Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Noah's Ark - Mice

A pair of mice produces a litter of about six, and those can be sexually active in 30 days. Assuming just half of those are female, and that there is adequate food on the Ark (Noah was required to provide food for all the animals), over ten months just one pair of mice can multiply to over a million. But when you start to think about all the different kinds of mice, rats, and other rodents in the world, there are more than 2,000 species. With each of these breeding at the normal rodent rate, there would be no physical space left for anything else before landfall on Ararat. (I wonder if the mountain was named for all the rats that swarmed off the Ark?)

Noah's Ark - Mountain Lions

A mountain lion typically kills one deer a week, so a pair of them over a ten month span on the Ark would need about 87 deer-equivalents. Fortunately, the deer family has about 90 species, so taking just one of the seven from each species would do the trick. If you figure in lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, snow leopards and clouded leopards, that would more than polish off all the deer. But no problem, could save the last pair of each deer species and let the big cats eat antelopes instead (there are 91 species of those). Oops, but there are also eight species of bears and 34 in the dog family (all of this just counting extant forms; presumably the extinct ones all died in the Deluge!). So those would consume the rest of the antelopes and in fact the rest of the ruminants (those in the "clean category", that came on board in sevens). This causes a problem for Noah, for after the Flood he has to sacrifice one each of the "clean" animals. If he is sure that the last female of each type is pregnant and sacrifices the male, there still won't be enough to go around, even if Noah's family is vegan (they would not be allowed to eat the "unclean" animals on board).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Noah's Ark - Polygyny

For the "clean" animals on the Ark, Noah was to allow seven to board, not just two. According to Deuteronomy, the clean animals include cud-chewers with split hooves, in other words, all the cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and gazelles. In the wild, these all tend to be polygynous, that is, to have one dominant male breeding with a harem of females. So my guess is that the "seven" would consist of one male and six females. Presumably this also applies to the "clean" birds, such as chickens, turkeys, and pheasants, letting on one cock and six hens in each case. I would think this would inspire Noah. He'd say, "Hey, I don't have to mess with Ham, Shem, and Japheth. I could be like these other preferred animals, with just me and a harem. My wife and three daughters-in-law, and that would make room for, say, three more, virgins naturally. And that would allow a faster repopulation of the world after the flood, with more breeding females. After all, if we humans come on two-by-two, each man with one female, that makes us equivalent to the "unclean" animals, and that can't be what God intended."

Noah's Ark - Miracles?

Some would answer all my questions about the difficulties of Noah's Ark by saying "Well, God simply cared for everything miraculously." If that could be done, of course, there is no need for the Ark at all. God could enclose every creature and plant in magical bubbles, putting them in stasis during the flood and restoring them afterwards. For that matter, why even bother with the flood? Just instantly dispose of all the evil or non-believing humans and start over with Noah's family. Saves lots of hassle. The trouble with miracles is, if they are so easy for an omnipotent God, why mess with non-miracles? Ah, but the stock response is "We cannot know God's reasons, ways, and motivations." Hmm, there certainly seem to be a lot of people in the world who claim to have hotlines from God with rules that they are more than willing to impose upon others. They assert the literal truth of scripture (do they really know what "literal" means?), but at the same time insist that their personal interpretation of scripture is what counts. "Scripture doesn't mean what you say, it means what I say!". I love fantasy literature, and the Ark story is just too good to ignore; I just want to understand the details of the cruise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Noah's Ark - temperature control

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Ark design is its HVAC system. Many animals are highly dependent on a consistent temperature and environment that meets their normal lifestyle, so would have to have this provided for their seven-month cruise. Some animals are adapted for arctic conditions, some for the tropics. Some thrive in wet conditions, some in arid. Even humans, who have adapted to more habitats than any other animal, cannot survive unprotected for more than a few hours in the harshest deserts or the most frigid arctic zones, though there are adapted animals living in both places. So I wonder, how did Noah generate some rooms with dry, baking heat, and others with bitter cold, all on the same Ark? I'm sure that zookeepers would love to know the secret.

In a similar vein, how did Noah provide for all the freshwater animals? They couldn't have survived seven months of saltwater, so Noah must have taken them all on board as well. He must have provided the Ark with a wide diversity of ponds for all the freshwater fish, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and others, and set all these different ponds to the correct temperature and chemical conditions. And how did he collect them, and disperse them after the Flood? Even taking the Ark on a sea cruise before the Flood would not have allowed him to visit all the freshwater habitats, and afterwards, of course, the Ark was on Mt. Ararat, so I am at a loss as to how he got them back to their ponds after the Flood was over.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Noah's Ark - social insects, and plantlife

Having just two individuals of a species of social insect (such as ants, bees and termites) can be a problem. The male is often a drone whose sole purpose is to fertilize a queen. And the queen may be virtually unable to feed herself, being dependent on the workers. But if there is just one drone and one queen, there are no workers. And I think these are considered "unclean", so Noah could not use the "seven" exception for clean animals and birds to sneak in some workers. Presumably, then, each queen must start laying eggs immediately, to generate enough workers to support the colony. Now termites should be in good shape, because the Ark is made of wood, and most of the ants will be OK since there will be lots of detritus and food remains around. But I'm not sure where the social bees and wasps will get their nourishment, since all the flowers will be underwater for seven months.

But that suggest another problem to me. After the flood, all the terrestrial plantlife on the planet will be dead, having been indundated by saltwater for so long. Most of the animals on board depend on plants for food, and will starve before the earth can recover. Pretty tough to be fruitful and multiply when there is nothing to eat. And learning from Carthage, when the land has been salted, it can take much longer than normal to recover. Anyway, all those plants that have co-evolved with pollinating insects can't spread without the insects, and the insects can't thrive without the plants. Oops.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Noah's Ark - food

Noah had to not only put the animals on the Ark, but also their food. For example, consider the elephants. There are three species, with a male and female of each, for six elephants on board. Each one eats about 500 pounds of food per day, which requires 60 tons of food for a brief forty-day cruise. For the full five or seven months (depending on your tradition), this could mean up to 315 tons of food just for the elephants. The largest elephant on record weighed 13 tons, so the food weighs at least four times as much as the elephants themselves. And this is for just one type of animal. There are also five species of rhino, two species of hippo, more than fifty species of deer, about ninety species of antelopes, plus horses, giraffes, camels, pigs, cattle, sheep, and more, just in the ungulates. All of those will require large amounts of food, too. And we haven't even gotten to the carnivores, rodents, marsupials, and all the other mammals. Plus all the birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Plus the snails, slugs, land crabs, spiders, and a simply huge number of insects (remember, 350,000 species of beetles alone!).

An additional logistics problem is that many of these diets are so highly specialized, and the proper food must be obtained for each animal. Humans and pigs are so atypical, in that we will eat nearly anything. There are animals that feed only on the material of a single type of plant, so the vast job of collecting and maintaining all those different plants, from all over the world, would exceed the capability of any quartermaster system in existence today, with all of our technological resources. How did Noah accomplish it? For Genesis states that he was to load the Ark with not only the animals, but also their food. Wow!