A scientific test of Noah’s Flood: a good idea which is mine

Inspired by a comment from TheRationalizer, and Francis Collins’s admission that genetic data show that Adam and Eve could not have been the literal ancestors of all humanity, I had a great idea, which is mine and belongs to me.  We can test another Biblical claim using genetics: the claim of the Great Flood of Noah (Genesis 6 and 7).  The Bible says that every species on earth was reduced to either two or fourteen individuals, depending on whether you agree with Genesis 6 or 7 (I’d never noticed this discrepancy before).

For many species we can do genetic tests identical to the ones used by evolutionists to show that humans leaving Africa were reduced to a population of only a few thousand individuals.

The Flood Hypothesis, then, predicts that all species, some time around 10,000 years ago, went through a population bottleneck of either two or fourteen individuals.  With a few assumptions, current estimates of genetic diversity can be used to test that claim. And I’m sure that the relevant data exist for many species, especially the fruit flies (Drosophila) I work on.  From that data, you could determine if there was a bottleneck around then, how large it might have been, and the confidence limits around that estimate.

So, some bright young scientist out there: get on it.  I can’t guarantee, though, that any reputable journal would publish your result.  On the bright side, it wouldn’t take much work to figure this out.

Oh, and the problem doesn’t go away if you say that what Noah put aboard the Ark were not species but “kinds” or “sorts.”  Those supposedly gave rise to all existing species, so the bottleneck problem still stands.

O noes! Bafftime coming!


  1. Tulse
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    No fundy who believes in a literal Flood would find such evidence convincing.

    • Lurker111
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

      Right. For these people, facts don’t matter.

  2. Jim Thomerson
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Out here in the Texas Hill Country, we know about the flood of Noah. We got a quarter inch of rain that time.

  3. John Laughlin
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, you almost got it right. According to the so-called “J” tradition in Genesis 7:2, it would be 16 animals: 7 pairs of “clean” and 1 pair of the “unclean.”

    • Helena Constantine
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Not exactly. Each ‘kind’ is either clean or unclean. So there would be 7 pairs of the clean cow kind, but only 1 pair of the unclean swine kind.

      • Kevin
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

        Of course, “clean” = “edible”.

        Hey, they had to eat something on the trip, didn’t they?

        • Dominic
          Posted July 4, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          Edible underwear – does it have to be clean?!

          • Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            Presumably edible underwear is a vegetable product, ultimately, so it is neither.

      • Paul D.
        Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        How did they know what was clean or unclean, when God hadn’t given anyone the Levitical law yet?

        • Robert Stovold
          Posted July 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          Very good point. The Bible says humans weren’t permitted to eat meat until after the Flood (Genesis 9:3), so talk of clean and unclean animals would have been meaningless to poor old Noah. And how did freshwater and saltwater fish survive the massive changes in salinity they’d’ve experienced when these waters were mixed?

        • Posted July 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

          I think this part was written by he J author, who wasn’t as familiar with the requirements of Levitical law as the P author. P’s primary concern was to make sure priests got their proper due and Levitical law was followed exactly, and he knew that Noah wasn’t a priest and shouldn’t be performing sacrifices in the first place. That’s why he just had one pair of each animal.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Still not right. 14 animals if clean, otherwise 2 animals. The average quantity is less than 14.

      I take it the Israelite authors never considered the effect of so much fresh water on all the salt water dependent species in the oceans.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Marine spp, hell. What about much of the terrestrial flora?

      • Dominic
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        I thought it the other way around, “The fountains of the deep were opened” or whatever it is.
        This page shows that the volume of water would have to be three times what is present on Earth now –

  4. Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I’d think it’d take all of five minutes for somebody familiar with the various online gene databases to do this particular debunking.

    Especially when you use the 4,000 year figure from Ussher rather than the 10K one some “liberal” literalists like to bandy about. There’re living bristlecone pine trees that would’ve been centuries old at the time of the Noahic Flood, and they wouldn’t even survive a good Sonoran monsoon season — let alone extended submersion in seawater.

    Besides. The Egyptians were mastering the craft of brewing beer at the time they were supposed to have been 24,000 feet under water. They sure didn’t notice anything.

    That’s the real problem here. The Genesis account isn’t even long enough to cover recorded history — let alone fit some cockamamie bullshit fantasy that requires extreme squinting.

    Hardly surprising, though, considering it opens with a story about a magic garden with…well, you know the rest.



    • Becca Stareyes
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Presumably part of moving it back to 10,000 years ago is to remove the fact that supposedly a global catastrophe happened and no other civilization, even ones that would be near to Israel and ones that left ruins and monuments and writing, noticed.

      • Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I’m sure that’s what they think they’re doing.

        It’s just that, to borrow from Richard, it’s like a New Yorker standing on the east side of Broadway looking west changing his estimate of the location of San Francisco from “the other side of that parked car” to “the other side of the street.”


    • E.A. Blair
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “The Egyptians were mastering the craft of brewing beer at the time they were supposed to have been 24,000 feet under water. They sure didn’t notice anything.”

      With enough beer, I don’t notice much either.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      That’s the real problem here. The Genesis account isn’t even long enough to cover recorded history — let alone fit some cockamamie bullshit fantasy that requires extreme squinting.

      I like Sam Harris’ take on this:
      “[…} more than half the American population believes that the entire cosmos was created 6,000 years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.”

    • Mattapult
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Did the Egyptions have a hieroglyph for rainbows, particularly one pre-dating the supposed flood? Actually, I’m wondering what the oldest written account of a rainbow is… A cave painting maybe. The flood would have to pre-date that. Or there were a few caveman prophets who escaped a passing mention in the bible.

  5. Neil
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Should be pretty easy to do the test. Cheetahs went through a genetic bottle neck down to a handful of individuals and as a result are so similar that skin grafts do not cause rejection. If this is not true of the majority of species then the “theory” is disproved.

    • Marella
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and it was about ten thousand years ago IIRC, so apparently the only animals on the arc were cheetahs. Noah must’ve snuck up on them when they were asleep.

      • Observer
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        The cheetahs got onto the ark ahead of all the other animals and the rest of the animals were afraid to board.

  6. Posted July 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and the problem doesn’t go away if you say that what Noah put aboard the Ark were not species but “kinds” or “sorts.”

    You know…this, too, should be easy to deal with.

    The Bible gives the physical dimensions of the Ark.

    We therefore know its volume, which places bounds on the total number of animals.

    Any decent geometer should be able to come up with an excellent estimate of the number of “kinds” there would have been on the Ark.

    Once you have that number, you then have your answer as to what a “kind” really is — species, family, genus, whatever. Maybe there was only room for one pair of carnivora, and all cats, dogs, bears, etc. are descended from that pair; or maybe there was room for a pair of felines from which all cats evolved and another pair of canines from which all dogs evolved. Whichever the case is a simple question of geometry.

    When you have the number of “kinds” and the number of years (from Biblical chronologies) and the number of generations (from genetic analysis), you then know the reproductive rate for the animals.

    …and, it just so happens to turn out, it means that tortoises have been breeding like bacteria, but never mind that….



  7. Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Whether it is 2, 7, or 16 is easy to determine.

    When assessing the number of “kinds” for DNA purposes it is the highest possible answer, and when assigning space on the ark it is the lowest possible number……and they are all baby animals.

  8. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    To me, what should be the most convincing evidence against Noah’s Flood and his Ark is the obvious fact that the Noah’s Flood tale comes from the more ancient Sumerian – Babylon tale of Gilgamesh, which Christians are, of course, obliged to reject.

    Check out this Institute for Creation Research article that ridicules the Gilgamesh tale while claiming that the tale of Noah’s flood is fact:


    • Greg Esres
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      “obvious fact that the Noah’s Flood tale comes from the more ancient Sumerian”

      You can fit that fact into a scientific narrative or a non-scientific one. For instance, if there really were a flood, it wouldn’t be surprising to find a description of it in other cultures, since their ancestors were on the boat.

      • Dominic
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        But then their ‘flood’ narratives would have equal validity.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

      Proving again that no parody can touch the real thing! Gaah, that page was so unintentionally hilarious.

      The divine inspiration of the Bible would demand that the Genesis account is the correct version.

      Well, duh!

      As the well-known sign reads, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

  9. Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to be a thread hog here, but the more I think about this, the better it gets.

    One of the classic claims from creationists is that you never see one species changing into another. Never mind that that’s something of a misrepresentation of the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, it’s exactly what creationists claim must have happened.

    It’s plainly clear that there wasn’t enough room on the Ark for there to have literally been two (or seven) of every extant species. There would have had to have been at least a half-dozen elephants, possibly as many as sixty-three giraffes (if they’re clean and all nine subspecies really are different kinds), and as many tigers as giraffes. And lots of bears, and hippos, and camels, and cattle of all kinds, and on and on and on and on. That’s the whole point of the story, really.

    But…there wasn’t enough room for all of them. Not by a long shot. If we only considered beetles, we’re probably looking at the entire capacity of the ship. Once you add in ants, termites, bees, flies, wasps, and grasshopper / locusty-things, there’s certainly no room left for anything else.

    So, the inevitable conclusion is that there was only a very small sampling of archetypal “kinds” which “microevolved” into the diversity we see today.

    Over a period lasting from about 4,000 years ago (the time of the Flood) to about 3,500 years ago (when most of the Old Testament stories would have taken place, according to Ussher).

    Now…don’t you think it odd that neither the Bible nor any other ancient source has any mention of the amazingly rapid “microevolution” that would have taken place? Even Noah himself, as long as he lived, would surely have noticed his pet ur-cat giving birth to a tiger-like kitten and a jaguar-like kitten…and a lion-like kitten, and a serval-like kitten, and on and on and on and on.

    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now.



    • Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      One of the classic claims from creationists is that you never see one species changing into another.

      Actually, most don’t say that. What they do say, is that you will never see one kind changing to another. Some of them say that a koala is of the bear kind, so presumably the evolving of a polar bear into a koala is something that they could consider okay. I seem to recall that Ken Ham claims that there was rapid evolution (that did not cross the “kind” barrier) following the flood. He uses that to explain observed biodiversity in the light of the limited capacity of Noah’s boat.

      • Marella
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        No, no, no, koalas are not bears, they are marsupials. Pandas are bears, try them.

        • Sven DiMilo
          Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          but not the red ones…just the giant ones.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:50 am | Permalink

        At least get the scientific terminology straight! It’s baramins, not kinds!

    • CH
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      The ‘show stopper’ response to this claim that only kinds were abort the ark which later evolved into many species is to point out that the kinds that are usually proposed (ex. something like felidae) resulted in species that are more different than chimps and humans. So, God didn’t need to include both humans and chimps on the ark – one could have evolved from the other in the last 4000 years.

    • Sean W.
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      There’s a nice article available at the NCSE website that adresses many of the issues with the flood story (there are a few!).


  10. Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    That “idea which is mine” may not be as original as you think. I see it often mention in the internet evolution/creation debates. And, as expected, the creationists don’t seem to think that it poses any problem for them.

  11. Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t take too much effort. It only takes one counter-example to disprove any theory.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      “It only takes one counter-example to disprove any theory.”

      True, but it often takes more than that to convince people of that fact or to forestall ad hoc modifications of the theory.

  12. Kieran
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    What did they breath on the Ark, did it have its own life support system? All land plants have been wiped out, so no oxygen from land sources. How would changing the salinity affect phytoplankton, we know that changing pH causes a reduction in phytoplankton so what about salinity. So a sudden change in the osmotic gradient between the water and the phytoplankton may trigger cell death or just cause them to burst.
    We also know from creationist source is that common weed plants don’t regenerate after prolonged soaking http://www.evolutionflunksbotany.org/images/12_Plant_survival_and_the_great_Flood.pdf he doesn’t comment on this in the paper but look at table V in the paper Cirsium edule doesn’t germinate at all. He also planted them in native soil and all are common plants so any regeneration maybe due to seed bank effect rather than his seeds germinating.

    Won’t even get into the talk origins stuff on plants. I say plants provide a strong evidence against a global flood. By age of specimens, modes of reproduction, specific ecosystem needs and of course production of oxygen to keep those plucky Arkonauts alive!

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

      Glad to see so many fellow WEITians individually arriving at my botanic objection to the Ark myth, an idea I had thought was a good one which was mine…

      • Posted July 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Diane, the plants are always ignored in the ark story. Until the end, that is. How that olive survived the flood*, I’ll never know.

        *Of course, I don’t recall the story saying it was a living branch.

        • Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          Both Christian and Jewish creationists in my experience use a “floating mats of vegetation” hypothesis to save the botanical world. Ridiculous, needless to say, but no more or less than most aspects of the story.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

          Rest assured–I saw the Disney cartoon. It was definitely a living branch.

          @ Keith: No, really?! Don’t tell them that could account for a lot of inverts & microbes as well!

  13. E.A. Blair
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    “Oh, and the problem doesn’t go away if you say that what Noah put aboard the Ark were not species but “kinds” or “sorts.” Those supposedly gave rise to all existing species, so the bottleneck problem still stands.”

    They’ll just find another way to weasel around it.

  14. Jeff D
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    If this theory were to be published, would Anne Elk get co-author credit?

    • IW
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      That’s Anne Elk brackets Miss brackets to you! Ahem…!

  15. markus
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Another test for a biblical story of a similar kind would be the proposed bottleneck of abraham. From my understanding of the bible all jews are supposed to be descendants of abraham thus genetic analysis could be able to test that.

  16. CH
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    “For the eight people on the Ark, sixteen alleles can be represented. Now it just so happens that there are human genes for which there are many more than sixteen alleles. For example, the HLA-DRB-1 gene (part of what is called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, an important part of the immune system) is represented by fifty-nine alleles in the human population. That means at least 43 alleles must have come into existence via evolution since the Flood just at that locus.”

    • Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Actually its less than 16 alleles, since 3 of the occupants were Noah’s and his wife’s sons. So those 3 have no new alleles than their parents, so that makes 10 as the upper limit. Of course is Noah’s wife played the field, then 13 alleles, but she probably wouldn’t have been allowed on the ark in the first place.

      • Eddie Janssen
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

        Indeed, there should be a noticable difference between men and women. There was only one Y chromosome on the Ark. We do not know the relationship between the four women. Let’s assume they were not related too closely.
        In modern humans, the diversity in Y chromosomes should be 4 times smaller than that in mitochondrial DNA.
        Has anyone ever tried to investigate this?

        • Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          You’re assuming Noah’s wife was faithful…

  17. Matt G
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I had this idea years ago. Damn, should have patented it….

  18. Dominic
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Freshwater fish? Trees? Glacial icecaps? We would have to have an active re-creation by god(s) on a regular basis.

    • Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Nah, you only need one.

      And it happened Last Thursday, as a matter of fact.



      • Dominic
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        …god(s) missed creating hair for the top of my head then!

  19. stvs
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    The really important thing is to worship a god that wanted to absolutely wipe all humanity off the face of the earth, then after he changed his mind, make it so that anyone who doesn’t worship his bastard son is slaughtered then tortured forever after they’re dead.

    • Posted July 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Let’s not forget that said bastard zombie of a son is all set to return in gory to finish what dad started, any day now….


      • stvs
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        son is all set to return in glory to finish what dad started

        I was, of course, referring to Revelation when I said “slaughter”.

        My four-year-old is almost at the age where I’m obligated to teach her all this bullshit, if only for cultural heritage reasons. I’d love to use my favorite Book of Genesis—R. Crumb’s—but having just perused it for appropriateness it’s fair to say that I would be an abusive parent if I showed my child what is actually depicted in Genesis. So I’m still looking for an appropriately sanitized source.

        At least the JW’s make kid-friendly cartoons showing Jesus murdering all but the 144 thousand in a sea of fire:

        • Hempenstein
          Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          FWIW, I completely avoided taking any of that up with my kids, and they (now both in the mid-20’s range) don’t seem to have come out any the worse as a result. One has started an online literary magazine with some of her like-minded friends and the other will be a 2nd-yr law student in the fall (who shudders at the fundamentalist types he encounters from time to time).

          • Diane G.
            Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:03 am | Permalink

            For the most part, my now 25 & 19 year-olds were also not taught Biblical mythology at home. Such mythology is pervasive enough that they picked it up themselves from cultural transfer, but they appeared to always regard it as just another fairy tale/fable, like so much of the rest of kid lit.

        • Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:08 am | Permalink

          They wear suits & ties in heaven? I rather thought it would be a ‘black tie’ affair…

        • Charlie Jones
          Posted July 5, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          I’ve been going through the Lego Bible (http://www.thebricktestament.com/) with my 8- and 10-year-old girls. The chapters are clearly labelled with the sort of objectionable material contained within (nudity, cursing, violence, etc.), so you can easily skip certain chapters (e.g., the one with Lego Lot’s daughters in exotic sexual positions with their drunk dad).

          The girls love it, and it aptly captures the absurdity of the Bible without having to add hardly any editorial comments (a few thought balloons).

          Strongly recommended.

          Oh, and if your kid is not that interested in the Bible, start with Revelations! Just watch for the 7-headed beast with blasphemy written on its foreheads in tiny letters: FUCK JESUS…FUCK JESUS…

    • Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      If humans were the problem, why did all of the other innocent plants and animals also have to die? That’s right, humans: It’s always “me me me” isn’t it?

      I think I read somewhere that the atmosphere would have been thinner too, so less greenhouse effect, and with that much water absorbing CO2, wouldn’t it have caused a Snowball Earth again?

      • PaulM
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        IMO, this supposed effect would definitely have been countered by the warmth of God’s love.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Right. Going back, it makes sense to look at genetics.

    Going forward instead, you would worry about the geophysics of it all. Where did the water came from and where did it go?

    A global flood is a non-starter.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      “Where did the water came from and where did it go?”

      Well, there was a vapor canopy above the earth that shielded humans from cosmic rays, which is why the ancients lived so long. The flood was caused by the collapse of said canopy. I’m not sure where the water went to. I think all the continents raised up.

      I’m channeling Henry Morris here.

      • Mattapult
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        If you think of attmospheric pressure as the weight of all the molicules above, a vapor canopy would carry the weight of 25,000 feet of water. Any scuba diver can tell you, roughly 30 feet of water adds one atmosphere of pressure. So the vapor canopy would have put the pressure on the surface around 900 atmospheres. Should be easy to identify ancient compression of the entire surface of the Earth.

  21. 386sx
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    What better test of Noah’s ark than cross-eyed cats? Makes perfect sense when you think about it.

    • 386sx
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Now I got it. They can see two of every kind! I knew there was a punchline in there somewhere dammit…

      • Sven DiMilo
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        and whoomp: there it is

  22. 386sx
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    The Bible says that every species on earth was reduced to either two or fourteen individuals, depending on whether you agree with Genesis 6 or 7 (I’d never noticed this discrepancy before).

    Ah well, there’s plenty more. There are lots of discrepancies all over the place. This is what happens when the LORD writes a big giant humongous book. Next time, try a smaller book, LORD. Lol.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure most of the people who stop here have seen this:

      Top 10 Reasons God Was Denied Tenure

      1. He had only one major publication.

      2. It had no references.

      3. It wasn’t published in a refereed journal or even submitted for peer review.

      4. And some even doubt he wrote it himself.

      5. It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done recently?

      6. The scientific community has had a very rough time trying to replicate his results.

      7. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.

      8. He expelled his first two students for learning.

      9. Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed his tests.

      10. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        I hadn’t seen that, and it’s great–thanks!

  23. stvs
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    … a good idea which is mine …

    You were scooped!

  24. bacopa
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    YECs believe in super evolution, an incredible rate of speciation after the “kinds” left the ark. They think this is possible because the “kinds” had super duper extra genes to make the diversity we know today in only a couple thousand years. There might have been two or three examples of catkind on the ark These cats had extra genes that made it possible for three species to turn into a hundred through gene loss “microevolution”. Of course, those of us who know something about genetics know that genes aren’t so much lost as supressed. Birds have tooth growing genes, Horses have genes for extra toes which are sometimes expressed as a birth defect. If the diverse species we have today were super evolved from kinds on the ark, we’d find genes to make a completely normal lynx in a housecat, and full housecat genes in a lynx.

    The Flood is magic, Creation is magic, why can’t they just say the repopulation of the earth from the ark animals is magic?

    Creationists: Embrace the Magic. It’s all you’ve got. I would respect yall more if you just bit the bullet.

  25. igakusei
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I was going to come post about how Cheetahs were apparently the only animals on the ark, but someone beat me to it 😦

    One of the really interesting things to me about creationists is the enormous diversity among their views. There’s currently a 30 page long thread on a Christian forum I browse occasionally where the principal topic of disagreement is whether the earth is 6,000 or 21,000 years old. I posted something about 30,000 year old sewing needles, but it was completely ignored.

    You’ve got everything from Kent Hovind and Ken Ham with their literal 6-day account to Michael Behe and his guided evolution. You’ve got creationists who argue that Adam and Eve were simply the first hominids with souls to creationists who say Adam and Eve were specially created in a world already populated with humans to creationists who don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      I usually go with the 20,000 year old dildos.

      It usually stops that conversation cold … as it should.

    • Nom de Plume
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      All of this is because they are desperately trying to square the circle. I went through similar contortions once I’d accepted that evolution was an undeniable fact.

      Creationists take evolution very seriously indeed. They wouldn’t try so hard if they didn’t. Anyone smart enough to come up with “irreducible complexity” is smart enough to grasp evolutionary theory. They’re just scared of it, simple as that.

  26. Sven DiMilo
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Two of each kind and then some extras of the clean ones, rain stops, they start dispersing, and then whammo! The Generator Of Diversity generates a bunch of diversity, just like that!
    No problem-o.

  27. Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    There are open handed and closed handed issues in the Christian church. Closed hand being those which cannot be compromised, such as the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus with his position as the third person of the trinitarian God. Then there are the open handed issues, where Christians disagree agreeably about aspects of Scripture. The flood is one such open handed issue. Some say for example the world was only partially flooded. Either way it is important to approach the issue from the Bible’s foundation Jesus Christ. All 66 books of the Bible are about Jesus. Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher of the Bible and he understood that the Scriptures were a faithful recording of the Words of His Father in Heaven and an accurate record of human history. This is key. If you are going to consider the meaning of Genesis and what we can learn from it you have to start with Jesus.

    • Tulse
      Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      What counts as an open-handed issue is a close-handed issue for most sects of Christianity. For example, in many fundamentalist groups, suggesting the Flood did not happen as literally laid out in Genesis is sufficient to be eternally damned to unending torment.

      In other words, your characterization of the “Christian church” is very parochial.

    • heleen
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:45 am | Permalink

      All 66 books of the Bible are about Jesus
      That is a biased interpretation by people with a biases interest, isn’t it? Jews do not agree, to start with.

      • Kieran
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        That’s a very protestant bible, mine has 72 books so clearly is better than a mere 66 books! It also comes with an entire guilt thing as well which just makes life wonderful….

    • SAWells
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      Utter bullshit in every respect, but you knew that when you posted it.

    • John F.
      Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

      Actually, I would be more interested in hearing what the book of Joshua says about Jesus.

    • Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      sez creditaction: “…there are the open handed issues, where Christians disagree agreeably about aspects of Scripture. The flood is one such open handed issue.”
      Tell it to the YECs. I’m sure that Ken Ham, Kurt Hovind, and Walt Brown will be happy to explain to you, in great detail, why it is so very important for Christians to believe in the Flood.

  28. Dan
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    When I was taking pop gen in the Pop Bio core class at UCD, my cohort-mates and I batted this idea around. It is ultimately pointless, though – if you’re not going to convince them with empirical evidence that they CAN understand, you’re sure as hell not going to convince them with mathematics that they can’t.

  29. Neil
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Archaeogenetics to refute the flood myth? Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

  30. Posted July 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if someone else has covered this, but the 1 pair vs. 7 pairs is not so much a discrepancy, but one of the clues that biblical scholars have picked up on as evidence that the flood story combines two different tellings of the flood by two different authors, one of which had one pair of everything, and the other of which had one pair of unclean animals and 7 pairs of clean animals.

  31. Gayle Stone
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Marshall J. Gauvin had the discrepency in One Hundred Contradictions in the Bible back around 1922.

  32. Claspie
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Jews agree that the Old testament is about ‘a saviour’. They just don’t agree that Jesus is that saviour.

  33. Axsmith
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Why bother with new genetic evidence? 150 year old geological evidence conclusively refutes flood “geology.”. Anyone that thinks otherwise is ignorant or blinded by religion, and can’t be convinced by any reasonable evidence.

  34. Brian Ingram
    Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Good idea … but I’ve always wondered something: Why were pigs saved — they get such a bad rap in the Abrahamic religions.

    Why would they be saved?

    To test the faith?

    Religion es muy kah-kah.

  35. Posted July 4, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I actually had this idea too, and discuss it at my blog. It has always seemed like an obvious and testable prediction of the Genesis story. My question is why aren’t ICR and other silly organizations of like mind are not doing this very obvious research? My suspicion is that most of them are scientifically illiterate, and those that are know already that such research will not pan out in their favor. My take on the subject (feel free to offer feed back in the comments section): http://maxiitheblindwatchmaker.blogspot.com/2011/04/answers-not-in-genesis-where-are.html

  36. abb3w
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Such genetic testing relies on the inference from evidence regarding the mutation rate; all the young earth creationists will do is declare is that changes, too, like they posit for radioactive decay rates. In fact, I’d bet a dollar that since the potential for radioactivity to cause mutations is popular-culture grade knowledge at this point, they would claim the two are somehow connected.

    Other than as a nigh-platonic abstract exercise of the scientific method, the analysis doesn’t seem to have a point.

    • igakusei
      Posted July 5, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      abb3w, don’t the sequences of the polymerases themselves demonstrate evolutionary relationships?

      Actually, that makes me think of an interesting question. Is there an optimal mutation rate that is selected for over time? A polymerase with a higher-than-optimal mutation rate would lower the fitness of its species by crippling too many offspring, while a polymerase (or repair mechanism) that performs its job TOO well will not create enough genetic diversity to provide adaptability to changing environments.

      If true, I expect that this optimal rate would be different for species with very different life cycles, say May Flies vs. Orcas. Is this actually observed in nature, or are mutation rates pretty much the same across all Eukaryotes? My only pop gen training was from General Biology in undergrad, so I’m probably not making any sense.

      • abb3w
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Note, I’m not a biologist. I’m working from more a CompSci background, and not an expert one for that.

        From that, however, the contemporary genomes can be considered as a collection of strings, where we know that some are copied from another (trivially, because of the cases where organism and both parents were sequenced), and where we know that the copying process is imperfect (ditto; mutations happen).

        So, we can probably find out the error rate going from parent to offspring. Of course, it may not be a simple constant. Trivially, it will differ depending on whether you express the rate per codon or per genome; less trivially, it may also be a function of the parent’s age. Furthermore, the rate is some kind of a probabilistic emission function.

        While have “a man, a plan, animal, panama” and “a man, a plane, a canal, banana” and we infer that they are related from some ancestor from some time back in the past, it’s only a probabilistic inference. From the information about current mutation rates and some estimates on reproductive maturity, you can get a statistical confidence on about how far back that ancestor is. However, that’s dependent on the accuracy of your measurement of the mutation rate, conversion from “generations” to “years”, and so on. Geologic dating provides some cross-check, in that if your genome work suggests dogs and cats last having common ancestors circa 43 megayears back, you can dig around in strata circa 43Ma old to look for fossils that are hard to tell if they are more dog or more cat. However, creationists are already arguing about those dates.

        As to the question of optimal mutation rate, I suspect conditions vary too much too often (IE: irregular gigaton-plus scale disasters like eruptions and planetary impacts) for the slight pressure to be sustained. As long as the mutation rate isn’t so high that non-viability of offspring makes the reproduction-k level too costly, and isn’t kept so low as to make epidemics doomsday events, I don’t see a strong selection for mutation rates. But I may be overlooking something; again, I’m not a biologist.

      • Posted July 16, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Actually, this is exactly the case. There is strong evidence that polymerases are under selection pressure toward lower than perfect fidelity, and there are artificial polymerases that were selected for high fidelity that are used in vitro.

        See http://rnajournal.cshlp.org/content/13/7/1017.long for one example.

  37. Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Re: the OP — didn’t Ayala once publish something about the minimum possible population size of humans, at least?

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