Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Evidence Noah's Flood Happened"... not so much

ABC (which is, not coincidentally, promoting a show called "Back to the Beginning," about the so-called history of the Bible) starts off an article entitled "Evidence Noah's Flood Happened" thusly: "The story of Noah's Ark and the Great Flood is one of the most famous from the Bible, and now an acclaimed underwater archaeologist thinks he has found proof that the biblical flood was actually based on real events." The article is accompanied by a photo that's a "replica of Noah's biblical boat."

Thousands of fundamentalists probably read exactly that far, and no further. But of course if you read further, you discover that the archaeologist in question is talking about floods not caused by the wrath of God, but by the melting of the ice caps. He has found a submerged city in the Black Sea, and says there may have been an abrupt flood in that region, and "the land that went under stayed under."

According to the article, "The theory goes on to suggest that the story of this traumatic event, seared into the collective memory of the survivors, was passed down from generation to generation and eventually inspired the biblical account of Noah."

All very fascinating, but of course it's not "proof" of anything. One could just as easily claim it's "proof" of the story of Utnapishtim in Gilgamesh, except that if you wrote that, most people wouldn't know what you were talking about (and it also wouldn't help ABC promote its special). It's not a new idea, anyway. Most scholars believe that the Noah story, as well as other flood stories, are derived from some historical flood or floods. The only thing new about this idea is that this was supposedly a quick rush of water around the "right" time (5000 BC or thereabouts), and that there is actually a shoreline to excavate down there.

Down near the bottom, the author of the article admits, "Ballard does not think he will ever find Noah's Ark, but he does think he may find evidence of a people whose entire world was washed away about 7,000 years ago." Fascinating, but hardly "proof" of the biblical flood story. But how many fundamentalists will hold this up as an example of science "proving" the Bible? Probably quite a few.

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