Noah’s Flood – Probably Real, Probably Caused By Climate Change, and Probably NOT Due To Anthropogenic Global Warming

Last month, I noticed several articles mocking Republican Congressman Joe Barton for citing the Biblical “Great Flood” as an example of climate change not caused by man:

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Notice especially some of the comments from “Top Commenters” who mock Congressman Barton:

Oh yeah and to hell with what all those stupid scientists have learned through their years and years of extensive research, those idiots don’t know nothin’. YAY JESUS! -Dave Fox


Thanks for sharing Tim….I feel much dumber now for having read that….LOL.  What a douche! -Patrick Salyard


RUBE. -Lawrence Edward Martin

What many of those commenters (and perhaps even Congressman Barton) don’t know is that the Great Flood story is not unique to the Bible.  The most similar flood story appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, with Utnapishtim taking the same role as Noah.  Encouraged by the ubiquity of the flood myth, geologists William Ryan and Walter Pittman hypothesized that such a flood actually occurred.  They concluded it was due to the bursting of a natural dam in the Bosporus around 5600 B.C. as sea level rose in the Mediterranean (sea levels were rising as global temperatures rose and continental ice sheets melted).   In 1997, they published the book Noah’s Flood, which not only looked at the similarities between the biblical story of Noah and the tale of Utnapishtim, but also looked at information like genetic data, geologic samples and the language diaspora away from the Black Sea to support their theory.

But does the fact that two geologists from Columbia University wrote a book supporting the idea that the flood actually happened mean Congressman Barton is not, in fact, a “douche” and a “rube” when it comes to anthropogenic global warming?  Perhaps William Ryan and Walter Pittman are also douches and rubes.  If that is the case, their douchiness and rubery is quite advanced; this past December, Robert Ballard (the same Robert Ballard who found the Titanic) started looking for evidence of the settlements which should have once existed around the fresh water lake at what is now the deepest part of the Black Sea (if Ryan and Pittman are correct).  His initial survey did not find anything, but he plans on returning this summer.  It would seem, at least for the moment, that science has come down in support of Congressman Barton.  Earth’s climate is capable of changing of its own accord, even catastrophically.  Sometimes those changes are so catastrophic they take on an epic (one might even be tempted to say “biblical”) quality in the retelling.

My Extremely Boring Job

It should come as no surprise to you, given that I was born in 1975, that one of my childhood fantasies was to be Indiana Jones when I grew up.  Not to be an archaeologist, or a swashbuckling archaeologist, or even a Nazi-thwarting, whip-wielding archaeologist, but the no f***ing kidding actual Dr. Jones himself.  Never you mind that I was a girl born 75 years too late; I was absolutely convinced that I could somehow grow up to become the fictional character.

Fast forward a few decades and I am a bit older and hopefully a bit wiser.  I no longer want to be Indiana Jones but I would like to be Dirk Pitt, or at least the non-fictional equivalent thereof (perhaps Robert Ballard?).  As an oceanographer in the Navy with training in hydrography I have at least some of the skills I will need to someday follow my dream.  Unfortunately in the mean time I am a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR), or what some people refer to as a Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR).  For a mind-numbing description from Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, click here.

On those rare occasions when I get invited to a party or some other social function, I have learned that it is not wise to answer with “Contracting Officer’s Representative” or even “Project Manager” when someone asks me what I do, assuming of course I want to continue to be engaged by that person in conversation.  So, as a tactic for sorting out the kind of people I want to talk to from the kind I don’t want to talk to, I answer with the following:

I work on a project designing submersible tanks manned by anthropomorphic ducks which the Navy will use to invade Chechnya.

If they walk away, then obviously I didn’t want to talk to them.  If they say “anthropo-huh?” then again, I obviously didn’t want to talk to them.  If they poke any holes in my statement such as questioning why the Navy would spend money on such a foolhardy project, then once again I didn’t want to talk to them.  But there is that rare gem that will instantaneously recognize all of the nuance, sarcasm and irony bundled into that one statement.  For example, why would a tank be submersible?  Why would the US Navy want to invade a landlocked region of Russia?  Anthropomorphic ducks (although honestly who better to man a submersible tank)?  This rare person, almost inevitably, will respond to my spiel with almost the exact same words every time:

Oh, you mean like Howard?

At which point I know I have found my tribe at this particular event and I will enjoy the rest of the evening.