Question: 
Flood myths are universal in all cultures. We know the flood was worldwide because all cultures worldwide have flood myths. They must have these as a result of Noah’s flood. This proves that all human cultures come from Noah’s family.
 
Answer: 
 

While it is true that many civilizations have flood myths, it is not universally true. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (p. 280) explains: 

At one time this widespread distribution of a flood tradition was considered proof of the historicity of the [global] biblical account, which with some expected modification had spread throughout the world as people migrated from their original homeland in the Near East. This notion has necessarily been given up. We know, e.g., that numerous peoples have no flood legends in their literature. Flood stories are almost entirely lacking in Africa, occur only occasionally in Europe, and are absent in many parts of Asia. They are widespread in America, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific… Many do not know a world-wide flood at all, but only a local inundation… Often the heroes save themselves in boats or by scaling mountains, without intervening by the gods. Further, only a few of the flood stories give the wickedness of man as the cause of the flood… Facts of this kind disprove the claim that the biblical account is the parent of all flood stories.

 

That still leaves us with the question of where these flood legends actually come from. How would flood myths originate in many cultural settings with their various details?

One explanation is geography. Most population centers, especially ancient ones, are centered near rivers. How many large cities in America are strategically located near rivers and river confluences? There are quite a few. It is not hard to understand why. Concerns for drinking water, bathing, and transportation could all be resolved by locating near reliable water sources. This tendency puts population centers at risk for devastating floods which could wipe out entire villages and cities in ancient settings.

A brief look at a modern example of a native flood myth shows a concrete example of how geography defines native flood myths. After the tsunami of 2004, reports came out about how a primitive band of nomadic people in Burma and Thailand escaped the tsunami without casualty. They are known as the Moken people; they are sometimes called the sea-gypsies because their life is spent around the ocean shore or traveling on fishing boats.

How did this primitive people escape harm when the tsunami hit? The CBS News TV magazine 60 Minutes did an extensive report on their experience. Their interview included this exchange:

Why does Kalathalay think the tsunami happened? "The wave is created by the spirit of the sea," says Kalathalay. "The Big Wave had not eaten anyone for a long time, and it wanted to taste them again." Do the Moken consider themselves unlucky because their village was destroyed, or lucky because they survived? "I think they just take it as a matter of fact," says Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan, an anthropologist, and one of the very few experts who speak the Moken language. How did the Moken know that the tsunami was coming? "The water receded very fast and one wave, one small wave, came so they recognized that this is not ordinary," says Hinshiranan. "And then they have this kind of legend that passed from generations to generations about seven waves." It’s a legend recited around campfires, bearing an astonishing resemblance to what actually happened on Dec. 26, 2004. They call it the Laboon, the "wave that eats people," and it’s brought on by the angry spirits of the ancestors. Before it comes, the sea recedes. Then the waters flood the earth, destroy it, and make it clean again. "So basically, the tsunami myth is that the world is reborn after it is covered with water," says Simon."

 

 It is not hard to see how the flood myth of the Moken is born from historical experience in their particular geographical location. They have “seven waves” which flood the earth. This legend bears striking resemblance to their experience as a coastal people who interact continuously with the ocean; there is no reason at all to believe it came from the biblical account. Notice they do not associate their flood legend with a worldwide catastrophe, because they fled the seashore for higher ground and were saved.

Other high-profile natural disasters in 2005, with a little imagination, show how locale could naturally spawn flood myths. Hurricane Katrina and hurricane Rita both brought a devastating storm surge which inundated the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi miles inland in some cases (not just in the city of New Orleans). Imagine how similar hurricanes, hundreds or thousands of years ago would impact Native American peoples living in the area. Without the modern ability to forecast or predict a coming hurricane, these people could be decimated by a big storm. Survivors might end up secluded miles apart after the storm, giving the logical impression that each individual or family unit were the only survivors.

Flood myths, like all legends, originate in historical experience. That much seems true. But this fact does not mean the widespread existence of flood myths in primitive cultures in any way proves a global flood. In fact, their differences point to the different experiences of flooding events in specific geographical locations. Global flood advocates often forget that flood events happen regularly across planet Earth. They have been occurring for millions of years.

 

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