Is the biblical flood a natural catastrophe?

From a book review of Cataclysm! by D. S. Allan & J. B. Delair (1997):

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Is the Ice Age scientific?

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Anyone with the slightest comprehension of physics should be able to spot several obvious necessities in the Ice Age hypothesis. And one of this is that in order for glaciers to form and move, you need elevation and precipitation, in addition to lowering of temperatures. There is not even a land mass in the North Pole, but just an ocean; and is there any evidence that there was increased precipitation or snow fall over the North Pole/Northern hemisphere then? And why is there no glaciation in the South Pole and we have huge land mass there in the form of Antartica?

A lowering of global temperature may lead to the seas freezing over, but that does not explain glaciation. Today there are huge frozen ice in the N and S Poles but they dont glaciate, ie move, they only break up to become ice bergs. And this is just the beginning of the problem of the Ice Age hypothesis. There are other inconsistencies too.

Since the topics of the last ice age and Noah’s flood have got intertwinned, a proposition that may or may not be correct but does not seem unreasonable to look into, I will here, firstly, put a copy of my topic ‘The End of the Last Ice Age’.

((("Around 12,000 years ago the ice started retreating very rapidly from northern Europe and North America. At about the same time, one spring, what was probably the last mammoths were almost suddenly deep frozen in northern Siberia.

The end of the Ice Age is ‘accepted’ fact. The evidence for the mammoths consists, among other things, of a mammoth recently (30 years ago?) found coming out of the base of a glacier, it’s meat being fresh enough to be eaten by wolves, with buttercups in it’s mouth.

The only ways I can conceive of these two events occurring is that either the poles of the planet shifted or part of the crust of the earth moved 1,000 miles or so overnight. It occurs to me that if either have happened once they may happen again. This could quite upset my day. Any other ideas?")))

There is no doubt that the ice sheets were well to the south of their present position around the North Atlantic, and that is where all the scientific research has been done. Whether or not the total area of ice around the globe was bigger, or just in a different position, I would suggest, is still open to debate.

I will put more replies to this subject, and get back to your original topic, over the next few days, as and when I have time. It’s a subject I enjoy.

No one was around to observe the “ice” in the “Ice Age”. How do we know it is “fact”?

What we have as fact are the evidences of the scattering of huge rocks and boulders (called ‘erratics’) and the smoothing and striatiation of rock surfaces. Also the jumbled mass of fossilised bone, mud and trees found in caves and rock crevices. Now there may be more relevant evidences but we do not see for we are not looking for them.

Our experience with glacier fields have led to the speculation that the same thing happened but this time on a hemispheric scale, despite the obvious inapplicablity, eg elevation and precipitation. But as it has been the prevailing hypothesis to explain all these strange evidences, it has become fact. And this is but a reflection of the flaw that is us humans: a tentative idea repeated oft enough becomes “fact”.

Glaciation is not the only possible hypothesis, and there are better hypotheses too.

(The frozen giant mammoth only proved that it was frozen suddenly and very rapidly; and I dont think buttercups grow on ice, do you? The Ice Age envisaged a gradual freezing over and a glacial movement of the ice southwards over long periods of time. Any creature not adapted to the cold will probably migrate away, moving faster than any glacial ice field.)

A giant tsunami is another possibility, especially since we can now see, from the recent Asian tsunami, the kind of debris, effects and aftermath on a land that a tsunami can create.

And a tsunami can occur is more ways than one. Earthquakes leading to vertical displacement of tectonic plates and/or massive landslides are conceivable causes. Another could be the passage of a huge cosmic object close to the earth. Now just as the moon’s gravity is the cause of the earth’s tidal system, certainly the near miss passage of a huge object will create extraordinary effects on the earth’s waters. These are physical possible events, and rarity is not impossibility. (If these events are not rare we would not be here to speculate its possibility.)

Another plausible cause is the slowing of the earth’s rotation which again could have its cause in the large near-miss cosmic object. In the latter it is like you run with a basin of water and then suddenly stopped. The water will continue to move and spill over the basin. On earth such spilling will be perceived as a giant global tsunami.

And again as recently occurred in Sri Lanka the catastrophic effects of a tsunami can be compounded if there is also rain and flooding at the same time.

The mammoth and it’s buttercup suggests that it was killed suddenly, frozen fairly rapidly and that it was spring or summer at the time. There is, of course, no proof that the end of an ice age in one place and the sudden freezing in another were at the same time; but it would seem highly suggestive.

Living in the Northwestern U.S., I’m quite familiar with the glacial ‘after effects’ that cover much of the land mass I call home. A catastrophic deluge or flood occurred not once, but several times in what is now Washington-Oregon-Idaho. As the ice sheet melted, vast inland lakes built up behind ice dams. Periodically, a dam would break and the water would rush to the sea. The columbia river gorge, as well as its’ tributaries were formed in the Bonneville and Missoula floods. The amount of scientific data generated by the study of these periodic ‘deluges’ is just too overwhelming to be ignored. They might not have all the details just right, but large walls of water moving across the landscape are a flat fact. This would have been a likely scenario any place below a retreating ice sheet - including the lower Urals in the Caspian Sea area. Early groups of indo-europeans would undoubtably have had tales describing these events. Not all tsunamis have to come from the sea.

As for the events in the sky, early groups would attribute all sorts of stories to that which they could not understand. That they saw strange sights in the sky isn’t particularly surprising, but their accounts being attached to wandering planets seems a bit fanciful, since the preponderance of earthly evidence doesn’t support such claims.

JT

But being told as ‘fanciful stories’ does not mean these events could not or did not happen. Also evidence of local glacial after effects does not mean global glaciation. If history on earth is so hard to unearth how much more difficult will it be to discern cosmic history? And it starts with knowing where to look for the evidence: we need to know to see.

I think that Pittman And Ryan’s Noah’s Flood hypothesis is a touch more elegant and parsimonious than this quite silly attempt at radicalism that Velikovsky put forth.

Also, beware your enlightenment nature that wants to unify all the cultures in the world with one nice little story. I truly doubt that all these civilizations are describing the same things in their Myths. Secondly, this idea that the Myths are describing something else continues a line of thinking about mythology that is mistaken. Myths are not proto-science, they are not descriptions simply of natural phenomena. Myths are not stupid and describing “something else” than what they should be describing, ie the natural world as understood by Western Science

Is geology a bit more cataclysmic than previous dictated? Yes, but to postulate that rocks from the sky cause everything to happen is a little bit too much

Yes. I’m completely with you on the advance of the ice sheets across N. America and Europe to give a series of ice ages in those areas, and possibly others. The erratic is still those mammoths chewing buttercups in the spring in northern Siberia and the islands to the north thereof. This is inside the Arctic Circle.

I think it remains an open question whether all the myths of the world are describing the same thing or not, or at least parts of the same thing, amongst other things. I think it is silliness itself to dismiss a thing just because it is rare or strange or radical or “too much”.

I think any hypothesis that explains known evidences well, points to new evidences, is physically possible, falsifiable, and is not logically impossible, should not be dismissed, no matter how much we may dislike their implications and consequences. But of course no one can compel you to be rational.

As for rocks from the sky, humankind have witnessed just a few years ago the crashing of the comet Shoemaker-Levy into Jupiter. The comet broke up into pieces just before it smashed into the planet. So how can it be “too much” to say that rocks fell from the sky?

I think a lot of us, like yourself, have a feeling that there was something a little dramatic occurred at some time in the past that was rather out of the ordinary.
Unfortunately whenever these thoughts are put into print there are, almost invariably, certain claims that can be ‘shot out of the sky’, included in them. This gives those who wish us to think the whole thing is nonsense a target to have a go at and thereby dismiss the whole subject.
There are, however, certain things that could be looked at scientifically and do pertain, possibly, to your subject. I will mention just one; Mars. You will know from the various items on the news, about meteorites ( or is it meteors, the former I think ), that there appear to be an unusually large number of bits of that planet lying around on Earth. A large percentage of the crust of that planet is missing from it’s surface. This is normally assumed to have been displaced by a cometry impact, or possibly an asteroid. Whilst certain assumptions would have to be made I am sure that by taking the amount missing and the rate that the Earth is ‘vacuuming’ it up that a range of dates could be arrived at to determine when that event may have occurred.
At the same time the period at which Mars could have had surface water has dropped from 4 billion to 100 million to 100,000, or whatever, years ago. It would seem possible that the disappearance of the crust, and of the water may have coincided. Somebody is, undoubtedly working on the water problem, and, maybe, someone else is working on the crust.
Lets hope this is all being done and the results get published. Wouldn’t it be nice if maybe, just maybe, there was a possibility that there was something in Greek mythology beyond a fairy tale.
Incidentally, if you wish to read ‘this does not fit accepted theory’ books you could do far worse than read those of R. G. K. Temple who appears to think very clearly and has avoided the trap of shooting himself in the foot.

There are some general philosophical issues that you have alluded here.

One is that there are somethings that will be forever unknowable, one example could be the formation of the solar system or even a part of its history.

Secondly there are certain things we can never know for certain, eg why do myth writers write myths they way they do in such, in our modern persepctive, fantastic languages and images. Maybe it is not fantastic, in the sense that it is unreal, maybe indeed it is fantastic and uimaginable and so shocking or magical or terrifying was the sight and sound then, which is of course inaccessible to us. (I have written somewhere that it is mighty and huge endeavour to get thing written down in ancient times, and not like this modern age, where anyone can type any gibberish and have it read around the world in the next instance. And so myth writers and compilers have some good and real reasons for writing what they wrote. Specifically would they do all these for a lie?)

Thirdly which is more trustworthy as a witness: a silent rock or mark on the ground, or human testimony, albeit in fantastic symbologies and languages, or a living person’s testimony? I will rank in increasing reliability in the order I have written. But of course this is not sufficient. We need to cooroborate these witnesses first.

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It is acceptable that there have been cold periods on the earth, but that alone is not sufficient evidence to conclude the Ice Age as fact. Lowering of global temperature also occurs as a result of big earthquakes where suphur based particles are ejected into the high atmosphere and remains as aerosol for long periods of time. The eruption and explosion of Karakatau in the Sunda Straits in Indonesia in 1883 is an example of this.

So how do the glaciers reach Britian from Norway? It has to cross the North Sea. Now even if you do not subscribed to a single central origin of the Ice Age glaciers and adopt a multi-centric glaciation model, and glaciation do not cross seas or oceans, we still need a whole lot of precipitation to create the massive ice sheets to cover so much ground. (I wonder if anyone have calculated the volume of water needed to create all the ice in the Ice Age.) Well if you say it takes 5,000 years of precipitation for this to happen, then it does not explain some of the claimed evidences, such as the frozen mammoth in Siberia.

Maybe it didnt slow the earth’s rotation, maybe it speeded it up, and so a day today is shorter than what it was then. Do you have evidence to conclude that didnt happen? And yes indeed the earth’s orbit could have shifted too, and its crust cracked, leading to the tectonic plate systems we know today. So I do not see this as any argument against this hypothesis’ implausibility.

Of course I am not saying that what Allan et al wrote is perfect as yet. But we need not throw the baby out with the bath water. I think if we disciplined ourselves to be rational, we cannot accept the Ice Age as fact, and neither can we dismiss the plausible of an extraterrestial encounter in earth’s long history in the solar system. I think the truth is stranger than we can ever imagined it to be; and I do not want to be revealed a fool, when more of the truth is known, one day.

I just want to add here a few speculations of mine which I think may be fruitful to pursue. For one I think the earth’s weather could be globally uniform, rather like the weather in a greenhouse is uniform, ie there are no seasons nor frigid poles or arid deserts, but all temperate - this is to explain mammoth eating buttercups in Siberia. Then somehow this ‘greenhouse mantle’ in the atmosphere surrounding the earth collapsed. And together with the tilting of its rotational axis, and perhaps a speeding up of its rotation, catastrophic and sudden global changes happened on earth including a sudden deluge and freezing in what are now the polar regions.

Further I think maybe the earth’s gravity could probably be different than what it is now, ie the mass of earth is lighter than what it is today, and thus we can have giant creatures like the dinosaurs (and even giant people, for they do exist in myths and legends), whose structures may not support their weight in today’s gravity. I may be proven wrong but it will be sure fun to investigate or even think about them.

you’re using the “absence of evidence does not = evidence of absence” arguement, which is bullshit. you can speculate all you want, but your ideas are no more than that unless you have evidence supporting your claim. While it’s true we may not have the complete picture, it most certainly doesn’t make sense to believe a crackheaded idea with less or no evidence just because it’s not theoretically impossible. There are a millio such “theories” we can choose from, if the requirment to have evidence is removed. So how do we decide which one is most likely?

btw, some fresh water lakes that formed around that time (as mentioned above) are a good arguement for glaciers vs. giant tsunamis. After all, the ocean is saltwater…and land filled in during a tsunami would have saltwater lakes.

The sun’s rays hit the surface of the planet with an intensity that varies according to your lattitude. Short of a total cloud cover like venus, there is no way to simply distribute this heat without weather patterns, air and watter currents, and varying climates we have.

Again, planetary rotations don’t just speed up. if you ahve a rotating body with a certainb angular momentum, the only way for it to increase its angular velocity is to decrease its moment of inertia (in other words, reduce the equatorial radius significantly). the planet would have to be shaped like a grape. Gravityationally, the shape of lowest energy is a sphere…and any distortion of a sphere into something else takes a massive input of energy. A sizeable meteor striking at an angle might do such a thing. It would also cause mass extinctions not shown in the fossil record.

Do you have any idea how much mass the earth would have to gain to make a sizeable difference in the gravitational pull? to change the gravitational accelleration by 1m/s^2, about 11%, you’d have to add about 6.09 x10^23 kg, about 1/9th the mass of the earth. the moon’s mass, by comparison, is about 7 x10^22 kg. This mass would have a volume (assuming it is silicate rock) of about 3.9 x10^20 m^3. assuming this mass filtered in slowly, perhaps as space dust or meteoroids over 5000 years, and the earth’s radius was magically the same 6378 km it is now, we would have a dust precipitation of about .41 m per day. This would be the equivalent of a decent sized volcanic eruption happening all over the globe for 5000 years, all day long.

if you lengthen the timespan, it becomes less drastic, but the magnitude of this phenomenon, if it had happenend vitually gaurantees we’d find evidence. Since we haven’t…

as for the axis tilting, that is more possible, but still needs evidence to support. such a change would drastically shift climates, possibly causing some of the major changes we seek explanations for.

for everyones information, the scientific evidence supporting a particular noah food theory was sufficient enough to warrant a discovery channel hour.

apparently when the ice melted, that little straight around constantinople that leads into the black sea was a lot more narrow and the black sea was a lot smaller. there was a lot of force pushing up against the mediterreanean, holding back water that could have filled up a lot of land space in the small version of the black sea. and then one day, once the oceans traded enough of their ice for water, or when there was some huge rainfall, the meditereanean overflowed and made the black sea like twice as big.

The dicovery channel also has time for:

American chopper - a boorish family and their employees build engineering-free mockeries of real motorcycles

American Hot rod - more 1930’s technology…but with modern paint

Monster garage - freakin cool show about making monstrous creations out of junk.

Monster house - Gay ripoff of monster garage

Another episode of american chopper

let’s just say the quality control department isn’t what it used to be.