A Trump Prediction

On Why Character Matters

The predictions game is especially chancy nowadays. Most people predicted that the Brexit vote would fail and that Donald J Trump would not be elected president.

Still, I’m going to make a prediction: The Trump presidency will implode and he will, at most, serve four years in office. And the source of Trump’s implosion will be rooted in his fundamentally flawed character.

Although the character of Trump has been much discussed, presidential character is the foundation of any presidency. More than any specific foreign or domestic policies Trump may champion, Trump’s deeply and widely flawed character will be the source of his downfall.

Donald Trump is a deeply incurious man. At a base level, he knows virtually nothing about foreign affairs and he is ignorant about most domestic policy matters. For example, with regard to Israel, he said, “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.” He has no position on the issue and he almost certainly has no understanding of the many and nuanced pluses and minuses of either solution. Ignorance is a handicap that many presidents have coming into office, at least in some areas. But Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity makes it impossible for him to obtain the basic knowledge about foreign and domestic matters that are needed for him to make even modestly informed decisions. He doesn’t read books – and he probably reads little else of substance. He shows little interest in policy briefings. He’s simply uninterested in learning. So, he is ignorant and his utter lack of intellectual curiosity will leave him in ignorance.

Donald Trump is a towering narcissist. Despite his ignorance about a wide array of subjects, he is so narcissistic and arrogant that he said, for example, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.” This complete lack of self-awareness about his shortfalls (and we all have shortfalls) is rooted in his narcissism. He cannot tolerate appearing ignorant.

Donald Trump is a serial liar.  He lies about the size of his inauguration crowds; he lies about the size of his electoral college victory; he lies about refugees (“72% of refugees admitted to the U.S. during COURT BREAKDOWN are from seven countries” [meaning the seven countries he wanted to temporarily bar immigration from]), he lied about the US murder rate (“The murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years” – when, in fact, it’s about as low as it’s been in 47 years); he lies about terrorism (terror attacks in the US have “gotten to the point where it’s not even being reported”); and he makes promises that are so outrageous that they can only be properly called lies (such as his promise to bring back “millions” of well-paying manufacturing jobs or that he’s going to provide “insurance for everybody” that will be “much less expensive and much better” – how the hell is that even possible?!).

Donald Trump is a mean-spirited man and this will be his ultimate undoing. Trump has few close friends whom he can really trust. He trusts his family (particularly his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner – but they have zero political or policy experience). He hasn’t known the other people who are closest to him (Stephen Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Kellyanne Conway) for more than a few months. He has no close ties with people in Congress. He has made no effort to reach out to people who have different views than him. He just calls them names and insults them. He attacks, attacks, and attacks (which is largely due to being a narcissist with thin skin). As a result, he’s isolated himself on an island. So, when the going gets tough, and it will get tough, the political knives will come out and he will be all alone.

So, I predict that the Trump administration is going to collapse and it will be due to Trump’s deeply flawed character – not because of fake news or fake polls; not because of “socialist” opponents; not because the public “failed to support him” or didn’t “give him a chance;” and not, remarkably, because of his policies.


An Olympic Gold Medal and a Wooden Cane

I am a sentimentalist.

I have a wooden cane that belonged to Robert Thacker, a man born nearly two hundred years ago in 1819. Into that cane are carved two upwardly spiraling serpents and, at the top, a small closed hand. It’s an elegant but simple cane.

Robert Thacker was my great, great grandfather.

That cane was in my boyhood home and I acquired it when my dad, also Robert Thacker, died nearly twenty years ago. I treasure that cane. It connects me to my dad, like it probably connected him to his dad. When I hold it, it reminds me of home.

I have several other items to which I attach significant sentimental value: I have two plain gold wedding bands that my mother promised to me when she was dying of cancer (I have worn one of them on a necklace for over 33 years).  I have handwritten letters of a great, great grandmother of mine from the mid-1870s as well as some original photos dating back to that time. I have many books from my paternal grandfather (also Robert Thacker) which are over one hundred years old and a c. 1920 mechanical calculator that he used. And I have several other similar family items.

Those items have little monetary value (maybe the cane might fetch ten or twenty bucks in an antique store?) but they have tremendous sentimental value to me. They are items that were held and used by ancestors of mine. I’ll never know much about my great great grandfather Robert Thacker but I have held the very cane he walked with over 120 years ago.

What made me think about these items of mine was an article I read in Minneapolis Star Tribune last week.

Bill Christian and his son, Dave, who both lived just 20 miles from me in rural northern Minnesota when I was a kid, are selling all of their hockey memorabilia.  No, they are not memorabilia collectors who have decided to sell their collections.  They are former hockey players.  And they are selling their own stuff.  And by “stuff” I mean Bill Christian’s 1960 Olympic gold medal in hockey and Dave Christian’s 1980 Olympic gold medal in hockey (he was a member of the “Miracle on Ice” team that defeated the Soviet Union), along with their Olympic jerseys, rings, and other items (including items from Dave Christian’s career as a professional hockey player).

When I read that, I was dumbfounded.  Yes, they will reap a fair amount of money (Dave’s 1980 Olympic gold medal, in particular, has a current auction bid price of $300,000) but what about the sentimental value of the items?  Mightn’t their kids and grandkids like to have those things as mementos of their dad and grand dad?

That lovely old cane of mine is no Olympic gold medal but I cannot imagine parting with it, at least not selling it.  It’s part of my life.  It was part of my great, great grandfather’s life, and of my great grandfather’s life, and of my grandfather’s life, and of my father’s life. So why would something that is so closely identified with the Christians not hold a similar value to their children and grandchildren?

But, the more I thought about it, the less jarring the sale of those items seems.

Someday, my cane, my mother’s two gold wedding bands, and all of the other items that I value so greatly will have zero sentimental value to anyone. Each of those items will eventually either be sold or discarded.  It is inevitable.  Generally, the sentimentality attached to physical family items will, at most, last a few generations.  Consider this: Going back one generation, a person has two parents; going back two generations, a person has four grandparents; going back three generations, a person has eight great grandparents – after ten generations, a person has over 1,000 great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents.  How much sentimentality can you attach to a person who not only lived many generations before you but who is merely one of more than 1,000 people who are similarly related to you?  You couldn’t even remember all of their names, let alone know much that is meaningful about any one of them.  By that time, those distant ancestors are simply a foggy blur in a long ago past, if they haven’t already become completely lost to history and forgotten forever.

So, what would happen if Dave Christian kept his gold medal?  One of his kids would get it.  And then one of his grandkids would get it. And then maybe one of his great grandkids would get it.  Eventually, it would end up in someone’s hands who didn’t care about it and it would get sold, and probably for a lot less than it will sell for today. Why might it sell for less in the future than it would sell for today?  Well, in 100 or 200 years, the 1980 Olympic victory will be less relevant to American life than John Adams is to today’s school kids.  By that time, most people won’t even know the Soviet Union ever existed – and certainly not that Soviets once lost a hockey game!  Hell, how many people today know anything about the Ottoman Empire – and that empire collapsed less than 100 years ago after World War I?

Years ago, I remember reading a prediction about the great physicist Albert Einstein: In ten thousand years, Einstein will be a mere footnote in history, even though he was one of the greatest scientists to have lived in the last two hundred years.  How much less will that 1980 Olympic hockey game be remembered?

When viewed in that light, the decision by the Christians to sell their hockey memorabilia isn’t so stupefying.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy having that wooden cane of Robert Thacker.  What happens to it after I’m gone, I cannot control.

Mark Twain

Banquet for a Senator (by Mark Twain)

In the middle of the afternoon day before yesterday, a particular friend of mine whom I will call Jones for this day and train only, telephoned and said he would like to call for me at half past seven and take me to a dinner at the Union League Club.  He said he would send me home as early as I pleased, he being aware I am declining all invitations this year – and for the rest of my life – that make it necessary for me to go out at night, at least to places where speeches are made and the sessions last past ten o’clock.  But Jones is a very particular friend of mine and therefore it caused me no discomfort to transgress my rule and accept his invitation; no, I am in error – it did cost me a pang, a decided pang, for although he said the dinner was a private one with only ten persons invited, he mentioned Senator Clark of Montana as one of the ten.  I am a person of elevated tone and of morals that can bear scrutiny and I am much above associating with animals of Mr. Clark’s breed.

I am sorry to be vain – at least I am sorry to expose the fact that I am vain – but I do confess it and expose it; I cannot help being vain of myself for giving such a large proof of my friendship for Jones as is involved in accepting an invitation to break bread with such a person as Clark of Montana.  It is not because he is a United States Senator – it is at least not wholly because he occupies that doubtful position – for there are many Senators whom I hold in a certain respect and would not think of declining to meet them socially, if I believed it was the will of God.  We have lately sent a United States Senator to the penitentiary, but I am quite well aware that of those who have escaped this promotion there are several who are in some regards guiltless of crime – not guiltless of all crimes, for that cannot be said of any United States Senator, I think, but guiltless of some kinds of crime.  They all rob the Treasury for iniquitous pension bills in order to keep on good terms with the Grand Army of the Republic, and with the Grand Army of the Republic, Jr., and with the Grand Army of the Republic, Jr., Jr. and other great-grandchildren of the war – and these bills distinctly represent crime and violated senatorial oaths.

However, I am willing to waive moral rank and associate with the moderately criminal among the Senators – even including Platt and Chauncey Depew – I have to draw the line at Clark of Montana.  He is said to have bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment.  By his example he has so excused and so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell.  His history is known to everybody; he is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs.  To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the Republic has produced since Tweed’s time.

I went to the dinner, which was served in a small private room at the club with the usual piano and fiddlers present to make conversation difficult and comfort impossible.  I found that the Montana citizen was not merely a guest but that the dinner was given in his honor.  While the feeding was going on two of my elbow neighbors supplied me with information concerning the reasons for this tribute of respect to Mr. Clark.  Mr. Clark had lately lend to the Union League Club, which is the most powerful political club in America and perhaps its richest, a million dollars’ worth of European pictures for exhibition.  It was quite plain that my informant regarded this as an act of almost superhuman generosity.  One of my informants said, under his breath and with awe and admiration, that if you should put together all of Mr. Clark’s several generosities to the club, including this gaudy one, the cost to Mr. Clark first and last would doubtless amount to a hundred thousand dollars.  I saw that I was expected to exclaim, applaud, and adore, but I was not tempted to do it, because I had been informed five minutes earlier that Clark’s income, as stated under the worshiping informant’s breath, was thirty million dollars a year.

Human beings have no sense of proportion.  A benefaction of a hundred thousand dollars subtracted from an income of thirty million dollars is not a matter to go into hysterics of admiration and adulation about.  If I should contribute ten thousand dollars to a cause, it would be one-ninth of my past year’s income, and I could feel it; as matter for admiration and wonder and astonishment and gratitude, it would far and away outrank a contribution of twenty-five million dollars from the Montana jailbird, who would still have a hundred thousand dollars a week left over from his year’s income to subsist on.

It reminded me of the only instance of benevolence exploded upon the world by the late Jay Gould that I have ever heard of.  When that first and most infamous corrupter of American commercial morals was wallowing in uncountable stolen millions, he contributed five thousand dollars for the relief of the stricken population of Memphis, Tennessee, at a time when an epidemic of yellow fever was raging in that city.  Mr. Gould’s contribution cost him no sacrifice; it was only the income of the hour which he daily spent in prayer–for he was a most godly man–yet the storm of worshiping gratitude which welcomed it all over the United States in the newspaper, the pulpit, and in the private circle might have persuaded a stranger that for a millionaire American to give five thousand dollars to the dead and dying poor–when he could have bought a circuit judge with it–was the noblest thing in American history, and the holiest.

In time, the president of the art committee of the club rose and began with that aged and long-ago discredited remark that there were not to be any speeches on this occasion but only friendly and chatty conversation; then he went on, in the ancient and long-ago discredited fashion, and made a speech himself–a speech which was well calculated to make any sober hearer ashamed of the human race.  If a stranger had come in at that time he might have supposed that this was a divine service and that the Divinity was present.  He would have gathered that Mr. Clark was about the noblest human being the great republic had yet produced and the most magnanimous, the most self-sacrificing, the most limitlessly and squanderingly prodigal benefactor of good causes living in any land today.  And it never occurred to this worshiper of money, and money’s possessor, that in effect Mr. Clark had merely dropped a dime into the League’s hat.  Mr. Clark couldn’t miss his benefaction any more than he could miss ten cents.

When this wearisome orator had finished his devotions, the president of the Union League got up and continued the service in the same vein, vomiting adulations upon that jailbird which, estimated by any right standard of values, were the coarsest sarcasms, although the speaker was not aware of that.  Both of these orators had been applauded all along but the present one ultimately came out with a remark that I judged would fetch a cold silence, a very chilly chill; he revealed the fact that the expenses of the club’s loan exhibition of the Senator’s pictures had exceeded the income from the tickets of admission; then he paused–as speakers always do when they are going to spring a grand effect–and said that at that crucial time Senator Clark stepped forward of his own motion and put his hand in his pocket and handed out fifteen hundred dollars wherewith to pay half of the insurance on the pictures, and thus the club’s pocket was saved whole.  I wish I may never die if the worshipers present at this religious service did not break out in grateful applause at that astonishing statement; and I wish I may never prematurely die, if the jailbird didn’t smile all over his face and look as radiantly happy as he will look some day when Satan gives him a Sunday vacation in the cold storage vault.

Finally, while I was still alive, the president of the club finished his dreary and fatiguing marketing of juvenile commonplaces, and introduced Clark, and sat down.  Clark rose to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner”–no, it was “God Save the King,” frantically sawed and thumped by the fiddlers and the piano, and this was followed by “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” sung by the whole strength of the happy worshipers.  A miracle followed.  I have always maintained that no man could make a speech with nothing but a compliment for a text but I know now that a reptile can.  Senator Clark twaddled and twaddled and twaddled along for a full half hour with no text but those praises which had been lavished upon his trifling generosities; and he not only accepted at par all these silly phrases but added to them a pile–praising his own so-called generosities and magnanimities which such intensity and color that he took the pigment all out of those other men’s compliments and made them look pallid and shadowy.  With forty years’ experience of human assfulness and vanity at banquets, I have never seen anything of the sort that could remotely approach the assfulness and complacency of this coarse and vulgar and incomparably ignorant peasant’s glorification of himself.

I shall always be grateful to Jones for giving me the opportunity to be present at these sacred orgies.   I had believed that in my time I had seen at banquets all the different kinds of people that go to make our population, but it was a mistake.  This was the first time I had ever seen men get down in the gutter and frankly worship dollars and their possessors.  Of course I was familiar with such things through our newspapers, but I had never before heard men worship the dollar with their mouth or seen them on their knees in the act.

– Dictated by Twain in 1907

Mark Twain, Philosophy

Thoughts on God (by Mark Twain)

How often we are moved to admit the intelligence exhibited in both the designing and the execution of some of His works. Take the fly, for instance. The planning of the fly was an application of pure intelligence, morals not being concerned. Not one of us could have planned the fly, not one of us could have constructed him; and no one would have considered it wise to try, except under an assumed name. It is believed by some that the fly was introduced to meet a long-felt want. In the course of ages, for some reason or other, there have been millions of these persons, but out of this vast multitude there has not been one who has been willing to explain what the want was. At least satisfactorily. A few have explained that there was need of a creature to remove disease-breeding garbage; but these being then asked to explain what long-felt want the disease-breeding garbage was introduced to supply, they have not been willing to undertake the contract.

There is much inconsistency concerning the fly. In all the ages he has not had a friend, there has never been a person in the earth who could have been persuaded to intervene between him and extermination; yet billions of persons have excused the Hand that made him – and this without a blush. Would they have excused a Man in the same circumstances, a man positively known to have invented the fly? On the contrary. For the credit of the race let us believe it would have been all day with that man. Would persons consider it just to reprobate in a child, with its undeveloped morals, a scandal which they would overlook in the Pope?

When we reflect that the fly was as not invented for pastime, but in the way of business; that he was not flung off in a heedless moment and with no object in view but to pass the time, but was the fruit of long and pains-taking labor and calculation, and with a definite and far-reaching, purpose in view; that his character and conduct were planned out with cold deliberation, that his career was foreseen and fore-ordered, and that there was no want which he could supply, we are hopelessly puzzled, we cannot understand the moral lapse that was able to render possible the conceiving and the consummation of this squalid and malevolent creature.

Let us try to think the unthinkable: let us try to imagine a Man of a sort willing to invent the fly; that is to say, a man destitute of feeling; a man willing to wantonly torture and harass and persecute myriads of creatures who had never done him any harm and could not if they wanted to, and – the majority of them – poor dumb things not even aware of his existence. In a word, let us try to imagine a man with so singular and so lumbering a code of morals as this: that it is fair and right to send afflictions upon the just – upon the unoffending as well as upon the offending, without discrimination.

If we can imagine such a man, that is the man that could invent the fly, and send him out on his mission and furnish him his orders:

“Depart into the uttermost corners of the earth, and diligently do your appointed work. Persecute the sick child; settle upon its eyes, its face, its hands, and gnaw and pester and sting; worry and fret and madden the worn and tired mother who watches by the child, and who humbly prays for mercy and relief with the pathetic faith of the deceived and the unteachable. Settle upon the soldier’s festering wounds in field and hospital and drive him frantic while he also prays, and betweentimes curses, with none to listen but you, Fly, who get all the petting and all the protection, without even praying for it. Harry and persecute the forlorn and forsaken wretch who is perishing of the plague, and in his terror and despair praying; bite, sting, feed upon his ulcers, dabble your feet in his rotten blood, gum them thick with plague-germs – feet cunningly designed and perfected for this function ages ago in the beginning — carry this freight to a hundred tables, among the just and the unjust, the high and the low, and walk over the food and gaum it with filth and death. Visit all; allow no man peace till he get it in the grave; visit and afflict the hard-worked and unoffending horse, mule, ox, ass, pester the patient cow, and all the kindly animals that labor without fair reward here and perish without hope of it hereafter; spare no creature, wild or tame; but wheresoever you find one, make his life a misery, treat him as the innocent deserve; and so please Me and increase My glory Who made the fly.”

We hear much about His patience and forbearance and long-suffering; we hear nothing about our own, which much exceeds it. We hear much about His mercy and kindness and goodness – in words – the words of His Book and of His pulpit – and the meek multitude is content with this evidence, such as it is, seeking no further; but whoso searcheth after a concreted sample of it will in time acquire fatigue. There being no instances of it. For what are gilded as mercies are not in any recorded case more than mere common justices, and due – due without thanks or compliment. To rescue without personal risk a cripple from a burning house is not a mercy, it is a mere commonplace duty; anybody would do it that could. And not by proxy, either – delegating the work but confiscating the credit for it. If men neglected “God’s poor” and “God’s stricken and helpless ones” as He does, what would become of them? The answer is to be found in those dark lands where man follows His example and turns his indifferent back upon them: they get no help at all; they cry, and plead and pray in vain, they linger and suffer, and miserably die. If you will look at the matter rationally and without prejudice, the proper place to hunt for the facts of His mercy, is not where man does the mercies and He collects the praise, but in those regions where He has the field to Himself.

It is plain that there is one moral law for heaven and another for the earth. The pulpit assures us that wherever we see suffering and sorrow which we can relieve and do not do it, we sin, heavily. There was never yet a case of suffering or sorrow which God could not relieve. Does He sin, then? If He is the Source of Morals He does – certainly nothing can be plainer than that, you will admit. Surely the Source of law cannot violate law and stand unsmirched; surely the judge upon the bench cannot forbid crime and then revel in it himself unreproached. Nevertheless we have this curious spectacle: daily the trained parrot in the pulpit gravely delivers himself of these ironies, which he has acquired at second-hand and adopted without examination, to a trained congregation which accepts them without examination, and neither the speaker nor the hearer laughs at himself.  It does seem as if we ought to be humble when we are at a bench-show, and not put on airs of intellectual superiority there.

(Written in early 1900s)


Everything Happens for a Reason

Oftentimes when something terrible happens, such as a young parent gets inoperable brain cancer, a child is cruelly assaulted and murdered, or a famine or tsunami kills tens of thousands of innocent people in Africa or Asia, some people will say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

The implication is that God, in his infinite wisdom, sometimes has inscrutable reasons for terrible events that just don’t make sense to mere humans and, ultimately, everything that happens serves a greater purpose known only to God.

If it is true that everything that happens occurs because God wills it to happen, then the additional implication is that God necessarily controls everything that happens.  And, if that is true, then humans do not have any free will.

For example, if everything, quite literally, has a reason and if that reason is rooted in God’s will, then the pedophile who assaults, tortures, and murders a little girl cannot help but do what he did because it was God’s will that he assaulted, tortured, and killed a little girl.  If a murderous pedophile’s conduct is not God’s will (and the pedophile, instead, had free will to choose to do or not do what he did), then it is illogical to say, “Everything happens for a reason” that is based on God’s will.

So, is it not true that either (A) everything has a reason based on God’s will (including every horrible event that has ever happened to humans) and humans, therefore, have no free will or (B) humans have free will, things will happen that God does not want to have happen, and everything does not happen for a reason?

For those who believe in an all-powerful God, is there a third alternative?

My sense is that people say, “Everything has a reason” because it is often too unbearable to think that something terrible can happen to an innocent person without there being a good, but hidden, reason for that happening but that, logically, they don’t think through the necessary implications of that statement.


Thoughts of Christmas…in August

With the Christmas season almost upon us (at least according to retailers, who will soon be peddling Thanksgiving trinkets, quickly followed by shelves stuffed with Christmas gewgaws in anticipation of the aptly-named Black Friday), here is an excerpt of a 1959 letter to Adlai Stevenson (twice the Democratic nominee for president) from John Steinbeck.  It is worth reading and thinking about as you plan your Christmas shopping list:

“Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, ‘Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?’

“Then there is the other kind of Christmas with presents piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says – ‘Is that all?’  Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.”


Using Science to Establish the Plausibility of the Biblical Account of Noah’s Ark

The World Is Destroyed by Water (Gustav Dore)

Can science establish the plausibility of the Biblical account of Noah’s ark?

Those who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that every word in the Bible is true often struggle when certain questions are posed by those who are skeptical of the literal truth of the story of Noah’s ark:

How did Noah construct a seaworthy vessel made of wood of the size described in the Bible?

How were all of the animals gathered to the ark?

How could that many animals fit on the ark?

How did Noah successfully feed and care for all of those animals?

How did the animals disburse to the rest of the world after the ark landed?

Because Christian apologists (those who seek to present reasoned arguments in support of Christianity) want to prove to people that the ark story is true by using facts and reason, apologists must provide a plausible answer to every one of those questions if they want to establish the overall plausibility of the story. If a critical question does not have a plausible answer, then the entire story is implausible (it’s like the links in a chain: If one link fails, then the entire chain fails).

Creation scientists Bert Thompson, PhD and Brad Harrub, PhD wanted to answer those questions when they co-wrote an essay entitled An Examination of Noah’s Ark and the Global Flood (published by Apologetics Press). Thompson and Harrub said that “the primary focus of this article will be to document both the feasibility and the scientific accuracy of the account of Noah and the ark as revealed in Genesis.”

Let’s look at just one of those critical questions and see if there is a plausible scientific answer to that question, which would, in turn, support the “scientific accuracy” of the overall story of Noah’s ark:

How were all of the animals gathered to the ark in the first place?

There are about 20,000 zoologists and wildlife biologists in the United States today. They are among the most highly-trained animal specialists in the world. If we could hire all of them to seek the tens of thousands of animals of every “kind” (however that term may be defined) claimed to have been on the ark and then gather them to a single location, does the reader think the scientists could accomplish that task?

No, because the problems facing the scientists would be myriad and insurmountable.

The scientists would first have to have a detailed list of all of the animals they would need to find and they would need to know each animal’s specific habitat so that they could locate all of those animals (penguins in Antarctica, polar bears in the Arctic, kangaroos in Australia, toucans in the Americas, and so forth).

Once the habitats were located, the scientists would have to find and select robustly healthy specimens of each kind (avoiding not only ill specimens but also all specimens that harbored certain unseen genetic disorders). The scientists would have to find pairs of both sexes (which is not obvious for many animals where sex can only be determined by subtle morphological differences between the sexes). And, of course, each pair would have to be fertile, which cannot be determined by just looking at an animal. Identifying the necessary specimens (who would all have to be healthy, genetically fit, the right sexes, and fertile) would require the use of every modern veterinary analytical tool now available to scientists (and perhaps some tools that don’t even yet exist).

After a particular specimen pair was located, how would the scientists capture the specimens? How would they capture thousands and thousands of varieties of birds? Capturing a rhinoceros or a cape buffalo or a polar bear or an African lion or a hyena or a komodo dragon or a leopard or a hippopotamus – all of which are exceedingly dangerous animals – would almost certainly require the use of modern tranquilizer guns.

Once captured, all of the animals would have to be carefully caged, cared for, and transported to a single gathering place.

If we were to take a poll of those thousands of zoologists and wildlife biologists before asking them to take on this task, who thinks the scientists would have any confidence that they could accomplish such a task, even with tranquilizers, sophisticated analytical veterinary tools, modern transportation, and vast amounts of money?

Could Noah have done the task, even if he was assisted by every human being then living on Earth?

In their essay, Thompson and Harrub immediately concede that the task of gathering the animls was not Noah’s job. His job was to build the ark. Instead, the co-authors simply point to Genesis 6:20, which says that the animals “will come to you”.

How might that plausibly happen?

The conclusion that Thompson and Harrub ultimately provide for the gathering of the animals to the ark is that the gathering was almost certainly “prompted by divine instinct” (the animals all walked, crawled, slithered, and flew to the ark due to a special instinct instilled in the animals by God). What is Thompson and Harrub’s logical – and scientific – support for such a conclusion? “If God could bring the animals to Adam to be named (Genesis 2:19), could He not just as easily bring them to Noah to be saved? If not, why not?”

That is not science. That is not proof of the “scientific accuracy” of that portion of the tale. As Benjamin Radford in Live Science said, “Once a supernatural miracle is invoked to explain one thing, it can be used to explain everything.” And, if miracles are used to explain anything, then they actually explain nothing at all.

A publication written separately by one of the co-authors (Bert Thompson) entitled The Global Flood of Noah, which was also published by Apologetics Press, directly addresses the essential role that miracles had to have played in the story of Noah’s ark.

Thompson said that the “account of the Great Flood in Genesis 6-8 entails the overriding power of an Almighty God in what undoubtedly were supernatural (i.e., miraculous) events” and that the flood story is “a miraculous situation from beginning to end.” He quotes the work of Whitcomb and Morris (1961): “The simple fact of the matter is that one cannot have any kind of a Genesis Flood without acknowledging the presence of supernatural powers.” Thus, Thompson said, “the fact remains that certain aspects of the Flood record cannot be accounted for on the basis of purely natural processes.”

Thompson is admitting that the flood story cannot be proven using science. The story could only happen if supernatural miracles occurred “from beginning to end” of the flood story. Yet, he and Harrub claim that their explanation establishes the “scientific accuracy” of the tale of Noah’s flood.

That is simply not true.
I would love to read a defense of the Noah’s ark tale that did not repeatedly rely on miracles to prove the truth of the tale. But after an extensive search, I don’t believe such a defense exists. I don’t believe such a defense can exist.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this essay: No, science cannot establish the plausibility of the Biblical account of Noah’s ark, notwithstanding protests by creation scientists to the contrary, because science cannot, among other things, establish the plausibility of the gathering of the animals to the ark.

Why do creation scientists cling to the false pretense that they can demonstrate the “scientific accuracy” of the story when such a demonstration simply cannot be made? Rather than claiming, dishonestly, that science can establish the plausibility of the tale of Noah’s ark, why don’t creation scientists just cut to the chase and say: “The Bible tells the story of Noah’s ark. Therefore, the story is true. Period.” — and stop misleading people with claims that science can prove the truth of the tale?

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