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Author Topic:   Commonalities Of Accounts Of A Universal Flood?
Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 76 of 92 (412301)
07-24-2007 10:52 AM


Hypothesis #4
Suppose someone in a pre-scientific society were to reason like this:

I can see that there are widespread marine fossils. I deduce that they were once covered by water. I can see that there are such fossils in the highest mountains I know, and of course he flood required for this would have covered all low-lying areas. I can therefore deduce one universal flood, and by parsimony I need not multiply this and suppose there were several without additional evidence.

Now, as I and all my tribe know, the weather is caused by supernatural beings --- those same beings who spread out the clouds [cf Job 36:29] whose shouting makes the thunder [cf 2 Samuel 22:13] and who make earthquakes by shaking the Earth's foundations [cf Psalms 18:7]. Hence, this flood was also the act of a god. As such a flood would have wiped out such civilization as there then was, the god in question must have been wrathful about something.

However, obviously some people survived, since there are people living now. So either they took shelter on high ground, or had a boat, or floated on driftwood [all of which possibilities appear in the corpus of flood myths]. Given, as we have deduced, that the god who caused the flood was wrathful, the survivors must have been better than the usual run of men in order to survive.

As land animals survived, presumably the people took the animals with them in their boat [if it's a boat in this particular flood myth].

In short, if you want to independently invent a myth very similar to Noah's flood, all you need is:

* a superficial knowledge of the fossil record;

* no knowledge of the modern geological sciences;

* a willingness to attribute the unexplained to the actions of a deity.

(Do we know anyone like that?)

Hence, this sort of reasoning could have taken place in pretty much any pre-scientific society, explaining the widespread distribution of similar flood myths.

I don't see how Young Earth Creationists can object to this hypothesis, since the line of reasoning which I have reconstructed above is one which they claim is basically correct and should be followed; in which case it would not be surprising if different people round the world had independently come to essentially the same conclusion as "flood geologists".

Edited by Dr Adequate, : Grammar --- ouch!


  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 77 of 92 (412456)
07-24-2007 8:13 PM


By the way, I know that with me it's sometimes hard to figure out whether I'm making a subtle joke or whether I'm putting up a serious hypothesis.

This time, it's a serious hypothesis. I would be pleased if anyone would try to shoot it down.


  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 78 of 92 (412580)
07-25-2007 1:11 PM


Look, could someone try to falsify my hypothesis?

It's my own idea, it's not something I've read somewhere, and I'm interested to know if my idea is any good.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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bdfoster
Member (Idle past 2986 days)
Posts: 60
From: Riverside, CA
Joined: 05-09-2007


Message 79 of 92 (412593)
07-25-2007 2:09 PM
Reply to: Message 78 by Dr Adequate
07-25-2007 1:11 PM


It doesen't really look falsifiable to me. As a conceptual model it is certainly reasonable. It seems to fit all the available data. But so would a host of other models. You seem to be saying that it's reasonable that people may have thought like this, so based on that they may have concluded this, and therfore may have written this. Which is certainly reasonable, but I don't think really proveable one way or the other.

It's also conceiveable that the legends are basically true. Not literally true in every detail of course. But instead of invented myth that explains fossils, perhaps the flood legends are remnants and "theologised" (my made up word) versions of ancient traditions and stories about a real catastrophic flood. We know there was a period of intense, probably catastrophic flooding at the end of the last ice age. This was worldwide, and rising sea level must have affected all coastal civilizations. Abraham, coming to Caanan from Mesopotamia, was no doubt indoctrinated in the Sumerian version of the legend. Who knows maybe there really was some crazy guy who built a huge boat and put a bunch of animals in it. It could happen!


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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 80 of 92 (413718)
08-01-2007 2:28 AM


One Global flood, or countless local floods?
I am a new member to this forum, and this is my first post. I chose this particular string because I have encountered many arguments (arguments because very little in the way of debating in the formal sense has occurred) based on and around the flood as portrayed in the bible.

First off, a bit of background. I am a geologist by training, and I have some experience in the kinds of things floods leave behind, because my backyard is essentially one of the best examples of what a catastrophic flood would do to any landscape (Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington). Also, I have been witness to a very good discussion amongst professional scientists in the field of geology that have written extensively on the specific subject of the flood(s) that may have been the inspiration for the Epic of Gilgamesh, and consequently the Noachian Flood Myth in the bible.

I mention all this, in part, because I feel responsible as a scientist and a geologist to say that there is absolutely no evidence for a global flooding event, and this is based on many lines of support. Invoking flood stories from various cultures around the world doesn't signify a commonality explaining one single event... (cont.)


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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 81 of 92 (413720)
08-01-2007 2:33 AM
Reply to: Message 80 by WhatWouldDarwinDo
08-01-2007 2:28 AM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Cont. from previous post...

It stands to reason that the most likely reason why flood stories are so pervasive throughout the worlds cultures is most likely because most cultures existed on or near flooding bodies of water. Depending on that body of water (e.g. the Nile, or the Yellow River) cultures can even be created and destroyed. This inherently gives power to the idea behind water being a force of life and/or death which is part of the 'moral' backing of the story we find in the bible and other religious books inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh.


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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 82 of 92 (413722)
08-01-2007 2:45 AM
Reply to: Message 81 by WhatWouldDarwinDo
08-01-2007 2:33 AM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Another perspective to consider (I haven't made my way through all of the posts on this string, so this may or may not have been previously mentioned) is the mindset of the author(s) behind the story we now know. It has been assumed, and it would seem rather recently in history, that the story as mentioned in the bible refers to a large global event, when in fact there isn't any mention of such in the story. Even scholars, such as Leonardo Da Vinci seemed to have problems corroborating the flood story from the bible, preferring to find a natural explanation for why there were fossils of sea creatures found on mountaintops (something that Stephen Jay Gould has written about and covered more extensively). Why is it so important for biblical literalists and creationists to maintain that the story in the bible is global?

Now, getting back to mindsets, consider a typical human 3000 years ago, or even farther back to say, 10,000 years ago. With the exception of nomadic peoples, the 'world' primarily existed in the roughly 20 square miles or so around your family home. Stories surely existed of lands faraway, but your WORLD was here. Having suggested this, I posit that when stories talk about the world flooding, its a reference to the destruction of local and familiar geographies, which uprooted peoples and forced them to migrate to foreign lands. This idea is certainly the impetus behind recent studies in the Black Sea region of Eurasia, which coincidentally happens to be the same area the Epic of Gilgamesh was written in. To my knowledge, this is the best possible candidate for any scientific relationship to the story we find in the bible, and it is a very large, but very localized flood.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 83 of 92 (413835)
08-01-2007 2:48 PM
Reply to: Message 82 by WhatWouldDarwinDo
08-01-2007 2:45 AM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Welcome to the forums!

Another perspective to consider (I haven't made my way through all of the posts on this string, so this may or may not have been previously mentioned) is the mindset of the author(s) behind the story we now know. It has been assumed, and it would seem rather recently in history, that the story as mentioned in the bible refers to a large global event, when in fact there isn't any mention of such in the story. Even scholars, such as Leonardo Da Vinci seemed to have problems corroborating the flood story from the bible, preferring to find a natural explanation for why there were fossils of sea creatures found on mountaintops (something that Stephen Jay Gould has written about and covered more extensively). Why is it so important for biblical literalists and creationists to maintain that the story in the bible is global?

With the best will in the world, I don't see how the story can be read as anything but a description of a universal flood. God says he's going to wipe living things off "the face of the earth", we're told that the waters covered the mountains, and of course there's not really any point in Noah saving two of every kind of animal if the flood is merely local.

Your claim that the universality of the flood is a recent interpretation I find surprising. If you have any references showing that people in, say, the Middle Ages thought that it was localised, I'd be interested to see them.


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bdfoster
Member (Idle past 2986 days)
Posts: 60
From: Riverside, CA
Joined: 05-09-2007


Message 84 of 92 (413883)
08-01-2007 5:34 PM
Reply to: Message 83 by Dr Adequate
08-01-2007 2:48 PM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Yes but universal in the sense that it encompassed "all" of the author's world. When we read all the earth we think of the entire planet. But they didn't even know what a planet was. They thought a planet was one of those little moving stars up in the sky.

Also the use of universal language was appears to have been different in the ancient near east. Later in Genesis it says that "all the earth" came to buy grain from Joseph. I doubt the author even meant, or that his contemporaries understood, the entire known world. If written as late as some think (second half of the first millennium BC) that would include much of the eastern hemisphere. But even as early as the late second millennium people in the fertile crescent were aware of civilizations in Asia and northern Europe.


Brent
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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 85 of 92 (413956)
08-02-2007 1:08 AM
Reply to: Message 83 by Dr Adequate
08-01-2007 2:48 PM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Of course there is merit to Noah saving two (or seven) of every kind of animal, you only need look to what the story itself is about.

God was greived, sad, angry, etc. about having created man. Why, though? Going by the bible, every thing was corrupt, the earth was filled with violence, and there was only one perfect man: Noah. Why was Noah perfect? Because he listened to god. Long story short, god killed of all of mankind with the exception of Noah, because Noah did what god wanted him to without question. The moral of the story is simply, follow what god says to do, and he will save you. Of course, in reality this clearly isn't the case.

Now, getting to the beginning of your response, I was very specific in the words I chose to write with, and referring to the flood I did not use the word 'universal.' I specifically chose global, because that is the interpretation that is now being used by biblical literalists and creationists. As for it being 'recent,' I make reference to the wave of literal interpretation, having its roots in the Fundamentalist movement which only goes back a few centuries.


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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 86 of 92 (413957)
08-02-2007 1:17 AM
Reply to: Message 83 by Dr Adequate
08-01-2007 2:48 PM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Now, if you want to get into the geological interpretation of what we should expect to see had there been a global (or universal) flood, I'd be happy to accommodate.

Floods leave telltale signs after they've occurred, and catastrophic floods leave even bigger signs. As I mentioned before, I live in an area of the United States that is well-known for its unique geology and geography called the Channeled Scablands. This region, forming most of the geography of eastern Washington is rife with signs of a massive flooding event, some so large that the only way they could be seen was by airplane. This includes such things as ripple marks, erratic boulders, strandlines, gravel deposits, dry falls, etc. These features were carved out of basalt and granite (not soft rock types, mind you) from flooding events (somewhere between 40 to perhaps 100 separate events) stemming from Glacial Lake Missoula. These are catastrophic events (if I recall, the amount of water transported through the Columbia River channels through to the Pacific Ocean equaled more than the output of many of the world's longest rivers today at one time) that lasted for weeks to perhaps months, and had the potential to completely erase and reform the landscapes it touched. Why do we not see these signs associated with Noah's flood?


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bdfoster
Member (Idle past 2986 days)
Posts: 60
From: Riverside, CA
Joined: 05-09-2007


Message 87 of 92 (414045)
08-02-2007 1:56 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by WhatWouldDarwinDo
08-02-2007 1:17 AM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
That is really interesting with respect to the flood legends. Talk.Origins has an excenent article summarizing flood legends from around the world. There are several examples from tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Traditional archeology has placed humans in North America not before Clovis, about 12.5 thousand years. But now human occupation of N.A is thought to pre-date Clovis, by how much nobody knows. The Missoula floods were certainly an event that would be remembered by any population living there at the time. I had the impression the Missoula floods were not really "post ice-age" but happend when there was still some glaciation (correct me if I'm wrong), at a time when N.A. was supposed to be un-occupied. But of course there was still plenty of early Holocene flooding to inspire flood legends.
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WhatWouldDarwinDo
Junior Member (Idle past 4190 days)
Posts: 6
Joined: 07-30-2007


Message 88 of 92 (414164)
08-03-2007 2:01 AM
Reply to: Message 87 by bdfoster
08-02-2007 1:56 PM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
To my knowledge, the floods were toward the end of the last Ice Age and happened when an ice dam blocking the flow of a river (I believe the Clark Fork) filled up the areas in and around present day Missoula, which lends the name to Glacial Lake Missoula. What would happen is that the water filling up behind was affecting the ice dam in several ways, eventually undermining it completely, and the lake would drain. The size of the lake is estimated, as I recall, is comparable to the Great Lakes of the Midwest, and may have been happening as recent as 10-12,000 years ago. With current North American archaeological support, the flooding events may have been witnessed by humans.
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 89 of 92 (414230)
08-03-2007 2:50 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by WhatWouldDarwinDo
08-02-2007 1:08 AM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Of course there is merit to Noah saving two (or seven) of every kind of animal, you only need look to what the story itself is about ... Long story short, god killed of all of mankind with the exception of Noah, because Noah did what god wanted him to without question.

And this would require a global flood, wouldn't it?

As for it being 'recent,' I make reference to the wave of literal interpretation, having its roots in the Fundamentalist movement which only goes back a few centuries.

It is true that hardline literalism is fairly recent, but not with respect to the Flood; in that case the local interpretation is recent.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.2


Message 90 of 92 (414231)
08-03-2007 2:52 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by bdfoster
08-01-2007 5:34 PM


Re: One Global flood, or countless local floods?
Also the use of universal language was appears to have been different in the ancient near east. Later in Genesis it says that "all the earth" came to buy grain from Joseph.

Point.

Nonetheless, you couldn't have a flood which covers the mountains without it covering all lower-lying areas.


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