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Losing ancient technology and the definition of ‘evolution’

Published: 19 February 2012 (GMT+10)

Should we expect that Ark-sized vessels would have been reproduced after the Flood? The definition of ‘evolution’ is also a contentious issue. CMI’s Lita Cosner and Dr Jonathan Sarfati deal with these questions in these feedback emails.

Emanuel B. from Spain writes:

Hello. In a conversation with an atheist we ended up talking about the Flood and the Ark. He gave me the following argument. It basically says that the Ark would have superior design, and given that parents would pass knowledge to their descendants, we should see some superior design throughout the descendant civilisations. Just so that I may not misrepresent his argument, I’ll copy what he said word for word:

“I really do love flood mythology. ‘The Deluge’ makes predictions that can be (and have been) tested. Some of these predictions are relatively new. Take for example the statement of even a regional flood, ark, etc. This would tell us that we should see find diluvium in the area, with a direct connection or correlation to genetic bottle-necking, and that a boat of these dimensions would be feasible. We might also want to see a drastic change in nautical engineering in the same time-frame. After all, this flood happened and so it left evidence like any large flood, all animals and people (however you wish to define all in both cases) would have 2 of a small subset of ancestors at this time, after which, the only people that are left would all know how to build arks. The uses and advantages of such a craft in the time-frame that the deluge narrative is supposed to have occurred within are obvious, the ark, if it were possible, would have been a plainly superior design, and we would expect to see it everywhere in short order.

“We would want to find things like this to attempt to “prove” the deluge narrative to be truthful. We have done this, it is not.”

How am I to respond?

CMI’s Lita Cosner responds:

Dear Emanuel,

Thanks for writing in. Interestingly, we see around the world instances of where ancient people had building knowledge that later generations apparently lost (for example, see The people that forgot time (and much else, too)). Göbekli Tepe is only one instance—the early stone circles are the most ‘advanced’, showing the best craftsmanship: How does Göbekli Tepe fit with biblical history? The later circles get progressively smaller and less well-crafted, whether because they were losing the technology or because they were losing interest. In Egypt, the earliest mummies are the most impressive, and the quality of mummification drops off as the mummies get younger. Even today, with all our modern technology, we struggle to comprehend how the ancients built the pyramids, Stonehenge, and many other ancient objects. There are monoliths all over the world, but no one seems to have retained the knowledge required for transporting or erecting them.

Indeed, we know that knowledge is inevitably lost from civilization. Whether we use forgotten languages, engineering techniques, history, etc. as our example, in nearly every area there are demonstrable gaps in our knowledge of what our ancestors knew.

Now for the case of the Ark: If we take the Bible’s account at face value, Noah was able to build a vessel capable of surviving a year-long Flood. That takes a minimum level of engineering ability (although not as impossibly advanced as some argue) that’s pretty impressive compared to what people normally assume about ancient people. But let’s say that some of his descendants after the dispersion at Babel migrated to the middle of Africa, far away from any significant body of water that would require ships. That knowledge would fall out of use, and the culture that came from those people would not have the ability to build ships. The same thing happened as people migrated to America from other parts of the world. How much of the Old World language, ideas, customs, and artisanal knowledge got passed on? Practically none, with exceptions that seem to have been retained at random.

Other factors can affect how knowledge is transmitted. If a group of people with rudimentary division of labor is fragmented, as likely happened at Babel, then you would expect to see disparities in the skills that the resultant groups possess. We see this, for instance, in the difference between civilizations like Sumer, Egypt, etc., which seemed to spring into existence almost fully-formed, and contemporary ‘stone-age’ humans, who we argue were also post-dispersion humans but who don’t seem to have any written language or permanent cities (though we do know some made textiles and cosmetics, and Göbekli Tepe, so they were capable of a lot more than anthropologists have assumed previously).

Also, if a group of people suddenly find themselves in a situation where it takes all their effort simply to find enough food, shelter, etc. to survive, this is obviously going to leave less time for the finer details of art and architecture, so yet another instance where knowledge may be rapidly lost.

In short, I believe what we see in ancient history is consistent with what the Bible teaches.


Lita Cosner

Wikipedia: Shane Pope
Richard Dawkins

Ehren F. from the United States writes in response to article Nuclear physicist embraces biblical creation, and comments from CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati are interspersed in black:

Evolutionary biologists don’t have an opinion one way or the other about particle physics because its particle physics—the theory of evolution has nothing to do with particle physics. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with formation of the universe or its mechanics.

Then you need to inform Lawrence Lerner, who wrote in a major anticreationist article (see documentation in Who’s really pushing ‘bad science’?)

“What do we mean by evolution, and what is its place in the sciences? The universe is a dynamic place at every scale of space and time. Almost all science is the study of the evolution of one system or another—systems as large as the universe itself or as small as a neutrino; systems whose time scales are measured in billions of years or in attoseconds.”

The theory of evolution has nothing to do with origins of life.

Then you need to inform Scientific American, because the September 1978 issue was specially devoted to evolution, and one major article was ‘Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life’. This stated:

“‘J.B.S. Haldane, the British biochemist, seems to have been the first to appreciate that a reducing atmosphere, one with no free oxygen, was a requirement for the evolution of life from non-living organic matter.” [Emphasis added; see documentation in Natural selection cannot explain the origin of life]

What it does cover is Speciation by descent with modification from common ancestry. That’s it.

If that is all evolution is, then we must be evolutionists too, as you would have known had you bothered to do the slightest research. Even before Darwin, creationists deduced from the Genesis creation/flood account that there must have occurred what later became known as speciation. And it happened much faster than evolutionists expected Speedy species surprise. In reality, you are guilty of the logical fallacy of equivocation or bait-and-switch.What is totally unacceptable is the Dawkins tactic of decreeing that evolution = change of allele frequencies over time, then claiming that 40% of Americans deny “evolution”. However, I can’t think of any American who denies that allele frequencies change! This combination of claims is just dishonest.

Nothing to do with up quarks, bottom quarks, the big bang, existence of God, or any of the other things creationists wrongly ascribe to evolutionary theory. The evidence supporting evolution is towering—you just choose to reject it because of your dearly held superstition.

Yet you presented none of this alleged evidence.

Thankfully religious fundamentalism is in a sharp decline with fewer and fewer people sticking to it dogmatically. The more you stomp your feet and shout the more people realize just how crazy you have to be to swallow what fundamentalists are pushing. I’m speaking from personal experience—what with being a pastor’s kid who has had his eyes opened to truth.

Or, looked for a chance to rebel against parental upbringing—how cool. Now you have become a fundy-atheist instead, by the sound of things. And what would you say about the former atheists among our staff with earned doctor titles?


Dr Jonathan Sarfati

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Readers’ comments

Mark J.
By the same reasoning, I can prove that no one has ever been to the moon. After all, if the technology really existed in 1969 to travel to the moon, the people involved would have passed this knowledge on to their children, and we would be travelling to the moon today. But no one is travelling to the moon today. (Indeed, when a presidential candidate here in the US recently proposed that we send people to the moon, he was widely ridiculed for suggesting such an impractical scheme.) Therefore, the moon landings were a hoax. QED.
Hans G.
According to evolution the world started with the big bang and will end either contracting before an other big bang or it used up all the heat energy possible and either way,all life is no more. Isn't it meaningless what the evolution says?
(Ecc.) Therefore Richard Dawkins is meaningless too.
Doug L.
"The world that then was, was destroyed."
I think at times we tend to overlook the fact that the 8 people who disembarked from the Ark had the task of surviving in an alien environment with no help from anyone else. Use it or lose became the operative force. They would have had to focus on survival. They had to build new homes by hand, farm, husband herds and flocks, make clothes, etc etc. There would have been zero need to build Arks. Shipbuilding techniques, metallurgy, tool making ... in short, all the technology of the antediluvian world would have been virtually lost, except that which Noah and his sons personally knew. How many of us could construct, for example, a simple electric generator? So I would EXPECT most technology to be lost in the struggle for survival in the new, alien world. The claim that the Ark account doesn't ring true is, well ... it just doesn't hold water (pardon the pun.)
Bro C.
I am a campus preacher who spends a lot of time dealing with atheists. He is not a fundy atheist. He is an evangelical atheist. He is compelled to reinforce his delusion in order to not have to face his future.
Jonathan Sarfati
Good point. People like Dawkins and his ilk would also qualify as “evangelical atheists”, although it's really “dysangelism”, since the atheistic outlook is anything but “good” as the Greek prefix ευ– (eu–/ev–) implies.
Brian H.
Interesting example in the here and now. We have carpenters coming out of Community College who do not understand complex rafter and sheathing cuts. Hip and valley cuts, and what all the numbers on the framing square mean. The information is still around, but they don't need it because the truss companies build our roofs for them now. In another generation or two, very few carpenters will have the knowledge to do this type of work. Except maybe the guys in the truss factory. But, even here, the computers run the machines, so even those guys are losing the ability and knowledge.
Colin N.
The ark is only a superior design for what it actually did—survive a catastrophe. As far as we know it was not powered or steerable. For a Mesopotamian trader a few centuries after the flood, a smaller boat holding a moderate amount of cargo, and able to be steered by a small crew, is a far more appropriate technology. It's not in dispute that these existed and were used in sea-going trade, travelling at least as far as the Indus Valley. There was no 'Ark 2' because it would have served no purpose.

Sonica L.
I love reading these articles and the wise and emotionally controlled responses from the scientists. I am a Christian and have grown in my depth of understanding due to your incredible articles! I thank you for helping me understand sense and truth. I could never make sense of evolution; I simply knew it did not make sense, it is like trying to squeeze a green puzzle piece into a puzzle of a forest missing one piece simply because the colours match! Although I don't feel that I need these articles to have faith it has certainly given me more peace in trying to make sense of the world around me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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