Noah’s Lament (update)

(Note: All place names have been translated from Adamic to Modern 21st Century English).

Noah stared at Japheth in horror. His voice shook a little, “What do you mean an Opossum escaped at our last stop?” Noah was angry. “YOU KNOW ALL THE MARSUPIALS ARE SUPPOSE TO GET DROPPED OFF IN AUSTRAILIA!.” It was another blunder in a long series of blunders. Sailing around the earth dropping off the animals in their appropriate habitat had been hard, and he only dimly understood why it had to be done, but a marsupial in North America was going to get him in trouble.

Japheth had usually been reliable. He could be counted on to get the animals dispersed into their proper location, but lately he seemed to be slipping up. Ham and his family were carting pikas to the tops of the Rocky Mountains (curse those adorable little beasts that can’t cross lower elevations so that every individual population had to be placed on a separate mountain). Shem was stocking the individual species of pup fish into each of the individual springs in the Great Basin Desert, which meant that Noah was left on the Ark making sure that what was left of the 20 million species of animals and plants were being taken care off. The aquariums alone were nearly killing him. With the flood, of course, all salt water aquatic species had to be brought on the Ark because they could not survive the osmotic gradient that the flood induced with its infusion of fresh water, nor could the fresh water species survive because it was too salty, so all the species of fish and aquatic animals (corals had been particularly challenging) had to be taken aboard the ark. The salt-water tanks were now empty (He looked longingly at the massive whale shark tank—he missed those gentle beasts), and having sailed around dumping those marine creatures back into the ocean, and back in their appropriate habitats he was feeling good. But they were still scrambling to disperse the fresh water fish. They were working on Western North America and at the moment carrying the barrels of high-altitude cutthroat trout high into the Rockies. This was being arranged by one of Ham’s sons in conjunction with Ham’s pika work (since both needed networks of high elevation to disperse).

But what to do with Japheth? He just didn’t seem to be grasping the overall vision of the work. He was always complaining, “Why can’t we just open the door and let them all go?” Noah had tried to explain when it came to a head in the Galapagos Islands.

“Look!” Said Noah to his complaining son. “See the beaks on these finches? Each species’ beak is used for something different—some eat insects and some seeds of varying sizes. We can’t just put them all on the same island because they’d compete for food and eventually go extinct, so each island in this chain has to have it’s own unique set of finches, but they have to be sets that are compatible. See?”

“Yeah, Yeah.” Said Japheth, “I know and they all have to look like they come from the species on the closest mainland. They have to be more closely related to the South American finches than the Asian finches.

“Right.” Noah gave a strained smile, “How else can the good Lord try is people in the last days (and who are really going to need trying) if we don’t get these species distributions right and manage to get things looking like they’ve evolved in a geographic context?”

Japheth sighed, “I understand the reasons why things have to look like they evolved, it’s just . . . well I’m tired. You know, getting all the honeycreepers sorted the same way in Hawaii about did me in, but those thousand species of fruit fly? Common Dad. It took years to get those pesky flies into their respective habitats and frankly I’m burned out.”

Noah understood. His wife was even starting to tire. She seemed indefatigable in the beginning. But even little things were starting to wear her out, like sorting the monkeys with prehensile tails (which could be used to hold onto a branch), so that they could be dropped off in South America, from those without such tails to be dropped in Africa. All this was starting to put her over the edge.

Just yesterday she had exploded, “Why do we need 7000 passenger pigeons on the ark! Their racket is driving me crazy.”

Noah had started to explain, “You know they won’t breed unless they are surrounded by thousands of their compatriots . . .”

“I KNOW. I KNOW,” She fumed, “I’m just so tired of them flapping around so . . .”

Noah had tried to calmed her, “Just think how much people in the last days will appreciate these wondrous creatures. I mean they’ll love these classy birds . . . We do it for them.”

Noah shook himself and returned to the problem at hand.

“Look Japheth,” Noah sighed. “Remember when you were a young father dropping off separate species of blind, cave crayfish in the Ural Mountains?”

“Yes?”

“Remember how discouraged you were when I told you that nearly every cave system in the world had to have a different species of cave crawfish (and cave crickets, etc.) placed in it?”

“Yeah. And it had to match the species that lived in the streams nearby above ground! And there are so many caves on this planet. I thought I was going to die.”

“What did I tell you?”

“One cave at a time. Don’t think about the caves you haven’t done, just do the caves one at a time and it’ll get done.”

“Yeah.”

“Did it get done eventually?

“I know, Dad. I’m just tired. I’ll try harder. I really am sorry for letting the opossum out.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll make due. Just don’t let it happen any more. OK?’

“Ok.”

That night he called a family council.

“Ok. I know we are all tired. We’ve replanted every habitat from here to there,” he said waving his hands this way and that. (Why the good Lord made most plants such that they drowned so easily, was a bone Noah planned to pick with the Lord in the next life—it would have been so much easier if he and his family had not had to replant every single habitat from the tundra to the rain forest, but then, the seeds had not taken that much room on the Ark). But we are almost done. We’ve got the lemurs, lizards and unique birds to drop off in Madagascar and the dodos and other endemics on the Mauritius Islands, but after that it’s smooth sailing and we’ll head to Mt. Ararat for a nice long rest. OK?”

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Comments

  1. Pure awesomeness, SteveP.

  2. Delightful!

  3. Norbert says:

    I’m with Japheth.

  4. Peter LLC says:

    I’m glad the conservative viewpoint is finally getting a little press around here.

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    I don’t get it. Is this really how it happened? Did you receive a revelation, SteveP? Did 3 Nephite hitchhikers relate this to you as you were driving up the 15? Anyway, I’ve got warm fuzzies, so I know it’s true.

    AB

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    On a related note, here’s one of my favorite flood articles: http://ncseweb.org/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark

    Trust me, it’s worth everyone’s time.

    SteveP, I’m curious if you’re familiar with this one (Duane Jeffries gave me a copy at BYU), and if there are other fun readings on this topic you would recommend.

    AB

  7. >All place names have been translated from Adamic to Modern 21st Century English

    Wait, I thought Noah renamed places in the new, post-Diluvian world using names from the old. How else did the Euphrates get its name when we know the original Euphrates watered the Garden of Eden in America?

  8. Ronan,
    Magic.

  9. Steve,

    That was a fantastic read, but you could use an editor. I volunteer Steve Evans.

  10. John Hamer says:

    I agree with the comments: this is awesome, delightful, and magical, SteveP.

  11. Ronan, Noah was still speaking Adamic then. I know this from a secret cuneiform document that I have.

    Aaron, thanks for the reference. Jeffery’s Sunstone article is great. Here is another by Clayton White in my college.

    Dan, saying I need an Editor is like saying, “Has anyone noticed that the sky sometimes has clouds in it.”

  12. This type of treatment of biblical stories always leaves me scratching my head when it comes from an LDS person. Would we appreciate such a story if it was aimed at the BoM story of the Jaredite barges? That story makes as much sense as Noah and the flood.

    Will SteveP now write a witty story about New World horses, elephants, cureloms, and cumoms that pokes fun at a literal, historical belief in the BoM?

  13. Peter LLC says:

    Will SteveP now write a witty story about New World horses, elephants, cureloms, and cumoms that pokes fun at a literal, historical belief in the BoM?

    I hope so!

  14. Kari, The BofM things you mention are very local events that would be hard to make claims against scientifically because we don’t have any idea about location or spatial extent. Absence of proof is not proof of absence as they say. The Noah story however was made on a global scale, with all of life’s diversity involved. We know a lot about that. See the DNA discussion on this Blog a few posts back on why science isn’t the best tool for sorting out historical questions about local, limited-scale events. People still go back and forth with archeological questions of intensively researched events like, “Did King David exist?” We should not be too surprised that we haven’t pegged down some of these even harder questions yet.

  15. Left Field says:

    I love it! But doesn’t the biblical account say that Noah only took those animals that have breath? If the word translated as “breath” means the same thing as we understand the English word to mean (Kevin? Help us out here!), that would seem to include only tetrapods (excluding animals such as plethodontids that have only cutaneous respiration). I would think, though, that breath or no breath, salamanders would need to be aboard the ark. On the other hand, some marine tetrapods (cetaceans, sea turtles, sea snakes, etc.) would have breath but would probably survive the flood. How would you build a ship to accommodate a pair of blue whales anyway?

  16. @Kari … what’s so hard to believe about the Jaredite barges story? Aside from the confounding of the languages part (which could be explained a number of ways), there doesn’t seem to be anything terribly difficult. A small band of people build barges and let the trade winds and currents carry them across the ocean.

    In fact, from a reasonable standpoint (assuming that God involves himself in man’s affairs), there’s very little in the entire Book of Mormon that is troubling. The breaking up of the rocks? Easily explained as a local phenomenon that was generalized for effect … 

    I can’t think of any others.

  17. Left Field, There is a Simpson’s episode where they keep a Blue whale suspended from the ceiling from a sling in a museum and have people brush it with water and throw in buckets of plankton. That’s my guess for Noah.

  18. Wow! I’d love to hear Cosby’s take on this post.

  19. SteveP,

    Hearkening to a limited geography model of the BoM sounds like as much of a cop-out as the “then a miracle happens” creationist versions of evolution.

    The same argument can be made with regards to the flood. That just because tradition holds that the flood covered the whole earth (i.e. the whole planet), there is nothing to prevent one from believing the flood was “local” and the events of Genesis 6-8 describe a limited geography — the “whole earth” meaning the world (and animals) known to the creator of this story. The story was only made on a “global scale” by subsequent interpretation, not necessarily the text itself.

  20. ‘there is nothing to prevent one from believing the flood was “local” and the events of Genesis 6-8 describe a limited geography’

    No disagreement.

  21. Right, Kari.
    Steve’s lampooning the myth of a global flood wherein all of earth’s biodiversity was preserved aboard a wooden ship build by a 400-year-old man–not a critical, limited-geography reading of said story.

  22. @Silus Grok

    Well, lets see. “Small” watertight submarine like barges that are free to rotate about their long axis, loaded with all sorts of animals (including humans), their food supply, their urine and feces, and only one hole open at one time for air exchange and, I would assume, waste elimination.

    The account was careful to state they loaded the barges with food, but fails to mention water. What did they drink? How much water is needed for an ocean voyage of 344 days? A 200# person in a moderately warm environment, doing no exercise needs ~1/2 gallon of water per day. A cow (as an example of “flocks and herds”) needs ~10 gallons per day. Again “small” barges the length of a tree couldn’t hold all that water.

    Why did it take 344 days of travel? The Mayflower only took 66. Columbus took 224 days for his round trip, including the time exploring the lands he found.

    Also, they had built barges like this before, but only after they were built wondered how they would light them, or get air? How in the world were they intelligent enough to build them in the first place if air and light were an afterthought? The physics of air flow would require an awfully large hole, how did the hole differ from the door (which we’re told was shut up tight)

    Ether 6 also states they were buried in the water. Were the barges big enough to supply enough oxygen to all the humans and animals for more than a couple hours? What about all the methane the animals produced, where did it go?

    What kept the barges together so they landed upon the same shore? Their arriving together in the same place (or even apart in the same place) is not likely given ocean and wind conditions, especially after 344 days.

    If we’re going to assume that God involves himself in the affairs of man, then the Noachian flood that is satirized by SteveP could certainly have happened in the traditional, whole world covered by water, manner. But if we’re going to satirize that belief based upon modern scientific understanding, then the Jaredite story provides a pretty large target.

  23. Steve’s lampooning the myth of a global flood wherein all of earth’s biodiversity was preserved aboard a wooden ship build by a 400-year-old man–not a critical, limited-geography reading of said story. -Brad #22

    I’m well aware of what Steve is lampooning, and I agree with him that the story of a global flood doesn’t stand scientific scrutiny.

    My point initially was that when I see a person who considers himself religious, as I know SteveP does, lampooning the religious stories of others it leaves me scratching my head. For all religions have stories that are wide-open for lampooning. So what makes it OK for a LDS to lampoon the myths of a fundamentalist, biblical literalist, when we’d get our knickers in a twist to see BoM stories lampooned?

    I’m not necessarily saying that SteveP would personally get upset by a satire of the story of the Jaredite barges, for example. I don’t know him so I can’t make that judgment. But there are plenty of denizens of the bloggernacle who would.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    As the owner of a curelom that has long grunted meaningful utterances pertaining to the Bloggernacle at large, I welcome more discussion of his breed. They are kindly creatures, noble and of great use to man.

    Kari, the bloggernacle teaches us that there are plenty of people prepared to get upset or offended over anything you can imagine. I see no reason to let that be the sole determinant of whether to write something.

  25. Steve, when your curelom has puppies, or, umm . . . calves? colts? fawns? well whatever, can I have one?

  26. Steve Evans says:

    We call them “hooflets.” And no you cannot.

  27. Is THAT what that little furry animal was I kept tripping on?

  28. Steve, you are just afraid I’ll eat it.

  29. I thought this was absolutely enchanting.

    Thanks, SteveP :-}

  30. Fun stuff. I would add that Noah’s distinction between continental islands (have mammals and amphibians) and oceanic islands (don’t) was pure genius!

  31. such a great read and laugh! thanks.

  32. I was confused about how Possums got here at one point, myself. Glad that the question has now been put to rest.

  33. Great read! I loved it. I’ll be giggling about it all day I think.

  34. Clinton Bartholomew says:

    As a biologists I enjoyed that greatly :-)

  35. It’s not funny, Steve. Here’s why. It’s one thing to claim science proves the scriptures are wrong. But it is entirely another thing to ridicule what we’re still teaching in Primary, Seminary, Institute, and Sunday School.

  36. Mark Brown says:

    R. Gary,

    Please. Nowhere has Steve claimed that science proves the scriptures are wrong. He has poked some good-natured fun at your interpretation of the scriptures. If you can address any of the problems he raises in the post, please do it.

    You are right about one thing, though. It isn’t just funny, it’s hilarious.

  37. I’m about as literalist a believer in the scriptures as you’re going to find anywhere, R. Gary, and even I found this funny. You see, it does NOT ridicule anything that appears in Genesis. What it does do, is point out matters that are not adequately explained by the most simplistic reading of Genesis. It underscores for me that revelation has not yet given us all the details.

    History rather than biology is my thing, and I have to deal constantly with simplistic versions of Mormon history. When we’re able to dig out the facts, invariably they either fit neatly into the gaps of the traditional story, or else they illuminate the truth so clearly that it is easy to understand where and why some previous narrator went wrong. Nothing I have ever found in my historical researches has ever controverted anything essential in our history.

    I have no trouble at all accepting that the same pattern may be true with biology.

  38. Gary,
    I’ve never been in a class where I was taught that Noah distributed the animals throughout the world after the flood.

  39. Ardis, Oh that all Mormons were as careful and critical (in the good sense) of a reader as you are. I love the things you do.

  40. Me too! Me too!

    I really like the image of Japheth with a leaky barrel strapped to his back dispersing the cave dwelling crawfish…

  41. It sounds like every holiday I ever experienced growing up, only instead of moving the same rock pile over and over, poor Japheth is stuck moving fruit flies…

    love it

  42. Mark Brown (#36),

    The LDS Church to which SteveP belongs teaches that it was a worldwide flood and that Noah preserved “every living substance … which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven” in the ark. (Gen. 7:23.)

    The modern sceptic says it must have been a local flood and Noah must have preserved all life only in one local area. To prove this point, SteveP is saying that in order to preserve all life on the earth, Noah would have to have taken with him into the ark “20 million species of animals and plants” (his words, para.3).

    The Church’s teachings about the worldwide flood are based on certain scriptures. SteveP believes science proves the Church’s interpretation of those particular scriptures wrong. SteveP’s above post was written expressly to promote laughter at the expense of the Church’s teachings about the Flood.

    The exaggeration about delivery of these millions of animals and plants to all corners of the earth is only for emphasis.

    SteveP knows that Peleg’s great grandfather was born two years after the flood and that it was in the days of Peleg that the earth was divided. Before that all the land of earth was in one place, so the whole delivery story is pure hyperbole.

  43. SteveP belongs, R. Gary belongs, Steve Evans belongs, J. Stapley belongs, Roasted Tomatoes belongs, fMhLisa belongs, Rusty belongs, the Wiz belongs, Kevin Barney belongs, Ardis belongs, Jared belongs, you belong, I belong…

    Hmmmm… We ALL belong to Christ. We ALL have pledged ourselves to Him. As far as calling someone else to repentence? I don’t see that anywhere…

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Cool yer jets R. Gary.

  45. Charming Post Steve P. Loved it.
    Tracy M. wise words as always.

  46. Left Field says:

    Gary, you remind me of a seminary teacher I once had. When confronted with the “issue” of whether Jonah was swallowed by a fish (Jonah 1:17) or a whale (Matthew 12:40), he said he preferred to believe it was a whale because he’d heard that scientists claim a whale has too narrow a throat to swallow a human, and so it requires more faith to say that it was a whale.

    Sorry, but I don’t think it’s an indication of great faith or virtue to believe the impossible, particularly when there is another perfectly reasonable understanding. Faith doesn’t have to be unreasonable.

  47. “SteveP believes science proves the Church’s interpretation of those particular scriptures wrong.”

    No Gary, just your interpretation of the Church’s teachings and your sense that the brethren are infallible. You keep forgetting they are not Popes. It’s the Catholics that have the infallibility doctrine; not us.

  48. Gary, you’ll never convince me that I don’t honor the Brethren, because I do. You remind me of the anti-Mormon literature I used to get on my mission that told me I could not believe in Christ because I did not interpret the scriptures like they did. Despite their claims, I did believe in Christ, and honor and love him. Same things holds here. Truth is, I love the brethren, read their words and try to live by them. I pray for them and have made the decision the let them lead me to knowing my Savior. Their words are studied by me and my family and treasured. Your words suggest I am less than faithful, just as the anti’s words suggested I was not Christian. None of your words will remove me from my love for them no matter how hard you try to argue you have exclusive access to understanding their words–you do not. There is room for believing evolutionary biologists in this church. Your attempt to marginalize us and paint us as less than faithful will not touch what I actually believe. The trend is in a more open discourse with all deep believers. I invite you to explore this diversity of thought. Whether you do so is your prerogative. But don’t try painting me in non-faithful colors.

  49. It always makes me so sad with anyone uses the scriptures as a whip rather than a light. Accusing someone else of being less faithful that oneself because they interpret scriptures differently is a dangerous thing. Remember that the original “accuser” was Lucifer.

  50. “the whole delivery story is hyperbole”. Nope, but it is a story and a doggone cute one at that. Why does it have to be more?

  51. Julie M. Smith says:

    I read this out loud to my husband. He said he understands for the first time why Noah became a drunk. (Gen 9:21).

  52. I read it out loud to mine, too, Julie! We had a good laugh.

  53. Adam Greenwood says:

    I usually find that I can sneer at creationists in only a sentence or two. Saves time.

  54. Latter-day Guy says:

    53, But does that really do justice to something so frightfully silly? The mocking should fit the mocked, no?

  55. Johnny Putt says:

    God built 77.4 octillion worlds. Half of which would
    put this place to shame. Do you really believe he’s
    into doing goofy fairy tale stuff like the holy-hustlers
    want us greedy-ass pukes to believe? 77.4 octillion is:
    77,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

  56. Steve Lowther says:

    Great idea, but still not ready for prime time. You do have some errors that need to be addressed.

    One error is the belief that only monkeys in the new world have tails. This simply is not true. For example, doing an image search on “baboon” will show tails, and we all know them to be African. In fact, the definition of a monkey is a primate with a long tail, excluding the prosimians. They live in tropical regions in all hemispheres of the world.

    Primates with short or no tails are apes.

    There are a few other minor touch ups that need to be made, such as “Common Dad” for “Come on, Dad”, etc.

    When those flaws are addressed, you will have an excellent piece that provokes a great deal of thought regarding that the Biblical literalists can only logically explain evolution as a “faith trap” instituted by a deceptive god. Excellent job!

  57. Thanks Steve,

    The new world is the only place where monkeys have prehensile tails (which is what I refer to), those are tails that can grasp the branch with enough grip to hang from.

  58. Steve Lowther says:

    You are absolutely right! One word makes a great deal of difference!

    Again, congratulations on a very good piece.

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