So there's this question:

Could a man survive in the belly of a fish for 3 days?

It was closed for not being "notable enough". Apparently not enough people in the world believe in a literal interpretation of the bible. That is if you don't count 100 million Americans.

For reeeeeeal though? I'm unpleasantly reminded that this SE has a reputation of being di...not nice to outside opinion.

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    Believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible does not mean believing in a naturalistic one though. One's asking "could this have happened"; one's asking "could this have happened without a miracle". Dec 22, 2016 at 20:37
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    Are you really calling me a dick for closing your question?
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:18
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    Texts whose historicity is disputed (like the book of Jonah) do not constitute claims in and of themselves. If a notable claim exists that the passage in question is historical, that is what you should be focusing on. The Bible is not being singled out here. Dec 22, 2016 at 22:22
  • @called2voyage the question, to be fair, is not about the historicity of the event, but about whether it's medically possible. See the tags.
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 22, 2016 at 23:12
  • @Sklivvz I understand. I'm just saying that the text is not a claim of that. If the text were considered historical it could be considered a claim of that. Dec 22, 2016 at 23:15
  • there are unicorns in the bible yet nobody actually believes in them.
    – William
    Dec 24, 2016 at 19:20
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    @William You're underestimating people's faith in the bible. Of course there are people who believe there literally were unicorns. biblescienceforum.com/2016/07/16/… I went to a literal Bible-believe school up to 8th grade. When the Bible says the sun's shadow went backward 10 degrees, we were taught in school that is exactly what literally happened. There are absolutely millions of believers that believe literally, but most literal believes take the Jonah story as a miracle, not what would happen normally.
    – DavePhD
    Dec 24, 2016 at 20:23
  • @DavePhD not what I would call a unicorn but I guess that is okay. Not to mention it also suggests dragons exist which I fail to believe.
    – William
    Dec 24, 2016 at 21:41
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    @William It's difficult now thousands of years later to know what exactly the corresponding Hebrew words mean. There is discussion here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/106/… and hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/22975/… Anyway, merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and peace!
    – DavePhD
    Dec 24, 2016 at 23:55

3 Answers 3


Wikipedia explains the term "straw man":

A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".

So, if one were to take the story of the Virgin Birth from the Bible, and completely misunderstand it or misrepresent it, one might ask a question on Skeptics.SE about whether human parthenogenesis is possible. Such a claim would be a straw man, because no-one is arguing that virgin births are naturally possible. In fact, if they were, it would be evidence against the story in the Bible, which is about the miraculous powers of God.

Similarly, when you ask if it is (naturally/empirically) possible for a man to be swallowed by a fish, we could attempt to answer it by looking at the stomach volumes, throat sizes, air levels, pressure levels, and conclude - dickishly - that those silly people who believe in a literal bible have no idea of human physiology and ichthyology.

However, you haven't provided a notable claim that people believe that a fish naturally swallowed a human. Instead, the claim you provide shows a miraculous, interventionist god getting directly involved. If you don't include the supernatural in your model, you have missed the point of the story, which shows how powerful the Biblical God is.

But the straw man argument doesn't stop there.

When you say that we say that the Bible isn't notable, you are (again) misrepresenting the claims of others to make them easier to dismiss.

These are just some of the many questions about claims in the Bible. Biblical claims that don't involve the supernatural are on-topic here. Biblical claims that invoke the supernatural are from a non-overlapping magisteria that is meaningless to test with science. We can only expect to answer religious questions where there is overlap: claims about the natural world.

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    (I have ignored the trolling part of your question.)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Dec 23, 2016 at 10:53

When there is a dispute that a question is notable or not, there's always an easy way to fix it. If a claim is notable, many people believe it. If many people believe it, some will be repeating this claim on the internet or elsewhere. Find examples of people believing the claim you want to ask about, and quote them. This shows notability.

Be careful though: the Bible only claims this happened in a specific occasion and that it was a miracle. You are asking whether "a man" could survive 3 days -- in other words if this is a known natural occurrence. I do not think the latter claim is notable.

Another way to fix the question is to make it more factual ("Did this happen?"), whereas right now it is purely opinion based ("Could this happen?"). "Did Jonas survive in the belly of a fish 3 days?" would be a notable question, although likely to remain unanswered, or not satisfactorily answered, since even the people who literally believe the Bible is accurate would agree that this story does not have other historical evidence.


The Bible involves miracles. Of course with miracles anything could happen.

The Bible isn't claiming that Jonah could survive in a fish without a miracle for 3 days any more than it is saying Jesus could rise from the dead in 3 days without a miracle.

It would make more sense to find a different reference that says someone did or could survive inside a fish or whale without a miracle and ask about that.

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