The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Atheism 103 - Testing the Claims of Sacred Texts

Theists like to claim that God lies beyond the realm of science, that God's existence cannot be empirically tested, deduced or analyzed.  This is clearly false.

Either God exists or he does not.  If God does not exist, then (obviously) his existence cannot be empirically tested, deduced or analyzed.  Assuming God does exist, then he either interacts with the Universe that we inhabit or he does not.  If God does not interact with the Universe, then his presence is meaningless and prayers, incantations, sacrifices made unto Him are nothing more than a useless human fabrication.  If God does interact with the Universe, then his presence will have detectable results and effects in the world that are subject to empirical study and analysis.

Theists object to this formulation with a variety of arguments which reduce to either one of two propositions.  Either God deliberately masks his presence so as to appear to act through human agency or that God's actions are not constrained by human conceptions of causality.  Neither objection is logically valid or intellectually satisfying, but even if one assumes that this may in fact be true, Theism actually makes a number of very specific and empirically testable claims about acts that God has allegedly already performed and these actions, their truth or falsity can be readily analyzed using logic, rationality and evidence.

Given the illustrious Congressman Shimkus' reliance on the Tale of Noah's Ark as proof of the unreality of Global Warming, let us subject the Tale of Noah to some scientific analysis.

According to the Bible, Noah is commanded to bring 2 of each animal aboard the Ark.  Given the fact that many Christians utterly reject evolution, this means that EVERY extant species of animal that cannot live in water (beasts, birds, things that crawl) MUST be represented on the Ark with AT LEAST two members.

The first obvious question is how could Noah his wife, his 3 sons and their 3 wives possibly gather 2 of every single kind of animal in the world, the vast majority of which do not live anywhere remotely near ancient Palestine?  Millions of biologists over the last three centuries have scoured the globe in an attempt to simply catalog all of the extant species that live on our planet and every day they discover more.  The idea that Noah, his wife and six helpers could have travelled the globe and brought back species from tens of thousands of miles away without any modern transportation equipment is laughable.  The undertaking would have taken centuries and would have required an army of thousands of assistants to facilitate capture, transport, maintenance, etc.  Such an undertaking would be nearly impossible even today.

The second obvious question, is even if Noah somehow managed to get all of these animals together, how could he possibly fit them all in a boat.  According to Genesis 6:13-16, the Ark was 450' X 75' X 45' and was divided into three floors.  Assuming that Noah was able to build a structure that required no support and no thickness for any of the floors, ceilings, posts, ramps, etc., Noah would have exactly 1,518,705 cubic feet of space.  Assuming that Noah is a master of Tetris and that every scrap of usable space is filled, just how many animals is Noah going to have to place on this boat.

Obviously, Noah is not going to have to worry about Fish, Marine Mammals, Mollusks, Crustaceans, etc.  Noah IS going to have to worry about the following:

260 species of Carnivorous Mammal
300 species of primate
500 species of Bovidae, Equidae, and other Herbivorous Mammals
1,100 species of Bat
2,277 species of Rodent
8,225 species of Reptile
10,000 species of Bird
10,000,000 species of Insects

But wait...  Before we get to where the animals will go, what about food.  What about feeding the animals?  Where will they get their food.  How much food does Noah need?  According to Genesis 7:11-13 and Genesis 8:14-15, Noah was on the Ark for 370 days.  That is a long time.  Given the fact that the entire earth was supposedly submerged underwater, ALL of the food that Noah and the Animals would eat would have to have been on the Ark from the start.  How much food exactly is that?

The average bale of hay provides 110 lbs of grass and takes up 12 cubic feet of space.

The 140 species of Goats, Antelope, etc., eat approximately 25 lbs of hay per day, or 9,250 per animal over the 370 day journey which turn out to be 2,590,000 lbs for the 280 animals in the herd.  This takes up 282,545 cubic feet of space.

The feed for the three species of elephant take up 79,920 cubic feet.

The feed for the five species of rhino take up 80,727 cubic feet.

The feed for the two species of hippo take up 16,145 cubic feet.

The feed for the 300 species of horse take up 605,454 cubic feet.

Even going through only 5 types of animal, we are already up to 1,064,791 cubic space in feed alone, leaving a mere 453,914 left for all of the animals.  Even if we assume NO more space was allocated for food, no meat for the carnivores, no grain or seeds for the birds, no leaves for the insects, we have only 453,914 cubic feet of space left.

Assuming that Noah can collect all of these critters, where exactly is he going to put them?  Does he have space?  Obviously, many of these species are small, but given the fact that most if not all of these species will eat one another if given the chance, Noah would, of necessity, need to provide cages.  Most of the birds, rodents, bats and reptiles would fit within a 1' X 1' X 1' cage and those that would not average out those that will.  Therefore, one can assume that the bats, rodents, reptiles and birds would take up approximately 21,602 cubic feet in cages.

The insects are a trickier matter.  Insects are highly territorial and will readily kill one another.  Obviously, Noah would not want to endanger Gods' creation, so to be safe, Noah would have to act like any good entomologist and place the insects in jars.  Given a very generous assumption that 24 jars will fit in a cubic foot, the insects will require 416,666 cubic feet.

This leaves only 15,646 cubic feet for ALL of the other animals.

How much space will a herd of 280 ibex, antelope, deer, goats, etc., take up?  Assuming 4' X 3' X 5' on average 16,800 cubic feet.

How much space will a herd of 6 elephants take up?  Assuming 12' X 6' X 10' on average 4,320 cubic feet.

Sorry Noah, we've been incredibly generous, we haven't even discussed where you're going to keep the meat you will need to feed the carnivores or grain you'll need to feed the rodents, or insects you'll need to feed the bats or the live rodents and animals you'll need to feed the reptiles.  We've been nice and assumed that you could actually find all of these critters.  We've assumed that you have the manpower to craft 10,000,000 jars, that you have the manpower to assemble 21,000 cages.  We're assuming that somehow these animals will have room to breathe.  We're even ignoring the fact that they have no place to defaecate.

We're ignoring the fact that you have only 8 crewmembers who have no space to move and no aisles to go down so they can feed and water the animals or remove waste and who don't have nearly enough hours in the day to take care of any of this.  We've even ignored God's command that you bring SEVEN of every clean animal on board just to try and give you a chance.  Even given all that, We're already overbudget on space and we haven't even gotten to the bears, the primates, the hippos, the giraffes the crocodiles, the rhinos, etc..  Sorry Noah, but you've run up against the hard reality of physics.  Your animals and their food simply will not fit, you don't have enough hours in the day and all the packing skills in the world are not going to make this work.  There quite simply is not enough room.  Not even close.

Then we come to the question of whether there is any physical evidence of a flood at all.  As it turns out, floods are remarkably easy to detect in the geological record.  In fact, we have no trouble finding geological evidence of local floods going back millions of years.  Yet strikingly, there is NO evidence whatsoever in the geological record of a global flood.  None.  Zero.  Such an event would have been READILY visible in the fossil record.  It would have been even more obvious than the Cretaceous Tertiary Boundary that marks the end of the Dinosaurs.  Yet there is NO evidence of such an event ever occurring.

Then we come to the question of where the water WENT.  If the entire globe was covered by water, there would be no place for the water to go.  It couldn't flow downhill.  It would just remain, which means that either God somehow vacuumed it up and sent it off into space.  There is not nearly enough water stored in the atmosphere to cause a worldwide flood.  Not even a fraction of a fraction of the amount necessary.  So where did the water go?  Where did the water come from?

Then we come to the question of what happened to all of the trees, plants and other flora that died as a result of the flood.  Noah was never commanded to take any plants aboard the Ark, so presumably he did not do so.  If he did, problems of space become even more acute.  Beyond that paltry physical concern, however, one has to wonder, what happened to the forests that oxygenate our atmosphere.  All of the trees would have died, all of the grasses, all of the jungles.  How did they repopulate?  And how long would that take?

Even assuming that Noah found land and released the animals into the wild, there would have been no plants for them to eat because almost no plant on earth can survive underwater for 370 days.  In the absence of plants, the animals would have starved almost immediately and began devouring one another.

The entire story is so ludicrous, so physically, temporally and logically impossible that it boggles the mind.  ALL evidence indicates that NO SUCH EVENT EVER HAPPENED.  And yet somehow they continue to believe.  In spite of all available evidence.

Theists, in their desperate attempt to rationalize this story, come up with all kinds of other miracles to explain away the glaring holes in their story:
  • There were fewer species back then!  Really?  Then were did all the extant species come from?  Evolution?  In 6000 years?  Really?
  • God made the species come to Noah!  Really?  This seems like a MUCH bigger miracle than rain.  Funny they didn't make any mention of this.
  • The animals didn't eat!  Really?  Again, this seems like a MUCH bigger miracle than rain and somewhat more important and magical than a lengthy description of the kind of wood Noah is supposed to use.  You would think this would also be noted.
  • The feces just disintegrated!  Really?  Again, the deatomization of feces, seems like the kind of miracle they would have taken note of.
  • God made the Ark bigger than its physical space.  Really?  Again, if the Ark has some kind of magical wormhole that stretches the boundaries of space and time this seems like the kind of thing someone would have written down.
The point is this.  Science, mathematics, logic are tools.  These tools can help us to discern truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, history from myth.  When these tools are brought to bear on acts that God is literally said to have done, the simple fact is that every tool of rationality, every tool of reason, every application of logic clearly and unequivocally states that what the Bible says about this story is wrong.  That it is impossible.  All available evidence indicates that it is impossible.

Faith is merely the mechanism by which Religionists continue to believe in propositions that are demonstrably false.  It is the method by which we can continue to believe in something that is completely and utterly wrong.  When the claims of sacred texts are stripped of the presumption of literal and inerrant truth, they fall.


  1. Really nicely laid out. Hey, hope your reptile count included the unknown parthenogenetic lizard species scientists just recently discovered in a Vietnamese dinner buffet.

  2. I'm just bummed that Dragons didn't make the cut. They were probably just too damn big. Clearly Noah couldn't spare the space.

  3. pz myers does not exist....

    atheists, we're gonna cut off your heads...


  4. What science and religion thought impossible has happened. History now has it's first fully demonstrable proof for faith. Quoting a forum review:

    "The first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged is now a reality. A teaching that delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable, direct cause and effect, evidence based truth embodied in experience. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must contend with a claim to new revealed truth, a moral wisdom not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief!'

    A moral and intellectual revolution is getting started at

  5. Your fundamentalist has no problem with any and all of these objections. God could beam the animals to the ark ala Star Trek, shrink them, suspend life processes, etc. ad infinitum. God is all powerful. It is not incumbent upon God to document every detail to the satisfaction of evil doubters who would not believe a miracle if it happened even to them, but would rationalize it away, preferring to believe they were deluded, yada, yada.

    Here is a point I would like to see addressed to my satisfaction: If God desires our salvation and worship, and the Bible is his word to facilitate our belief, why does God conceal the geological evidence that would give scientific support to the Bible flood story? Doesn't that concealment counteract the purpose of revelation via the Bible? Just sayin.

    Sorry about Anonymous, don't choose to have any of those accounts. Exrelayman