assert than the Bible must be wrong, because they claim that the Ark could
not possibly have carried all the different types of animals. This has
persuaded some Christians to deny the Genesis Flood, or believe that it
was only a local Flood involving comparatively few local animals. But usually
they have not actually performed the calculations. On the other hand, the
classic creationist book "The Genesis Flood" contained a detailed analysis
as far back as 1961.
A more detailed and updated technical study of this and many other questions is John Woodmorappe's book "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study". This article is based on material in these books plus some independent calculations. There are two questions to ask:
(1) How many types of animals did Noah need to take?
(2) Was the Ark's volume large enough to carry all the necessary types?
1) How many types of animals did Noah need to take?
The relevant passages are Genesis 6:19,20 and Genesis 7:2,3.
"And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
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."
"Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth."
- In the original Hebrew, the word for "beast"
and "cattle" in these passages is the same: behemah, and it refers
to land vertebrate animals in general. The word for "creeping things" is
which has a number of different meanings in Scripture, but here it probably
refers to reptiles. Noah did not need to take sea creatures because they
would not necessarily be threatened with extinction by a Flood. However,
turbulent water would cause massive carnage, as seen in the fossil record,
and many oceanic species probably did become extinct because of the Flood.
However, if God in His wisdom had decided not to preserve some ocean creatures, this was none of Noah's business. Noah did not need to take plants either - many could have survived as seeds, and others could have survived on floating mats of vegetation. [Too, plants don't contain the nephesh life that humans and animals have, so they aren't "alive" in the sense that we are - ed. note]. Many insects and other invertebrates were small enough to have survived on these mats as well. The Flood wiped out all land animals which breathed through nostrils except those on the Ark (Genesis 7:22). Insects do not breathe through nostrils but through tiny tubes in their exterior skeleton.
- Clean animals: Bible commentators are evenly divided about whether the Hebrew means "seven" or "seven pairs" of each type of clean animal. Woodmorappe takes the latter just to concede as much to the biblioskeptics as possible. But the vast majority of animals are not clean, and were represented by only two specimens each. The term "clean animal" was not defined until the Mosaic law. But since Moses was also the compiler of Genesis, if we follow the principle that "Scripture interprets Scripture", the Mosaic law definitions can be applied to the Noahic situation. There are actually very few "clean" land animals listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
- What is a "kind"? God created a number
of different types of animals with much capacity for variation within limits.
The descendants of each of these different kinds, apart from humans, would
today mostly be represented by a larger grouping than what is called a
In most cases, those species descended from a particular original kind
would be grouped today within what modern taxonomists (biologists who classify
living things) call a genus (plural genera).
One common definition of a species is a group of organisms which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, and cannot mate with other species. However, most of the so-called species (obviously all the extinct ones) have not been tested to see what they can or cannot mate with. In fact, not only are there known crosses between so-called species, but there are many instances of trans-generic matings, so the "kind" may in some cases be as high as the family. Identifying the "kind" with the genus is also consistent with Scripture, which spoke of kinds in a way that the Israelites could easily recognize without the need for tests of reproductive isolation.
For example, horses, zebras and donkeys are probably descended from an equine (horse-like) kind, since they can interbreed, although the offspring are sterile. Dogs, wolves, coyotes and jackals are probably from a canine (dog-like) kind. All different types of domestic cattle (which are clean animals) are descended from the Aurochs [officially extinct since 1627], so there were probably at most seven - or 14 - domestic cattle aboard. The aurochs themselves may have been descended from a cattle kind including bisons and water buffaloes. We know that tigers and lions can produce hybrids called tigons and ligers, so it is likely that they are descended from the same original kind.
Woodmorappe totals about 8000 genera, including extinct genera, thus about 16,000 individual animals which had to be aboard. With extinct genera, there is a tendency among some paleontologists to give each of their new finds a new genus name. But this is arbitrary, so the number of extinct genera is probably highly overstated. Consider the sauropods, which were the largest dinosaurs - the group of huge plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, etc. There are 87 sauropod genera commonly cited, but only 12 are "firmly established" and another 12 are considered "fairly well established".
- One commonly raised problem is "How could you fit all those huge dinosaurs on the Ark?" First, of the 668 supposed dinosaur genera, only 106 weighed more than ten tons when fully grown. Second, as said above, the number of dinosaur genera is probably greatly exaggerated. But these numbers are granted by Woodmorappe to be generous to skeptics. Third, the Bible does not say that the animals had to be fully grown. The largest animals were probably represented by "teenage" or even younger specimens. The median size of all animals on the ark would actually have been that of a small rat, according to Woodmorappe's up-to-date tabulations, while only about 11% would have been much larger than a sheep.
- Another problem often raised by atheists and theistic evolutionists is "how did disease germs survive the Flood?" This is a leading question - it presumes that germs were as specialized and infectious as they are now, so all the Ark's inhabitants must have been infected with every disease on earth. But germs were probably more robust in the past, and have only fairly recently lost the ability to survive in different hosts or independently of a host. In fact, even now many germs can survive in insect vectors or corpses, or in the dried or frozen state, or be carried by a host without causing disease. Finally, loss of resistance to disease is consistent with the general degeneration of life since the Fall.
2) Was the Ark's volume large enough to carry all the necessary types?
The Ark measured 300 x 50 x
30 cubits (Gen. 6:15) which is about 140 x 23 x 13.5 meters or 459 x 75
x 44 feet, so its volume was 43,500 m (cubed) or 1.54 million cubic feet.
To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent volume of 522 standard
American railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep.
If the animals were kept in cages with an average size of 50 x 50 x 30 centimeters (20 x 20 x 12 inches), that is 75,000 cubic centimeters or 4,800 cubic inches, the 16,000 animals would only occupy 42,000 cubic feet, or 14.4 stock cars. Even if a million insect species had to be on board, it would not be a problem, because they require little space. If each pair was kept in cages of four inches per side, all the insect species would occupy a total volume of only 1000 cubic meters, or another 12 cars. This would leave room for five trains of 99 cars each for food. Noah's family and "range" for the animals. However, insects are not included in the meaning of behema or remes in Genesis 6:19,20, so Noah probably would not have taken them on board as passengers anyway.
Tabulating the total volume is fair enough, since this shows that there would be plenty of room on the Ark for the animals with plenty left over for food, range, etc. It would be possible to stack cages, with food on top or nearby (to minimize the amount of food carrying the humans had to do), to fill up more of the Ark space, while still allowing plenty of room for gaps for air circulation. We are discussing an emergency situation, not necessarily luxury accommodation. Although there is plenty of room for exercise, skeptics have overstated animals' needs for exercise anyway.
Even if we don't allow stacking one cage on top of another to save floor space, there would be no problem. Woodmorappe shows from standard recommended floor space requirements for animals that all of them together would have needed less than half the available floor space on the Ark's three decks. This arrangement allows for the maximum amount of food and water storage on top of the cages close to the animals.
The Ark would probably have carried compressed and dried foodstuffs, and probably a lot of concentrated food. Perhaps Noah fed the cattle mainly on grain, plus some hay for fiber. Woodmorappe calculated that the volume of foodstuffs would have been only about 15% of the Ark's total volume. Drinking water would only have taken up 9.4% of the volume. This volume would be reduced further if rainwater was collected and piped into troughs.
It is doubtful whether the humans had to clean the cages every morning. Possibly they had sloped floors or slatted cages, where the manure could fall away from the animals and be flushed away (plenty of water around!) or destroyed by vermicomposting (composting by worms) which would also provide earthworms as a food source. Very deep bedding can sometimes last for a year without needing a change (as shown in Woodmorappe's sources). Absorbent material (e.g. sawdust, softwood wood shavings and especially peat moss) would reduce the moisture content and hence the odor.
feeding and excretory requirements were adequate even if the animals had
normal day\night sleeping cycles. But hibernation is a possibility which
would reduce these requirements even more. It is true that the Bible does
not mention it, but it does not rule it out either. Some creationists suggest
that God created the hibernation instinct for the animals on the Ark, but
we should not be dogmatic either way.
Some skeptics argue that food taken on board rules out hibernation, but this is not so. Hibernation animals do not sleep all winter, despite popular portrayals, so they would still need food occasionally.
This article has shown that the Bible can be trusted on testable matters like Noah's Ark. Many Christians believe that the Bible can only be trusted on matters of faith and morals, not scientific matters. But we should consider what Jesus Christ Himself told Nicodemus (John 3:12):
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"
Similarly, if the Scriptures can be wrong on testable matters such as geography, history and science, why should they be trusted on matters like the nature of God and life after death, which are not open to empirical testing? Hence Christians should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (I Peter 3:15), when skeptics claim that the Bible conflicts with known "scientific facts".
[Much of this material taken from Creation ex nihilo magazine, vol. 19 no. 2]
*Some have undertaken
the task of criticizing Woodmorappe's book Noah's Ark: A Feasibility
Study, pointing out the alleged impossibility of the entire Noah's
Flood account and Woodmorappe's defense of it. In response, he has written
a rebuttal to many of the attacks against his book and, indeed, upon the
credibility of the Genesis Flood account. One can visit this
link to view the rebuttal.
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