What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

421- Faith, Science and the Flood

November 1, 2009, 7:41 PM

'Den Aardkloot nade Zondvloed__' by Willelm & Jan Goeree, 1690

Faith and reason, usually jostling for primacy over one another, unite on this map to describe [t]he Earth-sphere after the Deluge in its broken state, shown with Mountains and valleys, great Sea-Bosom and Islands and Shallows of the same. The map was produced for Willem and Jan Goeree’s (1) immensely popular book Introductions to Biblical Knowledge (2), and apparently is based on a similar hemisphere map illustrating Thomas Burnet’s Sacred History of the World (3).

Burnet’s is an interesting book, the first British attempt to marry rational and biblical explanations for the genesis of the world. It typifies a wider attempt to unantagonise the progress of science with the doctrines of faith, by looking for natural rather than supernatural mechanisms behind divine intervention (4).

The problem, in this case at least, is that Burnet did so merely by faith in science, unburdened by any actual scientific facts. Burnet speculated that Noah’s Flood was only possible by the emergence of water from the earth’s hollow interior (a very popular and persistent misconception, see #85).

Burnet was quite selective in which pseudoscientific theories he found acceptable. When Isaac Newton suggested to him that the days might have been longer during Creation Week (supposedly to explain for the loads of work God got done), Burnet objected: the Supreme Being would not bend Nature’s laws.

As per Burnet’s example, this hemispherical presentation by the Goerees of the post-Flood continents shows, in a lighter blue, plenty of areas throughout the oceans which used to be dry land before the Deluge. The (non-existent) polar lands, Europe and Africa are linked by the light-blue areas, which also extend in all directions from Africa, and generally connect all now separate land masses to each other (did Burnet and the Goerees perhaps think this might explain why men and beasts live in places like America and Australia, isolated by vast expanses of water from the rest of the world?)

The Goeree map is also an interesting snapshot of Europe’s geographic knowledge in the late 17th century, which with all its misconceptions was approaching something resembling our present vision of the continents, having moved away from the purely symbolic tryptich maps (more on those at #87). Notable errors include the Arctic lands (see also #116), California as an island (see also #71), the sea where Alaska should be, the attachment of Greenland to what seems to be a Canadian mainland, of Australia to New Guinea.

Many thanks to peacay over at the ever excellent BibliOdyssey for sending in this map. Image found here on Old World Auctions, where a copy of the map recently sold for $375.


(1) A Dutch father-and-son publishing team. Interestingly, their family name is that of a former island in the Dutch river delta (possibly their family’s ancestral home); the name of which was transplanted by Dutch seafarers to the island of Goree, just off the Senegalese coast, which has become a symbol of the transatlantic slave trade.

(3) In the original Dutch: Voor-Bereidselen Tot de Bybelsche Wysheid (1690).

(3) In the original Latin: Telluris Theoria Sacra (1681). First English edition in 1684.

(4) In the same vein, Burnet would later postulate that the Fall of Man might not have been an actual historical event, but rather a symbolic one.


421- Faith, Science and the...

Newsletter: Share: