The Flood

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Wed Sep 27 11:00:43 EDT 2000

Walter Mattfeld wrote,

>Michael is quite right about a flood depth of about 2 miles covering the
>earth, if all the land forms were flattened. But my studies indicate that at
>no time in the geologic history of mankind was the whole earth ever been
>completely flooded, nor were 90% of all animal forms wiped out, save those
>on the ark (by the way I am a social studies teacher, and have taught
>Geography as well as History as well as Art).
>The "key problem," is the dating of the Flood. The Hebrew Bible (Massoretic
>Text) is quite clear that this Flood occured within the 3rd millenium BCE,
>or 4th if you want to cite the LXX, and Geologists are unaware of such world
>wide deposits engulfing the whole world and destroying man and animals at
>this time, or at any time in the past. Dave is correct, practically all
>cultures have Flood myths, but, then, flooding is pretty common, and when it
>occurs, primitive man tends to see it engulfing "his world," which then
>becomes through embellishment the "whole world."

Dear Walter,

Thomas Kuhn has argued that science consists of paradigms, which in effect
are belief systems. When individual data seem to contradict the paradigm,
it is explained away ad hoc. After a time, much contrary data
accumulate,the paradigm is changed, and a new paradigm which can account
for the data somewhat better, is born. The mechanism behind this change is
not, according to Kuhn, rational thinking, but rather something irrational
that can be compared to a religious revival.

I suppose we agree that history cannot be proven. This means in effect that
each  person interprets the finds of his or her focus in light of his or
her pradigm. From a scientific point of view, the weakness of the paradigm
that the Bible is inerrant, is that no data can affect the conclusion,
because the conslusion is drawn beforehand. One weakness of the present
paradigms of Middle East history and Archaeology is that the general
agreement of the researchers (their view of of the different cultures,
their chronology, and their named periods etc.) are treated almost as
*data*, while it basically builds on conjecture. This is a belief system
just as the belief in the Bible as inerrant.

Before I started with my language studies 25 years ago, I made a study of
the axioms behind the natural sciences and the historical sciences. I also
studied the arguments of creationists who claimed to be scientists. While I
do not accept the creationist's view of a 6000 year old earth, that the
sedimentary rocks are a result of the flood etc, some of the points that
were presented are really thought provoking. While I stopped looking into
creationist literature when I started with languages (and therefore I am
not updated), I have worked a little with some of the points that impressed

First an illustration of what I mean when  I say that faith and conjecture
play a great role in archaeology and history focused on periods before 2000
BCE. In Kolsas near Oslo there is a very special lithofacies with lava, red
sandstone, volcanic ashes and black stone, volcanic ashes and red
sandstone. At Sundvollen, 50 miles to the north there is a lithofacies with
exactly the same layers. Thus the two were correlatated as to age. A
professor of geology had an excursion with his students when he found a
single fossil at Kolsas, and on the basis of this single fossil alone, the
Kolsos lithofacies was given an age 80 million years older than the same
lithofacies at Sundvollen. The reason was the *theoretical* place of the
fossil on the evolutionary scale! Archaeology and history do not work with
lithofacies, but my point is that *unproved theory* is just as much the
parameter with which new finds are interpreted in archaeology and history
as it is in historical geology. So - the interpretations are not better
than the axioms and assumptions on which they are built. I do not say that
we should descard the historical and archeological sciences - they are
useful indeed - but we should keep in mind that faith and conjecture play a
very important role in the interpretation of very old finds.

As to the flood, the Bible is clear. To defend it, one must defended a
world-wide flood covering all the mountains of the earth around 2400 BCE. I
have never seen the following points adressed in connection with the claim
that the Quaternaty epoch and its ice-age(s) represent the Biblical flood,
so I will play the devil's advocate:

1) While the earth and the universe seems to be billions of years, the
surface of the earth is very young. It can be calculated how much erosion
is caused by the rivers of the world (for instance the retreat of the
Niagara Falls). Calculating this, we find that the big rivers are 5000-6000
years old. What was before that?It can further be calculated that after 200
million years the rivers would have filled the oceans with sediments. The
thickness of the sediments on the bottom of the oceans is not great, and
would accord more with the age of the rivers than with ages of millions
upon millions of years.

2) In Norway, and all over the earth we find raised beaches and lovered
beaches. In Norway they are 125-150 meters above sea level and about the
same below sea level. They suggest that the sea level has changed very much.

3) On the continental shelves down to 1000 meters, particular formations
being completely similar to river basins are found. They have rounded
pebbles, and it can be seen how water has eroded the river beds. But it is
impossible that sea level could have been a thousand meters below the
present level, say the experts. But is it?

4) In the pacific ocean Guyots are found. They are very hig conical
mountains with flat tops, indicating that the vawes have worked on them. On
their tops corals are found, but the problem is that these corals do not
live at depths greater than 150 meters, and the flat tops of the Guyots are
1000 meters beneath sea level. Has the whole ocen sunk 1000 meters, or has
the sea level been that much lover?

5) Regarding great movements in the crust of the earth in recent times, the
Cambridge Ancient History, I:28-30 says: "From the Himalaya to the Danubian
region an astonishing number of streams cut their way through ranges that
rise to elevations greater than those of their sources, and are believed to
do so because they first took their present courses before the ranges rose
across their paths." In Scandinavia we find small and big stones on the top
of the mountains, to levels up to 1000 meter above their place of origin.
Some rocks have even been transported from mountains a hundred miles away
and have been raised to high levels.

These five points show that the surface of the earth is very young, and
that great upheavals in the crust have occurred in recent times. There is
also evidence that the sea level may have changed dramatically in recent
times. There is no way to demonstrate that what is mentioned are a result
of a world-wide flood (history cannot be proven). But it shows there are
phenomena which accords with the Biblical account, that is, if huge amounts
of water either came from below or from above and flooded the earth, and
crustal movements after that pressed mountins up, we would expect to find
what I have outlined above. Two problems that the creationists had not
solved 25 years ago, are the great temperature differences that would be
the result of changing water from one aggregate condition to another, and
the problem of organisms  which had to adapt from fresh water to saline
water. But the points above are intriguing indeed.

My conclusion is that as far as data is concerned, the scientific view of a
gradual evolution from apes to man and then from primitive man to cultured
man, is principally based on faith - on the present evolutionary paradigm.
And its foundation is not better than the foundation of an inerrant view of
the Bible.
Let me add that I am just as negative etymological views regarding
languages and comparative linguistics as old as 2000 BCE as I am to history
and archaeology. We simply cannot speak with certainty about so old



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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