Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

The Messinian Crisis vs Noah's Flood

William F. Tanner, Professor
Geology Department
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306˝4100

From: PSCF 50 (June 1998): 156                                                                Response: Morton

The geological question of the Mediterranean flood was discussed in "The Mediterranean Flood" by G. R. Morton (PSCF 49 [Dec. 1997]: 238˝51). In this piece, the suggestion was made that the Mediterranean flood was also the Noachian flood, and that coupling the two together solves a lot of problems.

The more-or-less sudden infilling of the Mediterranean Basin took place in Messinian time (the Messinian crisis; late Miocene), in round numbers about six or seven million years ago. Morton equated this event with the "appearance on earth of the first hominids." He used this deliberately ambiguous term ("hominids"), thus avoiding the use of "modern human beings." Early hominids are physiologically distinct from modern human beings, and this fact bears heavily on his thesis.

Therefore, the hypothesis of Morton includes, among other things, the idea that Noah and his predecessors, all the way back to Adam, were not modern human beings.

The date for Noah, as implied by Morton, is about 5.5 million years ago. Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans) first appeared roughly 100,000 years ago. Construction of the ark, presumably built of planks, required the skillful use of tools, at a level not indicated at sites where the remains of early hominids have been found. Furthermore, the genealogy in Genesis, read as a straight-forward account, appears to place Adam at less than 10,000 years ago.

Therefore Morton's article sets an event roughly six million years ago equal in time to another event, less (perhaps much less) than about 100,000 years ago. It appears to be untenable to equate the Noachian delugeˇwhatever its extentˇwith the Messinian crisis.

Part of Morton's article depends heavily on expressions such as "could have been" and "possibility" (e.g., p. 246, second column, last paragraph). This is the phraseology that is very popular with people who do not really have any pertinent data; "could" is the tip-off that we are not dealing with facts. Other hypothetical statements are presented without caveat (e.g., p. 248, top of second column: "...the Mediterranean shore, which Noah formerly knew as the mountains of Ararat... "; and again near the bottom of that column). What do we know about what Noah "formerly" knew, or even what Noah knew at a later time, in terms of geographic features and names? And what do we know about the possible peregrinations of the name "Ararat"?

Morton included a closing comment that his hypothesis "fits all the disparate facts outlined in Genesis and in the geological record of the Mediterranean." This is indeed quite far from the case.