First published: 3 February 2013 (GMT+10) Re-featured on homepage: 13 August 2016 (GMT+10)
The article How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark? was only Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s second article for Creation magazine, published in 1997. But only in the last year, it has received a barrage of criticism from biblioskeptics. The article was probably linked on some atheopathic site inhabiting some of the darker corners of the Internet. We thought that Dr Sarfati’s refutations of these critics would be instructive for a weekend feedback article. They show that the biblical account can withstand the strongest attacks even better than the Ark could withstand the Flood waters (which is saying a lot).
Joe M., United States, 8 July 2012
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.
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.
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 unaware of very simple solutions.
David W., United States, 13 July 2012
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.
How did the animals get from remote countries to the Ark?
After the Flood, did kangaroos hop all the way to Australia?
What did koalas eat on the way?
Hint: the search button is your friend ;)
Joe M., United States, 16 July 2012
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]. (Hexaëmeron9:1)
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?
Mike M., Nigeria, 29 August 2012
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., Canada, 30 August 2012
I laughed, I cried and sat starring mystified at the silliness I’ve been reading.
Your self-confessed emotionalism is clouding your judgment. Maybe a good counsellor would help ;)
The several articles I’ve read denies evolution.
That must have been a shock to find on a site called creation.com ;)
That Inbreeding was not detrimental to repopulation.
A lot of blanks like how were the animals were feed are made up with no facts whatsoever.
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.
I wanted to know how the other races of man came from Noah’s family:
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?
and how pugs became great danes I got more silly science.
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.
Just like all fresh water fish will die in salt water and massive temperature changes.
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. They achieved this by gradual adjustments to salinity in both fish until they could cope with the same salinity.
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?
Filling in the huge amount of blanks like species, races and how things were done without any facts.
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.
At least the evolutionist say they have a theory it means they are not certain.
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.
You act like your “facts” are actual answers.
They are. Sorry that we won’t just take your word for the contrary.
You pretend to have answers where there are none but are to bull headed to admit you don’t know.
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.
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.
T. N., United States, 30 September 2012
I thought you people (by which I mean literalists)
I don’t know any literalists, as explained to Joe M., United States, 16 July 2012 (above).
didn’t believe in evolution,
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.
and yet now you’re arguing that evolution is the answer?
FYI, I grew up Christian, still am, all my friends and family were Christian,
Evidently their compromise didn’t impress you either, so I am not sure what this proves.
and yet I never, to my knowledge, encountered a Biblical literalist until college (in biology, go figure).
You probably still haven’t actually.
And I grew up in Texas in the 70s and 80s thank you very much.
You’re most welcome. I grew up in New Zealand at the same time. Not sure what this proves though.
Jack J., United States, 25 October 2012
Nice article, but you live in a world of theoretical materials.
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.
After the flood, how did all the animals get back to their present-day continent? Flying maybe?
See answer to David W. above.
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?
Indeed they can’t. But it’s up to you to show that this point would be reached with the Ark, especially when the problem for submarines is the constant strong hydrostatic pressure, not an issue for the Ark.
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,
And it saddens me to see people living these lies, unable to enjoy life for what it is, rather than what it isn’t.
I know the feeling, believe me. Just look at what I have to deal with ;)
R. C., Canada, 1 November 2012
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark S., United Kingdom, 21 November 2012
I very much hope you will answer my 5 questions.
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.
1. You say in your answers that the insects could be kept in boxes 4″ square.
Indeed, and also that insects were likely not obligate passengers.
It is estimated that there are over 800,000 species of Beetles alone,
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.
That equals a line of boxes of around 53 miles long! Then there are all the other millions of insect species.
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.
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.
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).
Try reading the response to Steve M. above ;)
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.
He didn’t have to know. As the article pointed out, God brought the animals to him.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Virtually all plants would die almost immediately after germination. (Try growing common seeds, and water with a weak saline solution to see what happens.)
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.
Mark S., United Kingdom, 24 November 2012
[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]
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?
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.
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!
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.
Why did God get Noah to go to all this trouble?
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!
Couldn’t He have just re-created everything after the flood?
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.
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)?
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).
Do you believe that the flood created the ‘fossil layers’?
How many deaths and casualties were there among these millions of creatures couped-up for so long?
As pointed out in my previous response to you, only about 16,000 obligate passengers on the Ark, and no recorded deaths.
How did Noah’s family remain disease-free in such putrid conditions, amid so many lethal viruses and bacteria?
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.
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.
And what would the carnivores have eaten once back on dry land?
Fish trapped in pools left behind by retreating floodwaters, exhumed carrion that would be in abundant supply. See also Woodmorappe ch. 21.
What did the fish-eating species live on while in the Ark after God had closed the door?
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.
How many creatures became sea-sick and died during this violent storm?
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.
How rife was disease in the Ark with animals so tightly packed into such a confined space for so long?
Thank you for taking the trouble to answer my many questions.
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.
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.
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,
Actually, a lot more; just that I am not dogmatic that Noah must have used what I’ve suggested, only that it was possible.
your replies have been purely guesswork and referal to the work of others which also contain many words of doubt.
You have to understand that first there is speculation, then there is wild speculation, and then there is cosmology.
As you are always able to refer to your God as being able to do anything He wishes,
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.
you leave yourself the perfect ‘get-out’ when facts,knowledge based answers and even guesswork desert you.
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).
I have no counter to that, so as they say, ‘I’m-out’. Thank you.
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.
Martin D., Australia, 7 December 2012
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!