TheThird Letter to the Watchtower Society


23 March 2007


Dear Brothers:


Greetings. Thank you for your response to my letter regarding the plausibility of a global flood. I am replying to your letter as I have now completed research of the Watchtower and Awake! articles you kindly enclosed with your letter and have more thoughts on the issue.


In paragraph two of your letter, you ask the questions:


“If the Flood had been local only, why would not God simply have told Noah to move to another locality? Why all the labor of building a large ark for survival? If the Flood did not cover all the earth, why bring animals and birds into the ark to preserve all the different kinds?”


These are questions that I struggled with too. The answers to those questions may not be known until the future, but God’s word certainly provides us with similar accounts from whence we can glean possible answers. For instance, in Joshua 6:12-15 Jehovah instructed Joshua, the ‘well-equipped force’ and the rear guard to march around the city of Jericho a total of thirteen times over the course of a week. The priests marched with them, having the added burden of carrying the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders. Why would Jehovah make his servants go through all of that trouble when He could have felled the walls regardless? Perhaps Jehovah was attempting to ascertain the faith and trust they had in Him.


Additionally, when seeking a miraculous healing, why was Naaman instructed that he needed to wash in the Jordan seven times (2 Kings 5:14)? Could not Jehovah have just healed him? Perhaps Jehovah was attempting to ascertain the faith and trust Naaman had in Him.


Indeed, when we consider the blood on the doorposts (Exodus 12:22), the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:20, 14:2), the need for Moses to keep his hands raised (Exodus 17:11, 12) and the copper serpent (Numbers 21:9), to name a few; it becomes clear that Jehovah frequently instructed humans to engage in extra labor for the simple purpose of testing their faith. The same can be said of Noah. In fact, even if we concede that the Deluge was global, this still doesn’t explain the need for an ark – Jehovah could have easily miraculously transported Noah and any other life forms He wished to preserve to a safe postdiluvian time. Jehovah possibly wanted to test Noah’s faith by instructing him to perform works.


So we see that the instruction to build an ark does not preclude a local deluge.


Your reference to the Hebrew word e’rets cites the work A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Gesenius, Brown, Driver and Briggs; 1951). While it is true that the work states e’rets is commonly defined as “the earth in the largest sense”, this is not the only definition and, indeed, emphasis is likely put on the translating of e’rets into earth in the above quotation because this quote is taken from the Lexicon’s entry on Earth. But this very entry (found on page 140) provides six different words that can be translated as Earth, or Earthen and even gives a list of over 75 instances where the English words Earth and Earthen are used in the Bible when the original word was not e’rets. Also, this same reference work allows for translation of the Hebrew word e’rets as Common, Field, Ground, Land, Nation, Way and Wilderness (pages 88, 163, 202, 243, 285, 475 and 482; respectively). Thus, the word e’rets is not, by default, translated into English as Earth and, conversely, the appearance of the English word Earth in the Holy Scriptures does not indicate an occurrence, in Hebrew, of e’rets in every instance. As I noted in my previous letter, occurrences of the word Earth in the Scriptures does not necessarily refer to the globe entire (see 2 Chronicles 36:23, for example). Again, it appears as though the context and, where necessary, our knowledge of God’s book of creation must be employed in order to ascertain the specific meaning of this word.


The rest of your letter proved rather confusing for me. I had always believed that the Earth was millions of years old, and that life had existed on this planet for millions of years as well. The articles enclosed with the letter, however, gave arguments that only work if we assume the Earth is young. Additionally, the articles quote from sources written by people trying to prove that the earth is only about 6,000 years old. Notable among them is the book The Genesis Flood, by John C. Whitcomb, quoted in the 1968 Watchtower article. This book’s author claims that the earth is far less than a million years old and spends several pages arguing why he believes so. If we believe that the earth millions of years old, than arguments in books like Whitcomb’s fall flat.


As another example the Awake! article, “Testimony to a Global Flood”, quotes extensively from Alexander Catcott’s work A Treatise on the Deluge. I am not sure how much stock to put in Catcott’s work. Catcott seems sincere, but his book was published in 1761, at a time when the overwhelming consensus among Europeans was that the Earth and all creation were about 6,000 years old. Even the 1768 edition of Catcott’s treatise predates (by some twenty years) the evidence of a much older universe that James Hutton put forth in The Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (volume I). This work is, of course, the publication largely responsible for awakening the learned European community to the facts that the Earth and creation are much older, by orders of magnitude, than previously believed. As someone who believed in a very young Earth, Catcott attributes much to the Deluge that has long been proven to have occurred over eons instead of during a single year, such as the discovery of shells and corals in caves far from the oceans.


In my previous letter, I expressed concern regarding post-Flood conditions enabling animal ‘kinds’ to arrive at their current habitats. Your letter directed me to the Watchtower’s 15 January 1962 and 01 July 1966 “Questions from Readers” articles and the 08 July 1977 Awake! article titled “Testimony to a Global Flood”,”
The 1962 article cites as its source the 23 September 1956 issue of the New York Times. Specifically, the quote used is taken from the article “New Explanation of Lost Atlantis”. In this article, Dr. Malaise does indeed postulate a mid-Atlantic ridge existed that crossed the ocean above the surface of the water and ran from Europe to Greenland. However, Dr. Malaise’s findings indicate that this Ridge existed no more recent than 10,000 years ago – it submerged under water and was gone long before humans were created and over 55 centuries before the Deluge began. But even allowing the Mid-Atlantic ridge did exist as recently as 2370 b.c.e., this only solves the problem of bridging Europe to Greenland. It fails to explain how animals managed to get from the ark to the Americas, Australia, Antarctica, Madagascar, Borneo, Great Britain and Taiwan, as well as the Galapagos, Japanese, Indonesian, Polynesian and Philippine archipelagoes; not to mention land masses such as the Hawaiian Islands, which are some 2,300 miles from the nearest continent.


The 1966 “Questions from Readers” article addresses the matter of trees; would they have been ruined in the Deluge? It cites The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (volume IV, page 404). The “Questions from Readers” quotes this encyclopedia from its entry on the cultivated olive tree thus: “an old stump will continue to send up new stems, as if its vitality were indestructible”. However, earlier in the same paragraph, the encyclopedia claims that the cultivated olive requires “calcareous soil and a mean temperature of 15C (60F), and must be protected against strong winds and excessive heat.” A global Deluge would, in its inherent cataclysmic nature, wash away the needed soil and subject the tree to high winds (see Genesis 8:1). And that’s just the cultivated olive; the wild olive tree would be worse off. The Encyclopedia notes that the cultivated olive was a genetically engineered plant and an improvement over the wild olive and, further, that the wild variety “must not be confused with the cultivate olive”. Even if we assume that the hardy olive survived a worldwide Deluge, the encyclopedia is silent regarding such hardiness in the fig, sycamore, mulberry, almond, pomegranate, apple and date-palm trees; all of which also have entries in said work. As it is, many trees suffer from root rot when faced with excess soil moisture. A global deluge, with waters remaining upon the land for over a year, would certainly qualify as excess soil moisture.


In my previous letter I noted that terrestrial plants require oxygen and carbon dioxide, which they extract from the atmosphere. Granted, Jehovah could have miraculously caused land plants to begin extracting such gases from the water. He also would need to alter the basic design of green plants to allow for the continuation of photosynthesis under reduced – and at times totally absent – lighting conditions. But this leaves us with the converse of the question posed in your letter; why cause a global flood if it would entail all the labor of altering the chemical composition and capabilities of plants?


Regarding the amount of water needed to cover the land, the rate at which it fell, and the logistics of it draining off, the response included the 15 July 1968 The Watchtower article “Was There and Earthwide Flood?” Twice the article quotes Scientific Monthly as saying “there were no high mountains forming physical or climatic borders”. This quote, though, taken from the August 1949 article “Evolutionary Growth Rates in the Dinosaurs” refers, not to a time four or five thousand years ago, but to what it calls the ‘Mesozoic Era’. This era concluded 65 million years ago. Again, isn’t it our belief that the earth is millions of years old? In that case, we should have no trouble accepting this article when it hypothesizes about the planet as it was 65 million years ago and, further, we should not confuse its statements about the early days of the earth as referring to a time approximately six thousand years ago.


Also, according to the Scientific Monthly article, the assertion that “the earth has a tropical or sub-tropical climate over much of its land surface” was due to the fact that much of the land was centered near the equator at that time. It was not due to a water canopy. The same can be said of the Science et Vie quote concerning a warmer Antarctica; that article attributes the warmth to the fact that Antarctica was much nearer the equator at that time rather than to a water canopy. And neither article claims that such warmth was global in nature.


The water canopy itself presents additional problems. I have been unable to find any substantiation of such a canopy. And consider this: even if we assume that mountains as high as the present-day Himalayas did not exist in Noah’s day, we still know that there were mountains of significant height at that time of the Deluge. Genesis 7:19 and 8:4 note that the floodwaters covered the tall mountains and the ark itself came to rest upon the Mountains of Ararat after the floodwater had been receding for 150 days. So, the amount of water that fell must have been at least as high as the Mountains of Ararat, otherwise the ark would not have been able to later settle on those mountains. If we conservatively estimate the ark came to rest upon a mountain only one mile high (making it significantly lower than many mountains in the region, and far shorter than John Morris’ estimate of 10-12,000 feet in his book Ark on Ararat), this would mean at least enough rain fell from the canopy to cover that mountain (~one mile of rain). Now, the air above our heads exerts pressure on us; it is termed ‘atmospheric pressure’. When we are at sea level, there is more pressure on us than when we are high on a mountain because there is more air above our heads. The canopy would add to the atmospheric pressure, because more matter would be above our heads. Specifically, in the conservative estimate above, the canopy would have to contain at least enough water to cover the earth to a depth of one mile. Since every 30 feet of water roughly equals an increase of one atmosphere, this would mean antediluvians were living in a world with approximately 170 times the atmospheric pressure we currently experience (1 mile = 5,280 feet; 5,280 feet ÷ 1 atmosphere for every 30 feet = 176 atmospheres). This is far more than enough to crush any human out of existence.
The belief in such a canopy also contradicts the following statement, speaking of God’s creative works on the fourth ‘day’: “Now, had there been an earthly observer, he would be able to discern the sun, moon and stars, which would serve as signs for seasons and for days and years” (from page 32 of the book Life-How Did it Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?). Imagine a SCUBA diver under water. If that person were under, say one foot of water, and looked up at the sky, they would see a very blurry picture indeed. Now imagine that this same swimmer under 5,280 feet of water. What would the sun and moon look like then? They would not be merely blurry; they would be totally absent from view. The swimmer would be in almost total darkness. Looking up, they would see nothing like the pictures on page 31 of the same book, wherein the night and day skies are clearly depicted, with no intervening canopy. The canopy theory also contradicts paragraph 4 on page 528 of the book Insight on the Scriptures – Volume 1, which states, in part: “…on the first ‘day’ diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands, but the sources of that light could not have been seen by an earthly observer. Now, on the fourth ‘day’, things evidently changed’” (italics mine). Incidentally, a mile of water, falling in a mere 40 days, computes to five and a half feet of rain per hour!


At any rate, the article also quotes from the 16 January 1960 issue of the Saturday Evening Post’s article “Riddle of the Frozen Giants”. Here is the first part of the quote, as it appears on page 421 of this Watchtower article:


The list of animals that have been thawed out of this mess would cover several pages. …They are all in the muck. These facts indicated water as the agency which engulfed the creatures. …Many of these animals were perfectly fresh, whole and undamaged, and still either standing or at least kneeling upright.


Looking at the original Post article, though, reveals that the author was not concluding that water had destroyed these creatures; he merely mentions it as one of a few failed theories. Notice, he uses the word “indicated” - past tense! - suggesting that this is no longer the accepted theory. Indeed, the last portion of the above quote (the part appearing after the second set of ellipses) is, in actuality, a refutation of the sentences before it. As proof, consider the entire paragraph, as it appeared in original form in the Post:

These facts indicated water as the agency which engulfed the creatures. It was explained that they fell into rivers and were then deposited miles away in deltas and estuaries under layers of silt. This sounded splendid at first, but then the next lot of riddles appeared. These animal remains were not in deltas, swamps or estuaries, but were scattered all over the country. Almost without exception, they were stuck in the highest levels of the curious, flat, low plateaus that occur all over the tundra between the river valleys. It was also pointed out that the whole of Northern Asia, Alaska and Western Canada could never have been one vast delta, nor could their rivers have wandered about all over this higher land, depositing much uphill. But last, and worst of all, many of these animals were perfectly fresh, whole and undamaged, and still either standing or at least kneeling upright. [Italics mine.]


Notice the first italicized portion. Here, the author is clearly dismissing water as the cause of death for these creatures. What is more, the water in question involved, not torrential rains, but rivers. Notice, too, the second italicized portion. Here the author is invoking the fact that the creatures were found whole and undamaged as evidence against – not proof of – a watery demise.


The Watchtower article next quotes an entire paragraph from the Post article, which mentions, among other things, that vast herds of enormous beasts were suddenly killed without any visible sign of violence. The paragraph concludes by asking this question (also quoted in the Watchtower): “What, we may well ask, could possibly do this?” The Watchtower proceeds to answer the Post’s question by simply stating “the logical answer is that it came with the rapid change that occurred at the time of the Flood”. However, the Post article does not agree with this answer. The Post article answers its own question detailing evidence in favor of a volcanic explanation for the ‘riddle of the frozen giants’.


Next, I posed a series of questions involving the passenger load of the ark. When I first wrote a letter requesting a list of the animal passengers on the ark, the reply enclosed a copy of a portion of the article “Noah’s Passenger List”, from the 22 December 1951 Awake! While this article did not provide such a list, it did refer me to the work Clarke’s Commentary as the source of the claim that Noah needed to bring only 43 ‘kinds’ of mammals, 74 ‘kind’ of birds and 10 ‘kinds’ of amphibia. This eighteenth-century work is extremely outdated, as it states:


The first CLASS, Mammalia, or animals with teats, contains seven orders, and only forty-three genera if we except the seventh order, cete, i.e. all the whale kind, which certainly need not come into this account. The different species in this class amount, the cete excluded, to five hundred and forty-three.


The second CLASS, Aves, birds, contains six orders, and only seventy-four genera, if we exclude the third order, anseres, or web-footed fowls, all of which could very well live in the water. The different species in this class, the anseres excepted, amount to two thousand three hundred and seventy- two.


The third CLASS, Amphibia, contains only two orders, reptiles and serpents; these comprehend ten genera, and three hundred and sixty-six species, but of the reptiles many could live in the water, such as the tortoise, frog, &c. Of the former there are thirty-three species, of the latter seventeen, which excluded reduce the number to three hundred and sixteen. The whole of these would occupy but little room in the ark, for a small portion of earth, &c., in the hold would be sufficient for their accommodation.


Thus we see that Clarke’s basis for claiming such a low number of animal passengers was his (now outdated) belief that, 1) inter-genera breeding is possible in every case; 2) that many animals, such as web-footed birds, could survive the Deluge by literally floating through the storm; and 3) that there are only 125 genera of mammals, birds and reptiles combined. Even if we ignore the first issue, we are still left with the more recent estimates placing the number of genera at 1,200 mammals, 2,600 birds and 866 reptiles. The conclusion here is that Noah would have needed to provide space and care (including very specialized diets in many cases) for approximately 4,600 pairs of animals. But if we say, for argument’s sake, that the ‘kinds’ of Genesis are not equivalent to animal species or genera, but to animal families. Though this is extremely unlikely (since any given member of the same animal family can not reproduce with any other given member), it does agree with Frank Marsh in his book Evolution, Creation and Science, which is quoted in the 22 December 1951 Watchtower article “Noah’s Passenger List”. Marsh mentions, among other things, the ‘dog’ kind and the horse ‘kind’ and dogs and horses are both animal families (according to the book Mammals, edited by Dr. David MacDonald). Using animal families as criteria definitely minimizes the passenger list - down to 152 pairs of mammals, 202 pairs of birds and 55 pairs of reptiles. But this still leaves Noah with the enormous task of caring for at least 409 animals (the actual number would be far higher, as some of the ‘kinds’ were represented by seven individuals).


Even proponents of a global flood don’t agree that the number was this low. In the book The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, John C. Whitcomb and Henry Morris (whom the 1968 Watchtower article quotes from) propose that an Earth wide deluge would necessitate 25,000 ‘kinds’ (at least 50,000 individual animals) being taken aboard the ark in order to account for the diversity of animal life we see today.


In an interview conducted with professed Christian and biologist Amanda Cook, not only each species, but each sub-species – yes, members of each race of animals - would need to be represented to account for the genetic diversity we see today. She also notes:
The problem with beginning a new ecosystem on an uninhabited planet is that you severely deplete the gene pool that you can select from. The idea behind this diminished gene pool has been coined by geneticists as the founder effect. The founder effect is defined as a reduction of the gene pool and alteration of gene frequencies resulting from the establishment of a new population when a few organisms are isolated from the parental population. With a small gene pool to draw from and a small population there is a greater chance of genetic drift in which an allele may be completely removed from the gene pool. This random elimination of alleles only serves to limit diversity. …Because of genetic drift and the founder effect it is extremely difficult to maintain diversity in a small population. You must have a representative for all of the alleles you wish to be expressed in you future ecosystem, so you must bring with you a fair sampling of each sub-species and pray that you don't lose any genetic information to disease or infertility.


So we see that not only would a pair of animals from each ‘kind’, but “a fair sampling of each sub-species” would be needed. Even still, she notes that the founder effect is likely to result in the extinction of the greatly depleted animal unless extraordinary measures were taken to protect the few remaining members from disease.
But let’s use the lowest estimate, 409 ‘kinds’, for argument’s sake. This presents additional obstacles. Though we do not know for certain the exact number of different ‘kinds’ of animals during the Flood, we do know that scientists now estimate a total of 5,500 mammal species, 8,800 bird species and 8,200 reptile species, for a total of 22,500 species. While it may be true that some of these species can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, the point still remains that they are separate and distinct members that have descended from the animals on the ark. This results in the conclusion that there have been 55 new species of land-dwelling vertebrates every year during each of the 4,376 years since the Flood. New species would be coming in to existence faster than the gestation rates of some of their members! For example, how can we honestly conclude that the one pair of the mouse ‘kind’ has produced the 1,514 known species in existence today? This calculates out to an average of nearly 3 new species of rodents each year! Thus we see that to accept a high number quickly flies in the face of space and time constraints, while accepting a low passenger number for the ark necessitates rapid diversification in the millennia since.


Further, in my previous letter, I noted “the incredible number of animals needed would be impossible for Noah and his family to care for. Modern zoos employ dozens, sometimes hundreds, of employees to care for only a portion of the animal kinds in existence.” As a comparison, the Minnesota Zoo (at www.mnzoo.org) offers these statistics as of November 2006:


Animal species represented at the zoo: 447
Individual animals: 2,351
Volunteers: 1,133
Hours donated by volunteers: 87,266


These numbers indicate the volunteers spent 240 work-hours every day over a 12 month period (01 July 2005 – 30 June 2006) and each volunteer at the zoo provided care for approximately 2.2 individual animals! True, some of the volunteers undoubtedly care for peripheral duties, such as handling of guests, setting up displays, managing food and souvenir shops, and so on, with the result that direct animal care-givers cared for a higher number of animals. However, the volunteers at the zoo also had the benefit of a comprehensive infrastructure (e.g., animal feed delivered to the zoo daily) and modern conveniences (e.g., much labor is automated), such that said volunteers are able to care for more animals than otherwise possible. Compare this to Noah and his seven family members who, at most, could have only cared for the animals for 192 work-hours per day – assuming they never slept or spent time on personal care - without plumbing or indoor lighting. Even if we allow each member of Noah’s family to provide care for 10 individual animals (far exceeding the zoo’s capabilities), the total number cared for amounts to only 80 individual animals – a mere 40 ‘kinds’ – far short of even the most conservative estimates above.


Finally, throughout this letter, and in much of the references provided, other forms of animals have been ignored. Insects, arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, worms, yes, “all moving animals of the ground” (Genesis 6:20) were brought onto the ark, adding to the workload of Noah and his family. And then there are fish. In my previous letter, I noted “fish…requiring freshwater would suddenly find the water too salty, as a rise in sea level would cause the ocean salt to mix into freshwater lakes”. The sensitivity of fish regarding the salinity of their watery environment is confirmed on page 844, paragraph 2, of the book Insight on the Scriptures – Volume 2, where, discussing the conditions of the Salt Sea, we read: “The salt concentration is such that no fish, even saltwater varieties, are able to live; the few fish in the brackish water where fresh water mixes with the salt water are killed if they are swept into the sea proper.” (Also see page 838, paragraph 6 of the book Insight on the Scriptures – Volume 1.)


To summarize: A global Deluge presents insurmountable difficulties for life on the planet. The ark seems to lack sufficient space and human hands to care for those intended to survive the ordeal, and while it may seem desirable to concede a lower number of passengers for the ark, this merely results in the greater problem of how this small pool of ‘kinds’ so quickly diversified into the great variety we see today. Life outside the ark presents additional problems. Freshwater fish would definitely not survive. Almost all tree species would suffer root rot of the highest degree. Following the Flood, the descendants of the surviving animals eventually flourished on all major (and thousands of minor) landmasses on the planet. Close investigation concerning the possibility of land bridges reveals such bridges did not exist to provide a comprehensive network linking all land masses with all other land masses and, further, the few that did exist ceased to do so millennia before the Flood.


If we are to accept Noah’s Flood as global, then, the following questions need to be satisfactorily addressed:


1) How did the descendents of animals exiting the ark eventually arrive at thousands of landmasses not connected to Afro-Eurasia nor inter-connected to each other?
2) How did trees survive immense erosion, root rot, and lack of air and sunlight?
3) If we invoke the theory of a water canopy, how do we account for the resulting problem of crushing atmospheric pressure?
4) Did the ark have a relatively small animal passenger list (necessitating rapid diversification – sometimes even outpacing gestation - in intervening millennia), or a comprehensive animal passenger list (flying in the face of space and time constraints)?
5) Since fish are sensitive to salinity alterations, how did any – but specifically the freshwater ‘kinds’ – survive the Deluge?


Of course, all of these questions are easily and satisfactorily answered by concluding the Flood was localized.


I sincerely hope my tone is not taken as one of arguing, but of one who is attempting to be ‘intellectually honest’ and who “’is characterized by a ‘readiness to scrutinize what one believes to be true’’ and ‘to pay sufficient attention to other evidence available’” (quote is from the book Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?, page 9). Through my research and discussions with others, there is a large body of data strongly indicating the Flood was localized. Would it not be a disservice to all to not at least acknowledge that, at present, the extent of the Flood is unknown? Acknowledging this does not alter the factuality or overall harmony of the bible, nor does it need diminish one’s faith.


I eagerly await your response, particularly to the five questions, above. Thank you again for taking the time to read this. I send you my love and greetings.

Sincerely,


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Click Here to Read the Watchtower Society's Response to the Third Letter