Sunday, December 03, 2006

Flood Myths: Examining the story of Noah

Over at Tommy's Exercise in Futility blog we have been discussing the mythological story of Noah, and the subject of flood myths has come up here on my own blog in the comments of this post. It's amazing to me how anyone in the year 2006 can still believe that mythological stories such as Noah and a whole-earth flood are literally true.

One commenter writes:

That Chrisitianity has many common themes as many other religions / mythologies shows me that these other religions and mythologies were not entirely off base. The Greeks did not get everything wrong. There have been several ancient myths that have spoken of a great flood. Given all of these myths, even to an unbeliever, it stands to reason that there probably was a great flood.
My response:

While religions/mythologies have been passed down and mixed up with other religions/mythologies, many non-religious traditions, customs, taboos and other aspects of societies have also been passed down and incorporated from one culture to another. Natives of isolated islands are in their own little world, doing their thing and along comes the missionaries to "save" them. This becomes a problem when a culture has created a mythology of their own already. Then when xians come trying to "convert" these people what you get is a whole new kind of bizarre religion like Cargo Cults. Most stories of mythology (including the xian mythology) are pretty far fetched, and though some do contain some sort of morals for people to live by in certain societies, for the most part, one mythology is just as absurd as another with gods smiting people, eating and sacrificing their own children, flooding the earth, etc. Pretty gruesome stuff...because humans have a gruesome side and usually it comes out in their imaginations...though some unfortunately decide to act on those things in a physical way (they are criminals, murderers, and such who usually end up locked up or executed.) Just because people have been making up superstitious beliefs to explain what they do not understand for centuries upon centuries and to try to control things they cannot doesn't prove that any mythology is true, including xian mythology. It just means that humans have always been, and are still superstitious and fearful of the unknown.

Putting aside the other aspects of mythology for later posts, let's look at flood myths and some reasons why humans invented them:

Every place on the planet experiences flooding...even at times in the desert regions. In ancient times, all people knew existed was their own little world, so when a flood occured, they assumed the whole world flooded. I am sure if the tsunami that happened in Indonesia a couple of years ago happened a couple thousand years ago, the natives would think the whole world was washed away.
To believe that there was a global flood, and that before this flood Noah went around the world like Santa Claus, gathering two of every living thing and shoved them all the an ark is absurd.

And there are living organisms that would have perished, but impossible for an ancient person to even know about such as protozoa

* Flagellates

* Amoeboids

* Sporozoans

o Apicomplexa

o Myxozoa
o Microsporidia
* Ciliates

Certain species of fishes can only live in fresh water, and certain species can only live in salt water. This would mean that Noah would have had to engineer tanks and filters to keep these aquatic animals alive for a long period of time, a long, long time after flood waters disappeared.

And what about vegetation and flora? Controlled greenhouses would be needed to provide differing adequate heating and light for all the millions of species of plants that are found in all of the climates around the globe (again, for a long,long time even after flood waters disappeared). What about insects? As we know, insects play a crucial part in the balance of nature. How did Noah manage to capture all species of insects and what did he keep them in to prevent them from escaping (as well as spreading disease to the animals)?

How did Noah manage to feed all these creatures and where did he store the massive amounts of food they eat, and how did he manage to keep it all from spoiling? What about the carnivoires that needed fresh meat to survive? How would he have provided air conditioning for arctic and cold-climate creatures? (And AGAIN, FOR A LONG, LONG TIME AFTER FLOOD WATERS DISAPPEARED!)

And the waste from these animals would have been an astronomical amount, and if they weren't poisoned by the methane gas given off by the fecal matter, no way could a few people keep up with "digging out" and the ark would have sunk.

Looking at the book of xian mythology, some extraordinary claims are made:

God opens the "windows of heaven." Genesis 7:11

the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;8:2

Is heaven one big huge cosmic cistern?

Instead of the man with the long white beard portrayed in xian art, is this god really an extraterrestrial amphibian or sea monster? Or maybe King Neptune works for him? Strange that believers in the literal interpretation of the Noah story never question how this bizarre and outlandish tale can be true (except with magical explanations like some I have heard like "god put all the animals into suspended animation, god made the animals not have appetites, god magically made everything grow back again after he made the flood waters disappear...etc."). If this god has such magical powers, why would he need human Noah, who really wasn't so virtuous---which is another biblical contradiction...READ HERE:
The 500 Year Old Virgin

Another good point from Skeptics Annotated Bible

"Noah sends a dove out to see if there was any dry land. But the dove returns without finding any. Then, just seven days later, the dove goes out again and returns with an olive leaf. But how could an olive tree survive the flood? And if any seeds happened to survive, they certainly wouldn't germinate and grow leaves within a seven day period."

Where did all the water go? Evaporate back up into outer space? How did all of the animals get back to their perspective homes? Did Noah and his family take polar bears back to the arctic? Did they take the elephants back to India? Did he take the penquin back to Antarctica? Or were they all like Lassie and found their way home on their own accord?

I don't know how anyone with a thinking brain can take the story of Noah literally...along with the Tower of Babel story, turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt story, parting of the Red Sea story, talking snakes, creation story, etc. And Revelations is bar far the most bizarre "prophecy" and it's mind boggling that so many accept these as literal "truths"(and more frightning they believe it so much they are looking forward to the "end of times" and the destruction of their fellow human beings and all life on this beautiful planet).

In reality, this god has not shown any of these spectacular magical powers except in the writings of one small book. When disasters happen, humans must go and rebuild, replant, and clean up. As for Nature, when there are floods, fires, droughts, etc., if seeds survive, nature will gradually regenerate...but not in seven days...that is absurd to even consider to be anything other than an ancient mythological stories


Tommy said...

Thanks 4 the free publicity Stardust!

Stardust said...

Thanks 4 the free publicity Stardust!

Tommy - it is deserving...your posts are excellent and your blog should get more attention and hopefully more commenters.

JDHURF said...

Excellent post, thorough. I have never understood why people take mythological stories, such as Noah and the flood, as true accounts of history when they so grotesquely contradict everything we know about the universe and its functioning. It is biologically impossible to sustain an entire species with only two members of that species, the entire genetic line would die out within a few generations. The story of Noah and the arc is so hysterically bad, when contemplating it as a true account, it would take either idiocy or insanity to believe it; both of which are very friendly with religious “faith.”

CyberKitten said...

I think the meaning of the Noah/Flood story is all about obedience to God. Everything else is melodrama. The real problem comes when people 2 thousand years removed state taking it seriously. I'm betting that the people being told the story at the time knew exactly what it was all about and probably just enjoyed the 'special effects' of the world spanning flood - but they knew it wasn't 'real'.

When any kind of myth is taken to be real then you're in a whole world of problems trying to make myth and reality meet.

Stardust said...

alan at Meet an Atheist...if you stop by and read this, your comments are not working. We get a page that says The blog you were looking for was not found.

Stardust said...

Problems with a Global Flood

ajs said...

Rainbows are formed by refraction -- more specifically, the fact that the refractive index of water is not constant but depends on wavelength (violet light bends more than red). But the Genesis flood myth clearly states that the first rainbow did not appear until after the Flood.

So what happened? Did god change the behaviour of light after the Flood?

This is an important issue which, if it is not addressed, proves that the whole story is just a myth and could not have happened.