Too much heat in Noah’s Flood?
Published: 25 July 2020 (GMT+10)
Did the physical mechanisms that operated during the Flood generate too much heat for Noah and the Ark to survive? Joseph R. from the United States writes:
I was debating someone about the Noah’s Ark and was asked a question that I could not find an answer for it on your website. An argument they had against the Flood was that marine animals could not have survived the Flood waters because they say that the energy created during such event would generate 3.65 octillion calories which would increase the water temperature to 2700 C. They received this information from the National Center of Science Education. I am just wondering if you have a good answer for that or what they are getting wrong.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Whether that particular figure is right or not, there is most likely a severe heat budget issue for any purely natural explanation of what happened during the Flood.1 As such, there is no simple scientific answer to this issue. Indeed, there may not be one. However, this need not be problematic. Why? First, the biblical evidence casts considerable doubt on any notion that Noah’s Flood was a purely natural event.
Think, for instance, of the Exodus. Deuteronomy 4:32–36 says this concerning it:
For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.
Clearly the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were not ordinary events, but involved supernatural activity on God’s part to some extent. Can we model this solely with science? Unlikely (The Red Sea Crossing: can secular science model miracles?). Now, consider also what God said to Noah after the Flood in Genesis 8:21–22:
Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
That suggests that some of these things, e.g. the seasons, may have been disrupted during the Flood. This sounds very similar to the sort of events surrounding the Exodus. The uniqueness of the Flood event, and the fact that God was behind it, shows that there is likely some supernatural activity embedded in the cause-effect narrative of the Flood (The Flood—a designed catastrophe?). But again, how do we model such an event solely with science? It seems unlikely.
Second, we seem to have some positive empirical evidence in the rock record that is difficult to explain naturalistically. On accelerated nuclear decay, consider this summary presentation of the primary evidence from Snelling:
So do we have physical evidence that radioactive decay has actually occurred? Yes, there are several evidences of this:
- The presence of daughter isotopes such as lead and helium present with the parent isotopes of uranium in the right proportions to have been derived by radioactive decay;
- The observable physical scars left by the alpha (α)-particles during radioactive decay as radiohalos; and
- The observable physical scars left by the nuclear decay of uranium atoms as they split or fission, which are known as fission tracks.2
However, Snelling also lists four features of radioisotopic systems that show a telling discontinuity between the radiometric ‘ages’ and the real age of the rocks:
- Young (6,000 years) helium diffusion ages of zircons in a granite that yield zircon uranium-lead “ages” of 1,500 million years;
- The concurrent formation of ubiquitous uranium and polonium radiohalos found together in biotite mica flakes in many granites around the world;
- The resetting of the uranium-lead radioisotope system by the intense heat generated by radioactive decay only within zircons within volcanic ash that were otherwise relatively unheated; and
- The consistent presence of measurable radiocarbon yielding young (<60,000 years) “ages” in coal and diamonds, that are supposed to be millions and billions of years old, respectively, based on radioisotope “dating”.3
The fact of millions of years’ worth of nuclear decay measured by today’s rates and the massive, systematic age discrepancies with other measurements of the same systems means that the discrepancy is best explained by one or more accelerated nuclear decay events. (For more information, please see Is there any evidence that the radioactive decay rate might not have been constant? and What is the current creationist thinking on radiohalos (formerly called ‘pleochroic halos’)?, and our resources Thousands … not Billions and RATE Vol. II.) Nonetheless, since the earth hasn’t been sterilized by the heat that would inevitably be produced by such accelerated nuclear decay, it appears we have a systematic pattern of ‘anomalous’ empirical traces in the rocks that are near impossible to explain except by intelligent agency controlling these processes for some high-energy ends. Creation Week and the Flood are the only candidate events into which this sort of data can legitimately fit. This would imply that if an accelerated nuclear decay event was associated with the Flood mechanism, then it was likely intelligently controlled by God to produce the intended effects. Creation researcher Dr Russell Humphreys has even suggested a means by which this sort of heat budget issue may have been managed by God.4
Notice the foundational role the Bible plays in such a response (Biblical history and the role of science). This is crucial. The heat budget issue is a scientific issue, but science can’t be the final determinant of what we consider a plausible account of the cause-effect narrative of the Flood. The Bible has to be. And when it speaks of miracles, we have to take that into account. Scientific considerations matter, of course. There are many facets of the Flood that likely are the result of natural cause and effect. But that means we have a complex question to answer: how do we explain the causal history of these confluence of physical traces from the Flood in a consistent, compelling, and biblically faithful way? See Historical science and miracles for more on the philosophical approach undergirding this analysis (as well as Modern science in creationist thinking and Flood models and biblical realism).
Creation Ministries International
References and notes
- Worraker, W.J., Heat problems associated with Genesis Flood models—Part 1: Introduction and thermal boundary conditions, Answers Research Journal 11:171–191, 2018; Heat problems associated with Genesis Flood models—Part 2. Secondary temperature indicators, Answers Research Journal 12:211–254, 2019. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A., The Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Vol II, ICR, Dallas, TX, pp. 836–837, 2009. Return to text.
- Snelling, ref. 2, p. 846. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.R., New mechanism for accelerated removal of excess radiogenic heat; in: Whitmore, J.H. (ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship, pp. 731–739, 2018; creationicc.org. Return to text.