Feedback archive Feedback 2012

Animal numbers on the Ark and the amoral nature of atheism

How many animals would have been on the Ark?
How many animals would have been on the Ark?

These feedback emails ask questions regarding whether the Ark could have accommodated all the animals, and whether atheism can provide a logical basis for morals. CMI’s Lita Sanders and Dr Don Batten respond.

Chris C. from the United States writes:

I was having a discussion with someone about creation and evolution and they said this:

Estimates for undiscovered species range up to 100M more than those we already know about, plus MORE extinct ones that we don’t yet know about. CMI and AIG readily admit these facts, but they don’t count on you doing the math. Think about it. 2M species divided by [x number of Biblical kinds] divided by, say, the first 3000 years post-Flood. You’re talking about speciation events happening within hours of each other, even with species that have gestation periods in the range of 4-14 months each.

I’m no math genius or anything, so could you tell me what he means and if you guys acknowledge this how, according to him, unbelievable it sounds?

CMI’s Lita Sanders responds:

Dear Chris,

There are several pertinent points:

1. Scientists can’t agree within an order of magnitude how many species there actually are. Out of the species we know that are living today, many are acknowledged by all parties to come from a common ancestor—e.g. lions and tigers. Many can interbreed (ligers, zorses, etc), meaning that they are the same biological species.

2. The vast majority of species (both living and extinct) are marine animals, insects, plants, and tiny things like bacteria and protists. It is precisely these things we don’t have to account for, because the Ark only took on land vertebrates as obligate passengers. A secular Internet source I looked at said that there are around 31,000 known species of land vertebrates living today. I would argue that the addition of created kinds which have no living representatives would not be significant enough to affect our argument (for instance, maybe 50 basic kinds of dinosaurs—see Too many dinosaur names).

3. This number counts, for instance, panthers, leopards, housecats, lions, and tigers as all different species. So we can agree surely that a very generous estimate to the atheist would put the number of ‘kinds’ as 10,000–15,000. Incidentally, John Woodmorappe in his Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study showed that it was possible to house and care for 16,000 animals and store food sufficient for a year with space left over on a vessel the dimensions of the biblical Ark. If the level of created kind is as high up as the family, then the number of animals is in the hundreds—at most, just a few thousand.

4. Given that we’re talking about land vertebrates, the amount of speciation required is not one that exceeds the ability of these animals to procreate. If 1,000 kinds of animals aboard the Ark had to generate 31,000 species extant today, that’s less than 7 species per kind per millennium, which we can hopefully agree is not unrealistic. We need even less speciation if there are more created kinds.

Several articles may also be helpful:

I also recommend Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study:

I hope these are helpful for you.


Lita Sanders

Reynold H. from Canada in response to article Suicidal atheist converts to Christ:

What? Is this a joke?

“There is no difference between the embrace of a loving husband and the violence of a vicious rapist, the actions of a doctor trying to save a life and the mass murderer who kills at whim, the actions of our greatest leaders and the inaction of a lazy sluggard.
“Both are totally the same in atheism.”

Huh? Seriously? I call [expletive deleted] here. I’m an atheist, I know atheists, and I have never heard ANY atheist, even the famous ones like Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. say something like that.
This more straw than a barn can hold.

CMI’s Dr Don batten responds:

Dear Reynold,

Thanks for your comment.

Taken out of context, as you have done, the statement does appear over-the-top. However, here it is in context:

“Atheism inescapably leads to naturalism, and from naturalism follows atheism’s great skeleton which its followers try to keep hidden; determinism.

“Determinism is inescapable if one is a naturalist, as all that exists is material and has come about by purely natural processes.

“This means then, that the mind of man, our greatest treasure, is reducible to material bound by physical laws; namely, our thoughts, feelings, and actions are reducible to reactions of chemicals in the brain.

“Few people realize, then, that this destroys all that makes us human. Namely; if our thoughts, feelings, and actions are simply chemical reactions in the brain, those reactions are simply the by-products of prior reactions forming an unbreakable chain which leads to the very beginning of the universe.

“This means then, that whatever we do, we do because we have to. We cannot do anything other than what we do, it simply isn’t possible.

“All actions are the result of prior actions in an unbreakable chain. We are no different than a cog in a watch or a falling domino.

“ … atheism is utterly horrific! Sadly, most atheists are unaware of these things! I believe if they truly understood the consequences of what they believed, they would reconsider their position.

“There is no difference between the embrace of a loving husband and the violence of a vicious rapist, the actions of a doctor trying to save a life and the mass murderer who kills at whim, the actions of our greatest leaders and the inaction of a lazy sluggard.

“Both are totally the same in atheism.”

Please note the first four highlighted paragraphs, which lead up to the statements you object to, which are an inescapable rational conclusion from rationalism. Some atheists have indeed articulated this conclusion. Prof. William Provine, Cornell University, for example. If there is no free will, as Provine recognizes, then true love is an illusion. Of course Dawkins and the like rarely admit anything like this because they are in the business of proselytizing for atheism and you would not want prospective converts seeing what they are in for and getting cold feet, would you? However, in a radio interview with Justin Brierley, Richard Dawkins, when cornered, admitted that for evolutionists like him value judgments such as ‘rape is wrong’ are arbitrary, like whether evolution gave us five fingers instead of six (audio with subtitles at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz8whbFgIbQ. Fuller transcript in: “Dawkins: rape as wrong as having six fingers”, available via web.archive.org).

Of course few atheists can live with such an outlook, which leads to madness, so they live as if there is real meaning to their lives. But this is not rational; it is an existential leap in the dark.

The only possibility of true meaning is that there is a spiritual dimension to our existence. This provides for something additional to chemistry to explain behaviour and something other than annihilation at death as our destiny. According to the Bible there will be justice and Hitler, Stalin and co will get their just desserts. In materialism there is no purpose, meaning or ultimate justice.

Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

With kind regards,

Don Batten

Published: 26 February 2012