I propose that Genesis 1-11 is to be read as history, this does not mean that it is to be taken as literally true. I propose that it is written using Ancient Middle Eastern Historiographic techniques, namely that the purpose and meaning of history is more important than it’s truth. As John Walton says:
The historiography of the ancient Near East, whether represented in royal inscriptions or chronicles, king lists or annals, has by all accounts a polemical agenda that is intended to reinforce the royal political ideology. As in the campaign speeches of our day, facts can be useful, but they are not central or essential. The intention of the preserved records is to serve not the reader but the king. The recorder is trying to provide answers to the question: “Why should you consider this king to be a good and successful king?” In most cases it cannot be determined whether concealment and/or disinformation are part of the strategy, but negative information is uniformly lacking. We do receive negative assessments of some kings, but, as we might expect, they come from later dynasties seeking to enhance their own reputations.
I propose that the same thing is happening in Genesis 1-11, except the ‘king’ the author is making the case for is the God of Israel, whom is greater than any human king. We begin the Biblical epic by reading of how God ‘named’ the regions of the universe, a statement as to his sovereignty over the cosmos, and we are told that the whole cosmos is his dwelling place. We are then told the story of why human decision making cannot be trusted in Genesis 2-3, then in the Cain, flood and Babel stories we read of what happens when you get it wrong with God. All this shows God as a stern ruler enthroned over the cosmos, whom is to be followed. Scientific and historical accuracy is not the aim of the game here.