Alex, glancing through our local rag this morning, called my attention to an article about the "Remains of a bus-sized prehistoric 'monster' reptile" that were found on a remote island in Norway. Scientists believe the skeleton to be roughly 150 million years old.
My first reaction was "cool." Then I started thinking about my reading of Noah and the flood. The Old Testament would have it that God, disgusted with humans and their less than righteous ways, instructed Noah, the one truly righteous human, to build a boat that would house a pair of each species of animal. Noah was permitted to bring his three sons and his sons' wives along, so that, after the flood, these children of the righteous could repopulate the earth.
My question is: where do creatures like our "monster reptile" fit in? The founders of the Creation Museum down in Petersburg, Kentucky would have it that man and dinosaurs coexisted. Seems far-fetched to me, but fine, let's throw those 150 million years out for a second. Can the extinction of "prehistoric" creatures, then, be attributed to a lack of space on Noah's ark? Were they simply swallowed in the flood? In fact, the more I think about it, the more questions pop up. Just how big was this boat? Obviously big enough for elephants and hippopotomi and buffalo. I mean, how is there going to be room enough for all that and not one, but two brontosauri? Then there would be the obvious problem of Tyrannosaurus (not to mention lion) wanting to devour zebra, and of course you would have to have enough food for everyone and really by now the whole story starts to unravel.
Anyhow, I'm off track. And I'm not trying to be cute. Really I'm not.
What it all boils down to is this: our world is so big and so old and so fascinating that I often wonder why anyone would try to fit it all into 2,000 year old book. Accepting Christian doctrine as the truth puts automatic barriers on a what we can know. I guess that's the crux of the science vs religion argument for me. Science tries to unfold the world. Religion tries to confine it. With science, we get to dicover 150 million-year-old giant sea reptiles. With the bible, such reptiles could not have existed, even when our best science is saying right to our faces that it did. So, I wonder: why cram millions of years of history and evolution into a mere 6,000. Two thousand years ago, a bible made perfect sense. How else explain the mysteries of the world? In 2007 I wonder why we cling to these mythologies.
On another note:
The real surprise to me about the story of Noah is the reappearance of a second narrative. The standard version of the story is that Noah herded one female and one male of each species onto his ark. Yet, in another version God instructs Noah to "take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, a male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate."
We have also learned that the flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, but in one narrative we learn that the rains lasted for 150 days and then took another 150 days to subside and then, "in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate for until the tenth month; the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared."
Why, I ask, and how is it that, when the bible gives two divergant accounts of one story, does only one survive in our collective consciousness?