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Doubt cast on Noah's ark found in Turkey

A group of Chinese and Turkish explorers announced this week they are '99.9 percent' sure of their discovery on Mt. Ararat. While Noah's ark found in Turkey would bolster Bible literalists, an American ark-hunter says the latest discovery could be a hoax.

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The discovery of Noah’s ark would reinforce a literal interpretation of the Bible, says Claude Mariottini, an Old Testament professor at Northern Baptist Seminary outside Chicago.

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“People want to prove the Bible is true. If they can find the ark on Mount Ararat, it proves there was a Noah and a universal flood and it’s all true,” he says.

“If God is a God of truth then what the Bible says must be truth. If the story of Noah is not real, then for many people it puts their faith into question,” says Dr. Mariottini, who believes the story is an allegory for how God is sovereign over creation and punishes sin.

The debate over evolution and creationism has increasingly called for hard evidence and empirical proof. And Christians have responded.

“Modern science has challenged the Biblical narrative. For people who want to take the Bible literally, it drives them to look for this empirical evidence,” says Carlos M. N. Eire, a professor of history and religious studies at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn.

“It’s not just about Christians, it’s about human nature,” adds Dr. Eire. “It’s a very deep human instinct to search for truth in whatever you believe in and having physical contact with that.”

Finding the ark 'would not prove anything'

If this is Noah's ark, it's not likely to drastically alter the perspectives of theists or atheists, says Eire. Fundamentalists would remain committed to a literal interpretation of the Bible while non-believers would continue to demand more evidence. Christians believe out of faith, not evidence, says Dr. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research.

“It would not prove anything to me,” says Morris. “My faith is not in Noah’s ark. But it would be an obvious physical confirmation based on what I believe.”

The finding could divide Christians themselves, he adds, and provide fodder for evangelicals who believe that God flooded the entire world and, except Noah's family, killed off all humans because of their evilness. “To recognize that God judges sin and that God will judge their sin is something [some Christians] would just as soon not believe in.”

Previous expeditions have also come back from Mount Ararat with evidence of Noah’s ark. French explorer Fernand Navarra found a five-foot section of the ark that was originally dated at 5,000 years old, though later shown to be only 500 to 750 years old.

“This has happened before,” says Eire. “It will probably keep happening again.”

IN PICTURES: Noah's Ark

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