Hambo’s Ark — The Numbers Keep Changing

How many animals were on Noah’s ark? When thinking about such important questions, we always look to Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else.

The last time we got figures from Hambo was a year ago, when we wrote Ken Ham: How Many Animals on the Ark? The answer he gave was that “about 1,400 kinds were taken on the Ark.” He said:

That’s only about 6,700 individual animals (remember, the clean animals came in pairs of sevens) — and that’s a generous number that will likely go down further as more research is conducted on which organisms belong to which kinds. In fact, it’s possible it could be as low as around 1,000 kinds.

In that post we pointed out that Hambo’s figures had changed over the years. Back in 2012 we were told

The scholars doing the research for this project are predicting from their research on living and fossil mammal, amphibian, reptile, and bird kinds that there may have been as few as 1,000 land animal kind represented on the Ark. As there were two of each kind (and seven of some — the clean animals), that would mean somewhere from 2,000–3,000 actual land animals were needed on the Ark.

And in 2016, ol’ Hambo’s estimate was 2,000 animal “kinds” on the Ark, which means at least 4,000 animals. So, in just the few years we’ve been keeping track, Hambo went from 1,000 kinds (2,000–3,000 animals) up to 1,400 kinds (6,700 animals). This is very difficult for us, because we try to have total confidence in Hambo. He doubtless studies the bible night and day, and he also has a team of brilliant creation scientists on his staff, so he certainly ought to know something as fundamental as the number of animals on the ark.

To make matters even worse, the numbers are changing again! The latest post at Answers in Genesis (AIG), Hambo’s creationist ministry: is: How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark? The authors are Michael Belknap and Tim Chaffey. They have no bio for Belknap, but we’ve seen him described at Linkedin as “Zoo Keeper at Answers in Genesis.” Here are some excerpts from their article, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

One of the most important issues relating to the Bible’s flood account is the topic of animals on the ark. The estimated numbers, sizes, and types of ark animals impact nearly every aspect of the vessel’s interior operations, including time and labor expenditures, food and water needs, space and waste management, and enclosure design. The subject of fitting the required animals on the ark is a significant point of contention between biblical creationists and skeptics. However, properly addressing these concerns is more complicated than a mere compilation of data about different animal species. First, we must answer some fundamental questions.

Why is it so complicate for AIG? They know when the world was created, and how many days that took. Those numbers don’t change. Why do the ark’s numbers keep changing? Anyway, skipping their discussion of the size of the ark, they say:

The Bible informs us that the ark housed representatives of every land-dependent, air-breathing animal — ones that could not otherwise survive the flood (Genesis 7:21–23). Conversely, Noah did not care for marine animals, and he probably did not need to bring insects, with the possible exception of delicate insects like butterflies and moths — since most insects could survive outside the ark. Also, insects take in oxygen through spiracles in their skin, and the Bible specifies that those creatures targeted outside of the ark were those “on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life.”

We can’t imagine how freshwater fish survived when the world was transformed into one gigantic ocean. Anyway, the creation scientists tell us:

Skeptics often assert that there are millions of species in the world — far more than the number that could fit on the ark. However, according to estimates published in 2014, there are fewer than 1.8 million documented species of organisms in the world. Consider also that over 98 percent of those species are fish, invertebrates, and non-animals (like plants and bacteria). This means that there are fewer than 34,000 species of known, land-dependent vertebrates in the world today.

It’s very difficult to get an authoritative estimate on the number of species. This 2017 article from PhysOrg will give you an idea: A new estimate of biodiversity on Earth. Anyway, AIG devotes several paragraphs to discussing what they regard as the difference between species and kinds, after which we’re told:

The Ark Encounter depicts a worst-case approach when estimating the number of animal kinds. Some people believe Noah brought two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal. The text seems to indicate that Noah cared for more animals than this (Genesis 7:2–3), particularly when it comes to the clean animals and flying creatures. The Lord may have sent seven pairs of the clean animals and seven pairs of all the flying creatures (not just the clean varieties).

Although this worst-case approach more than doubles the total estimated number of animals on the ark, this model shows that even a high-end estimate of total animals would have fit on board. Obviously, if the Lord sent just seven of each clean animal and seven of just the clean flying creatures, the ark would have had plenty of space to accommodate this lower total.

Ah yes, either way the ark had plenty of room. AIG continues:

People often wonder how all the animals could have fit in the ark, particularly when considering the massive dinosaurs. We see so many illustrations of large creatures packed tightly into a little boat. But this image is inaccurate. Noah’s ark was much larger than it is usually depicted, and many of the animals were probably smaller than shown in popular pictures. It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles or smaller varieties within the same kind.

Okay, juveniles. They need less room, they eat less food, etc. It makes sense. Let’s read on:

Based on initial projections, the Ark Encounter team estimates that there were around 1,400 animal kinds on the ark. It is anticipated that future research may reduce that number even further. The Ark Encounter team projects that there were fewer than 7,000 animals on board the ark. The wide discrepancy between the number of ark kinds and individuals is due to the relatively large number of flying and “clean” kinds — each estimated at 14 animals apiece.

Aha! Now we have the latest estimate: 7,000 animals. Back when Hambo’s estimate was “somewhere from 2,000–3,000 actual land animals” we posted How Horrible Was Life Aboard Noah’s Ark?, comparing the Ark to a transatlantic slave ship. The Ark was ten times worse.

Okay, that’s enough from AIG’s latest ark estimates. It wouldn’t surprise us if the numbers change a few more times. It doesn’t matter. Hambo’s drooling fans will accept whatever they’re told, and we’ll stick with what we wrote in this blog’s all-time most popular post: Top Ten Reasons Noah’s Flood is Mythology.

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25 responses to “Hambo’s Ark — The Numbers Keep Changing

  1. So each person on board was responsible for the daily care, feeding, excrement disposal, etc. of one thousand animals? That’s just 31 seconds to spend on all the chores associated with each animal. (And we all know Hambo is still cheating on his numbers.)

    I have a cat and three turtles, and that’s time-consuming enough.

  2. Michael Fugate

    Wouldn’t be better to say God cast them all into a deep sleep for the duration? Ham is pulling it out of his nether regions anyway, so why not something more sensible? Oh right, he’s a creationist – never mind.

  3. Dave Luckett

    It’s perfectly simple so long as you neither know nor care what “kind” means as applied to the species, postulate as much “change within kinds” (aka hyperevolution) afterwards as you want, not worry about what plants would survive an inundation for a year, take no account of specialised predators or herbivores, nor of geographical distribution of the species, (who knows from that?) posit that the flood waters were both salt and fresh, and that the enormous turbulence didn’t mix them, and don’t bother about those marine animals, like seals, turtles or crabs, that must breed on land. Handwave away the insects that don’t fly, ring in another set of miracles to take care of the ones that must pupate annually, and forget about all the insectivores. Don’t even think about the volume of the water required, or where it came from, or where it went, because that involves big numbers. As for the energy required for it, what’s energy, don’t answer, nobody cares. There! Done!

    Now all you got to do is explain how a ship twice the size of the largest all-wooden ship ever known could have retained structural integrity in the face of strength of materials constraints on wood fastenings available in the Bronze Age, against the greatest storm ever, on an open ocean. I count two layers of uncovenanted miracles before we get to that. What’s one more?

    Because that’s the trump. Don’t you see? God can do anything. You think this is some kind of whacko fundamentalist position, a default to which they readily retreat, and other Christians don’t go for it so much? Think again. Mainstream Christian theology was driven to it, and worse, more than fifteen hundred years ago, over the problem of evil, or the nature of the Trinity, or Christology. With the last two they found themselves having to say that God could and did do things that are mutually exclusive, like both know and not know, be human and not be human, die and not die, both at once. At least the Flood and the Ark and all that only requires that God do miracles, not that the miracles actually contradict one another.

    But that trump, that retreat into the last citadel of omnipotence, is always available. What is Ham doing, trying to pretend that it isn’t needed? What the henker would it matter if he invoked miracles left, right and centre? God can do miracles. What, doesn’t Ham think so? He has to invoke some kind of naturalistic process to account for the Flood, the Ark, the survival, the repopulation of the Earth? Why?

    I suspect that it’s because Ham’s god is actually himself in a toga, seated on a cloud. Ham knows he can’t do everything – even his fragmented consciousness has not lost track of reality sufficiently to think he’s omnipotent, and even his most doolally followers would start to look at him funny if he ever said he was – so Ham’s god, which is himself, can’t do everything either. He needs some kind of non-supernatural mechanism that Ham can kid himself could exist in what counts as the real world in the mind of Ken Ham.

    Now, you can say what you like about an omnipotent God. Internally inconsistent, agreed. Lots of other stuff. But at least it involves the possibility of awe. Ken’s god, not so much. Funny when you think about it. There’s Ken, trying to interest people in a literal Genesis, which requires shrinking God down to fit Ken Ham. But awe, leading to humility in the face of the infinite, was never Ken’s strong suit. For that, we need to look to science.

  4. I agree with Dave. The flood itself is a stupendous miracle story, second only to creating the earth and universe in the first place, yet somehow Noah has to do all the work of surviving the miraculous flood on his own. He isn’t included in the miracle. He has to build a ship, collect animals, etc.

    Why wouldn’t God have made arrangements to spare Noah in some miraculous way? Nowhere does it say Noah is being tested, to my memory. He isn’t being punished. Given he isn’t given a miracle, it would have been simpler for Noah to hike to the top of a mountain along with the animals and sit out the flood.

    We’ll never know, but I bet the original oral tradition began much simpler and grew more elaborate over time, as stories often do. There may also have been multiple versions of the story, which were melded together in the ultimate written version through some sort of editorial process.

  5. @Ed
    As far as multiple versions of the Flood story, that is what Biblical scholars have been talking about for quite some time.
    We can see that in the variations in the numbers of animals on the Ark: in some parts, it is by twos, and in others, some are by sevens. We can see it by repetitions. And once one is alerted to that, there are clues all over the place. And why is it so awful to accept that the Bible has such an origin? Why insist the divine inspiration work on a particular human model of authorship?

  6. “It is anticipated that future research may reduce that number even further.”
    Well, we here have no choice but agreeing with Ol’Hambo. After all we predict that the number will go down as far as exactly zero.

    Our dear SC doesn’t get creacrap: “We can’t imagine how freshwater fish survived …..”
    But the answer is in the article!

    “It makes more sense to think that God would have sent …..”
    So of course Ol’Hambo’s god send the freshwater fish to safe places (shallow pools etc.) that weren’t salty – but only two of each kind and seven if they were pure.
    Btw I’d like to read a “biological” paper on the meaning of pure on AIG..

  7. The energy Ham and co expend on this stuff! And all for what? To feed the engine of evangelical madness. Michael F’s link to BS pretty much ticked all the boxes: boys tend to BS more than girls (but if the girls go along with it, what does that say about their comprehensive skills?); higher socio-economic levels play a factor in BS-mongering; and North Americans seem to be more prone to it.

    Evangelism and BS are practically synonyms for one another. Quelle surprise.

  8. I am simply stunned that AiG can so blithely and cavalierly continue to equate “seven” with “seven pairs”:

    “remember, the clean animals came in pairs of sevens”, “and seven of some — the clean animals”, “seven of every clean animal”, “seven pairs of the clean animals”, “just seven of each clean animal”

    (And how no one here seems to have noticed.)

    Gen 7:2 — “Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate . . . “

  9. @Dave Luckett: “As for the energy required for it, what’s energy, don’t answer, nobody cares. There! Done!”

    You seem to have forgotten the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    Starting today and extrapolating backwards to the time of the Flood, there would have been much more energy 4000 years ago than now.

    And if there were more energy back then, there was less mass. Everything would be lighter and easier to wrangle.

    Ya gotta “think” like a Creationist.

  10. Paul D. says: “So each person on board was responsible for the daily care, feeding, excrement disposal, etc. of one thousand animals? That’s just 31 seconds to spend on all the chores associated with each animal.”

    There’s a non-miraculous way it could have been done, but the authors of the bible didn’t know enough to invoke it. The animals could have hibernated. Simple. But that’s mostly a winter phenomenon, probably unknown in the Middle East, so that option wasn’t available.

  11. At this point, why not just say there was ONE pair of ANIMAL kind? The hyper evolution isn’t that much more demanding, and plenty of room for the logistics of the ark!

  12. Laurettte McGovern

    I’ve always wondered what each of the “kinds” looked like. For example, I assume creationists will say there was one “Cat Kind.” How big? What color? Was it an amalgam of all the felines we see today? And then after the flood did it differentiate into lions and tigers and pumas and ocelots and tabby cats? Or, were each of these a “kind” and were present on the ark?

    It seems to me that if creation “science” was real, this would be a legitimate avenue of research for a creation “scientist.”

  13. Michael Fugate

    Doesn’t Ken need to develop an operational definition of “kind” beforehand?

  14. The marsh arabs of the Babylonian empire who contend with annual flooding in the Euphrates-Tigris river deltas may have had a menagerie of goats, sheep ,camels, rodent stowaways and a few birds and dogs and cats on their boats/rafts/floating residences.. My arithmetic on this likely source of the Noah’s ark myths differs from Hammy’s by about 990 kinds from his estimate of 1,000. Still working on how the kangaroos got to Australia while not colonizing other land masses along the way. perhaps Hammy, being a drover
    type can concoct a new story for that one also.

  15. @Laurette McGovern
    Yes, for example were the two of the feline kind striped like tigers, or were they of different colorations?
    When the animal and plant kinds were created, were they already diversified into genera and species and varieties?
    Whatever happened so that kinds did give rise to species? Today, the diferent levels of taxa, other than species, seem to be mostly arbitrary human inventions. Genera of mammals are different from genera of insects, classes of vertebrates different from classes of flowering plants, and then what about taxa of bacteria?
    The Bible does not give us any guidance about how or when such distinctions arose – except maybe when Adam named all of the animals. Was Adam the precursor of Linnaeus?

  16. Timothy Shane Norfolk

    In arguments with creationists some years ago, I noted that, using Woodmarappe’s figures, Noah and his family would each have to move about 8 tonnes of food and water per day, plus the equivalent amount of waste, with only a tiny window to throw it out. I have often wondered how farmers fall for this stuff.

    Also, juvenile animals eat much more than mature ones, in general. That’s how they grow.

  17. Michael Fugate

    Why did they need males and the mates of clean animals if they were going to sacrifice them all after they got off the boat? And how did they keep those lines going if they burned up?
    Gen 9:
    20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
    21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

  18. @Kosh asks a silly question: “why not just say there was ONE pair of ANIMAL kind?”
    “Cuz Hully Bubble uv curz.

  19. @Timothy Shane Norfolk
    Genesis 7:2 says that the animals were taken by pairs, the male and his mate.
    Juveniles do not have mates.
    @Michael Fugate
    We now realize that a small populaton is not enough to survive. If a species has less than a couple of dozen individuals, it sis doomed. Consider these problems:
    Social animals need a herd to survive. How did the two naked mole rats survive wihtout the whole nest? (I think that it is the only species in its genus and its family, so probably of its kind.)
    Predators need a a lot of prey animals. Think of the first meal of any predator: it will result in the death of at least one of the pair of an unclean prey kind, and thus extinction. In the case of the sevens of birds, each pair of the owl-kind (assuming that they are going after the male and the female of the same prey-kind) is responsible for one extinction. Same with hawk-kind. Carrion eaters are not responsible for killing their prey, but they rely on their share of extinctions.
    Think of Noah observing the slaughter of all of those animals that his family spent all of that work on for a year.

  20. Speaking of the numbers of Hambo’s ark, your clandestine operative — code named “Bluegrass” missed the latest Ark numbers for February.. Hambo is back to losing visitors. 16,328 paying visitors in February 2019 a drop from the 17,961 they had last February

  21. Troy, Bluegrass didn’t fail us. I decided to post that stuff two months at a time, because those monthly posts didn’t generate any comments.

  22. @Troy
    February is only 28 days, so 16,328 means 582 per day
    January 31 days 17,961 = 578 per day
    I’d say essentially unchanged

  23. @TomS
    16,328 in February 2019
    17,961 in February 2018

  24. Sorry.

  25. @Kosh: “At this point, why not just say there was ONE pair of ANIMAL kind?”

    The “clean” animals were for food during and immediately after the Flood, as well as for a sacrifice afterwards.

    @Michael Fugate: “Why did they need males and the mates of clean animals if they were going to sacrifice them all after they got off the boat? And how did they keep those lines going if they burned up?

    “Gen 9:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”

    Please note that the biblical phrase is “took of”, not “took all of”.

    Noah could have taken as few as one of “every clean beast, and of every clean fowl” to sacrifice.

    (@My Patient and Compassionate Curmudgeon — Would you be so kind as to delete my bone-headed premature launch of this Comment? Please and Thank You.

    [*Voice from above*] Behold, it is done!