The ever incisive David Brin has a recent post on his blog, Noah, the Tower of Babel… and Science, which, somewhat analogously to the scientific argument (see previous post) that DNA analysis undermines the idea of a literal Adam and Eve being the ancestors of all humanity, explores the idea that Noah’s Ark preserved enough creatures to have generated the diversity of life we see on Earth today.
He acknowledges that challenging the plausibility of the Noah’s Ark story is like “shooting fish in a barrel”. Still, it’s fun to think these kinds of things through, just for those people inclined to take the Noah story literally, yet who might be inclined to understand reason. Brin:
Let’s say the entire human population, including guiltless babies, were drowned in a fit of angry pique by a questionably-balanced deity who was not setting a very good parental example, that’s for sure. And let’s further posit that the wives of Noah’s three sons must replenish the Earth with humans. Less than ten generations later, you have cities and Babel-towers being built. What’s the math on that?
He speculates on the consequences of a very generous estimate of 10 surviving offspring per woman. In 10 generations, you get 10 million people. He goes on, discussing rival estimates of populations at the time of the Tower of Babel, and why that successful birthrate must have ended (since it’s not true today, or in any recent history).
But of course, the same quandaries afflict any other faith that insists on interpreting the legends of illiterate shepherds as physically precise accounts…
…instead of allegories that still convey powerful lessons, to this day.