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Is the literal interpretation of Noah's Ark possible?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/2/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,981 times Debate No: 34445
Debate Rounds (4)
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According to the Book of Genesis, Noah was a man chosen by God to (alongside his wife, sons, and their wives) to create a great wooden boat, known as the Ark, upon which two of every "kind" of animal would be brought on board and would be sheltered from a great flood that was to come about in accordance with the will of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh. The flood would, as the Bible describes, cover the tops of the highest peaks of the highest mountains, and would wipe out most life on Earth, in order to erase evil from earth and/or punish evildoers from that point in time. After the flood settled, the Book of Genesis stated that the people aboard the Ark and the animals within it came forth and multiplied, eventually repopulating the earth.

I contest this story, from a literal standpoint, is impossible. Primarily along three lines of reasoning:

1) The Origin of the Water:
The sheer amount of water required to flood the Earth would be several times the amount of water currently within the Earth's oceans and atmospheres. Unless that much water can somehow be found, and a means for that water to disappear from the Earth, this story is impossible.

2) The Diversity of Life:
a) Two of every "kind" of animal on Earth is not enough re establish a destroyed ecosystem. The genetic diversity required to recreate every species on Earth at the time would have been much too limited, and it seems quite clear more than one species would have died out due to inbreeding.
b) The sudden drop in plant life on Earth would have meant certain death for numerous species of herbivores at the time, not to mention the possible changing in soil fertility as a result of the flood.
c) The lack of prey for carnivores to eat after the flood would have meant either the extinction of numerous species after the flood or the starvation of countless carnivorous species.

3) Argument from morality:
Though not a scientific issue, the nature of Noah's Flood stands to challenge the ethical standpoint of Yahweh. Unless the opposition is willing to admit that Yahweh is a malevolent being, or at least an incredibly incompetent one, this story is impossible.

There are many circulating opinions as to what Noah's Flood was or meant, and how it could have happened. I will participate in this debate with anyone who cares to come forward, and I will happily hear your arguments and respond in kind.

I have few criteria for who can partake in this debate:
1) The person debating must believe in a literal interpretation of Noah's Flood, in the sense there was a global flood in an effort to "reset" humanity and/or life on earth. This isn't meant to be a synchronized rant.
2) The person debating must be able to engage in respectful discussion, as slander or name-calling is immature and detrimental to one's cause.
3) The person debating must be able to write coherently. This means (mostly) proper spelling and grammar. I'm not terribly strict on this basis, but I can't speak with someone if I can't understand what they're saying.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from anyone willing to participate.


I appreciate Con's creating of this debate, based from quite a controversial topic.

For your first point I have a less than overwhelming argument.
"In the six hundredth year of Noah"s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:11"12).
The Bible tells us that water came from two sources: below the earth and above the earth. Evidently, the source for water below the ground was in great subterranean pools, or "fountains" of fresh water, which were broken open by volcanic and seismic (earthquake) activity.10." Some things in God's word must be taken by faith. This is partly true with the water issue. However there is another possibility... " What IS the Vapor Canopy? Recall the first chapter of Genesis.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. 9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry [land] appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry [land] Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that [it was] good. (KJV)

Consider the implications of what you just read! Waters above the heavens! This is the vapor canopy! "Could this be?" Yes, it could. "Well", you might say, "don't we have waters above the heavens today?" Yes we do .... but .... but ..... There's more. Here's Psalm 104. (Hey! That rhymes.)

5 [Who] laid the foundations of the earth, [that] it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as [with] a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. 9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.

Notice verse 7, "At thy rebuke they fled" and verse 9, "that they turn not again to cover the earth" . These waters are not there any more or at least not like they once used to be! These waters are known as the "Vapor Canopy" which encircled the Earth during the time of Noah. We do have a vapor canopy above us today. But based upon Biblical description, it is not like it once was.

If all the water vapor in the air at a particular time were to condense and fall as rain, it would amount to a depth of only about 2.5 cm. This is called precipitable water. Because water vapor is not evenly distributed globally, there would be about 5 cm near the equator and less than one tenth as much at the poles. The average recipitation over the globe is about 1m annually, so there must be a rapid turnover of water in the air; the average water molecule spends about 9 days in the air before precipitating back to the surface....

Despite the small amount of water vapor in the upper troposphere (above about 5 km) and stratosphere, recent research has shown that upper tropospheric water vapor is very important to the climate.
So what was it like before? The answer is near your fingertips and closer than you might have ever imagined.
God has left us a spectacular witness to this antediluvian world. It is something that both you and I know and can see in the morning and evening sky frequently throughout the year. It is a planet who's size and shape are much like that of our own; and who's atmosphere is possibly an example of that of the antediluvian Earth. Give up?
Okay, okay, the planet is ...... Venus. Its atmosphere is very thick and contains a large concentration of carbon dioxide (which is not like ours), but it does give us the frame work with which to imagine and ponder what it would have been like in the time of Noah.
The Venusian Atmosphere (Check it out!) has incredible similarities to the antediluvian world. See for youself by studying how the Earth may have looked or been during the pre-flood times of Noah.

Maybe all the animals didn't survive, it is quite possible that there were other species that were not mentioned in the Scriptures, that did indeed die out. Maybe the ones that roam the earth today are the survivors.

Do we know that all the plants died, or were swept away? Sure I am willing to agree that plant availability did drop noticeably after the phenomenon; but it is easy to imagine millions of felled trees, and masses of freshly mauled vegetation littering the earth. Providing easy food for the few herbivores that were on the ark. There also would be plenty of dead meat covering the ground after the flood. At least for the animals which resided on the Ark. Additionally, even the most meat loving carnivores have been known to eat plants when the need is dire.

The ante-flood society was terrible, sinfulness and immorality enveloped the earth like a body bag does a corpse.
God gave the people time to repent, Noah and his sons spent years trying to convince the people that they needed to repent. They professed the vision Noah experienced, they warned the people of the coming doom. But no one listened.
The corrupt actions continued so God purged the earth of the evil. I don't think God is being unfair here.
I am a strong Christian, I do not believe in overruling religion, only in following the Gospel which is the way of Life.
I believe the Bible is completely true, I can maintain this belief with faith.

Some more thoughts on the issue...

Thank you,

Debate Round No. 1


I thank you for referring back to me. I was concerned this issue would go unanswered.

I have heard arguments relating to water from a canopy above the Earth, and water from a canopy below the Earth, but even if both cases are presented, one still has a weak case for such an origin.
As I may have said before, the waters from the flood would have to cover the tops of the highest mountains (as you've illustrated in your quotations), and to do so would require three times the amount of water currently present on the surface and above the surface of the earth. For the sake of the argument, let us assume that half of the water for the flood came from a water canopy above the surface of the Earth and half of it came from within the Earth. Faith isn't proof of anything, but I'd be willing to acknowledge the validity of the Flood, if the overall mechanics of it could be justified.

The issue with the water coming from within the Earth's surface would be a testament to how hot the water would be. Within the Earth's lithosphere, the first layer below the Earth's solid crust, there is nothing but boiling hot magma. There are volcanic vents in the deepest parts of the Earth's oceans where tiny portions of magma flow upwards from the lithosphere, and these vents are often the only the source of nourishment that plants at these levels can thrive upon. If we're going to suggest that the Earth's water would double-up with the amount of water flowing forth from the lithosphere, we have to ask ourselves how such a great flow of hot water could allow life to survive at such levels.

The issue with water coming from a great canopy once again relates to the volume of water introduced to the planet afterwards. If we double up the amount of water coming from such a canopy, we have two issues to contest:
1) Such a great amount of water would cut out all light from the sun coming down upon the earth. Somewhere between half to two-thirds into the Earth's oceans, all light from the sun is cut off, making conventional animal life impossible. At this level, only bottom feeders, previously mentioned plant life and the predators who stalk them can survive. If this canopy were above the Earth, we're talking about the Earth being completely deprived of light of any kind (sun, stars, or moon), which would inevitably mean the death of all things upon it, given enough time.
2) The existence of the canopy above the atmosphere (above it, not within it or within the lower levels of it) means that the water within this canopy would not be shielded within the sun's rays. Our atmosphere is that which allows us to breathe, serves as our shield from the sun's UV radiation, and it also regulates the Earth's global temperatures. Direct sunlight upon things not shielded by our atmosphere or similar rise to temperatures far too great for life to sustain itself, and a lack of direct sunlight upon such things freeze beyond life's capacity to handle. If such a canopy were to exist, it would freeze and/or vaporize to the point that it would die upon reaching the Earth's surface. Noah's very Ark would be pelted from above and below with boiling water, all while being at an elevation immediately fatal to the majority of life on Earth.

If we're going to address animal diets, then we have to acknowledge the following facts:
1) Not all carnivores can eat plant life. Carnivores have digestive tracts much too short to fully digest plant life, meaning that animals like the lion could not have survived after this time. The only creatures that could possibly survive this are a group of animals known as omnivores.
2) Specific measurements for the Ark are given, and there's not enough space on the Ark to accommodate one of every "kind" of animal and eight people, much less feed them for a year and get them enough exercise to ensure they don't suffer permanent disability, MUCH less feed them long enough for the plant life on Earth to re establish itself. All this, and seeds would have to be redistributed across the globe to ensure that plants that would have inevitably died in the flood could survive again.
3) Not all carnivores can eat rotten carrion. Just as we would suffer if we ate rotten meat, so would the animals suffer and die if they tried to eat similar meats.

If we're going to address the issue of morality, we have to acknowledge three things:
1) Not all people killed in the flood were evil and worthy of death. By default, the earth had to have been populated (alongside sinners) with babies, virgins, and the deaf/sick/blind. An option that doesn't involve the death of these people (drowning is a particularly horrible way to die) should have been taken.
2) Not all creatures living on the earth were sinful human beings. The deaths of countless animals and plants offered no easier step to man's salvation. It only serves to raise the question of how life on Earth could re establish itself, with the means of sustaining life now entirely gone.
3) The act of using a great flood seems a bit excessive, considering there are easier ways for an omniscient god to end human life on Earth without unnecessary death or suffering. Perhaps a great plague or a massive, instant death across the Earth (akin to the first-born slaughtering in Egypt) would have sufficiently carried out the required deaths without the moral dilemmas that a massive global drowning would have.

Thanks once again for your response. I look forward to hearing back from you.


difintur79 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do from here. Is there anything more my opposition can say?


difintur79 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


PrinceOfPlease forfeited this round.


difintur79 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by difintur79 5 years ago
I apologize for missing the round. I was out of town this week working and wasn't able to post.
Posted by jauggernaut 5 years ago
Do you want to argue the ability for science to back up the story of Noah's Ark? Is that your focus?
Posted by 2-D 5 years ago
With an omniscient, omnipotent, can only do only what is rationally possible type God this debate is not that difficult for pro. Key word is possible, I agree that the position is not likely true or logically consistent.
Posted by PrinceOfPlease 5 years ago
@Mrparkers: Get back to me in about 24 hours. No offense to you, but if I could get a person who truly believes in Noah's Flood to take part in this, I'd prefer that. But if that can't happen, I wouldn't mind accepting, if only for the purpose of engaging in mental exercises.
Posted by Mrparkers 5 years ago
Can I accept even though I don't believe in the literal interpretation? I'm actually an atheist, but I want to go devil's advocate.
Posted by Ragnar 5 years ago
Ok... BTW, very well constructed first argument. Hopefully you'll get a decent Christian (True Scotsman), instead of some ranting nutjob.
Posted by PrinceOfPlease 5 years ago
@Ragnar There are those who take the Bible as a literal interpretation or reality. This is directed towards them, and I myself don't believe in The Bible. I'd just like to have a nice back-and-forth with someone who does.
Posted by Ragnar 5 years ago
You do get that to the writers of the bible, the world was a much smaller area right?
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