#138 “Archaeologist” finds evidence of biblical...wait for it...Flood

I wouldn’t have even mentioned this ridiculous story if I’d only seen it on the always factual Christian News website. However, it wasn’t just on that beacon of science journalism. No. It was also posted here:

It’s also here, here, and here, among others.

OK. First I need to address the Christian News article. They start by stating, as most of the news outlets do, that the archaeologist, Robert Ballard, that made this “discovery” is the same one that found the remains of the Titanic. That’s great, but it doesn’t give him credibility for life. I just want to get that out of the way right at the top. Also, the article says that Ballard is a professor of oceanography, not archaeology. According to the University of Rhode Island website, where he teaches, Ballard has a B.S. In Physical Sciences and a Ph.D. In Geological Oceanography. He also runs the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography which is probably what has led some to call him an archaeologist.

According to the article, Ballard’s underwater archaeology team were exploring the deep waters of the Black Sea near Turkey to look for traces of ancient civilizations that date back to the times of Noah. This phrasing appears in the ABC News article linked above. It seems he actually received funding to look for evidence of people during the time of Noah. I’d like to see the terminology used on the funding applications.

Many of the articles written about this story repeat Ballard’s find of an ancient shoreline with cultural evidence that was radiocarbon dated to about 7,000 B.P. I have no doubt that the research is valid. I also have no trouble believing that the area could have been flooded, either slowly or catastrophically so, as a result of melting, retreating glaciers. There is evidence of massive glacial outflows of water across the northern hemisphere. 

Ballard states that one factor in his insistence that this find represents the biblical flood is in the size of the flood. His team is saying that the water poured in at 200 times the force of Niagara Falls. That’s easy to believe since glacial melting was likely naturally damned up around the steep hills and valleys of the area. It could have naturally released at any time and released a flood of epic, wait, biblical proportions. Crazy how science and geography work like that.

What I don’t appreciate is Ballard’s insistence that it proves the Bible true and is, in fact, the biblical flood that Noah had to deal with. I’m sure there were catastrophes during that time and that the survivors repeated the stories at length. I’m also sure that the stories were likely exaggerated and modified through time before they were finally written down. That’s just the nature of oral history.

The real story here is of an ancient shoreline with apparently cultural remains being discovered under the Black Sea. As of yet I can’t find a published journal article relating to the discovery. Is Ballard planning to do any real science or has he run out of Titanic  clout from 1985 and needs and ego boost? 

It’s frustrating that some people don’t think about the stories they read and just believe whatever is written. I’d like to think they could do a little research and find out that the science in a story like this is likely sound, but the interpretation is whacky. Unfortunately, even the big news sources were parroting this notion of a biblical flood and no one seemed to disagree with it. It can’t just be Fox News watchers agreeing with these articles. There is a wider audience and that is the scary part.

Thanks for reading, stay skeptical, and I’ll see you in the field.