Monday, November 27, 2006

Punishing Humanity the Rube Goldberg Way - Part 2

When last we left Noah and the gang, they were shut in the ark as the rains began to fall for forty days and nights, and the ark found itself floating on the waters.

So here is the situation. A 600 year old man, his wife, his three sons and three daughters in-law are stuck in a huge wooden vessel with “every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings.”

Now for those who hew to a literal reading of the book of Genesis, it is important to grasp the implications of the above paragraph. Here is a partial list of animals alone, in no particular order: sheep, goats, camels, bears, cows, pigs, buffalo, horses, llamas, alpacas, lions, tigers, gazelles, dogs, moose, giraffes, leopards, pumas, gorillas, chimpanzees, lemurs, bonobos, monkeys, orangutans, tarsiers, bear cats, cats, wolves, foxes, elephants, squirrels, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wildebeests, Tasmanian devils, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, swans, rhinos, hippos, pandas, lemurs, baboons, hyenas, hartebeests, impalas, warthogs, waterbucks, zebras, walruses, seals, sea lions, otters, yaks, rabbits, hedgehogs, armadillos, ocelots, deer, chipmunks, skunks, gibbons, possums, raccoons, ibex, platypus, sloths, rats, hamsters, gerbils, weasels, mongooses, porcupines, chinchillas, guinea pigs, shrews, moles, bandicoots, coyotes, jaguars, turtles, penguins, alligators, crocodiles, monitors, komodo dragons, chameleons, pythons, anacondas, cobras, salamanders, toads, frogs, bats, emus, ostriches, peacocks, ducks, owls, vultures, seagulls, hawks, eagles, canaries, parrots, geese, flamingoes, beavers, macaws, toucans, condors, tapirs, caribou, lynx, voles, rams, antelope, anteaters, boa constrictors, cougars, caimans, panthers, javelinas, kinkajous, peccaries, pronghorns, woodpeckers, cheetahs, lemmings, falcons, wolverines, musk ox, aye-ayes, bongos, ferrets, gnus, groundhogs, okapi, oryxes, pangolins, numbats, quolls, sugar gliders, Tasmanian tigers, dinornis, cassowaries, moas, kiwis, tuataras, and so on and so on. I have not even touched on insects yet.

But just from this list alone, the skeptic draws the conclusion that it would have been impossible for a mere eight people to have fed all of these animals. We are talking about a logistical nightmare here. Even if Noah and his family did not eat or sleep during the entire time they spent in the ark, there were still not enough of them to attend to the animals. But even if they did by some miracle have the means to do so, they would have been utterly ignorant as to the special dietary needs of many of these animals. Some were carnivorous, such as the lions and the tigers. Others were herbivores and ate only certain kinds of leaves. For instance, as mentioned in Part 1, koalas only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree which is native to Australia. And some animals eat only insects. Since the majority of these animals were surely unfamiliar to Noah, how would he have known what kind of food each animal ate?

Those who insist on adhering to a literal belief in the book of Genesis will try to find ways to get around such inconvenient facts. For instance, some argue that God caused the animals to go into a state of hibernation so that they did not need to eat during the time they were cooped up in the ark. But after God tells Noah in Genesis 6: 18-20 the people and animals he is to take with him on the ark, God commands him in Genesis 6:21 to “take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and them.” This strongly implies that the food to be stored on the ark is not only for the people, but for the animals as well. Furthermore, if God caused the animals to sleep during the flood, it is likely that it would have been mentioned in Genesis. For example, in Chapter 2 of Genesis, when God creates Eve, it clearly reads “God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep.” If the animals of the ark were in a state of hibernation, we can be pretty sure there would have been a line somewhere in the Noah’s Ark tale along the lines of “And God caused the animals and birds on the ark to fall into a sleep so that they would not go hungry.” Therefore, we must conclude that the animals were not in a state of hibernation during their time on the ark and that they would have required enormous amounts of food and fresh water to sustain them.

The second problem that skeptics of the tale will bring up naturally follows from the first. The sheer amount of excrement and urine on the ark would have been enormous. Noah and his family, in addition to struggling to feed all of the animals of the ark, would have been overwhelmed by the task of disposing of their bodily wastes, assuming they did not pass out from the stench. In addition to the smell, the ark would have been a breeding ground for disease and sickness that would have caused an epidemic of death and illness on the vessel. To get a sample of what it is like to be on an oceangoing vessel for an extended period of time, below is a description of what travel conditions were like for European immigrants making a Trans-Atlantic journey to the Americas.


“The cheapest passage was in steerage, below the deck of the ship. This area was particularly filthy due to the lack of water, toilets, and cleaning facilities. The stench was nearly impossible to tolerate. Reports of rodents and lice were commonplace.

Regardless of the accommodations one chose, it was impossible to live comfortably. Cleanliness was a major problem. Ships had toilet facilities, but they were few and far between, and all were inconveniently placed. There was no space or equipment for washing. The amount of fresh water onboard was based only upon drinking and cooking needs.

Once the ship was on its way, seasickness was seldom far behind. The close quarters and unsanitary conditions facilitated the rapid spread of infectious diseases. These factors, plus the already physically compromised condition of many of the passengers, resulted in severe health problems that included typhoid, tuberculosis, influenza, and all manner of infections–all of which were potentially life threatening.

When storms came, the ship would pitch and creak. With the hatches down, and without proper ventilation, the stench increased and there was no chance of getting meals even for those who had stomach enough to eat them.”

Genesis literalist will try to argue their way around this unpleasant fact as well. One of my blog readers posited that “a hole with walls might have been built into the center [of the ark] through the bottom. Water could rise and fall like a piston, bring fresh air into the ark. This also would be a good way for them to get water for the animals. Maybe they even had two of these piston well holes and dumped all the poop down the other.” But Genesis does not tell us that such pistons were built. In Genesis 6:14-16, God describes to Noah how the ark should be built. He tells Noah what kind of wood to use, how long, high and wide the ark should be, that it should be covered with pitch, how many decks there should be, and where to put the door. Surely, if so revolutionary device as a piston were to be built, Genesis would tell us something along the lines of “and build a piston in the center of the ark so that that which issueth from man and animal can be pass out of the ark” or something along those lines.

In reading Genesis, a reasonable person can only conclude that the story of Noah and Ark was written by someone completely ignorant of oceanic vessels, not to mention the true extent of the Earth and the incredible diversity of life on the planet that makes a literal reading of the story ridiculous. The leaps of logic that literal believers in the story make to justify their belief only serves to reinforce the absurdity of a Supreme Being resolving to destroy all life by flooding the surface of the planet for months, killing all life save that which was packed aboard the ark.

Interestingly, before the rains began to fall, God tells Noah (Genesis 7:4) when the flooding will begin so that Noah knows when to have all of his family and the animals safely aboard the ark, but when the rain stops, Noah has to release birds to find out if the rainwater had receded. Why doesn’t God just say “Fourteen days from now, the ground will be dry enough for you and all on the ark with you to step out onto the dry land”? Instead, God waits until after Noah has already discovered that the land is dry before commanding him to leave.

The flood story ends with Noah sacrificing some clean animals to God (Genesis 8:20-21) and God being pleased by the aroma of the burnt offerings. For a being that is supposed to have created an infinite universe filled with galaxies, stars, planets, comets, nebulae and other celestial bodies, it seems awfully provincial for such a Supreme Being to get a rush out of the odor arising from the burning of sacrificed animals. And thus, God’s Rube Goldberg punishment of humanity had come to an end.

11 comments:

Sable Chicken said...

Well you forgot the dragon....but the Bible doesn't say that so we don't know...right?

"In reading Genesis, a reasonable person can only conclude that the story of Noah and Ark was written by someone completely ignorant of oceanic vessels"
Well they say that Moses most likely wrote that part of the Bible and why would it be necessary to add any more detail about how the ark was built or how to take care of that many animals, because God promised that He would never destroy the whole Earth by flood again. No need to make it again. Plus we all think that we are so smart anyway, we would be to full of ourself to want God's help.

"God’s Rube Goldberg punishment of humanity had come to an end."
I think it's pretty cool that God used the Rube Goldberg way to punish humanity for our sins, I think it makes for a wonderful story of God's patients to save a remnant of all the people and animals He made. We should be able to look around and see evidence of that flood on the Earth today, in fact we do see undeniable evidences around us.

Theerasak Photha said...

How did the Ark sustain all that life when the average space for each organism on board is the size of a paper cup?

(Not counting the infrastructure of the ship and life support, of course. All the food for such a voyage would fill up the boat anyway.)

Your brother in Parabramhan,
Theerasak

Theerasak Photha said...

To get a sample of what it is like to be on an oceangoing vessel for an extended period of time, below is a description of what travel conditions were like for European immigrants making a Trans-Atlantic journey to the Americas.

The conditions of a slave ship would be a much better analogy. And let's not forget that up to half of the living cargo of such vessels died en route.

Theerasak Photha said...

Well they say that Moses most likely wrote that part of the Bible and why would it be necessary to add any more detail about how the ark was built or how to take care of that many animals, because God promised that He would never destroy the whole Earth by flood again.

There are two things God is good at: executing threats and reneging on promises.

Tommy said...

Why is God's mode of punishment cool Sable? It would be like an angry customer who stormed into a store where he felt he got poor service and proceeded to gun down almost everyone in the store and then proceeds to trash the place. Before leaving the store, he tells a couple of young girls quivering behind the cash register machine that he doesn't have any problem with them and graciously allows them to live.

That's sort of how the God of the Old Testament works. Instead of dealing directly with the individuals who offend him, he wipes out almost every living thing on the Earth or he causes every first born child in Egypt to die. Funny how no one thinks to ask why he just didn't kill the pharaoh. I'm supposed to believe in and worship a creature like that?

Tommy said...

Oh, and with regard to the animals list, for the most part, I did not include the animals that went extinct. I was trying to be conservative.

TP, I thought about using slave ships as an analogy, but I decided that even a less severe journey such as immigrants trying to cross the Atlantic to America in the early 19th century was filled with hardships that the Ark story seems to have missed.

The said...

Oh, and with regard to the animals list, for the most part, I did not include the animals that went extinct. I was trying to be conservative.

It seems you forgot water buffalo.

Theerasak Photha not 'the' said...

What the gh3y?

Stardust said...

To add to the list:
protozoa
* Flagellates
* Amoeboids
* Sporozoans
o Apicomplexa
o Myxozoa
o Microsporidia
* Ciliates

Then what about all the necessary organisms these listed organisms need to feed on to survive?

What about the many, many species of freshwater fish and creatures that would not survive in a salt water environment? And vice versa, what about all the salt water creatures that would never survive in fresh water? Noah would have needed huge and controlled aquariums to support these life forms.

As for the animals Tommy has listed, and has he has already asked "Since the majority of these animals were surely unfamiliar to Noah, how would he have known what kind of food each animal ate?"...and even if he knew, WHERE would he store it and keep it from rotting? I can't keep a head of lettuce for more than two days in a modern refrigerator before it starts going bad.

And yes, the amount of excrement that would pile up would be in the tons. Noah and his family would have been buried in it, or died from the methane gas fumes given off from the waste.

Flood myths are common amongst most cultures because flooding is a natural thing that happens everywhere and causes great loss of life and destruction. Whenever people can't control something, they start to look for some kind of supernatural help in a desperate attempt to harness nature, which some of us know and accept as impossible.

Xians claim that god promised that he would never flood the earth again, however, the earth is indeed flooded in susceptible areas (and sometimes not so common areas) again and again, and to those living in the flooded areas, that area is the whole world to them. Look at the huge tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, mudslides, etc. that have happened and that will continue to happen throughout time. That is the only world most of the victims of those natural disaster knows. Their "world" is/was and will be flooded and destroyed time and time again.

Theerasak Photha said...

What about the many, many species of freshwater fish and creatures that would not survive in a salt water environment? And vice versa, what about all the salt water creatures that would never survive in fresh water? Noah would have needed huge and controlled aquariums to support these life forms.

I beat that issue to death already. Of course, creationists will always trot out an oldie and moldy from their Book of Bulls---, citing wild speculation by a random scientific non-expert like Kent Hovind.

What really interests me is how Noah would have preserved the huge amount of flora that exist today. Submerge your house plants underwater for forty days, and observe dead, rotting plant at the end of this period. Noah could have collected seeds, but seeds can't walk on their own, so he would have had to gone out of his way to gather all of them from across the world. Did Noah pick through the huge volumes of dung produced by his living cargo to complete his collection? I suppose plants could survive on floes of earth---I don't have the physics chops to say whether such alleged floes and the ark itself would be smashed to bits by the turbulent downpour and flooding, though I suspect they would---but that would obviate the need to build such a vessel in the first place!!!

Oh, silly me: GODDIDIT. That explains everything.

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