Perhaps it’s the frequent attacks on Christianity by atheists at this time of year, or perhaps it’s the befuddling results of the recent election, or perhaps it’s the ever-growing crass commercialism that is associated with the season itself, but I sometimes wonder if we have passed a point of no return in our cynicism.
I wonder if, culturally speaking, we are still able to believe in anything more real than media icons and constructs. I wonder if we are still capable of letting ourselves be surprised by the world.
Robert Ballard is a man who challenges assumptions about the world and doggedly pursues facts. A world famous archaeologist, he is best known for finding the wrecks of the Titanic, the battleship Bismarck and the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
Now he has turned his attention toward what some would consider the most quixotic of quests, the search for evidence of Noah’s Flood.
The biblical story of the Flood is one of those cultural touchstones that even people who don’t believe the Bible should know about and most people have an opinion on.
While there are still many people who regard the story of Noah as fact, the broader consensus in our secularized culture, even among many Christians, seems to be that the Flood is just a tale, an ancient entertainment that managed to be recorded and passed down as myth.
Science has been here before with the Bible. Protestations about open-mindedness and respect for facts notwithstanding, most inquiry into biblical history seems to start from the assumptions that a) the Bible is a book of fairy tales, and b) everyone who lived more than 100 years before our current generation was drunk and/or stupid, thus incapable of recording events with any accuracy.
It was just such hubris that led historians to pronounce the city of Ur a fabrication made up to flesh out the tale of Abraham, until archaeologists found the city described in ancient records.
The same with the crumbled walls of Jericho or the existence of King David, until archaeological digs found evidence of both. False pride is what even today goads people into denying the historical existence of Jesus, despite biblical and extra-biblical evidence.
Ballard believes evidence for an actual flood that came to be recorded in the Bible exists, and he has taken a team to Turkey to find it.
While other researchers have looked for Noah’s Ark, Ballard is chasing the Flood itself. He has a good starting point in sites around the Black Sea, where he has found an ancient shoreline 400 feet below the surface.
Although such pursuit of ancient tales is generally frowned upon by modern science, it’s a little-known fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cities underwater around the world, silent proof of the long-term rising of sea levels even before any possibility of man-made global warming.
Perhaps even legendary Atlantis itself might remain to be found under the waves. Certainly the candidates for such a sunken city are many.
It’s just such evidence that interests Ballard, rather than signs of the ark itself.
“It’s foolish to think you will ever find a ship,” he told ABC News. “But can you find people who were living? Can you find their villages that are underwater now? And the answer is yes.”
Somewhere underwater, amidst the silt and ruins of ancient civilizations, there may lie the evidence Ballard seeks, something that will prove that 7,000 years ago, mankind faced a catastrophe that dwarfs any other recorded.
As a timeline, it would coincide nicely with the beginnings of recorded history and the end of the last known ice age, which could even provide an explanation for such a deluge.
Merely entertaining the notion of searching for signs of the Flood is to open your mind to the miraculous, regardless of whether you believe, even regardless of whether Ballard’s hunt is successful.
What I wonder, though, is what would happen if he succeeds in finding definitive proof. Would Western civilization take another look at the Bible, with eyes unclouded by modern prejudice? Or would our stubbornly anti-Bible culture of cynicism simply deny it all?