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.

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