Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The presence of many Flood Stories in different cultures does not confirm the Biblical Account

Creationists most often cite stories and admitted myths about floods that can be found in every culture on Earth. They ask: Why would there be so many flood stories if there was never a global flood?

The answer to that question is simple and obvious to anyone who watches the world news on television for more than a few days. Floods happen. They happen all of the time. They happen all over the Earth.

Specifically the United Nations has reported that on average there are around 100 floods per year that cause some sort of damage and that 500 million people per year are adversely affected by one flood or another[1]. Note the number of people affected – 500 million. That’s about one out of every 12 people on Earth affected by a flood every year.

That’s also the number of people affected (on average) every year!

It would be a shock if every culture didn’t have stories of floods.

The problem for creationists is that the stories should be very similar if they are based on the same event. If they are different accounts, then they probably relate to different events – different floods.

From culture to culture the accounts really are different even though creationists do their best to make them seem similar.

A creationist group called the Northwest Creation Network (NCN) has put together a table showing a number of myths from around the Earth[2]. They discuss a total of 35 such myths.

First it should be noted that this is a relatively small number of myths to include together. The evolutionary reference support web site talkorigins can find more than 300 different cultures with flood stories[3]. Some cultures have more than one story. So the NCN is analyzing some 10% (or fewer) of the available stories. A cynic might believe that they chose only to hand-select those with the closest similarity to the flood account in the Bible.

In order to systematically compare the stories to the flood account, the NCN lists these six criteria along with the total number of accounts (out of 35) that each story matches the account in the Bible:

Criterion --># of Matching Stories
Destruction by Water --> 35
God (Divine) Cause -->18
Warning Given -->17
Humans Spared -->35
Animals Spared -->24
Preserved in a Vessel -->32

The criterion “Destruction by Water” is sort of a given if you are accumulating flood stories; it could hardly be called a flood if it didn’t destroy something with water.

Similarly having “Humans Spared” is sort of a given. It would be difficult to explain how the story even survived – or how there could be an audience for the story – if all humans were killed in the flood.

It is a bit striking that only 32 out of 35 of the accounts had people preserved by a vessel. If you have a flood – which is a given – and humans survived – another given – there are not very many methods of surviving besides using a vessel of some type. You could run to higher ground, but then that would contradict one of the key points of the Biblical account.

The other criteria (God as the cause, Warning Given and Animals Spared) have, under the circumstances, rather low percentages of similarity with the Bible.

Creationists will point to some stories that seem to have an uncanny similarity to the Biblical account, even in far away places.

For example, from Western Australia, we find this tale[4]:

During the Dreamtime flood, woramba, the Ark Gumana carrying Noah, Aborigines, and animals, drifted south and came to rest in the flood plain of Djilinbadu (about 70 km south of Noonkanbah Station, just south of the Barbwire Range and east of the Worral Range), where it can still be seen today. The white man's claim that it landed in the Middle East was a lie to keep Aborigines in subservience.

That story mentions both the Ark and Noah. Aren’t those similarities unlikely to be merely coincidence?

Indeed it is not a coincidence!

What we find is that this tale only became a part of Aboriginal culture after Christian missionaries started to educate the native Australians[5]. So the story is obviously nothing but a modification of the actual tale as they learned it from the Bible, not the result of an actual observation of past events.

In summary, examining a hand-picked list of creation stories from around the world and eliminating the elements that are necessarily present in any flood story, only a bit more than half of those elements are similar to the Biblical account. If anything, such a poor record of coherence with the Flood Account in the Bible emphasizes the differences rather than the similarities.

[1], referenced on April 22, 2008
[2], referenced on April 22, 2008.
[3], referenced on April 22, 2008
[4] ibid
[5] Kolig, Erich, 1980. "Noah's Ark Revisited: On the Myth-Land Connection in Traditional Australian Aboriginal Thought", pp. 242-245

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