An issue often used in an attempt to beat biblical creationists over the head is the worldwide distribution of animals. Such a distribution, say critics, proves that there could never have been a global Flood or an Ark. If the Ark landed somewhere in the Middle East, then all the animals would have disembarked at that point, including animals that we do not find in the Middle East today, or in the fossil record in that area. How did kangaroos get to Australia, or kiwis to New Zealand? How did polar bears get to North America and penguins to Antarctica?
Not a Science Textbook
Skeptics often claim, “The Bible is not a science textbook.” This, of course, is true—because science textbooks change every year, whereas the Bible is the unchanging Word of God—the God who cannot lie. Nevertheless, the Bible can be relied upon when it touches on every scientific issue, including ecology. It is the Bible that gives us the big picture. Within this big picture, we can build scientific models that help us explain how past events may have come about. Such models should be held to lightly, but the Scripture to which they refer is inerrant. That is to say future research may cast doubt on an actual model, without casting doubt on Scripture.
With this in mind, the question needs to be asked, “Is there a Bible-based model that we can use to help explain how animals might have migrated from where the Ark landed to where they live today?” The answer is yes.
The Hard Facts
A biblical model of animal migration obviously must start with the Bible. From Genesis we can glean the following pertinent facts:
- “And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive” (Genesis 6:19–20). The Bible is clear that representatives of all the kinds of air-breathing land animals and birds were present on the Ark. A technical term used by some creation scientists for these kinds is baramin—derived from the Hebrew words for created kind. Within these baramins is all the information necessary to produce all current species. For example, it is unlikely that the Ark contained two lions and two tigers. It is more likely that it contained two feline animals, from which lions, tigers, and other cat-like creatures have developed.
- Another lesson from Genesis 6:20 is that the animals came to Noah. He did not have to go and catch them. Therefore, this preservation of the world’s fauna was divinely controlled. It was God’s intention that the fauna be preserved. The animals’ recolonization of the land masses was therefore determined by God, and not left to chance.
- “Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4). The Bible is clear that the Ark landed in the region of Ararat, but much debate has ensued over whether this is the same region as the locality of the present-day mountain known as Ararat. This issue is of importance, as we shall see. The Bible uses the plural “mountains.” It is unlikely that the Ark rested on a point on the top of a mountain, in the manner often illustrated in children’s picture books. Rather, the landing would have been among the mountainous areas of eastern Turkey, where present-day Mount Ararat is located, and western Iran, where the range extends.
- It was God’s will that the earth be recolonized. “Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark” (Genesis 8:15–19). The abundance and multiplication of the animals was also God’s will.
The biblical principles that we can establish then are that, after the Flood, God desired the ecological reconstruction of the world, including its vulnerable animal kinds, and the animals must have spread out from a mountainous region known as Ararat.
The construction of any biblical model of recolonization must include these principles. The model suggested on the following pages is constructed in good faith, to explain the observed facts through the “eyeglasses” of the Bible. The Bible is inspired, but our scientific models are not. If we subsequently find the model to be untenable, this would not shake our commitment to the absolute authority of Scripture.
The model uses the multiplication of dogs as an example of how animals could have quickly repopulated the earth. Two dogs came off Noah’s Ark and began breeding more dogs. Within a relatively short time period, there would be an incredible number of dogs of all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
These dogs then began to spread out from the Ararat region to all parts of the globe.
As these dogs spread around the world, variations within the dog kind led to many of the varieties we find today. But it is important to note that they are still dogs. This multiplication of variations within a kind is the same with the many other kinds of animals.
One final comment must be made in this section. As I have used the word recolonization several times, I must emphasize that I am not referring to the so-called Recolonization Theory. This theory will be discussed later.
One accusation thrown at biblical creationists is that kangaroos could not have hopped to Australia, because there are no fossils of kangaroos on the way. But the expectation of such fossils is a presuppositional error. Such an expectation is predicated on the assumption that fossils form gradually and inevitably from animal populations. In fact, fossilization is by no means inevitable. It usually requires sudden, rapid burial. Otherwise the bones would decompose before permineralization. One ought likewise to ask why it is that, despite the fact that millions of bison used to roam the prairies of North America, hardly any bison fossils are found there. Similarly, lion fossils are not found in Israel even though we know that lions once lived there.
Comparisons can be made with more modern recolonizations. For example, the Encyclopædia Britannica has the following to say about Surtsey Island and Krakatoa and the multiplication of species.
Six months after the eruption of a volcano on the island of Surtsey off the coast of Iceland in 1963, the island had been colonized by a few bacteria, molds, insects, and birds. Within about a year of the eruption of a volcano on the island of Krakatoa in the tropical Pacific in 1883, a few grass species, insects, and vertebrates had taken hold. On both Surtsey and Krakatoa, only a few decades had elapsed before hundreds of species reached the islands. Not all species are able to take hold and become permanently established, but eventually the island communities stabilize into a dynamic equilibrium.1
There is little secret, therefore, how nonflying animals may have travelled to the outer parts of the world after the Flood. Many of them could have floated on vast floating logs, left-overs from the massive pre-Flood forests that were ripped up during the Flood and likely remained afloat for many decades on the world’s oceans, transported by world currents. Others could later have been taken by people. Savolainen et al., have suggested, for example, that all Australian dingoes are descended from a single female domesticated dog from Southeast Asia.2 A third explanation of possible later migration is that animals could have crossed land bridges. This is, after all, how it is supposed by evolutionists that many animals and people migrated from Asia to the Americas—over a land bridge at the Bering Straits. For such land bridges to have existed, we may need to assume that sea levels were lower in the post-Flood period—an assumption based on a biblical model of the Ice Age.
The rare conditions required to form an Ice Age may have been triggered by the Flood.As Michael Oard, a retired meteorologist and Ice Age researcher, has suggested in chapter 16, an Ice Age may have followed closely after the Flood. In his detailed analysis, Oard proposed a mechanism of how the rare conditions required to form an Ice Age may have been triggered by the Flood, and shows how this explains the field evidence for an Ice Age.3
Severe climatic changes could have been the catalyst that encouraged certain species to migrate in certain directions. These severe changes could also have accounted for some of the many extinctions that occurred. Additionally, Oard’s studies provide a model for how land bridges could have developed.
Oard has pointed out that certain observed features from the Ice Age cause problems for the evolutionist, not the creationist. Thus, a creationist explanation of the Ice Age better explains the facts. An example of such an issue is that of disharmonious associations of fossils—fossils of creatures normally associated with different conditions (such as creatures with a preference for hot and cold climates) being found in close proximity.
One of the more puzzling problems for uniformitarian theories of the ice age is disharmonious associations of fossils, in which species from different climatic regimes are juxtaposed. For example, a hippopotamus fossil found together with a reindeer fossil.4
Oard suggests that even with present topography, a number of significant land bridges would have existed to facilitate migrations if the sea level were only 180 ft (55 m) below current levels. However, there is even evidence that the land in some places where land bridges would be necessary could have been higher still. Thus, land bridges facilitated by the Ice Age constitute a serious model to explain how some migrations could have been possible.
Some still remain skeptical about the idea of land bridges all the way to Australia. Nevertheless, by a combination of methods that we see today, including land bridges, there are rational explanations as to how animals may have reached the far corners of the world. Of course, we were not there at the time to witness how this migration may have happened, but those adhering to a biblical worldview can be certain that animals obviously did get to far places, and that there are rational ways in which it could have happened.
We should therefore have no problem accepting the Bible as true. Creationist scientific models of animal migration are equally as valid as evolutionary models, if not more so. The reason such models are rejected is that they do not fit in with the orthodox, secular evolutionary worldview.
It is not a problem for us to rationalize why certain animals do not appear in certain parts of the world. Why, for example, does Australia have such an unusual fauna, including so many marsupials? Marsupials are, of course, known elsewhere in the world. For example, opossums are found in North and South America, and fossilized marsupials have been found elsewhere. But in many places, climatic changes and other factors could lead to their extinction.
The lack of great marsupials in other continents need be no more of a problem than the lack of dinosaurs. As with many species today, they just died out—a reminder of a sin-cursed world. One proposed theory is that marsupials—because they bore their young in pouches—were able to travel farther and faster than mammals that had to stop to care for their young. They were able to establish themselves in far-flung Australia before competitors reached the continent.
Similar statements could be made about the many unusual bird species in New Zealand, on islands from which mammals were absent until the arrival of European settlers.
The most logical interpretation of the biblical record of the Flood and its aftermath would seem to suggest that the animals disembarked and then recolonized the planet. Comparisons with modern migrations and incidents such as Surtsey have suggested that this recolonization need not have taken long. A plain reading of Scripture suggests that the Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat, most likely in the region of modern Turkey and Central Asia. It is also our contention that the significant quantity of death represented by the fossil record is best understood by reference to the Genesis Flood (i.e., the majority of fossils formed as a result of the Flood).
More recently, a theory has developed among certain creationists in the UK and Europe which suggests that the fossil record is actually a record not of catastrophe but of processes occurring during recolonization. This theory is called the Recolonization Theory.5
Proponents of this theory suggest that the Flood completely obliterated the earth’s previous crust so that none of the present fossils were caused by it. To accommodate fossilization processes, Recolonization Theory suggests that the age of the earth be stretched by a few thousand years. Some advocates of this view suggest an age of about 8,000 years for the earth, while others suggest figures as high as 20,000 years.
The principal error of this view is that it starts from supposed scientific anomalies, such as the fossil record, rather than from Scripture. This has led to the proposals among some Recolonizers, but not all, that there must be gaps in the genealogies recorded in Genesis 5 and 11, even though there is no need for such gaps. Indeed the suggestion of gaps in these genealogies causes further doctrinal problems.8
Even the views of those Recolonizers who do not expand the genealogies contain possible seeds of compromise. Because the Recolonizers accept the geologic column, and because the Middle East has a great deal of what is called Cretaceous rock, it follows that the Middle East would need to be submerged after the Flood, at the very time of the Tower of Babel events in Genesis 11. This has led some of the Recolonizers to speculate that the Ark actually landed in Africa, and therefore, that continent was the host to the events of Genesis 11 and 12. This would seem to be a very weak position exegetically and historically. Such exegetical weaknesses led Professor Andy McIntosh and his colleagues to comment, “Their science is driving their interpretation of Scripture, and not the other way round.”9
We must not be downhearted by critics and their frequent accusations against the Bible. We must not be surprised that so many people will believe all sorts of strange things, whatever the logic.
Starting from our presupposition that the Bible’s account is true, we have seen that scientific models can be developed to explain the post-Flood migration of animals. These models correspond to observed data and are consistent with the Bible’s account. It is notable that opponents of biblical creationism use similar models in their evolutionary explanations of animal migrations. While a model may eventually be superseded, it is important to note that such biblically consistent models exist. In any event, we have confidence in the scriptural account, finding it to be accurate and authoritative.10 The fact of animal migration around the world is illustrative of the goodness and graciousness of God, who provided above and beyond our needs.