Sunday, April 29, 2007

Creationism and Flood Mythology

I have been participating in a discussion on DP Forums lately about whether the biblical flood really happened or not. Of course I think the whole idea is complete rubbish and that there is no possible way that the entire earth has been covered in water for any period (let alone a whole year) anytime in the last several milli...EVER.

But of course I am having trouble making the creationists see this, so I need to figure out a stronger argument which can't be questioned. From the discussion so far I have figure out that they (the particular creationists I am responding to, every creationist has a different version) question virtually every scientific method of extrapolation. Basically their stance is that Pre flood was essentially an entirely different world. Then the flood destroyed everything, there was rapid changes since then, and then things settled down into something more similar to what we see today. Thus all of our methods of extrapolation into the past is flawed because we don't take into account the drastic changes that occured during and shortly after the flood which are different to modern times.

Thus when we talk about Ice Core samples which we believe go back 150,000 years, their explanation is that they were formed shortly after the flood, and then settled into a steady pattern in recent times. I was surprised to find that the oldest living tree only went back about 4,000 years, so that couldn't disprove the flood, and in anycase the fact that our tree ring history still reaches back 10,000 years, I guess the creationist reply to that is that it is still prone to the same extrapolation flaws as the ice rings. That the way things were back then was very different, and so it doesn't actually work.

Similarly I have been told that geologists are wrong about the time for geological formations to occur (like stalagmites etc). And rapid geotechnic changes happened shortly after the flood, thus the few species which went on the ark started migrating out from Mt ararat and they started to diversify rapidly and get isolated on islands etc in the couple of thousand years following the flood, rapidly speciating etc into all of the modern species we see today, before settling down into the pattern we now expect. Thus objections about the number of species required to fit onto the ark are shrugged off because the animals back then were different.

So, if we ignore all of our evidence from molecular biology, geology, ice core sampling and everything else which science tells us about how the world works, how do we still conclusively show that the flood didn't happen?

So looking through the list here: I'm going to see what arguments really stand out.

The first one raises a valid point, but clearly creationists just assume it would be possible. I have browsed through most of the other arguments and can see how the average creationist can shrug them off as assumptions of science (as usual, the creationist assumes they know how scientists collect this stuff without any knowledge of the field), but getting down to this section:

i think this raises a few very valid points which can't be easily ignored.

How was the fossil record sorted in an order convenient for evolution? Ecological zonation, hydrodynamic sorting, and differential escape fail to explain:
  • why some groups of organisms, such as mollusks, are found in many geologic strata.

  • why organisms (such as brachiopods) which are very similar hydrodynamically (all nearly the same size, shape, and weight) are still perfectly sorted.

  • why extinct animals which lived in the same niches as present animals didn't survive as well. Why did no pterodons make it to high ground?

  • why small organisms dominate the lower strata, whereas fluid mechanics says they would sink slower and thus end up in upper strata.

  • why no human artifacts are found except in the very uppermost strata. If, at the time of the Flood, the earth was overpopulated by people with technology for shipbuilding, why were none of their tools or buildings mixed with trilobite or dinosaur fossils?

  • why ecological information is consistent within but not between layers. Fossil pollen is one of the more important indicators of different levels of strata. Each plant has different and distinct pollen, and, by telling which plants produced the fossil pollen, it is easy to see what the climate was like in different strata. Was the pollen hydraulically sorted by the flood water so that the climatic evidence is different for each layer?

How do surface features appear far from the surface? Deep in the geologic column there are formations which could have originated only on the surface, such as:

How could these have appeared in the midst of a catastrophic flood?

How could a flood have deposited chalk? Chalk is largely made up of the bodies of plankton 700 to 1000 angstroms in diameter [Bignot, 1985]. Objects this small settle at a rate of .0000154 mm/sec. [Twenhofel, 1961] In a year of the Flood, they could have settled about half a meter.

Also worthy of a special mention is:
How did all the modern plant species survive?
  • Many plants (seeds and all) would be killed by being submerged for a few months. This is especially true if they were soaked in salt water. Some mangroves, coconuts, and other coastal species have seed which could be expected to survive the Flood itself, but what of the rest?
  • Most seeds would have been buried under many feet (even miles) of sediment. This is deep enough to prevent spouting.
  • Most plants require established soils to grow--soils which would have been stripped by the Flood.
  • Some plants germinate only after being exposed to fire or after being ingested by animals; these conditions would be rare (to put it mildly) after the Flood.
  • Noah could not have gathered seeds for all plants because not all plants produce seeds, and a variety of plant seeds can't survive a year before germinating. [Garwood, 1989; Benzing, 1990; Densmore & Zasada, 1983] Also, how did he distribute them all over the world?

Why is there no mention of the Flood in the records of Egyptian or Mesopotamian civilizations which existed at the time? Biblical dates (I Kings 6:1, Gal 3:17, various generation lengths given in Genesis) place the Flood 1300 years before Solomon began the first temple. We can construct reliable chronologies for near Eastern history, particularly for Egypt, from many kinds of records from the literate cultures in the near East. These records are independent of, but supported by, dating methods such as dendrochronology and carbon-14. The building of the first temple can be dated to 950 B.C. +/- some small delta, placing the Flood around 2250 B.C. Unfortunately, the Egyptians (among others) have written records dating well back before 2250 B.C. (the Great Pyramid, for example dates to the 26th century B.C., 300 years before the Biblical date for the Flood). No sign in Egyptian inscriptions of this global flood around 2250 B.C.

How did the human population rebound so fast? Genealogies in Genesis put the Tower of Babel about 110 to 150 years after the Flood [Gen 10:25, 11:10-19]. How did the world population regrow so fast to make its construction (and the city around it) possible? Similarly, there would have been very few people around to build Stonehenge and the Pyramids, rebuild the Sumerian and Indus Valley civilizations, populate the Americas, etc.

Why do other flood myths vary so greatly from the Genesis account? Flood myths are fairly common worldwide, and if they came from a common source, we should expect similarities in most of them. Instead, the myths show great diversity. [Bailey, 1989, pp. 5-10; Isaak, 1997] For example, people survive on high land or trees in the myths about as often as on boats or rafts, and no other flood myth includes a covenant not to destroy all life again.

How can a literal interpretation be appropriate if the text is self-contradictory? Genesis 6:20 and 7:14-15 say there were two of each kind of fowl and clean beasts, yet Genesis 7:2-3,5 says they came in sevens.

How can a literal interpretation be consistent with reality? How could Noah have gathered male and female of each kind [Gen. 7:15-16] when some species are asexual, others are parthenogenic and have only females, and others (such as earthworms) are hermaphrodites? And what about social animals like ants and termites which need the whole nest to survive?

And these are just the arguments which are left over if we choose to ignore reality.

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