I think this discussion fits nicely with the subjects of life, earth, and geology.
The earliest layers of the Geologic Column, i.e., the lowest ones, were laid down progressively more early in prehistory so that the higher layers contain progressively more complex fossil lifeforms at the very top layers down to progressively more simple fossil lifeforms as you go farther down the Geologic Column, with the simplest lifeforms found in the first layer of the Column at the very bottom. This agrees with Darwinian evolution through natural selection. This is just what geologists would expect to find precisely if there had never been a global flood, a progressive climb from simplicity to complexity reflected in a properly ordered Geologic Column, and that is what geologists find.
So for several reasons the world myths of a global flood simply cannot be true:
(1) Had Noah's flood really occurred the Geologic Column would not be in the proper order from simple to complex as it actually is. It would be a jumbled mess with different stages of simplicity mixed in with varied stages of complexity in every layer from bottom to top. But it is not like that.
(2)Had Noah's global flood really occurred the air would be completely saturated with water molecules, and anyone with the good fortune to be alive would drown in the mere act of trying to breathe.
(3)The weight of the water would completely kill all plants and their seeds on the earth, and there would be nothing for the animals on the ark to eat after the water had abated. Also the weight would kill everything living on both land and sea; there would be no fish to harvest left.
(4)Had the earth ever been enveloped by a water vapor canopy containing enough water to flood the whole world to over the tops of the highest mountain peaks as Creation scientists claim, the pressure and mass of the vapor on the earth's atmosphere would generate tremendous amounts of uninhabitable heat on the earth's seas and surface.
All these traditions among various peoples of a global flood is simply no more than a fantastic myth. What else in either Old or New Testament might simply be mythic ?
If there WAS a worldwide flood, I got just ONE question:
Where Did ALL THE WATER Go?!?
Melt all the ice on the planet and you wouldn't have enough to cover the earth, not remotely. Oh, but that's an inconvenient fact for those who want to believe in horse-puckey...
FYI.....I new book was just released which I have ordered and is relevant to this discussion: The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood. Kent
Trying to tack down a myth to an historical event is to misunderstand the concept of mythology. It goes on because people who already have a belief are eager to find evidence. The same discussion has been raised and defended in books about the Plagues of Egypt called down by YHWH or the Golden Years of the Kingdom of Israel mythologized in the stories of Saul, David and Solomon. Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth has been severly misused and abused by New Agers and there is much to be said for the idea that Campbell himself was pandering to a receptive audience. But the basic premise of his work...that myth exercises a power over people's imaginations that 'the facts' never could or will...has a firm foundation. Perhaps it is becuase I just finished Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and am currently reading Richard Thaler's Nudge : improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness that I'm thinking in System 1 and System 2 thinking as it applies to broader subjects than economics. System 1 is the automatic intuitive gut reaction to a question, System 2 is the reflective thinking that stands both as a emphasis of and antidote for System 1 thinking.
Kahneman...Nobel Prize laurette in Economics in 2002...makes a short and unapologetic statement that all religion is System 1 thinking. Applying this analogy for the functions of our minds in a broader since places mythological thinking firmly in the System 1 'fast thinking' frame. System 2 thinking, that requires 'slow thinking'...that is, the application of reason to govern and impede our gut reactions.
It takes effort to apply System 2 thinking, whereas System 1 thinking is spontaneously generated by our minds and requires no effort. People are naturally lazy...taking the course of least resistance...in their thinking. To break from the tyranny of System 1. System 2 requires effort and is not rewarded with praise or acceptance as a System 1 is.
In other words, it is easier to accept the myth and to use the reflective thinking of System 2 thinking to justify that acceptance than it is to disbelieve. Belief is always easier...when we are approached with an idea, a speculation, our response is to frame our thinking around the concept as if it were true. Thus, acceptance of the popular mythology is easy and is rewarded by social and communal acceptance. To apply System 2...to really consider the option in a rational sense...requires effort.
It is easier to believe than it is to un-believe.
Interesting points. Too bad that system 1 thinking leads to violence and extremism.
Mr. Jarrett, there's no intellectual conflict between appreciating the psychology of myth and connecting it to historical events. Indeed, appreciating how the knowledge of a real event was transformed into a myth provides us with a deeper insight into the psychology of myths. There are, of course, differences in the confidence we can ascribe to any such connection. I have seen some explanations of the events involving Moses in the Bible and they strike me as far-fetched. On the other hand, the connection of the mythical Global Flood with the formation of the Black Sea is certainly plausible.
There are some myths whose connection to historical events is more than just plausible. The connection of the Atlantis myth to the eruption of Thera seems pretty solid to me. Even stronger is the connection between the Arthurian legends and the resistance of the Romano-British to the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the late 5th century.
I finished reading Kahneman's book about a month ago and my overall reaction was "meh". Certainly his experimental work in economics was fascinating, and his Nobel Prize was richly deserved. However, his description of System 1 and System 2 struck me as frustratingly narrow in its foundation. His thinking is correct, but if he had just taken some time to expand the range of his studies, the larger picture would have clicked into place for him. His central shortfall is the failure to recognize that his System 1 is pattern-based thinking, while his System 2 is sequential thinking. Once you start thinking in terms of pattern versus sequence instead of System 1 versus System 2, a much clearer picture emerges.
If you'd like to delve into these ideas more deeply, you might want to consult my hyper-document on the subject: The History of Thinking.