It’s astonishing that some people still believe that the earth is flat, or possibly 6,000 years old, both because the Bible tells them so. Reading The Impossible Voyage of Noah’s Ark for the first time put exactly that sentiment in my mind, that young earth creationists and inerrancy proponents are lost on a voyage in an impossible sea.
Suppose you picked up the newspaper tomorrow morning and were startled to see headlines announcing the discovery of a large ship high on the snowy slopes of Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey. As you hurriedly scanned the article, you learned that a team from the Institute for Creation Research had unearthed the vessel and their measurements and studies had determined that it perfectly matched the description of Noah’s Ark given in the book of Genesis. Would this be proof at last—the “smoking gun” as it were—that the earliest chapters of the Bible were true and that the story they told of a six-day creation and a universal flood was a sober, scientific account?
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is no. Even this sensational find is not enough to validate a literal reading of Genesis. Our continuing skepticism is in the tradition of philosopher David Hume, who wrote that “the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature.” As we shall see, the story of the great flood and the voyage of the ark, as expounded by modern creationists, contains so many incredible “violations of the laws of nature” that it cannot possibly be accepted by any thinking person. Despite ingenious efforts to lend a degree of plausibility to the tale, nothing can be salvaged without the direct and constant intervention of the deity.
Building the Ark
The requirements of the story.
To make this point clear, let’s start at the beginning of the biblical narrative and follow the story step by step. From the moment the impending storm is announced (Genesis 6:7, 13, 17) and Jehovah sets forth the design and dimensions of the ark (Genesis 6:14-16), problems start appearing.
The ark is to be made out of gopher wood according to a plan that calls for the ark to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits tall (450x75x45 feet, according to most creationists. See Segraves, p. 11). It is to contain three floors, a large door in the side, and a one cubit square window at the top. The floors are to be divided into rooms, and all the walls, inside and out, are to be pitched with pitch. Since the purpose of the ark is to hold animals and plants, particularly two of “every living thing of all flesh . . . to keep them alive with thee” (Genesis 6:19), it will have to be constructed accordingly.
Most creationists simply breeze through this description of the size and requirements of the ark without a second glance (“It is hard to believe that intelligent people see a problem here” — LaHaye and Morris, The Ark on Ararat, p. 248), often with a passing comment about the architectural skill of ancient peoples as manifested in the Seven Wonders of the World. But Noah’s boat building accomplishments have not been fully appreciated by his fans.
In the first place, the analogy with the Seven Wonders does not hold. Only one, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, comes within two thousand years of Noah’s day, and it is really the only one whose construction could conceivably approach the level of sophistication of the ark. But the Great Pyramid did not spring de novo from the desert sands; rather, it was the culmination of over a century of architectural evolution, beginning when the “experimenting genius,” Imhotep, inspired by the ziggurats of Babylon, built the Step…continue reading— The Impossible Voyage of Noah’s Ark