TSoA: Chapter 22: The Fossils and the Floods
[Murphy] was impressed. Everybody seemed to have written something.
Fuck me, Murphy, you gave them an assignment. I bloody well hope they all wrote something.
You’re impressed by this?
And he wonders why his class is always full. This has to be the easiest A in the whole university—“He’s impressed when we so much as write something down for an assignment!”
The students are also wise to what Murphy wants to hear, even going so far as to phrase their comments in exactly the same way:
“Professor Murphy, I was amazed to discover that around the world scientists have found fossils of sea creatures high in the mountains.”
“I was amazed to find that there are more than five hundred stories about a worldwide flood. I think that The Epic of Gilgamesh is the most famous.”
“You’re right, Don, it is. It’s amazingly similar to the Biblical account of the Flood.”
I am amazed to discover that amazingly similar parrots parrot each other in amazing ways!
So here are the two main arguments of this class: fossils found in the mountains, therefore flood (and creationism), and lots of flood stories, therefore biblical flood story is true.
The first is utter and complete nonsense which can be dealt with pretty quickly:
Short version: fossils are on mountains because mountains rise, not because a giant flood (or Satan, for that matter) deposited fossils there.
Now, the flood stories. Murphy has a handout for the class with the similarities between the Gilgamesh flood and the Genesis flood. And there are similarities: a man is directed to build a boat to escape the flood, carries animals and a few other humans on the boat with him, and sends out birds to scout for land.
Two interesting things: One is that the Epic of Gilgamesh was written before the story of Noah. Given the similarities, some people have wondered if the Noah story was just cribbed from Gilgamesh.
The other interesting thing is that Christian apologists actually argue about the two stories from both sides: Tim LaHaye is saying here that the two stories have so many similarities that there must have been truth behind them—a worldwide flood must have happened.
Other apologists argue that the stories are so different (that the Gilgamesh story is “silly” and “mythological” compared with the “logical” story of Noah), that the one could not possibly be a copy of the other. But, um, yeah, the flood was still totally real.
Indeed, that is Murphy’s larger point, as he has yet another handout for the students, this one with a listing of all cultures with flood stories. Many of the cultures listed on the sheet appear at the TalkOrigins article about flood stories. You can read a few and decide if you agree with Michael Murphy that:
“While the specific details of these traditions may differ, there is no escaping that each of these cultures holds to a belief in a global flood occurring at some point in the past.”
Paul, bless his atheistic heart, argues that maybe different peoples got the flood story from travelers or missionaries, and that’s why there are so many. Murphy shoots this down with the following infallible logic:
“It is believed that after Noah landed on Ararat and the people began to multiply, they built the Tower of Babel. God then confused their languages and the people dispersed throughout the world. Over time, as the story was passed down, it was changed in each location. This seems a more logical conclusion as to why there are over five hundred flood traditions around the world. I believe that they came from one source. They had a common origin.”
And it could not possibly be that floods were (and are!) dangerous and terrifying events, ripe for myths and legends about the end of the world.
(The one larger point about a worldwide flood that has always struck me is this: we are talking about a world in which few people ever traveled more than a few miles from the place of their birth. How in the hell would people even know the entire world was flooded, and not just their own immediate area?)
Anyway, Paul abandons his point to focus on another one: that the flood story and the theory of evolution are in conflict. Paul even smirks “unpleasantly,” to remind us that he is a jerk and Murphy is awesome, not “fazed or annoyed.”
Instead, Murphy quote mines Dr. Colin Patterson. (Yet another TalkOrigins link! Check it out!)
(Oh, and I see that Murphy knows the quote mined writings of Dr. Patterson, but doesn’t reference Dr. Francis Collins, evangelical Christian and former director of the NHGRI, who stated in this interview at The BioLogos Forum that the DNA record alone provides “overwhelming” evidence of evolution and common ancestry.
Murphy then pulls a Kirk Cameron (“Read the Bible!”), and ends his lecture on a pulpit-pounding note: if anyone *coughcough* Michael Murphy *coughcough* ever really found the ark, it would be Teh Most Amazingest Thing Evah:
“But even more awesome, it would be the proof that God did judge the wickedness of the world with the Flood. And if the Bible was accurate in predicting the flood judgment, it must also be accurate in predicting the next judgment—the judgment of the Son of Man that Jesus talks about!”
Paul didn’t seem to have an answer to that…
Of course he didn’t.