The Ark story has been pretty much beaten to death, with tales of folks running up and down Mount Arat for a century looking for boats. Boring.
But Babel...now there's a fun tale. What exactly is going on here? And why is it that so many cultures throughout our history record a similar event with similar circumstances at more or less the same time. In each case, it is a single event, not multiple ones. And in every case, the gods get worried about how far and how fast humans are progressing and decide to do something about it.
In every case, Man did not sin or do anything wrong, he simply had reached a point where he posed a direct challenge to the gods. As Joseph Farrell says, it was a political, not ethical decision on the part of the gods to come down and stir things up.
Perhaps it would be instructive at this point to look at a couple of the stories. Wikipedia starts us off:
The Tower of Babel (Hebrew: מגדל בבל Migdal Bavel Arabic: برج بابل Borj Baabel) forms the focus of a story told in the Book of Genesis of the Bible. According to the story, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar (Hebrew: שנער), where they resolved to build a city with a tower "whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withheld from them which they purpose to do." "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, so that they would not be able to return to each other, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth".
The Sumerians have a similar tale involving the construction of a tower, the gods Enki and Enlil, and the confusion of languages. The Sumerian word babel means "gateway of god(s)" or quite literally "stargate", while in Hebrew, it is similar in sound to the verb "to confound".
There are similar myths in various African cultures. The Maya have a version that is nearly identical to the Biblical telling, except that it involves those pesky Giants who keep showing up in the old tales and myths:
After Creation and the Great Flood, there were Giants running around the Earth. However, they weren't receiving enough sunlight, so they built a tower to reach the Sun. This act angered the sky gods who destroyed the tower and confused the languages, scattering the people across the Earth.
The Aztecs, South Pacific islanders, Mongols, and many other cultures preserve this story in some form. Most involve the people of Earth 'speaking the same language', which allows them to work together to 'build a tower' that will either allow them to reach the realms of the gods, or conversely, preserve the knowledge already received by having reached the realm of the gods or given by a renegade god (Enki, Prometheus, etc.).
The Hindu version is particularly interesting, as it combines the symbol of the Tree of Knowledge with the Tower/Babel myth:
There grew in the center of the earth the wonderful 'world tree,' or 'knowledge tree.' It was so tall that it reached almost to heaven. It said in its heart, 'I shall hold my head in heaven and spread my branches over all the earth, and gather all men together under my shadow and protect them, and prevent them from separating.' But Brahma, to punish the pride of the tree, cut off its branches and cast them down on the earth, when they sprang up as wata trees, and made differences of belief and speech and customs to prevail on the earth, to disperse men upon the surface.
So, let's dissect this story a bit. First of all, the language thing. There is no evidence in the historical record of Mankind ever having used a single language, right? Or is there? Even today, if you look around, there is one Universal Language that spans countries, cultures and time. That language is mathematics. All of our vaunted technology is based on some kind of mathematical discovery. Radio waves, lasers, computers, even such mundane things as alternating current, convection ovens and headphones, are all mathematics brought into our physical world.
As Galileo Galilei said, “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” And don't we use mathematics to reach orbit and the other planets? In other words, isn't mathematics a single language that allows us to reach the realm of the gods?
Well, not really, because mathematics is split into many different types and disciplines. There's algebra and calculus and physics, and so forth. In other words, our language of math has been 'confused' or 'confounded'. And what is the Holy Grail of science but the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), which should unite all forms of mathematics under a single, elegant set of formulae.
Sounds a lot like the story of Babel, the fracturing of languages, and a current effort to restore what was lost to men. And mathematics does indeed allow us to reach the realm of the gods, of that there is no doubt. So if we are able to find the Holy Grail of the GUT, isn't it true that 'nothing would be withheld from us that we purpose to do'?
Nikola Tesla summed up the confusion of the Great Language quite nicely, "Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." This implies that if we can get our language straight, we can do 'anything we propose to do,' including engineer reality itself, as Tesla was attempting to do.
Now what about the 'tower'? Folks have proposed dozens of locations and structures. Alexander the Great destroyed the giant ziggurat of Babylon called Etemenanki. But I think that if we accept that the One Language is/was mathematics, then the tower may have a completely different interpretation.
In Western culture, there are basically two main structures associated with towers: one is a place of worship, and the other is a university. We can dispense with the first, since it preserves myth and superstition and keeps us afraid of obtaining the realm of the gods. The other, however, is about preserving and advancing knowledge, and particularly the sciences, logic and philosophy, which are founded on the One Language, and indeed seek to obtain the realm of the gods.
Therefore, couldn't the Tower of Babel have been an enormous university or library? After all, the great structures of the ancient world, such as the Library at Alexandria, were devoted to preserving and advancing knowledge. The great universities of Europe are all dominated by large towers, and in fact the towers are emblematic of the universities.
Across the planet today, people are building taller and taller towers as signs of wealth and scientific prowess. Towers have always been symbols of achievement, and they require lots of precise mathematical calculation to erect safely. Many towers, such as the pyramids all over the Earth, not only required precise math to build, they encode all kinds of mathematical equations, formulae and constants in their structures.
Richard Hoagland's theories concerning Cydonia on Mars posit monumental structures built on profound mathematical knowledge that is embedded in the design and relationships of structures on that planet.
Thus, we can now tell the Tower of Babel story in a slightly different way. Mankind had amassed a great amount of knowledge that either allowed or was on the verge of allowing him to reach the heavens, and perhaps even begin to engineer the fabric of space/time itself. God-like powers, in other words. The gods, a race of extraterrestrial, technologically advanced beings, were alarmed at Mankind's rapid growth that threatened their hegemony over the heavens and their exulted rank as gods.
So they took the decision to pop down and destroy the great university/library where all this knowledge was stored and substitute false or misleading science and mathematics that would prevent Mankind from obtaining god-like power. This sent people off in a hundred wrong directions unable to work together because their mathematics were confused and fractured.
A perfect example of this, if you believe the official story, is the Mars Climate Orbiter - a multi-million dollar spacecraft lost because one set of scientists was using metric measurements, while another was using Imperial standard.
This ensured the supremacy of the gods and kept Mankind out of the rarefied realms. As Farrell said, it was a political decision, not one based on evil doings or moral corruption. Thus, the Yahweh character now appears to be more insecure than all-powerful.
All of this brings up two rather profound questions.
The first is, would destroying towers today have the same effect on human culture: scattering, confusing, causing dissension? For that, we must thoroughly examine what has happened to our individual and collective psyches since the 9/11 attacks. It sure seems that the destruction of the Twin Towers has scattered and confused humanity, pitting us against each other rather than focusing on concerted effort to advance the species. Could the perpetrators of that crime have taken a page from ancient myth?
The other question that arises is, if the gods got nervous the first time humans endeavored to reach the heavens through stargates and took severe action to prevent it, could they do it again? If/when we start getting too close to god-like abilities, will some external force come down and stir the pot again? If so, could the rise in UFO sightings in the past 70 years have something to do with that? And will we humans be able to stop it this time?
And much more to the point, from the perspective of the Big Picture, are humans ready to obtain that kind of power? After all, we seem incapable of solving some of the most mundane problems with our species. It hardly seems advisable to let us go mucking around with the very fabric of space/time, much less carrying our errors into the cosmos.
Sure, the Babel incident was done to humanity to keep it unable to enter the heavens, but was that decision made because we threatened the hegemony of the gods, or because we threatened the peace of the Universe?
Looking around, I'd guess the latter.