Physics 3333 / CFB 3333 Noah's Flood

Noah and the Flood (Genesis:6-9)

The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark

Hoaxing the Hoaxers: Or The Incredible (Phony) Discovery of Noah's Ark -- by George Jammal

Sun Goes Down in Flames - The Jammal Ark Hoax from the Talk.Origins Archive


Prof. Scalise has said clearly that religion and science are separate authorities and should always be kept that way. Science has nothing to say about religious beliefs and religion doesn't contribute to science. That said, there are a few religious claims that ARE subject to scientific analysis. Today we focus on the Flood and the story of Noah from Genesis.

We are NOT debunking the Torah, Bible, or Quran. We are NOT debunking the story of Noah. We are debunking the claims of a small group of people who claim that every word in the holy books is literally true.

First of all, we note that the Genesis story is not original; there are three VERY similar flood stories that are 1000 years older. The similarities to the Noah story are quite striking. The first is the Atrahasis Epic. The second is a Sumerian creation story called The Eridu Genesis which contains a flood story. The next flood story is from the epic of Gilgamesh, which dates to somewhere shortly after 2000 BCE. Gilgamesh was apparently a real king of Uruk around 2600 BCE. This great epic contains the flood story as told to Gilgamesh by Utnapishtim. Here there is even more similarity to the Genesis story. Some references we found suggest that Noah is the same character as Utnapishtim.


In this modern world there are people who insist that the Flood story is litertally true, being a strictly factual account of the Flood. That claim is subject to analysis, as it is a claim of a physical event. We can study that claim.

We can list the claims to study.

  1. Noah was to take samples of "every living of all flesh" on the Ark.
  2. Rain fell for "forty days and forty nights."
  3. Rain fell until "all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered."
  4. The water receded in 150 days.
  5. Noah released all of the creatures he had carried in the ark.
We can take these claims one at a time.

The literalists claim that Noah had several of EVERY species of animal, bird, etc. on the ark. We examined what this really implies, based on current knowledge of life on Earth.

This does not include the rest of the insect world. Now - how many specimens would Noah have? Without the beetles, he would have something like 500,000 (half a million) creatures to feed and care for! How about over 2 million beetles? How did he collect these creatures from all over the planet?

Maybe rain did fall for 40 days and nights, at least where Noah was. How about planetwide? We found some data about the distribution of Earth's water. The values are in cubic kilometers (km3).

We need a few more numbers to work with, namely Earth's dimensions. It is obvious that most of Earth's water is in the oceans, so let's look at rain. Rain is atmospheric water condensing and falling. The atmosphere contains about 13,000 km3 of water. If ALL of this water were to rain out of the atmosphere at the same time, it amount to about 2.5 cm of rain planetwide. That's ONE INCH!

Now the claim is that ALL mountains on Earth were covered. That must include Everest, which is approximately 8.86 km. high. The claim is, therefore, that Earth was covered with water to a depth of 8.86 km. This amounts to a water volume of roughly 4,500,000,000 km3, which is about 3.25 times the total amount of water in the oceans today! And - the atmosphere contains only 13,000 km3. That's tiny compared to the total. Where does all that extra water come from? And where does it go when the flood recedes? If you postulate that is now in the Earth, it would occupy a cube about 1,650 km. on a side. That's just over 1,000 miles per side, or 1/8 of Earth's radius! That would show up FAST in seismic studies, and no such reservoir has been seen.

The story says that the water receded in 150 days. That's approximately 30,000,000 km3 per day! That's a LOT of water to dump. Here we have to work an assumption. Suppose there was a "drain" hole 10 km square (about 6.2 miles on a side). Again, simple calculations work. The product of hole area, water velocity and time will give the volume of water going through the hole. The volume per day we have, the postulated hole area is 100 km2, there are 86,400 seconds in a day. We will solve for the water velocity, which turns out to be about 3.5 km/sec! That's just over 2 miles per second, or 7,200 miles per hour! Not likely.

The last part of the story to analyze is the return of the creatures to Earth. Think about this. What does Noah have to do? He has to return penguins to Antarctica, koalas, platypuses, wallabies and kangaroos to Australia, bison to North America, polar bears to the Arctic, reindeer to Lapland, tigers to India, pandas to China, and so on. And just how does he do this? His large boat is now grounded.

There's one more consideration - rainfall rate. Assuming the impossible - that the atmosphere could actually rain like that - how fast would the rain have to fall to make 8.8 km is 40 days? That's easy. Forty days times 24 hours per day is 960 hours. Divide 8,800 meters (8.8 km) by 960 and you find a rainfall rate of about 9 meters per hour! That's 28.8 feet per hour! We think that 6 INCHES per hour is a really heavy rain. Rain at that rate would sink any boat you could name.

The calculations are easy; you can try them yourself. The point is that these difficulties cannot be overcome in any reasonable way. The only way to deal with it is to claim that "God did it," which is not scientific. The "God did it" claim is a non-hypothetical truth, which cannot be tested. At that point you leave science behind.

So What Happened?

So what did happen? Those ancient stories very likely refer to an actual flood event, but not a planetwide one. Many cultures have flood stories for the simple reason that many early civilizations lived near rivers, and those who live near rivers WILL get flooded. There are two prime suspects for the ancient flood. One is a local river flood in the Mesopotamian Valley about 2,900 BCE and the flooding of the Black Sea about 7,500 years ago. Look at a page from The Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies. For the Black Sea possibility, read In Search of Noah's Flood. This is recent work and is VERY interesting.

Six Flood Arguments Creationists Can't Answer by Robert J. Schadewald


What we are claiming is that the extension of the Flood story to a planetwide inundation is not viable. The story is much more likely to describe some spectacular local flood event long ago.