Fundraisers of the Lost Ark

Fundraisers of the Lost Ark December 28, 2017

Newsweek:Explorers Claim They’ve Discovered Noah’s Ark From Book of Genesis

Every year we get yet another recycling of this evergreen story. These stories all have several features in common: 1) The “explorers” in question have not, in fact, found Noah’s ark; 2) They claim to have new “evidence,” but will not allow anyone else to see this alleged evidence just yet; and 3) The “explorers” desperately need more money to continue their “research,” and are asking good Christian people to send them some. To send them quite a bit, really.

This is an evergreen story because it is an evergreen scam, and it’s an evergreen scam because it never fails to prod the rubes into writing checks for the pious “research” of “ark hunters.”

The idea that a “literal” Noah’s ark is resting somewhere atop a 13,000-foot mountain in Turkey is another example of how so-called “biblical literalism” often crosses over into sheer illiteracy. These are people who don’t know how to read. They may understand words and letters, and possibly even a few sentences, but they’re incapable of understanding what it is they’re reading. Thus for them all sentences are the same and all stories are the same. The story of the (lesser, male) Noah is there in the Bible so it must be a “true” story — it must be a historical, factual, journalistic account.

This is the same kind of basic illiteracy that leads countless American Christian tourists every day to ask the proprietor of the “Good Samaritan Inn” if it’s “really” on the site of the “real” inn from the “real” story of the “real” Good Samaritan. (The “Good Samaritan Inn” is not an inn, but a souvenir stand selling olive wood tchotchkes and the like. And also the text never claims there was an actual inn and/or Samaritan.) If you’re looking for “evidence” of the “real” Good Samaritan, then you’re missing the whole point of the story.

That’s a feature, not a bug. Missing the point is the point — both for those simoniously filling their shopping bags at the “Good Samaritan Inn” and for those sending money to “support the vital biblical research” of hucksters like Ken Ham and like the folks from the “Geoscience Research Institute” whose bogus claims sparked this Newsweek report. This is what “biblical literalism” does for its illiterate “readers.” This is the service it provides them.

"Such an event could have occurred."
“Such an event could have occurred.”

There’s a lot to like about Kastalia Medrano’s Newsweek report but it also, unfortunately, includes this bit, which will be seized on by hucksters and their willing rubes alike as fuel for the engines of “biblical literalism”:

The existence of the Great Flood itself is highly contested for obvious reasons, but there’s evidence accepted by both religious and secular scientists … that such an event could have occurred, even if the timeline differs a bit from what appears in the Book of Genesis.

This is colossally misleading. The link there — original to Medrano’s article — takes us to another Newsweek piece, also by Medrano, which eventually gets around to its actual subject of the discovery of a 280-million-year-old fossilized forest in what is now Antarctica (280 million years ago, Antarctica wasn’t yet Antarctica). Actual reporting on that discovery is buried in a piece that is mostly irresponsible click-bait-y nonsense. Just look at the headline: “Antarctica: Can Ancient Flood in Bible’s Book of Genesis Explain Mysterious Fossilized Forest?

No. No it can’t. And, also, the fossilized forest is not “mysterious.” It’s only regarded as such by the young-Earth creationist bozo Medrano drags out to play his role in this script. He asserts that science can offer no possible explanation for the existence of fossils that old, then he blinks and gapes like Ted Crockett when informed that, yes, actually, science can and does explain that.

Oh, and also, the pre-Antarctic forest in question wasn’t drowned in a flood. It was buried in volcanic ash. So it wasn’t a flood, it was a volcano, and it wasn’t 4,200 years ago, it was 280 million years ago — millions of years before the dinosaurs. That’s a heck of a lot to gloss over with the phrase “even if the timeline differs a bit.”

This absurdly misleading “such an event could have occurred” construct gets used in all kinds of writing about “Noah’s flood.” It’s a dishonest bit of sleight-of-hand. When “both religious and secular scientists” acknowledge that “such an event could have occurred,” what they mean is a big flood. This is why they say the same thing when the subject is Atlantis rather than Noah. Sure, history is filled with accounts of really big floods wiping out cities and communities. And prehistory is filled with evidence of even bigger floods wiping out even more. So when these scientists and religious scholars say “such an event could have occurred,” they’re thinking of things like Doggerland or the state fossil of Alabama. Their idea of “such an event” involves flooding, but it doesn’t involve Noah. It doesn’t involve  anything at all that would “confirm” the idea of reading that Genesis story as history.

It’s not easy to choose to be dumb enough to make oneself a target for the kinds of scammers raising money for “ark hunts” on Ararat. It takes a lot of stubborn effort on a lot of different fronts. You first need to choose bad literacy, bad science, and bad theology. And then, on top of that, you have to determine that you wish to live in a world that’s far more boring than the world that actually surrounds you.

That’s not the main problem with those young-Earth creationist articles distorting scientific discoveries in an attempt to hijack them in service of their simplistic hokum, but it’s an ugly feature of that ideology. It’s boring. It says there’s nothing interesting to be found beneath the ice in Antarctica, nothing amazing beneath the waves of the North Sea — nothing wonderful in the heavens above or in the seas below. Feh.



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