This is a standard objection that critics frequently lodge against the Biblical record of the Great Flood. They like to ridicule the thought of Noah setting off on trapping expeditions to Alaska and Australia, and they especially seem to relish the thought of the insuperable difficulties encountered by Noah’s family in feeding and cleaning up after the animals during their year in the ark! The fact that conservative Christian scholars have answered these objections many times in the past is not known to religious “liberals,” of course, since they almost never read books written by “conservatives.”
Genesis 6:15 gives the dimensions of the ark as 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits, and the cubit was at 17.5 inches long. On this basis, the volumetric carrying capacity of the ark can be calculated as at least the equivalent of that of 522 standard railroad stock cars. A standard stock car can transport 240 sheep, so that the ark could have carried at least 125,000 sheep. The average dry-land animal undoubtedly is considerably smaller than a sheep, as there are only a few large animals.
The ark had to transport only land animals, of course, so that the mammals, birds and reptiles were essentially all that needed accommodations. The ark was constructed in three stories, and each was fitted with “rooms” or “nests” (Genesis 6:14)—evidently tiers of cages or stalls—to store the different kinds of animals.
The Genesis “kind” is undoubtedly a more flexible term than our biological “species.” However, even assuming they are the same, there are not very many species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The leading systematic biologist, Ernst Mayr, gives the number as 17,600. Allowing for two of each species on the ark, plus seven of the few so-called “clean” kinds of animals, plus a reasonable increment for known extinct species, it is obvious that not more than say, 50,000 animals were on the ark. This is obviously much less than the 125,000 that could easily have been carried. There was also ample room for food storage and for living quarters for Noah and his family.
In fact, the ark was so commodious that the whole story makes sense only if the Flood were a universal flood. The ark was far too large for only local animals. For that matter, if the Flood were only local, no ark would have been needed at all! The problem of preserving human and animal life could have been solved far more easily by merely moving out of the endangered flood plains.
As far as the problem of obtaining the animals is concerned, the Lord solved this merely by sending them to Noah (note Genesis 6:20), so that he didn’t have to go searching for them at all. Animals can migrate long distances, especially when impelled to do so by imminent weather changes. These still-mysterious “instincts” were implanted somehow within those animals the Lord wanted preserved, and He thus caused them to “come unto” Noah and the place of safety from the gathering storm.
Once they were safely on board, lodged in their stalls, and properly fed, most of them very likely settled down for a long period of dormancy, or hibernation. The sudden darkness and chill in the air, when “the sluiceways of heaven were opened,” quite probably set in action those remarkable physiologic powers, which seem to be shared in some degree by all orders of the animal kingdom.
The animal world seems to have, in fact, these two remarkable mechanisms for coping with unfavorable climatic conditions—namely, migration and hibernation. Modern biologists, despite much study, have still been unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the origin and operation of these fantastic capabilities. The known facts fit the hypothesis that God imparted these abilities, perhaps by new “information” conveyed to the “genetic code” at this time, to those animals selected by Him to go to the ark, and their new hibernation mechanisms enabled them to pass the awful year of the deluge in relative quiet and comfort. The descendants of those animals that “went forth from the ark” have all inherited these capacities in greater or lesser degrees, still enabling them, as necessary, to escape unfavorable environmental conditions by one or both mechanisms.
Before the Flood, it is likely that there was a worldwide warm, pleasant climate. This is indicated both by the fact that such a climate is implied in the fossils and sediments from practically all the so-called “geologic “ages” prior to the Pleistocene ice age, and also by the fact that the Bible record of the “waters above the firmament” points to a great antediluvian canopy of invisible water vapor in the upper atmosphere which would have produced just such a “greenhouse effect” all over the world.
Thus, before the Flood, animals had no need for migration and hibernation, and probably all kinds of animals were dispersed more or less uniformly all over the world. When the thermal vapor blanket condensed and precipitated at the time of the Flood, there was a rapid change of climate, which led finally to the ice age and then eventually to the present climatologic regimes of the world.
Evidence and documentation for all the above and many other aspects of the great Flood are given in the writer’s book, The Genesis Flood, now in its 29th printing. It is recognized that this is a minority view in science (as a matter of fact, Biblical Christians represent a minority in any field), but there are hundreds of qualified scientists who do agree with it in all essentials. In any case, the actual observed facts agree with it, so far as known at present. The decision to accept or reject any part of the Biblical record (confirmed as fully historical and factual, even in its stories of Creation and the Flood by Christ and His apostles in the New Testament) is therefore not a scientific decision at all but a spiritual decision!
The Bible Has the Answers
By Henry Morris & Martin Clark