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Problems with a Global Flood?
(a rebuttal of Mark Isaak’s “Problems with a Global Flood” FAQ in the Talk.Origins Archive)
© 1998 J. Sarfati & Creation Ministries International. All Rights Reserved.

M any are familiar with Talk.Origins, counted among the top pro-evolution sites on the Internet. Most of the people running it are ostensibly atheistic.  Many had a Christian upbringing and are using evolution as a pseudo-intellectual justification for their apostasy.  But they realise that rank atheism is repugnant to many, so they publish articles claiming that you can believe in God and evolution.  It’s quite a sight to see people, known personally to us as rabidly hostile to Christianity, yet who are eager to assure inquirers that many Christians accept evolution.  It reminds me of Lenin’s strategy of cultivating useful idiots in the West, who were too gullible to realise that they were undermining their own foundations.  See also The Skeptics and their Churchian Allies

In one sense, it’s good to see articles like that by Mark Isaak, where the author displays his contempt for Scripture [and I don’t simply mean questioning biblical literalism, but direct mocking attacks against the Christian belief that the Bible is the inerrant written Word of God that “cannot be broken” as Christ Himself believed (John 10:35)], yet feigns concern that “a global flood makes the whole Bible less credible.” How do police investigators normally treat statements by witnesses who are blatantly dishonest?

The serious and objective student of this topic would definitely find it worthwhile purchasing John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, which answers most of the other objections.  Isaak has supposedly “updated” his article to give the impression that he has responded to Woodmorappe.  But it’s interesting to compare the two, and see that Isaak has hardly read Woodmorappe, who had more scholarship on each page than Isaak had in his whole article.

In other treatment of the scientific arguments, my article How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark? in Creation 19(2) answers a number of his points, e.g. on the number of animals; definition of a “kind” why “creeping thing” (remes) means reptile, not invertebrate; feeding the animals and disposing of their waste; and disease germs.  The Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal article Diseases on the Ark: Answering the Critics covers the last point in much detail. Many plants, marine creatures and invertebrates could have survived outside the Ark.

Woodmorappe’s book also has detailed chapters discussing such things as survival of seeds, insects, etc.  Ironically, Charles Darwin himself performed experiments floating snails on driftwood, and submerging seeds in salt water, convincing him that they could have survived long sea voyages on driftwood and the like.  Another article, Darwin’s Finches — Evidence for rapid post-Flood adaptation Creation 14(3):22–23, June 1992) answers the objection that there has been insufficient time for all the varieties to arise since the Flood. A more recent article demonstrates that a new mosquito species has arisen in the London Underground stations in less than a century — see Brisk Biters — Fast changes in mosquitoes astonish evolutionists, delight creationists, from Creation 21(2):41, March–May 1999.

Creationists have long pointed out that the biblical “kind” was broader than today’s “species”.  Sorting and loss of the already existing genetic information has resulted in all the “species” we have today (this is not evolution, which requires new genes and new information).  The article Ligers and Wholphins: What Next? (Creation 22(3):28–33, June–August 2000 ) covers the extent of the biblical “kinds” in more detail.  This article shows that many so-called different species and genera can actually interbreed and produce fertile offspring, showing that they are really a single polytypic biological species.  And animals that can hybridise, at least up to fertilisation, are members of the same created kind.  Thus Noah would have needed comparatively few “kinds” of land vertebrate.  Woodmorappe assumes that each “kind”would be the ancestor of all “species” in a modern “genus”, so only about 16,000 animals would have been on board.  And this assumption is generous to the evolutionists — the article Ligers and Wholphins shows that many “kinds” could even each be the ancestors of a whole “family” if so, then only 2000 animals would have been required on board.

Isaak and other biblioskeptics dismiss this idea, claiming that the branching into different species (speciation) could not have happened in the 4500 or so years since the Flood.  But it’s the skeptics’ dismissal that is contrary to observable evidence, as Woodmorappe’s book shows.  Ironically, studies of Darwin’s finches show that it would take far less than 4500 years for new varieties of finches to arise.  In 1996, major conference on speciation inadvertently provided support for the creationist model of rapid, non-evolutionary speciation after the flood.

Finally, the Updated and Expanded Answers Book [reviewed here] has a chapter about how koalas got to Australia, as well as many other “unanswerable” arguments by Isaak.  Migration patterns explain some of them, but another important factor is introduction by humans.  That’s how the rabbit reached Australia, and the Australian marsupials could have arrived with post-Babel humans.  It’s also very important to note that, despite the caricatures by Isaak and other bibliosceptics, Noah did not need to gather the animals from different parts of the world:  Gen. 1:9 indicates that there was one land mass before the Flood, and Gen. 6:20 indicates that God brought the animals to Noah.

As for polar bears, the article Bears across the world … (Creation 20(4):28–3) points out that polar bears are descendants of an original bear kind.  This is not evolution, since polar bears contain no new information—rather, they have lost pigmentation information, resulting in white hair, good for camouflage.  Another mutation prevented the toes from dividing properly during its embryonic development, resulting in webbed feet — one of many examples of a defect that is useful in certain environments.  See also Beetle Bloopers.

The balance of this essay is a response to a number of the “points” made in Isaak’s FAQ.  While not exhaustive, this treatment should show adequately that his objections are completely without merit.  [Some critics have ignored this paragraph and attacked me for not covering this or that argument by Isaak.  But it’s good practice when dealing with anti-creationists stringing out a series of bogus arguments to pin them down on a few, and force them to concede before moving on]

Specialized Diets

Isaak asks:  “Some, like koalas, require a special diet.  How did they bring it along?” Actually, the koala does not require eucalyptus leaves, but can feed on other things as well, including the Monterey pine, not a native of Australia.  Woodmorappe’s book has a whole chapter on this and other specialised diets! For example, the carnivores on the ark could have been fed reconstituted dried meat and fodder tortoises.  Isaak also asks, “How did predators survive [after they left the Ark]?” Woodmorappe wrote a chapter on this as well, but Isaak doesn’t let on, as usual.  Woodmorappe pointed out that they could have survived on fish, carrion and edible fungi.  They can even survive on vegetables if they must.

Clean Animals

Isaak makes a bogus argument on clean animals. Woodmorappe’s book cites Jewish scholars who affirm that only a small circle of large mammals are to be counted as clean, and not just any divided-hoof ruminant. Note further that Woodmorappe does not base this on Jewish tradition, but on the plain statements of Deuteronomy 13, where the large clean animals are explicitly listed. The succeeding verse (the one about the cloven hoofs and ruminants; also in Leviticus 11) is merely an illustration of what the clean animals are like.  An important hermeneutical principle is that a more elaborate verse dictates limits on a more general verse, and not the other way around.

Ark Stability

Isaak: How was the ark made seaworthy?  The longest wooden ships in modern seas are about 300 feet, and these require reinforcing with iron straps and leak so badly they must be constantly pumped. The ark was 450 feet long [Gen. 6:15].

Answer: This argument is often parroted, but is just as bogus as the others.  The Ark was built for stability, not movement.  A flat-bottomed barge like the Ark wouldn’t have problems with sag.  If the lower deck were made of logs, four layers deep, it would have been very sturdy.  If they were teak logs, especially specially treated by being buried for a while, the ark would have been especially seaworthy. Woodmorappe points this out too, and much more, so Isaak is dishonest to ignore that.  Korean naval architects have confirmed that a barge with the Ark’s dimensions would have optimal stability.  They concluded that if the wood were only 30 cm thick, it could have navigated sea conditions with waves higher than 30 m (S.W. Hong et al., “Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a Seaway”, CEN Technical Journal 8(1):26–36, 1994.  All the co-authors are on the staff of the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, Taijon.)

Isaak’s Dishonest Biblical Interpretation

Isaak tries to discredit the Bible as teaching a flat earth, but hopes readers won’t find out that Dan. 4:10–11 is actually the dream of a pagan king, not a teaching endorsed by Scripture.  What next, claiming that the Bible teaches that cows and even ears of wheat are cannibalistic because of Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41?! Unfortunately, many anti-creationists don't even bother to check the Bible itself, and just copy from each other.

And whether the Bible indicates a stationary or moving earth, if Isaak scoffs at the idea of using the earth as a reference frame, then what about speed limit signs?  Are they wrong because they mean, say, 100 km/hr relative to the Earth, not the sun?  So why shouldn’t the Bible also use the Earth as a convenient reference frame?  See Q&A: Countering the Critics [ Answers in Genesis] especially under “Does the Bible really teach a flat earth?”

Isaak doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he suggests that Genesis might be a parable on the grounds that Jesus spoke in parables.  However, parables in Scripture are clearly stated as such, whereas Genesis is plainly treated throughout the Scriptures as historical literature.  And Mt. 13:10 ff., Mark 4:11-12 and Luke 8:10 explain why Jesus spoke in parables — to hide the truth from the unbelieving masses.  Jesus spoke in parables after the religious leaders accused him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Mt. 12, Mark 3).  But these passages also explain that Jesus spoke plainly to His disciples.  The Scripture is God’s Word to man, so He wants us to understand Him.

Isaak dismisses the idea of Noah’s taking along young dinosaurs by claiming that Gen. 7:2 speaks of “the male and his mate“.  Perhaps he hopes that no one will actually check for himself.  The King James and New American Standard Bibles correctly translate the Hebrew word ishshah as simply “female”.  It says nothing about sexual maturity.  We should also note that many reptiles keep growing well after sexual maturity, and since dinosaurs were reptiles, very large speciments were the very old ones.  Also, dinosaurs eggs could not have been much larger than a football, otherwise the shell would need to be so thick that oxygen could not penetrate to the embryo.  So even the biggest dinosaurs were once little.  Noah certainly could have had young, small specimens of the large kinds of dinosaurs.

Isaak claims that the Flood account in Genesis is self-contradictory, apparently ignorant of the standard Ancient Near Eastern literary practice of making a general statement, then elaborating on specifics.  The Bible first makes a general statement that a male and female of each kind of land vertebrate was to be loaded on board the Ark.  Then it elaborates on this general rule by requiring seven of the very few clean animals.  Gen. 7:9 says the animals went on to the Ark “by twos” (NASB), referring to the mode of entry, not the numbers.

Isaak: “How was the Ark loaded?  Getting all the animals aboard the Ark presents logistical problems which, while not impossible, are highly impractical. Noah had only seven days to load the Ark (Gen. 7:4–10). If only 15764 animals were aboard the Ark (see section 3), one animal must have been loaded every 38 seconds, without letup. Since there were likely more animals to load, the time pressures would have been even worse.”

This might sound impractical on a superficial level, but Woodmorappe (remember, Isaak feigned familiarity with his book) had already answered that on p. 63:

Let us assume that the larger animals (i.e. those 100 kg when adults) entered the Ark no faster than do animals of similar size when killed and processed in slaughterhouses (i.e. 1000 hogs per hour [ref]).  Smaller animals, of course, must have boarded the Ark of a rate of several times that of the larger ones.  It is easy to see that the 16,000 animals could have boarded the Ark in, at most, five hours.  Of course, this assumes single file entry, but there is no reason why several lines of animals could not have entered the Ark simultaneously, especially the many small to medium animals.  Scripture, of course, does not inform us about the width of the Ark door.

Flood Myths

Here, again, Isaak is not to be trusted:  There are flood, ark and Babel stories in Chinese legends, and even Chinese characters can be traced back to events in Genesis.  In fact, there are thousands of global flood legends around the world, even with the Native Americans, New Zealand Maoris and Australian Aborigines.  They have many striking similarities, despite what Isaak claims.  This makes perfect sense, because all people are descended from eight people who did survive a global Flood.  Naturally there are distortions in all the stories apart from the true account preserved in the Genesis record, which is to be expected from a mankind in rebellion against God.

I don’t know much about Egyptian legends, but I see no reason to trust Isaak when he says that they have no flood records.  And Isaak relies too much on traditional chronology.  Even some secular archaeologists like Peter James (Centuries of Darkness) and David Rohl (A Test of Time, Random House, London, 1995) have proposed shaving centuries off traditional dates.  The traditional dates rely on second-hand accounts of the claims of an Egyptian priest called Manetho.  But it’s likely that many of the dynasties that Manetho claimed were sequential were really concurrent, ruling in different parts of Egypt.

Isaak’s Theology and Logic

It’s amazing that, according to his FAQ, Isaak thinks he knows what an omnipotent being should do.  But surely to have such knowledge would require omniscience on Isaak’s part.  So is Isaak claiming omniscience for himself?  But only God is omniscient.  So is Isaak claiming to be God?  But Isaak is an atheist.  Ergo, God is an atheist …??!!

Isaak’s Chemical Incompetence

Isaak asked: “How were hematite layers laid down?  Standard theory is that they were laid down before Earth’s atmosphere contained much oxygen. In an oxygen-rich regime, they would almost certainly be impossible.”

Answer: Isaak doesn’t understand basic chemistry! Evidently the quality control on the Talk.Origins site leaves a lot to be desired.  They obviously care more about bashing the creationary perspective than scientific accuracy.  Hematite is a highly oxidised mineral (Fe2O3)! So its formation is strong indication that there was lots of oxygen around, even in rocks dated by evolutionists at over 3 billion years old.  When someone makes such crass blunders in areas that I can check (having a Ph.D. in chemistry), he has scarcely earned trust for himself in any other area.  [Note:  certain anti-creationists still refuse to admit the error, and instead change the subject to banded iron formations.  But there’s no point debating people who refuse to concede defeat even on something as obvious as this]

Isaak’s Ignorance of Geology

Isaak: “How can a single flood be responsible for such extensively detailed layering?”

Answer: Isaak is evidently ignorant of the Mt. St. Helens volcano and sedimentation evidence of Berthault, et al., published in the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal. These show that the layers do not need to form slowly, one at a time, but can form simultaneously by a self-sorting mechanism as the differently-sized particles roll over each other.  A recent Nature article on spontaneous multi-layer formation shows that the secular journals have finally caught up with the creationary scientists, who published evidence like this 10 years ago — so much for the bigoted evolutionists’ claim that “creationists do no scientific research.” See the CENTJ article, “Sedimentation experiments:  Nature finally catches up”.  Isaak also seems unaware that Mt. St. Helens laid down 7.6 metres (25 feet) of finely laminated sediments in a few hours.  More recently, Iceland’s recent “mega-flood” (jökulhlaup) also laid down many finely laminated rhythmites.

Isaak: “How do you explain the formation of varves?  The Green River formation in Wyoming contains 20,000,000 annual layers, or varves, identical to those being laid down today in certain lakes. The sediments are so fine that each layer would have required over a month to settle.”

Answer: The self-sorting mechanism described above explains that.  It’s simply nonsense that the layers would have to form slowly, and/or one at a time.  The evaporite mechanism fails to explain the variation in the number of layers between the same pair of volcanic ash layers.  More importantly, it fails to explain why there are fish and other fossils many different layers.  They would have decayed if they were on the bottom for thousands of years being slowly buried layer by layer (the varves are 0.1 mm thick in one of the fossil-bearing sections).  This applies even if the water was low in oxygen.  (The excuse that alkaline conditions might have preserved them from decay is preposterous — we use alkali in our dishwashers because it breaks down organic matter! [On the “No Answers in Genesis” website (see critique), one of the thralls (lacking advanced science qualifications, as usual with that site) attempted a rebuttal to this:  “We use alkali to clean dishes because it cuts grease.  Organic matter is then removed by physical forces — a dishcloth in case of hand washing, a spray of water in an automatic washer.  Mildly alkaline conditions might in fact protect the skeleton of a fish from both bacterial attack and softening from long-term immersion in water.”  This person doesn’t even know why alkali “cuts grease”—it is by catalyzing the hydrolysis (breaking up) the ester linkages in the fat molecules (incidentally soap is produced this way), and alkali also catalyzes the hydrolysis of the amide bonds in proteins.  In fact, alkali is more dangerous than acid in the eye, for example.  So the idea of tissues being preserved by alkali is indeed preposterous])  See Green River Blues, Creation 19(3):18–19, June–August 1997.

Isaak: “How were mountains formed?  Many very tall mountains are composed of sedimentary rocks. (The summit of Everest is composed of deep-marine limestone, with fossils of ocean-bottom dwelling crinoids).”

Answer: … Showing they had once been under water, as Genesis says(!).  Note also, creationists do not believe that the Flood had to cover the mountaints at their present height; rather, much uplift happened after the flood.  Psalm 104:6–9 (NASB-95) says:

“6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains.
7 At Your rebuke they fled, At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.
8 The mountains rose; the valleys sank down To the place which You established for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass over, So that they will not return to cover the earth.”

Isaak: “If these were laid down during the flood, how did they reach their present height, and when were the valleys between them eroded away?”

Answer: By rapid uplift, because of catastrophic plate tectonic movement and because the sediments were not yet consolidated.

Isaak: “Keep in mind that many valleys were clearly carved by glacial erosion, which is a slow process.”

Answer: …Which took place during the Ice Age, an aftermath of the Flood — see Mammoth: Riddle of the Ice Age, Creation 22(2):10–15 March–May 2000 .  However, many creationists believe the evidence shows there were advancing and retreating stages of a single Ice Age, not many ice ages as evolutionists believe.  Also, the polar ice caps most probably formed during this ice age, after the Flood, answering another of Isaak’s questions.

Isaak: “How does a global flood explain angular unconformities, where one set of layers of sediments have been extensively modified (e.g., tilted) and eroded before a second set of layers were deposited on top?  They thus seem to require at least two periods of deposition (more, where there is more than one unconformity) with long periods of time in between to account for the deformation, erosion, and weathering observed.”

Answer: No, this is an interpretation.  The Flood would have waves of erosion and deposition.  There are no world-wide unconformities, consistent with most of the layers having been formed in the Flood.

Isaak: “When did granite batholiths form?  Some of these are intruded into older sediments and have younger sediments on their eroded top surfaces.”

Answer: Not surprised.  The “fountains of the great deep” would include granitic magma.  As they were open for 150 days, some granite would force its way through newly deposited and still unconsolidated sediments, especially if it contained a lot of dissolved water making it more runny … see next paragraph.

Isaak: “It takes a long time for magma to cool into granite …”

Answer: Depends on the assumptions made — Isaak’s sources assume that granite plutons cooled from a single huge molten blob, and only by conduction.  If there were a lot of water dissolved in the magma, then it could cool much faster, by hydrothermal circulation.  Dr Andrew Snelling and John Woodmorappe presented a paper at the 4th International Conference of Creationism, Pittsburgh, PA, 1998, showing that granite can cool quickly.  All granites are fissured, suggesting water involvement with their cooling.  A popular version of their paper is “Rapid Rocks — Granites didn’t need millions of years of cooling”, from Creation 21(1):42–44, December 1998.

Isaak: “… nor does granite erode very quickly.”

Answer: If there is enough water and enough force, it certainly will.  Dam bursts have resulted in water gouging caverns through reinforced concrete.  There is an especially destructive process called cavitation at high flow rates.  See also Iceland’s recent “mega-flood”, Creation 21(3):46–48 June–August 1999

Runaway Subduction

Isaak: “John Baumgardner created the runaway subduction model, which proposes that the pre-flood lithosphere (ocean floor), being denser than the underlying mantle, began sinking.  The heat released in the process decreased the viscosity of the mantle, so the process accelerated catastrophically.  All the original lithosphere became subducted; the rising magma which replace it raised the ocean floor, causing sea levels to rise and boiling off enough of the ocean to cause 150 days of rain.  When it cooled, the ocean floor lowered again, and the Flood waters receded.  Sedimentary mountains such as the Sierras and the Andes rose after the Flood by isostatic rebound.  [Baumgardner, 1990a; Austin et al., 1994]

“The main difficulty of this theory is that it admittedly doesn’t work without miracles. [Baumgardner, 1990a, 1990b] The thermal diffusivity of the earth, for example, would have to increase 10,000 fold to get the subduction rates proposed [Matsumura, 1997. (National Center for Science Education, a pretentiously named organisation totally devoted to promoting evolution.  Its roots are firmly in atheistic humanism)], and miracles are also necessary to cool the new ocean floor and to raise sedimentary mountains in months rather than in the millions of years it would ordinarily take.”

Response: Some of Dr Baumgardner’s papers are available online, e.g.: Computer modeling of the large-scale tectonics associated with the Genesis Flood and Runaway subduction as the driving mechanism for the Genesis Flood.  As for Isaak’s criticisms, I e-mailed Dr Baumgardner, who pointed out that these critics had not read his work properly, and didn’t understand the science.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Isaak apparently didn’t read the Bible or Woodmorappe’s book properly either, and has demonstrated crass scientific incompetence in other areas.  Dr Baumgardner wrote as follows:

Baumgardner: “If these critics had read my papers carefully, they would have learned that a low thermal diffusivity actually aids the runaway mechanism. Whether or not the runaway occurs at all depends on a competition between heat production due to deformation and heat loss due to thermal diffusion.  Low, rather than high, thermal diffusivity assists this process.

The timing of the uplift of today’s high mountain ranges is actually a problem for the uniformitarians.  The current uplift rate for the Himalayas of 1–2 cm/year, for example, implies 10-20 km (or 33,000-66,000 feet) uplift per million years! Again, if the critics had read my papers, they would know my time scale for the isostatic rebound is the centuries after the catastrophe rather than months.”

Isaak: “Baumgardner estimates a release of 1028 joules from the subduction process.  This is more than enough to boil off all the oceans.  In addition, Baumgardner postulates that the mantle was much hotter before the Flood (giving it greater viscosity); that heat would have to go somewhere, too.”

Baumgardner: “Indeed I do believe a significant fraction of the volume of the oceans was boiled away during the catastrophe.  But since the atmosphere can hold so little moisture, the water quickly returned as cool fresh water to the ocean surface. This process generated large volumes of very dense brines, much of which was incorporated into the continental sedimentary record as extensive halite and gypsum deposits.

“I do not insist the mantle had to be significantly warmer than it is today.  And higher temperature gives lower, not greater, mantle viscosity.”

Isaak: “Cenozoic sediments are post-Flood according to this model.  Yet fossils from Cenozoic sediments alone show a 65-million-year record of evolution, including a great deal of diversification of mammals and angiosperms. [Carroll, 1997, chpts. 5, 6, & 13]”

Baumgardner: “I place the end of the Flood near the end of the Cenozoic, near the point that the Pliocene sediments begin in the record.”

Isaak: “Subduction on the scale Baumgardner proposes would have produced very much more vulcanism around plate boundaries than we see. [Matsumura, 1997]”

Baumgardner: “Newer calculations I presented at the 4th ICC [August, 1998] indicate the amount of volcanism associated with the runaway process is strikingly small.”

Schadewald on the Karroo Formation

Schadewald, cited by Isaak with approval: “Robert E. Sloan, a paleontologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied the Karroo Formation. He asserts that the animals fossilized there range from the size of a small lizard to the size of a cow, with the average animal perhaps the size of a fox. A minute’s work with a calculator shows that, if the 800 billion animals in the Karroo formation could be resurrected, there would be twenty-one of them for every acre of land on earth. Suppose we assume (conservatively, I think) that the Karroo Formation contains 1 percent of the vertebrate fossils on earth.  Then when the Flood began, there must have been at least 2100 living animals per acre, ranging from tiny shrews to immense dinosaurs. To a noncreationist mind, that seems a bit crowded.”

Answer: Actually, Schadewald, who (like Isaak himself) lacks scientific qualifications as far as we know, is the pseudoscientist.  John Woodmorappe, in Studies in Flood Geology, shows that a population density of 800 animals per hectare results if the supposed 800 billion Karroo vertebrates are evenly spread over Africa south of the Equator (10 million km2).  But studies of present habitats over wide areas show that iguanid lizards can live at 889 animals per hectare, anoles up to 110,000, Manchuria island pit viper 10,000, Colorado rattlesnakes 1235.  Also concentration of fossils can occur through massive flooding washing organisms into a basin, as shown by Dr Tas Walker, Geology and the Young Earth, Creation 21(4):16–20, September–November 1999.  So there was nothing “unanswerable” about Schadewald’s argument, despite his arrogant claim.


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