Friday, May 7, 2010

Flood Stories

Recently a creationist used the presence of many flood accounts in various cultures around the world as evidence for the flood story in the Bible.

As was pointed out to him, if the accounts are different then we would expect them to refer to different floods. They can only be used as evidence for the same flood if they are identical or at least very similar.

Most creationists don't pay any attention to that obvious requirement.

But at least one does. The Northwest Creation Network (NCN) analyzes 35 flood accounts at

First it should be noted that 35 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 . Some cultures have more than one story. So the NCN is analyzing some 10% 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.

Moreover they select the "Babylon - Gilgamesh epic" as one to compare to. Most historians believe that account forms the basis for the Biblical account. Surely any objective analysis should not include an alternative that skeptics say was the original source for the Biblical story. Regardless of whether or not the skeptics are right, surely creationists should be able to provide support for their claims without including necessarily controversial examples.

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 really 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, the Western Australian Aborigines have a tale that specifically mentions a man named "Noah" as well as an "Ark". Aren't those similarities unlikely to be merely coincidence?

Indeed it is not a coincidence!

What we find is that this tale became a part of Aboriginal culture only after Christian missionaries started to educate the native Australians. So the story is obviously nothing but a modification of the tale they learned 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. That's especially true since a GLOBAL flood would be remembered by EVERY culture on Earth! ANY culture that lacked such a matching story would be difficult for creationists to explain. Since effectively NO cultures have such a story the Biblical flood account can't be true. It's as simple as that.

The bottom line - flood stories tend to refute rather than support the Biblical flood account.

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