Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/661

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
643
THE LIGHTS OF THE CHURCH AND OF SCIENCE.

speedily found itself a good way down the Persian Gulf, and not long after in the Indian Ocean, somewhere between Arabia and Hindostan. Even if, eventually, the ark might have gone ashore, with other jetsam and flotsam, on the coasts of Arabia, or of Hindostan, or of the Maldives, or of Madagascar, its return to the "mountains of Ararat" would have been a miracle more stupendous than all the rest.

Thus, the last state of the would-be reconcilers of the story of the deluge with fact is worse than the first. All that they have done is to transfer the contradictions to established truth from the region of science proper to that of common information and common sense. For, really, the assertion that the surface of a body of deep water, to which no addition was made, and which there was nothing to stop from running into the sea, sank at the rate of only a few inches or even feet a day, simply outrages the most ordinary and familiar teachings of every man's daily experience. A child may see the folly of it.

In addition, I may remark that the necessary assumption of the "partial deluge" hypothesis (if it is confined to Mesopotamia) that the Hebrew writer must have meant low hills when he said "high mountains"—is quite untenable. On the eastern side of the Mesopotamian plain, the snowy peaks of the frontier ranges of Persia are visible from Bagdad,[1] and even the most ignorant herdsmen in the neighborhood of "Ur of the Chaldees," near its western limit, could hardly have been unacquainted with the comparatively elevated plateau of the Syrian Desert which lay close at hand. But, surely, we must suppose the biblical writer to be acquainted with the highlands of Palestine and with the masses of the Sinaitic Peninsula, which soar more than eight thousand feet above the sea, if he knew of no higher elevations; and, if so, he could not well have meant to refer to mere hillocks when he said that "all the high mountains which were under the whole heaven were covered" (Gen. vii, 19). Even the hill-country of Galilee reaches an elevation of four thousand feet; and a flood which covered it could by no possibility have been other than universal in its superficial extent. Water really can not be got to stand at, say, four thousand feet above the sea-level over Palestine, without covering the rest of the globe to the same height. Even if in the course of Noah's six hundredth year some prodigious convulsion had sunk the whole region inclosed within "the horizon of the geographical knowledge" of the Israelites by that much, and another had pushed it up again, just in time to catch the ark upon "the mountains of Ararat," matters are not much


  1. So Reclus (Nouvelle Geographie Universelle, ix, 386), but I find the statement doubted by an authority of the first rank.