Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Noah's Ark found. Again.

In breaking news about Things That Probably Didn't Happen, Noah's Ark has been found on Mount Ararat by (surprise!) a team of evangelical Christians.

The team, sponsored by "Noah's Ark Ministries," found "seven large wooden compartments buried at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, near the peak of Mount Ararat."  According to Man-fai Yuen, leader of the expedition, "The structure is partitioned into different spaces.  We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts."

Noah's Ark, of course, is the boat that rescued Chinese pandas, Australian kangaroos, and American pumas during a deluge that covered the entire world.  When the water all magically went away forty days later, the Ark evidently did a second world tour and deposited all of these animals back where they came from, but somehow still beached on the peak of Mount Ararat.

The expedition team admits that it is not 100% certain that what they've found is the Ark.  They are, they said, "99.9% sure."  Which, given that they are evangelical Christians, is an amazing admission of doubt.

Not surprisingly, scientists are skeptical.  Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist with SUNY-Stony Brook who specializes in the Middle East, said, "I don't know of any expedition that ever went looking for the Ark and didn't find it."

Even more interestingly, some young-earth creationists aren't convinced.

Todd Wood, director of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College in Tennessee, objects to the find on, amazingly, the basis of radiocarbon dating.

Ready for some byzantine logic?  I hope you've had your coffee.

Wood claims that because the Earth is 6000 years old (no proof necessary), then radiocarbon and other forms of radioisotope dating are flawed and have to be "recalibrated."  They have a sliding scale of calibrations to adjust dates that come out of radioisotope dating, to align them with the by-fiat revelation of the young age of the Earth.  It's sort of like if you went to the doctor for a checkup, and the doctor told you your cholesterol was high, and you should lay off the scrambled eggs and bacon, and you replied, "By my calibration, my cholesterol is just fine.  I use a scale in which 'really high' means 'just fine' and 'just fine' means 'quite low.'"

So anyway, Wood took the radiocarbon dates of the wood samples found on Mount Ararat by the expedition, and "calibrated" them.  Since the Flood allegedly happened 4,800 years ago, if this is the Ark the wood should have an "uncalibrated" date of about 30,000 years.  Which it doesn't.  The wood dates to about 2,500 years ago, which means that by the "calibrated" date, it's only about 1,000 years old.

Plus, Wood says, he doubts that there would be anything left of the Ark by now, anyhow.  "It would have been prime timber after the flood," he said.  "If you just got off the Ark, and there's no trees, what are you going to build your house out of?  You've got a huge boat made of wood, so let's use that.  So I think it got torn apart and scavenged for building material, basically."

So, what we have here is someone who buys the whole nonsense of the Flood story, despite (1) exactly zero geological evidence that it ever happened, (2) the ridiculous notion of building a boat that could house representatives of all of the estimated 1.4 million animal species on earth, (3) the amazing fact that in order to drown a 13,000 foot high mountain in forty days, the rain would have to fall at a rate of 325 feet per day over the entire land surface area of the Earth, (4) there being no explanation for what happened to all of the water afterwards, and (5) how did all the trees and other vegetation come back after being covered with 13,000 feet of salt water?  And this same person wants to "recalibrate" radioisotope dating to align with the dates of this imaginary event, because that would make it "science."

And to top it all off, Noah's Ark Ministries is petitioning the Turkish government to put the site of the alleged Ark on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.  Because, apparently, they don't already look foolish enough in the eyes of the world.

I've done so many facepalms while writing this that my forehead hurts, and I think that I need to wrap it up or I'm going to go to school with bruises all over my face.  And, of course, I have to prepare myself for the fact that I'm probably going to get beat up over this in a different way, when the hate mail starts to pour in from people who believe the whole thing and who are cheered by the thought that people like me are going to be condemned by the God of Love to burn in hell for all eternity.  So I think I better fortify myself with a second cup of coffee, and grit my teeth and wait for the onslaught to begin.

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