others and then re-creating life out of nothing. But that's another matter. 

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

At any rate, the flood was so massive and its effects so utterly devastating, that it's a wonder no geological evidence actually remains of the destruction. No tangible traces of this incredible even were left behind. It all disappeared. Species re-evolved to their current state as if nothing had happened in just a little while. The seas receded without leaving a scar. 

Noah's story makes perfect sense as a folk-tale shared by small communities of ancient Hebrews who knew only a few hundred animals and had no clue about biology or genetics. But if we try to take the story literally in the 20th century, we're left with nothing but an absurd fantasy. So it's either a metaphor, or an unscientific event; but creationists can't have it both ways. They can't both demand us to interpret the story literally and account for it through actual science.

noahs ark makes no sense according to science

You can't make this tale plausible at all. Perhaps no one should even begin to try to explain this scientifically—that's just not possible. Believers should just say "God did it all" and be done with it. That wouldn't convince anyone, of course, but at least it would be more honest.

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