Feedback for the week of 29 April 2006, reposted from September 12, 2005

Revisiting a ‘worthless’ explanation

I would just like to point out that your so called explanation of how flora survived the flood is worthless.

I take it from the tone of your query that any explanation we give will be worthless in your view, since the biblical Flood has no place in your worldview.

“many plants can” “could have survived by floating on land masses” look, considering we have what, about 1% of plant seeds able to germinate after being submerged in salt water for a year?

I don’t know where you got the figure of 1% from.  In the research by Howe that we cited (which you have evidently not read) he tested the seeds of species representing five families of plants. Three of these survived the immersion in saltwater, which would give a figure of 60% survival, in the absence of more comprehensive data.

so, explain how all the plants that can’t survive are still here?

Well, I have already suggested that possibly most plants could have survived the soaking. But many plants did not survive the Flood. As Howe pointed out, ‘Whole groups such as the Calamites, Cordaitales, Cyccadofilicales, Bennettitales and the Caytoniales have vanished—to mention just a few.’ And elsewhere we have suggested that God’s permission to eat meat after the Flood could have been necessitated by loss of plant types that provided the nutrition now to be obtained from meat (e.g. sufficient protein, vitamin B12). Fossil evidence does suggest a much richer flora in the past and the Flood does provide an explanation for this.

Noah took a comprehensive range of foods on the Ark, for the animals and the people (Genesis 6:21). This would involve various seeds, by design or by accident. Indeed, few food sources other than seeds, such as cereals and pulses, would be readily stored for the year-long voyage. Seeds also have a high energy density, meaning that less volume has to be carried to provide for the energy needs of the people and animals. One of the species that did not survive in Howe’s experiments was Raphanus sativus, of the cabbage/mustard family. This is one family of plants that would be very likely to have been taken on the Ark, both deliberately and inadvertently (black mustard has spread around the world as a contaminant of cereal seeds). Animal bedding would have contained many seeds. It is interesting that many cereal and fruit crops seem to emanate from the Middle East in the vicinity of where the Ark landed.

Other families of plants would have survived in the coats of animals, etc.

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 carcases 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.

And then there is survival by being buried in sediments during the Flood. Many seeds will not germinate if there is not enough oxygen. Others require exposure to some light (note how many ‘weed’ seeds germinate when you dig up a garden bed). These then would remain dormant until the receding floodwaters eroded the overburden off, exposing the seeds and allowing germination.

And then some plants could have survived as broken pieces of branch or roots. Horticulturists use these capabilities of plants to propagate many of them today—a sprig of Gardenia, for example, will readily sprout roots if you put it in a glass of water on your window sill.

Vegetation mats have already been mentioned. As Darwin pointed out, clods of soil jammed between roots can harbour seeds in rafts of vegetation and protect them from soaking in the water (see Howe’s paper) for them to remain viable and germinate later.

Furthermore surely it would take at least some time for the plants to regrow, say for example, olive trees, and yet strangely enough a dove supposedly found a branch within a week of the flood receding… all the grass would have been killed off and there would be nothing for the animals to eat…

Your question about the olive leaf (not ‘branch’) was answered in detail by Whitcomb and Morris in their 1961 book, The Genesis Flood, and more recently by Woodmorappe (Noah’s Ark: A feasibility study, pp. 161–2, 1996). 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. According to Californian horticulturist Dr Walter Lammerts, if pieces of olive branch are buried in the soil, they will sprout shoots very rapidly (footnote, Whitcomb and Morris, p.106). So the olive species probably survived as broken pieces of shoots or roots. In fact, they can regenerate from almost any fragment. Interestingly, the olive is one of the hardiest of horticultural plants, noted for its tenacity and long life (Psalm 52:8).

Your timing problem arises out of a lack of care over reading the chronology of the Flood. 135 days had elapsed between when the Bible says the waters started to abate and the dove retrieved the olive leaf. It was at least 54 days since dry ground appeared. This is ample time for the olive to be producing new leaves from regenerated pieces, etc. Interestingly, Charles Lyell, that old warhorse for long ages uniformitarianism used the olive ‘branch’ (he also tended to exaggerate to make his points) to argue for a tranquil flood! Of course he knew that he had no chance of making any ground by arguing against the Flood altogether at that time, so this was a Trojan horse debating tactic. The tactic largely worked as many churchmen capitulated to his ideas (see Terry Mortenson’s The Great Turning Point). Once you have a tranquil flood, which will leave no evidence, it is only one step to no Flood at all. Lyell knew that.

the list could continue but i doubt that you’ll even bother to read this, and probably won’t bother replying if you do.

Yes, well sadly I did read this and while I guess you may not really be interested in the answers, hopefully others who read this might be.

however, if you feel like it come down to my myspace, i’m trying to hold a debate against christians there, feel free to add whatever you will. [URL deleted per feedback rules] well, thanks for your time, if not for your explanations.
Keone Martin

You are welcome.

Don Batten, Ph.D.
Brisbane, Australia

Published: 3 February 2006