In Praise of Ham
On a recent trip through Kentucky, I got to wondering about the Creation Museum in Petersburg. While it is filled with cool animatronic dinosaurs and presents an idyllic view of early human life (who wouldn’t like to frolic with friendly, vegetarian velociraptors?), I thought about what kind of displays I would put into such a place and how my vision might have differed from that of the museum’s founders. My pondering soon turned to Noah and his ark, and it wasn’t too long before I began to find I had a much richer appreciation for my job. Here’s how that worked.
I know that life on the ark has been presented as hard (though not by all). Naturally, Noah and his family had to deal with the knowledge that all of their friends, relatives, and non-friendly non-relations had perished in the worldwide flood. With terrified screams still echoing in their ears, thoughts of mothers and babes-in-arms dying horribly as the waters rose could not have been comforting. The prospect of starting life on earth all over again after every single living thing not aboard the ark had been destroyed and the whole water-drainage-and-clean-up issue must have amounted to a pretty bleak five-year plan which, among other things, involved building pyramids in Egypt and assembling Stonehenge.
Even so, large-scale carnage was likely not on the minds of the passengers of the ark as soon as it became clear that someone was going to have to tend for all those animals. They would all have to be cleaned, fed, watered, and exercised if life were to flourish again once the flood waters subsided. There was also the question of just who it was that was going to be in charge of waste disposal. I am guessing this awkward conversation involved a lot of embarrassed throat-clearing and was followed by stony silence at the dinner table from Ham, who, as youngest, was undoubtedly thrown under the bus by his brothers and stuck with this disagreeable task.
Yes, I’ll wager that for 40 days and 40 nights young Ham (well, maybe not that young since his father was already 600) rued the day he set foot on the SS Noah. It wasn’t the chickens or gerbils that would have rubbed him the wrong way; it would have been the large herbivores. A single African elephant, you see, produces 300 pounds of organic fertilizer every day, and, of course, there were two. I can hear the snickers of Shem and Japheth now as Ham trudged up the stairs from the bottom deck toward the single window at the top of the ark to dispose of this prodigious pile of pachyderm poo one shovelful at a time. “Quit complaining,” they’d say. “You have the two dung beetles to help you.” That sort of treatment could darken anyone’s mood.
Still, the elephants would not have been the biggest of Ham’s concerns because dinosaurs were on the ark, too. Big dinosaurs. While an adult male African elephant weighs an average of 13,000 pounds, an adult Apatosaur weighed 66,000 pounds. This means transporting the 600-pound “gift” left by the elephants on a daily basis would have been a mere stretching exercise for when the dinosaur cages needed cleaning. An Apatosaur ate 1000 pounds of vegetation per day (that’s a lot of fiber!), and it, ahem, passed as much every day. So, according to the dino-turd experts, Ham would have been shoveling a ton of number 2 seven days a week for the entire trip (and that’s for only two animals that weren’t going to last much longer anyway). Sure, the cruise only lasted 40 days, but that has to be the worst temp job on record.
Don’t think that Ham would have contented himself with the idea that everyone was having to do a lot of work, either. As Shem and Japheth hauled down the ton of vegetation to the Apatosaurs’ cage, admittedly a tough job, Ham could only have been thinking, “That’s a lot of bronto-bombs coming my way.” It’s not just the Apatosaurs, of course. The largest coprolite yet found (that’s what dinosaur cowpie hotshots call fossilized manure) was six inches thick and 17 inches long and didn’t come from an Apatosaur (it contained bone fragments, so it belonged to a meat eater; this would have been, ah, squeezed out after the ark struck land because until then all animals were vegetarian).
Shoveling wouldn’t have been Ham’s only job. There would have been a lot of mopping, too. Apatosaurs drank 69 gallons of water per day much of which would have been peed out on the floor of their stall. Trust me, I’d rather carry 46,092 pounds of water to the thunder lizards over the course of the voyage than clean up the mess later. It’s no wonder Ham abused his father so egregiously after landfall.
Incredibly, it only gets worse. Ham would have had to deal with dragons., ,  Due to a lack of solid paleontological evidence, we are forced to speculate as to the characteristics of these winged, leathery monsters. Of particular interest to the present discussion, we know little of the volume or malodorousness of their fecal matter. We do know that they lived forever (but not so little boys), and it seems safe to say an adult dragon would have been the Babe Ruth of its time, gastrointestinally speaking. After all, if fire came out of their mouths, what might have come out of their backsides? The pooping prowess of dragons must have been awe-inspiring: every time Puff ceased his fearless roar, Ham would have known that a trip down into the bowels (snicker) of the ship was in order. Consider further that, not being what they are now, the workplace protections of Noah’s time would have afforded Ham little in the way of refuge from dragon droppings. The hissing and bubbling in the Noachian sea caused by the draconic-lawn-sausages dropped from Ham’s much-abused shovel would have been a sight.
All of the arguments against a literal reading of Genesis 8 cannot be addressed in this forum. While I have discussed the rather mundane problem of the impossibility of sewage removal, a few other issues can be quickly outlined.
- There is an unbroken set of written records from Egypt dating from the present back to 3000 BCE, 500 years before the flood is alleged to have occurred. This fact, all by itself, falsifies the Genesis account. There is no indication in the historical record that civilizations around the world were simultaneously wiped out.
- What did the animals eat after leaving the ark? Remember, there are no plants whatsoever and no animals save for those on the ark. Any predation would have meant instant extinction of a species (or an entire “kind,” if one wishes to use this common creationist out for dealing with the number of animals on the ark).
- How did marine organisms survive? The change in salinity of their environments caused by the mixing of different bodies of water would have been instantly fatal.
- Given the torrential rainfall necessary for submerging the world’s mountains, we would expect to find a uniform erosion layer would be present in the archeological record in every location across the globe–and it would be easy to find since the “event” occurred so recently (2500 BCE). It is not present.
- It’s not just waste removal that would have posed problems for treatment of the animals. The San Diego Zoo, which doesn’t have every kind of animal, has a larger board of directors than the human population of the ark. How did eight people handle the impossible job of caring for the animals?
- How is it that every single animal unique to Australia made it to this distant continent from Turkey? Not one kangaroo, koala, emu, Tasmanian devil, or duckbill platypus made the trip from Mt Ararat to Australia without stopping and setting up shop (or leaving remains) in China. Similarly, no cats of any kind, hoofed animals of any kind, apes, or monkeys made it to Australia. Llamas, alpacas, and anacondas made it all the way to South America and left no trace of their travels.
- How did a 450-foot-long wooden ship survive the raging flood waters? The largest wooden ships for which there are records were at most 300 feet long and had steel reinforcing, and they leaked like sieves when waves went by; they were restricted to coastal cruises.
- Cave salamanders require high humidity to survive (likely not a problem in a flood), and tortoises need low humidity. How were animals requiring divergent environments accommodated by Noah? Further, how did animals that need a cool, moist environment survive their journey through the desert to the ark?
- Where did all that water come from? Where did it all go?
The list goes on, but you get the idea. There are several points one may take away from all this. First, you may be thinking (unless you were the last hired at Jurassic Park), “Hey, my job’s not really so bad,” or “My boss isn’t anywhere near the hardcase I thought he was.” Okay, you people have missed the point entirely. Second, you might be thinking “God has supernatural powers, so all the so-called problems you have raised with the flood story are not problems at all.” I wonder how you can believe any account of any event since it could have happened differently (and wildly implausibly) because of godly intervention. How, for instance, could you ever vote to convict a defendant in a criminal trial? No matter what evidence was provided by the prosecutor, there would never really be any scenario ruled out since god may simply have made it appear that it happened one way when it, in fact, happened in another (you know, like it looks like there was no worldwide flood?). Further, anyone inclined towards this response has obviously given up any claim to doing science. Answers in Genesis (AiG), founded by the ironically named Ken Ham, is dedicated to the notions that the universe is only 6000 years old and that the Noachian flood occurred 4500 years ago. AiG owns the museum and presumably takes it to be a scientifically accurate portrayal of past events. Finally, you may be asking yourself, “How many people really believe there was a universal flood? Honestly, is this a serious problem?” In short, a lot and it is. 60% of the American populace believes the Genesis account of the flood is literally true Bills have been passed recently in the legislatures of Tennessee,Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and Missouri to ease the teaching of creationism in public schools (in Missouri, creationism has been relabeled “Intelligent Design,” (ID), and, to be fair, ID proponents do not support the historicity of the flood account). Sadly, it’s not just an American problem, either. And AiG’s Creation Museum in Kentucky? It’s funded by the state to the tune of $43 million in tax incentives.
One last thing, just in case you’re not convinced: Liberty Baptist University (where you can minor in Creation Studies) is planning to build a medical school (funded in part by the Virginia Tobacco Commission!). This means one day soon you might want to check your doctor’s diploma, because it is official dogma at Liberty that “Human beings were directly created, not evolved.“ Now that’s a lot of shit.
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Bible: Old Testament