Friday, December 14, 2012

Beware of flooding

Imagine a millionaire, with a constant urge to make more millions. At a religious level, let's suppose that our millionaire happens to be a young-Earth creationist. They're the crazy folk—like our Aussie nitwit politician Steve Fielding, evoked here—who believe that God spent a busy week making the world, before being overcome by a psychopathic desire to destroy the results of his week of toil by means of a huge flood, designed to exterminate mankind. Finally, let's suppose that our rich creationist is Dutch. That's to say, he resides in a land that could rapidly be flooded dramatically if ever sea levels were to rise as a consequence of global warming... or because of an act of God in another homicidal mood. If the fellow whom I've asked you to imagine were to actually exist today, in flesh and blood, what would he be doing? The answer is obvious. He would be building an ark.

That's exactly what Johan Huibers has been doing over the last couple of decades. Construction of the huge vessel has been completed, and it was officially launched a few days ago. And Johan is henceforth awaiting, with confidence, the Apocalypse: first, the Mayan business, then maybe, with a bit of luck, a tidal wave or two. In any case, even creationists never know the surprises that God's got up his sleeve...

The replica uses measurements obtained from the Bible, but the builder has taken the liberty of incorporating various features that God and Noah overlooked. For example, the Dutch ark can welcome up to 1500 visitors at a time, and these Biblical tourists have access to a big restaurant and a movie theater. As far as non-human animals are concerned, they're mostly sculptures.

The Gallica website recently displayed here a small series of beautiful medieval images of the Biblical ark. As soon as we analyze these images, however, it becomes clear that artists in those days (the Middle Ages) must have had a terribly fuzzy conception of reality. Consider, for example, this presentation of the construction of the vessel:

It looks as if they're putting the finishing touches to a carnival float representing a big walnut. There's no way in the world that this thing they're building might sail upon the flood waters with a gigantic cargo of specimens of all of God's creatures. But my negative remarks are unkind, and they merely reveal my lack of faith. The following image proves that Noah's adventure got off to a delightful start:

I wonder what role the lady in red will be playing during the voyage. Would this be Lady Noah? Her clothes are not quite right for work as a deckhand, feeding the animals and shoveling out their dung. The following image is meant to show us how everybody has been housed aboard the vessel:

Here's another depiction of the ship's quarters:

The respective sizes of the various creatures have been handled by the artist in a very loose fashion, as if he wasn't greatly worried about reality. I wonder if he actually noticed that his ducks were bigger than horses, or whether this trivial detail escaped his attention.

Believers (like the crazy Dutchman) would probably tell me that images such as these must be taken merely as symbols, rather than realistic diagrams. Fair enough; nobody in his right mind would ever consider this artwork as realistic. But symbols are a convenient notion for trying to hide the obvious fact: namely, that there can be no plausible reality whatsoever behind the story of Noah.

Finally, the voyage went over well. And the following image suggests that, when they were about to return to dry land, many of the supplies stored down in the lower hull hadn't even been touched.

I would imagine that it had been such a fabulous and exciting trip that none of the passengers had even thought about eating. I hope that visitors aboard the Dutch ark won't behave like that, because Johan Huibers will be needing a constant flow of hungry clients in his big restaurant. Otherwise, no white dove will descend from the heavens to tell him that there's a fortune in cash on the horizon.

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