Noah's Flood actually happened more or less as written. Suddenly appearing flood waters covered the Earth, excepting a few mountain tops, and all land animals had to wait it out on an Ark. The flood waters receded, a few generations of thousand-year-old patriarchs went by, and then History picks up where we know it with city states rising in the Mesopotamian flood plain.


  • The waters appeared by divine intervention.
  • Due to the same divine intervention that caused the Flood, the land plants and animals from the ark were distributed over the world so that the flora and fauna of the planet are identical to what they truly were for all times since 4000 BC.
  • The Flood happened around 6000 BC.
  • The waters were removed as mysteriously as they appeared. The planet has the same amount of water as Earth does today.
  • Shem, Ham, and Jepheth were evidently adopted, since they (and their wives) had sufficient genetic diversity to explain the wide variety of humans populating the Earth. Same goes with other animals.
  • With the exception of the divine interventions described above, the laws of the universe have otherwise applied to Earth both before (i.e. formation of the planet, development of life, dinosaurs, Ice Ages, etc) and after (all written history) the Flood.


What is the first time in history that scientists could conclusively 'prove' that there had been a worldwide Flood? What would be the evidence that would lead them to this conclusion?

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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme I can't possibly answer all those questions, so you'll just have to use some common sense on most of them. If the geological stresses of 40 days of a few miles of water is the first thing that is detectable, then write that up as an answer. Keep in mind, the flood DID happen, so whatever its effects on the geological/fossil record would be, so they happened. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ the same time it was disproved in ours, once the science of geology got of the ground so to speak, in the 1800's. Of course the earth would be very different and science would probably never be invented, the extinction of all land plants would likely take humanity with it just from ecosystem collapse. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 31 '18 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme this question isnt assuming our world. it is an alternative history question when proof would be found if a world like ours was identical up to 6000 BC happened and then because of divine intervention the rest of humanities development was relatively the same at least in terms of technology. And you are clutterring the question, and their question existing is in no way inconveniencing you or cluttering your comments whatever that means. I suggest you review the be nice policies. $\endgroup$ – user64742 Aug 31 '18 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ This question is a bit of a paradox. Either the laws of nature work and there is no way there would've been a flood 4k years ago for several reasons (think linguistics alone, did the tower also happen?) or they don't work, the world magically became what it is today and science is not the tool to conclude anything $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 31 '18 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ I have started a discussion about this question on meta. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6710/… $\endgroup$ – John Locke Sep 16 '18 at 13:19

13 Answers 13


Science doesn't really "prove" anything beyond a shadow of a doubt. It does, however, find different things that confirm that same hypothesis, each one contributing to making it far more certain than it was before, without ever reaching 100%.

  • Myths. We'd probably have consistent flood stories from Peru to Siberia, rather than just from the Hebrews, Babylonians, and a few other Mediterranean cultures. That would hardly be proof, but it would need explaining—and would mean that every culture is looking to prove the story, not just the Christians.
  • Classical natural philosophy. The flood would presumably leave a massive layer of caked mud, which would be noticeable in some areas even to classical civilizations like the Greeks and the Han-dynasty Chinese. The flood wouldn't be the only explanation, but it would be a good one.
  • Geology: Late 18th century. Some of the first evidence that the Earth must be much older than 6000 years old came from James Hutton and his successors studying undersea sedimentation and mountain erosion. In your world, they would have gotten completely different results, which showed that the Earth's surface really was around 8000 years old.
    • What would be missing is evidence that a much-older Earth was blasted by a flood 8000 years ago; it would be just as plausible that the Earth only formed a bit over 8000 years ago in the first place, if it weren't for the flood myth traditions. Geology probably couldn't add much to this until plate tectonics (validated by seafloor spreading measurements) in the 1950s.
  • Dendrochronology: early 19th century. We'd found trees older than 6000 BC—in your world, they'd only find more and more trees that were just about as old as 6000 BC.
    • By the late 19th century, they'd have discovered ancient trees that all seemed to have died out before any of those trees sprouted.
  • Paleontology: late 19th century. It would very quickly become obvious that there are two completely different kinds of fossil deposits—the ones that are sorted as in our world, and the ones that are flood-sorted.
  • Zoology: late 19th century. Evolution goes back to Anaximander, but what was missing was a plausible mechanism for it: natural selection. In your world, there's a second huge question. Huxley promotes the idea that Darwin's finches prove that most speciation happened post-Flood (even though Darwin himself was not sure)—which certainly makes the Ark more manageable. But followers of Wallace argue that most species were already differentiated 8000 years ago. The answer (whichever is true in your world) would probably be strong evidence for the Flood, but we'd probably have to wait for the modern synthesis half a century later, if not even later, to find it. Until then, the evidence from biology might be too confusing to be dramatically convincing.
    • On the other hand… species are divided the same way as in our world—e.g., the only marsupials are the Australian families and the American opossums. How did that happen? We know from outside that the answer is divine intervention, but in-universe, do zoologists have a plausible explanation? If so, it would surely be based on Flood biology, and might be a good argument for the Flood, even though it's wrong (and discarded a century later).
  • Archeology: early 20th century. I believe the first consensus for ruins over 8000 years old was in the 1930s, so it probably would be around the same time that your world first came to a consensus that the oldest ruins aren't that old. Plus, it should become obvious that the oldest ruins are all in Turkey, and it took centuries for civilization to spread out from there.
  • Anthropology: early 20th century. Even your world's Australian aboriginal languages are probably as closely related to some continental language as French is to Hindi, instead of being isolated for many millennia. Ideas like Nostratic or even Proto-World wouldn't be minority hypotheses pushing on crank status, but as solidly confirmed as the Indo-European hypothesis is in our world.
  • Radioisotope dating: mid 20th century. The 1940s would be the first serious nail in the coffin. Within a relatively short span, we were able to confirm (and correct) the dating done by dendrochronologists and archeologists, and we soon came up with other radioisotopes that did the same for geologists and paleontologists. In your world, all of the thick mud deposits are the same age, all of the ancient trees died shortly before that, all of the newer oldest trees were born shortly after that, the oldest ruins in Turkey date from shortly after that, the oldest ruins elsewhere in the world spread at a plausible rate for a neolithic expansion, the flood-style fossils are all the same age, the non-flood-style fossils are spread from 8000 years ago to millions of years ago, and so on…
  • Molecular biology: late 20th century. A further nail in the coffin. Every land species had a bottleneck at the same time, nearly 8000 years ago. (The MRCA might not be exactly 8000 years ago—you mentioned Noah's sons all being adopted—but that's still a bottleneck of at most 3 male humans, 7 males of all kosher species, and 2 males of everything else, and the same for the females…)

Different scientific fields tend to resist answers that come from other fields. It's not that hard to imagine that anthropologists are still insisting there must be 9000-year-old cultures long after the mainstream geological consensus is 8000 for years, only finally bending when the linguistic or archeological evidence comes in.

And consensus usually takes a generation to shift within each field. It's not that common that some new evidence makes some popular theory just so obviously wrong that everyone abandons it.

But I think most scientists would consider the flood the most likely theory all the way back to the early days of science, and consider it one of the most solid theories around by the end of the 1940s.

Of course you'd still have people who don't believe, even a few with PhDs. In fact, they'd be pretty much the same people who run places like Answers in Genesis in our world.

Kelly, Darby, and Scofield in the late 19th and early 20th century would have laid the same groundwork for fundamentalist anti-science they did in our world. They certainly wouldn't accept the growing scientific consensus of a flood 8000 years ago—that's before the world was even created, according to their reading of the Bible—as any reason to change their beliefs.

And the reason people follow them today isn't because the Scofield Reference Bible is scientifically convincing, it's because they don't want to believe what science is telling them. Creation science would have different details from today, but would be effectively the same effort, with the same effect.

To follow an idea brought up by Matthew in the comments: Even after most scientists are convinced that the Flood happened, that doesn't at all mean they're convinced that it's evidence for divine intervention. It might not be until the late 20th century that all of the natural explanations for the Flood turn out to be untenable. As Lemaître said, arguing for the necessary of methodological naturalism among the faithful in science, once you answer a single question with "miracle", how do you ever answer anything else? Meanwhile, none of the world's religious texts are right about the facts—the Torah is off by millennia, the Gathas are off by thousands of kilometers, etc.—so why should they be accepted as explanations of the why? (And I doubt syncretism would be much more appealing than it is in our world, so that doesn't solve the problem either.)

If you want to write a philosophical story, these issues could be the centerpiece; if you don't, but you're setting it anywhere near today, science and religion in crisis is probably still a major part of the backdrop.

  • $\begingroup$ What kinds of pre-Flood ruins could have survived the Flood itself in some form? Would, say, those giant mass-sacrifice ziggurats (that ran God's patience quite thin) be identifiable as human buildings under the mud layer? $\endgroup$ – Eth Sep 10 '18 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Eth My guess is nothing. God wanted to destroy all that wickedness; that was the whole point of the flood, right? He told Noah he was going to destroy the human race and their earth, and he doesn't usually go in for halfway measures when he makes a promise like that. I have no idea how you'd create rains with enough force to pulverize giant ziggurats into mud without smashing the ark and killing all the people and animals on it, but then I'm not omnipotent; I assume he can pull it off. $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 10 '18 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ "Of course you'd still have people who don't believe, even a few with PhDs. [...] they don't want to believe what science is telling them." ...which is exactly how YEC's feel about uniformitarians. This is an excellent point, and one that absolutely should be addressed in order to have a believable story. It's not about the evidence, it's about the underlying philosophical acceptance of a divinity. "Conclusive proof" is not possible. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Sep 17 '18 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew Definitely—but unless the story is actually about the science, that might be kind of thing that can best be handled as background detail to make the world feel more believable. $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 17 '18 at 18:45

With the advent of genetic engineering

First a bit of background...

Two of each "kind"

Young Earth Creationists concede that — no — Noah did not bring two of each species because it is simply not physically possible to squeeze that many animals into a ship of the dimensions given in the bible. Instead Noah brought two of each "kind", where a "kind" is a very subjective type of classification. But this is besides the point...

The point is that a lot of species gets wiped out in the flood... it is a mass-extinction event.

This forms the basis of the rest of the answer...

Two common ancestors

These passages:

Suddenly appearing flood waters covered the Earth, excepting a few mountain tops..


Due to the same divine intervention that caused the Flood, the land plants and animals from the ark were distributed over the world so that the flora and fauna of the planet are identical to what they truly were for all times since 4000 BC.

...means that there is no geological evidence at all of the event. None. At. All. The "only" thing God did was to kill off all land-based animals and all humans — except for the Ark passengers — and then nothing more.

So what can we look to instead?

Since the genetic record is our best evidence of evolution from a common ancestor, it would be that for your alternate world too. Since all the "kinds" of animals that were wiped and reset, they have become new roots of the genetic family trees. Every "kind" of animal will have a second common ancestor, and this will be very clearly shown in the genetic record.

The really striking part though is that aquatic life will not have two common ancestors... they will only have one. This is where the big head-scratching will take place and that can lead scientists onto the path to discover that there was a very recent "pruning" of the genetic family free.

Odd fossil record

A secondary source of head-scratching will be the fossil record. If we assume that everything else proceeded normally, with the Big Bang 13 billion years ago, the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago, bio-genesis, common ancestry, evolution... and then * splash * every living animal except two of each "kind" gets wiped, then the fossil record would look extremely strange, with lots of species that should be around, but that are not. And the big give-away would be that radiometric dating places the youngest individuals of each of these extinct species at exactly the same time, to within a century's precision.

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    $\begingroup$ I wanted to write that. +1 anyhow. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 31 '18 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ there would also likely be a massive 'die off' event visible in fossil records for land, but not sea, creatures. This would also likely be very confusing. Unless the divine intervention also whisked away all the drowned creatures. - Beat me to it by 11 seconds $\endgroup$ – GOATNine Aug 31 '18 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @GOATNine Because of the huge increases in pressure in the oceans and lakes, there would be a huge die-off of marine life as well. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Not to be pedantic but of the 'pure' species there were 7 of each kind, not 2. So finding the common ancestors may be more difficult. $\endgroup$ – algiogia Sep 17 '18 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @aligiogia - not really. Seven is still an tiny genetic bottleneck, and tracing an entire population (the entire species) back to seven common ancestors would be no more difficult than tracing it to two. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Sep 17 '18 at 17:09

Molecular Biology would be able to find that there was a genetic 'bottle neck', as only 6000 years ago the members of all land-based species can be traced back to only 4-8 ancestors which would gravely reduce the genetic variety observed in almost any species. The genetic differences within the species would be far smaller than between species compared to today and allow to trace back their ancestry to a very small number of individuals which would lead to the idea of a natural or supernatural catastrophe which reduced the number of members of all known species so drastically that 6000 years are not eneough to recover from such mass extinction.

As @Thorne pinted out already, marine life would be affected most drastically by mass extinction and one could wonder why hardly any life can be found in oceans, rivers and lakes while fossily dating beack to only several thousand years ago point towards a plethora of former marine species. These species would be completely removed from the genetic pool, but if genetic substance could be recovered from bone marrow, their relation to existing species and larger variation could be proven. Likely, nothing larger than microorganisms and algae would live in the water and these would be the only organisms resilient enough to the mass extinction to still have a large genetic variety making people wonder why higher developed species do not have it, yet used to have it in the past as fossils show.

  • $\begingroup$ So what you are proposing is that the world would be very different than it is today, to accommodate the changes the flood would have produced. In which case, our entire history for the last 8,000 years would be different, and so there might not even be any scientists today. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 13:39

Most marine life dies. Mass extinction event.

Suddenly all aquatic life is living in a low salinity water due to dilution. This will kill almost all fresh and salt water species.

As with all mass extinctions, you would have a layer of dead animals. What would be weird is the mix of aquatic and land species in the same area and layer and this layer is found globally.

  • $\begingroup$ Why does the water have to be FRESH water? But of course, if it was not pure water, it would leave residue behind. Sediment. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 2:35
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    $\begingroup$ Well if it's salt water then just all freshwater marine life dies....... $\endgroup$ – Thorne Aug 31 '18 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, most marine life would die just from the pressure. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't answer the question. At what point in history would a layer of dead animals be detected? Wouldn't the dead animals be pretty well decomposed into soil in the 8000 years since the flood? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ Doubt it. The flood would leave a layer of mud on top creating a perfect seal preserving the bodies. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Aug 31 '18 at 3:05


Ice core data shows annual data going back 800,000 years. A global flood covering the entire planet would be somewhat noticeable in the data. Not to mention the small issue that ice floats. If you say the flood covered all but a few mountain tops, let's say it was 5000 meters of water over current sea level (which would leave a lot of mountains still exposed, and a large chunk of the Tibetan Plateau). This would cause the entire Greenland ice sheet to lift and break up, and after only 8000 years it wouldn't have reformed. Pretty much all of Antarctica's ice would likewise have disappeared. Aside from the worldwide effects on climate those would cause, people would be able to calculate that the ice caps were only a few thousand years old.

Fully anchored dendrochronology goes back 12,000 years or so: on this world, it would get cut off at 8000. Moreover, it would show that everything only started growing 8000 years ago.

  • $\begingroup$ When would science make these discoveries? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ Dendrochronology as a method of looking at ancient climate was proposed in the 1830s, and was firmly established by the late 19th century. As for the ice, ice core drilling to look at paleoclimate began in earnest in the 1950s. It would quickly establish none of the icecaps in the Arctic or Antarctic were over 8000 years old. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 31 '18 at 3:53
  • $\begingroup$ The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are held in position by divine intervention during the Flood. That is, they float up on the floodwaters, but don't move horizontally. When the waters recede, they simply settle back into place, with just a little melting around the edges. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 31 '18 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Edit that in to your answer. This is the best so far, IMO. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf It's 'divine intervention' all the way down, then. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 13:30

That's not how science works.

Science does not prove things in a sudden and definitive way. What science does is providing us models to understand things. As technology improves and the sum of all scientific knowledge increases, those models become ever more accurate.

For example, when Erastothenes first considered the curvature of the Earth, he proposed a spherical Earth model. His experiment was kinda limited, though - he only measured the curvature between two cities in Egypt. The curvature could be just local, or the Earth could be a dome, so his model was up to honest debate until Magellan circumvented the Earth some seventeen centuries later.

So is the Earth spherical, like every learned person knew to be a fact from Ery to our high school teachers? No, but Ery's model was close. Earth is a tad less curved on the poles, and the curvature varies a little in some places, and then there are tides on the larger oceans, so she's somewhat between a soccer ball that was stomped beyond shape and a very round pear.

On the other hand, sometimes the stuff of legends turns out to be true and makes it into Linnaeus's classification. Case in point: the once mythological Kraken now has a place in biology papers as Architeuthis dux.

Back to your world. If the flood happened, it would always be part of scholar knowledge as historical fact. Archeological finds, carbon 14 dating and genetic analysis (we would be able to extract some well preserved genes from dinos if they had died only 6,000 years ago) would increase the model's accuracy to the point where we could probably know the exact dates of the flood start and end with a one month margin of error.

But that would only be strengthening a model that was there before the scientific method was created. The flood would already be a scientifical fact when people start using the word science.

  • $\begingroup$ You're not really trying to meet the spirit of the question. What is the earliest discovery that causes the majority of the scientific community to be sure there is was a flood. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion I beg to differ. Renan has essentially said it would have been that way all along. "What is the earliest discovery..." visible evidence by Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After that, lots of people have suggested mud layers, which could be evidence for a long time, and that would "cause the majority of the scientific community to be sure" for thousands of years. There's probably others in the meantime, but I'll fast-forward to recent: the scientific community is already sure, but recent discoveries are just more icing on the cake. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 17 '18 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion Or to put it another way: Based on evidence, there is no point in time when the scientific community is not sure of a flood. So, if you don't want this to be a good answer, you need to edit the question to insist that the people a few generations after Noah stubbornly refused to believe in what had just recently happened and that there is now a time when it wasn't accepted. But even then, the answer can be "As soon as someone digs a deep well and hits the layering evidence, they believe their grandparents' tales of great-great-great-grandpa-Noah's claims of a few generations prior" $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 17 '18 at 18:44

What is the first time in history that scientists could conclusively 'prove' that there had been a worldwide Flood?

Given how much debate there is between uniformitarians on the one hand, who are absolutely convinced that the flood (and Biblical creation) are a load of , on the one hand, and YEC's who think uniformitarians are full of on the other, "proof" is probably asking for a bit much. If you're going to meaningfully answer this question, I think you have to address the underlying philosophy. If whatever group is considered "scientists" in your story is receptive to the possibility of limited divine intervention, they probably consider the flood as "proven" already, and have for a very long time. If they axiomatically reject the possibility of "miracles", as does the current "scientific" establishment, then evidence of a flood won't be convincing. In this case, the only possible "proof" would be something that cannot possibly be explained as other than a divine act, and even that is dubious at best. Similarly, if for some reason, "the scientific establishment" either undergoes an internal philosophical change toward greater willingness to accept divine explanations, or externally, the "scientific" establishment (now hopefully you'll see why I've been using quotes) is replaced by a different group that already has such a philosophy, then you're probably looking at a situation in which the new "scientific" community asserts that the flood has been "proven" (to the extent that is possible for science; see other answers) all along. Bear in mind, however, that any such philosophical shift is unlikely to stop with just "the flood".

In short... my advice is to do your research and recognize that acceptance of "the flood", especially if your premise is that there is "scientific" acceptance of an event that is acknowledged as "divine" in nature, is going to cause and/or require a fundamental shift on the philosophy that underlies what is considered as "science", which in turn is likely to cause a radical shift in all "historic" sciences. Specifically, once your world "allows a divine foot in the door", it's going to be very, very hard for them to continue to accept the rest of the uniformitarian package and not switch wholesale to a YEC package. At the very least, the YEC's in your universe are going to be a lot more vocal and harder to ignore and marginalize.

Now... having said that, there's another point in your assumptions that should be addressed:

Shem, Ham, and Jepheth were evidently adopted, since they (and their wives) had sufficient genetic diversity to explain the wide variety of humans populating the Earth. Same goes with other animals.

According to YEC's, genetic diversity is decreasing (entropy). Shem, Ham and Jepheth don't need to be adopted; they would have had greater genetic potential than modern humans. The same goes with animals. Also:

Instead Noah brought two of each "kind", where a "kind" is a very subjective type of classification.

This is inaccurate. The definition of "kind" is essentially what we consider "species" today, except that speciation is occurring due to the aforementioned genetic degradation. Specifically, it deals with "genetic compatibility" and the ability to breed. While it may be difficult to determine if two modern "species" would have been the same "kind" at the time of the flood, the actual definition of "kind" is not subjective.

For example, dogs, wolves, coyotes, and so forth are all the same "kind" (and indeed are still capable of limited interbreeding). Lions and tigers are the same "kind" (they can still reproduce with each other today, although the offspring are usually not fertile). Probably there was one pair of "dogs" on the ark, one or two pairs of "cats" (great cats and lesser cats may be different "kinds"), probably only a handful of pairs of creatures that eventually became the entire assortment of ruminants, and so on. (Note: I'm not counting that "clean" animals had additional "examples" on the ark.)

Each of these would have had the genes to eventually become all of the "separate" species we know today; "genetic diversity" would not have been an issue.

  • $\begingroup$ Hello new answer and user, I like the answer and please take the time and explore this site+1 $\endgroup$ – Muze the good Troll. Sep 17 '18 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew Great answer; I especially like how it denies what others seem to assume here, that the current majority acceptance of no flood is somehow because it has been proven that there was no flood. One nit to pick though: I was under the impression that many (not sure how many) YEC scientists believed that the "kind" was up one level from species. Even if I'm wrong, I think it's a bit too bold to insist that a kind must be what we consider a species. I'll look into it. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Sep 17 '18 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that the YECs are still completely wrong in this world. They believe in a 6000-year-old world with a 4000-year-old flood, when the reality is a 4.5-billion-year-old world with an 8000-year-old flood. Where do you find people who accept divine intervention but also believe the Bible is wrong? $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 17 '18 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in our world, Evangelical and "low-church" mainline Protestants who are drawn to science often reject their religion, but Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian scientists seem more likely to find science compatible with their faith. Does this mean science would have more Mendels and Lemaîtres? I don't know, but it's an interesting question to fill out the background of the world. $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 17 '18 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ There is a general correlation between "kind" and genus (or even family), yes. I was speaking more to the assertion that "kind" is "subjective". It's well defined, and at the time of the flood, would have been essentially the same as what "species" is today, i.e. ability to interbreed. YEC's believe that much speciation is the result of genetic loss, e.g. at the time of the flood, lions and tigers (same "kind") would have been different breeds of what, per modern taxonomy, would have been the same species (at the time). In short, the tree has grown a level since the flood. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Sep 18 '18 at 16:50

You can never conclusively prove that any historical incident of divine intervention actually happened. Because if divine intervention could cause a historical flood, it could equally well have created the entire universe ten minutes ago along with all our memories, historical records, evidence of a flood, and so on. If divine intervention can happen, then we can’t be certain of anything.

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    $\begingroup$ Ignores the assumption of the question: "With the exception of the divine interventions described above, the laws of the universe have otherwise applied to Earth" $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion The scientists in this world don’t know that your assumptions rule out other divine interventions. As far as they are concerned, if there have been two then there can be others. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Aug 31 '18 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ From a world building perspective, I think it's important to examine the assumptions in the question. If those assumptions necessarily result in a world that isn't logical, we should point that out. A world that accepts one divine intervention, but refuses to countenance others, is not logical or believable. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Sep 17 '18 at 17:07

Lots of geologists tried to prove, or ended up giving fuel to the theory of the great biblical flood using science, notable ones are Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817) with his neptunism theory, and Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) with the catastrophism theory. In fact, since pre-Christian times there were those that studied fossils, and using marine animal fossils found on surface theorized that in the past a great flood had happened. The great flood myth is not something only the Christians believed, the Norse, the Chinese, the Hindu, the Greek and mainly the Mesopotamian had that believe too, so there were those seeking evidence since the birth of civilization.

The theory was discredited more or less between the mid 18th and the mid 19th centuries by counter theories to the catastrophism and neptunism, like the plutonism, so I think that time would be appropriate for science to prove the flood myth considering there would be no evidence against those theories.

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    $\begingroup$ This does not seem to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 31 '18 at 2:24
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    $\begingroup$ The floods in the other accounts are not as extensive, from what I understand. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ The biblical tale was pretty much taken right out of the Ballad of Gilgamesh. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth But these floods were based on the real fact that the Mesopotamian rivers DID flood on a regular basis, and the flooding was extensive, however knowledge of the world was limited to knowledge of the traveled world at the time. If flooding was 'as far as the eye could see', it might just as well be 'the world has flooded'. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not convinced that the inability to disprove those early theories suggests that would be the time conclusive proof could be had, but you do answer the question. I'm going to edit your quesiton to pull the last sentence into its own paragraph and bold-type the answer. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ The question assumes the Biblical Flood actually happened. The commenters above are confusing themselves with reconciling actually geological history with this question's hypothetical version. This answer is quite right. In fact, it is better at answering the question than the other answers to date. Give geologists the credit they deserve. Once geologists started investigating in earnest, the evidence of a Noah's Flood would become apparent. At the very least there should be a thin layer of sediment covering the entire land surface of the planet. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 2 '18 at 2:53

Any time you like

Some ambiguously defined flood happened, and then God cleaned up in some narratively convenient way. So, scientists can discover it whenever suits the story, or never at all.

Note: I wrote up a ton of examples, but many of them ended up being about various types of extinctions, mummies, post-flood disasters, etc.. Kinda morbid, so a lot got deleted. I figure that, if it's to be a story about God from the Bible, it should probably be more up-lifting.

Example: Scientists never discover the truth

God cleaned up everything and fixed all evidence. Even if time travel is later invented, God will redirect time travelers to a fake timeline in which the flood never happened.

So, scientists never discover Noah's flood.

Example: Scientists discover instantly

God directed the waters to etch the message

God was here.

in the side of every mountain, in divinely beautiful writing. Intense lightning bolts struck these locations so powerfully that they altered the stone itself, causing it to glow in a beautiful display.

Beneath each signature, God has written descriptions of precisely what happened in every major language mankind will use for the next 10,000 years, ensuring that everyone in the world is crystal-clear on every detail.

Example: Upon alien contact

At the time of the flood, some aliens were orbiting the Earth. They actually went down and surfed some of the waves!

Whenever you like, the aliens came down to tell humans what happened. They recorded the whole thing in perfect detail across the entire world in their awesome 3D-recording technology, but they only tell humans whatever's narratively convenient for the humans to know.

Since aliens can come down and show humans what happened at any point in history, you can pick when it happens.

Example: Never, because Earth blew up

God thought that it'd be funny to remove the flood waters with a second, identical flood – only this time the water was anti-matter.

Example: Whenever they examine the salt layer

The flood waters mixed with the ocean, allowing much of the salt to rise above land. When God removed the flood waters, the salt remained, coming down like a rain all across the Earth.

Depending on how you pick the details of what happened, this can have different sorts of effects that can lead to discovery at different times.

Or, you could have God put the salt back into the oceans, restoring their prior salinity and avoiding a salt layer on Earth, if that's better for the story.

Example: Whenever scientists explain the platypus

Biologists are stumped; it seems that the platypus doesn't exist in the fossil record before the flood!

Turns out these cute little creatures very closely resemble a duck/beaver hybrid:
Upon exploring their genetic history, it looks like they were sudden created around the time of the God.

Behind the scenes, it turns out that God thought it'd be funny to create a new, cute-looking animal when teleporting the animals back after the flood, hence platypi!

The divine spark of their recent emergence helps to explain why some platypi secretly have human-like intelligence, as behavioral scientists discover whenever.
Maybe the scientist who discovers the truth is themself a platypus?

  • $\begingroup$ Just to note it, God's an extreme wildcard, so that's pretty much why we can say anything happened. God could've left His fingerprints all over the place in any way He might choose to, or if He wanted to remove all evidence, He could've done that, too. This particular scenario really doesn't have any limits. Given that God is, well, God, it seems to follow that whatever He did was whatever He wanted to have done. $\endgroup$ – Nat Aug 31 '18 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ Re " it should probably be more up-lifting", have you ever actually read the Old Testament? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 1 '18 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ jamesqf Which version, the edited ones, the numerous translated ones, the books that were left out? Really, the Talmud in the original language is the only unedited authentic version. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Sep 1 '18 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Yup, several times, actually! I used to go to Catholic school. =P Still though, even the Old Testament was a hopeful thing; it started with Genesis, which sets the tone of God-is-loving-despite-having-to-be-harsh-on-human-failings. Overall, the Bible seems meant to be calming, offering order, guidance, and answers. This effect is magnified when taken as part of the whole Bible, as the New Testament seems to clarify God's loving nature. $\endgroup$ – Nat Sep 1 '18 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Nat: You must have read a different version than the one I had. If it's not God killing off people wholesale (not just the Flood, but Sodom & Gomorrah, the Egyptians, &c), he's egging on his chosen people to massacre their neighbors, and any of their own folks who disagree with the strictures of religion. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Sep 3 '18 at 4:30

Assorted "experts" have given a flood date of about 2300 BC, based on Biblical dating. So, what does that mean?

Just to pick one example, where the scientists are archeologists: there's no continuity in Egyptian history. There's very little evidence of the Early Dynastic Period (3150 BCE - 2686 BCE) and most of the Old Kingdom (2686 BCE - 2181 BCE) because it's been swept away or buried in sediment (needless to say, the tombs are probably full of water-born sediment) and there's a long gap where nothing is going on in Egypt simply because there aren't enough humans on Earth to do so. And the odds that anyone still uses the Egyptian language? Probably pretty low, so you're looking at a massive cultural discontinuity.

Same thing in Mesopotamia. There's no Akkadian Empire.

And China, and India, and the Americas, and Europe, and Africa...any existing cultures are wiped out and new cultures only arise sometime after 2000 BCE that show no continuity with previous cultures but have more in common with Middle Eastern culture (because, after all, that's where the survivors came from).

Now biologists get into the act: remains from areas outside the Middle East show very different genetics from the people who were there before. Everyone after a certain date carry markers only previously found in Mesopotamia.


Missed the 6000 BCE date in the question. Taking that into account, Archeological evidence is moved back, but it still shows discontinuities, albeit not as pronounced. The genetic evidence still stands, however. There is a massive discontinuity in genetics, and genetic data will show a huge bottleneck in human populations at the time.

  • $\begingroup$ Question states that the flood occurred 6000 BC. This doesn't answer the question at all. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ Noted, and corrected. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 31 '18 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ But the part about 'all cultures disappearing at the same time' can not be ignored. Time frame aside, that is the crucial answer. Unavoidably, we would all be speaking the same language, have the same race, unless you ALSO allow the Tower of Babble divine intervention. But then, what OTHER divine interventions are you allowing? Or is it 'divine interventions' all the way? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme Language families were only discovered in the 18th century. If you think that the closely related languages would be the thing that 'proves' the flood, put an answer to that end. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ The Tower of Babble myth was specifically written to clean up the bit about multiple languages and races after the flood.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel 'God, observing their city and tower, confounds their speech so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.' Even in the Old Testament, they observed the discontinuity over the Great Flood and reality, and so they generated even more myths to cover the irregularities. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Aug 31 '18 at 3:11

What is the first time in history that scientists could conclusively 'prove' that there had been a worldwide Flood?

Since "science" has only existed for 200ish years, it can't be any older than the early 19th century.

What would be the evidence that would lead them to this conclusion?

A huge layer of mud would have been noticed as soon as the waters receded. Noah and his family would would have planted their crops in it.

If the Flood were actually forgotten, then "Moderns" even in Ancient Greece would have noticed the thick layer of mud.

EDIT for clarification: The Ancient Greeks would have notice a thick layer of dried mud layered in the eroded sides of hills.

"Science" would confirm and date it just like they dated and confirmed the age of the K–Pg (formerly K-T) boundary.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Why would there be a mud layer? Once the waters are removed, the remaining mud will dry out pretty quickly. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion there aren't many "visually impactful" pictures of thick layers of dried mud in the sediment layer. If there were, I'd have used that picture instead... :) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 31 '18 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ "Since "science" has only existed for 200ish years" so Isaac Newton had nothing to do with science? $\endgroup$ – Renan Aug 31 '18 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan Newton was a natural philosopher. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 31 '18 at 13:22

Scientists may or may be able to prove the flood and a date is hard to estimate (and I will try) however the water itself is of little significance. Considering the story itself there are a few things to assume with it.

  1. The water is in someway distributed so that marine life currently living does not go extinct. This is easily explained by half the Earth having salt water and the other half having fresh water so that enough room is present for members of every marine species can cram together and survive.

  2. There are large geological disturbances under the water. It is described that some event along the lines of mountains being lifted and dropped onto the submerged land occurs and that the ground burst open and cracked apart. Sediment mud and other things could potentially be obscured by this. It is also feasible that dropping a mountain onto a herd of animals or a forest might accelerate the time span for fossil fuel formation. So that could be a point of observance. Depending on the story this event is set in one could also say this event is the exact moment Pangaea split (although in a much faster and more violent manner than history suggests). One might also find fossil layers that don't make sense unless a literal chunk of land fell onto another spot such as a fossil layer implying a forest became a desert that became a swamp that became a lake in under a decade. That situation would make more sense if each one got smashed onto the other in succession.

  3. Man survived along with the animals.

Id say man would probably have supporting evidence in our time if it occurred but I would also say that such evidence might not be obvious as supporting a flood. one person might say a glacier carved out a mountain. Another might say a giant mass of water with the weight of a glacier carved out that mountain and then froze as it receded. These issues mean that a realistic flood "proof" may not exist in such a story. Attempting to prove a metric for measuring how fast fossil fuel samples formed and under what pressure would be helpful here. Id say it would be near proven by the end of this world's equivalent of the 21st century.


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