I have previously commented on the flood story and how it featured in my deconversion process (http://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/).
However, a recent exchange on Bruce’s blog has prompted me to comment on the curious case of animal evolution post flood (http://brucegerencser.net/2014/02/creationism-atheism-science-trumps-biblical-literalism/). The original post on Bruce’s blog is my own guest post which he kindly put up for me, and part the conversation that followed centred on what happened to the animals after the flood. This is what I want to specifically comment on now.
Too Many Animals
The most obvious criticism of the ark story is the sheer number of different animals we see about us today. An ark of the dimensions described in Genesis simply could not hold a pair of every animal species alive today. In addition to that there are those that have gone extinct, both recently and those we see in the fossil record. There are also unknown animal species for which there is no record that we know of. Then there are some species of animal for which more than one pair is required, according to the Genesis account.
On top all those animals being squashed into the ark, there is the delicate matter of food, water and waste. All those animals needed to eat and drink and defecate. Many of them would have been carnivores and so animals as food would have been needed to be brought on to the ark, as well as food for the food animals.
The Genesis flood account does not give an indication in advance of how long the flood was to last. In fact the preparation details are quite vague. The dimensions for the ark are given but nothing about how many decks, how much open air space how far up the side the door should be, how to manage storage and other practicalities. The door shutting account though does imply that once the rain started, there was no going outside until the ark was grounded. That’s a long time to be cooped up indoors.
Talking of time, about one year is the generally accepted length of time that the ark was afloat. I am surprised I haven’t seen a claim for a miraculous draining, in the same way that there is a miraculous claim for the water appearing. Such a claim would allow the time in the ark to be reduced and therefore many of the storage issues countered.
One year cooped up with not much of an outside view and a whole load of animals is a serious challenge. Who’d want to be a vet in those circumstances? Noah and his extended family would have had to work full time feeding and cleaning the animals and attending to any other needs. Would they have been able to get round all the animals needs each and every day? Personally, I doubt that very much.
I wonder how many generations of fruit flies they had to nurture during the voyage, and who was the poor soul who had to carry the tape worms?
The number and variety of animals to care for is simply too great for a boat that size. Even if we ignore the arguments over dinosaurs being on the ark and just stick to animals that are alive today, the ark simply is not big enough to hold a representative pair of every animal.
Kinds vs Species
The most obvious creationist rebuttal to this is that animals in the ark were split into kinds, not species. Kinds are typically described as a family type that includes multiple related species. The most obvious example would be a pair of wolves, from which all dogs have descended. I wonder if creationists will would include foxes and jackals in that group, which would have been the pair on the ark? This can only work if all species families break down that easily. The argument might work for dogs or cats; but what about Elephants, Giraffes Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus and numerous other animals which are very distinct and don’t easily fit into this creationist model? In fact, the kinds argument is so vague that is simply not enough detail in it for there to be any scientific test. It is hardly surprising then that this language is solely used by creationists and there is no biologist that actually recognises it as fitting within the species hierarchy.
If this creationist suggestion were true, there would be a prediction we could make from it that could be tested. For example; if all species alive today were descended from representative kinds that were on the ark, then we should be able to break animal species into groups that match those kinds and DNA evidence would show a familial link. These species groups would show distinct DNA similarities within the groups and distinct differences between groups and when mapped into a tree there would be multiple roots and evidence leading back to the ark resident pair.
However, this is not what we see. DNA evidence shows that all species are related, to varying degrees, and that the tree has multiple branches and there is no single bottle neck to which multiple strands lead. The creationist prediction fails.
Evolution or not evolution?
The craziest irony about the creationist kinds into species suggestion is that it flies in the face of the creationist belief that evolution has not occurred and that all species were created during creation week. The idea that all living creatures alive today have evolved from previous forms is denied by creationists. They simply do not accept that along the way separated groups of one species have each evolved into different and separate species. Yet, in order to get from a parent kind to multiple descendent species it is precisely this form of evolution that is required and suggested.
No doubt the creationist will object to that and claim it’s not the really same thing and probably roll out the standard micro / macro defence; a defence that I used many times myself in the past. The trouble with this argument is that minor changes across generations are all we ever see. Major changes never happen, they only become apparent after many generations and many minor changes. The creationist objection simply doesn’t follow for another reason, that is that to get from a parent kind into multiple child species, there needs to be a speciation event, something that creationists continue to deny ever happens, yet to get multiple species from a single pair this is exactly what is required.
Creationists who argue that animal kinds came off the ark and became the many species we see today need to ask themselves, what animals it was that came off the ark what processes changed one pair of animals into multiple different species. Species that will be visually and genetically different today to their ark bound brethren. They also need to ask themselves what animals actually went onto the ark, would we be able to recognise them if we saw them today if the kinds into species argument is correct?
On top of all that, the creationist then has to explain how those changes happened in only a few thousand years, there are simply not enough generations to produce the species variety we see today.