Pearce Pablum #72: Flood: 25 Criticisms & Non Sequiturs

Pearce Pablum #72: Flood: 25 Criticisms & Non Sequiturs March 8, 2022

Atheist anti-theist and “philosopher” Jonathan M. S. Pearce runs the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. He has encouraged me to visit his site and offer critiques, and wrote under a post dated 12-14-21“I even need to thank the naysayers. Some of them have put up with a lot of robust pushback and still they come. Bravery or stupidity – it’s a fine line. But they are committed, and there is something to be said for taking that commitment into the lion’s den. Dave, you are welcome at my new place. Come challenge me. . . . thanks for your critiques of my pieces. Sorry I couldn’t get to more of them.” This echoes his words about me in a post dated 7-20-17, where he said, “well done . . . for coming here and suffering the slings and arrows of atheists’ wrath. . . . I commend him for getting involved and defending himself. Goodonya, mate.” 

Under a post dated 1-27-22, he stated: “I do welcome disagreements because I don’t want [my blog] to [be] just an echo chamber. . . . [S]omeone like Armstrong does give me ammunition for some of my pieces!” Likewise, on 3-18-14 he proclaimed: “Dissenting views are utterly vital to being sure that you are warranted in your own beliefs and views.” And on 7-20-17“I put my ideas and theories about the world out there for people to criticise. . . . I want to make damned sure that they are warranted. I can’t stand the idea that I could . . . believe something that is properly unwarranted. . . . What’s the point in self-delusion? . . . I put something out there, people attack it, and if it still stands, it’s pretty robust and I am happy to hold it. If not, I adapt and change my views accordingly.”

I’m delighted to oblige his wish to receive critiques and dissenting views! The rarity of his counter-replies, however, is an oddity and curiosity in light of this desire. He wrote, for example, on 11-22-19“[I can’t be] someone who genuinely is not interested in finding out the truth about philosophy, God and everything. If I come up against any point that is even remotely problematic to my worldview, I feel the absolute necessity to bottom it out. I need to reconcile at least something; I have work to do. I cannot simply leave it as it is. . . . I would simply have to counter the arguments, or change my position.” Whatever; this hasn’t been my experience with him; only in short and infrequent spurts. I continue to offer critiques / defenses of Christianity in any event, because they aren’t just for his sake.

Here’s what he thinks, by the way, of Jesus: “The Jesus as reported in the Gospels is so far removed from the real and historical figure of Jesus, overlaid with myth, story-telling, propaganda and evangelist agenda, that the end result is synonymous with myth. . . . I’d take mythicism over Christianity any day. And they call mythicists fringe as if the position is absurd? Now that’s crazy.” (8-2-14)

Jonathan’s words will be in blue.

*****

This is a reply to his article, Why Noah’s Flood Is Utter Nonsense (12-20-19).

I have long maintained that this is a ridiculous story at even the most superficial of analyses. 

When one doesn’t properly understand something, indeed it might seem “ridiculous” as a result.

The theology behind the flight is that God was so repulsed by the sinful activity of humans on Earth that he decided to decimate humanity, bar eight, and start again.

Yes; it’s called judgment. That is God’s prerogative as creator, and we mimic it every day with our laws and legal systems. People are punished and go to jail if they violate laws that society deems fit to enact and enforce. Since God gave us our lives and expects us to act in the right way with the intelligence and will that he gave us, He can decide that we have not done so, and judge.

Now, assuming this scenario for the sake of argument, it seems to me that there are two primary choices:

1) the people judged were wicked enough (“the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. . . . all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth”: Gen 6:11-12, RSV) for it to be perfectly just for God to judge them: even with a penalty of death;

or

2) the people judged were not as sinful and rebellious as the biblical texts prior to the Flood make out, so that God’s judgment was unjust.

Most atheists, of course, will casually assume #2, but they have no objective basis on which to doubt the profound sinfulness of the people judged prior to the Flood.

But it was a local Flood, in any event, and so didn’t destroy all of humanity, save eight.

This is a story of gods supposed love, grace and creation,

God is also a judge, just as we have judges on earth to enforce laws. We act no differently than God does. He simply has much more power and knowledge and is transcendent, and as the Creator, He has the prerogative to both take away as well as give life, just as a painter or sculptor can create or destroy works of art as he or she pleases, or as an author does with writing.

after which he realised he should never destroy the world again in this manner.

He didn’t “realize” anything (as if He made a mistake, as Jonathan implies) because an omniscient, immutable God doesn’t change at all. Jonathan assumes this because — like so many — he merely projects human emotions and other creature attributes onto God when they aren’t there at all. God simply stated: “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen 9:15). “All” in the Bible is often used in a non-literal fashion.

I will now list a few reasons why this story is patent nonsense:

1)  OmniGod did it because we were a sinful world. We still are; therefore, it didn’t work.

The first sentence is true. The second doesn’t follow. God never claimed or thought that the Flood would wipe out sin once and for all, leading to a paradise earth (or, more correctly a paradise Mesopotamian floodplain) as it was before human beings chose to rebel against God. Again, being omniscient, He knew that it wouldn’t before it happened. It wasn’t a “pragmatic” act, but rather, a judgmental one. He simply chose to judge a certain number of human beings at this point and also chose not to do so by water again.

God, being God, can and does do whatever He wants. And what He does is both loving and just. We don’t blame earthly judges for sending people off to jail. We don’t say they are wicked and vindictive and power-hungry or lack love and mercy in doing so. No; we place the blame where it should be: on the lawbreaking criminal.

2)  The account is a reworking of Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh, written some 1000 years before the Bible. Some verses are verbatim, or close to.

There could be, and are, some similarities. If so, it’s no big deal. Christians don’t deny that the Bible and Christianity often borrow from what existed before them. It’s a non-issue. But atheists tout the similarities with the Epic of Gilgamesh. One could just as easily highlight the glaring differences:

The Babylonian ark was 262 feet wide, deep, and long (a giant cube), whereas the biblical ark has similar proportions to actual ocean liners in our time. The biblical Flood lasted over a year, and the waters subsided over seven months’ time. But the Babylonian Flood lasted 14 days. The Epic gives no reason for the Flood; the Bible says it was judgment for man’s sin. The Epic ark has seven levels; the biblical ark, three. The Epic ark is steered; the biblical ark is not. In any event, this is no basis for rejecting the truthfulness of the biblical account.

3) If the deluge destroyed all, why do we have the writings and journals of people before, during and after the deluge?

Because the flood was local, not global, and because people were able to write after it ended.

4) There is internal contradiction from the spliced accounts – 2 of each or 7?

Not t all, as I have written about: Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20].

5)  8 people looking after the world’s biggest zoo is ridiculous.

Why would it necessarily be? Again, since it was a local Flood, it would only be the animals from that region. As long as they had proper cages and enough food and water, it wouldn’t be impossible to look after them. Wild animals (by definition) are quite capable of taking care of themselves.

6) The ark is physically bigger than a wooden vessel can be made, apparently by 50%.

It may very well have been smaller than a literal reading would suggest, because the numerical system in those days was different than ours. See my articles, for example: 969-Year-Old Methuselah (?) & Genesis Numbers (7-12-21), and Pearce’s Potshots #31: How Many Israelites in the Exodus? [5-27-21].

The Wyoming was the largest wooden schooner ever built. It was 329 feet between perpendiculars. Built in 1909, it sailed until 1924, when it sank. A literal reading of the size of the ark in the Bible (incorporating differences in the length of a cubit) is 525-624 ft x 87.5-104 ft x 52.5-62.4 ft. But since the Sexagesimal numerical system was different in Babylonia in c. 2900 BC, these are likely larger figures than the ark actually was. Geologist Carol A. Hill explained this different system in her article, “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 55, Number 4, December 2003). She stated:

We find the same kind of symmetry and symbolism in other chapters of Genesis in the original Masoretic Hebrew text. Some examples that show the numerical “tightness” and regularity of the text are: in Gen. 2, Adam is mentioned 28 (7 x 4) times; in Gen. 4:15, . . .; the names listed in Cain’s family, counting from Adam to Naamah are 14 (7 x 2); and Cain’s name is mentioned 14 (7 x 2) times. In the story of Noah and the Flood in chapters 6–9, there is also a numerical symmetry and parallelism to the text. The number seven is used repeatedly; seven days (Gen. 7:4, 10; 8:10, 12), seven pairs of clean animals and birds (Gen. 7:2–3); the number of times that God spoke to Noah was exactly seven. Repetitions (such as the “waters prevailed and increased”; Gen. 7:17, 18, 19, 20, 24) are included for the sake of parallelism in accordance with the customary stylistic convention of the time. Noah’s age of 600 (60 x 10) was considered to be a perfect number in the sexagesimal system, and was symbolic of Noah’s perfection as a person (Gen. 6:9). The size of the ark was 300 (60 x 5) cubits by 50 (10 x 5) cubits by 30 (6 x 5) cubits—numbers that also probably should be taken symbolically (numerologically) rather than literally.

7) Clearly the gathering of all the animals is impossible – micro-organisms, polar bears, penguins, condors, glow-worms (how did they get there?).

It’s not likely that God was requiring such minute accuracy; rather, just a gathering of all the animals they could find in their local region; “all” again not being literally understood at the time (whereas Jonathan operates under a stunted, uninformed “the Bible must always be interpreted literally methodology and mentality). Since it was not a global Flood, many animals would survive in the different locations other than the Flood (which was most of the earth). With this understanding, rounding up polar bears and penguins would be unnecessary, apart from the fact that they were thousands of miles away.

8) Ark’s reported dimensions would have to be considerably larger to fit the animals.

See my reply to #7.

9)  Population of 8 could not rebound in the fashion claimed. Simply not possible.

What is the claim? Since the Flood was local, it wouldn’t take long to repopulate the local region. If Jonathan has in mind the whole world, that’s irrelevant to the perspective of a local Flood.

10)  Rainfall would have to be 6 inches per minute. Again, not possible. A category 5 hurricane gives 6 inches per hour which is impossible to sustain over 40 days.

He is making many debatable assumptions, including a global Flood. There was more than enough “natural water” to create the conditions of a local Mesopotamian Flood. See Alan E. Hill’s article, “Quantitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006). Dr. Hill is the Distinguished Scientist of the Quantum Physics Institute at Texas A&M University. He has spent some forty years inventing and developing evermore-powerful lasers of the Star Wars variety. In the early 1960s, while at the University of Michigan, Alan was the first person to discover nonlinear optics.

11)  The weight of the water would have disastrous consequences on the earth’s crust, emitting noxious gases and eruptions, leading to potentially, a boiling sea! In all probability, it would have imploded in some way.

This is again assuming a global Flood: a position that has not been held by mainstream Christianity for at least 110 years. See the Catholic Encyclopedia article, “Deluge”, from 1908, and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia from 1915 (“Deluge of Noah”).

12)  There is no geological evidence for any of this.

Not for a global Flood, because it never happened.

13)  There are reefs that have been undisturbed in the world for 100,000 years. These would have been crushed and destroyed. They were not.

Irrelevant in the local Flood model . . .

14) Lots more evidence of fossil, radiometrics and isotopes etc. mean that the flood clearly never happened.

Irrelevant in the local Flood model . . .

15)  How the hell did Noah actually get all the animals on the ark without them trying to eat each other / the family etc?

I imagine in the same or similar way that zookeepers since time immemorial have managed to gather up disparate animals. Zoos go back to at least 3500 BC (600 years before my proposed date of the Flood). One in Egypt at that time “included hippopotami, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats.”

16)  Asexual animals and hermaphrodites not accounted for.

See my reply to #7.

17)  Ventilation/food/faeces problems on the ark.

Lots of windows. Lots of stored food. Lots of shoveling poop out of the windows. I don’t see that this would make it absolutely impossible.

18)  Carnivores?

Yeah, I wrote about that: Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15].

19)  DNA pool? no trace of this through DNA analysis (ie we know we came from Africa).

A local Mesopotamian Flood would have nothing to do with Africa and whatever happened there in this regard.

20)  All sea fish would have died from the influx of fresh water.

Locally, yes. Globally, no; so it’s a non-issue.

21) All plants that do not rely on the seeds of Noah to survive would die. There are many plants that reproduce in many ways other than seeds.

They would save whatever they could in the local area. It’s not a matter of rescuing absolutely every plant in the entire world.

22)  Explaining it away as a local flood is contradictory to Genesis,

So he claims. But he is not prepared to enter into the reasoning by which it’s completely compatible with Genesis.

and would also not kill all the humans who were so evil.

“All” here is not literal.

Liquids find their own level, and so a local flood of that magnitude and description is physically impossible.

Not at all, as the Dr. Hill article I cited above illustrates. See also my article, Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927) [9-30-21].

23) This is like using napalm to clear some weeds in your back garden. Is this the best way God could think of for exercising some sin in the world? Could there not be a more precise mess method of locating and ridding the world of these individual sinners? Innocent children, unborn foetuses, all animals, old ladies, pregnant mothers – these were all wiped out in the most slapdash of manners.

That’s his merely subjective and arbitrary opinion of what God did. See my general comments at the top about God’s judgment. Fancy Jonathan suddenly being compassionate about “unborn foetuses” while he is a passionate supporter of childkilling in abortion. God can give or take away lives, being the Creator. Human beings do not have that prerogative.

24) There are literally not enough water molecules on Earth to account for the flood waters.

See my reply to #11.

25) Theologically speaking, it is nonsensical. if OmniGod had full divine foreknowledge and creative power and responsibility, then creating people in the full knowledge of what they would do, and punishing them for features and behaviour you had designed into them, is totally incoherent. God is actually morally culpable for that which he is punishing them for.

Not at all. They had a free will to obey moral strictures and God or to rebel against both. If they rebelled, God was perfectly just in judging them for doing so. Jonathan, of course, thinks everything is deterministic and that free will doesn’t exist, so of course in that ridiculous hypothetical state of affairs, then even God would only be doing what He “must” do, so how could He be blamed?

And so on.

Yes; all fallacies or non sequiturs, as I have shown, and I’m sure any others that Jonathan came up with would be the same. It’s a massive straw man pseudo-“argument” that counts on his readers own ignorance of the many factors I outlined.

Seriously, who believes this nonsense?

Well, only the relatively tiny umber of biblical fundamentalists believe in a global Flood, not the vast majority of Christians, and virtually all theologically educated, “thinking” Christians. So why waste any time on it at all? Jonathan keeps misrepresenting what the Bible actually teaches.

It is not only historically and scientifically indefensible,

That’s right: a global Flood is those things.

but it is also theologically naive 

What’s naive is, rather, Jonathan’s ignorance of the Bible and general history of Christian thought and relation to science. Until he figures this out, he’ll keep caricaturing and exposing his own intellectual deficiencies.

and horribly retributive in the most barbaric way.

See my comments on judgment at the top.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: DevizK (11-6-20): ocean water at New York City [Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce comes up with 25 criticisms of the biblical Flood: either the actual one or (mostly) his falsely imagined global flood. I systematically reply.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!