Following is from an article by Robert Moore on the Ark. He points out that a global flood won’t work due to the number of animals required, the constraints of genetics, diseases & parasites, sanitation, fresh air and a host of other major problems (like even loading the animals!). The article was written in 1983. The number of species and the genetic problems have only grown since then. See his full article here.
Genesis 6:19-20 declares that two of each kind of animal were to be collected and brought on board. This is repeated in Genesis 7:8-9, and it is explicitly stated that this applied to clean and unclean beasts as well as to birds. But Genesis 7:2-3 specifies that clean beasts and birds were to be taken by sevens. Whatever the numbers, it is clear that no animals could be left out. Genesis 7:4 states that “every living substance” that God made was to be destroyed “from off the face of the earth” by the impending flood. Genesis 7:23 repeats the point and adds that only those things with Noah in the ark could survive.
Limiting the cargo to “kinds.”
Creationists realize that the ark had a limited amount of room and they are aware of the large number of species in the animal kingdom. Therefore, they have employed various tactics to reduce the population needed on board. Probably the most important tactic is to restrict the command to “kinds” rather than species and to argue that the former are much fewer in number than the latter.
A kind (or “baramin” in creationist jargon) is the unit of life originally made by God. Within each kind is an enormous potential for variation, resulting, during the past six thousand years or so, in a large number of similar animals that scientists classify into species. Meyer contends that “He created into the reproductive apparatus of genes and chromosomes the possibility of endless hereditary combinations producing the possibility of endless variety within each `kind’ ” (p. 37). By juggling the number of kinds, LaHaye and Morris reduce the total population aboard the ark to 50,000 (p. 247), Whitcomb and Morris reduce it to 35,000 (p. 69), while Dr. Arthur Jones squeezes it down to a bare bones total of 1,544 (quoted in Balsiger and Sellier, p. 130).
Is this a valid argument? Without going into the details of genetics, it can be stated that every inherited trait, however small, is coded for by one or more genes, and each gene locus may have a substantial number of variants (alleles), which accounts for the great variety observed in a given population. Any specific individual, however, has at most only two alleles per locus—one from each parent. As James C. King writes:
There is good evidence for concluding that every message coded in the DNA exists in any sizeable population in numerous versions, forming a spectrum grading from grossly defective alleles—such as the one for albinism—at one end, through the slightly deviant, to the normal at the other end. And the normal is probably not a single version of the message but a collection of slightly different alleles. (p. 55)
Hence, for a trait such as human pigmentation, “we can visualize not merely a few dozen interacting loci but an array of perhaps a dozen or so alleles at each locus” (p. 60).
From this we can see that the original canine baramin in Eden would have needed a fantastic set of giant chromosomes with alleles for every trait that would someday be manifest in coyotes, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingos, fennecs, and the myriad of minute variations in hair color (twenty-four genes at nine loci), height, face shape, and so forth that are seen in the domestic dog (cf. Hutt). So, too, for the feline kind, within which creationists Byron Nelson (p. 157) and Alfred Rehwinkel (p. 70) both place lions, tigers, leopards, and ocelots as well as housecats. Similar giant chromosomes would be required for the bovine kind, equine kind, and so on.
In the centuries before the deluge, these strange progenitors must have rapidly diversified into their potential species, as the fossil record shows. The equine kind developed not only zebras, horses, onagers, asses, and quaggas but Eohippus, Mesohippus, Merychippus, and other now-extinct species that paleontologists have misinterpreted as evidence for evolution. (Remember that creationists hold that the flood is responsible for the burial of most, if not all, fossil species. Therefore they had to already exist prior to the deluge.)
Then one day, many centuries later, the Lord told Noah to take two canines, two felines, two equines, two pinnipedians—one male and one female each—and put them aboard the ark. The trick is, which does our ancient zoologist choose? A male kit fox and a female Great Dane? A female lion and a male alley cat? An Eohippus and a Clydesdale? Which two individuals would possess the tremendous genetic complement that their ancestors in Eden had, to enable the many species to reappear after the flood? How could Noah tell? Creationist Dennis Wagner tells us that the original kinds degenerated through inbreeding so that their offspring would “never again reach the hereditary variability of the parent” (quoted in Awbrey; my emphasis). Yet the unique couple aboard the ark needed the full genetic potential of the original kind, if not more, for a vast new array of climatic and geographic niches was opened up by the flood.
Speaking of a hypothetical group of six or eight animals stranded on an island, King says, “Such a small number could not possibly reflect the actual allelic frequencies found in the large mainland population” (p. 107). What, then, of the single pair on the ark?
These criticisms apply to the eight humans aboard the boat as well (Genesis 6:18 and 7:7). Creationists still cling to obsolete stereotypes concerning the “three distinct families of man” descended from Noah’s three sons (Custance, p. 204) and even talk candidly of the Afro-Asian “Hamites” being “possessed of a racial character concerned mainly with mundane matters” and subject to displacement by “the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites” (Henry Morris, 1977, p. 130).
In reality the ethnic complexity found throughout the world cannot be derived from the flood survivors in the few centuries since that time. The human genetic pool was reduced to five individuals—Mr. and Mrs. Noah and their daughters-in-law (the three sons don’t count because they only carry combinations of the genes present in Mr. and Mrs. Noah, unless creationists are willing to admit to beneficial gene mutations). And even if, by some freak coincidence, the five people never had a variant in common, there would still be far too few alleles to account for humankind’s diversity. Nearly a third of human genes are polymorphic (Bodner and Cavalli-Sforzi, p. 589), and some, such as the two controlling A and B antigens, with thirty varieties (p. 589), would require substantially more people than Genesis makes available.
If creationists allowed beneficial mutations to produce the thirty different antigens of the A and B series in the HLA region, it would still not solve their problem. Individuals are only heterozygous at a fairly low percentage of loci (5 to 20 percent), while the population could be polymorphic at nearly half the loci. It’s questionable how viable an individual would be with a high percentage of heterozygosity (Dobzhansky, Ayala, et al., p. 72).
Creationist Lane Lester recognizes the force of these facts, but he believes that supergenes, several genes acting in concert, would solve the problem (p. 251). This, however, only confuses the concept of supergenes, which control several characters in an organism, not one, and thus cannot produce the observed variety in a population from two parents (cf. Parkin, p. 141). How this horizontal evolution would be realized is even more mystifying. Since each generation would receive a huge set of variants, including maladaptive recessives, a wholly random mix of oddball creatures should result, and the rapid, efficient adaptations necessary in the hostile post-flood climate would prove impossible. How could the arctic fox branch of the canine baramin be assured that only those alleles permitting tolerance to extreme cold would dominate? Why shouldn’t freshwater fish hatch offspring manifesting the genes of their saltwater relatives? Furthermore, strangely shaped chromosomes and odd-numbered sets of them (necessary to contain the excess genes) usually disrupt meiotic cell division and produce sterile offspring (White, pp. 172, 261).
On the other hand, it seems puzzling that such diversification should occur at all, for the originally created kinds were “good” and their “devolution” would “reduce the ability of the animal to survive in nature” (Whitcomb, 1972, p. 80); since the baramins, after all, prospered and replenished in the bleak desolation of post-diluvian Armenia, they should feel comfortable in any environment today. The impetus for speciation is lacking in this model, and there is no reason why, say, a snow leopard should evolve when the superior, better-fit “feline-min” migrated into an alpine environment. We can only conclude with creationist Walter Lammerts that “intelligent design” was activating and controlling this entire process (p. 261).
The taxonomy of kinds is another bewildering subject. The only clear thrust of creationist writing seems to be ridiculing the concept of species, a term usually rendered with quotation marks. We respond with White that, “if we were to give up the notion of species altogether, most discussions in such fields as ecology, ethology, population genetics, and cytogenetics (to name only a few) would simply become impossible” (p. 5).
Aside from this, the creationist baramin can vary anywhere from the level of genus to order (Siegler, 1978)-or even to phylum (Ward, p. 49)—although there seems to be a vague consensus approximating it with the biological family. The most often-cited instance of a kind, for example, is the family Canidae, which has fourteen genera and thirty-five species (Siegler, 1974). But Sciuridae (squirrels) has 281 species, and the genus Rattus (old world rats) has several hundred. Would creationists recognize the eighteen families of bats, with their eight-hundred-plus species, as eighteen distinct kinds, or would they make the order Chiroptera into a single bat kind? Would they distinguish the nearly thirty families (two thousand species) of catfish? At the other extreme are many families with but a single species, and even higher categories, such as the orders Tubulidentata (aardvarks) and Struthioniformes (ostriches) or even the phylum Placozoa, with but one representative. Why did the creator endow rats, bats, catfish, and mosquitos (twenty-five hundred species in family Culicidae) with such adaptive potential but withhold this potential from aardvarks, ostriches, and placozoans, especially when we learn that “each baramin was intended to move toward maximum variation” (Ancil, p. 124)? What becomes of the science of taxonomy under this basis or when the “major categories” (phyla?) are sea monsters, other marine animals, birds, beasts of the earth, cattle, and crawling animals (Henry Morris, 1974, p. 216)?
The theory of kinds is incoherent and confusing. Since it runs counter to all the known facts of genetics and taxonomy, the burden of proof is upon the creationists to verify it. Where are the fossil baramins? What findings show that such ideal creatures ever existed? If complete sets of kind alleles could survive twenty-four hundred or more years of radiation before the flood, it should be possible to find specimens today with inexplicably large chromosomal complements, perhaps in undiversified families. Unfortunately for “baramin geneticists,” studies have been done on such families (cf. Loughman, Frye, and Herald), and nothing extraordinary has been discovered. Still no experiments are forthcoming from the ICR to test its hypothesis. It is, in fact, “armchair science” without a shred of evidence, and we are justified in rejecting it entirely and assuming that “two of every sort” means two of every species.
Leaving Some Things Behind – Nonmarine animals
Another foil used to lighten the ark is the assertion that many, in fact most, species could have survived outside the ark and, eo ipso, did. Creationists somehow do not mind that this gambit is contradicted by Scripture (Genesis 7:4, 23). So, starting with fish and marine invertebrates, the list is expanded to include aquatic mammals, amphibians, most other invertebrates, sea birds, and “land animals that could not have survived otherwise” (LaHaye and Morris, p. 246), culminating in John D. Morris’s spectacle of dinosaurs “somehow surviving outside” (1978, p. 201; cf. Whitcomb and Morris, pp. 68-69). From this it is but a short step to the ancient Eastern legend that the giant Og of Bashan survived by wading after the ark! But can the great ship be so easily emptied?
We can dismiss the waterlogged Stegosaurus splashing about for 371 days as an idea as absurd as Og of Bashan’s big swim; amphibians and other animals that need some terra firma can be passed by as well. Let’s go directly to those creatures that spend all of their lives in the water.
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.
The salinity of the oceans would have been substantially affected by the flood; Whitcomb and Morris lamely address this concern by noting that some saltwater fish can survive in freshwater and vice versa and that “some individuals of each kind would be able to survive the gradual mixing of the waters and gradual change in salinities during and after the flood” (p. 387). We are asked to believe that a storm so vast that the tops of the mountains were covered in forty days was so “gradual” that fish could adapt to these minor fluctuations!
In reality, although some species can inhabit both fresh and saline waters, most freshwater fish dropped in saltwater shrivel and die, while saltwater fish dropped in freshwater bloat and die. Creationist E. Norbert Smith theorizes that the denser saltwater would not have mixed with the flood’s freshwater and thus both varieties of fish could have made it through. But his own experiment, in which a goldfish thoroughly mingled the two types of water in a fishbowl in fifteen days, shows how long the separation would last during the violent shiftings of the earth called for in the creationist flood model.
Arguing over salinity is, however, a moot point, for the environmental hazards of the flood had to be so great that the salt content would be a fish’s least concern. We must remember that, according to creationists, the deluge, in one year’s time, deposited nearly all of the sedimentary rocks present in the world today. To get some idea of how muddy this would be, we should note that creationist flood theorists maintain that the original ocean basins were greatly enlarged to their present depths to receive the retreating flood waters (Whitcomb, 1973, pp. 35, 38); therefore, the quantity of water in the oceans is basically equivalent to that of the flood. This volume is 1,350x 106 cubic kilometers. The volume of Phanerozoic sedimentary rock (“flood deposits”) is 654 x 106 cubic kilometers (Blatt, Middleton, and Murray, p. 34). The ratio of water to rock is thus 2.06:1. Try mixing two parts water to one part sand; double or even triple the amount of the water, and then stick your pet goldfish into the muck and see how long it lives!
Then, too, most of the world’s volcanic activity, sea-floor spreading, mountain-building, and continent-splitting was supposed to have occurred at this time as well, filling the seas with additional huge volumes of rock, ash, and noxious gases. Undersea volcanoes usually decimate all life in the surrounding area (Buljan), and their extent had to be global during this terrible year. The earth’s prediluvian surface would thus have been scoured clean, and forests, multi-ton boulders, and the debris of civilization hurtled about like missiles. Finally, this tremendous explosion of energy would have transformed the seas into a boiling cauldron in which no life could possibly survive.
Accurate calculations are nearly impossible, given the creationist penchant for vagueness; but by multiplying the amount of heat generated during a typical volcanic eruption (cf. Macdonald, p. 60; Bullard, p. 288) by the total volume of such material (Macdonald, pp. 350-351)—most of which would have poured out in the few months under consideration—we arrive at a mind-boggling 3.65 octillion calories. This is enough to raise the temperature of the oceans by more than 2700°C! Obviously, nearly any concessions, any margins of error, can be granted to the creationists within their geological framework and the flood water would remain a churning, boiling inferno, easily accomplishing God’s intention of destroying the world.
Yet amidst all of this, creationist icthyologists aver that life went on as usual, with a few minor adjustments to the “gradual” changes. The salmon swam to their (long-vanished) riparian breeding grounds that fall as they always had; sea anemones clung to their rocky perches, which were on the beach one month and the abyssal plain the next; blue whales continued to strain for krill even though their baleen plates were choked with mud; corals, which grow in clear, shallow water, somehow grew anyway; hapless bottom dwellers, their lives carefully adjusted to certain conditions of pressure and temperature, suddenly saw the former increase by more than 5,000 pounds per square inch and the latter fluctuate in who knows what directions.
Backhaus tells us that “aquatic species would pay for any attempts at acclimatization with their lives or, at any rate, would not survive for very long” (p. 194). Most are highly sensitive to changes in salinity, temperature, light, oxygen, and even trace elements (cf. Bond; Hill). The conclusion is unavoidable: barring a special miracle from God, nothing but the hardiest microorganism could have survived the flood outside the ark.
Of course, the omnipotent deity could have performed several million individual miracles and preserved representatives of the invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, and even dinosaurs outside the ark; but, if so, why not extend the coverage to the few remaining terrestrial vertebrates and dispense with the boat altogether? Again, by some freak combination of luck, we may imagine one male and one female octopus surviving the disaster and somehow encountering each other between Japan and California to renew their species, but the only way Noah, as designated curator of the world zoo, could have guaranteed their persistence was by bringing them aboard. We must conclude, therefore, that every species of the animal kingdom had at least two members within the ark.
So now we are back to fitting all the animals on board. Yet creationists still have another method of saving space. They postulate that many full grown adult animal forms were left behind and that only young and thus smaller specimens were taken or—the ultimate economy—that eggs were sufficient for the preservation of the dinosaurs (John Morris, 1980, p. 66). Most zoologists, however, would agree with Neill when he writes that “the mortality rate is usually very high among seedling plants and young animals; but once the critical juvenile stage is passed, the organism has a good chance of reaching old age” (p. 388). In birds, for example, as many as 80 percent die before reaching maturity (Dathe)—facing everyday hazards. Furthermore, the young of many species cannot survive without parental care and feeding (imagine two tiny unweaned kittens shivering in their stalls!), and, even if they can, the lack of a normal social environment often results in severe behavioral disturbances.
The luckless animals aboard the ark were confronting the gravest challenge to their endurance ever known, and they needed to be the strongest, healthiest, and most virile representatives their species had ever produced; juveniles would not do. As for the dinosaur eggs, how did Noah know whether one would yield a female, the other a male—or even that both were fertile? And since no eggs require a year’s gestation, he soon would have had a hoard of fragile hatchlings on his hands.
Plants and seeds
Noah’s responsibilities did not end with animals, for without plants all life would perish. Whitcomb and Morris grant that many seeds were aboard the ark in the food stores (p. 70) but quote fellow creationist Walter Lammerts to the effect that “many thousands” of plants survived either upon their own “arks” of floating debris or simply by experiencing a rather thorough watering and then sprouted again as soon as the sun came out. George Howe, too, referring to an experiment where three of five species showed germination after twenty weeks of soaking in sea water, concluded that the survival rate through dormancy would have been high (December 1968). However, two of these three sprouted only when their seed coats were scarified (cut). This presents a special problem. The abrasive force of the deluge would have easily scarified the seed coats, but this would have been too soon. The seeds would have sprouted under water and died. But after the flood waters receded and the seeds were exposed to dry land, what would guarantee their being scarified then? Howe’s experiments failed to properly duplicate the conditions required by the flood model and hence his work offers no support for seed survival during the deluge.
In reality, seed dormancy is a complex affair and involves metabolic and environmental prerequisites for entrance into and recovery from the state as well as several forms of quiescence. The vast majority of seeds which become dormant do so in order to endure cold temperatures or prolonged drought, and in the warm flood waters most would germinate immediately and then drown for lack of oxygen (cf. Villiers).
The waters weren’t the only thing that would bury them, however, for huge deposits of silt and lava would have been laid down as well, entombing entire forests and paving the way for coal and oil formation. Today the surface of the ground consists of 80 percent Phanerozoic rock and only 20 percent Precambrian (“pre-diluvian”), the latter found mostly in large shields and entirely absent in many areas (Kummel, p. 87). These shields themselves would have been eroded to the bedrock by the flooding (“the vegetation would have been uprooted . . . leaving no protection at all for the exposed soils”—Whitcomb and Morris, p. 261), and in the rest of the world the few seeds that may have survived would have faced the task of pushing up a sprout through thousands of feet of mud and rock.
Floating is also unsatisfactory as a means of riding out the storm. Less than 1 percent of sermatophytes produce disseminules which drift for as long as one month, much less a year (Gunn and Dennis, p. 4). And although many debris rafts could have been torn loose during the early days of the storm, such vessels tend to break up in rough water (Zimmerman, p. 57), so they would not have lasted very long. If somehow a few of them did, how would they know where to unload their precious cargo afterward?
Suppose, for example, that a hefty chunk was torn loose from a densely grown forest and managed to swing through a sparse desert area, where such rafts presumably wouldn’t form, to pick up seeds from a few rare cacti. After a year at sea, what is the likelihood that these seeds would be dropped in an area where the temperature, rainfall, soil, and light would be suitable for their growth? As the retreating waters evaporated, the topsoil would become saturated with salts much like the beds of dry lakes in arid regions, and all but the hardiest halophilic plants would find the ground too toxic for any growth. Seawater contains thirty-five grams of salts per liter, and most plants cannot tolerate one-tenth this concentration (Levitt, p. 371); the residue left in the soil would clearly be excessive. Finally, assuming that some seeds did reach a survivable spot, how long would their flowers have to wait before the birds and insects arrived from Ararat to cross-pollinate them? Could the many species indigenous to the New World hold on while the transatlantic trip was made?
Isaac Asimov observes that the ancient Hebrews did not regard plants as alive in the same sense animals are (p.49); therefore they no doubt had no problem picturing olive trees enduring a year’s drowning and sprouting immediately afterward. Today’s fundamentalists should have learned some botany since then, but they still carry on about the “hardiness” of olives (Whitcomb and Morris, p. 105), and Nathan Meyer knows of a bristlecone pine that was five hundred years old when the big rains came and is still living (p. 42)!
If we are to take the deluge seriously, we must be much more skeptical about such stories. The creationists need to soak seeds in very deep, muddy water for a year and then plant them in unconsolidated, briny silt in an unfavorable climate without insect or avian pollinators to see what happens. Have their mathematicians, so skilled at calculating improbabilities for protein formation, ever determined the odds of a seed enduring the flood and then landing in the right soil and climate rather than being swept out to sea by the retreating waters or coming down in Antarctica?
It seems that Noah needed to have not merely “many” seeds but many samples of all the seeds and spores of the 420,000-plus species of plants in order to guarantee their survival—or else we must tally up a few million more miracles of divine preservation.
Sizing Up the Load – Getting an accurate count
We can finally begin to make some calculations. Robert D. Barnes lists the number of living species for each phylum, ranging from the sole member of Placozoa to the 923,000 in Arthropoda (pp. 12, 85-88). Using his figures, we arrive at a total of 1,177,920 species.
In addition, there are many animals that are as yet unknown. Wendt estimates that only 2 percent of all the parasitic worms are known, which would easily add another million species (p. 83). This includes as many as 500,000 nematodes, although only 15,000 have been described (Levine, p. 1). Ten thousand new species of insects are discovered every year, yet still only a small fraction of those in existence have been found (Atkins, p. 45).
All of those creatures were known at one time, for Adam gave them all names (Genesis 2:19-20), and, since they exist today, they must have been on the ark. But we shall be extremely generous to the creationists and add only 500,000 undiscovered species to our figure of 1,177,920—thus giving a mere 1,677,920 species with which Noah had to contend.
To this number, we must add the myriad of extinct prehistoric animals, which creationists assure us were alive at the time of the flood, making tracks in the Paluxy River, and which were known to Job afterward (John Morris, 1980, p. 65). This would vastly increase the numbers, since “only a tiny percentage of the animal and plant species that have ever existed are alive today” (Kear, p. 10). However, since creationists do not believe in transitional forms, we can again give them the benefit of the doubt and add to our total only the 200,000 different fossils that have been described. This brings the number to 1,877,920 species or animal pairs that were to be boarded onto the ark.
Of course, we can’t forget that Genesis 7:2-3 (particularly in the Revised Standard Version) makes it clear that only unclean animals come in single pairs, male and female; the clean animals and birds come in seven pairs, male and female. That means fourteen of each clean animal and each bird. But since figures for the number of clean animals are hard to find, we will have to let creationists off the hook and ignore them. Birds are another story. There are 8,590 species of birds. Since they have already been calculated into our figure of 1,877,920 species or 3,755,840 individual animals on the ark, we need only six more pairs of each species of bird to make it come out to seven pairs. That brings our count up to a grand total of 3,858,920 animals aboard the ark—two of each species, except birds which number fourteen each.
Problems with the biblical limits
This figure may seem excessive at first glance, but in reality it is so small as to be unrealistic. Many animals need more than a single pair to reproduce. Bees and other hymenopterans live in colonies and “apart from the community [they] cannot properly function or survive” (Lindauer, p.128). Many types of flies engage in reproductive swarming. Some birds will not mate unless they are part of a flock (Conway, p. 205; Kleiman, p. 255), and many fish spawn only as part of a school (Bond, p. 434). In fact, “animals which unite into colonies for purposes of reproduction are by no means rare phenomena” (Wendt, p. 118).
The whole process of mating, egg-laying, gestation, and the survival of the fragile young is a risky business that can easily be aborted by many factors, including predators, disease, exposure to the elements, and so on. In many species of spiders, given the chance the female will kill and devour the male before they mate; on the ark, the hapless husband would have to be particularly fleetfooted or his wife would unwittingly exterminate her species! Infanticide is another significant concern and occurs frequently even among primates. Dayflies, so named because their mature stage lasts only a few hours, form a tiny cloud of dancing males trying to attract females, with a successful mating rate of at most 1 percent (Wendt, p. 135). Even the prodigious rabbits fare poorly outside many-chambered warrens, the work of numerous individuals (Andrewartha, p. 134).
Locating one’s mate can also be tricky. The Sumatran rhino depends on communication points in its range, and, if it can’t visit these, it loses contact with others and reproduction doesn’t occur (Lang). The tick, Ixodes ricinus, mates only on a sheep which must browse through a field and by chance pick up both a male and a female tick—and even then these poor crawlers can’t find one another if they are too far apart on the sheep’s body (Andrewartha, p. 55). Imagine the microscopic parasites of a bull elephant, limited to two per species by Sacred Writ, searching for each other on the vast cosmos of their host’s body!
Competitive social behavior between males is often necessary to achieve successful androgen levels (Kleiman, p. 247); an isolated male is effectively impotent. Individual incompatibility between a pair of animals is another commonplace, often thwarting the most determined zoo keepers’ efforts at breeding.
All told, with but a single male and female apiece, or even seven pairs of birds and clean animals, every species on earth would be well below the margin of endangerment, and the chances of successful survival, especially in the devastation of the post-diluvian world, would be so small that they can be considered nil. Conservation biologists estimate a minimum size of fifty for a species’s survival, with 150 or more being a more realistic figure (Franklin). Hence our grand total could be multiplied many times and still represent only the most tenuous hold of life on earth.
Was there room enough on the ark? It contained 450 x 75 x 45 = 1,518,750 cubic feet of space if it was exactly rectangular with no curve on the keel or elsewhere. Part of this was occupied by the quarters for Noah and his family. Room had to be provided for the orderly compartmentalization of plants and seeds. An immense storage area for food, fresh water, and waste was needed. Also, the ark had to have corridors throughout, large enough for the passage of the bulkiest animals to their stalls when boarding and unboarding and at least large enough for the crew to pass into the most remote corners of the vessel. There would finally be a considerable volume lost in wood alone; the decks, larger cages, supporting beams, and so on would occupy a considerable space. The six-masted schooners had keelsons 7 feet high and 8 feet wide running the full length of the hull and often used 20 x 20 inch beams (Snow); the switch to iron construction increased cargo capacity by upwards of 20 percent (cf. Hutchins, p. 443).
If we conservatively allow all of these requirements to consume 30 percent of the space, this leaves 1,063,125 cubic feet to be divided among the nearly 4 million animals, resulting in a mere 0.275 cubic foot per individual! No arrangement of cages, however ingenious, no high-density packing of minute invertebrates, could squeeze everyone into this amount of room. For comparison, a sable antelope or red hartebeest needs a crate of 57 cubic feet for the brief journey from capture to quarantine; a zebra, 77 cubic feet; medium-sized giraffe, 99; eland, 110; hippopotamus or small elephant, 214 (adapted from Hirst, p. 121). These seven species alone, male and female, require more than 5,600 times the allotment per specimen for a trip that rarely exceeds three days. For the 371 days of the flood, the area would need to be greatly enlarged—for crowding and lack of exercise would be extremely detrimental, if not fatal, to most (cf. Young, p. 137; Voss, p. 157). Many birds must have high roofs with room to fly, and even a pond snail needs a gallon of water for adequate living (Orlans, p. 85).
Probably the greatest space requirements are involved in keeping aquatic organisms. Many fish swim continually, even when sleeping, and the general rule is 100 gallons of water per pound of animal weight (Atz, p. 180). Gruber and Keyes state that “the primary cause of mortality in captive pelagic sharks is that their living space is not large enough” (p. 376). Marineland of the Pacific has an 80 x 22 foot circular whale stadium of 640,000 gallons, containing four small whales and some dolphins; the many large whales would occupy aquaria “the size of a football stadium” (Hill, p. 151).
All of this would have constituted a tremendous weight. Filby would put a mere hundred tons of animals aboard, with a few thousand tons of supplies (cited by Montgomery, p. 58). However, a mature sheep (the creationists’ average-sized animal) weighs 120 pounds, and at this rate the vertebrates alone would exceed 4,500 tons. When the huge volume of food and drinking water, the hundreds of thousands of gallons in the aquaria, and the giant dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals are included, it is clear that the ark would have sunk like a brick the moment it was launched.
At this stage, further discussion of the overcrowding becomes rather pointless. We leave the conundrum in the laps of the creationists, recalling the words of theologian Johannes Weiss, “The apologists . . . can get the better of any historical result whatever” (quoted in Schweitzer, p. 234). Perhaps God performed a miraculous miniaturization on the animals; as the flood legend takes on more and more of an Alice-in-Wonderland air, anything becomes possible.
Before moving on, we must briefly take note of an argument so popular that nearly every ark theorist uses it: that the interior of the ark could have held literally hundreds of standard-sized railroad stock cars and thus was quite roomy.
But while the figures for rail car size and capacity are cited with fair accuracy, ignored is the federal law which requires a train on a long haul to stop every twenty-eight hours, to unload the stock, to feed and water them, and to give them a five-hour rest period (Ensminger, p. 1062). This may be just a minor inconvenience to American ranchers, but it would have been quite impossible for Noah. Thus the analogy collapses. The fact that every creationist has triumphantly trotted out his train statistics, yet overlooked this decisive flaw, demonstrates once again the sloppiness of creationists’ research.
Gathering the Cargo – Animal migration
Having drawn up a passenger list, the next order of business is to gather them all at dockside. At this point, the creationists themselves are unable to propound any sort of scenario in which Noah and his sons could perform such a feat, so they resort to the convenient dumping ground of the inexplicable: miracles. God himself intervened by implanting in the chosen pair from each species the instinct of migration, and by this mechanism they gathered from the four corners of the world and headed for the Plains of Shinar (Whitcomb, p. 30). LaHaye and Morris (p. 251) even spice things up with an added ability to instinctively “sense imminent danger,” but in any event a cheetah here, a penguin there, here an ant, there an ant, all dropped what they were doing and made a beeline for the ark. That this is not too farfetched we can see today, say creationists, for many animals still migrate, and this is the most “scientific” explanation available for their ability to do so.
A closer look reveals that a miracle is indeed called for in the gathering of the animals, but it is a much larger and more complex one than merely imparting “premonition” and migration. In the first place, a glance at Jarman’s Atlas of Animal Migration shows that of all the birds, fish, and terrestrial animals whose paths are shown, only one, the common crane of southern Russia, currently migrates to the Mesopotamian Valley. Therefore, God not only programmed the animals to go to Noah’s place before the flood, but afterward he deprogrammed most of them and rerouted all the rest except the common crane—a reverse miracle. Incidentally, it is noteworthy that many aquatic creatures migrate, a faculty whose origins the creationists find incomprehensible unless these creatures were also sent to the ark.
However accurate their suddenly acquired instinct, for many animals it could not have been enough to overcome the geographical barriers between them and the ark. The endemic fauna of the New World, Australia, and other remote regions, as well as animals unable to survive the Near Eastern environment, would find the journey too difficult no matter how desperately they yearned to go.
Flood theorists are unperturbed by such obstacles, however, for they simply gerrymander the map to give us an antediluvian world of undivided continents and a uniform, semitropical, spring-like climate, and—presto!-all the animals become evenly distributed and hence within a short stroll of the ark (Whitcomb and Morris, p. 64). But this resolves one question only to raise another: in such a world, where did the animals which are found today in the arctic, desert, alpine, and other specialized postdiluvian niches live? The polar bear, caribou, walrus, yak, snow leopard, and many more would suffocate in the warm tropics; many desert dwellers could not have endured the excessive humidities they would have encountered.
Creationists would no doubt respond that these creatures evolved within their “kinds” after the flood, but we have already found that concept so vague as to be meaningless. Besides, since in their chronology the ice age immediately followed the deluge and started freezing woolly mammoths, the rapidity of intrakind evolution would be far greater than any Darwinist ever dreamed possible and there could be no logical justification for continuing to rage against interkind transformation. On the other hand, there may have been a small desert here, a tiny tundra there, to house these specimens for the few centuries from the creation to the time their regular habitats appeared, but that puts us back on square one wondering how they struggled through the heat and humidity to the ark.
Other creatures had it even rougher. Hundreds of species live only in caves and are so sensitive that many cannot survive in caverns just slightly different from their own and many may be killed by exposure to light (Vandel, pp. 37, 399). For these cavernicoles, even a very short journey from their homes would prove impossible. Could Noah have fetched them himself to save them from a fatal march? Could he have distinguished the 293 species of pseudoscorpions and picked out a male and female of each?
Aquatic animals would also find the trip challenging. Did all the representatives of the oceans, lakes, and streams overcome their sensitivities to normally lethal changes in environmental conditions and swim up the ancient Euphrates or the “mighty Hiddekel” to the docks nearest the ark? How did the many sessile species, from sponges and corals to anemones and barnacles, detach themselves and waddle through however brief a trip it may have been? A problem analogous to that of terrestrial arctic and desert dwellers would be the exotic inhabitants of the abyssal and hadal zones of the ocean depths. In this instance, too, creationists have postulated only shallow seas before the deluge, precluding the very existence of deep-sea dwellers. In reply, we again insist either that such accelerated evolution occurred that creationists have argued themselves out of a job or else that there was a trench somewhere in the “shallow seas” specifically for these organisms.
Parasites and diseases
Some important complications arise with that extensive group of organisms known as parasites. Hundreds of thousands of species are known, and a very large proportion of them are host specific and must spend all or part of their lives within the host animal. Therefore the single pair of animals from each species had to carry aboard the ark the parasites that were adapted to living within or upon them. Although many of these are harmless freeloaders, others are pathogenic and often fatal to their host. Yet the fact that such organisms exist today demonstrates that they survived the flood, and the fact that they must inhabit their host shows how they survived.
The example of Homo sapiens will show the seriousness of the problem. Humans are sanctuary to over one hundred parasites, and many are host specific. Although the four species of human malarial parasites undergo sexual development in mosquitos, they must undergo further development in humans. Hence, a member of Noah’s family must have had malaria at some point in his life and must have remained infected after the flood until the earth became sufficiently repopulated that the parasite passed to others. In similar manners, the vectors of many other parasitic infections are also specific to humans, such as the tapeworms Taenia saginata and T. solium, the intestinal worm Ascaris lumbricoides, the hookworm Leishmania tropia, the pinworm Enterobius vermicularis, three agents of filariasis, two species of Schistosoma, three species of lice, and many dozens more (Jones). Also, of course, the five types of venereal disease bacteria cannot survive outside their human abode.
These eight unfortunate souls were afflicted with enough diseases and discomforts to support a hospital—all as their part in “preserving life” through the great flood. And nearly every other animal on board—from Shem’s lice to the right whales—had parasites of their own to cope with. What remarkable creatures they must have been; in order to ensure their survival they had to be the strongest, healthiest, most fertile pair possible, while at the same time they had to carry a full set of debilitating parasites so as to guarantee their survival.
How was Noah assured that the proper complement of viable tapeworms was present in each rodent and each lizard waiting to come aboard? How could he confirm the presence of microscopic fauna in their tiny stalls? If a prospective passenger was lacking an essential flea, what could be done? Was there opportunity to correct any errors?
If just one of the teeming hoard of animals turned out to be sterile, that species would become extinct. Could Noah verify everyone’s fertility? For that matter, could he even verify that the couple on the gangplank were male and female, when a great many animals, including 30 percent of the birds and even some mammals, are sexually monomorphic and cannot be distinguished without modern veterinary techniques or even hormonal analysis? Most fish are indeterminant as juveniles and will only become male or female when mature (Bond, pp. 415-416), while some female worms will change into males when starved (Hapgood, p. 78). No wonder Segraves proposes a miracle here (p. 16).
Creationists insist on a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis; so when those animals which reproduce by asexual budding, or the over one thousand thelytokous (all-female) species from insects to lizards, converged toward the ark, another special miracle would have been called for to fulfill the explicit command to take both male and female aboard. By the time Noah encountered the sea star, Asterina gibbosa, which begins life as a male and eventually becomes female, he must have been ready to throw in the towel in frustration.
Difficulties of travel
The journey of the animals presents other remarkable facets. They traveled over hill, over dale, through the dense jungles, and across the mighty Edenic rivers without a single accident. No limbs were broken, no drownings occurred. Amazingly, not one perished at the paws of a predator; from the tastiest earthworm to the freshest frog, all marched past the hungry inhabitants of the forest with impunity. Orr stresses that “migration is hazardous. For species that engage in long migrations it may be a great strain on the bodies of the participants. There may be extended periods without food as well as long hours of travel. . . . Attrition through predation may be higher during migration” (p. 239). He also notes that getting lost can be a problem, especially for those traveling singly as opposed to flocks and herds (pp. 175, 240). But if the divine instinct often fails today’s travelers, what chance did such unlikely wayfarers as eyeless cave fish, giant sloths, and sea urchins have of locating a specific acre in Asia? St. Christopher was clearly in his finest hour, performing literally thousands of miracles every day.
The botanical garden
Perhaps with a vivid imagination we can picture this divine Pied Piper saga in action; but no such excuse can save Noah from his responsibility for gathering the seeds of the nearly half million plants that survived the flood. No premonition, however urgent, could cause a pine cone to commence rolling toward the ark; someone would have to go get it. Our biblical botanists would have to be able to identify fertile seeds and spores, find them at the proper season, and make sure that the storage area aboard ship would be suitable. In the damp depths of the ark, most seeds would either rot or sprout and then die for lack of nutrients and light. How did Noah prepare and maintain the special low-humidity containers necessary to ensure their dormancy? How did he control insects, rodents, and fungi? Seed storage is a complex technology and, without proper techniques, “no seed can maintain its viability for long” (Thomson, p. 100).
In addition, God told Noah to gather food for the various animals (Genesis 6:21), many of whom, as we shall see, have highly specialized diets. Hence, even if the animals could reach the ark unaided, an overwhelming burden would be placed upon our heroes with regard to the plant kingdom.
Boarding the ark
At last this remarkable menagerie gathered before the gaping door of the great ship. Still the protective aura hovered over them, for natural enemies stood side by side without conflict: the mighty carnivores ignored countless opportunities to fill their stomachs; the panicky impulses of animals in strange surroundings were subdued; even the centipedes and beetles escaped extinction from the chance misstep of the elephant. This surreal tranquility extended to animals that were not among the elect—for the sounds and smells of the teeming throng undoubtedly piqued the interest of the denizens of the surrounding jungle, yet none of them took advantage of having a meal spread out before them on a silver platter.
The peaceful scene was about to come to an abrupt end, however. All at once the command went forth to board the ark, and pandemonium erupted. The Bible emphasizes that all the animals and human passengers entered the ark on the same day (Genesis 7:11-15). Simple division of our grand total shows that 44.66 creatures had to dash up the gangplank and through the door every second in order to fill the ark within twenty-four hours! Even if we grant that the parasites could hitch a ride with their hosts and many insects could go through at once, and if we simply count the vertebrates (including the seven pairs of birds), this still averages out to two per second. This was not merely a mad scramble for the door but involved weaving through the intricate maze of corridors until the correct cage—that one specific stall exactly designed to meet that animal’s needs—was located, entered, and secured. It includes Noah’s unenviable task of getting clams and piranhas, barely visible mites, and killer whales, into their quarters. How did our overworked crewmen wrestle all the huge aquatic creatures from the river to their aquaria in half a second, especially when improper handling can severely injure such animals? How did the “migratory instinct” guide the panicky porcupine to the right stall in the twinkling of an eye?
Caring for the Cargo
Assuming that the chaos outside could somehow be drastically reduced, what special problems did the cargo pose? According to the time periods given in Genesis 7:9-11 and 8:13-14, based on the Hebrew Lunar Year of 354 days, the inhabitants of the ark remained there 371 days. How did Noah and his family take care of their charges during this long stay?
Our Bible-believing biologists have devised a clever mechanism for easing Noah’s task: hibernation. LaHaye and Morris tell us that the ability to hibernate is an “almost universal tendency” among animals and that, faced with “adverse conditions” and “extreme stress” they would slip into this state and hence be easily manageable (p. 252). Henry Morris agrees, attributing this behavior to “divinely ordered genetic mutations,” and asserts that this is the best explanation available for these abilities today (1977, p. 98).
This “solution” is apparently an ad hoc idea into which none of its advocates even bothered to delve. If they had, they would have found that hibernation is far from “universal.” In fact, only three orders of placental mammals—the Insectivora, Chiroptera, and Rodentia—plus some reptiles and amphibians display true hibernation. These are all small creatures; larger animals, including bears, are too big for true hibernation (Mount, p. 142). Most fish, birds, and invertebrates do not become dormant in any sense, and other forms of torpor, such as reptilian estivation, are physiologically dissimilar to winter sleep and could not occur in the same environment.
Furthermore, animals respond to “extreme stress” with panic and flight—not hibernation, which is a response to lack of food or cold temperatures. Crowded into the ark like sardines with every other species all about, tossed and slammed against their cages with the ear-splitting roar of the upheaval outside, quiet inactivity is the last thing one would expect to happen. Many animals are so nervous that they are difficult to keep in an ordinary zoo; if even true hibernators like bats are aroused by touching, what chance is there that any specimen would quietly curl up for a year-long nap?
Hibernation is not a simple siesta. Rather, “during the period prior to hibernation, an animal must make a considerable number of gradual physiological and metabolic adjustments” (Mayer, p. 962). These include an increase of fat deposition, gradual readjustment of body temperature, heart rate, and metabolism, preparation of the den and storage of food, and so on. Frogs and salamanders frequently overwinter in large aggregates; other amphibians sleep only under forest litter or in a few inches of icy water; lungfishes construct a mud cocoon. Timing is also vital, for, if exposed to cold at the wrong time of year, a hibernator will increase its activity in order to keep warm.
What opportunities did the migrating hoards have to prepare themselves and their cages for the long rest? Were the ark’s spartan stalls provided with cozy dens and burrows? Newly arrived from near and far, the animals were stampeded, still exhausted from their march, into strange, frightening cells and, only a week later, were violently jolted onto their wild ride (Genesis 7:4, 10).
Finally, hibernation is a risky affair, rather than the refreshing nap portrayed by creationists. The animal loses about 40 percent of its body weight during the winter; prorated into the 371 days on board the ark, each would have been reduced to little more than a skeleton by the time the door opened. Even bones and teeth deteriorate, and the young frequently starve (Yalden and Morris, pp. 84-85). In snakes, the mortality rate may be as high as 30 to 50 percent (Shaw and Campbell, p. 84). On page 964, W. V. Mayer concludes:
The hibernator apparently is balanced on a very narrow line between the maintenance of life at a level that makes recovery from hibernation possible and a reduction of metabolism to a level that will lead to death. Evidence obtained from tissues indicates that the process of hibernation is a precarious method of survival at best and one from which many animals do not awaken. As a mechanism of species survival, hibernation seems effective; for the survival of the individual, however, it is an uncertain and dangerous process.
Yet on the ark, there were only individuals, hibernating in extremely adverse conditions for more than double the time that any animal normally is dormant. We must conclude that the animals on the ark did not experience any type of dormancy in any way resembling these phenomena in nature; the “divine mutations” produced a state closer to suspended animation, a sort of celestial cryonics (Segraves, pp. 83-84)-and we have another very impressive miracle.
Feeding the animals
This supernatural quiescence has a curious twist, however, for the Bible plainly informs us that Noah was to take food on the voyage for the animals (Genesis 6:21). Hibernators do awaken from time to time to eat, and apparently these supersleepers did so also. Why? If the Lord was going to perform such a substantial modification of natural physiology as this impossible hibernation involved, why not make the miracle complete and dispense with the storage space for the food and the inconvenience to the crew of the feedings?
This is especially pertinent when the magnitude of the task is examined. For the total number of creatures on the ark, if each one received but one feeding during the voyage, and if all eight of the crew worked sixteen hours per day at the chore, each animal would wind up with just 44.3 seconds of attention during the entire year-long period! Some would have their meal on the first day, while others waited until they were nearly starved. The poor attendants would have to carry out their chores in the violently pitching vessel and in inky darkness (since lanterns could easily drop and start a fire). They would have to find the correct food and somehow locate the right cage in the mind-numbing maze. When they found it, they would have to arouse an animal that could sleep through the raging chaos; the food could not be left in the troughs for it would spoil or spill. Then it’s back down the slippery corridor to the storage bins for the next meal—on a perfect schedule, without duplicated efforts or mistakes—all in less than a minute!
Unfortunately, many animals are not physiologically capable of surviving on an occasional meal, however large, and a meal once a year—or once a week—would mean death. Some birds eat continuously during daylight and suffer when taken to regions with short winter days (National Research Council, 1977, p. 28), and some fish browse constantly and are unable to utilize infrequently given foods (Wickins and Helm, p. 117). Rodents, cud chewers, and insectivores are others in the “continuous feeder” class (Gersh, p. 60). Thus it appears that the “hibernation model,” cleverly concocted to relieve Noah of an unmanageable work load, is vitiated by the simple scriptural requirement of providing food for the voyage.
Special dietary needs
There are many other problems associated with the feeding. The first concerns the carnivores: where did Noah get the huge quantities of fresh meat required by these animals? The creationist response is that God (miraculously) altered them so that they could thrive on a vegetarian diet during the voyage. Although some aver that the eating of meat never occurred anywhere until after the flood, Whitcomb and Morris discuss at length the change from herbivorous to carnivorous physiology, which they date to the Fall of Adam (pp. 461-464). Thus these animals were originally vegetarian, then became meat-eaters after the Fall, vegetarians again for the year of the flood, finally returning to their carnivorous ways afterwards. Three times the Lord magically changed the physiology and anatomy of a substantial proportion of the animal kingdom. And if this is true of carnivorous mammals, it must also be so for insect-eating birds, amphibians, reptiles, for the multitudes that live on fresh fish and other aquatic creatures, and for arthropods which eat other invertebrates. Were the slender, sticky tongues of tamanduas, pangolins, and other anteaters, so difficult to feed in zoos, altered to eat hay? Were vampire bats and mosquitos able to substitute tomato juice for fresh blood? Did the whales adapt to kelp instead of krill? And what of our ever-troublesome parasites? Were tapeworms and leeches content to spend a year sucking on an old log? God was remodeling digestive systems right and left!
Even if everyone ate only plants, there were still enormous obstacles. Many animals have highly specialized diets: koalas eat only certain types of Eucalyptus leaves; the giant panda eats bamboo shoots; three-toed sloths so prefer Cecropia leaves that they are almost impossible to keep in captivity. Primates need fresh fruit; many birds develop cramps and spasms if they don’t get sufficient calcium; desert rodents are poisoned by excessive protein; and the list goes on (cf. Wallach and Flieg; Fiennes). How did Noah know what foods to get, how much and where to get them?
How were the stores kept from rotting during the lengthy voyage? Even hay rapidly becomes moldy and unusable.
Young insists that feeding troughs be cleaned daily and uneaten food removed to prevent decay (p. 137). Giraffes and moose must have their troughs high or they can’t reach them, while animals with large antlers can’t get their mouths into a basket placed against a wall. Carnivores deprived of bones to chew develop peridontal disease (Bush and Gray); rodents, too, need to gnaw or their teeth will overgrow (Orlans, p. 247). The tearing beak of eagles, the seed-cracking beak of parrots, the bill strainer of flamingos also overgrow if unused (National Research Council, 1977, p. 27). Many animals, from fish to snakes, penguins to bats, will only eat living food because they must see it move to seize it (Fiennes; Gersh). Even praying mantises eat only live food and will eat each other if nothing else is available. Did Noah know this?
Storage of food and water
Where did Noah find room for all these provisions? Even if the animals ate only a few times during the voyage, these must have been hearty meals and a lot of feed was required. Elephants consume three hundred pounds of hay per day, hippos eighty to one hundred pounds. A large walrus eats forty pounds of fish daily, a lion sixteen pounds of meat; what would be the equivalent in grain? Whales consume several tons of krill per day when feeding (Lockley, pp. 87-88), and many insectivores and birds eat their body weight every twenty-four hours. Neubuser says that in the Frankfurt Zoo each year “sixty tons of horse, cattle, and whale meat are required to satisfy the demands of the carnivores. The boxes of cereals and oil seed, each containing about a hundredweight, if put end to end, would stretch for a distance of over half a mile. The annual consumption of fruit, vegetables, roots, and green clover would fill fifty freight trains; hay and straw, thirty-five goods wagons” (p. 165).
Lest these burdens start to overwhelm us, we find Rehwinkel discussing a theory that Noah possessed a “mysterious oil” of supernutrative powers—one drop of which would sustain life (p. 75). In the creationist Land of Oz, why not?
Although water was the most abundant substance around, it was muddy, salty, and full of volcanic pollutants. Even the water falling from the skies would have been useless, since the tremendous level of volcanism would have turned it to poisonous acid rain. For his animals, Noah needed large quantities of fresh, clean water, kept in troughs and inspected frequently. Where did this come from? How was it stored and distributed? Conditions being what they were, it must have splashed out of the troughs shortly after they were filled, mixed with food and waste to form a stinking, slippery swamp all over each deck, while the reserves were rapidly choked with algae to form an undrinkable swill.
Sanitation and water disposal
The mention of waste brings attention to that problem. All authorities on animal care insist on the cleanliness of the stalls, urging the daily removal of waste and soiled bedding. Neubuser remarks that “the removal of zoo waste presents almost insuperable difficulties” (p. 170); on the ark these must have multiplied manyfold. Creationists Balsiger and Sellier suggest that the bottom deck was used to store slurry, which accumulated to 800 tons during the voyage. However, a single adult elephant could produce 40 tons during this time (Coe), and there were many creatures even larger. Our average animal, the sheep, produces 0.34 tons per year; poultry, 0.047 (Sainsbury and Sainsbury, p. 110). Multiplying the number of vertebrates by 0.34, the seven pairs of birds by 0.047, yields 25,508 tons of waste—six times heavier than the ark itself! Of course, hibernation would greatly reduce this quantity, while the invertebrates and dinosaurs would add to it. Whatever the total, it would have been an awesome amount on the overcrowded boat, a breeder of infinite numbers of pathogens, and a source of noxious, choking fumes.
A comparison with Lamoureux’s Guide to Ship Sanitation is instructive. Complex plumbing systems of pipes and pumps, air-gaps and back-flow valves, filters and chemical treatments are necessary to provide potable water and dispose of sewage. Waste is treated and dumped overboard, not discharged to the bilge as on the ark. Such technology was clearly beyond Noah’s ability and the maintenance capabilities of his tiny crew; yet, if ever it was needed on a voyage, this was it.
Specialized needs of animals
“The animals in a modern zoo require a thousand and one small, seemingly insignificant attentions and we must constantly strive to discover their needs.” Thus writes Dr. Heinz Hediger of Zurich Zoo, introducing us to a host of additional headaches with which Noah would have to deal.
Many animals would not survive long in barren stalls but would need to have elements of their natural environment present. Squirrels and sloths need trees to climb; the latter are almost helpless on the ground. Armadillos, viscachas, and others require soil in which they can scrape and burrow; capybaras and tapirs must have pools of water for bathing; and otters require running water. The extremely delicate platypus would have to be maintained with a device consisting of a water tank, a nest, and tunnels with rubber gaskets to squeeze water out of the platypus’s fur to prevent the nest getting wet and the animal developing pneumonia. Ungulates in transport should be made to stand up hourly to revive circulation in their limbs. Elephants and hippos develop dermatitis unless they can bathe frequently (cf. Crandall; Hirst; Neubuser).
Wading birds develop leg weakness and should be transported in special stockings; peacocks and long-tailed pheasants may need their tails splinted and wrapped in bandages. Woodpeckers’ cages would need a special coating, and many other animals, from termites to rodents, would gnaw through a normal stall. Excessive moisture is “extremely deleterious” to most reptiles (Kaufield), while low humidities would prove fatal to many amphibians. Burrowing invertebrates, such as worms, crabs, and clams, will perish without proper substrate.
Perhaps the greatest difficulties arise with marine organisms. Most of them are extremely sensitive to slight changes in temperature, salinity, pH value, and other factors, and their aquaria require constant monitoring. Many need large, round tanks to prevent them from knocking against the sides, and some tanks must have a polyurethane foam to guard against injury from rubbing. Complex filtering systems—unavailable on the ark—are necessary to remove waste; most fish require a high degree of cleanliness. Hadal dwellers must be kept in special high-pressure tanks (cf. Backhaus; Hawkins). Of course, a system of active aeration is necessary or the fish will suffocate—yet a fragile jellyfish can be damaged by an oxygen bubbler. Some sharks will sustain tissue damage from lying still as little as five minutes and may have to be stimulated by an attendant when in a captive environment (Gruber and Keyes, p. 383). Even humble planarian worms are likely to die if their water becomes “even slightly contaminated” (Orlans, p. 49). The National Research Council concludes: “Despite the best care and equipment, some marine species will not tolerate capture and transport” (1981, p. 53).
Ventilation would have been another major concern. The Bible tells us that Noah placed a window one cubit square at the top of the vessel (Genesis 6:16). Creationists, basing themselves on “eyewitnesses” who have seen the ark in modern times, enlarge this to a row of windows along a catwalk on top of the ship and postulate a “wind-deflecting system” to get the air below decks (Schmich). In any case, the window(s) had shutters, for Noah opened them to release the raven and dove. Considering the mountains of water constantly washing over the ship, they were probably closed most of the time to prevent swamping.
Open or shut, the arkeologists’ enthusiasm is premature. Sainsbury and Sainsbury give a number of equations and tables for calculating the ventilation of barns (p. 166ff), and it is clear that when the openings are at the same elevation on the building, especially if near the top, air circulation will be very poor. This would be particularly acute in the densely packed, three-tiered ark: virtually no fresh air could reach the lower decks. The result would be a rising concentration of dust and microorganisms, condensation on bedding and floors, and resultant chilling, loss of appetite, and susceptibility to respiratory disease.
The lack of ventilation would produce particularly dire consequences with respect to the tons of waste accumulating in the no-man’s-land of the bottom deck. Besides being a nursery for every conceivable pathogen, it would also unleash large quantities of such toxic gases as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Hydrogen sulfide, for example, leads to appetite loss and hyperexcitability at concentrations as low as twenty parts per million—yet agitation of stored slurry, incessant on the ark, can elevate levels to 800 ppm (Sainsbury and Sainsbury, p. 207). These gases also pose the potential for an explosion. Methane, which composes roughly 55 percent of typical landfill gas, is highly explosive at concentrations of 5 to 15 percent oxygen (Emcon Associates, p. 35; Noble, pp. 157-158). At this ratio, even a few hundred tons of waste would rapidly convert the ship into a floating bomb, needing only a flash of lightning, a glowing volcanic cinder, or the inadvertent lighting of a lantern to blast the vessel and its priceless cargo to the bottom of the sea.
Light and temperature levels
In the depths of the ship, far from its tiny, shuttered windows, with thick cumulo-nimbus and dense layers of volcanic ash above, the darkness must have reminded many of the cavernicoles of the black tunnels they had recently vacated. Lanterns, as we have mentioned, posed too much of a fire hazard to be used—this was a danger in even ordinary sailing conditions (Thrower, p. 85). Yet animals deprived of light, particularly the young ones which creationists wish to put aboard, often have poor vision and even suffer deterioration of optice nerves and retinae (King, pp. 30-31). Aquatic creatures, too, are sensitive to even slight variations in the quality of light (Backhaus, p. 197).
Fish are also highly sensitive to temperature, and separate tanks at carefully regulated levels are necessary for successful aquaria (Atz). How did Noah accomplish this? As his boat sat in the sweltering Shinar tropics waiting for the rain, the heat inside must have become suffocating to many. Polar animals could not have made it through. Chinchillas, snow leopards, and many others—even frogs—are also apt to perish in hot conditions. Reptiles not only require an optimum temperature level, dangerous if exceeded, but must have it reduced cyclically to simulate diurnal and seasonal rhythms (Peaker). As the flood progressed, the temperature may have remained high due to volcanism; alternatively, it may have begun declining with the lack of sunlight (remember, the Ice Age followed immediately afterward). Either way, as the ark sat perched at fourteen thousand feet on Mt. Ararat and the seas slowly subsided, air pressure and temperature declined until the luckless lowlanders found themselves in thin alpine air and the first snows of the new dispensation as they waited to disembark. If you endured the oven at the beginning, you froze at the end!
Problems for the crew
It is useless to continue discussing the animals. We must pass over the problem of exercise for the beasts and birds and not even contemplate the broken limbs, bruises, lacerations, and concussions from the nightmarish ride. The diseases, too, were far beyond Noah’s veterinary competence. And what about reproduction? Some creationists deny that it took place; others say it did. Segraves suggests a kind of divine birth control (p. 85). In either case, we can feel confident that flies, mosquitos, and all sorts of vermin multiplied astronomically even if no higher species did.
Yet even with the miracle of hibernation, the task facing Noah and his crew was absolutely insuperable, barring yet another titanic intervention by Jehovah. A random sampling of over one hundred zoos from the 1980 International Zoo Yearbook showed a ratio of 25.4 animals per zoo staffer—experienced workers supervised by highly trained experts in conditions infinitely superior to the ark’s. At this ratio, the great boat would have needed a staff of 151,926 to care for every creature aboard! Noah had eight.
Still other chores awaited our harried helmsman. Although he was fortunate not to have had to navigate or to manage engines that might break down, some maintenance would still have been necessary. Boat rot is present in every wooden vessel and is enhanced by moisture and poor ventilation. Duffett recommends a thorough inspection from stem to stern, with flashlight, awl, and hammer, every two months (p. 149). There would have been trouble with teredos, tiny, wormlike mollusks that eat their way through wood and riddle planks and timbers with small holes, which makes them the “greatest hazard to wooden hulls” (Noel, p. 85). Then, too, in this awesome storm, there would undoubtedly have been major breakage and splintering of stalls, beams, floors, and myriads of other accidents which normally entail substantial time in drydock—all of which would have had to be located in the dark and somehow patched well enough to last until the ship made Ararat. We have already noted how leaky were large, overburdened wooden ships, and, in these mountainous seas, continuous pumping would have been essential to keep the ark afloat. Smaller, better-built vessels can take on a foot or more of water an hour; therefore, “crews could become so completely exhausted by pumping as to be barely capable of working the ship” (Thrower, pp. 89-90). A much larger, more experienced crew would be necessary for maintenance alone, not counting the impossible zoological chores.
Balsiger and Sellier talk about the life of leisure aboard the ark, even mentioning the “woman’s touch” in the family quarters (p. 134). Segraves speaks of an entire deck devoted to “recreational facilities” (p. 16). Such is not the picture that emerges from our study.
Seafaring life was never easy in olden times: food was monotonous and rationed and often spoiled; water was scarce; sanitary conditions were incredibly bad; fire and storms posed constant threats; and diseases, such as cholera, yellow fever, and malaria, often decimated entire crews (Pohjanpalo, pp. 100-101). On long voyages, scurvy was a constant terror, and extra men were always taken because many died or became too ill to work. The “romance of the sea” was so unattractive that, despite poverty and high unemployment, no nation ever had enough sailors to crew her ships (Phillips-Birt, pp. 213-216). Thrower concludes:
The conditions of life for the ordinary sailor must have been little short of grim throughout the history of sail. . . . Think what these ships were like . . . wet and stinking, bad food, sea scurvy and fluxes rampant, and incessant toil. Then there were the bugs, the rats, and the cockroaches. (p. 99)
What was grim for these poor souls must have been pure hell on board the ark. It is a wonder that anyone limped off the sacred ship except the flies.