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The biblical account of Noah's Ark and the flood seems implausible to me due to this detail... How could animals accustom to thriving in extreme temperatures be found in a common place for preservation aboard the ark?

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I don't think they necessarily needed to be on the ark. Both species eat sea creatures and spend significant amounts of time dwelling on floating sheets of ice. They probably just waited things out at the poles floating on their own iceberg-arks. –  ShemSeger Oct 14 at 15:52

7 Answers 7

First of all I live in the Middle East in the same country as Mt. Ararat where the ark landed. Note this is not in Palestine nor do we know where Noah started from. The problem could just as well have been that he was starting from the Siberian tundra and needed some African wildebeests. You're trying to solve a specific problem that you don't have enough scenario data to build a case for or against.

However back to the plausibility argument. Here in the neighborhood of Mt Ararat there is a zoo here that has penguins. They are kept out of doors and, with the exception of having free access to a small pond, cope with the same baking heat the rest of us deal with. They may not like it but they survive.

Secondly I grew up in the Southwest high desert. The zoo where I grew up had a polar bear exhibit, again out of doors. In more recent years it has acquired some shade and a larger (very fun looking) series of pools but the one I remember as a kid wasn't much more than a concrete box.

As if that wasn't enough to at least cast doubt on the argument against the plausibility of such a thing, let's consider the other implications of the flood.

Hand in hand with the flood come a host of other radical global changes. The arrangement of dry land vs ocean has likely radically changed as tectonic plates rose and fell in order for the water to cover the whole land. How high mountains were, where they were located and even the divides between contents are likely very different.

In the same vein, global climate would have been radically different. Many believe from the Genesis account that there were changes in the atmosphere and that likely post-flood earth has a lot more extremes of hot and cold in different areas than pre-flood earth.

Lastly, it's not always alleged that every variation of species we have today was on the Ark. It's possible a representative of the bear family was all that God required to cover the basis for both polar bears and black bears.

And most importantly, don't you think the God who created the animals in the first place and gives them the instincts that make them what they are could not manipulate the system in a miraculous way to lead a couple of stray bears on a long walk? Similar wild and seemingly impossible journeys by strangely motivated animals have been documented

All in all, the specific allegations you bring up are small items in the big picture. If you really have a problem with the science, you need to start at the other end of the spectrum and work backwards. Those little details sort themselves out in the big picture.

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If you look at the genetic diversity of animals alive now, "manipulate the system in a miraculous way" is the only possible answer. Then again, the flood itself would have had to be miraculous also--if you really need to assume that there were baby dwarf elephants hibernating on the ark to make everything work, is that really more unpalatable than that there were magnitude 14-15 earthquakes and thousands of feet of water covering the land? About all we could say is: In a miracle so profound and dramatic, we cannot know the details. –  Rex Kerr Sep 4 '11 at 22:32
This answer does not hold water, as @Rex pointed out. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Sep 6 '11 at 1:23
This answer was never meant to be a bucket. It was only meant to anecdotal point out how many of the problems posed aren't as slippery as they are often made out to be. –  Caleb Feb 21 '12 at 18:37

Gen 6:20 reads as follows in the KJV:

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

(emphasis added)

The sense here is that the animals came to Noah, not that Noah went out and got each animal. I'm not sure that if I were a polar bear, I'd want to walk all the way from the polar regions to the ark, but if God is compelling the animals to come, then come they would have.

Also, remember that Noah had been building the ark for 100 years before the flood began, so there was ample time for the animals to reach the ark.

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There are two issues with your question. First, the assumption the polar bears must have been on the ark. The Bible specifies that there were two of each "kind". If we take this to mean two of every species that modern science defines, then that would necessitate many more animals on the ark. If, however, it just means that there were two of each kind, then there would be much fewer animals on the ark.

The idea is that all the genetic information for domestic dogs as well as coyotes (and perhaps wolves) could be contained within two representative wild dogs at the time. Indeed, we can expose the range of variations in domestic dogs to get Great Danes and Teacup Poodles.

So, if there were two bears that contained sufficient genetic information to account for the various species we see today, black, brown, polar, grizzly, etc., then polar bears need not be on the ark, except within the genetic makeup of the two bears that were selected (probably very young bears--one pink and one blue).

The other assumption is that the pre-flood climate is basically what we have today as well. There is sufficient evidence to show that this assumption is probably false. For example, we find wooly mammoths eating tropical vegetation in what are now arctic regions.

Biblically speaking, people lived far longer prior to the flood than they did afterward. A drastically different climate could certainly account for this.

So, Noah probably took one of each "kind" rather than one of each of the isolated species we see today. Noah had 8 people--not 2 Chinese, 2 Europeans, 2 Africans, 2 Native Americans, 2 Computer Programmers, etc. Also, the climate was likely much different then than it is now.

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There is a huge difference between breeds (dogs etc, which is purely a husbandry term), and species. The ability (in controlled, deliberate, managed scenarios) to breed dogs with favoured characteristics does not extend to simply unloading the ark. Managing the breeding to the point where species develop would take a lot more work than merely breeds, and is not supported by history. One estimate of the difference between, say, "brown bear" and "black bear" is 1.5-2.5 million years –  Marc Gravell Feb 9 '12 at 15:02
@MarcGravell The 1.5-2.5 million year guess is not supported by history. –  Narnian Feb 9 '12 at 15:12
hybridisation is different to speciation; finding a viable hybrid does not mean that you can trivially breed from just one to there, in any appreciable time –  Marc Gravell Feb 9 '12 at 16:23
I guess ultimately if you mean "and was steered a bit by divine power" then all bets are off, and any view might be equal. If you mean "and then continued along the diversity lines that we now have a pretty good grasp of", then such rapid specialisation could only occur, as with dogs, by deliberate breeding for example by man. There's no robust evidence that I know of to support that kind of rapid natural speciation, and we have no records of ancient bear-breeding (etc) by man. But if you mean "with divine steering", then : as you like. –  Marc Gravell Feb 9 '12 at 16:36

Let's address this question for the different views which are common about the Flood:

  1. The description of the Flood is to be taken literally, word for word, as a depiction of real historical events about a global Flood. In this case, it's a miracle. A global Flood which covers all the mountains of the Earth can not happen naturally, there is not enough water for that on the planet, so it was a miracle. In case of a miracle, nothing is impossible, and the acquisition of penguins and polar bears is dwarfed by much stronger "violations of the laws of nature how we unterstand them".

  2. The description of the Flood is to be taken literally, word for word, as a depiction of real historical events about a local Flood. In this view, the "whole world" actually means the whole world known to the people of that time. In this case, there is no need for penguins and polar bears, as they were outside of the areas affected by the Flood.

  3. The description of the Flood is largely symbolic. Just as in point 2., there is no need for penguins or polar bears here.

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Option (2) is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated "earth" (eretz) has a wide scope of meaning that includes various scopes of land/territory including the concept of "extent of human civilization at that time". The "whole world" can comfortably mean only the whole of the lands in which mankind dwelt. Gen 8 lends a great deal of credence to this idea, where the tops of the mountains were seen only after the ark came to rest and Gen 8:9 then says that "the waters were still on the face of the whole earth", though the mountains were already visible. –  Lawrence Dol Jan 28 at 23:00

Couldn't the answer simply be: "God 'snapped his fingers' and there they were." Because that is how other non-natural events' origins are often attributed in Christian traditions (e.g., the Red Sea parting, the burning bush, virgin birth...or, well, the creation of the entire universe). If God is taken to be omnipotent, what is the point of thinking anything mentioned in the Bible is, in your word, "implausible".

This is an answer for any implausibility you could find with this story (or any others). Not enough room on the ark? SNAP! Sure there is--it's like the TARDIS. Etc.

I have trouble understanding why, if one believes in the existence of an omnipotent being, one is later stymied by "challenges" he and his followers might face.

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Isaac Newton felt called by God to understand how God worked the miracles of Creation. Fundamentally, scientists - Christians amongst many of the founders - are not satisfied with the "miracle" explanation, not because they don't believe it, but because it shuts of inquiry. Jesus himself asked a lot of questions, so it isn't like God doesn't want the questions asked or investigated. So, to answer your query, Christians ask how miracles, etc... occur because we want to understand how God works more fully. That's how we all learn. –  Yuletide Geek Feb 21 '12 at 21:47
@AffableGeek My answer was a direct response to the OP saying the account of Noah's Ark seemed "implausible", and so my discussion of omnipotence was intended to obviate the concern of implausibility. Maybe, instead, what remains in your mind is not a doubt that it is plausible but a wonder at by what intermediary means God brought about the ark events, just out of curiosity about the "style" of the creator. Something like that? –  Chelonian Feb 22 '12 at 1:14
Fair enough, but I guess I would still stress that while omnipotence is the ultimate answer, to rely on a base definition of it will appear to many as a cop out. I do want to make clear, I think you're right, but I'm not sure the answer adds much. God doesn't do magic, he does miracles. –  Yuletide Geek Feb 22 '12 at 1:48
Oh, and my daughter and I both heartily approve of the Doctor reference ;) –  Yuletide Geek Feb 22 '12 at 1:49
If the people on this site were to accept the answer that "God can do anything at any time. Why bother questioning it?", this whole site would be irrelevant. Every answer for every question, "Because God says so." –  Jeff Jan 28 at 16:17

One school of thought on the flood holds that it was not in fact global, but just occurred in Mesopotamia. The argument is that Psalm 104 indicates the earth would never be fully covered with water after the creation, and the Hebrew words for "whole earth" in the flood account generally indicated a local area. So Noah only had to save "local" animals, which, presumably, did not include penguins and polar bears.

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That does conflict with Genesis 7, though. Interesting. –  Marc Gravell Feb 9 '12 at 7:43
+1 - not that I agree with the argument, but it is one of the major explanations given. –  neil Feb 10 '12 at 18:14
@Marc: No it does not conflict with Genesis 7 - the Hebrew word translated "earth" (eretz) has a wide scope of meaning that includes various scopes of land/territory including the concept of "extent of human civilization at that time". The "whole world" can easily and comfortably mean only the whole of the lands in which mankind dwelt. Gen 8 lends a great deal of credence to this idea, where the tops of the mountains were seen only after the ark came to rest and Gen 8:9 then says that "the waters were still on the face of the whole earth", though the mountains were already visible. –  Lawrence Dol Jan 28 at 22:55


The flood was global, otherwise God most probably wouldn't have instructed Noah to build such a big vessel to accommodate just the regional animals and birds.

Ice floats on water, so the flood wouldn't affect animals and birds that live on ice.

More than 50% (or likely, more than 75%) of the animal kingdom including fish lives on water; then there is another percentage that are amphibians, all of which wouldn't be affected by the flood.

How did all the animals fit on Noah's Ark?

How big was Noah's Ark?

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Arguing in comments is not cool. There's a chat room for the creation/evolution debate. –  David Stratton Jan 29 at 13:30
Welcome to the site! This doesn't really have much to do with your answer, but I find that sharing the following tends to help new visitors avoid mistaking the purpose of this site. I do hope to see more from you! When you get a chance, please see How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Jan 29 at 13:31
Mod Notice: <comments removed> Please note that the comment feature is NOT for debating the issues. They can be used to request clarification on a post and if the author thinks it deserves response they should edit the post itself, after which point the comment will be removed as obsolete. –  Caleb Jan 29 at 13:49

protected by Yuletide Geek Mar 20 '13 at 23:55

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