Answering “Questions Christians Can’t Answer” #5 – Noah’s Ark?

The article “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer” has had it’s moment in the sun for some time. The very title becomes a challenge for Christians, but can also be an intimidating one. The author, R. E. Pucket, assures the readers that Christians might have answers, but those answers will fail as they “…have no basis in verifiable fact or evidence whatsoever, and will be largely based in their blind faith forsaking all reason.”

This series will seek to provide verified and evidential answers (so far as that goes) to each question, one at a time.The questions are sometimes phrased in a way which is a bit pert and cheeky, but will be presented in exactly the format in which they were originally phrased.  This post will address question #5 which is as follows:

Noah’s Ark

5 – How did Noah fit the millions and millions of species of animals on this planet into his ark? It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize the physical impossibility of this. 

This question, like many in this list, trades on a particularly narrow reading of the Flood passage that is by no means agreed upon by all Christians. However, Noah would not have had to fit every species of animal that currently exists onto the ark in order for the story to still have veracity. He would only need to fit as many animals as it would take to reproduce, adapt, and expand into the full variety of species that now exists on the planet.
The measurements of the ark (Genesis 6:15) translate to a volume of around 400,000 cubic meters, which is the equivalent to about 570 modern railway boxcars. The number of animals would be two or seven of each species, as the Bible tells us that Noah had to take seven pairs of every ceremonially “clean” animal, specifically noting birds, and one pair of every other type (Genesis 7:2).

Matthew Slick from CARM gives a large estimate of 145,400 animals, including mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians – all of which needing shelter from the flood. He suggests the ark would need to contain 7,400 mammals, 120,400 birds, 12,600 reptiles, and 5,000 amphibians. The average (air-breathing) mammal is slightly smaller than a cat, but in order to allow for those outside of the average, these calculations will say that it is actually the size of a sheep. A double-decker railway boxcar can hold 240 sheep, meaning that the 7,400 mammals will take up 31 boxcars. Since most birds, reptiles and amphibians are much smaller than mammals, those can count as half the size of a sheep, meaning a boxcar can hold 480. The total 138,000 animals remaining take up 288 box cars. That means 319 of the 570 boxcars have been used. Only 56 percent of the total space in the Ark, giving more than enough room for animal feed and the insects that were not factored into the initial calculation.

Other Christians cite textual and geological evidence to argue that the flood was localized rather than world-wide. A not insignificant group of Christians would have no problem with the explanation that the text about Noah’s flood was simply another of dozens of “Flood Myths” found in practically every ancient culture around the globe. Those that defend the Flood account would use these myths as evidence that the human race retains a cultural memory of a real event in human history. If this section of the Bible were more legend than actuality, it would not dismantle the Christian faith as they see it. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Christ. Needless to say, this subject is not agreed upon across the spectrum of the church. This is possibly a kernel of contention that Pucket has unearthed with this question. There is not insignificant evidence that a geological upheaval of the kind the Flood might have caused possibly happened in the history of the earth, and speciation alone might account for the diversity of animals from a smaller population. Whether right or wrong, this does not destroy the Bible or Christianity.

Stay tuned for Question #5, which deals with the Ark once again.

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