Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Was Noah's Ark a Sperm Bank?

"And God said unto Noah, [..] make thee an ark [..] the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits." (Gen. 6:13-15)

A cubit is the distance between an adult's elbow and tip of the finger, approximately 45 cm. The ark was thus 135 meters long, 22.5 meters wide, and 13.5 meters high. These are presumably outer measures, and hence the habitable volume of the ark could not have been much more than 35000 cubic meters.

Even the most conservative estimates state that there are at least two million species of animals alive today, and surely a comparable number of plants, fungi, etc. A large fraction of species live in water, but could not survive if their ecosystem would suddenly submerge a mile deep - according to the bible even high mountains were submerged. There are approximations that the number of species of a given body length L is proportional to L raised to some power between -1.5 and -3. For example, if we use the frequent choice of -2 and we knew there is one 10-meter long species, then there are 100 one-meter species, ten thousand 10-centimeter species, etc. If we limit the species size to a tenth of a millimeter (for example, assuming evolution (!) will sufficiently rapidly reproduce the smaller species), approximate that species are half as wide and high as they are long, and integrate the product of volume and number of species over the species length, we obtain a total volume of approximately 125000 cubic meters.

We have already exceeded the available volume in the ark by a factor of 3.5, and we are yet to cram in the other sex and enough food for animals and soil for plants for the 150 days the bible says Noah sailed. Remember also that God required Noah to provide accomodation for his extended family, and in order to avoid extinction by inbreeding, he would have had to take tens if not closer to a hundred individuals of all other species as well. All this is a little too impressive for a six hundred year old man.

Unless Noah was in fact history's first documented case of sperm banking. If a small forest of Giant Sequoias were a challenge to fit in the ark, a sachel of fist-sized cones or a teaspoon of seeds would not. A rough calculation shows that all necessary genetic material could easily be fitted in a negligible part of the ark leaving the rest free for all the technology needed for recolonization, deep-freezing sperm, artificial wombs and all the other technology necessary to recreate mammals without living parents. That's truly impressive technology, but far more plausible than the alternative. And hey, the guy was six hundred years old - that's plenty of time to write any number of dissertations on all required fields, and a good reason to become a drunkard afterwards, like Noah did.

In fact I predict that this will be the method that humans will use should we some day colonize other stars systems. We will send unmanned ships ahead, and once they reach their destination we submit by radio (or laser) the genetic information, culture, and without a doubt a large number of software updates to the distant ships.

But there's still something fishy about Noah and the ark. Noah had sent out pigeons to search for land. When the waters abated and the ark hit mount Ararat one pigeon came back with an olive leaf. However, here lies a contradiction: olive doesn't grow high on Ararat and all ground-level olives must have rotten by then.


Blogger llaurĂ©n said...

Yet another excellent post! You sure have a way of making mathematics interesting.

3:37 PM  
Blogger cessu said...

Thanks, although I have to admit most of the math I've presented here is of the kind one thinks while waiting for the bus.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post...

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But there's still something fishy about Noah and the ark. Noah had sent out pigeons to search for land. When the waters abated and the ark hit mount Ararat one pigeon came back with an olive leaf. However, here lies a contradiction: olive doesn't grow high on Ararat and all ground-level olives must have rotten by then." Hmm...
1). Gen 8:7 say's Noah sent out a Raven; The Gen 8:8 say's a Dove, i do nto see where the Pigeon comes from you stated?
2) The ark came to rest of the Mountains of Ararat(Gen 8:4), which could be anywhere around that mountainous region, not on the Top of the Highest mountain of Ararat, where virtually most vegetation would not survive the altitude.
3). There was no other humans on the ark except for Noah, his wife, his 3 son's and their wives. (Gen 7:7; Gen 8:18; Gen9:18,19)

Plain as day to me.

6:32 AM  
Blogger cessu said...

1) Sorry, I wrote that from my finnish-thinking memory and made an error in translation. However, if we take the Bible literally, what you brought up implies the bird was both a dove and raven (doven?), which proves that Noah was not only a sperm banker but also an accomplished genetic engineer!

2) Gen 8:4-5 says not until the tenth month would the tops of the mountains be seen, and Noah was already "upon" Ararat by then. Whether the ark actually touched the mountain or sailed over it is unclear to me. But even assuming that it laid on Mount Ararat and the first other mountain Noah would see was Little Ararat, the water level would have been over 3800 meters. Way too high for olives that thrive in coastal altitudes.

3) Yes. But according to current geneticists some 50-100 people are required to carry a sufficient reservoir of genetic variations that a healthy human population can be regrown from them. So Noah must have frozen also human sperm and ova!?

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For fun take a look at these 3 articles, 2 are pro-localized flood (a theory you didn't cover) and one anti-localized flood (but not so compelling, more interesting for the summary of flood stories across cultures):

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or perhaps the animals taken on the ark are genetic "super-variants" of their kind.

Consider dog breeding. Take two purebreds and breed them together. You get the genetic variance of both breeds. Perform this over the number of available purebreds and you will have a dog that is what I call a "super-variant", or you can call it a mutt. At the same time, you can take steps to breed their individual purebred qualities back out over time.

If its possible to achieve many different "purebreds" from breeding dogs with human intervention, its possible that the environment can cause similar effects with other kinds of animals.

What was the first dog, a purebred or a genetic super-variant? Did all these purebred dogs evolve independently, eventually mating and combining into a genetic super-variant, or was a super-variant created and slowly overtime devolved into these many purebreds?

How many species of animals are actually unique and not "purebreds" from some super-variant ancestor?

More philosophically, why does the genetic code mean anything unless it was made to mean something? Why isn't it just mush? It obviously is a system of encoding information, but whether you see that as being designed or not depends on the way you choose to see it.


9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No! Mr. Cessu.

First, I strongly suspect that your bias is such that you simply can't see God's handiwork.

But let's ignore that for a moment... We have the physical evidence. About tree's (such as the Sequoia you mention, I admit -- I don't know how God handled that problem. But maybe you haven't noticed, he's pretty smart and doesn't have trouble solving problems.)

My point is this: We have the physical evidence, the Ark was found and photographed in the 50's and expeditions went to the site in the 60's and brought back pieces of the actual ark.

and yes, it was found just where God said it was. On Mt. Ararat, which today is in the vicinity of the Turkish and Russian border.

9:38 PM  

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