NOTE: This report looks at various third party data and uses it to make a conclusion regarding the possibility that the Biblical story of Noah's Flood is a true story and not a myth. Inclusion in this report does not signify or imply that the data sources hold the same opinion as the author. All data is used from publicly available sources and the respective authors were not involved in the writing of this report.
A man and his family take many years to build a giant ship in the middle of land. Evil human-angel hybrids known as Nephilim walk the Earth, taking all they wish. A global rainstorm that lasts for 40 days and nights floods the entire Earth. All of these are occurrences presented in Genesis Chapter 6. This is the story commonly known as Noah's Flood. Most people, including many Christians, dismiss this story as fantasy. Is that fair? What physical evidence is there that suggests a global flood may have occurred? Is there any evidence that the Nephilim existed?
I am attempting to examine physical evidence from reputable sources to determine if the global flood of Noah's day is possible. I am not attempting to determine if it truly did happen. There is a difference. For example, it is possible that I will develop cancer. That doesn't mean that it has or will happen. Several circumstances and events must come together in a specific way to turn that possibility into a reality.
First, the search must be organized. There are several parts to this story that suggest where to start looking. The Nephilim, if true, may have left skeletons and other physical evidence that was not destroyed, but perhaps preserved, by the Global Flood. In addition, that much water worldwide would leave physical evidence. Also, human genetics should point to a place in history that reflects a "bottleneck" in the gene pool. However, there are a few things that should be defined first. One is how Radiocarbon dating works, as well as other means of dating ancient fossils. Another is to consider why educated persons have dismissed the story. Finally, a basic understanding of the water cycle and how it includes, not only the "heavens," but also the "deep places" of the Earth needs to be established.
The Water Cycle
Today, the water cycle can be defined simply. Water evaporates from the oceans, blows over land and falls as precipitation, and then runs in streams to lakes and rivers. The water eventually ends up back in the ocean to start the cycle over again (United States Geological Survey). This is a useful model that explains worldwide precipitation. There is more to the water cycle than this, however.
Ground water comes from the water that seeps into the ground during the water cycle. The portion of water that the plants don't use makes its way down into a bed of rock where there are cracks and crevasses for it to gather in. This is called ground water. The top of this layer is known as the water table (United States Geological Survey). The amount of groundwater worldwide is calculated at 5,614,000 cubic miles, or 1.69% of total water volume on the Earth (United States Geological Survey). When the total amount of water is calculated, it comes to 1,385,984,510 cubic miles (United States Geological Survey). Is that enough to cover the entire surface area of the Earth?
According to the US Geological Survey, About 3,100 mi3 (12,900 km3) of water, mostly in the form of water vapor, is in the atmosphere at any one time. If it all fell as precipitation at once, the Earth would be covered with only about 1 inch of water," (United States Geological Survey). That means that 1 inch of water covering the land of the Earth is approximately 9.32% of all of the Earth's water. Does this mean that if the ice caps, lakes, and all other sources of water in the Earth were poured out it would cover about 10 inches?
Where did all the water come from?
The National Geographic Society reported in 2002 that it is possible that the Earth's mantle contains more water than "in all oceans, lakes, and rivers combined," (Harder). Harder also reports that when possible variances are calculated, the total water mass inside the Earth is at least 0.19% of the total mass of the planet (Harder). To put this into perspective, all of the oceans make up about .02% of the Earth's mass (Harder). So, let's do the math.
The Earth's oceans are calculated to be about 321,000,000 cubic miles (United States Geological Survey). If that is about .02% of the Earth's total mass, then .19% of the Earth's mass must be about 3,049,500,000 cubic miles. The USGS reported that the total estimated water in the Earth (which excludes water in the mantle) is 1,385,984,510 cubic miles. Therefore, we must add 1,385,984,510 to 3,049,500,000 to get a total water content of about 4,435,484,510 cubic miles. If this figure were to cover the Earth, it would cover the land (including the ocean floor) to about 110,604 feet. To put this into perspective, Mt. Everest, the highest point above sea level, is at about 29,000 feet above sea level. Therefore, if, as Genesis 6:11 states, the "springs of the vast watery deep were broke open," then it is physically possible that the entire land area of the Earth can be covered in water.
Radiocarbon Dating and Human Timescales
Often, people simply point to the fact that scientists have established with radiocarbon dating that there have been people long before the Genesis account's 6,000 years or so. An investigation into how radiocarbon dating works and its accuracy is very revealing.
Radiocarbon dating was developed by J. R. Arnold and W. F. Libby (University of Chicago) in 1949. It takes advantage of the fact that, as the Van Allen Belt and upper atmosphere are bombarded with cosmic radiation, an unstable isotope of carbon is created: carbon-14 (University of California). To keep it simple, carbon-14 (C-14) is brought to the surface through precipitation, ingested by plant life, and then eaten by animals. C-14 is an unstable element. This means that it turns into a more stable form of carbon (C-12) over time. While the animal is alive, the ratio of C-14 compared to C-12 in its body stays constant with the ratio in the atmosphere around it (University of California). When the animal dies, that's where the C-14 decay comes into play.
When the animal dies, it stops taking in more C-14. C-14 decays at a rate of ½ the quantity at death every 5,730 years. So, when something dies today, the amount of C-14 in its body 5,730 years from now will be half what it is today (University of California). Therefore, by measuring the amount of C-14 against the amount of C-12 in an organism's body, we can determine roughly when the animal lived. This seems a simple rule to prepare dates by. However, there are acknowledged limitations.
The biggest limitation is that other dating methods have shown that the ratio of C-14 to C-12 in the atmosphere has varied greatly (University of California). Because of this, calibration tables were developed for use in radiocarbon dating to ensure a more accurate date. Another aspect of this is that the total amount of carbon in the ocean is greater than that of the land and atmosphere (Radiocarbon: An International Journal of Cosmogenic Isotope Reasarch). So this raises the question: if a global flood happened on an Earth-wide scale, and the waters stayed on the surface for about a year, how would that affect the ratios?
It is important to understand that C-14 dating uses a logarithmic scale. If a global flood occurred circa 2370 BC (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 450), and if it altered the C-14 to C-12 ratios in much the same way as the ocean does, it follows that the error would begin at about that point and become exponentially greater the farther one goes back. Are there any historic records to suggest this?
According to the Bible, the first world empire mentioned by name is Egypt (Genesis 37:25). Egypt has been established from about 6,000 BCE onwards (via traditional dating methods). However, Bible chronology places Egypt as early as 1728 BCE (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 450). Although no date is given for the start of the Egyptian society, the Biblical record shows that it was well-established circa 1728 BCE (Genesis 39 – 41). This would be about 600 years after Noah's Flood. According to Exodus 1:1, in 1728 BCE Israel's population was about 70 people. This population grew to over 603,550 (Numbers 1:46), perhaps 1.2 million including women and children, circa 1441 – 1225 BCE (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 450). It is estimated, however, that the total time Israel spent in Egypt was about 215 years (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 450). If the population doubled every fifteen years or so, we would arrive at 1.2 million when the Exodus occurred. This means that it is very reasonable for an advanced society to have arrived within the 600 year time period after the flood of Noah's day, since a nation was born within 215 years, based on Bible records.
So we have now established that it is possible for a nation of people to rise up in about two centuries. Another interesting fact to notice is that archaeology loses precise dating measurements at about 3000 – 2000 BCE. From this time period, dating practices put relics in timescales measured in millennia, and becoming logarithmically longer the farther back dating measurements are taken. This is what would be expected if the assumptions used in C-14 dating methods are wrong during this critical time period. This is, of course, all speculation on my part. However, it is another interpretation that fits the facts known without resorting to a 6,000 year old Earth.
Genetics and Bottlenecks
Another piece of evidence that must be present to make the flood story plausible is a genetic "bottleneck" around the same time period. How can one deduce the number of people at any given time using DNA? Fortunately, it is not too difficult but the method is subject to the same limitations as C-14 dating.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) contains 37 genes, and controls the mitochondria in human cells. Mitochondria play an important role in converting sugars into energy for the cell, as well as cellular self destruction (apoptosis), which occurs when significant mutations are detected in a cell's DNA (United States National Library of Medicine). During fertilization, the human egg contains a mix of the DNA of both parents, but the mtDNA is exclusively inherited from the mother (Groleau). Over time and generations, minor mutations creep into the mtDNA (Groleau).
Here's where assumptions come into play. Researchers assumed that the rate of mutation is constant (Groleau). Using the assumed constant, the dating of mankind's most recent common female ancestor has been placed at 10,000 years, or about 8000 BCE (Groleau). This is well within the margin of error for radiocarbon dating if atmospheric conditions were significantly different prior to Noah's Flood. It also seems possible that if the mutation rate was significantly different before the flood, the assigned date of 8000 BCE can be wrong as well.
Neanderthals and Genetics
Another interesting find using this technique is that there is no evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens (Groleau). Since the Nephilim in the Bible are probably the hybrid offspring of angelic fathers and human women (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania), and these lineages of mtDNA would have been destroyed after the flood of Noah's day, it is a safe assumption that what we now call Neanderthals were, in fact, the remains of the Nephilim.
There is evidence that Neanderthals mingled with humans, although no evidence of cross-breeding has been found (Groleau). Another important finding is that the research reflects that all humans came from a single location and spread out over time (Starr). In addition, archeological evidence shows that the Neanderthals suddenly disappeared without any discernable reason (Starr).
All of this supports the conclusion that at some point in mankind's past, only one set of mtDNA survived to be transferred to all human beings (Starr). This could be said to be Eve (Noah had only sons, so none of their mtDNA would have been transferred to us). This supports the Bible's account of (1) the Nephilim and (2) humanity's beginnings.
Water and Erosion
Now we will consider any physical evidence left by Noah's Flood. We can learn of the type of geology that flooding leaves behind based on recent floods. We can also examine what stratification reveals. The premise here is that a global flood where water covered the surface of the Earth for about a year would leave behind evidence.
Flooding leaves behind evidence with the depositing of sediment downstream of the flow. Sediment is picked up from upstream and carried downstream until it finds a place to collect (Keller). In a global flood, this means that sediment should be expected in lakebeds, river channels, and at the bottom of the ocean. All of these locations would presumably reflect the same condition for several thousand years. Even currently dry lakebeds could easily hide the evidence of a global flood.
However, when we examine what we know about the ocean, we come across some interesting facts. First, the data reflect that sediment flows off the continents towards the deepest parts of the ocean (Divins). Over time, all sediment makes its way to the ocean floor. Therefore, if the primary evidence of a global flood is sedimentary, it is a safe assumption that the sediments would have been deposited in the oceans, seas, and lakes of today and would not appear abnormal.
The next question is whether that volume of water would have left erosion evidence on rocks and mountains. It does not seem so. Since the higher the elevation, the less "weight" of water upon it, and the result is less erosion of the exposed rock. However, rock near the deepest parts, even at about today's sea level, would have been covered in sediment, and it is entirely possible that any evidence would comingle with glacier evidence.
In addition, the higher the elevation, the more sediment would be removed, and we would expect to find that the higher in elevation one is today the less sediment there is to be found. This does match what we see, but this would also be the findings without a flood.
When considering the facts, a global flood, lasting about a year, would not leave any discernable evidence behind. The movement of sediment and even erosion of rock-faces would not appear abnormal to us today. Any such evidence would blend in with other known geological evidence and could not be expected to be perceived.
Based on the evidence examined, several statements can be made regarding the possibility of a global flood. First, there would be no discernable evidence left by the water. Second, genetic and archeological evidence support a sudden loss of a type of human species as well as a single genetic maternal source for all humans alive today. Third, radiocarbon dating uses assumptions that could be wrong, and that a false assumption would create an exponential margin of error in the dating of artifacts. Finally, when all of the water in the Earth is calculated, there is enough to flood all of the Earth to a substantial depth. Putting these things together cause me to conclude that it is more likely than not that Noah's Flood is a true story. It is not possible to conclusively prove this with today's methods and knowledge, but it surely cannot be discounted as myth, either.
Divins, D. L. NGDC Total Sediment Thichness of the World's Oceans and Marginal Seas. 2008. 13 January 2011 <http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/sedthick/sedthick.html>.
Groleau, Rick. Neanderthals on Trial. January 2002. 13 January 2011 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/neanderthals/mtdna.html>.
Harder, Ben. National Geographic Society. 7 March 2002. 21 July 2010 <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/03/0307_0307_waterworld.html>.
Keller, Edward A. Introduction to Environmental Geology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.
Radiocarbon: An International Journal of Cosmogenic Isotope Reasarch. Radiocarbon-Related Information Sources. 26 August 2010 <http://www.radiocarbon.org/Info/index.html>.
Starr, Dr. Barry. What the Genographic Project is teaching us about our DNA. 5 July 2007. 13 January 2010 <http://www.thetech.org/genetics/news.php?id=59>.
United States Geological Survey. How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth? 12 July 2010. 21 July 2010 <URL: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html>.
—. The Water Cycle. 10 June 2010. 21 July 2010 <http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle.html>.
—. What is Ground Water? 23 December 2009. 21 July 2010 <http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/ofr93643 >.
United States National Library of Medicine. What is Mitochondrial DNA? 9 January 2011. 13 January 2011 <http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/mtdna>.
University of California. Chronological Methods 8 - Radiocarbon Dating. 14 December 2006. 26 August 2010 <http://archserve.id.ucsb.edu/courses/anth/fagan/anth3/Courseware/Chronology/08_Radiocarbon_Dating.html>.
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Insight on The Scriptures Volume 1. Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1988.
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. "Nephilim." Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1988. 491-492.