Hi and welcome back! For the last few weeks, we’ve been checking out various news stories from the world of science. There’s a reason for that. I think it’s hilarious to see how often — and how hugely — science completely devastates fundagelicals’ false claims. Let’s check out one of the biggest dealbreakers for Creationists’ claims about the Great Flood. Today, Lord Snow Presides over one aspect of this global genocide that absolutely won’t play ball with them: plants and animals just can’t survive in a mix of salt and fresh water.
(This week’s 1st-Century Friday topic can be found here.)
The Great Flood, Just Generally.
In the Old Testament, we find an interesting myth. People call it “The Great Flood,” though a far more proper name might be how La Wiki refers to it: “Genesis flood narrative.” It begins in Genesis 6. Here’s a brief synopsis:
People on Earth kept doing stuff that enraged Yahweh, who by now had grown from being a mere part of a large pantheon to taking over the headship of it. The Mad Blood God of the Desert couldn’t get people to obey! So he decided to genocide the planet and start over. Even though plants, animals, and babies and children hadn’t done anything to anger him, he decided to wipe the slate completely clean of all life.
But Yahweh chose one man, Noah, and his family to spare. Out of all the planet, only Noah had earned this cruel, murderous god’s approval.
Under orders from Yahweh, Noah built a big ol’ boat. As ordered, Noah filled it with a breeding pair of every animal in existence. Oh, but in Genesis 7 Yahweh tells Noah to take along 7 pairs of “clean” animals. “Clean” means animals Yahweh’s followers can eat and sacrifice to Yahweh, because obviously it’s a great idea to forego and burn perfectly viable food in a food-scarce environment.
Then, the rains began to fall. The seas rose, and Noah and his family fled to their boat and were safe. Every other living thing drowned.
For forty days and forty nights, Noah, his family, and all those animals floated in their boat. Finally, as Genesis 8 tells us, the waters receded enough for the Ark to land on a mountain. The first thing they did was sacrifice some of their scarce food and breeding stock to Yahweh.
At that, Yahweh suddenly felt really bad. He apologized to Noah, and he promised never again to use flooding to genocide the planet.
No, the very next time he commits global genocide, he’ll totally use fire instead. That’s much better.
The Great Flood: Similarities to Other Myths.
Just on the face of it, the Great Flood myth is very clearly obviously just that: a myth. There’s not one element of it that makes sense or is even physically possible. Worse, if it really happened we’d need to put Yahweh on trial for crimes against humanity times infinity.
In fact, it’s one of a host of very similar myths to come out of that part of the world. Heck, the Old Testament seems to contain two completely different flood narratives!
We’re not totally sure when the Bible’s version(s) got written down, but guesses vary. It might be as old as the 6th century BCE or as new as the 4th century BCE.
And this myth bears a lot of similarities to much older myths:
- Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian myth with elements dating to 2100 BCE
- Atra-Hasis, an Akkadian epic from the 17th-18th century BCE
- Epic of Ziusudra, a Sumerian myth dating to about 1600 BCE
Their similarity and relative closeness in age has led some folks to wonder if maybe there was some very ancient flood in the Black Sea that destroyed the area and inspired myths for ages to come. They call this idea the “Black Sea deluge hypothesis.” It faces a great deal of controversy, but it’s inspired similar “germ of truth” style guesses.
We may end up yet figuring out why civilizations in the desert kept coming up with worldwide-flood myths with strikingly similar elements.
The Birth of Creationism.
Around the 19th century, scientists began to identify the origins of life on Earth. They began to figure out why life looks like it does now — and how it got to looking like that. Their ideas did not center on any gods. In fact, their ideas absolutely contradicted the beliefs of one religion in particular: Christianity.
It’s important to note that many Christians fell right into line with this new information. Their beliefs could be reconciled with reality, one way or t’other. As NCSE tells us, the Church of England accepted Charles Darwin’s ideas very shortly after the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859.
However, in the modern age a group of Christians got very upset with reality for not cooperating with their beliefs. They decided to reject reality. Instead, they adopted a terribly childish and wackadoodle belief system that they initially called Creationism. Some still call it that, though many have migrated to other cloaking terms like “Intelligent Design.”
The classic version of Creationism is what’s called “Young-Earth Creationism,” or YEC. (There’s an “Old-Earth” version too, of course, and a dozen other variants at least.)
YEC holds that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. Their god poofed everything into existence over seven days — literal or metaphorical ones, depending on the sub-variant — around 4,004 BCE.
Anything else scientists say is just, in the 2012 words of one American legislator who is a Creationist, “Lies from the pit of Hell.”
The Great Flood: The Hill Creationists Want to Die On.
Weirdly, Creationists have decided that this claim is utterly central to their religious beliefs. In fact, it is so overwhelmingly important that they will fight to the very bitter end to push it onto innocent children without their parents’ consent.
They think that if people accept reality, then they won’t believe the other stuff in the Bible either. Such people won’t trust the Bible to be utterly 100% true, accurate, trustworthy, and binding. Consequently, they will fall away from belief and become heathens.
Worse, Creationists think that science-embracers become what they hilariously call “Social Darwinists.” (These science-deniers like to call science-embracers Darwinists, in a hamfisted attempt to make descent-with-modification sound less plausible.) And that would lead to unthinkable consequences for humanity. I’ll allow this Islamic Creationist to take it from here, since his views mirror exactly the ones held by his Christian cousins-in-spirit:
Darwinism is dangerous because it is not merely a theory about biology, it also branched off in unexpected directions and made enormously negative impacts everywhere it touched. It started with the unscientific and inaccurate claim that life was coincidental. Then it claimed that there had to be a constant struggle for everything, that the strong should crush the weak, that there had to be absolute selfishness for success and even made the outlandish claim that all these allegations were supported by science. [. . .]
The majority of people are led to think that their lives are meaningless. [Source]
But but but Cas, I hear someone saying: He has even less science backing up THOSE assertions than he has for Creationism itself! Yes, that’s so. But thankfully for him, the tribe won’t care. He’s parroting the Creationist party line all the way. He’s trying to scare them into science denial by screeching about the totes-for-realsies consequences of embracing science. That’s not a well-known logical fallacy for them. It’s a perfectly reasonable reason to keep denying science.
And that is seriously what Creationists think will happen if science-embracing happens on too widespread a scale.
The Creationists Are Still Trying Hard, Bless Their Cotton Socks.
Not long ago, I caught sight of this story from a Creationist website. It’s called: “Diverse Devonian Plant Assemblage from Early Flood.” The Devonian period went from 419.2 million years ago (Mya) to 358.9 Mya, so it happened just a bit before Creationists think the world was magically created from nothing by a sky wizard.
The Creationist site’s post discusses a paper published last month in Scientific Reports, “An early Devonian flora from the Baviaanskloof Formation (Table Mountain Group) of South Africa.” It’s about a bunch of plant fossils found in the aforementioned place. These fossils represent one of our very best looks yet at the earliest plants — in fact, they’re the oldest plants found in Africa so far. The paper further discusses the fossils’ resemblance to others around the world, like in Brazil and the Anglo-Welsh basin. (And that makes sense, since Brazil and Africa were a lot closer back then. They have a good map in the paper.)
The Creationist guy writing this paper, Tim Clarey, is trained in geology, not biology. Before joining the Institute for Creation Research to lie to children, he worked for oil companies. As far as I can tell, he has no education or training in any biological field. (But then, neither do many Creationists. See also: When Experts Aren’t Very Expert.)
We can tell he’s an absolute know-nothing because he parrots the Creationist party line that “7 degrees Celsius” warmer, which he says it was during the Devonian period, isn’t nearly enough to make a difference to the world’s climates. I guess he hasn’t seen any of the documentaries about that (like this one).
But Tim Clarey is still gonna offer up what he totally swears is “a better explanation for these plant fossils in South Africa.”
The Totally Better Explanation for These Plant Fossils.
Tim Carey’s better explanation has three parts.
First, he tells us, Brazil and Africa were at “30 degrees South Latitude.” Since that’s a tropical latitude, obviously these sort of plants would grow better there. He does not tell us how much warmer those areas were, nor how long ago he’s talking about. Nor does he tell us why those areas would be there and not where they are now.
Second, he thinks that “pre-Flood landmasses” had a wet, marshy environment along their coasts. Thus, the Great Flood would have transported those plants more easily and buried them before inland plants. He circulars his reasoning six ways from Sunday, notably by insisting that there was not just one but three post-Great-Flood “major surge of floodwaters.” (Aroo? Whuh?) Thus, all the water buried marine fossils on top of land plant fossils. As it would. Of course.
Third, absolutely none of the cited paper’s findings supports the idea of modification with descent, which he calls “plant evolution.” So stop that. Mr. Never Took No Biology Classes AND LOOK AT HIM NOW has figured all of this out. The fact that the cited paper extensively discusses the similarities of early plants like these and places them in context with other geological periods doesn’t mean that anything evolved into anything else. Stop it right this instant!
And I’m laughing, because I just can’t help it. And I hope any biology types are too.
Look, if even a silly persimmon like me can spot the problem here, then I reckon anybody with the slightest bit of biology education can too.
The Biggest Dealbreaker of Creationism’s Great Flood.
I can see why Mr. Geology 5 Evah Dude (longer than “4 Evah,” geddit?) missed this dealbreaker. Creationists have muddied the waters quite a bit regarding their pseudoscience, and they’re always attacking the strangest aspects of established biological sciences.
But he writes:
Each plant and animal kind was designed to only reproduce after its kind and to adapt and fill certain ecological niches.
And I’ve got to answer:
Really? Because this brutal, violent god committed global genocide. Every single thing on Earth, according to the myth, was BURIED. And that means every plant was buried underwater as well. Salt water and fresh mixed together.
Literally every single plant and animal that this horrorshow god apparently designed died in that Flood. The Earth would have been scoured completely clean by those mythical waters. And the seas would have been devoid of life afterward, as well.
The Scouring of the Planet by the Great Flood.
There’s a lot of reasons to laugh at the idea of a literal Great Flood. NCSE offers a good list of those reasons. And they touch on what I’m discussing today:
Although creationists seem to think that once you’re wet it’s all the same, there are actually many aquatic regimes and many specialized inhabitants in each. Some fish live only in cold, clear mountain lakes; others in brackish swamps. Some depend on splashing, rocky, oxygen-rich creeks, while others, such as a freshwater dolphin, a manatee, and a thirteen-foot catfish, live only in the sluggish Amazon. In all these instances plus many more, the environment provided by the deluge waters would have no more suited these creatures than it would have the desert tortoise or the polar bear.
They also talk about the oceans themselves, which would also have been “substantially affected by the flood.” Most marine life cannot survive in freshwater. And of course, freshwater fish die miserably — and quickly, usually — in salt water.
Noah didn’t bring plants aboard his Ark, which was likely just a large coracle rather than a ship in the classic sense, only animals and whatever food they needed. There’s no way he brought seeds for all of them. And even if he had brought any seeds, and even if they survived months at sea, the soil was gone — or else soaked in salty water. You know why we frown upon armies “salting the earth” against their enemies? Because nothing grows in salty soil.
So let’s recap. When a bunch of freshwater mixes with saline water and overflows the entire Earth, even assuming that none of the NCSE’s range of effects occur, one thing above all will happen:
Marine life will all die.
Everything will die.
The End of the World As They Know It.
I saw a Noah’s Ark cartoon years and years ago that had plants growing out of the soil right away, just by themselves, after the waters finally receded (to somewhere — where? oh, who cares). I’m sure that’s how Creationists imagine things happening.
But that’s not how it’d work.
Mr. Biology IS SO the Same As Geology here needs a second Creation event after the floodwaters recede. Things wouldn’t just go back to the same as they were before the Flood, just with koalas and kangaroos somehow ending up in Australia without appearing anywhere else along the way. Trees that had somehow hung in there during the flood without dying (lol no) wouldn’t just go “Whew! Glad that’s over!” and push out green buds again.
No, his terrifyingly evil god would need to replant the whole Earth — and somehow cleanse the soil too, of course.
And you’d think that huge a miracle would have, I dunno, caught the attention of whoever recorded the myth in the Bible.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over the wackiest dealbreaker I’ve seen so far of Creationism: its proponents’ lack of understanding of what floodwaters would do to all life on Earth.
NEXT UP: Beach Reach Training reaches its penultimate nadir in how it teaches evangelists to “follow up” with their marks. See you tomorrow!
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1st-Century Friday Topic:
For this next 1st-CENTURY FRIDAY, we’ll be talking about Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE). This prominent and important Stoic and Roman statesman and writer might just have the information we seek!
- Wiki writeup.
- His philosophy.
- His mention of Jewish practices, discussed in quotes by Augustine. Another link for it.
- How to live a happy life, according to Seneca.
As always, nobody is required to do anything. I provide this announcement only for those who want to read up on him ahead of time. (Back to the post!)
About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)
Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind: there’s no official topic on these days. I’m just starting us off with something, but consider the sky the limit here. We especially welcome pet pictures!