Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist
The Flood

Few people today still believe in a flood which submerged the whole Earth, killing all animal life on it. Rather, they accept that it is either allegorical or possibly a hyperbolic recounting of the formation of the Bosporus Strait and consequent flooding of the Black Sea in prehistoric times, or a reference to a flood in ancient Babylon during the time of the Sumerians and a retelling of part of the Epic of Gilgamesh. There are, however, a minority of Christians who still argue that there was a literal global flood, usually the same ones who promote special creation.

According to the bible the flood covered the entire earth to a depth of 15 cubits. Genesis, chapter 7, verses 19-20 say, “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.” The cubit used is estimated to be about 46 centimetres (18 inches) so 15 cubits is about 7 metres (23 feet). The cubit was not a standardised length and varied in different places, so it could be slightly more or less than this.

To calculate how much water was involved in the flood, first calculate the volume of a sphere the size of the Globe plus Mount Everest, then subtract the volume of a sphere the size of the Globe alone. The number remaining is the amount of water required to reach the pinnacle of Mount Everest. Why specify Mount Everest? Because, according to the Genesis account quoted above, the water covered the highest mountain peak by 7 metres and that would be Mount Everest.

The formula for the calculation of the volume of a sphere is 4/3πr3, where r is the radius of the sphere and π is the mathematical constant pi, equivalent to 3.1416. First multiply 3.1416 by 4, divide the answer by three, then multiply that answer by the sum of the radius of the sphere which has been multiplied by itself, twice. The modern, scientifically measured radius of the Earth is 6371 kilometres and the elevation of Mount Everest above sea level is 8.8 kilometres. That makes the combined radius of the sphere encompassing both the Globe and Mount Everest to be 6,379.8 kilometres.

Using the formula above, the volume of the sphere of the Globe alone is 1,082,657,777,102 cubic kilometres (1.0827 trillion), and the volume of a sphere to the peak of Mount Everest is 1,087,150,268,526 cubic kilometres (1.0872 trillion). Subtracting the volume of the Globe alone from the volume to the peak of Everest gives 4,492,491,424, or almost 41/2 billion cubic kilometres of flood water. This translates into just over 988 quintillion Imperial gallons, with a mass of 4.5 sextillion kilograms.

These numbers emphasise the incredibly large amount of water involved. In fact, the last ice age only involved about 0.25% of that volume of water, but it distorted the Earth’s crust so much that it still has not recovered completely even though the ice age ended about 25,000 years ago. Yet we are supposed to accept that the flood, involving at least 400 times the mass of water as that ice age, left nary a trace. I would have expected that such massive overarching distortions to the crust from the flood water would have obliterated any distortions from the ice age and left its own distortions instead, but apparently not.

A further question arises due to the height above the Earth of the peak of Mount Everest. That is, what happened to the atmosphere? Some small proportion of the gases in the atmosphere may have dissolved in the flood water, but there would still have been large volumes remaining. As the water rose to cover Mount Everest, the atmosphere would have been displaced and raised by 8.8 kilometres (the elevation of Everest). Since the atmosphere is kept in place by gravitational forces, the present upper limit represents the maximum height of the atmosphere the Earth can support. As the atmosphere rises along with the flood water, the gases which are pushed above the gravitational limit would have dispersed into space and that remaining would have thinned. Since Mount Everest’s peak is about 2/3 of the way to the atmospheric limit, we would have lost about 2/3 of our atmosphere. Obviously we did not, since it is still here being breathed in, so why not? The only logical answer is that there was no flood which covered the Globe and the bible has it wrong.

So where did this massive volume of flood water come from? In answer, some religious people refer to the Genesis account of creation where god is said to have separated the primordial water into two, one above and one below the “firmament”. Chapter 1, verse 6 and 7 say, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” The word “firmament” is used to translate the Hebrew word “raqiya,” and Strong (H7549) explains this as meaning an expanse and refers to the visible arch of the sky, i.e. the blue area. So there would be one quantity of water at ground level and one quantity of water above the sky, which we now know is not an object but is actually light refracted by the atmosphere so that it appears blue.

The contention is that there was a water canopy surrounding the Earth which provided the water for the flood. The immediate question is what kept that water in place? The upper limit of gravitational attraction is the limit of the atmosphere. If the water was above this, as saying it was above the sky implies, there would have been insufficient gravitational attraction to keep it in place and it would have dispersed into space. On the other hand, if it was within the gravitational field of the Earth, why did it stay up there? Surely gravity would have made it fall. Remember, it is contended to be water, not a vapour of some kind. That in itself, of course, raises another question, i.e. what was the vapour pressure acting on that canopy which kept the water as a liquid and where did it come from?

As to where it went, there is less water in, on and around the Earth at the present time by a factor of 3-4, than would have been required for a flood of the proportions the bible describes, so it obviously did not all drain into the Earth. The bible does not actually specify where the water went, it simply says that god stopped flooding the Earth, the water abated and god sent a wind to dry off the ground. Religious people may claim that the flood water drained into the Earth, but that is simply speculation since the bible does not say where it was supposed to have gone. In any case, the ground would not have been able to contain it all as the volume would have been far too large.

There is one further point associated with this, though I do not recall ever seeing it addressed. Genesis, chapter 8, verse 2 says “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.” When something is restrained it means that some part of it remains in place. In this context it must mean that the water above the firmament was not all used up and some of it did not come down as rain. So where is it? Another flood was guaranteed never to happen, so where did the water that was left behind above the firmament go, since it is not there now, as any follower of the space programs can attest?

An objective evaluation using simple mathematics and proven scientific facts shows quite clearly that the account of a world submerging flood could not have happened. It conflicts with fundamental priciples of science, principles which have been proven correct time and time again. Once again, the bible has it wrong.


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