Monday, May 14, 2007

Argument Against the Story of Noah's Ark

Take your average fundamentalist christian, you know, the kind that doesn't 'believe' in evolution. They usually say something like, 'god could've done things that way if he'd wanted to, but he didn't, and the reason we know is because we have the bible.' The bible, to them, disproves evolution. Any pseudoscience or flim flam they use to refute the facts are merely vehicals for them to 'prove' that the bible is incontrovertable fact. That every word in it was meant to be there, and that every word was divinely inspired. Meaning, there were no 'reception problems' with the authors, they took no liberties with the information god gave them to inscribe, that this was god using them as pencils.

I intend to show that the story of Noah's ark all but disproves that the bible could be divinely inspired, incontrovertable written truth directly from the mouth of god.

The first given in the argument is described above, it's the 'the bible is true and not false in any circumstance, and the things that happened in it really happened exactly the way they are described' hypothesis.

The second given in the argument is that god created the world as it appears today, with no evolution working on a 'seed' population by mutation making all the different life forms possible. No, say the creationists. The world, as we know it, with all the animals about which we now know, was created by god just like it says in Chapter 1, and everything that you see around you and that we know about was present and accounted for at the time of Noah.

If the first assumption is true, that means that the measurements handed down to the author of Genesis were correct, that they didn't accidentally put a decimal in the wrong place or anything. But if the second assumption is also true, then every animal that exists around us now existed back then. And all the animals we know about now (for instance, all the species of beetles) would not fit on an ark whose measurements are defined in Genesis. I'm sorry.

There are two rebuttals possible: the one is that man DID get it wrong, and misunderstood what god was saying. That will throw the whole rest of the book into question, because it could never be so convenient that the author is mistaken only when he is contradicting modern day knowledge.

The second rebuttal is that god, in essence, used magic. That god, the all-knowing spiritual entity that saw fit to make everything by hand and then put all these fossils in the record that contradict his own word, described an ark that would not accomodate two of every kind of animal that exists in the world, and resorted to 'mysterious' means to get all those animals onto the boat. Abracadabra!

Neither of these responses is very appealing. Far be it from me to insist that I know everything (I don't, for instance, know what happens to us after we die, but I suspect it has something to do with decomposition) but the fact that no one knows how god would have fit all those animals onto that boat really bothers me. Shrinking ray? Atomizer? I am harking back to an earlier age in the western world, when men discovered physical laws, such as the laws of motion, and attributed these laws to a god that had set up a beautifully mathematically simple order to the world he created. I am invoking the spirits of the scientists that many now claim only studied science in order to bring to light the underlying order that they felt god had put there. If you shoot a cannonball in the air, you can calculate where the cannonball will land. And you will be right over and over again. And this, say the believers, is because of god.

God has the complex in his corner when it comes to evolution. Nothing as complex as a light sensing organ could have evolved due to enviromental pressures and genetic mutation. God has to be there. God has the simple in his corner when it comes to math. Nothing as elegant and simple as F=ma could be found to be true if it weren't for god making the order. They attribute every kind of pattern and order that their minds percieve to god, regardless of whether that order even actually exists! So for human knowledge to have discovered the lives and deaths of stars and single celled organisms to be constantly hounded by a group of people so spiritually stupid as to cling to a notion handed down to them from the stone age--that there are 'some things we can NEVER know because GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS'-- confounds scientific thought and confounds the society which thrives because of it

The things we SHOULDN'T know are vast. The things we CAN'T know should compel us to ask questions of our own faculties. The things we DON'T know should give rise to scientific inquiry. The things these theists SAY they know are convieniently things that can never BE known, and therefore, can never be proved nor disproved. The kernel of truth at the heart of any and all monotheistic religions is that they are a virus that can only sustain itself by acquiring new hosts, and that love and kindness practiced by christians is only a delivery method for their parasite.

In conclusion: either we live in a world where the physical laws are subject at any moment to the whims of a deity that has not spoken in 2000 years, or the laws stick, and the god that created them--who may or may not be bound by them--would abide by them because he CAN. All Genesis Chapter 6 had to contain to prove the existance of the christian god was measurements for an ark that could contain two each of every animal in existance: presto, you've got your proof. But it doesn't.

The measurements for the ark in Genesis no doubt comfortably contain two of every animal that the authors knew about. And that's what disproves this book being the word of an all knowing god.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Genesis Chapter 6 (v. 1 to 22)

This chapter starts off with an overview of how the population of people that god had created increases. Men had daughters, other men found these daughters attractive, and married "any of them they chose." So the author is making a point that there were no arranged marriages, and that people married women by choosing them based on beauty.

But god says suddenly that man is mortal. Which you might've guessed from some of the characters in the last chapter. . . you know, dying. Yes, says god, "his days will be a hundred and twenty years." It's such a random statement that I almost react to it with a sigh and a 'whatever.' Okay, not almost.

The author goes on to describe humans called Nephilim, that were around then, and after that time too. These people were heroes. Of old. Or something. Again: 'whatever.'

The lord then decides that man is wicked. Which, for me, comes out of left field.

"every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."

Sheesh. Harsh, god. Surely there was SOMETHING good down on the planet. You know, besides the garden from which you had barred everyone. No, apparently god was sorry he'd made men, and he had acid reflux to boot. Or "his heart was filled with pain" means something else.

So god said, I'm gonna just wipe everything out. Because it's all rubbish anyway. It's what Eddie Izzard calls "the etch-a-sketch end of the world." Even though it's man i'm really pissed at, I figure a clean slate is the way to go.

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."

Well good for him.

Noah, it says, was "blameless," which makes me raise an eyebrow, I must say. Yeah, he walked with god. And the author again mentions his three sons (like that sitcom?) Shem, Ham and Japheth, the middle child of which sounds the most appetizing.

The earth was corrupt and people were violent and god saw this and said to Noah (probably when they were 'walking' one day) that he was gonna wipe it all out. Everything. He explains how the earth is filled with violence, and it's all because of man. Can you see Noah looking sideways at god with a horrified expression? Because I can.

Anyway, says god, enough of this. You need to make an ark of cypress, and coat it in pitch and make some rooms in it, all cozy-like.

I imagine god whipping out some blueprints before he continues telling Noah the actual measurements of the boat. Why any author would think we as readers need to know the MEASUREMENTS of the boat has always astonished me. Boy is that some useless information. Unless you're debating the verbatim truth of the bible, in which case it's GRAVY!

The translators of the NIV have seen fit to convert the measurements of cubits into feet and inches. So, being a bit of a geek, I dug out my old King James Version (which I recieved after being baptised in the blood, hallelujah) to include both units. Then I thought, why stop there? Why not convert the measurements into the Systeme International? Well all right then.

The ark, god is saying, needs to be 300 cubits long. Are you writing this down? Noah says, oh, yeah, lemme get a pen. Okay. So a cubit is a foot and a half long. And the metres below are approximate.

Length 300 cubits = 450 feet = 137 metres.

Width 50 cubits = 75 feet = 23 metres.

Height 30 cubits = 45 feet = 13 metres.

A line of windows around the top, under the roof, is mentioned measuring one cubit, imaginably provided so that methane gas doesn't build up on the inside. Eugh.

For comparison, the Hollywood sign in California is also 45 feet tall and 450 feet long.

God told Noah, don't forget the door, and make some decks in it, you know, like one of those carnival cruise ships. But no karaoke!

Noah is writing all this down, while trying to keep up with god as they're walking, calculating the distance to the nearest cypress forest and whether god would notice if he used a couple planks from that oak tree he'd cut down the other day.

I'm going to flood the whole planet! says god. What's a planet? asks Noah. Oh, it's a greek word, anyway, focus! It's all going down, man!

Look, Noah, here's the plan: You and your wife, and your three sons, and their wives, will get on the ark, and you won't die, oh and onto the ark I'd like you to bring two of all living things.

Then god goes on to make a list of the living things, and this might be because Noah is staring at him slackjawed after that last statement. You know, two of every kind of bird, and animal, and all those things that creep. On the ark. With you. Oh, and take every kind of food there is.

Then the author tells us that Noah did everything god told him to.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Genesis Chapter 5 (v.1 to 32)

"This is the written account of Adam's line."

Hm. This sounds like one of those 'beget' chapters. . .

The author starts this chapter by again saying that man was created in god's image. And that god named them 'man' after he created them both. So male and female are both called 'man.'

Adam was 130 years old when he had the replacement kid, Seth. After that, Adam lived for 800 more years, and had other kids. Probably a lot of them, I'm thinking. So when he died he was 930. I think his final words were: "It's about bloody time."

When Seth was 105, (and Adam would have been 235) he had a son named Enosh (though no mention is made of Enoshropolis). Seth had a bunch of kids, and died at the age of 912.

When Enosh was 90 years old, (and Adam was 325 and Seth was 195) he "became the father of Kenan." After this he lived for 815 more years.

When Kenan was 70, (Adam would have been 395, Seth was 265, and Enosh was 160) he had Mahalalel (whoa, say that five times fast.) Kenan died at 910.

When Mahalalel was 65 (Adam was 460, Seth was 330, Enosh was 225, and Kenan was 135) he had a kid named Jared. Mahalalel then lived 'til he was 895.

Jared was 162 when he became the father of Enoch (Enochropolis?). Incidentally, Mahalalel was 227 when he became a grandfather. And Kenan was 297 when he became a great-grandfather. Enosh was 387 when he became a great-great-grandfather. Seth was a great-great-great-grandfather at the age of 462. And Adam would have been 622 when he became a great-great-great-great-grandfather. Whew!

Jared lived to be 962.

Enoch became a father at 65, (Adam: 687, Seth: 527, Enosh: 452, Kenan: 362, Mahalalel: 292, Jared: 227) and named the kid Methusela. But Enoch only lived for 365 years. He must've eaten a high-fat diet.

Methusela was a dad at 187, (Adam: 874, Seth: 714, Enosh: 639, Kenan: 549, Mahalalel: 479, Jared: 414, Enoch: 252) and had a son named Lamech. Did this Lamech have two wives and kill some dude? It doesn't say.

Lamech had a kid named Noah when he was 182 (Adam had been dead for 126 years, Seth was 709, Enosh: 821, Kenan: 731, Mahalalel: 661, Jared: 596, Enoch had been dead for 69 years, possibly from a heart attack, and Methusela was 369).

Noah, according to his father Lamech, was to be a comfort to them in their hard times since god had cursed the soil. Lamech died when he was 777. When Lamech was 683, Noah had Shem, Ham and Japheth, all after he'd turned 500.

Well, that was a snooze of a chapter. But it does bring up an interesting question to all you christians out there: do you really believe the verbatim truth of the bible? Do you really think these people lived for 900+ years? Towards the end of this lineage, the author claims that about 8 generations of people were alive at the same time. Family reunions must've been such a drag.

I think that some of this is an attempt to link all the stories together. That Noah can be traced back to Adam. Which doesn't seem like it should be important; I always thought the implication was that Adam, being the first man, was the father of everyone who came after. But this can't be the case if you have to go to the trouble of listing the bloodline of Noah all the way back to Adam. It seems other people existed separate the first created two, and the only way they could've gotten there within the construct of this story is if god made them and put them there. That this creating of other people is never explicitly mentioned has always bothered me.

The other point I think I need to address is how sneakily the author slipped in this second account of the offspring of Adam. The last chapter lists sons (and one daughter!) and even some things that they did, some trends they started. The names don't quite overlap, though. But there are some that are the same, and I'm sure it isn't coincidental: I think that the names are too important in the lore of these stories to be given to someone who isn't "the" person. Like naming someone in a story George W. Bush. People are going to ask, is that "the" George W. Bush?

In the last chapter, Enoch of Enochropolis was the son of Cain, the murderer. In this chapter, Enoch is a son in the bloodline springing from Cain's brother Seth, who is NOT a murderer. In the last chapter, Lamech was the son of Methushael, and in this chapter he's the son of Methusela. Sounds like the same name to me. In the last chapter, mention is made of Lamech becoming a murderer like his great-great-great-grandfather, Cain. In this chapter, Lamech is not a distant grandson of Cain, and no mention is made of anything that he did other than that his son, Noah, will be a comfort. At least in this chapter we are free to assume that Cain did indeed spend his life wandering, and didn't build any cities.

In the last chapter, Seth has a son named Enosh, and nothing more is mentioned. In this chapter, Seth has a son named Enosh as well.

The two chapters appear to be written by two different sources which have different priorities. The 4th chapter seems to want to get the message across that killing is still not a reason for killing, even after many generations since Cain. The 5th chapter seems to be focused on the lineage of Noah, and how that lineage, between Noah and Cain, was not a straight line. The mention of his three sons is an afterthought.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Genesis Chapter 4 (v.1-26)

"Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant"

How romantic. She bore Cain first. She went through labour and then said, 'with the help of god i have brought forth a man.' Except it wasn't a man. It was a baby. Or maybe, back then, people were born fully clothed and grown. At an undisclosed time later (they could have even been twins) she bore Abel. Abel doesn't get the 'man' proclamation. The novelty of bearing children wears off so quickly. . .

So they grew up. Or they were already grown when they were born. At any rate, it turned out that Abel kept flocks, he was a shepherd. Or maybe he kept a flock of geese. Sparrows? Maybe he just wore flock pants. Cain, on the other hand, tilled the soil. He had a green thumb. A green something anyway.

People back then had to make sacrifices to their gods. Nothing special there. Saying that you appreciate benevolence by tithing a portion of what you reap to whatever god you think bestowed such benevolence seems like a pretty logical idea. And if the good times continue, well, your offering must have pleased that god. If you fall on hard times, you better sacrifice more, because whatever you were sacrificing obviously wasn't enough.

As his offering, Abel slaughtered defensless animals--fat ones that couldn't run very fast--and god really liked that. We aren't told how Abel or anyone else knew that god liked it. Just that he did. He liked it a lot.

Cain, who tilled the land remember, offered up to god "fruits of the soil." This probably didn't involve any slaughtering. . . Needless to say, god did not look with favour upon that meagre tithe. Cain was pretty pissed off at this. As would I be.

Yeah, so vegetables don't scream or moan or bleat when you kill them. And no, they don't bleed all dramatically over the altar, drip drip drip in a godly puddle. I think god was being unfair. Or that he's a bloodthirsty psycho--I mean mysterious. . .

God gave Cain a lecture about how Cain should do what is right. Not sure where the lesson is. Did he not tithe enough? It doesn't say if he did or didn't. And now he has to listen to god telling him that sin is "crouching at your door" blah blah blah.

So he went to his brother Gullabel--I mean Abel, and told him that he wanted to take a walk with him out in the fields. I imagine someone asking a dog they're about to abandon, "Wanna go for a car ride?? You like car rides, dontcha?"

Cain kills Abel. Perhaps Abel was also fat, and couldn't run very fast.

"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?"

He went on to say, "I want to give him this 'best person in the world' trophy. It's made of gold."

Cain said, "uhhhhhh. . . hmmm. . . Who?. . . Oh! Oh yeah, my BROTHER Abel. . . thought you meant someone. . .uhh. . . How the hell should I know?!?!" Or something like that.

Then god, who can hear blood (perhaps this is why he likes animal sacrifices so much) says he can hear Abel's blood crying out from the ground. (Imaginably, it's crying, "D'oh!") So either god is really confused, or asked Cain a question the answer to which he already knew. God isn't a very likable character so far.

He goes on to put a curse on Cain, so the man can no longer farm like he used to, and that he has to wander around restlessly. Cain replied, "Dammit!!!! What the. . . .aaaaarggggh!" And rightly so.

Cain, bewailing, "People I meet (I assume you've made more people since my mom and dad) are gonna KILL me when they find out about this curse and stuff!" is told by god that he will bear a mark, (ostensibly one that reads "Do not kill this man, signed God") and so will be spared death at the hands of another man. But bears or snakes, being unable to read, would probably find him a tasty treat.

So Cain went away from god's presence (Yes! No more nagging!) and lived in Nod, which is east of Eden. He lay with his wife (?!?!) that he acquired from. . . somewhere. . . maybe Nod was full of hotties, who knows. Anyway, she bore a kid named Enoch. Cain was building a city at the time, or just a settlement, at any rate I'm pretty sure either of those precludes the wandering part of the curse that god put on him. Cain, not wandering, named his city after his son, Enoch. So they lived in Enochville. Enochsburg. Enochborough. Enochdom. Enochropolis. Ah, the last one's the best.

In Enochropolis, Enoch had a kid named Irad (one assumes he had a wife but it doesn't say). Irad had a child named Mahujael, and Mahujael had a kid named Methushael, who was the father of Lamech. Enochropolis is now a happenin joint!

"Lamech married two women."

Whoa, full plate for the great-great-grandson of the namesake of Enochropolis. His wives names were Adah and Zillah. With Adah he had Jabal. Jabal started the whole livestock-raising, living-in-tents thing. He was a crazy trendsetter, that one. His brother Jubal (think they got mixed up in school?) was a no-good musician, who is noted as the father of ALL people who play the harp and/or the flute. So if you're thinking of taking up either of those instruments, you better check your lineage.

Lamech's other kid, the one he had with Zillah, Tubal-Cain, forged tools out of metal. He had a sister named Naamah. I cannot understand why she is mentioned at all in this sausagefest.

Lamech, one day, says to both his wives, 'listen to me! I just killed this guy. He was young. But he injured me. So I offed him. Hmmm.'

I can't help inserting a unison response from Zillah and Adah, 'You did WHAT?!?'

'Yeah,' Lamech continues, 'Uh, so if Cain is avenged seven times for killing some guy, then I am too. -NO, wait, I'm avenged. . . SEVENTY-seven times! Yeah! that's the ticket!'

This is where this story ends. I take this to mean that even if someone offs some guy, don't kill them for retribution.

The author then informs us that Adam had another kid to replace Abel, who was killed. I think that what they mean here is:

Make love, not war.

The proper response when a family member is killed, according to the author, is not to go out and kill the guy that did it, but to make more people. And I like this message.

The replacement kid's named was Seth, and he had a kid named, coincidentally, Enosh. But 'Enoshropolis' is much harder to say. . .

"At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord."

Not even gonna take a stab at this one. If you can explain why this is the last line of the chapter, comment on the blog about it.