Why So Many Great Flood Traditions?

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by Arne Saknussemm, Aug 10, 2014.

  1. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member


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    source: http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html

    All right. I know how this sounds. So let me say right off - I have no agenda. I do not believe the story of Noah is the literal truth. I am not trying to win any one over to a predisposed opinion. I am asking for your assistance, so that perhaps together we can figure this all out. There is no need to mention the ark, its construction, its management, passenger feeding schedules and waste disposal or even Noah (or whoever) and his family more than is absolutely unavoidable. The topic under discussion is the prevalence of the Great Flood Tradition.

    I begin with a chart to emphasize that there are Great Flood Traditions (GFTs) in cultures as far apart as Australasia, South America, China and Lithuania.

    Why is this so?

    I mean for this to be a purely scientific, anthropological inquiry/investigation, so I ask that any one who cares to respond to not suggest that these traditions are myths* (a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature). Please refer to Great Flood Traditions as traditions, GFTs or legends* (a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.) If anyone cannot understand the difference between myth and legend as defined here, I would thank you not to participate in the discussion. It will not do to say that you don't believe in GFTs. What? Do you deny that flood legends are pervasive and widespread across the world? GFTs are a fact. This inquiry is to hypothesize why such should be so IF there were not some basis in reality for the GFT?

    Another question is: are there any other such pervasive, widespread legends? I wish to disclude creation myths (that's right, I said 'myths') as an answer because a) while they may be nearly universal and often told, unlike GFTs they vary greatly and may have nothing in common with one another, b) they are out of the scope of this discussion and c) in case you haven't understood yet, the topic is not religious myths, but why there are so many GFTs. And why should there be if there is not some kernel of truth at their core?

    *definitions from Dictionary.com
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  3. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Because floods are universal.
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  5. mathman Valued Senior Member

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  7. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Add in Doggerland, the Persian Gulf, etc... many shoreline valleys flooded as sea levels rose at about the same time all around the world.
  8. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    My guess is because evidence of marine life is ubiquitous. You can find marine fossils in mountains and low lands alike. In a time before plate tectonics, the logical explanation would be a prolonged flood.
  9. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    This is creationist material. It is invalid. The chart is typical of pseudoscience. It purports to be academic but it is not. The claims in the text are insupportable.

    You mean you don't have an opinion about whether a great flood is mentioned in those religions listed in your chart?
    Once you figure out what is wrong with the chart there will be nothing left to figure out. Do you mean you want help with that?

    Do you mean you want to find out how many religions speak of a flood that covered the entire Earth, or how many of the various flood myths resemble the Mesopotamian versions other than the Hebrew one?

    No you begin with a chart that compares a great flood tradition in general against a few of the parameters taken from the myth in the Bible. Next we need to do a quality assurance test on your chart.
    Because creationist sites have no quality control.

    I will be looking forward to your scientific and anthropological evidence.
    That omits all of science and anthropology.

    I don't understand your point.

    That would be ludicrous. The flood myths do not refer to any specific flood. They are not historical. That's why they are usually called flood myths not flood legends. when an author refers to a flood legend, they are referring to historical elements within the myth of the flood itself.

    So far you are the only one having this problem.

    It will not do to say that you believe the creationist chart. Let's see the facts.

    Let's do the quality assurance test on your chart first. Even if it were entirely true it only shows a scattered occurrence.

    Consider the hundreds or even thousands of cultures in a place like China or India. I sincerely doubt every religion in those places had a flood myth. I question whether any of them had a myth centered around a great flood.

    In Mesopotamia yes and later in the place we call Israel. I'm looking forward to the anthropological & scientific evidence leading to the conclusions in your chart.

    Because myths do not need to have any basis in reality. They are the product of superstition and fantasy.

    Other legends include Jesus and his followers, all of the prophets and all of the other characters in the Bible, assuming that any such people even existed.

    Myths include anthropomorphic gods, virgin births, sons of gods . . . you name it.

    When the science and anthropology gets here, these points will be moot.
    A kernel does not a cornfield make.

    The following scientific and anthropological sources are not quibbling over this. Any claim about a great flood is properly called a flood myth.







    The last source gives you an idea that the Egyptians probably never had a great flood myth.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Some historians suggest that the flood cited in the Bible is based on the Minoan Eruption around 1600BCE--a volcanic eruption and resulting earthquake and tsunami that nearly destroyed the island of Thera in the eastern Mediterranean. It was one of the largest eruptions in recorded history.

    Thera was a major naval base for Minoan civilization, the predominant political and military power in the Mediterranean region in that era before the rise of Greece. Its destruction was arguably the single event that caused the collapse of that civilization.

    The island was rendered into pieces and is now called Santorini.

    This incident is also cited by many scholars as the source of the Atlantis legend.
  11. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    No one expects the Aqueous Idquisition! No one! (Except me!) He has two weapons. His chief weapons are sarcasm... sarcasm, arrogant presumptuousness and ...three... three chief weapons: sarcasm, arrogant presumptuousness and a fanatical obsession with nitpicking - picking apart his victim's post line by-half line with supposedly clever remarks that just show he does not how to speak civilly and has no interest in any topic other than how damned clever he thinks he is. He will insists that his victim is wrong without offering any counter argument save his own prejudiced (which he mistakes for scientific truth simply because they are his) opinions backed up by cut and pasted links. These links may actually be valid and informative, but his victim will no longer care to read them after the hostile way they were presented. Also: upon investigation, it will be found that his links tell half or even less than half the story and are as cherry-picked as any other close-minded, biased persons are. So really, why couldn't he had just given his opinion without all the drama? Answer: He completely ignored the OP explanation about what this discussion is about, or didn't accept the premise - and if one doesn't accept the premise, netiquette dictates that one should not participate in the discussion.

    Am I right? I haven't actually read Aq Id's post since he is now on my ignore list. How did I do?

    Sculptor, Bob, Joe, Mathman, Fraggle - I appreciate your thoughts. I had never even heard of Doggerland before! So that's interesting and the whole point of having a discussion: learning new things. I have to wonder if the Dogger clans had any flood stories!

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    And Joe Pistole makes a good point:

    So, it is 'just a guess,' but a darned reasonable one, I would say. Nice work, Joe.

    Not to criticize anyone or to appear unappreciative or inattentive, but I'd like to steer this discussion more to non-Middle Eastern/Mediterranean flood stories. Of course, those are perfectly valid and have a place in this discussion, and I don't mean we should stop or disregard them, but I am more interested in why people in Fiji or North America or Australia, for instance, would have flood stories. Do we know if these great floods are said to be at the same time as the purported Great Flood of the ancient Near East? How many of the details are the same, and why would that be? How could that be?

    I think you understand that my mind is not made up about all this, and I hope your minds are not either. The only 'fact' in this discussion is that GFTs are widespread. The only question is, why is this so if there were not some basis in reality ?
  12. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I'm sticking with my answer, Regis. Anybody can describe a flood because almost everybody has seen one. It's about as mysterious as why every culture notices birds. I'd be surprised if flood stories weren't damn near universal.
  13. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    Villages are placed by rivers and streams in the flood plains, since water is vital. Rivers and streams flood destroying villages. There is your kernal of truth.
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm curious, what is your own opinion about this stuff?

    I agree with AI in being very skeptical about the chart that you posted. But I will agree that more credible documentation does exist for widely separated flood-myths in cultures scattered all over the world. (I'm less sure about how many Biblical features the various flood-myths share.)

    I think that Sideshow Bob basically nailed it. Human beings have gathered along watercourses for as long as there have been human beings. That tendency multiplied when agriculture appeared and people began to live in settled villages. Like humans, gardens and (later) field-crops need water.

    And probably the most common large-scale natural danger that these villages faced was flooding, when the adjoining watercourse rose out of its banks. Flooding could and no doubt did wipe out entire settlements.

    When people want to imagine something, wholesale destruction in this case, they have little choice but to to imagine it in forms they are already familiar with.

    We also find widely scattered myths of destruction by fire, by storms and so on. But flooding is going to be one of the first things that comes to mind everywhere that flooding occurs, which is pretty much everywhere people choose to live.

    I think of them as myths.

    They are clearly a possible answer though, or perhaps more accurately a class of answers that typically have similar features. Ancient traditions typically imagine creation has having come about as the result (intended or not) of the activities of conscious personalities of some kind that are imagined as having cosmic scope and often symbolizing cosmic principles of various kinds.

    Myths can oftentimes be interpreted as a sort of proto-philosophy, in which the interrelationships of fundamental principles is depicted in story-form. We can see that in the more developed Mesopotamian myths, in which water has come to symbolize chaos. (Water lacks any form of its own and takes the shape of whatever container it's in.) So the reversion of the world to water was kind of a metaphor for the world reverting to the primordial formless chaos out of which it was imagined as having originally emerged. Thales, the earliest Greek presocratic philosopher known to us, basically adopted this already ancient myth, and restated it in Greek philosophy's new and more impersonal descriptive prose-style. Later Greek philosophy ran with the resulting matter/form dichotomy (hylomorphism) and we still see it in philosophy today.

    Another widely scattered mythic trope consists of the stories of ancient lost golden ages and the accompanying idea that the present period (whenever the myth was being told) is an immoral and degenerate age. We seek that idea cropping up all over the world, from ancient Europe (Atlantis and Arcadia) to Confucian China with its mythic early dynasties where wise rule and proper social relationships were imagined as having prevailed.
  15. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Troy was considered myth until Heinrich Schliemann began to dig, after success at Mycenae.

    "Myth" and Legend is/are no more nor less than our ancestors' efforts to communicate with us.
  16. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    How can I thumb up this post?!
  17. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Just above post #1, where it says 'Rate this thread.' You can click on there, and rate it.
  18. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Here's another link much more helpful than the chart that lists quite a few flood stories:

    Release the Flood

    @Yazata: What is my opinion? Thanks for asking, but I don't have one. I am trying to be a proper scientist on this one and just asking to see where the evidence, the theories, hypotheses, rants, etc. take(s) us.

    The Noah's Ark is a tale I find pretty tall, and I know if I even suggest that I think it's true a little you guys will be all over me. That's why in my intro post I said, let's not discuss Noah's Ark, animal care and feeding, yada yada.

    Let's focus on why there are so many similar stories about this same topic with many of the same elements. Many of your ideas are very good so far.

    I will say this about the similarities, well, one of them: in many flood stories the captain of the ship sends out a bird to see if the waters have subsided anywhere. Certain people with certain biases will tell you this proves that the Noah story is true. However, they ignore the fact that this is a very common sense sort of thing to do, and it would be just as commonly sensible in Peru as China as it would be in Wales or Australia. Imagine you've been on a boat quite some time taking care of all these smelly animals. The rain has stopped and you are wondering if there is any dry land anywhere. You see none. So what do you do?

    What do you do!?

    Ah well, time for a musical interlude for all of your hard work, but won't we get off topic if we break for music? Certainly not! We will learn why you ain't never seen no unicorn!

  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The psychologist Carl Jung developed the theory of the collective unconscious, which in modern lingo, are the personality firmware within the human brain, which define us as a species. The lion has its own firmware which defines its unique characteristics as a species. Because these firmware are genetically common to the human species, certain commonalities will form independent of culture. The universal nature of the great flood stories suggest a connection to the firmware, with the story spontaneously generated in many places. Jung showed many examples of common myths which appear in isolated places where there is no proof of any direct contact at any point; common vision.

    If you look at the timeline, humans had previously gone through a major transition in terms of consciousness, when civilization formed 6000-10,000 years ago. There was a loss of natural human instinct, in favor of more will power and choice. Humans went from small wandering extended family groups into large collections of strangers, which had little precedent in natural human instinct. Civilization also brings new things, needs and ways. This change would impact the firmware, since it no longer optimized the instincts in the same way as previously.

    The firmware of a baby begin analogous to seeds, that are empty at birth. Human genetic potential causes the firmware to unfold and wire itself similar to the way a seed grows into a plant. The final plant/firmware is not just dependent on genes, but also on the various potentials from the external environment like sun, water, pH, nutrients, light, warmth, virus, bugs, etc, all of which can impact the final plant/firmware.

    Civilization and the invention of language totally altered the external environment for the firmware, causing the firmware to get mutant. The purge was implicit of the need to alter the external input so what was left was more natural. This can be done with a literal flood, or it can be done via the filters of the unconscious mind. In symbolism, a flood would represent the unconscious mind gaining potential; mass psychosis that overwhelmed the conscious mind. The goal of the collective unconscious was to restore natural instinct, so civilization could progress properly. The two of each animals would represent restoring the natural instincts of the males and females.

    As an analogous scenario, picture a large crowd of children under adult supervision with respect to structured activities and food, which is good for the mind and body. This is analogous to natural instinct leading the pre-humans even in tough times. The formation of civilization and will power is analogous to the adults leaving, thereby letting the children run things with their fledgeling will and judgement; personal choice apart from their parents. Without the structuring of the adults, the progressive order of things breaks down, with childish whim making decisions. Their appetites will quickly exceed their ability to compensate and self support, until their situation deteriorates and become dire; flood of emotions for their parents. The firmware responds to the flood of emotions and creates changes, as symbolized by the rainbow. It appears this was a common problem and solution in many isolated pockets.
  20. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    :bravo: Admirably done, sir! And what you say in your fourth paragraph (emboldened): I think this shows that there is no need to take things literally. The Christian fundamentalists and hard scientists are making the same mistake. Is the Genesis story of Noah and his family the truth? Yes it is, but not in the way the biblical literalists think it is true, yet also not false in the way scientific literalists think it is false. They are both mistaken, and for the same reason. They do not see beyond the material world.

    Rather than say, " a flood would represent the unconscious mind gaining potential; mass psychosis that overwhelmed the conscious mind', why not say "flooded" the human mind? Then your thesis becomes perfectly clear.

    Your whole fourth paragraph is like a retelling of the Genesis story in 'modern lingo' as you say. The Genesis flood story, and all the flood stories that are very similar as well as the ones that only vaguely resemble it throughout the world are then - allegorical, symbolic of a psychic need - apocryphal.

    Most dictionaries will tell you that 'apocryphal' means 'of questionable authenticity, untrue or counterfeit'. However, I think the true meaning that only poets and psychologists like Carl Jung understand is that apocryphal means that it does not matter if a story is literally true, occurring in the material world, the story has a point to make that goes beyond mere physicality, or historicity.

    For example there is an apocryphal story told in Jakarta that when the king of Saudi Arabia visited there he said, "If I didn't know, I would never have guessed that Indonesia is a Muslim nation." Which Saudi king said this? When did he say it? Has a Saudi king ever even visited Indonesia? Doesn't matter! The point of the story is that Indonesia does not appear (on the surface) to be a terribly Muslim nation, and yet every one knows that it is. Certainly the unofficial leader of the Islamic faith would know he was visiting the country with the largest Muslim population, and yet the local brand is so unobtrusive, the King cannot even see it as he tours the capital city. And think too, what a terribly undiplomatic, hurtful thing it would have been for the king to have said. Surely the gentleman would have more tact than that! How could this story be literally true!? And yet it is unutterably and inarguably true in the message it means to convey. So at the same time isn't true at all, truer words were never spoken!

    So, I still like the answer to the question I have posed is that many peoples live along coasts and water courses, and we can't discount the material fact that it must be the case that many people in various places have had their homes, their villages, their regions (their whole worlds) flooded at one time or another, but I like your answer more. Very well done, very well done indeed.
  21. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Sure, no need to take the 10 commandments literally, no need to think God is real...
  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that you do. You made that pretty clear in your post #17.

    My sense is that you want to believe that the Bible reveals cosmic truth, but you are uncomfortable taking some (not all) parts of it literally. So you are looking for some other way to interpret some of the more problematic stories that simultaneously acknowledges them as allegorical while preserving their transcendental significance.

    Personally, I'm inclined to think of Carl Jung pretty much as a fascinating crank. Nor am I impressed with psychoanalysis. If you and Wellwisher want to take the discussion in that direction it's ok with me, but I'll leave that to you two.

    I've already expressed my own opinion on flood-myths.
  23. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Now, now. You know we had our conversation prior to post #17. How could I have known what wellwisher would say? As it says under my avatar, I am just trying to figure it all out. Unlike so many people here, the 'scientific' ones being no exception. I haven't absolutely made up my mind about anything. Perhaps you are so used to them that you can't recognize intellectual honesty.

    I don't believe that the Bible reveals cosmic truth, I know that it does, and so would any honest person. And I am not contradicting what I have just said above. For instance: cosmic, Biblical truth - 'love your neighbor as you love yourself'. Of course that is right and good. Now an example of me not absolutely having made up my mind: 'Ah, I just got my month's salary, and I don't think I'm going to hand it over to the first homeless man I see.' or 'I think i'll eat this pint of raspberry chocolate ripple ice cream all by myself.'

    I was saying...I know that the Bible reveals cosmic truth, and it's not that I am uncomfortable with any of it. That's the wrong word. Unlike most people, I've read the Bible a dozen times over end to end. So I know that it's not just this one book with a half a dozen concepts and I know that there's way more to it than meets the eye. I will read it again, some of it, maybe all someday, but I don't ever suspect I'll fully understand it, and be "comfortable" with it.

    'Comfortable' is just the wrong word. Say, you go on an extended tour encompassing the Pacific Ocean. You visit the Aleutians, Fiji, Tahiti, Easter, Galapagos, every last island and even spend a year on New Guinea studying up on the 2,000 languages spoken there on that island. Then I ask if you are 'comfortable' with what you absorbed and learned. How would you answer?

    I will grant you that some of the stories make no sense (to me) and would venture to no modern people, like Genesis 19:30-36


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    What's up with that?

    Now if anything makes me 'uncomfortable', it is that the religious fundamentalist will tell me I must have faith and just accept this story as the literal truth and that The Lord works in mysterious ways.


    ...that the scientific fundamentalist, the agnostic, the atheist, the 21st century man will tell me not to worry about what it could mean because it's all a made-up lie anyway - it must be because we have no evidence that it actually ever happened. However, the agnostic will not acknowledge that the Hebrew scribes have a 3,000+ years' reputation for exactitude in copying and preservation, and would no more alter a text than a proper scientists would fake lab results. And why would they preserve such an unflattering story of their ancestors?

    As for Carl Jung, for you he may be nothing more than a fascinating crank, but look at it from anyone beside your own perspective. With due respect, my friend, should I dismiss just about the foremost psychiatrist and psychotherapist the world has ever known on your say so? A genius whose thought will undoubtedly continue to influence world culture for hundreds, if not thousands of years to come? Um... who are you again?
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