The Genesis story of Noah’s ark saving animals from a global flood is one of many great examples serving to demonstrate that much of the Bible should perhaps not be taken literally. This Old Testament account is one of our all-time favorite Bible stories due to the myriad relevant issues & difficult questions it raises – not to mention my own history of wondering how it could possibly have happened. (It seems to us that this story and many others couldn’t possibly have happened as reported.)
Serious reservations about this story at an early age
And I sure wasn’t alone!
Questions of realistic, proper, and above all, truthful interpretation of such stories found in the Bible represented some of my earliest conundrums as a young tween Christian fundamentalist. (Yes — believe it or not, this author was once a Christian fundamentalist.) My own personal disquiet regarding Noah’s ark & the global flood soon spread to the question of a literal six-day creation and the possibility of evolution as well, and applied not only to stories found in the modern Christian Bible but also to accounts found in other so-called "revealed religious texts" –stories which were supposedly given by God to mankind (e.g., the Pentateuch, the Book of Mormon, the Quran/Koran, etc.). It did not take a rocket scientist — or even a young science fair entrant — to see that not all revealed religions could be true — if, indeed, any of them were…
Difficulty of intellectual honesty
The truth is, few believers (at the literal/fundamentalist level of Bible interpretation, that is) appear willing to apply genuine intellectually honesty when considering or discussing these controversial and sensitive matters. In fact, based on our research & conversations we’ve had and continue to hold with friends — including religious fundamentalists — a great any of them remain largely unwilling or unable to conduct truly objective research or apply difficult, challenging critical thought to their religious beliefs due to deeply ingrained reservations.
And I totally get that based on my own history and experience in that world.
Subtle, sometimes insurmountable fear accompanies religious doubt
There’s an almost insurmountable level of fear: Fear of what other church members might think, fear of God’s judgment of their doubt, fear of being sent to a literal Hell, fear of being wrong, fear of God’s wrath concerning any admitted doubt, fear that their personal religious beliefs may false, fear of being ostracized or ridiculed by whatever true believers may remain in their flock, and on and on the list of fundamentalist fears goes. It is truly sad, but it also gives some idea of just how and why such ancient superstitions are allowed to perpetuate in modern times.
I completely understand that barrier of fundamentalist fear. I experienced the very same fear myself – and I carried that fear inside of me for many years. Being raised in conservative, fundamentalist churches almost always instills a level of fear that is quite effective in preventing the honest pursuit of truth, the application of serious and honest critical thought, and so on. Although I understand that fear, I no longer agree with it. These fears are the most important fears to conquer — that is, if one desires to live a free, happy, spiritually centered life and to align one’s beliefs more closely to reality and truth.
The undeniable truth about these kinds of fundamentalist Christian beliefs and stories can come only from a careful and serious examination of alternate scenarios, conflicting teachings – and must include consideration of a variety of philosophies, opinions, and worldviews. If you are afraid to examine these things, then you will remain transfixed by fear.
For obvious reasons, fundamentalist religious environments strongly discourage the serious questioning of their teachings.
Be sure to cast your vote below: How should we interpret the stories of Noah’s ark and the global flood?
This post barely scratches the surface concerning Noah’s ark and world flood issues; this short article is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive criticism of the belief in – or the literal interpretation of – these Bible stories. The Noah’s ark and global flood accounts in Genesis – purely myth and legend, clearly – already have wide coverage on the web by those representing both sides of the issue. (See the Resources section of this post.)
The questions posed below represent only a few of the many potentially problematic points concerning Noah’s ark and the world flood. I’ll never forget asking myself these and other questions as a curious, inquisitive young fundamentalist who yearned to know the truth – and these questions still serve as interesting food for thought for anyone who believes critical thought is important. (Hint: It is.)
It’s obvious from speaking with friends and relatives that many people, regardless of age, still ask themselves whether to take the Noah’s Ark and global flood – and many other Biblical accounts – at face value.
It seems clear that modern man is not meant to interpret the Bible in a literal sense – especially stories such as these which raise questions with few reasonable answers. The main reason is that the Source (or Mother Nature, God, universal intelligence, or whatever you prefer to call the true universal creative force) – should it “think” – would surely expect man to use natural, “God-given,” human qualities like intelligence, logic, reason, and so on – as well as scientific discovery – in the process of determining what to believe and what to consider parable, legend, poetry, or other types of storytelling. These truth-telling qualities, when used, show that much of the Bible was never meant for mankind to take literally.
One cannot ignore logic and reason; otherwise, any religion or belief system would be accceptable.
In the absence of tools like logic and reason, how could a person possibly come to accept any views other than those taught during one’s upbringing? Without logic and reason, one would have no choice but to stick with whatever teachings one learned as a child – no matter how outrageous or ridiculous they may be in the face of intellectual honesty and science.
The truth is this: Honestly considered, deep critical thinking concerning only the plight of the elephants alone is more than enough to show that the story of Noah’s ark cannot be taken literally.
If you still believe the Old Testament story of Noah’s ark and the global flood represent actual history and are literally true, here are a few ark-related questions and comments for you to carefully & honestly consider.
I beg of you – please be as honest and objective as possible in your careful consideration and research of these matters.
A mere handful of the countless problems w/ Noah’s ark &global flood story
This section deals with only a few of the many practical and logistical issues concerning the animals and the ark.
- Why would a loving, perfect, inerrant God have the need to wipe out virtually all life on earth and start over in the first place?
- How did Noah collect animals from remote areas of the world, on separate continents, even across the globe from Noah’s location and the ark construction site? Did the animals somehow navigate to Noah’s position, or did the family travel all over the world to gather the creatures? For example, polar bears, koalas, Komodo Dragons, Galapagos Tortoises, anacondas, and thousands of other creatures would have had to travel incredible distances to make it to the ark… assuming these animals knew where to go in the first place. (Fundum-answer 1: All the animals that ever existed were living in the immediate area. Fundum-answer 2: It just worked out miraculously.)
- After being released on Mt. Arafat, how did these animals return to their respective parts of the world? For instance, how did the giant Galapagos Tortoises walk to the remote Galapagos Islands? Polar bears, koalas, Komodo Dragons, anacondas, and thousands of other creatures would have had to return to their respective areas of origin in order to survive – yet this was not physically possible in most cases.
- How were the carnivorous animals fed? Even if there were only a pair of lions and no other big cats or bears, they would have required hundreds of other animals to eat during the year on the boat.
- How did marine life survive? Some depend on salt or fresh water, not a mixture of salt and fresh water.
- Where were all the supplies stored? The size of the ark was not nearly sufficient to hold all the required food, not to mention all the animals and their waste. For instance, elephants eat several hundred pounds of vegetation per day.
- What about the survival of millions of species of bugs, spiders, and microscopic organisms? If not carried on the ark, they would have been completely wiped out.
- We now know that dirt – moist earth itself – is comprised largely of living organisms so small and numerous they could not possibly have been carried on the ark.
- We’ve discovered many creatures that can survive only in extreme environments, such as within glaciers and other ice; next to superheated, underwater volcanic vents; in extremely salty or briny water; in highly acidic or alkaline environments; and the list goes on. Such creatures could not possibly have been saved on a boat.
- Why did Noah have to send a bird to determine what should have been clearly evident – that the floodwaters had abated?
- What did the herbivores eat after vacating the ark? All the plant life on earth was long dead, having been underwater for about one year.
- How did the whites, blacks, Chinese, Arabs, and all other human races evolve so quickly from the sole survivors of the flood? According to the genealogy found in the Bible, all races on earth sprang forth from the ark survivors in less than 5,000 years.
- Why was there talk of clean and unclean animals, when, at the time, the official rules regarding such had not even been handed down?
- The waste alone coming from all these animals would amount to hundreds of pounds per day, and scooping up all of this poop would have been a full-time job in itself. I wonder who had that job?
- Elephants eat about 150 pounds of fresh vegetation per day; therefore, the pair of elephants on Noah’s ark would have required around 63,000 pounds of fresh vegetation, hay, fruits and vegetables, etc. During the seven months or so (a very conservative estimate) the elephants were stuck on the ark, where did their food come from? How and where was all the food for all the animals collected and stored on the ark? Just this 63,000 pounds of elephant food would have taken up a large area.
There are also serious issues surrounding the quantity of wood required, the impossibly large size for a wooden ship, the availability of pitch or tar, the construction of all the animal cages, and on and on…
In the interest of objectivity and fairness, this blog will always strive to provide the best publicly available resources, representing both sides of the issues at hand. For example, we are including (in the Resources sections below) links to sites that claim the story of Noah’s Ark is factual; that it’s supposed to be taken literally – despite how preposterous the assertion actually is.
Perhaps the saddest, most unfortunate aspect of all this is that so few Hard Right fundamentalist Christians even take pause to carefully, objectively, independently consider these matters in the first place. Those who are thoughtful, intelligent, and bold enough to apply critical thought to their religious beliefs and the related questions are often…
- Discouraged from discussing the notoriously difficult issues with assertions that such doubt is wrong, or will provoke God’s judgment – or even wrath!
- Encouraged not to take their doubts and questions seriously, noting a “weak faith” or some such…
- Given ridiculous, unbelievable, sloppily contrived, standard, and patently false "answer" to every difficult question…
… and often, all of the above – at least, that’s the way it was in the Brentwood churches and in the Nashville private Christian fundamentalist schools attended by me and my friends in the 1970s and 80s (centered on Church of Christ beliefs).
Inconsistencies, historical, and scientific problems with literal interpretation of Noah’s ark/ global flood stories
- How can the Genesis account be considered factual when these stories are so obviously re-imaginings of so many competing stories and similar myths from other cultures and religions?
- Flood Stories from Around the World – The dozens of flood stories and accounts shown here originated from world folklore, myth, culture, religions, etc. Flood stories, myths, and legends have been included in this list if (1) they are stories; (2) they are folklore, not historical accounts or fiction by a known author; and (3) they involve a flood – often a global deluge.
- Arkaeology – Alan Towsey reviews The Discovery of Noah’s Ark by David Fasold
- The whole silly Flood story – Creationists are probably more defensive about the Flood than any other part of their mythology. One indication of that is the fact that the seminal work of modern creationism (oxymoron) was called The Genesis Flood. The Flood story apparently required lots of explanation and justification if anyone were to take creationism seriously…
- The depths of the oceans are incompatible with a global flood model
- A Response to the Penny Setterfield-Fryman Global Flood Scenario – Creationists lack a coherent global flood model; a young-earth creationist named Penny Fryman-Setterfield has responded with a model…
- That boat don’t float – Large floating wooden structures/boats invariably suffer fatal engineering flaws…
- The Real Poop on the Global Flood – What were turtles doing coming ashore during the global flood, when there wasn’t supposed to be any land?
- Dr. Marty Leipzig looks at the mathematics of Noah’s Flood
- Noah’s Ark myth explained – The tantalising findings of a UK scientist published this month have revealed a possible explanation for the Noah’s Ark myth as well as compelling evidence global warming and a rise in sea level may have encouraged the development of farming and settled civilisation.
- The Kiwi Question – Creationist arguments are so inane, they induce speechlessness, blank stares and can thus hardly be refuted!
Poll question: Noah’s ark, global flood
 Revealed religions, revealed religious texts, revelations
WHen one delves into a broad study of world religions, one finds many references to so-called revealed religions, revealed religious texts, etc…. often known as revelations. These terms indicate that the religious text(s) in questions were supposedly revealed directly by God to man. THere are at least six (6) major religions or religious texts which were supposedly revealed to man by God, some other deity, or a group of deities.
Resources: Noah’s ark
IN the interest of fairness and relative objectivity, we present extensive resources from a variety of viewpoints — not merely skeptical ones. We believe any fair or relatively fair study must examine a variety of opinions and worldviews… otherwise, what’s the point?
Noah’s ark: NOT A TRUE STORY
- There is NO evidence for a worldwide flood – Creationists rely almost exclusively on a world wide flood to give credence to their young Earth beliefs. Below is a selection of articles showing beyond doubt that no such flood occurred.
- Art That Survived Noah’s Flood – Farrell Till, TSR (The Skeptical Review)
- Problems with a global flood
- Skeptic’s Dictionary on Noah’s Ark
- Noah’s ark – Wikipedia entry
- Understanding Noah’s Flood (Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?)
- Rationally Speaking – Noah’s ark found?
- Yahoo Annwers – why do people still believe…
- Noah’s Flood – What does the evidence say? (EpicIdiot)
- Flood myth – Wikipedia
Noah’s ark IS a true story
- Noah’s Ark: A true story based on the Holy Bible
- Answerbag – Is Noah’s Ark supposed to be a true story…
- Historical evidence for Noah’s ark
- Noah’s ark discovered
- Scientific Evidence for a Worldwide Flood (EarthAge)
- Scriptural geologists – Wikipedia
- Flood geology – Wikipedia
Still other opinions…
Noah’s ark references noted while searching for images
- This is the most recently updated portion of this post (April 17, 2012).
Posts Tagged Noah’s Ark – End Times Revelations — More fundamentalist fantasy, supernatural drivel, and whatnot… For entertainment purposes only
- Noah’s Ark found? – Daily News
- Could Noah’s ark really have happened? – How Stuff Works – History section — The answer is "Not bloody likely."
- Noah’s Park: Kentucky ‘Ark Encounter’ Plans Full Scale Replica of Noah’s Ark — Why does this remind me of the creation museum (from Bill Maher’s documentary, Religulous)? Only in Kentucky…
- Noah’s ark, from the perspective of a dog
- Hong Kong Christens an Ark of Biblical Proportions – Wall Street Journal Online
- Noah’s Ark – Militant Atheist
- Noah…Where Are The Dinosaurs?: Full-Scale Noah’s Ark Replica To Be Built In Cincinnati – Geekologie
- Noah’s Ark pictures, paintings – Maritime Quest
Fantasy: Noah’s Ark discovered!
- We Believe This is Noah’s Ark!
- Noah’s Ark found. Great Evidence.
- Noah’s ark search
- Has Noah’s Ark Been Found? Part I
Noah in Islam, Noah in Judaism
- Islamic view of Noah – Wikipedia – Muslim perspective of the old boat-builder
- Noah in Judaism – Wikipedia – The Jew view of the animal collector
Biblical inerrancy, Bible interpretation issues
Art, paintings of Noah’s ark
Although sometimes I’m in a hurry, I prefer to add images to my blog posts; it seems to make the page so much more interesting – certainly more aesthetically pleasing. As I was using Google Images to find art on the subject of Noah’s ark, I made a point to note some of the sites I found – please enjoy.
Please help spread the message any way you can:
- Fundamentalism — whether religious or political — is one of the true, major, current scourges on the planet; nothing good can come from it.
- The way forward for all mankind is to embrace basic universal spiritual principles in all affairs.
- Individuals, groups, and nations should not expect others to adopt their own culture-specific or religion-specific traditions, practices, or beliefs; instead, mutual respect should reign.
I don’t think very many Christians interpret the Noah’s ark story literally anymore, but I’ll include it nonetheless, in case you happen to be one of them.