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Journal of Creation 30(1):76–82, April 2016

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Empirical data support seafloor spreading and catastrophic plate tectonics


Recent creationist literature has been filled with papers critical of catastrophic plate tectonics, even suggesting that a schism has divided Flood geology. Creation scientists who accept the validity of plate motion have been accused of ‘naturalism’ and have been labelled as ‘remodellers’. However, creationist acceptance of plate tectonics does not entail any sort of acquiescence to naturalism. Six types of empirical data are presented which imply significant horizontal movement of coherent lithospheric plates during the Flood. Much of these data are independent of the secular geologic timescale, including heat flow in the ocean crust and seismic tomography data which illustrate the presence of subducted oceanic lithosphere within the mantle. Unfortunately, most of these data supporting catastrophic plate tectonics are rarely discussed by critics. In contrast, this paper suggests that the best explanation of all available geologic data supports rapid horizontal plate movement during the Flood. The catastrophic plate tectonics model further offers a mechanism for the flooding of the continents, the subsequent lowering and draining of the floodwaters, and a cause for the post-Flood Ice Age. The only ‘schism’ in Flood geology is one perceived by the scientists who fail to acknowledge all of the empirical data.
Figure 1. Map showing the age of the ocean crust from ’Earth seafloor crust age 1996-2’

Several recent articles have been published in the creation literature that have been critical of plate tectonics (PT), and specifically catastrophic plate tectonics (CPT).1-3 There has even been the suggestion of a ‘schism’ developing in Flood geology between the geologists who accept CPT and those who do not.4 Advocates of CPT have been labelled as ‘remodellers’ and have been accused of merely speeding up naturalistic processes like plate motion and nuclear decay.4 But as Ross has pointed out: “Labelling some creation geologists as holding a ‘remodelled naturalistic approach’, while wrapping themselves in the mantle of ‘reconstructed biblical geology’, is inaccurate and self-serving.”5

For those that do not accept CPT as a mechanism, a different approach to creating a biblical geologic framework has been suggested. These creation scientists claim to be able to ‘reconstruct’ geologic history based solely “on an outline derived from the Bible”,4 thereby liberating biblical history from geologic history, including the secular timescale and biostratigraphy. But, to date, only a generalized timescale has been developed within this ‘reconstructed’ biblical framework, and details from the vast majority of site-specific locations are still largely lacking.4

Part of the reason for the paucity of published, site-specific details on the part of the ‘reconstructed’ camp may involve their rejection of long-distance correlation methods. As Ross has stated:

“Moreover, the geological approach advocated by Froede and Akridge [‘reconstructors’] applies models that seek to synthesize a global record of earth history while at the same time necessarily rejecting geologic correlation methods that could connect disparate geologic systems. How could such methods possibly succeed, when they discard necessary tools?”5

Furthermore, the ‘reconstructed’ camp has accused the ‘remodellers’ (advocates of CPT as a Flood mechanism) of accepting concepts and ideas derived from naturalism.4 But they have offered no clear evidence to back up this claim. To openly accuse other creation scientists of basing their scientific views on naturalism is completely unsubstantiated. Again, as Ross has pointed out: “Are we to assume that all of the descriptive geology published in the past three centuries is so deeply flawed that only fresh eyes of certain young-earth creationists can properly document these rocks?”5 How do these authors determine what constitutes empirical science based on naturalism from science not based on naturalism? Are we to ignore all scientific papers put forth by non-Christians and only accept research by scientists holding our own worldview? Science can be done by both secular scientists and by creation scientists.

Both camps claim miracles were necessary

Figure 2. There is a fairly well-defined general agreement of absolute radioisotope ages and stratigraphic ages.

Some members of the ‘reconstructed’ camp have also accused the remodellers of needing to invoke a series of miracles to explain CPT.4,6 They see such miracles as ‘unshrunk cloth sewn onto an old garment’ (Mark 2:21) and compare these miracles to an ill-conceived patch for a reluctant anti-biblical philosophy of history. Ironically, these same authors invoke their own set of miracles for geologic events when it serves their purposes and do not provide clear definitions or a clear explanation.4,6 Froede and Akridge (so-called reconstructors) have themselves admitted: “The application of miracles is a necessary part of defining biblical history. There are many geological events mentioned in the Bible that cannot be explained outside of ‘miracles’.”6

Froede and Akridge also call on miracles to initiate the Flood and to provide the source of the rain and as a reason for uplift of the continents at the close of the Flood.6 Why are these miracles justified yet others are not? Who is to judge whether a miracle is needed? Their claims that the rapid horizontal movement of the plates across the earth requires a miracle, that accelerated nuclear decay requires another miracle, and that global deposits require yet another miracle, are no different than calling on miracles to initiate the Flood as they themselves have done.6 Just because there are aspects of geology and CPT theory that are presently not understood is no reason to suggest miracles must be necessary to fill the gaps in our knowledge base.

There is no doubt miracles occurred during the Flood event as described in the Bible, but advocates of CPT do not simply invoke miracles at every ‘gap’ as suggested by Froede and Akridge.6 Many of the accusations of ‘miracles’ merely reflect our present lack of understanding and our incomplete scientific models and technology limitations. Plate tectonics, and in particular CPT, is a well-documented, working model that provides a Flood mechanism independent of a patchwork of repeated miracles. It serves as a framework to explain much of the geological data that has been collected for hundreds of years.

Does CPT explain every geological feature? Of course it does not. Does it rely on a strict adherence to the secular chronostratigraphic column so much so that it cannot be separated from it? I argue no, because there are many aspects of CPT that stand independent of biostratigraphy, radioisotope dating methods, and the timescale itself, some of which will be discussed below. Do all advocates for CPT agree on the same Flood/post-Flood boundary? Unlikely, but all agree that the observed geological data can be best explained by some type of rapid plate movement during the Flood year that separated the present continents. Exactly which days and how many days during the Flood this movement was in operation is unknown at this time.

Throughout this paper, I will assume naturalism is a godless philosophy that can be separated from true science. Science is a process that includes observation, empirical data collection, classification, and experimentation. Rocks can be identified based on mineralogy and texture. Thicknesses of rocks can be measured and the fossils in those rocks can identified and recorded. Interpretation and worldview come into play when we postulate how and when those rocks arrived at that specific location. But the rocks and fossils are themselves factual data points. Admittedly, most of the historical earth sciences study non-repeatable events that happened only once in the past.

A short history of plate tectonics theory

Contrary to the claims of some of its critics,4 the theory of plate tectonics is not derived solely from naturalism but from empirical data collected over many decades by geologists and geophysicists. In the early 20th Century, Alfred Wegener used the fit of the continents and the match of fossils and mountain ranges across vast oceans to suggest that the continents had split in the past. These ideas were not accepted by the geological community at the time. Instead, his ideas were ridiculed and ignored. It was not until the 1960s, after immense quantities of oceanographic data were collected, and the publication of Harry Hess’s hypothesis of seafloor spreading7 and J. Tuzo Wilson’s early work on plate tectonics,8 that these ideas slowly became accepted. Nearly 50 years after Wegener first proposed the concept of continental drift, the secular community reluctantly acknowledged plate motion because they were overwhelmed with empirical data.

Throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Recent papers critical of PT and CPT 1-3 concentrate on rather insignificant and minor unresolved issues, such as small inconsistencies in plate boundaries and movement directions3 and/or reflect on misunderstandings of current research undertaken by those who support CPT.9 I n the process, these authors have disregarded the bulk of the data that support PT and CPT. For example, Oard has been openly critical of using the results from over 2000 GPS receiver stations worldwide.10 He has claimed that these measurements cannot be extrapolated to plate movement directions.10 However, Baumgardner has shown (his figure 1) that these GPS stations have recorded uplift/subsidence and horizontal displacement details consistent with modern and past plate motions.9 In his response, Baumgardner explained: “Oard’s statement contradicts the clear conclusion these GPS measurements so powerfully convey: that the plates indeed are moving in a coherent plate-like manner.”9

Figure 3. Bathymetric map of the seafloor showing clearly defined ocean ridges in every ocean. The ridges circle the globe twice and are the source of new ocean crust

It was the information gathered from the study of the oceans in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that unlocked the mystery of PT and eventually CPT. Oceanographic data clearly demonstrate a systematic increase in the age of the ocean crust (figure 1) with distance from the ocean ridges that cannot be disregarded merely because it involves absolute dating methods. As creation scientists we must not be found guilty of throwing out ‘the baby with the bathwater’ in this regard. In most cases, absolute dates have been shown to provide reasonable relative dates (figure 2),11-13 strengthening the argument that the ocean crust and lithosphere did indeed originate and spread from the ocean ridges in a systematic manner.

Although some have been critical of the relationship between absolute dates and biostratigraphic age,14 Baumgardner countered by writing:

“One of the important implications of the RATE research is that, while the dates which radioisotope methods give under the assumption of constant transmutation rates obviously cannot be correct, the relative dates from a large fraction of these determinations nevertheless might well be valid.” 11

And he concluded with: “It is a tool we simply cannot afford to ignore.”

Oard’s criticism of the scatter in the data shown in figure 2 also was addressed by Humphreys.14 He explained that some of the scatter would be expected if accelerated radioactive decay had occurred.13 He postulated that rapid cooling of lava may occasionally lead to similar dates at vastly different stratigraphic horizons due to nonequilibrium conditions.

Empirical data that are independent of age dates

In addition to the age pattern observed for the ocean crust (figure 1), there is also a tremendous amount of supporting data that affirms seafloor spreading. Many of these data sets are independent of absolute dating methods. Consider for example:

  1. The temperatures recorded in the ocean crust and the heat flow measured near the ocean ridges show a systematic pattern of cooling with distance away from the ridges in both directions. Sclater and Francheteau originally defined a relationship between heat flow and distance from the ocean ridge back in 1970 that still holds today.15 This empirical data set is not dependent on any dating methods, absolute or relative.
  2. The ocean topography also reflects the age distribution and the heat flow pattern of the crust beneath. The elevation of the seafloor is highest near the ridges (where it has the highest heat flow) and drops off systematically with distance in both directions. Sclater and Francheteau, again back in 1970, initially demonstrated this relationship by simply plotting bathymetry data against distance from the ridge, not against age of the crust.15 This data set is again independent of any age dates.

    Figure 4. Map of the South Atlantic showing the correlation of families of oils and their similarities between Brazil and West Africa. The intervening Atlantic Ocean is reduced to illustrate the correlations. Although some ‘geologic time’ and ‘environmental interpretation’ is implied in the naming of the various oil families, the matching of geochemical signatures at each site from north to south, and across the Atlantic, is undeniable. Oil chemical signatures are independent of perceived geologic ‘age’ as they are based on chemical differences in liquid content regardless of rock unit. These data strongly support plate movement has occurred to separate these source rocks and these oils. (After Brownfield and 18.)

    The magnetic reversal ‘stripe’ pattern shows symmetry on each side of the ocean ridges, supporting simultaneous seafloor spreading outward in both directions from the ridges. Critics have pointed out inconsistencies in this data set3 but the overall pattern is still readily observed in the magnetic profiles recorded on either side of the ocean ridges. The overall symmetry to this data cannot merely be dismissed. The patterns initially observed by Heirtzler et al. for the ridge south-west of Iceland show a near-perfect symmetry for 200 km in both directions about the ridge.16 Vine remarked: “This finding, together with the symmetry and linearity of the magnetic anomalies about the Juan de Fuca and Gorda ridges, recently described by Wilson, provides convincing confirmation of the two most obvious corollaries of a literal interpretation of the Vine-Matthews hypothesis: (i) linear magnetic anomalies should parallel or subparallel ridge crests, and (ii) for many latitudes and orientations the anomalies should be symmetric about the ridge.”17 The raw magnetic anomalies are based only on distance from the ridges and not on age dating of the rocks themselves.

  3. The very presence of the ocean ridges suggests a common origin by seafloor spreading. Ocean ridges are found in every ocean of the world (figure 3). The ridge system extends 70,000 k m f rom ocean to ocean to ocean, connecting across all of the seas. They consist of huge, linear mountain chains rising 3,000 m above the abyssal plains with a rift valley at the centre, actively spewing out basaltic magma yet today. There is no ocean today that exists without a ridge system.
  4. The correlation of oils from Brazil and West Africa show demonstrable similarities when the continents are reunited (figure 4).18 The unique geochemical signature in the oil families found on opposite sides of the Atlantic, when reunited, show an unmistakable match that can only be explained by later plate movement. The geochemical differences found in the oils from north to south along the coasts depend on the uniqueness of the source rocks themselves and not the perceived age of the rocks. These data indicate similar source rocks were deposited at different locations up and down the coasts of both continents that were later separated by plate motion.
  5. The internal images of the mantle (tomography) show visible lithospheric slabs of oceanic crust going down hundreds of kilometres beneath ocean trenches and into subduction zones.19 These are not merely faults as some have proposed,20 but 100-km-thick slabs of brittle, dense rock descending into the mantle.19 The cooler temperatures exhibited by these subducted slabs of rock create a thermal dilemma for the secular and old-earth geologists (traditional PT) who have to demonstrate how these slabs have remained cold for millions of years. Colder, subducted slabs are best explained by runaway subduction just thousands of years ago during the great Flood.21

There is no other viable way to explain the ubiquitous presence of ocean ridges, the ocean heat flow pattern observed, the bathymetry pattern of the seafloor, the symmetry of the magnetic signals in the rocks surrounding the ridges, the match of the oil chemistry between Africa and South America, the seismic tomography showing the presence of subducted lithosphere, and the pattern of age of the crust other than seafloor spreading and plate movement. These data cannot be denied, ignored, or explained away as dependent on the chronostratigraphic timescale. Empirical data, independent of the chronostratigraphic timescale, demonstrate that the modern ocean lithosphere was completely created anew in conveyor belt fashion at the ridges, causing systematic spreading in both directions.

Catastrophic plate tectonics is not a naturalistic theory, it is a scientific interpretation of a plethora of factual data that conform to biblical history! There is nothing in the Bible that precludes horizontal plate motion and seafloor spreading. Suggesting that creation scientists should merely dismiss the data as ‘naturalism’ is completely unjustified.

Scientists cannot pick and choose

How do the critics of CPT explain these data? In most cases, they do not address these data in their papers and in doing so either deny these data exist or dismiss the majority of these data as based on wholly naturalistic interpretations. Creation scientists cannot pick and choose the empirical data sets they want to use but should include all appropriate data sets in any Flood explanation.

CPT explains plate boundaries

Figure 5. Map of earthquake epicentres from 1963—1998 showing the linear patterns that define the tectonic plates

The majority of the plates are well defined by maps of current earthquake activity (figure 5). Admittedly, there are still a few, small, unresolved micro-plates,3 and some of the modern plate movement directions may not be exactly as predicted.3 However, earthquake epicentres still clearly trace the boundaries of discernible and coherent lithospheric plates even today, nearly 4,500 years after most of the plate movement ceased. Further support for these plate boundaries is shown by the linear chains of volcanoes found along the edge of the Pacific plate, associated with the Pacific Ocean’s ‘ring of fire’. In addition, many of the major mountain ranges of the world also follow the edges of active plate boundaries, such as the Andes and Himalayas. These long linear chains of mountains run parallel, and in close proximity, to many of the convergent-style plate boundaries, explaining the reason for many of the world’s largest and deepest earthquakes.

Secular geologists admit they do not have all the answers to explain every aspect of PT. Likewise, many creation geologists who advocate CPT do not claim to understand all aspects of the theory either but accept it as a sound working model steeped in empirical data. Secular scientists and creation scientists alike debate how subduction is initiated22 and how the major continents originated,23 but most do not use this lack of understanding to question the overall validity of the PT and/or CPT model, respectively.

CPT explains the flooding of the continents

The Bible states plainly that the “fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” during the initiation of the Flood (Genesis 7:11). In terms of CPT, the fountains of the great deep may be a description of the rifting that took place at the ocean ridges and even within continents.24 Obviously, the rainfall described as the “windows of heaven opening” must have contributed to the Flood in some capacity. But, in addition, because newly created oceanic lithosphere is relatively hot, less dense and more buoyant, the CPT model provides an additional source for the water to completely flood the continents. After its formation at the ridges, the freshly-formed, lower-density oceanic lithosphere simply pushed the top of the seafloor up from below, displacing ocean water and forcing it on to the land. Snelling has calculated that this elevated seafloor could have raised global sea level by as much as 1.6 km, greatly helping to flood the continents.25

Figure 6. Map of the basal lithology of the Sauk Megasequence across North America. The extent of the one, continual sandstone layer is identified in light grey. (Image courtesy of Davis J. Werner.)

Rapid movement of the plates during runaway subduction further supplied tsunami-like waves to wash across the land surfaces, helping to deposit blanket-type sediments across continents (figure 6). Recent numerical modelling by Baumgardner has found that repetitive tsunami waves, caused by rapid plate movement, could result in water accumulation several kilometres deep on the continents, contributing to the flooding.26 The runaway subduction model also provides a mechanism to lower the continental crust in the proximity of the subduction zones, causing more extensive flooding of the land and creating room for several kilometres of sediment.21,27 Numerical models show that friction against the subducting oceanic lithosphere as it descends will likewise drag down the edges of the continents about 3 km.21,27

The floodwaters began their recession when God stopped the “fountains of the great deep and the windows of heaven” and “the rain from heaven was restrained” (Genesis 8:2). Subsequent cooling of the newly created ocean lithosphere later in the Flood year (after Day 150) offers an additional explanation for the lowering of the floodwaters. As the 100-km-thick ocean lithosphere cooled, it sank, lowering the bottom of the oceans and drawing the water back off the continents and into the ocean basins.

How do CPT critics raise the water level to Flood the continents? Rainfall alone seems insufficient. What is their definition of the ‘fountains of the great deep’, if not some type of plate boundary? What is their mechanism for raising sea level to flood the tops of the pre-Flood hills? How do the CPT critics explain the continent-scale sedimentation patterns? Creation scientists who are critical of CPT provide only vague and generalized answers to these questions or do not discuss their views on these issues in their most recent papers.1-3

CPT explains the Ice Age

Finally, CPT provides a mechanism for the Ice Age that occurred at the end of the Flood. A hot, newly formed ocean crust would have provided tremendous amounts of heat to the ocean waters above. This would have raised the overall temperature of the ocean and caused a much greater amount of evaporation, resulting in staggering amounts of precipitation.28 In addition, the increased volcanic activity from the subduction zone volcanoes within the ‘ring of fire’ and elsewhere late in the Flood would have placed huge volumes of ash and aerosols into the atmosphere, cooling the climate most noticeably in the higher latitudes.28 The unique magmas generated by the partial melt of subducted ocean lithosphere provides the perfect recipe for explosive, ash-rich eruptions. These types of volcanoes (stratovolcanoes) are highest in silica, making them thicker, and water-rich and more explosive.29 The net result of hotter oceans and tremendous silica-rich, volcanic activity brought on from plate motion would have provided the impetus for the subsequent Ice Age.28 Basalt-rich magmatic volcanoes (shield volcanoes), as commonly observed across the bulk of the ocean basins, do not produce the necessary ash-rich explosions to generate sun-blocking aerosols.29 Finally, as the ocean lithosphere slowly cooled and volcanic activity diminished over the next centuries after the Flood, the Ice Age would also have ended as abruptly as it began.28

Critics of CPT have more difficulty explaining the origins of the stratovolcanoes and their unique silica-rich magmas as they do not accept subduction, partial melting, and its resultant mantle disruption during the Flood year.20,30 They have problems justifying the observed differences in volcanic magmas in general. They also have a greater difficulty explaining the necessary heating of the ocean water to provide the precipitation for the Ice Age without the rapid creation of a completely new seafloor to heat the ocean from below during the Flood.10,28,30

No schism in Flood geology

The empirical data that support CPT are not steeped in naturalism as some have claimed.4 It is not true that all data that support CPT are tied exclusively to interpretations of biostratigraphy and/or the secular timescale.2 And not all creation scientists who subscribe to CPT agree on every issue. There is still considerable debate on the Flood/post-Flood boundary even among CPT advocates.9,31 Catastrophic plate tectonics simply presents a mechanism that explains much of the geology that is observed and measured, particularly in terms of the oceanographic and tomographic data so often ignored in recent publications. The overwhelming geological evidence supports catastrophic horizontal plate movement. In addition, CPT allows for ample vertical uplift, mountain-building and down-drop of portions of the continental crust late in the Flood year.32 Vertical movements are the result of isostatic adjustments caused by crustal thickening and disruptions in the upper mantle during subduction.21,32

The only schism in Flood geology is one perceived by the scientists who refuse to acknowledge the plethora of empirical data indicating horizontal plate movement during the Flood year. There are many issues still unresolved in Flood geology, such as determining an agreed upon Flood/ post-Flood boundary, but plate movement should not be one of them. The empirical data are sufficient to put much of this criticism to rest!

Creation scientists should be critical of theories and hypotheses, but we also need to immerse ourselves in the latest data and the most recent scientific findings, secular or otherwise. “Iron sharpens iron”, but we have to be careful to not become so critical that our science is hampered and divided and fails to advance.

References and notes

  1. Oard, M.J., Difficulties with plate tectonics—Pacific Ocean bottom features, J. Creation 29(2):86–91, 2015. Return to text.
  2. Froede, C.R., Jr, Akridge, A.J. and Reed, J.K., Phanerozoic animal tracks: A challenge for catastrophic plate tectonics, Creation Res. Soc. Quart. 51(2):96–103, 2014. Return to text.
  3. McGuire, M., Plate tectonics—inconsistencies in the model, J. Creation 28(2):104–115. 2014. Return to text.
  4. Froede, C.R., Jr and Akridge, A.J., A developing schism in Flood geology, J. Creation 27(2):49–54, 2013. Return to text.
  5. Ross, M.R., A developing schism in Flood geology, Letters to the Editor, J. Creation 27(3):46–47, 2013. Return to text.
  6. Froede, C.R., Jr and Akridge, A.J., A developing schism in Flood geology, Letters to the Editor, J. Creation 27(3):48, 2013. Return to text.
  7. Hess, H.H., History of Ocean Basins; in: Engel, A.E.J., James, H.L. and Leonard, B.F. (Eds.), Petrologic studies: a volume in honor of A.F. Buddington, Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, pp. 599–620, 1962. Return to text.
  8. Wilson, J.T., A Revolution in Earth Science, Geotimes (Washington DC) 13 (10):10–16, 1968. Return to text.
  9. Baumgardner, J.R., Global tectonics—clarity, not confusion, J. Creation 27(1):99–106, 2013. Return to text.
  10. Oard, M.J., Is plate tectonics really occurring today? J. Creation 26(3):120–127, 2012. Return to text.
  11. Baumgardner, J.R., Do radioisotope methods yield trustworthy relative ages for the earth’s rocks? J. Creation 26(3):68–75, 2012. Return to text.
  12. Snelling, A.A., Radiometric dating: Making sense of the patterns, Answers Magazine, 1 January, 2010, answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/radiometric-dating-making-sense-of-the-patterns/, accessed 24 June 2015. Return to text.
  13. Humphreys, D.R., Accelerated nuclear decay: a viable hypothesis?; in: Vardiman, L., Snelling, A.A. and Chaffin, E.F. (Eds.), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: A Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, and Creation Research Society, Chino Valley, AZ, pp. 333–379, 2000. Return to text.
  14. Oard, M.J., Can the relative timing of radioisotope dates be applied to biblical geology? J. Creation 27(2):112–119, 2013. Return to text.
  15. Sclater, J.G. and Francheteau, J., The implications of terrestrial heat flow observations on current tectonic and geochemical models of the crust and upper mantle of the Earth, Geophysical Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 20:509–542, 1970. Return to text.
  16. Heirtzler, J.R., Le Pichon, X. and Baron, J.G., Magnetic anomalies over the Reykjanes Ridge, Deep Sea Research 13:427–433, 1966. Return to text.
  17. Vine, F.J., Spreading of the ocean floor: New evidence, Science 154:1405–1415, 1966. Return to text.
  18. Brownfield, M.E. and Charpentier, R.R., Geology and total petroleum systems of the West-Central Coastal Province (7203), West Africa, U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2207-B, Reston, VA, pp. 1–52, 2006. Return to text.
  19. Schmandt, B. and Lin, F.-C., P and S wave tomography of the mantle beneath the United States, Geophysical Research Letters 41:6342–6349, 2014. Return to text.
  20. Brown, W.T., Jr, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, 9th Ed., Center for Scientific Creation, Phoenix, AZ, in press. Return to text.
  21. Baumgardner, J.R., Runaway Subduction as the Driving Mechanism for the Genesis Flood; in: Walsh, R. E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, technical symposium sessions, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 63–75, 1994. Return to text.
  22. Marques, F.O., Cabral, F.R., Gerya, T.V., Zhu, G. and May, D.A., Subduction initiates at straight passive margins, Geology 42(4):331–334, 2014. Return to text.
  23. Hecht, J., Rise of the upper crust, New Scientist 226 (3017): 36–39, 2015. Return to text.
  24. Reed, J.K., The North American Midcontinent Rift System: An Interpretation Within the Biblical Worldview, Creation Research Society Monograph Series 9, Creation Research Society Books, St Joseph, MO, 2000. Return to text.
  25. Snelling, A.A., Geophysical issues: understanding the origin of the continents, their rock layers and mountains. In: Boyd, S.W. and Snelling, A.A. (Eds.), Grappling with the Chronology of the Genesis Flood, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, pp. 111–143, 2014. Return to text.
  26. Baumgardner, J.R., Numerical Modeling of the Large-Scale Erosion, Sediment Transport, and Deposition Processes of the Genesis Flood, Answers Research J., in press. Return to text.
  27. Baumgardner, J.R., Recent rapid uplift of today’s mountains, Acts & Facts 34(3), 2005. Return to text.
  28. Oard, M.J., Frozen in Time: The Woolly Mammoth, the Ice Age and the Bible, Master Books, Green Forest, Arkansas, USA, 2004. Return to text.
  29. Raymond, L.A., Petrology: The Study of Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic Rocks, Wm. C. Brown Communications., Dubuque, IA, 1995. Return to text.
  30. Oard, M.J., Is the K/T the post-Flood boundary?—part 3: volcanism and plate tectonics, J. Creation 25(1):57–62, 2011. Return to text.
  31. Ross, M.R., Evaluating potential post-Flood boundaries with biostratigraphy—the Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary, J. Creation 26(2):82–87, 2012. Return to text.
  32. Austin, S.A., Baumgardner, J.R., Humphreys, D.R., Snelling, A.A. and Vardiman, L., Catastrophic plate tectonics: a global flood model of earth history; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, technical symposium sessions, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 609–621, 1994. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Alan H.
Congratulations for not mentioning Hydroplate theory once. There is so much we do not know that getting caught up by what we think we know and making it a dogma is not particularly unhelpful. The deepest hole ever drilled is 12km so we have barely scratched the surface and no one knows exactly how the Earth's magnetic field is produced let alone the reversals and consequent effects. By the way how long does it take for a reversal to take place. Instantaneously is not an option, just look at magnetic fields in rotary devices. Can we have another article on what we don't know to put all this into perspective? A bit of humility would be in order not academics having a bun fight.

Always good to have a scripture to end with Jer 31: 36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

37 Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.

I don't think you are going to have a definitive answer either. God says so. 1 Cor 1:19

(Just to note if you think Israel has been discarded by God many other scriptures indicate this is not the case Jer 32:40 for one. Please do not try and make God out to be a liar.)
Linda W.
One major event on the planet covered it in water while all life was destroyed, except for what was contained in an ark being buffeted around said planet. Sounds pretty catastrophic to me. Especially when you think that the top of Mount Everest was the bottom of a sea 4500 +/- years ago. Something catastrophic had to push those crinoids, trilobites and shells up over 8600 metres to where they are now... The mountain is only moving a few millimetres up and over each year right now. But the pancake flatness of the layers in the top 250 metres of Everest did not form that slowly, or they would not be pancake flat. That mountain, especially the top part (which may even have had up to kilometres more flood sediments, now eroded off) had to have formed when the layers were relatively malleable, as all mountains with sedimentary layers had to have done.
To paraphrase Chris Tomlin's beautiful song "From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea, creation's revealing God's majesty." So I tend to side with CPT, with those highest of heights standing as witness.
Tim L.
I found this paper extremely confusing. Not because of its technical nature (I've been following this stuff for a while and my Mech. Eng. background is extremely helpful), but because it seems to assume that everyone who disagrees with CPT agrees with the so-called "reconstructionists" in the initial citations listed here. This is clearly not true. Namely, Walt Brown has been pointing out errors in CPT for decades now. There is a single citation of his work (i.e. #20), but the argument he makes is hardly even addressed despite the fact that he points out several extremely significant problems with plate subduction including the idea that the supposed lower temperature rock in the mantle is a subducting plate.

Due to the character limits in comments here, I do not have room to provide answers to the other questions you ask, but anyone who is familiar with Brown's work would know that he provides excellent answers to all of them. In short, while I do think HPT has some problems that need answered, the issues listed here are not even close to being among them.

In conclusion, while all Flood models will include some miracles, I think we should be extremely skeptical of any that are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. The strength of the HPT is that it requires no miracles that are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. In contrast, CPT (and the theories of the "reconstructionists") clearly do.
Shaun Doyle
First, this article concerned itself mainly with critiques of plate tectonics and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics that had appeared in the peer-reviewed creationist literature over the preceding few years. Hydroplate theory was not in main view of the article because it and its criticisms of CPT were not in main view of the creation research community at the time (nor are they now).

For an assessment of many aspects of Hydroplate theory, please see Analysis of Walt Brown’s Flood model. Moreover, Dr Baumgardner has pointed out some geophysical and heat budget problems with Hydroplate Theory that show it cannot really avoid miracles in his 'Author-to-author critique' of Hydroplate Theory on pp. 520-528 of The Flood Science Review. His summary on the geophysical issues (on p. 523) is worth quoting:

In short, Brown’s foundational assumption for Hydroplate Theory concerning the structure of the uppermost 100 km of the pre-Flood Earth cannot be successfully defended. From a geometrical standpoint, there is no conceivable way to reconfigure a uniform layer of granitic crustal rock 10 km thick (using Brown’s original number) covering the entire Earth into its present distribution in the continental cratons. Neither is a physical mechanism available to accomplish this task even if the geometry problem were to be ignored. Finally, continental shield and platform areas display no indication of any significant internal deformation during that interval of geological history associated with the Flood.

Concerning plate tectonics, while this is of course a topic of some contention among creation geologists, there are cogent reasons why many accept it (see e.g. Is plate tectonics occurring today? and Global tectonics—clarity, not confusion.
Neal P.
With some difficulty, I read and reread through this interesting article. A lot of detail! However, to my surprise, there was no mention of Genesis Gen 10:25:
"And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan." WHY?
Shaun Doyle
Please see ‘In Peleg’s days, the earth was divided’: What does this mean?. It's highly unlikely that Genesis 10:25 refers to a geological cataclysm of comparable intensity and scope to Noah's Flood.
Raymond S.
"Their claims that the rapid horizontal movement of the plates across the earth requires a miracle, that accelerated nuclear decay requires another miracle, and that global deposits require yet another miracle..." Accelerated nuclear decay would produce excess heat, excess heat would accelerate plate movement and cause the thin ocean crust to rise relative to the thick continental plates, and global erosion and deposition would ensue. That is only one miracle, not three. Causing the rocks to "wax old" rapidly accompanies a Flood after which humans also age rapidly and require meat to obtain the necessary protein for their rapidly aging cells. Although the two aging mechanisms are unrelated; it's interesting that God would age the rocks while causing humans to end up also aging more rapidly. Accelerated nuclear decay would be universal since all the rocky solar system bodies show signs of formation followed by a bombardment which likely happened during the Flood episode (Earth being hit during Flood deposits as well). An object composed of ice and rock would heat up during accelerated nuclear decay, and that might cause the ice to flash to steam, and the object to explode. If the object was large enough, maybe it caused the bombardment we see on the surfaces of other planets and moons and some of the asteroids or groups of asteroids also observed in the solar system.
Shaun Doyle
There are a few difficulties with this scenario. First, Noah lived for 350 years after the Flood, living to 950. That makes him the third longest lived person recorded in the Bible, and only 19 years behind Methuselah. If accelerated nuclear decay (AND) decreased lifespans after the Flood, why wasn't Noah affected?

Second, there is evidence to suggest that AND was limited to the earth. Andrew Snelling, in a five-part examination of the radioisotopic signatures of meteorites in Answers Research Journal, argued that the radioisotopic signature of meteorite fragments suggested they retained their 'primordial' state from Creation Week, unlike rocks from Earth.

I too feel that there is an intuitive link between the energy output of AND during the Flood and what enabled the catastrophic effects to occur. However, understanding how that occurred is still difficult to do. Much more research is needed; of that most creation researchers will agree.
Understanding new data, specifically an impact cratering origin for the geomorphology of Earth and the Moon, and other rocky planets, will recognize that similar lithology on both sides of the Atlantic, which seems to be a significant point in the support of CPT, can also be due to similar events happening all over the globe. These sorts of new ideas need the opportunity to "get on the table" for discussion.
Bill P.
I just watched a 2 hr. long video on CPT from a site known as "Is Genesis History". I admit I'm not a college graduate but I have been studying for several yrs. now any info I can get my hands on when it comes to the flood of Noah's Day. The name of this video is called "130 minutes to explore the causes of the flood". As I've said I'm not a college grad but have studied this event for nearly 10 yrs. and have read enough about this event to understand what this man was talking about on this video, (which can also be found on You Tube). I do not understand how the critics of CPT can say that this is naturalism after seeing this detailed model of this process. I have heard (although I have not seen) that some secular scientist who have seen these details in this models were very impressed w/the details that this computer model showed what took place during this world wide flood event. It even seemed to answer many of the questions they had that they had no answer for before seeing this model being demonstrated, (such as the cooled areas that still existed near the core of the earth that were some 3000 degrees cooler than what was expected to be found if the earth was 4 billion yrs. old). No doubt the people of Noah's day found out quickly to their horror that as soon as the Lord shut the door of the Ark that they had just must up big time for refusing to repent and be saved along w/Noah and his family even though The Lord gave them 120 yrs to do so. It says in Psalms that The Lord can touch the top of a mountain w/His finger tip and cause that mountain to smoke. Now He has given us 2000 yrs and the good news is that this time more than 8 people will be saved. The sad news is many will still be destroyed w/no place to run. It is folly to underestimate God's power.

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