How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?
The Bible specifies Noah’s Ark as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, a huge, stable, seaworthy vessel.
Many skeptics assert that the Bible must be wrong, because they claim that the Ark could not possibly have carried all the different types of animals. This has persuaded some Christians to deny the Genesis Flood, or believe that it was only a local flood involving comparatively few local animals. But they usually have not actually performed the calculations. On the other hand, the classic creationist book The Genesis Flood contained a detailed analysis as far back as 1961.1 A more detailed and updated technical study of this and many other questions is John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study. This article is based on material in these books plus some independent calculations. There are two questions to ask:
How many types of animals did Noah need to take?
Was the ark large enough to hold all the required animals?
How many types of animals did Noah need to take?
The relevant passages are Genesis 6:19–20 and Genesis 7:2–3.
‘And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.’
‘Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.’
In the original Hebrew, the word for ‘beast’ and ‘cattle’ in these passages is the same: behemah, and it refers to land vertebrate animals in general. The word for ‘creeping things’ is remes, which has a number of different meanings in Scripture, but here it probably refers to reptiles.2 Noah did not need to take sea creatures3 because they would not necessarily be threatened with extinction by a flood. However, turbulent water would cause massive carnage, as seen in the fossil record, and many oceanic species probably did become extinct because of the Flood.
However, if God in His wisdom had decided not to preserve some ocean creatures, this was none of Noah’s business. Noah did not need to take plants either—many could have survived as seeds, and others could have survived on floating mats of vegetation. Many insects and other invertebrates were small enough to have survived on these mats as well. The Flood wiped out all land animals which breathed through nostrils except those on the Ark (Genesis 7:22). Insects do not breathe through nostrils but through tiny tubes in their exterior skeleton.
Clean animals: Bible commentators are evenly divided about whether the Hebrew means ‘seven’ or ‘seven pairs’ of each type of clean animal. Woodmorappe takes the latter just to concede as much to the biblioskeptics as possible. But the vast majority of animals are not clean, and were represented by only two specimens each. The term ‘clean animal’ was not defined until the Mosaic Law. But since Moses was also the compiler of Genesis, if we follow the principle that ‘Scripture interprets Scripture’, the Mosaic Law definitions can be applied to the Noahic situation. There are actually very few ‘clean’ land animals listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
What is a ‘kind’? God created a number of different types of animals with much capacity for variation within limits.4 The descendants of each of these different kinds, apart from humans, would today mostly be represented by a larger grouping than what is called a species. In most cases, those species descended from a particular original kind would be grouped today within what modern taxonomists (biologists who classify living things) call a genus (plural genera).
One common definition of a species is a group of organisms which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, and cannot mate with other species. However, most of the so-called species (obviously all the extinct ones) have not been tested to see what they can or cannot mate with. In fact, not only are there known crosses between so-called species, but there are many instances of trans-generic mating, so the ‘kind’ may in some cases be as high as the family. Identifying the ‘kind’ with the genus is also consistent with Scripture, which spoke of kinds in a way that the Israelites could easily recognize without the need for tests of reproductive isolation.
For example, horses, zebras and donkeys are probably descended from an equine (horse-like) kind, since they can interbreed, although the offspring are sterile. Dogs, wolves, coyotes and jackals are probably from a canine (dog-like) kind. All different types of domestic cattle (which are clean animals) are descended from the Aurochs, so there were probably at most seven (or fourteen) domestic cattle aboard. The Aurochs itself may have been descended from a cattle kind including bisons and water buffaloes. We know that tigers and lions can produce hybrids called tigons and ligers, so it is likely that they are descended from the same original kind.
Woodmorappe totals about 8000 genera, including extinct genera, thus about 16,000 individual animals which had to be aboard. With extinct genera, there is a tendency among some paleontologists to give each of their new finds a new genus name. But this is arbitrary, so the number of extinct genera is probably highly overstated. Consider the sauropods, which were the largest dinosaurs—the group of huge plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, etc. There are 87 sauropod genera commonly cited, but only 12 are ‘firmly established’ and another 12 are considered ‘fairly well established’.5
One commonly raised problem is ‘How could you fit all those huge dinosaurs on the Ark?’ First, of the 668 supposed dinosaur genera, only 106 weighed more than ten tons when fully grown. Second, as said above, the number of dinosaur genera is probably greatly exaggerated. But these numbers are granted by Woodmorappe to be generous to skeptics. Third, the Bible does not say that the animals had to be fully grown. The largest animals were probably represented by ‘teenage’ or even younger specimens. The median size of all animals on the ark would actually have been that of a small rat, according to Woodmorappe‘s up-to-date tabulations, while only about 11% would have been much larger than a sheep.
Another problem often raised by atheists and theistic evolutionists is ‘how did disease germs survive the flood?’ This is a leading question—it presumes that germs were as specialized and infectious as they are now, so all the Ark’s inhabitants must have been infected with every disease on earth. But germs were probably more robust in the past, and have only fairly recently lost the ability to survive in different hosts or independently of a host. In fact, even now many germs can survive in insect vectors or corpses, or in the dried or frozen state, or be carried by a host without causing disease. Finally, loss of resistance to disease is consistent with the general degeneration of life since the Fall.6
Was the ark large enough to hold all the required animals?
The Ark measured 300 × 50 × 30 cubits (Genesis 6:15), which is about 140 × 23 × 13.5 metres or 459 × 75 × 44 feet, so its volume was 43,500 m³ (cubic metres) or 1.54 million cubic feet. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent volume of 522 standard American railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep.
If the animals were kept in cages with an average size of 50 × 50 × 30 centimetres (20 × 20 × 12 inches), that is 75,000 cm³ (cubic centimetres) or 4800 cubic inches, the 16,000 animals would only occupy 1200 m³ (42,000 cubic feet) or 14.4 stock cars. Even if a million insect species had to be on board, it would not be a problem, because they require little space. If each pair was kept in cages of 10 cm (four inches) per side, or 1000 cm³, all the insect species would occupy a total volume of only 1000 m³, or another 12 cars. This would leave room for five trains of 99 cars each for food, Noah’s family and ‘range’ for the animals. However, insects are not included in the meaning of behemah orremes in Genesis 6:19-20, so Noah probably would not have taken them on board as passengers anyway.
Tabulating the total volume is fair enough, since this shows that there would be plenty of room on the Ark for the animals with plenty left over for food, range etc. It would be possible to stack cages, with food on top or nearby (to minimize the amount of food carrying the humans had to do), to fill up more of the Ark space, while still allowing plenty of room for gaps for air circulation. We are discussing an emergency situation, not necessarily luxury accommodation. Although there is plenty of room for exercise, skeptics have overstated animals’ needs for exercise anyway.
Even if we don’t allow stacking one cage on top of another to save floor space, there would be no problem. Woodmorappe shows from standard recommended floor space requirements for animals that all of them together would have needed less than half the available floor space of the Ark’s three decks. This arrangement allows for the maximum amount of food and water storage on top of the cages close to the animals.
The Ark would probably have carried compressed and dried foodstuffs, and probably a lot of concentrated food. Perhaps Noah fed the cattle mainly on grain, plus some hay for fibre. Woodmorappe calculated that the volume of foodstuffs would have been only about 15 % of the Ark’s total volume. Drinking water would only have taken up 9.4% of the volume. This volume would be reduced further if rainwater was collected and piped into troughs.
It is doubtful whether the humans had to clean the cages every morning. Possibly they had sloped floors or slatted cages, where the manure could fall away from the animals and be flushed away (plenty of water around!) or destroyed by vermicomposting (composting by worms) which would also provide earthworms as a food source. Very deep bedding can sometimes last for a year without needing a change. Absorbent material (e.g. sawdust, softwood wood shavings and especially peat moss) would reduce the moisture content and hence the odour.
The space, feeding and excretory requirements were adequate even if the animals had normal day/night sleeping cycles. But hibernation is a possibility which would reduce these requirements even more. It is true that the Bible does not mention it, but it does not rule it out either. Some creationists suggest that God created the hibernation instinct for the animals on the Ark, but we should not be dogmatic either way.
Some skeptics argue that food taken on board rules out hibernation, but this is not so. Hibernating animals do not sleep all winter, despite popular portrayals, so they would still need food occasionally.
This article has shown that the Bible can be trusted on testable matters like Noah’s Ark. Many Christians believe that the Bible can only be trusted on matters of faith and morals, not scientific matters. But we should consider what Jesus Christ Himself told Nicodemus (John 3:12): ‘If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’
Similarly, if the Scriptures can be wrong on testable matters such as geography, history and science, why should they be trusted on matters like the nature of God and life after death, which are not open to empirical testing? Hence Christians should ‘but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15), when skeptics claim that the Bible conflicts with known ‘scientific facts’.
Christians would be able to follow this command and answer skeptics’ anti-Ark arguments effectively, if they read John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study. This remarkable book is the most complete analysis ever published regarding the gathering of animals to the Ark, provisions for their care and feeding, and the subsequent dispersion. For example, some skeptics have claimed that the post-Flood ground would be too salty for plants to grow. Woodmorappe points out that salt can be readily leached out by rainwater.
Woodmorappe has devoted seven years to this scholarly, systematic answer to virtually all the anti-Ark arguments, alleged difficulties with the Biblical account, and other relevant questions. Nothing else like this has ever been written before—a powerful vindication of the Genesis Ark account.
‘It has just the sort of facts and details that kids find fascinating, and would make an excellent source of information for enhancing Bible study projects and class lessons on the Ark and Flood. Anyone interested in answering the many questions about the ark, especially from skeptics, would be advised to read Noah’s Ark.’7
References and notes
- J.C. Whitcomb, and H.M. Morris, The Genesis Flood, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, USA, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1961. Return to text.
- A.J. Jones, ‘How many animals on the Ark?’ Creation Research Society Quarterly 10(2):16–18, 1973. Return to text.
- It is high time that certain atheistic skeptics showed some intellectual integrity and actually read the Bible. Then they would stop making ridiculous comments about whales flopping up gang–planks and fish–tanks on the Ark. Return to text.
- One common fallacy brought up by evolutionists is that variation within a kind somehow proves particles-to-people evolution. The examples commonly cited, e.g. peppered moths and antibiotic resistance in bacteria, are indeed examples of natural selection. But this is not evolution. Evolution requires the generation of new information, while natural selection sorts and can remove information due to loss of genetic diversity. Natural selection can account for variations, but cannot account for the origin of bacteria or moths. With the moths, natural selection merely changed the ratios of black and peppered forms. Both types were already present in the population, so nothing new was produced. [Since this article was published, new evidence shows that all the moth pictures were staged, further undermining this ‘evidence’—see Goodbye, peppered moths: A classic evolutionary story comes unstuck.] The same applies to different breeds of dogs. By selecting individuals which are very large or very small, Great Danes and Chihuahuas were bred. But these breeds have lost the information contained in genes for certain sizes. See Dogs breeding dogs? Creation 18(2):20–23. [See also What is Evolution?.] Return to text.
- J.S. McIntosh, Sauropoda, in Wieshampel, D.B. et al., The Dinosauria, University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 345, 1992. Return to text.
- C. Wieland, ‘Diseases on the Ark’, Journal of Creation (previously Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal) 8(1):16–18, 1994. Viruses often become much more infectious by random mutations causing changes in their protein coats. This makes it harder for the antibodies to recognize them, but there is no increase in information content, so no real evolution. Return to text.
- Reason and Revelation, May 1996. Return to text.
The sheer silliness of this is mind boggling. There hasn’t been enough time for all species to evolve in 4 billion years, BUT … Horses,Zebras and Donkeys, which are estimated to be millions of years apart by science, evolved in 5000 years? Huh?
A guy had 8000 pairs of animals on an Ark? Can’t this be a story? Catholics treat all of these things as stories without anyone running off to become an atheist. I just will never get this.
What is really mind-boggling is how you can comment with so little understanding of the issues. It doesn't take that long to vary, as shown by the rapidity that the breeds of dogs were formed from a pair of wolves only a few thousand years ago, and other examples of rapid speciation
No the global Flood and Ark can't be a (false) story. Jesus didn't think so—in Luke 17:26–27 He said:
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
Finally, what do you care anyway? And as shown, people do run off and become atheists or at least abandon other key teachings. See our recent article Gay ‘marriage’ and the consistent outcome of Genesis compromise.
The flood of Noah couldn’t have happened. There wouldn’t be enough food and time to feed all 16000 animals. and for ten months, 8 people feeding them? How about the food after the flood? It’s funny how people could defend this story when it’s clearly full of impossibilities.
There are plenty of proven low-tech methods available to feed and water lots of animals. Both water and grain could have central stations, and separate pipes leading to troughs that would feed lots of animals.
And after the Flood, they didn't disembark for some time, and the account records that already there was considerable vegetation growing by then. Meat eaters could catch fish trapped in pools left behind by the retreating flood waters, and also exhume the ample carrion buried.
This is all in the recommended reading. It’s funny how people could attack this story so dogmatically while being ignorant of very simple solutions.
The animals and people native to Australia and North America that were discovered by European settlers clearly indicate the fictitious nature of this story. Unless you can present evidence that explains how dark skinned people and animals found no where else in the world wound up on these continents after the floods receded.
The concept of Biblical Literalism, as it is understood today, was foreign to the Church Fathers. Jesus told all sorts of stories to illustrate profound truths. So did Augustine and the other Fathers. That they were fiction didn't change the message. Noah is about sin and redemption.
In any case, you have no idea how silly all of this sounds to scientists, many of whom are believers like me. Poodles and German Shepherds are still dogs. Zebras and donkeys, while clearly related like chimps and people, diverged millions of years ago.
I don’t know who these biblical literalists are, but I am a biblical originalist who follows the historical-grammatical approach. You also need to study the Church Fathers yourself, since they—including Augustine—accepted a global flood. Fathers like Basil the Great had no time for fanciful allegorization:
I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel” [Romans 1:16]. (Hexaëmeron 9:1)
Anyway, you have no idea how silly such ipse dixits sound to real Ph.D. scientists like me who are Christian believers. Zebras and donkeys can still hybridize—see Zenkey, zonkey, zebra donkey! Apes and humans cannot.
“and others could have survived on floating mats of vegetation.”
For another ‘more widespread’ possibility also search for "floating forest" articles on this site. Have you considered that a few eggs might have survived this way too, apparently the water was quite warm at up to 30°C—so evaporating and warming the forests. In the article about unique migration of a few animals, floating forests might also have been a part of the picture; besides the proposed land bridges (due to the ice age).
How is it possible that 8 couple = 7,000,000,000 people is less than 5000 years?
Extremely easy to answer—at least if you understand exponential growth. This population of 8 would need to double only 30 times to reach 8.6 billion. Since the Flood was about 4500 years ago, that means it would need to double only every 150 years on average. A simple way to work out the rough growth rate in your head is the ‘rule of 72’. This states that dividing 72 by the years to double the population provides the annual growth rate. This shows that the population would need to grow by <0.5% per year—less than a third of the current growth rate! For more advanced calculations, see Where are all the people?
Gen 7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
How high was the water? 15 cubits? Certainly that doesn’t cover the mountains.
Not at today’s height, but that’s a red herring. Today’s mountains are post-Flood, and grew rapidly after the Flood while sediments were still soft. Even Mt Everest has marine limestone on its summit, showing that it was once buried under water. See for example Did Noah need oxygen above the mountains?
No more replies to you until you follow our feedback rules and check our site first. I tell you this in the spirit of “teaching a man how to fish” ;)
Steve M: I laughed, I cried and sat starring mystified at the silliness I’ve been reading.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:
Your self-confessed emotionalism is clouding your judgment. Maybe a good counsellor would help ;)
SM: The several articles I’ve read denies evolution.
JS: That must have been a shock to find on a site called creation.com ;)
SM: That Inbreeding was not detrimental to repopulation.
JS: Who says it wasn’t? After all, this is one of our explanations for the exponential decay of lifespans after the Flood.
SM: A lot of blanks like how were the animals were feed are made up with no facts whatsoever.
JS: No facts? Can you disprove the possibility of dried and concentrated foods? The technology has long been known and is not difficult. Other examples of plausible means for animal storage over many months come from the low-tech methods that Dutch farmers have used for centuries to keep animals over the harsh winters: the potstal and the grupstal (see How could Noah care for the animals?).
It’s up to critics of the Ark to prove that this is not possible; all defenders of the Ark account need to do is provide plausible ideas. Hence the title of the definitive book Noah’s Ark: Feasibility Study—it shows that the Ark account is feasible, and didn’t even require miracles.
SM: I wanted to know how the other races of man came from Noah’s family:
JS: The Search Button is your friend (top right of almost every page). If you had used this, you would easily have found this chapter from the Creation Answers Book which covers:
- How did all the different ‘races’ arise?
- What is a ‘race’? How did different skin colours come about?
- What are the consequences of false beliefs about ‘race’?
- Are black people the result of a curse on Ham?
SM: and how pugs became great danes I got more silly science.
JS: That above really is silly science. The real science is that both pugs and great danes came from a common ancestor, a pair of wolves. A great dane is likely the result of concentration of genes for growth already present in the wolf, or maybe some loss of control of growth. The pug is the result of a downhill mutation in genes controlling the growth of snout bones. See also ‘Parade of Mutants’—Pedigree Dogs and Artificial Selection.
SM: The claim evolution is wrong that means it cannot be right when it suits you.
JS: Nope, you can’t play bait-and-switch (i.e. the fallacy of equivocation) when it suits you. See Variation and natural selection versus evolution.
SM: So Noah cannot have negroid children and they cannot become negroid because that would be evolving or changing.
JS: They would be changing, but not in the direction that would change nematodes into Noah. Please study very carefully articles like The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction). It’s good for you to study the opponent’s case properly and in its strongest form. You notice that we do that, for example addressing the best arguments for evolution from the National Academy of Sciences and Richard Dawkins, and the best arguments for old-earth compromise from Hugh Ross.
SM: A cobra doesn’t give birth to a boa.
JS: I don't recall anywhere where we have claimed it does. A boa is a constrictor, very different from a venomous snake like the cobra.
SM: Just like all fresh water fish will die in salt water and massive temperature changes.
JS: No they won’t actually, if they have a chance to acclimatize gradually. I saw this for myself many years ago at Underwater World in Queensland, Australia. They had a freshwater and saltwater fish in the same tank, and achieved this by gradual adjustments to salinity in both fish until they could cope with the same salinity.
You also need to be aware of the well-known phenomena of thermoclines and haloclines, persistent temperature and salinity gradients. See also our old friends the search button and Creation Answers Book. Another chapter covers:
- How did freshwater and saltwater fish survive the Flood?
- How did saltwater fish survive dilution of the seawater with freshwater, or how did freshwater types survive in saltwater?
- And how did plants survive?
SM: Filling in the huge amount of blanks like species, races and how things were done without any facts.
JS: The facts are abundant, but unfortunately we have no way under present technology to pipe them directly into your brain. Thus all we can do is point out that you need to search for them (cf. “the one who seeks finds”, Matthew 7:8), and we try to make this easy.
SM: At least the evolutionist say they have a theory it means they are not certain.
JS: I must admit that it makes a change to hear an evolutionist use this argument. Normally the likes of Dawkins whinge when less informed creationists use it, although we advise against it in our Don’t Use page.
SM: You act like your “facts” are actual answers.
JS: They are. Sorry that we won’t just take your word for the contrary.
SM: You pretend to have answers where there are none but are to bull headed to admit you don’t know.
JS: You’re just too bull-headed to admit that we do have answers to your hardest arguments, so you have no excuse to deny your Maker.
SM: You see doubt and blind faith as heresy.
JS: News to me. See for example The Importance of Evidence.
SM: The Bible says all sorceress are to be put to death. Will you still follow this law?
JS: Please see Is eating shellfish still an abomination?
SM: It seems you follow the answers that fit your narrow minded views.
JS: In reality, we, like you, interpret the facts in the light of a paradigm or set of underlying assumptions. See for example Presuppositionalism vs evidentialism and The role of axioms, internal consistency and real world application.
SM: Primitive thinking for primates.
JS: Aren’t you a primate too? —
any of various omnivorous mammals of the order Primates, comprising the three suborders Anthropoidea (humans, great apes, gibbons, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys), Prosimii (lemurs, loris, and their allies), and Tarsioidea (tarsiers), especially distinguished by the use of hands, varied locomotion, and by complex flexible behavior involving a high level of social interaction and cultural adaptability.
I thought you people (by which I mean literalists)
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies I don't know any literalists, as explained to Joe M., United States, 16 July 2012 (above).
TN didn’t believe in evolution,
JS I can’t speak for ‘literalists’, but I as a representative of the historical-grammatical/originalist/textualist hermeneutic school certainly don’t. Indeed, I’ve written books with titles Refuting Evolution and Refuting Evolution 2 which should provide substantial evidence.
TN and yet now you’re arguing that evolution is the answer?
JS I am not sure how you could gain such an impression, except by playing bait-and-switch (aka the fallacy of equivocation). The free online book chapter Variation and natural selection versus evolution should reduce confusion.
TN FYI, I grew up Christian, still am, all my friends and family were Christian,
JS Evidently their compromise didn’t impress you either, so I am not sure what this proves.
TN and yet I never, to my knowledge, encountered a Biblical literalist until college (in biology, go figure).
JS you probably still haven’t actually.
TN And I grew up in Texas in the 70s and 80s thank you very much.
JS You’re most welcome. I grew up in New Zealand at the same time. Not sure what this proves though.
Nice article, but you live in a world of theoretical materials.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: Not at all—the Woodmorappe book is full of applied low-tech methods. More recently, the article How could Noah care for the animals? documents how Dutch farmers for centuries used ingenious but low-tech methods to keep their animals safe over winter: the potstal and grupstal.
JJ: What did Noah make the ark out of, for instance?
JS: Gopher wood, as the Bible says. And see also The pitch for Noah’s Ark.
JJ: The structural integrity of wood literally would have collapsed upon itself just from weight alone, not to mention human-errors in the construction.
JS: A fact-free assertion. You appear to be unaware of huge wooden vessels of antiquity, as well as many methods of making very strong wood vessels (see Yes, Noah did build an Ark! under Broken apart).
JJ: That’s not even taking into consideration tidal forces.
JS: Why would we? They are too weak (see The moon: the light that rules the night under Tides). It’s up to you to tell us why we should take them into account.
JJ: And did I forget the ‘excrement slots’ that would ruin the integrity further more?
JS: Maybe you didn’t forget, since one possibility mentioned in the article is vermicomposting. Also, any slot could be reinforced.
JJ: And if there is some perfect design that utilizes outside force to make up for internal stresses, where did they get all the wood, and the technical ability to build such a thing?
JS: Wood normally comes from trees to my knowledge.
JJ: After the flood, how did all the animals get back to their present-day continent? Flying maybe?
JS: See answer to David W. above.
JJ: That’s just the surface though. Let’s look at the idea that the water surged from the Earth. Okay, so say that happened. Have you ever noticed that even the strongest submarines can’t withstand pressures past a certain point?
JS: Indeed they can’t. But it’s up to you to show that this point would be reached with the Ark.
JJ: The point is, that cavities would form in the crust, and the sheer weight of the water above would crush them, forming huge tidal forces, tsunamis,
JS: But as naval engineers showed, the Ark could easily stand up to all that. See Noah’s Flood and the Gilgamesh Epic under Ark shape.
JJ: things that wouldn’t just destroy the animals, but also the geography and fertility of the land.
JS: Indeed, the Flood was a catastrophe. But this would recover quickly—see After devastation … the recovery.
JJ: And what about the oxygen?
JS: Good ventilation. The long window on the roof of the Ark was similar to that on many factories today.
JJ: Even if you can solve all of these problems and form some cohesive solution, it doesn't mean it happened.
JS: The point is to show that was not impossible, so there is no excuse to doubt the eye-witness accounts in Scripture confirmed by Christ Himself.
JJ: It’s theoretically nearly-impossible, if there’s a chance at all, and the lack of evidence on the Earth that supports it makes that chance even slimmer.
JS: Another ipse dixit, and I’ve refuted your best shots above.
JJ: The only evidence for Noah’s ark is the inbreeding, as you are obviously stupid enough to make any argument at all.
JS: The genetic evidence supports that, as shown by Adam, Eve and Noah vs Modern Genetics by a Ph.D. geneticist.
JJ: I will not have fellow humans slander the works of humans.
JS: Do you plan to censor speech you don’t like? Many atheistic regimes did just that. Whether you’d really want to live under them is another matter. See also The tyranny of ‘tolerance’.
JJ: Religion corrupts the world.
JS: You must have forgotten the atheistic/evolutionary regimes that were responsible for more deaths than all ‘religious’ wars
put together: 77 million in Communist China,
62 million in the Soviet Gulag State, 21 million non-battle killings by the Nazis, 2 million murdered in the Khmer Rouge killing fields. This was thoroughly documented by Rudolph Rummel (b. 1932), Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, who coined the term democide for murder by government (see his book Death By Government).
JJ: And it saddens me to see people living these lies, unable to enjoy life for what it is, rather than what it isn’t.
JS: I know the feeling, believe me. Just look at what I have to deal with ;)
It would take another Ark somehow filled with non-perishable food (impossible!) to keep the animals alive for a few seasons until the food supply began to replenish itself (centuries is more likely).
Jonathan Sarfati responds: I didn’t notice any documented refutation for the paragraph:
The Ark would probably have carried compressed and dried foodstuffs, and probably a lot of concentrated food. Perhaps Noah fed the cattle mainly on grain, plus some hay for fibre. Woodmorappe calculated that the volume of foodstuffs would have been only about 15 % of the Ark’s total volume. Drinking water would only have taken up 9.4% of the volume. This volume would be reduced further if rainwater was collected and piped into troughs.
RC: But for the carnivores needing 16 pounds of fresh-killed flesh per day to survive there would have to be vast stores of surplus animals somehow released but prevented from escaping the range of carnivores.
JS: Which carnivores did you have in mind? And as Woodmorappe’s book shows, meat can be dried, and fodder animals such tortoises are known from history. See Feeding carnivores on the Ark, and refuting an accusation of ‘closet scientism’. After disembarkation, animals could feed on exhumed carrion and fish trapped in pools left by the retreating Flood water.
RC: While I commend the effort, the Ark story is just another Biblical parable. Searching/justifying (for) the Ark is like searching for the bones of ‘the’ Good Samaritan.
JS: As should be clear from our site, we have no interest in looking for the Ark today. I’ve long said that it’s likely that Noah and his family recycled the material for building, since forests would have needed time to grow for lumber.
I very much hope you will answer my 5 questions.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: I didn’t see any questions, but lots of unsupported assertions. Most are already answered on our site, which you should have searched as per our feedback rules.
MS: 1. You say in your answers that the insects could be kept in boxes 4" square.
JS: Indeed, and also that insects were likely not obligate passengers.
MS: It is estimated that there are over 800,000 species of Beetles alone,
JS: Huge exaggeration. The evolutionists’ favorite source, Wikipedia, says, “There are about 450,000 species of beetles.” And as explained in the article, the kind is much broader than the species.
MS: (many well-over 4″ in length!)
JS: A very tiny fraction. “300,000 described species, or approximately 90% of the beetle species so far discovered” are of the suborder Polyphaga, which contains much smaller beetles such as scarabs, weevils, and fireflies.
MS: That equals a line of boxes of around 53 miles long! Then there are all the other millions of insect species.
JS: Where do you get this number from? About 850,000–1,000,000 of all described species are insects.
MS: You can work out how much room is required to house all of the known insects in their boxes and I don’t think it leaves much room for the higher animals.
JS: Certainly if you use faulty premises such as insects were obligate passengers, Noah had to take pairs of species rather than pairs of kinds, there are millions of species not known to science that were on board, and that most were over 4″ long, you should not be surprised that the conclusion may not be true.
MS: 2. You also say there was no need to take fish onto the ark. The salinity level of water is absolutely crucial to all fish. Marine fish would all have perished as the salinity dropped, equally fresh-water fish would have perished as the salinity rose, (try dropping some salt into your fresh-water aquarium, or filling your marine tank with fresh or brackish water and see what happens).
JS: Try reading the response to Steve M. above ;)
MS: 3. How did Noah know when he had collected two of each of the world’s insects? Even the most eminent entomologists couldn’t name but 10% of the world’s insect species.
JS: He didn’t have to know. As the article pointed out, God brought the animals to him.
MS: 4. Have you ever tried working with animals in an almost fully enclosed environment? Methane and CO2 levels rise very quickly as oxygen levels fall and the atmosphere soon becomes stifling. Many creatures would very quickly suffer in such a place.
JS: I haven’t, but Dutch farmers have done so for centuries. Again, see response to Steve M. above. Also, the recommended book Noah’s Ark: Feasibility Study has a section on Odors and Hazardous Gases, p. 31.
MS: 5. Salt is one of the best known weedkillers. After the flood the soil would have remained infertile for up to a year or more until the salt had leached away.
JS: But since we are now 4½ millennia after the Flood, it should not be too much of a problem. And the article says, “Woodmorappe points out that salt can be readily leached out by rainwater.”
MS: Virtually all plants would die almost immediately after germination. (Try growing common seeds, and water with a weak saline solution to see what happens.)
JS: Ph.D. plant biologist Don Batten answered this long ago, pointing out that none other than Charles Darwin did what you suggested trying:
Charles Darwin contributed to the answer to this also. As well as doing experiments on seeds germinating after soaking in water, Darwin pointed out that seeds survive in the dead carcasses of birds and animals floating in the sea. That’s another way that seeds could have survived. Many families of plants have at least some species with seeds that have resistant seed coats (‘hard seeded’) that are impervious to the penetration of water and it is not until they are abraded or pass through fire, for example, that water will penetrate and germination follows. Many legume seeds are like this and will withstand prolonged submersion without losing viability. … My doctorate research was done on the physiology of plant propagation from cuttings. Olives are propagated commercially from cuttings, and have been for thousands of years.
[Ed. note: this further exchange is printed, in spite of defiance of the feedback rules, to show how many biblioskeptical arguments have long ago been thoroughly answered. Since the questions were quick throw-away lines, Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s response accordingly presents only brief links and references. Compare also his 1998 article Problems with a Global Flood?, a more extensive response to an atheist]
MS: What is the present Latin name for ‘gopher wood’ and where can it be found growing today? If it no longer exists, what happened to it?
JS: Woodmorappe ch. 6 suggests the extremely durable wood teak, or that ‘gopher’ may not refer to a type of wood but a method of hardening it.
Mark S.: I have worked on farms, and to feed, water and clean-out just 2–300 animals is as much as one person can do in a day. How did Noah and his small family look after so many animals for so long in a boat!
JS: Did you not read about potstals and grupstals in the comments above (reply to S.M.), where Dutch farmers have left animals to themselves for the entire winter? See also Woodmorappe ch. 8.
MS: Why did God get Noah to go to all this trouble?
JS: Clearly Noah was willing, so how is this any of your concern? Here was I thinking that you had scientific objections, whereas here is a pseudo-theological one!
MS: Couldn’t He have just re-created everything after the flood?
JS: Of course He could have, but He is sovereign and can do what He likes. It’s presumptuous of a mere creature to tell the Creator what He should have done. See Woodmorappe p. iii.
MS: Most animals require very precise habitats that can take very many years to create. How could these have been created so soon after the flood, and who put these millions of animals back into their correct habitats, (if they existed)?
JS: No, most animals are very adaptable, as shown by zoos that keep animals from a wide variety of habitats. See also Woodmorappe ch. 13 (specialized diets) and ch. 14 (fallacy of climatic barriers).
MS: Do you believe that the flood created the ‘fossil layers’?
MS: How many deaths and casualties were there among these millions of creatures couped-up for so long?
JS: As pointed out in my previous response to you, only about 16,000 obligate passengers on the Ark, and no recorded deaths.
MS: How did Noah’s family remain disease-free in such putrid conditions, amid so many lethal viruses and bacteria?
JS: Evidently you didn’t bother to read the article at all. There is a prominent pullout quote:
Another problem often raised by atheists and theistic evolutionists is ‘how did disease germs survive the flood?’ … In fact, even now many germs can survive in insect vectors or corpses, or in the dried or frozen state, or be carried by a host without causing disease. Finally, loss of resistance to disease is consistent with the general degeneration of life since the Fall.
See Woodmorappe ch. 28 and Diseases on the Ark.
Mark S.: Why did God not foresee how wicked and violent the earth was to become that required him to kill 99.9999% of all living things, especially especially those evil and violent children of God?
JS: Who says he didn’t foresee it? See for example Does God’s foreknowledge entail fatalism?
MS: Where were all the animals stored that were to become food for the thousands of carnivorous mammals, birds and reptiles?
JS: Dried meats that could be reconstituted with the abundant supply of rainwater. And as we point out in Tortoises of the Galápagos:
The Galápagos tortoises were subject to overhunting by humans who kept them for food on ships. This decimated the population. The giant tortoises were seen to be an excellent source of fresh meat, as the tortoises could be kept for long periods of time with little food or water. The sailors on the Beagle took 30 on board for this purpose, discarding the shells and bones as they consumed them. (Woodmorappe [ch. 12] suggests this as one more possible food source for carnivores on the Ark; fodder tortoises.)
See also response to R.C. above.
MS: And what would the carnivores have eaten once back on dry land?
JS: Fish trapped in pools left behind by retreating floodwaters, exhumed carrion that would be in abundant supply. See also Woodmorappe ch. 21.
Mark S.: What did the fish-eating species live on while in the Ark after God had closed the door?
JS: See also Woodmorappe ch. 12. Very few land animals are mainly piscivorous, and they can eat fish substitutes. Some fish aestivate: remain dormant in a cocoon in the mud if their pool dries up.
MS: How many creatures became sea-sick and died during this violent storm?
JS: None that we know of, perhaps because the Ark was an extremely stable boat. See Yes, Noah did build an Ark! Tsunamis are barely noticeable in deep water. See also Woodmorappe ch. 6.
MS: How rife was disease in the Ark with animals so tightly packed into such a confined space for so long?
JS: Again, see Woodmorappe ch. 28 and Diseases on the Ark.
MS: Was all this carnage the work of a caring and loving God?
JS: Yes, since this caring and loving God is also holy and just, so punishes sin. The New Testament treated this as a real event and warning of judgment to come. But it also shows the solution to this dilemma (see Good News! and The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?). This is the most important thing!
MS: Thank you for taking the trouble to answer my many questions.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies: You’re welcome, although it wasn’t difficult, since these objections have been answered long ago. The main article was one of my first articles in Creation magazine.
MS: I notice in your answers to me and others the much use of words and phrases such as “could”, “could-have”,“possibly”, “probably”, “may-have”. These are not words of conviction, but purely of supposition and blind-faith.
JS: Nope, they recognize that I wasn’t there, so of course I can’t be dogmatic that Noah did things the way I suggested. But these are biblically and scientifically reasonable solutions, based on known low-tech animal husbandry methods and known features of animals. Note also, Woodmorappe’s book had the word feasibility in the title. The onus is on the biblioskeptics (or their compromising churchian allies) to demonstrate that no solution is possible. Neither you nor anyone else has come even close to that, and you fired your best shots over two emails.
MS: I’m sorry to say that you have shown no more idea as to how Noah could have built, sailed and cared-for an Ark full of wild animals than I have,
JS: Actually, a lot more; just that I am not dogmatic that Noah must have used what I’ve suggested, only that it was possible.
MS: your replies have been purely guesswork and referal to the work of others which also contain many words of doubt.
JS: Very educated guesswork, as amply shown. If you want to see real “guesswork”, then look at chemical evolutionary ideas on origin of first life from non-living chemicals, or:
You have to understand that first there is speculation, then there is wild speculation, and then there is cosmology.
MS: As you are always able to refer to your God as being able to do anything He wishes,
JS: Note that this was only in reply to your pseudo-theological arguments. I did not resort to miracles to explain anything else about the Ark’s preservation. Similarly, Woodmorappe’s book showed the non-necessity of miracles for preserving the Ark’s cargo and their subsequent dispersion, which is not the same as ruling them out.
MS: you leave yourself the perfect ‘get-out’ when facts,knowledge based answers and even guesswork desert you.
JS: As above, not in my arguments, but only when you brought up God yourself. When you do so, then you open yourself to theological arguments based on God’s self-revelation in the Bible. As I pointed out to a university philosophy/religion professor:if someone tries to show that a certain philosophical system is incoherent, it is perfectly in order for a defender of this system to invoke certain aspects of this system to defend its coherence. So when an atheist attacks biblical theism, it is perfectly in order to cite propositions from the Bible to defend the integrity of this belief system.
The only exception was where God revealed that He would bring the animals to Noah. But where Scripture is silent, I have proposed no miraculous means (see also discussion in Flood models and biblical realism).
MS: I have no counter to that, so as they say, ‘I'm-out’. Thank you.
JS: Eventually biblioskeptics run out of excuses, as we know from experience. This suggests that the whole exercise was a pseudo-intellectual smokescreen for unbelief that has different underlying causes.
The Bible also describes in great detail how the Earth is a flat, geocentric platform. I can’t wait to read the book or article that will attempt to square that circle, Or rather circle that disc!
A great article; interesting how a bunch of bibliosceptics tried to worm out of the fact of a historical global flood where Noah and his family and the land-breathing animals, mainly juveniles, were saved on the ark. Sea-dwelling animals would have survived in the water, of course. As always, Jonathan provided spot on biblical answers which were irrefutable. God bless.
The teaching has to go on more and more as the people think less and less.
At least they read those articles—why?
Great work. Thank you. I especially like the calculation of the size of the Ark 522 train carriages. I'll remember that. GBU
YVW. In The Genesis Account, there is an alternative calculation showing that the Ark could carry the equivalent cargo of ~340 semitrailer trucks / articulated lorries. See also the response to Richard L. of UAE below.
As far as I know, I believe Genesis to be history. However, I’m having trouble on how Noah could build this. At any point in history. (I guess this does count as the Bronze age. Correct if I'm wrong.) But since he would likely be using tools around at that time. I'm struggling on HOW he could do such a thing.
‘Bronze age’ is an evolutionary term. The true history of the Bible reveals that iron-working was already known before Noah, because “ Tubal-cain … was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22). This is so even if some post-Flood civilizations used only bronze, perhaps because after the Babel dispersion they lost the technology of iron smelting. Compare The Stone ‘Age’—a figment of the imagination?
Christian Thompson, the man who invented the ‘three–age’ system—the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age—was actually a coin collector who was appointed the first head of the Danish National Museum, despite being largely untrained.
Modern archaeologists now acknowledge that the Stone–Bronze–Iron Age system is not very helpful outside Europe.
One wonders if it is valid anywhere. It appears to be mostly just another instance of dogma about ‘human progress’ that has been imposed on the evidence.
See also Computers on the Ark?
The likes of Joe M reject your excellent paper on the grounds that you used terms such as “could have” and “probably”, yet expect you to accept assertions like “which are estimated to be millions of years apart by science” to be fact.
When will these people realise that, in their theories based on multiple (unobserved and unobservable) estimates, that it only takes one estimate to be wrong for the whole theory to collapse?
This is a great article. However, I think sometimes where Christians mess up with the ark is assuming somehow that there was no divine intervention. It is great that we can do the math and figure out how many animals, etc, could fit into the ark. At the end of the day though without divine intervention the ark would have failed. It was simply too great of an undertaking to have succeeded without it. Also the Bible specifically states that God was directly involved in the Ark’s success.
- God told Noah to make it, what to make it from, and its dimensions
- God brought the animals
- God shut the door
- God himself brought the flood
- Immediately after Noah disembarked God made the rainbow covenant with Noah
If God was this directly involved it is reasonable to assume that God also protected the ark’s voyage, protected the animals in the Ark, ensured mass repopulation and variation of animals after the Flood, etc.
Thank you for your kind comments about the article.
The point of such articles is to show the non-necessity of miracles, not their non-existence. Compare also the biblical perspective on miracles and natural laws in Miracles and Science.
God was definitely involved, as we can see from the centre of the giant chiastic structure of the historical Flood account: “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). This is a Hebrew idiom for God acting again on Noah’s behalf.
One of the ways He did this was as per your #1: providing the dimensions of a demonstrably sea-worthy vessel, as opposed to the crass cubical shape of Utnapishtim’s ark in the counterfeit Gilgamesh Epic. God instructed Noah to pitch the Ark, and this was likely made by boiling pine-resin and charcoal, and would not only waterproof the Ark but also make it much more impact resistant.
As I say in The Genesis Account:
The biblical evidence suggests that God used natural means for much of this. E.g. God commanded Noah to build an Ark, rather than levitate them all or recreate all kinds. For the Flood itself, God named water sources that already existed. And … God used natural means to abate the Flood, and Noah had to use natural means to decide when it was safe to leave the Ark.
One of the best articles I have read concerning Noah's ark, and certainly one of the most educational comment section. Although those who oppose creation didn't learn anything they were interested in, I certainly did.
Thank you CMI
Close to 40 years ago, there was commended to me an explanation (sourcing for which I can no longer provide) for the 15-cubit issue. Please let me commend that tidy possible explanation onwards.
The 15-cubit height of water was over the tallest mountain then in existence. That commendation-source also stated (I haven’t checked this out) that fully loaded ships (but not so overloaded as to be unstable) would have a draft of about 40% of vertical height of ship. For the ark, that would be about 12 cubits of draft.
In other words, God used an economy of operation in filling the earth with water—just enough to give about 3 cubits of clearance above the tallest mountain then existing. No foundering of the ark.
To Mike and other 'tough' feed-backers, please prayerfully and respectfully consider this possibility. Thank you.
From The Genesis Account:
The trailers have multiple decks so they they can haul more animals. The number of animals a semi-trailer can haul is the maximum allowable weight divided by the weight of each animal. This means that a semi-trailer could haul 37 1,200-pound slaughter steers, 90 500-pound feeder calves, 180 250-pound hogs, or 300 125-pound sheep.
The Ark’s carrying capacity by weight would be equal to the weight of the water it displaced (Archimedes’ Buoyancy Law). If the Ark floated to a draught (distance between waterline and hull) of one third of its height, 10 cubits, then it would displace about 14,800 m³ of water. This would give plenty of room to clear the mountaintops during the Flood, because the water prevailed 15 cubits above them (Genesis 7:20). Each m³ of water weighs about a tonne (metric ton, 1,000 kg), so its carrying capacity would be about 14,800 tonnes, or the equivalent of about 370 semi-trailers/trucks loaded to the legal maximum.
So we can compare the Ark’s capacity to a semi-trailer’s capacity by using a factor of 340 for volume and 370 by weight. Using the lower of these numbers, we see that the Ark could contain 102,000 sheep-sized animals.
Jonathan, thank you for this article. I was thinking about Noah’s Ark after I saw this atheist tweet about millions of people believing in Noah’s Ark. I didn't know that many people actually believed in the Ark. For some reason I’ve felt we were a smaller group.
Oh my gosh, Jonathan! I am in awe of your energy and consistent ability to answer the skeptics of 2012 on this article. It seemed easy enough for you but I couldn't help but feel sorry for you, as I know from experience how tiring it can be to keep repeating yourself. You did an excellent job though! God bless and keep up the good work and the good fight! ;)
2 Peter 3:3–7—
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Scientific minds who will not be convinced by science, nor recognize the ultimate wisdom of their creator, but instead cling to atheism (which has all the earmarks of a religion) and atheistic ideas—i.e. evolution—which have sprung from it. What a shame and a waste of God's great gift of intelligence.
A good thing that I and many of my colleagues are scientific minds who are convinced that science supports the Genesis account, like most of the founders of modern science ;) Some more such scientific minds are featured in our new book Busting Myths—30 Ph.D. scientists who believe the Bible and its account of origins.
I noticed an interesting pattern in Noah's numbering of the animals:
(1) Two from each unclean kind
(2) Seven from each clean kind
(8) Eight from the human kind
The thing that always seems to be missing from exchanges like those above is a concession that the author of the article, in his/her responses, may have a point, or may ever be right. I suppose those who are committed to believing something which is unsubstantiated, for whatever reason, will never concede, no matter how valid or logical is the converse argument.