Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Rocks Don't Lie - Noah and other floods

This week's episode of the popular and increasingly informative podcast Skepticality featured an interesting interview with a geomorphologist, David Montgomery, (Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington), about how his work led him to write his latest book The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood.

You can listen to Episode #203 at read the show notes here. Montgomery talked about flood myths worldwide, and how Christians use the existence of these myths in so many cultures as evidence that a global flood really happened.  However, he notes that some of them pre-date the time of the Old Testament significantly (as I have mentioned before in my series of blog posts about the flood, starting here.

He added some facts that I hadn't come across before.  Apparently flood myths tend to be tailored to the environment of the cultures which propagate them.  It is not too surprising to find that those who live on the Pacific coast of the Americas describe floods that sound very much like tsunamis, whereas others sound more like overflowing rivers.

I was also interested to hear that the resurgence of biblical creationism that we witness today is a comparatively modern phenomenon.  Even in the early 1800s geologists had completely established that a global flood has never happened and by a century ago, very few people were concerned about the apparent contradictions between science and the bible.  The story of a regional flood that just seemed to the local people to have destroyed the whole world was mainstream Christian teaching.  It is only in the last 50 or 60 years that this topic has become so hotly debated, particularly (but not exclusively) in North America.  The resurgence of Young Earth Creationism can be traced back to a 1961 book by a theologian and an hydraulic engineer, called The Genesis Flood. I might come back to that topic another day soon.

One thing that I did find surprising was that Montgomery described two well-established flood events that could have been the factual origin of the Noah myth.  One was the breach of an ice barrier leading to a devastating flood in the Mesopotamia region, and the other was the filling of the Black Sea through the Bosphorus.  The former seems quite plausible, but the latter less so for one simple reason.  Noah's flood receded after a hundred days or so.  As far as I'm aware, the Black Sea is still there.  However, that is my only criticism of an otherwise excellent interview.

Have a listen to it.  While you are there, listen to the rest of the podcast.  It has a number of regular features contributed by fascinating people and I never miss an episode.  Also check out David's research group online.  Now I'll add another book to my wish list.  I just need to make time to read some of them!

Related posts:
Was the flood the only way?
2 by 2 - but not only 2 of each
Where is all Noah's water now?
Was the Ark big enough?Evidence in the geology - cliffs and varves
Noah's aquaria?
Noah in Islam
Rafts of Baramins
Before Noah came Gilgamesh
Kangaroos - the final evidence against Noah?

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