I commend readers of this blog to the section of the website entitled: Memoirs of a BM Creeper. This section contains selected writings of my father, Norman Maggs. The extent of his knowledge and insight still amaze me considering that he left school before he was fourteen years old.
I made a tearful promise to him after his death that I would get his material published. To date it has been impossible to deliver on that promise, although I hope that by putting some of his material on the Internet, his scholarship and ideas will become known more widely.
What, in the name of all of the immortal gods, is going on in British politics? Just as everyone was breathing a sigh of relief as hard-working, ‘safe pair of hands’, Mrs May gets the top job, she appoints the court-jester to be the UK’s foreign secretary. The man who has either ridiculed or insulted a sizable proportion of the world’s leaders – including the sitting and possibly next presidents of the USA – is now in charge of our overseas diplomacy. Truly, the insane have taken over the asylum.
In my previous post I rejected the story of Noah and the Flood as childish fiction. In Genesis 7:12 it states that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights; later it says that the mountains were covered to a depth of 15 cubits. That is a lot of extra water, corresponding to around 0.02% of the mass of the planet (assuming that five-mile-high Mount Everest was covered). Where did it all come from? That amount of water could not have been stored in the clouds. The only mechanism that could possibly explain the deluge, would have been a sudden bombardment of the earth with huge numbers of icy comets. This idea has been proposed as one explanation for how the earth came to have its water in the first place and is not that far-fetched. The problem for the Flood, is that the extra water, once it was here, would be here to stay. There would be nowhere for it to drain to. We would still be living in a waterworld…
Then there was the logistical problem of boat-building. Commanded by God to build the Ark, it was necessary for Noah to find, fell, transport and prepare several thousand tons of gopher wood using Bronze Age tools. He had to cut it into planks and fasten them together into a structure many hundreds of times larger than any boat previously built; no mean feat for a farmer or herdsman with no previous marine-engineering experience and limited resources. Where did the labour come from? How was it paid for? Was there even enough gopher wood in the area to supply Noah’s needs?
But assembling the animals must have been the biggest problem. Recently, students at Leicester University calculated that an ark built to the dimensions given in the Bible could have carried the weight of 70,000 animals, the equivalent of around 35,000 species. The Leicester students seem not to have taken insects into account, which although small, are numerous; around 1,000,000 species having so far been identified; Genesis 8:17 mentions ‘every creeping thing’ as well as fowl and cattle to be brought on board, so presumably that meant insects as well.
Noah and his helpers had to capture and cage the animals, reptiles and birds, including elephants – both African and Indian – lions and tigers, hippos and rhinos, giraffes, anacondas from South America, pandas from China, polar bears from the Arctic, penguins from the Antarctic and kangaroos and the duck-billed platypus from Australia. It would have needed overseas expeditions to Australia, North and South America, China, the Arctic and Antarctic at least.
Having done all of that, cages for the animals had to be manufactured and squeezed into a volume 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits (a craft about 500 ft. long). While on board the animals had to be fed, watered and mucked out for around the year that was required before the flood abated. And of course the Ark had to take on enough food and water to feed every animal and person on board not only for a year afloat, but for many months afterwards until the first harvest could be got in. This would have included extra animals to feed the carnivores on board. Ironically, the water needs of the animals may well have sunk the whole enterprise. Drinking water could only have been supplied from the sea – assuming that the Deluge would have diluted the salt in the seawater sufficiently to allow it to be drunk. Otherwise, just the volume of fresh water needed would have sunk the Ark. I have seen it written that a good 19th century navvy could shift 20 tons of earth in a day. At that rate, Noah and his sons and their wives would have had to have spent practically the whole time on board just raising and carrying water for the animals.
Interestingly, a much older, but startlingly similar story was found in cuneiform tablets discovered in Iraq in the late 19th century. Contained within the Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian flood myth with uncanny parallels to the Biblical flood. It was initially committed to clay tablets at least 1,000 years before the Old Testament was written down. The hero, Utnapishtim, was told to build a large ship of dimensions similar to Noah’s Arc (albeit shaped like a cube), caulk it with pitch and take a number of animals on board. As the waters abated, he released a dove, a swallow and then a raven. Clearly, whoever devised the story of the flood in the Bible must have borrowed it from the much earlier Babylonian version (and the Israelites were deported to Babylon in the 6th century BC...) If the flood had really happened, and Genesis and Gilgamesh were simply reporting the same event from different perspectives, how could the similarities in the tale possibly be explained unless the two derived from the same source?
No, the story of the Flood is charming allegory and as far divorced from reality as dragons, unicorns and the world supported on four elephants standing on the back of a tortoise. It was a parable intended to demonstrate to a primitive people the wrath of God, reinforcing the point that He really did hold the power of life and death over them, and would exercise that power to their detriment unless they led righteous lives.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there is no limit to human stupidity. The Creation Museum in Kentucky was set up by ex-pat Australian Ken Hamm. Hamm and his colleagues reject around 200 years of scholarship in geology, palaeontology, evolution, cosmology and most of the other sciences, and believe 17th century Archbishop Ussher’s genealogical analysis of the Bible. Ussher found that the world (and therefore the Universe) was created on 23rd October 4004 BC. The museum, tag line ‘Prepare to believe’, assembles and presents the ‘evidence’ that the world is only 6,000 years old; this includes the finding that men and dinosaurs coexisted on the planet at one time. Hamm also runs his website Answers in Genesis from the museum.
Now, a $100-million-dollar partner project has just opened. Situated some miles from the museum is a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, complete with Noah and many animals. The dimensions, 300 x 50 x 30 cubits - corresponding to a length of 510 ft - are from the Old Testament; it was to be made from gopher wood, waterproofed inside and out with pitch. Other than provision for a door and a window there were virtually no other building instructions. In the absence of gopher wood, the Kentucky Ark is made of Radiata pine from New Zealand and there is no evidence of pitch. Pictures on the internet reveal an impressive structure vaguely reminiscent of an ancient Greek trireme albeit very much larger.
The whole undertaking is, of course, relentlessly Christian, and potential employees are required to sign an undertaking ‘disavowing same-sex marriage and pre-marital sex’. The account of the Flood and Noah is from Genesis, but since Jesus refers several times in the Gospels to both, they are firmly integrated into Christian tradition.
So what is wrong with any of this? America supports the principle of freedom of worship; if a Christian organization wishes to set up a theme park, why should anyone object? The Guardian reports that the project will be visited by 1.4 million people in the first year, spending money in the local hotels, restaurants and other nearby attractions; eventually the ‘Commonwealth of Kentucky’ will be better off to the tune of $4bn. Surely, winners all round?
Here’s the problem: the whole show is presented as fact. Both museum and ark have plenty of dinosaurs on show together with models of Noah and other Old Testament worthies looking like they were taken straight out of Hollywood. There are detailed explanations showing how geologists and palaeontologists have got their dating completely wrong. Children, young and old, like dinosaurs and Hollywood blockbusters, and may well pay attention. The whole process is insidious; it all looks so credible (Prepare to believe) that visitors are likely to be brainwashed into thinking it is all true. Can we run the modern world on the childish fiction that it was all created just 6,000 years ago? How can we address the major issues of the day – global warming, disease resistance to antibiotics, food production, energy production etc. – with a philosophy that rejects the findings of virtually all of modern science?
If this ‘attraction’ had been built in Disney World or Las Vegas it would be regarded by its visitors as a charming fairy story, a perfect entertainment for the whole family. As it stands, it has a good chance of subverting many people into belief in a mythical world that just does not exist.
It would be wrong to ascribe a greater significance to Nigel Farage than he deserves. Arguably, he simply acted as an anti-Europe focus for the many disaffected Tories who probably would, sooner or later, have blackmailed a Conservative prime minister into granting the referendum that has just taken place. Nevertheless, Farage achieved his entire objective, 100%; how many political leaders can say that? And having done so, he resigned, but not before publicly insulting his fellow members of the European Parliament, the same people who will eventually have to vote on whatever divorce terms this country manages to negotiate with the EU. Well done Nigel! Game, set and match.
We now find ourselves in a unique situation. The leaders of our political parties in their different ways have conspired, either by design, ineffectiveness or inaction, to lead us into a maelstrom. Having done so, they climb into their various lifeboats and leave us to our fate. And irony of ironies, the one leader who ought to go, who is to be criticised just as much as the rest for a lukewarm half-hearted campaign, steadfastly hangs on. You stand up for your principles Jeremy, never mind the desperate needs of the country.
But it is, of course, worse than that. We face a real and present danger that the country itself will disintegrate. Already the First Minister in Scotland is making overtures for her country to remain in the EU – for which she has a massive mandate. Worse still, there are rumblings in Northern Ireland regarding the fact that the border between the North and the South will become a land-border between the UK and Europe. That border has always had a unique status, but if the UK really does leave the European Union, will it have to be guarded? Will there need to be barbed wire, watchtowers, guard-dogs? Otherwise how are we to preserve our control over immigration – one of the key issues in the referendum debate? The Irish, north and south, are unlikely to be very pleased with such a prospect, and already I have heard it said that the North should reunite with the South, within Eire and the EU, to prevent such an absurdity from happening. Clearly such a prospect would never be agreed to by the Orange faction, and we have the prospect of a re-ignition of ‘the troubles’. Surely a perfect demonstration of the law of unexpected consequences.
There is one small, very small light at the end of a long and very dark tunnel. The next prime minister will be a woman – although that does raise the awful spectre of Thatcher in many people’s minds. Well, the men have royally screwed things up, perhaps a matriarch really can make things better. We can but hope. It is an unsettling prospect though, that the next Prime Minister of this country will be decided by 150,000 members of the Conservative Party.
What indeed? A monumental misjudgement on the part of the UK government allowed a referendum to take this country out of the European Union, a result I am convinced that the majority of people do not really want. Having done that, the architect of that disaster, David Cameron, walked away from the consequences. And now, the person who in the eyes of many was more responsible than anyone else for convincing the British people to vote ‘leave’, the leader-in-waiting, the white knight who was going to make it all better, has walked away as well, albeit after an act of breath-taking treachery from his right-hand man in the campaign. British voters might be forgiven for concluding that the Conservative Party has proved, beyond reasonable doubt, its total incompetence and unsuitability to run this country.
So what about Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, can they help? Er, no. They’re busy tearing themselves apart. A leader with no authority to lead, insisting on hanging on because he claims he has a mandate from the grass roots of the party. Unless something really spectacular happens in the next few days, either the Labour Party will split into two or more parts, or it will somehow manage to hang on, emasculated. Either way, it is condemned to the political wilderness for a generation.
It’s like a Greek tragedy; our friends in Europe, America and elsewhere can only look on in despair, while our enemies must be rubbing their hands in glee. Whatever did we do to deserve this?
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs