Some of us Christians prefer not to openly ask too many questions about the story of Noah’s Ark.
Noah – you know, the pre-Bronze Age 500-year-old guy with his three sons building a boat about half the size of the Titanic, capable of handling a catastrophic torrent for a year; with a cargo consisting of at least one pair of each of the roughly 31,000 non-marine mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species; plus the roughly one million invertebrate species; plus enough food and habitat to sustain them during their year-long voyage. Not to mention the geological, hydrological and zoological complications….
Of course, such speculation – long the favored realm of one particular slice of the theological pantheon – tends to distract us from some of the more amazing implications of the story. Think about it: When God pronounces judgment on all of mankind for its pervasive violence and corruption, his plan for justice considers first the preservation of animals, insects, and all sorts of living things. The vessel described in sacred scripture was almost completely designed to save non-human creatures. Noah’s labors, as a God-fearing man, were overwhelmingly to preserve the rich biodiversity of God’s creation.
Today, that biodiversity is under assault as never before. Actually, that’s probably not quite right. Paleo-science tells us that five times before, the Earth has suffered “mass extinction events.” The most recent brought down the curtain on the Cretaceous Period – dooming the dinosaurs and virtually all large land animals – some 65 million years ago. That would make our age the Sixth Mass Extinction.
Already, before our fossil-fuel-emissions began seriously altering the planet’s climate, alarming numbers of species were becoming threatened with extinction. 869 species are known to have vanished entirely in recent times. Another 16,928 species are threatened with extinction and 3,796 more are on the bubble, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Together, the threatened or near-threatened species comprise more than 46 percent of all plants and animals assessed by the IUCN. Continue reading