Friday, 30 November 2012

Eternal Suffering

Something I find fascinating about Christuanity is how it rationalises an all-loving, all-good God setting up a system that results in most people ending up in eternal suffering.

I am, of course, talking about hell.

Let me first make it clear that plenty of Christians already understand that the idea of eternal suffering is not compatible with an all-loving God. See for example:

Unfortunately, many Christians readily embrace the concept of hell. Hell has two great appeals for religious leaders. Firstly, it means that those who scorn Christianity will suffer eternal torturing. What could be more satisfying to a God-fearing Christian than to know that his enemies will literally burn in hell! Oh, wait, if they are true Christians then they should love their enemies, and the thought of them going to hell would fill them with horror and dread.

Well, there is still one reason to embrace the ideal of hell, if you are a true Christian, which is that hell is a wonderful way to keep your flock in order. In fact hell and heaven are the ultimate stick and carrot. Do as we tell you and you get everlasting happiness. Disobey, and suffer for ever.

Actually, now I think about it, those are two very bad reasons for a Christian to think the idea of hell is good.

Some Theology

The problem with hell is that it is God making people suffer. Most right-thinking people today consider causing needless suffering to be morally wrong. There may be times when it is required, say to punish a child (though personally I am against physical punishment) or in a medical procedure, but in these cases we would say it is "the lesser of two evils". We recognise that causing the suffering is evil, but it is better than the alternative.

How can God, a supposedly perfectly good being, do the lesser of two evils? Well, perhaps it is just a saying.

Needless Suffering

Here is the argument laid out formally. P indicates a proposition, something I have assumed to be true. C indicates a conclusion, something that must necessarily be true, given the previous propositions and conclusions.

P1: God causes people to go to hell
P2: People in hell suffer
C1: God causes people to suffer
P3: That suffering, or at least some portion of it, is needless
C2: God causes people needless suffering
P4: Causing needless suffering is necessaily evil
C3: God does evil

Let us go through this step by step.

P1: God causes people to go to hell: This is the claim of those Christians who believe in hell. They may say that going to hell is automatic, it is the default, unless God choses to save you, and so excuse God in that way, but this fails to convince because God is the creator of everything; he chose to create hell, he chose to create us such that going to hell is the default; therefore, God causes people to go to hell. Others say that we go to hell because of our own actions (or inactions), but again this ignores the party God plays in the process. It is clear that God has instigated a system in which people go to hell.

P2: People in hell suffer: This seems a given.

C1: God causes people to suffer: This follows inevitable from P1 and P2.

P3: That suffering, or at least some portion of it, is needless: This is the big issue in my thesis; is it necessary that bad people suffer infinite torment? Before you say yes too quickly, think carefully about who goes to hell. Christian has a lot of opinions on this topic, but many Christians believe all non-Christians will go to hell. Gandhi, the great spiritual leader who won indepedance for India by non-violent protest, was a Hindu, so hell for an eterntity of suffering for him. Do non-christians really need eternal suffering? What exactly is its purpose? More on this later.

C2: God causes people needless suffering: This follows from C1 and P3.

P4: Causing needless suffering is necessaily evil: This is self-evidently true.

C3: God does evil: This follows from C2 and P4.

Rationalising It Away

 Christians have invented all sorts of rationalisations to attempt to justify hell, many touch on P3 above. Here are a selection I have come across.

Rationalisation 1: God’s goodness demands it.

The logic here seems to be that it is a fact that God is perfectly good and it is a fact that God makes people suffer for all eternity, therefore it must be the way it is.

On what basis can I so strongly and confidently assert the necessity and existence of eternal, conscious torment in hell, even if my heart naturally cries out in rebellion against the thought? Only because God’s Word is clear on the matter.

I guess that is satisfactory for those who accept the claims as fundamental truths, but to those who are unconvinced on the existence of God, the logical is wholely lacking.

Rationalisation 2: Who am I to question God?

This is a popular one, but is really just a dodge. Again, it makes the assumption that God exists and is perfectly good. If you make that assumption, then you may find this persuasive, but how can you be sure God is perfectly morally good if you believe you cannot make any moral judgement of him?

Rationalisation 3: A sin again God is infinitely bad

Since the sinner and the results of the sin continue forever, it makes sense that the sinner's punishment also continues forever.

God says you must not work from sunset on a Friday to sunset the following Saturday (later Christians decided to arbitarily call Sunday the Sabbath, but the Sabbath that Jesus respected was Saturday). If you work on a Saturday, you are disobeying God's command, and, as God is infinite, that means (according to this claim) that your sin is infinite.

Similarly, if you set up a program to conquer Europe, and destroy all the entire Jewish race, this too is an infinite sin.

In both cases, the boy on his paper round and Adolf Hitler, the sinner deserves eternal punishment.

In modern judicial systems the punishment is proportional to the severity of the crime, and not the importance of the victim of the crime (at least in theory; in practice I accept this happens, but we most people consider that to be corrupt). God's system, which Christians wil tell you is infinitely just, the nature of the crime is irrelevant, all that is significant is the importance of the victim. God is infinite, so the punishment is infinite.

Rationalisation 4: Either heaven or hell

Another approach is to suggest God has exactly two choices for a soul: Heaven or hell. If he is just, then some people have to go to hell, right?

The only problem is, nobody measures up! So, if we rely on the justice of God, we're sunk! There is nobody here who deserves to go to heaven. Nobody is good enough! So if we depend on God's justice, we've had it. It's all over.

To object to hell is to object to justice. It is to say we want a world with no justice, where evil reigns without punishment. It is to say we want evil to run wild without any checks. This is foolishness. No one could live in such a world.

Well, no, this is a false dichotomy because there are other options, and being all-knowing, God must know that! The catholic church devised purgatory, for example, and reincarnation and soul-death are two more.

Rationalisation 5: It is what they want

All the people who end up in hell do so because they prefer it to being in God's presence.

All the people who end up going to hell will have done so because they actually prefer hell to being forced into the presence of God for all eternity.

But He is also merciful, and those who are not prepared to stand directly in His presence, those who do not have on the wedding garments, those who do not love and desire Him, will be cast into the outer darkness (Matt. 8:12). And they will need no urging to go!

This is not a common one, I suspect because it allows non-Christians easy access to heaven. Most Christians insist that heaven is a closed club - you have to be a Christian (and often the right sort of Christian) to get inside. According to this idea, the Muslim and Buddist who prefer to be in the presence of an all-loving God to eternal suffering will be allowed into heaven.

To be honest, this is fair enough. If people can decide if they go to heaven or hell, then that absolves God of the responsibility - assuming they understand the implications and get to choose freely.

Rationalisation 6: Adam sinned so we all should go to hell by default

This is the claim that because Adam sinned it is only right and proper that every single one of us suffer for all eternity, and God's love is evident in that he saves a few of us.

When Adam, as our representative, joined Satan's side in the rebellion against God, it became our punishment as well.

This is another time when God's idea of justice is seriously at odds with our own. Oh, and his too. Modern judicial systems punish the perpetrator of a crime, never his descendants, and the Bible even agrees (Ezekiel 18:20 "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son").

Furthermore, this is really just a dodge. The question is why would an all-good God have people suffer. The fact that this supposed all-good God set up the system so that everyone suffers only makes it worse. Especialy as all that suffering is due to one sin.

Think about it. Hitler is in hell not because of the atrocities the Nazis commited, but because Adam disobeyed God.

There is a perfectly just God for you...

Rationalisation 7: This is just an argument from moral outrage

This is seen often when debating the Bible on an internet forum, and is an attempt to discredit the argument saying it is based on engendering outrage in the reader, rather than logic. It ignores that at heart the argument is actually based on logic.

Who Goes To Hell?

The standard position is that anyone who does not believe in Jesus goes to hell.

This is the cult position. It is saying that if you are in our cult, you are okay, but outsiders will suffer; what better way to keep people locked into your cult? But is it just?

Absolutely not! It is the epitome of religious intolerence for one thing, making people suffer because of their religious belief.

Consider Gandhi, a great statesman who led India to independance by non-violent protest, and Hitler, a fascist dictator who initiated a plan to exterminate the Jews and to rule Europe by force. Neither were Christians, so both will be tortured by God for eternity. Does this stike you as just and merciful?

Many Christians will claim that in hell the suffering is graduated to what you did on Earth, but there is no scriptural support for that position that I am aware of. Plenty of verses indicate all sinners are treated the same:

Psalms 104:35, "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more."

Malachi 4:1, "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."

Matthew 13:40, "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world."

John 15:6, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."

Isaiah 66:24, "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Daniel 12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dusty ground will awake – some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence. 3 But the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse. And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

There may be graduations in hell, as Matthew indicates clear, but the degree of suffering God inflicts is related to your rejection of Jesus, not to your crimes against humanity.

Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Is Hell Needed?

I said earlier I would discuss whether the suffering in hell for needed or not. I have touched on that above, but let is look in more depth.

Deterrent: The fear of hell converting people to Christianity

One argument against hell is this: No person in his right mind would choose eternal punishment in hell over heaven. Therefore everyone would repent when sent to hell. If God lets the repentant leave, hell will be empty (and therefore can be disregarded). If God doesn't let the repentant leave, God is unjust for continuing to punish them after they've repented.

 The trouble with this line of reasoning is that repentance is not simply a matter of one saying, "Okay, I'll say whatever you want me to, just get me out of here!" Repentance involves acknowledging one's guilt, feeling remorse and the desire to change one's behavior, accepting Christ's sacrifice as substitutionary punishment for one's wrongs and agreeing to love and obey God (including Christ as God the Son). This includes by definition acceptance of eternal punishment in hell as just punishment for one's sins; while the skeptic may still object that continued punishment of the repentant is unjust, the repentant will respond that their continued punishment is deserved and could only end through God's mercy.

And the trouble with this line of reasoning is that it removes from Hell most of its justification. The best argument for hell is that it offers people a motivation for finding God. This author is saying that if you find God just to avoid hell, then that is not sincere. I agree; if heaven is for believers and hell for unbelievers, then naturally the religion will attract people desiring heaven and fearing hell, rather than those with a sincere faith.

So exactly why was Jesus using heaven as an enticement (eg John 3:3 - "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."), and hell as a deterrent? This is from Matthew:

Matthew 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Here is a great example of a web site using the fear of hell to get people to become Christians.

So does God want these insincere Christians or not?

It is interesting to consider the morality here too. Is it morally right to say: Worship me or suffer infinite pain

I am sure most of us would say that such threats were morally wrong, evil even. Curiously, some Christians only think it is morally wrong when humans do it. Might is right, and all that, I suppose. God is all powerful, therefore he can threaten, torture and kill, and it is still morally right (I mean, he commits genocide in the Bible, but still these people think he is perfectly good).

Of course, such a person will refute my argument by says, "It's God, therefore it is morally right." Let us assume such a facile argument is not going to work...

If Hell Is Not A Deterrent

From Wikipedia:
Fundamental justifications for punishment include: retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitations...
If hell is not a deterrent, and it cannot be for rehabilitation as it is for ever, that leaves retribution and incapacitation. The latter does not require any suffering (or continued existence even), so the only reason left is revenge. God gets his own back on those who dare to disobey him. God then becomes spiteful and full of hate, the antithesis of how Christians like to portray him.

And indeed that is what the Bible says:

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

People go to hell because God, the petty-minded tyrant, is angry at them for not worshipping him.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Noachian Flood Part 3 - Aftermath

A few more issues about the claims of a global flood...

More Provisions

Noah's troubles are not over once the ark has hit land. He cannot just let his lions go off and find food straightaway. The first prey they bring down will be one species extinct. And lions kill about five times a week, I think. Noah will have to keep feeding the carnivores until the prey species have got sufficiently established that they can (as a species) survive being hunted. How long will that take for zebras, for example? I would guess decades.

A Change of Heart for the Eternal Unchanging...

God apparently lives outside of time, is eternal and unchanging. So it is rather amusing to read that after the flood he changes his attitude.
21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

The Covenant

God allows mankind to eat meat from now on.

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Later, he changes his mind, prohibiting pig meat, for example. Also, why was Abel raising sheep?

Genesis 4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
Now he could be keeping sheep for the wool and the milk, but the bit in verse 4 suggests outwise. Abel did not sacrice the milk or the wool to God, he sacrificed the meat (just as Cain offered the part of the plant that was edible).

The Rainbow

God sends the rainbow as a sign that he will never destroy he world again.

Genesis 9: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Curious that the purpose of the rainbow is to remind an all-knowing God about his own promise... However, the really odd thing here is that apparently raindrops did not reflect light before then.

Of course, the reality is that this is just another Biblical "just-so" story. Why are there rainbows? It is God telling us he will not drown the entire world again. Nowadays we know the real reason.


Given 4500 years how far can one animal species spread? How do they get across large stretches of water? Let us think about the koala, and its 7000 mile journey to Australia. Okay, only a couple of miles each year, but that assumes they have some kind of homing instinct, and head that way directly. Bear in mind they have to find food, sleep (and koalas spend a lot of time sleeping), and raise a family. And all the time, they are heading for this promised land.

I guess it was just lucky none of the faster predators caught up with them...

Why did so many marsupials go to Australia, and so few placentals (only bats, dingoes and humans; outside the fairy tale of creationism, Australian split away before placental mammals evolved, and so they are absent except bats who flew there, and dingos and humans who originally arrived by boat)? What drove quolls, thylacines and wombats so hard that none were left along the way, but no rats or horses went there before Europeans arrived?

Dinosaur Remains

How come there are no remains left today on top of the geological column of dinosaurs. According to creationism, they were around about 4000 years ago, remember, after the flood. These things had seriously big bones; did no one think to save a single one? Did no one fashion a necklace from the teeth of a T. Rex, or boots from the skin of a deinosuchus, or use the horn from a monoclonius to drink from?


From this YEC site: "Perhaps it is seen most of all in this very Border Sacrifice which the Emperor performed twice a year. This ceremony, which goes back at least to 2230 B.C. was continued in China for over four thousand years." This would suggest that Chinese culture was already well established by 2230 BC. How does that fit with a global flood?

Here is a timeline for Egyptian rulers, going back to Menes (3414 BC). Hieroglyphs data from about 3000 BC. See also the Wiki entry, which says that the Sahara desert formed around 2500 BC (about when creationists say there was a global flood).

Archaeologists have found Egyptian remains from as far back as 8000 BC. Could these be from communities living before the flood? The answer is no, because these remains are found at the top of the geological column. Any pre-flood remains would have to be at the bottom, buried under all the sediment laid down during the flood.

Answers in Genesis even have a table on their website giving the chronology of early Mesopotamia, going back to 5800 BC, before the time they suppose the flood happened!

Dendrochronology or Tree Ring Dating

From Wiki:

Many trees in temperate zones grow one growth ring each year, the newest ring being under the bark. For the entire period of a tree's life, a year-by-year record or ring pattern is formed that reflects the climatic conditions in which the tree grew. Adequate moisture and a long growing season result in a wide ring. A drought year may result in a very narrow one. Trees from the same region will tend to develop the same patterns of ring widths for a given period. These patterns can be compared and matched ring for ring with trees growing in the same geographical zone and under similar climatic conditions. Following these tree-ring patterns from living trees back through time, chronologies can be built up. Thus wood from ancient structures can be matched to known chronologies (a technique called cross-dating) and the age of the wood determined precisely. Cross-dating was originally done by visual inspection. Nowadays, computers are used to do the statistical matching.

To eliminate individual variations in tree ring growth, dendrochronologists take the smoothed average of the tree ring widths of multiple tree samples to build up a ring history. This process is termed replication. A tree ring history whose beginning and end dates are not known is called a floating chronology. It can be anchored by cross-matching either the beginning or the end section against the end sections of another chronology (tree ring history) whose dates are known. Fully anchored chronologies which extend back more than 10,000 years exist for river oak trees from South Germany (from the Main and Rhine rivers). A fully anchored chronology which extends back 8500 years exists for the bristlecone pine in the southwest US (White Mountains of California).

Web site of a lab that does it:

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Noachian Flood Part 2 - Life on the Ark

Numbers on the Ark

So how many animals were on the ark? Answers vary, this site says 145,400. This would mean packing the animals in like battery chickens. Each human would have to look after 18,000 animals each. Say a cage needs mucking out once a week, he will be mucking out 2600 cages a day, or 2.7 cages every minute (leaving him six hours a day to sleep, eat, feed all the other thousands of animals he is responsible for).

At the other end of the scale (I have not researched this fully; there may well be higher or lower estimates out there), we have 16,000 animals (here). In this scenario, the humans have a leisurely 12 to 13 minutes to muck out each cage... For 16 hours a day, for a year. Who was it getting punished again?

Here is a page where AiG list all the supposed "kinds" of mammals. It is not a bad article in general, although it does say:

Wilson and Reeder (2005) place the great apes in Hominidae with humans, but given the significant differences between us and apes compared to some of the differences between other families, this seems ludicrous.

This ignores the inconvenient fact that chimps are genetically closer to us than to gorillas, but as noted at the start of my previous page, if a fact disagrees with their religious dogma, AiG will just ignore the fact.

Anyway, they propose 137 "kinds" of mammal still around today, but note: "Given the number of extinct mammalian families known from the fossil record, the actual number on the Ark could easily have been well over 300." They evolved into the 5500 species of mammal known today.

You also need the reptiles and birds. There are some extant 10 000 species of bird, and 9 000 species of reptile. Remember, God wants seven of each "kind" of bird.

3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

Though Noah seems to have ignored that, and just taken two of each anyway:

8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

Oh, God wanted all the animals that creep. There are over 100 000 species of spider and scorpion, about a million species of insects (Noah might be alright there, as most insects fly, but are not fowl; makes you wonder how those huge numbers of insects survived the flood though). There are moluscs, crustaceans and others, but a lot live in the sea, so we can probably ignore them (we are assuming freshwater and saltwater fish alike can survive the flood anyway). That said, creationists often claim that invertebrates are not animals in the Biblical sense, so Noah did not have to transport, and just pretend they could survive a global flood anyway.

In this hypothesis, we get to the 145,400 species by a process of (I assume) hypermutation, with new species appearing at the rate of nearly 29 new species appearing each year (these are mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians).

This is the average rate, one would expect the rate to be proportion to the number of existing species (10,000 species will produce less new species a year than 100,000 species will), so should be much higher today, than in Noah's time. I do not believe there is any evidence of new species appearing at that rate. Indeed, creationists actually use the claim that new species are NOT appearing to argue against evolution! odd that...

Whatever figure you have for the number of animals on the ark, you have a compromise between hyperevolution and packing in ridiculous numbers of animals.

Some people have suggested that some animals were carried as eggs, but I am not aware of any animal that has an incubation time of greater than a year, and once the eggs hatch, you have the problems of feeding and mucking out. A newly hatched bird will require a lot of attention. Furthermore, growing animals need a lot of food, and it is especially important that they get the right nutrition (I know, I have kids). It has also been suggested that the animals hibernated, but the number of hibernating animals is not large, and it tends to be the smaller ones anyway.

I seem to remember a claim that the animals could be trained to "do their business" in a convenient place (bucket, etc.). It will take some considerable time (to put it mildly) to toilet train 16,000 animals, and this will preclude taking juveniles (there just is no time to train before the journey). The humans still need to haul the "waste" up onto deck (the majority of animals have to be below the water line to keep the boat from capsizing).

Dinosaurs and the Ark

Do the above numbers include dinosaurs? The Bible says every kind, so dinosaurs (and other extinct animals) must be present (and creationists will generally agree). Who gets the job of feeding the T.Rex? Put in a couple of apatosaurus, a pair of brachiosaurus, two tyranosaurus, two deinosuchus, two stegasaurus, two triceratops, two anklosaurus, two indricotherium, two velociraptors, two smilodons and a couple of pteradactyls and you are quickly filling the ark (and there are plenty more kinds of dinosaurs and other large extinct animals). And after all that, the whole lot of them go extinct a few years later!

Here is a lengthy text by AiG addressing why dinosaurs went extinct after being saved on the ark. They use a lot of words, but do not actually seem to say anything (besides buy our book!).

Space on the Ark

Given a cubit that is 18", this gives an ark that is 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high (see here).

Say we go with hyperevolution, and only 16,000 animals on the ark, this gives each animal 100 cubic feet each, or 200 for the pair. Think about a box, 3 foot high, 6 foot wide and 10 foot long. And you need to keep a year's supply of food for two animals (or longer; what do they eat when they get off - predators are a big problem) in that space too. Also, you need to allow access for the keeper, so part of that space will be the passageway the keeper uses to get at the box.

Obviously animals are different sizes, and you would put the elephants and apatosaurus in bigger boxes, while your mice and sparrows go in smaller ones. Still, it sounds a bit squashed to me.

Life on the Global Ocean

How big were the waves during the flood? How hot was it?

From here:

The ark was built on a 1:6 ratio (50 cubits:300 cubits). The science of naval architecture reveals that the most stable ratio for an ocean going vessel is 1:6. All modern day ocean going vessels use this same length to width ratio. It is estimated that the ark could easily have survived even the largest of ocean waves. If the ark were equipped with a dragging stone anchor, it would have been properly positioned to meet any size ocean wave. The design of the ark would have made it almost impossible to turn over. 

Apparently they can tell that the ark would be "almost impossible to turn over" from the ratio of the length to width. I bet the designers of the ATLANTIC CARTIER are kicking themselves (length 250 m, width 32.26 m, ratio 1:7.7).

It is incredible what creationists will read into these things.


As well as packing the animals on the ark, you also need food and water for them. A man needs to drink at least 2 litres of water a day (see here), so let us suppose that all the animals on average need 1 litre each day. If we allow hyperevolution again, and 16,000 animals, then Noah will need 5840000 litres, or nearly 6 thousand tonnes of water! I wonder what he stored it in - ceramic pots? The good news is that it would be easy to collect, just collect rainwater for the first forty days (unless this was water that came out of the subterranean caverns, in which case it will be rather dirty).

A sheep will eat around 4 kg of hay a day (see here), say about 1.3 tonnes in a year. An average value across all the animals might be about 500 kg of food for the year, so 8 thousand tonnes of food for the 16,000.

A lion will get through 2.5 tonnes of meat in a year (according to here), and may not be too happy at eating meat that has been hanging around for a year.


Here is a helpful document about transporting animals. Say we go with AiG's figure of 300 kinds of mammals, so 600 mammals on a ark, and they radiate heat like a sheep at 75W, all those animals together are producing about 500 kW of heat (assuming a small contribution from birds, which tend to be small, and amphibians and reptiles, which are cold blooded). That is like have 250 2 kW heats in the ark, and the whole thing is ventlated by a single window. It is going to get pretty hot in there.

A man produces about 60 kg of carbon dioxide a day (see here). That will be about 40 to 50 tonnes every day for all those animals, which is around 25 million litres, or 300 litres every second. And that all has to flow through that single window, with fresh air coming in the other way.

Oh, wait, this was a window that was generally kept closed.

Genesis 8:6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

There are plans by creationists to build a replica ark; it will be interesting to see how they ventilate it. Of course, their 16,000 animals will be plastic, so not producing carbon dioxide and heat, nevertheless, I bet they have better ventilation than a single closed window.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Nochian Flood Part 1 - Flood Mechanics

Many creationist believe in a flood that covered the entire world, something like 4500 years ago, based on a literal interpration of the Bible and this serves to illustrate how far creationist will ignore evidence - and indeed common sense - when it happens to conflict with their personal beliefs.

A great illustration of this thinking comes from Answers in Genesis:

First, we know God’s Word is true and there was a global Flood. Knowing the Flood happened, and in light of the fact that we have plants today, the important question is: in what ways did the plants and seeds survive the Flood? The logical argument for the fact that plants survived the Flood is actually quite simple.
    The Bible states there was a worldwide Flood.
    We see plants today.
    Therefore plants survived the Flood.

It does not matter what logic, evidence or common sense say, to them it is a fundamental truth that a worldwide Flood happened. If logic says this is impossible, then the logic is wrong. If the evidence says no such flood happened then the evidence is wrong or must be interpreted.

To people like that, nothing anyone says will ever convince them they are wrong. This is the first of three posts about the Noachian Flood, and is directed to people with an open mind, people interested in science.

Before going further, it is important to acknowledge that plenty of Christians do not believe in a global flood. Here are a couple of well thought-out articles about the flood by Christian writers.

Where did the Water Come from?

The Bible specifically says that the flood covered the mountains, and so if we assume a literal interpration of the Bible, then there must have been mountains. This is important; if the flood had to cover the mountains, there must have been vastly more water than a flood on a world as smooth as a snooker ball. I have seen a number of possibilities offered. Here are a selection.

A Comet

The water could have come from a comet, as comets are basically dirty ice... Except that as things fall to Earth they gain energy, getting hotter and hotter (a big problem when spacecraft reenter the atmosphere). A comet of water at absolute zero (-273°C) in space will get up to over boiling point by the time it reaches the surface. The people and animals of the ark are just not going to be able to survive on a sea of boiling water.

Any one seriously entertaining this idea should read about the Tungaska event, when something only a few tens of meters across fell to Earth over Siberia.

Meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere from outer space every day, usually travelling at a speed of more than 10 kilometres per second (6.2 mi/s) or 36,000 km/h (22,400 mph). The heat generated by compression of air in front of the body (ram pressure) as it travels through the atmosphere is immense and most meteoroids burn up or explode before they reach the ground. Since the second half of the 20th century, close monitoring of Earth's atmosphere has led to the discovery that such meteoroid airbursts occur rather frequently. A stony meteoroid of about 10 metres (30 ft) in diameter can produce an explosion of around 20 kilotons, similar to that of the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki...

Stones obviously have a much, much higher boiling point than water...

Underground Caves

Walt Brown has perhaps the most comprehensive theory. He posit huge underground caverns filled with water. Tidal effects on the Earth from the moon cause the water to become hotter and hotter, well beyond the boiling point (which is possible as the water is under pressure). Finally the water is so hot (374°C according to Brown) it bursts out along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - the waters of the deep. Brown has this water ejected at such speed that signifcant amounts are blasted into space (32 miles every second). He further has a tectonic plates - which he calls hydroplates - skimming across the planet, on the remaining water in the caverns.

This theory has a few issues. Superheated water is, well, very hot. Noah and family simply cannot survive on a sea of boiling water. In fact, there will not be any liquid water. Once it bursts free, it is no long under pressure, so will instantly turn to steam. Brown argues that rapidly expanding water will cause cooling, and this is true, but the water is only expanding if it is turning to gas, so his explanation is predicted on the assumption that the water turns to steam.

Brown uses his theory to explain many things. Among his claims, he states:

It appears that the fountains of the great deep and the sustained power of an “ocean” of high-pressure, supercritical water jetting into the vacuum of space launched, as the flood began, the material that became comets.

The fountains of the great deep launched rocks as well as muddy water. As rocks moved farther from Earth, Earth’s gravity became less significant to them, and the gravity of nearby rocks became increasingly significant. Consequently, many rocks, assisted by their mutual gravity and surrounding clouds of water vapor, merged to become asteroids.

So ejected from these underground caves was not just enough water to cover the planet, but enough rock to make the asteroids (about 3x10^21 kg of rock) and the comets too (total mass rather less certain, but probably considerably more than the asteroids). It is curious how most of the rocky material just happened to end up is neat orbits in the asteroid belt, while the water/ice did not. As far as I know, Brown offers no explanation for this sorting process.

Water Canopy

The water canopy theory posits a mist of water before the flood.

Go 10 m under water and pressure increases two fold. This is, of course, due to the weight of water over you. If you have that water in a mist form, it still weighs the same. A mist that contains enough water to increase sea level by 10 m will be so heavy it will cause an identical two-fold increase in pressure (it is the same amount of water, so it must weigh the same). This flood was high enough to cover the highest mountains, so was considerably more than 10 m deep, so the antediluvian pressure must have been huge.

Also, what changed so that at one time the atmosphere could hold oceans of water as a mist, but now it cannot?

Water is a green house gas, and all that water in the atmosphere would have had a huge impact on global warming. The planet would have been too hot to sustain life. ICR has been forced to posit a solar constant that was 75% less back them to make the model work.

It must be noted that many creationists nowadays do acknowledge that the theory does not stand up:

The Canopy theory is a now largely discredited model originally developed as an explanation for the source of the flood water that covered the Earth during the Biblical flood of Noah.[1] Henry Morris once promoted the canopy theory as the most probable source of the global flood waters, citing a number of supporting factors in both The Genesis Flood (1961) and The Genesis Record (1976).

What the Bible actually says

It is interesting to look at the cosmology of the Bible (after, this  is about literal Bible, right?). According to Genesis, God created the world by separating the waters below from the waters above (some interprete the water canopy as the waters above, but that makes no sense, as that is gaseous water; the Bible is refering to liquid water).

Genesis 1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

In this ancient cosmology, the world is a bubble in a universe of water. We have a solid structure, the firmament, stretched across the world, keeping out the waters above, the the ground below us. In this context, the flood is easy to understand:

Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

What this is talking about is leaks in our world, water coming through holes in the ground ("the fountains of the great deep") and in the sky ("the windows of heaven"), and in a universe where water is all-pervading, there is plenty of it to flood the world. Afterwards, it can just go back to where it came from.

Of course, Biblical literalists reject this literal reading of the Bible.

Did God Plan the Flood from the Start?

Some of the ideas above imply that God created the world in such a way that he could later wipe out everyone in a flood. Why else build those underground caves? That is an uncomfortable idea - premediated genocide. This means that as God created the world, he thought to himself; "Hmm, in two thousand years these people will be having evil thoughts. I better build the Earth with a way to kill them all. Better to drown the lot of them than to try to persuade them to be nice to each other. Then after drowning all but eight, I will promise not to do it again, and in four thousands years, I try the persuading method."

The standard "get out" at this point is that we cannot imagine what God is thinking because he is so immense. I would say we cannot imagine what he was thinking because it is nonsense.

The Geological Column

It is a fact of nature that rocks are stratified, that is, laid down in layers, and those layers are consistent across the globe to some degree - some may be missing here, others over there, but there is a distinct sequence. This is the geological column. The standard model says that these layers were laid down many millions of years, and the different layers reflects the different climates and conditions in the would at that time, and this is supported by the appearance of specific fossils in a layer, and further confirmed by radiometric dating or rocks in the layer.

The creationist model has all (or most) of these layers being put down in one year.

This presents quite a problem for the sorting of fossils and radioisotopes, and creationists have invented any manner of stories to explain the ordering of fossils. As far as I know, none have ever attempted to explain the ordering of radioisotopes. They will, of course, try to dismiss radiometric dating, but the ordering of how the isotopes is distributed is a fact of nature. In the standard model, the ordering is because the layers are very era separated by millions of years.

There are many geological, behavioral, and physiological factors expected to affect an organism's time of death during a flood as described in the Bible. For example, habit elevation, mobility, environmental tolerance, and intelligence were probably the most significant influences upon relative times of death, and therefore, when or if the organism was found in the geological column. The fossils in the geological column demonstrate this expected trend. The first organisms to be buried were the bottom dwelling creatures, followed by free-swimming marine life forms, cold blooded, then warm-blooded, and then humans. It is obvious that organisms possess varying abilities to survive environmental stress (i.e. cold blooded animals such as reptiles are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and amphibian will die upon contact with salt water).

In an unpublished experiment at Loma Linda University, a dead bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian were placed in an open water tank. Their buoyancy in the days following death depended on their density while living, the build-up and leakage of gases from their decaying bodies, the absorption or loss of water by their bodies, and other factors. That experiment showed that the natural order of settling following death was, from the bottom up: amphibian, reptile, mammal, and finally bird.18 This order of relative buoyancy correlates closely with “the evolutionary order,” but, of course, evolution was not the cause. Other factors, also influencing burial order at each geographical location, were: liquefaction lenses, which animals were living in the same region, and each animal’s mobility before the flood overtook it.

Rewriting the surface of the planet

Let us jump back to Genesis 3.
Genesis 3:11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.
13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

So before the flood countries identifiable as Ethiopia and Assyria were present, and the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. And yet during the flood many meters of rock were deposited, as described here:

Gargantuan whirlpools would have thrown huge masses of flora and fauna together and buried both under massive amounts of silt and mud. And this is exactly what we see in the fossil record. This real evidence also shows us that much of the fossil record was in fact laid down in a relatively short time.

Some creationists go even further in their catastrope. Walt Brown has the continents zipping around and crashing into each other. Most will tell you the flood created the Grand Canyon. This was an event that rewrote the surface of the world. But somehow, these rivers, these two countries survived.

It is like they are reading chapter three of Genesis with one half of the brain, and chapter seven and eight with the other half, and there is no communication between the two.

Where Did the Water Go

No explanation has been given that I am aware of whereby the waters are actually removed; creationist hold, rather, that the water in the oceans is made up of the flood water. Thus the depths of the oceans must be formed towards the end of the flood. So we have a cataclysmic event at the start of the flood, with the arrival of the water, whether by comet, or whatever, and a second cataclysmic event several months later in which the great trenches in the oceans open up to swallow up the flood water.

According to here 97% of the planets water is in the oceans, a total of 1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers. A lot of water, right?

The Earth has a radius of 6371 km. Assuming it is perfectly smooth, it would have a surface area of 510,000,000 square kilometers (from 4 Pi r^2). Pour all that water on to surface of our perfectly smooth planet, and it would fill it to a depth of 2.7 km. Hmm, that is quite a problem for the creationist account, because Mount Ararat is nearly twice as high as that, at 5.1 km: And of course, it is not the tallest mountain by far (merely the tallest know to the Bblical authors). Everest is 8.8 km high.

Okay, the world is not perfectly smooth, hills and mountains will help boost that water, but on the other hand pre-flood oceans will serve to reduce it (and remember, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers existed before the flood; they must have flowed into a sea somewhere).

At first glance the idea that the flood waters are still here in the oceans may be attractive, but the numbers do not add up; there just is not enough water on the planet to have a global flood as depicted in Genesis.