©2002  by Gerard Wakefield
(This article may be copied for educational purposes only.)

"Two Tough Questions Regarding The Biblical Flood"

Two questions skeptics frequently ask regarding the Flood narrative found in the Book of Genesis are the following: 1) How did Noah and his seven companions aboard the ark take care of all those animals? 2) Where did all the waters go when the surface of the Earth dried up after the Flood? These are reasonable questions that deserve reasonable answers.

As to how Noah and his small family fed and cleaned up after the animals aboard the ark, a plausible explanation may be found in the two natural phenomena known as hibernation and estivation. Hibernation, as is common knowledge, is that special state of unconsciousness into which animals slip during extended periods of harsh climatic conditions, such as extreme cold. The counterpart to this is estivation (also spelled aestivation), which occurs in regions of the world where the weather becomes unbearably hot. As with hibernation, estivating animals slip into a state of unconscious torpor, during which they neither eat nor produce bodily wastes.

The enormous difficulty Noah and his family members would have had in feeding all the animals on the ark would have led to many animals’ not receiving adequate amounts of food. As it turns out, lack of food is one of the chief causes of hibernation or estivation among animals. Richard G. Van Gelder, Chairman of the Department of Mammology at the American Museum of Natural History, writes:

Although hibernation and estivation are generally thought of as mechanisms enabling an animal to avoid a season of excessive heat or cold, it seems that these dormant states are as much as, or more, related to A TIME OF LITTLE OR NO FOOD as to temperature. There are actually various levels of dormancy, the most extreme being called true hibernation. It involves a marked drop in body temperature, reduced metabolism, and a condition of torpidity, in which the animal has lost sensibility or the power of motion partially or completely. (1) [emphasis added] He further notes: Akin to hibernation, and perhaps identical to it, is estivation. This summer torpidity has been far less studied than has hibernation. THE INDUCEMENT FOR ESTIVATION SEEMS TO BE THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GREEN VEGETATION early in the summer in, for example, some parts of western United States. The Washington ground squirrel (Spermophilus washingtoni) emerges from hibernation in late January or early February and breeds, the young being born in February or March. By the end of June the adults have gone into estivation, and, without emerging from their burrows, go into hibernation, remaining in a state of torpor for seven or eight months. (2) [emphasis added] Such a state of languor, induced both by adverse climatic conditions and a lack of food — particularly greens, which could not stay fresh for long aboard the ark — would have annulled the need for Noah and his seven shipmates to feed and clean up after an enormous number of animals. They would only have needed food and upkeep (Gen. 6:19-21) for the small number of species which under no circumstances slip into hibernation or estivation.

As for the question regarding the disappearance of the floodwaters after the catastrophe (Gen. 8:1), a group of Japanese geologists may have inadvertently come up with an explanation. Led by Shigenori Maruyama, a team of scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has recently discovered that the Earth’s mantle (the layer of molten rock just under the Earth’s crust) is soaking up the world’s oceans. The December, 1999 issue of Discover magazine reported:

The Earth’s oceans are drying up, and there’s nothing we can do about it, say[s] a group of Japanese geologists. Each year, the movement of Earth’s crust plunges more than a billion tons of water into the mantle, where it is mostly absorbed into the rocks. (3) It is geologically possible that, immediately after the Flood, the Earth’s mantle began absorbing the excess waters, an absorption that is continuing to this day.

These scientific facts demonstrate that the Flood story as found in Genesis cannot be dismissed out of hand as ancient mythology. What they do show is that, even when skeptics think they have found a flaw in the Deluge narrative, science will eventually discover a reasonably plausible explanation for the alleged error.


1. Van Gelder, Richard G., Biology of Mammals (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1969), 99.

2. Ibid., 102.

3. "As Dry as Mars," Discover 20, no. 12 (1999): 25.

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