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I’m not making the weak and boring claim that since they’d never discovered genetics they don’t know better.I am making the much stronger claim that, even if the ancient Hebrews had taken enough of a break from murdering Philistines and building tabernacles to sequence the genomes of all knownspecies of aquatic animals, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong, false, or incorrect with them calling a whale a fish.Now, there’s something wrong with saying “whales are phylogenetically just as closely related to bass, herring, and salmon as these three are related to each other.” What’s wrong with the statement is that it’s false. Suppose you travel back in time to ancient Israel and try to explain to King Solomon that whales are a kind of mammal and not a kind of fish.Your translator isn’t very good, so you pause to explain “fish” and “mammal” to Solomon. “Silliest internet atheist argument” is a hotly contested title, but I have a special place in my heart for the people who occasionally try to prove Biblical fallibility by pointing out whales are not a type of fish.(this is going to end up being a metaphor for something, so bear with me) The argument goes like this. But the Bible says Jonah got swallowed by a big fish. The first problem here is that “whale” is just our own modern interpretation of the Bible.So please (he continues) keep going about how whales have little tiny hairs.
“Ah course a whale is a feesh, ya moron” he says in his heavy Southern accent. “A fish is a creature phylogenetically related to various other fish, and with certain defining anatomical features.
You tell him that fish is “the sort of thing herring, bass, and salmon are” and mammal is “the sort of thing cows, sheep, and pigs are”.
Solomon tells you that your word “fish” is Hebrew dag and your word “mammal” is Hebrew behemah.
The Ministry of Dag is based on the coast and has a lot of people who work on ships.
The Ministry of Behemah has a strong presence inland and lots of of people who hunt on horseback.