PHILOSOPHY Creation Ex Nihilo, Vol. 9 No.3

Jonah and the Naturally Occurring Whale

by Chris A. Foreman, B.A., M.Ed., Ph.D.

For years critics have questioned the truthfulness of Jonah's 'close encounter' with a whale. Beginning with the translators of the Septuagint three centuries before Christ, and continuing to this day, Jonah's testimony has been ridiculed as a fish story of preposterous proportions. To many people, Jonah has become a laughing-stock.

Of course, the real motive behind attempts to discredit Jonah is the modern aversion to miracles. In today's world, miracle means superstition; believers in miracles are regarded as relics from a prescientific past. But here is the irony: the modern critic of the Bible - that scorner of anything sacred, that scientific materialist - believes in miracles far more fantastic than those recorded in the book of Jonah. The worker of these miracles is called evolution.

And, irony of ironies, an unavoidable consequence of evolution is the need for belief in a 'fish story' that is even harder to swallow than Jonah's whale. This fish story is the imagined evolution of the whale.


Evolution has been called 'a fairy tale for grownups1. However, it may be more appropriate to call evolution a fable for grown-ups, because in its original sense 'fable' meant 'an improbable story embodying a moral. and usually having animals as principal characters'2. Belief in Darwinian evolution is the great folk fable of our time because, (1) it is an improbable story, involving a string of improbable events, (2) the story of evolution embodies several morals, among which are, 'There is no Creator/God' and 'Man is no better than animal', and (3) the principal characters are animals - animals which can, with the magic of 'Father Time', sprout wings, vanish tails, and transmute scale to hair. All of these evolutionary feats are, on the face of it, far more incredible than a mere whale swallowing a mere man.

The observation that belief in the evolutionary miracle requires greater faith than belief in the biblical miracle was pointed out by the philosopher Henri Bergson more than 80 years ago. 'Every origin is a miracle', he said, 'In the case of such complex organs as the eye, the difficulty is discouraging: either the eye appeared at once, full-formed and competent (which is as incredible as Jonah's, introspection of the whale); or it began with a series of "fortuitous" variations which, by a still more fortuitous survival. produced the eye, At every step the theory of a mechanical production of complicated structures by a blind process of variation and selection presents us with fairy tales that have all the incredibility of childhood's lore, and little of its beauty'3. [Notice the reference to Jonah's encounter as the most fantastic miracle in the Bible,]

If explaining a 'naturally occurring' eye is 'discouraging' for evolutionists, explaining a 'naturally occurring' whale must be downright vexing! Could a blind process of variation and selection provoke a fish to leave the sea, prod it to the land, then later compel it to abandon the land and return to the sea? If you are an evolutionist your answer must be 'yes'. The fabulous animals of Darwin rival any animal found in Aesop.


Let us consider the two scenarios of whale origin: one from the perspective of Scripture, the other as required by evolution. Finally, with all the objectivity we can muster, we will decide which scenario is the more sensible4.

Whales According to Genesis

The biblical scenario of whale origins is straightforward. It can be found in Genesis 1:21: 'And God created great whales'. The words are simple, but their implication is profound. The place of the whale in Creation can be easily told: God made whales on the fifth day of Creation. He made them in abundance. He made them in adult form - that is they were able to reproduce immediately. He made them immutable - that is, they could reproduce only after their own kind. God saw that whales were good; He blessed them. And they were designed to inhabit the oceans (Genesis 1:20-23). This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

There is no denying that belief in this hypothesis of whale genesis requires faith. First, it requires faith in the supernatural. Second, it requires faith in an indwelling God. Finally, it requires faith in a miracle-working God.

Creation was the grandest cosmic miracle of all. At the time of creation 'the morning stars sang together and the Sons of God shouted for joy' (Job 38:7). Belief in Creation requires belief in miracles, and is untenable without them. Having admitted that this miraculous account requires faith, does it make sense? It becomes very sensible when the naturalistic alternative is considered.

Whales According to Evolution

There are really only two possibilities. Either whales were created by the hand of God, or whales somehow arrived on earth by themselves. This latter is the view of evolution. The basic evolutionary argument can be condensed into this: (1) everything in the universe is 'naturally' caused; (2) the whale is a thing of the universe; therefore, (3) the whale came into being through 'natural' causes - which means through evolution. Accepting this position, let's put together the likeliest scenario of the whale's 'family tree'.

According to evolutionists, all life grew out of the sea. So the whale, like all creatures, can be traced back to the ocean. This is where our scenario begins: in the warm oceans of 480 million BC.

It is the Silurian Period. Primitive fish swarm the ocean. A few arthropods have escaped the water, but no vertebrate can yet call the dry land home. After several million years, a new breed of fish finds himself flung up the evolutionary ladder. Perhaps he resembles a coelacanth. This is the fish-like whale ancestor, or FLWA. Just like fish of today, FLWA is perfectly suited to his marine environment. Nevertheless, this FLWA is compelled to leave the water. Over many eons, the long sleek, bullet-shaped body becomes stubbier. Fins transform into feet and gills mutate into lungs.

It is now the Devonian Period. FLWA has become an amphibian-like whale ancestor, or ALWA. This small amphibian must live near the water in order to reproduce, but again eons of time pass and the ALWA begins to raise her young on land. ALWA is slowly becoming a reptile.

It is now the Jurassic. Dinosaurs rule the earth. Reptile-like whale ancestors are likely among the smaller dinosaurs, perhaps like ornitho1estes. Time passes. The rule of dinosaurs is coming to an end. Something remarkable is happening. Some small dinosaurs are transfiguring. Their blood is becoming warm. Some have turned scales into feathers. Others have turned scales into hair. The earliest mammals appear.

It is now the Paleocene. Rat-like whale ancestors and their cousins soon displace all dinosaurs. Mammals become larger. On the plains of an ancient prairie appear large herds of buffalo-1ike whale ancestors. Throughout the Eocene and Oligocene, BLWAs thunder across the landscape, kicking up clouds of dust in their wake. One morning, the BLWA is urged towards the sea. In response to this, long front and hind legs begin to waste away. BLWAs' entire shape is transformed as they regress into seal-like whale ancestors, then finally to porpoise-like whale ancestors. The whale has almost arrived at the present. All he must do is balloon his size tenfold!

It is now the present. The Silurian fish has gone to the dry land, found it wanting, and has returned to the sea. As the whale swims past a coelacanth, that old fossil can't help but wonder why the whale ever left the water in the first place.


Does this scenario of the 'naturally occurring' whale sound fishy? You bet it does! The fossil record cannot provide a single example of the millions of transitional forms that must have occurred during the whale's tortuous journey from sea to land and back to sea again. Yet this evolutionary scenario is just what most scientists believe.

Evolution requires a stupendous, peculiar kind of faith. A faith in miracles without benefit of a miracle worker. In an odd way, the drama of evolution has matter taking on the creative role of deity. Evolution comes to depend upon a series of 'natural miracles'. Is it any wonder that writers use the words 'miracle of evolution' and 'mystery of evolution' when referring to their unquestioned faith in self-transformation?


Which whale appears more sensible: the God-created whale, or the 'naturally occurring' whale? Creation and evolution both require faith; it is just a question of which faith is the more reasonable. On objective evaluation, belief in a miracle-working God must be found more sensible than belief in miracle-working matter. It seems entirely reasonable that only order can cause order, and that only intelligence can cause intelligence. If this is so, why do so many reputable scientists continue to believe in evolution? In their eagerness to do away with God and sin, many people have swallowed Darwin's fish story hook, line, and sinker.

The final chapter of the whale story has not yet been written. The great fish that swallowed up trust in the Bible is returning to swallow up trust in evolution. Jonah will yet have the last laugh; and the best one!


1. Bouroune, L., As quoted in The Advocate, March 8, 1984, p. 17.

2. Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary, Lippincott and Crowell, 1981, p. 227.

3. Durant, W., The Story of Philosophy, New York: Washington Square Press, 1926, p. 458.

4. We are assuming the 'great fish' described by Jonah was indeed a whale, although neither Jonah nor Genesis specifically says this in the original. The sea creature could be something else.

KEYWORDS: Jonah, Whale.