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Hydroplate theory: the strongest theory?

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Published: 22 August 2020 (GMT+10)

Charles L. from the United States writes:

I’ve read Oard’s critique of the Hydroplate Theory and found that it did have some good points but it is the strongest theory there is. All others are ridiculous.

I was considering donating to you and will in the future if you guys give the Theory more analysis in regards to finding your own answers you have proposed and accept the theory as the leading theory, which it is.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Charles,

Thanks for writing in.

Creation Ministries International acts more as a catalyst, coach, and umpire with creation scientists. We are always keen to publish material we receive, but we have a rigorous review process to ensure that it is soundly based.

Nonetheless, Mike Oard’s Analysis of Walt Brown’s Flood model is as in-depth an analysis of Hydroplate theory (HPT) that one will find anywhere. And we remain satisfied that it explains why we don’t promote actively Hydroplate theory or regard it at present as the “leading theory”.

At any rate, even if HPT (or any other model) were the strongest Flood model around, that would not necessarily make it true, or even probable. It may only be the best explanation because it’s modestly better than a bunch of really bad explanations. That would only make it the ‘best’ by default. It may still have crippling flaws that makes it weak, either in part or in the whole. Likewise, if it were only marginally better than other models on offer, we wouldn’t be able to have much confidence in it as a genuinely probable theory on what happened during the Flood. There would be too much ambiguity.

Moreover, there is another challenge to Hydroplate theory some creation scientists have raised that Mr Oard doesn’t focus on: it currently does not fulfil its claims according to its own assumptions. Crucially, Dr Brown portrays Hydroplate theory like this:

The hydroplate theory has one major and two minor starting assumptions. All else follows from them and the laws of physics.1

In other words, once we begin with these starting assumptions, Hydroplate theory claims to explain the Flood purely by natural cause and effect. No miracles needed.

Is this viable? Analyses of HPT by two creation scientists have highlighted problems that exist with this claim. First, geophysicist Dr John Baumgardner, the main proponent of the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model of the Flood, offered a critique of HPT on these two points in his ‘Author-to-author critique’ of HPT on pp. 520–528 of The Flood Science Review.2 Second, creation astronomer Dr Danny Faulkner offered a serious critique of the astronomical aspects of HPT in: An Analysis of Astronomical Aspects of the Hydroplate Theory, Creation Research Society Quarterly 49(3):197–210, 2013.

One of the problems that Baumgardner raised was that the elastic strain energy that can arise from Brown’s ‘flutter’ process for the granitic crust is far too low to generate radioactive elements in the Earth’s crust:

However, assuming that somehow such ‘flutter’ does occur, a severe limit on the energy available for step 2 above is the maximum amount of elastic strain energy that can arise in this 10 mile thick layer of granite rock from the ‘flutter’ as it oscillates over the 0.75 mile thick layer of water. In his treatment of this hypothesized fluttering process, Brown neglects to place any limit whatever on the amplitude of the oscillation. But there is an obvious limit, namely, the starting thickness of the water layer, that is, 0.75 miles or 1612 m [sic3]. In other words, the maximum amplitude of this up and down motion of the oscillating crustal plate relative to its unflexed state is the original thickness of the water layer, or 1612 m. As I show in Appendix A, the peak level of stored elastic energy in this flexing layer, corresponding to this maximum flexing amplitude and a wavelength of oscillation of 1000 km is only about 0.10 J/kg! Furthermore, the peak elastic stress generated by the flexing plate for this wavelength of oscillation is only 5.1 x 106 Pa or 51 bars. There is simply no way that such a low energy density and such a small amount of time-varying elastic stress could generate the extreme piezoelectric discharges Brown invokes in step 2 to fuse low-Z ions together to get elements heavier than iron, much less the super-heavy elements he mentions. The science simply is not there. Obviously, if the energy available from the ‘flutter’ mechanism is so severely limited, all the further steps in this scenario must be moot.4

A second problem raised by Faulkner points out that Brown’s supercritical water jets emerging from underneath the granitic crust at a velocity of approximately Mach 150 would most likely heat the atmosphere too much to be viable:

Thus, assuming that only one millionth of the jet energy is thermalized to the atmosphere and that heat is distributed uniformly, we find an atmospheric temperature increase of 34 C. This is in addition to other heating mechanisms, such as from volcanic activity and the latent heat of vaporization from rainfall. This is an unrealistically high temperature increase, and it is doubtful that the energy transfer was this minimal. With more realistic energy transfer, it ought to be obvious that trying to pass this much matter through the earth’s atmosphere at such speed is not possible.5

These and other critiques that exist in the creationist literature need to be addressed cogently for HPT to be considered viable. Otherwise, it requires miracles to save it, which conflicts with its starting assumptions. In spite of these critiques, there does not appear to be much in the way of substantive interaction with these arguments in order to support HPT.6 Thus, the HPT energy budget problem is still to be solved in order for it, by its own assumptions, to be considered viable.

Now, given a Bible-first approach to Flood modelling and historical science in general (see The Flood—a designed catastrophe? and Historical science and miracles), it’s not clear that we have to assume that all the physical traces we see that resulted from the Flood’s initial conditions had to have been caused purely by natural causes. Indeed, this is where other models, such as John Baumgardner’s Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model and Oard’s ‘Impacts/Vertical Tectonics’ model, differ from HPT. They also have heat issues, but neither of these models have ever been presented as a simple case of purely physical causes following on from a certain set of initial conditions. They have never been styled as ‘miracle-free’ explanations of the mechanics of the Flood. Indeed, both Baumgardner7 and Oard8 have concluded that it’s highly unlikely that any Flood model consistent with the physical traces we find can hope to be a miracle-free model.

Is this approach better? It’s not entirely clear. There is still plenty of room for both types of models to be developed further. Also, there’s still a lot we don’t know. But HPT does have work to do to answer the criticisms that have been leveled at it. Fortunately, there are a number of creationist in-depth science forums, including Journal of Creation, that would be happy to receive studies that address these issues facing HPT. These forums are provided precisely so that these debates can be had in a public and even-handed setting.

Kind regards,

Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

References and notes

  1. See Brown, W., In the Beginning, The Hydroplate Theory: Key Assumptions, creationscience.com/onlinebook/HydroplateOverview5.html, accessed 14 May 2020. Return to text.
  2. Bardwell, J. (Ed.), The Flood Science Review, injesusnameproductions.org/flood-science-review, accessed 14 May 2020. Return to text.
  3. However, Baumgardner uses 1612 m in his calculations, rather than 1207 m, which is equal to 0.75 mi. As such, his calculations were generous to Brown’s (then) starting assumptions. Brown now indicates that the subterranean reservoir was <1 mi thick. However, this is vague and still produces far too low energy density and too small amount of time-varying elastic stress to produce the piezoelectric discharges in the granitic crust he needs for his theory of the origin of radioactive elements in the Earth’s crust to work. Return to text.
  4. Author-to-author critiques: Dr. John Baumgardner; in: Bardwell, J. (Ed.), The Flood Science Review, In Jesus’ Name Productions, pp. 520–528, 2011; injesusnameproductions.org. Return to text.
  5. Faulkner, D., An analysis of astronomical aspects of the Hydroplate Theory, Creation Research Society Quarterly 49(3):197–210, 2013. Return to text.
  6. See e.g. calvarypo.org/noahs-flood-the-bible-the-science-the-controversy-by-jane-albright-p-e-part-2-the-hydroplate-theory/—Brown deals with the issue Faulkner raises by appealing to “directed energy”, but with no analysis or detailed interaction with Faulkner’s arguments. And the specific objection I quote from Baumgardner above isn’t even mentioned (nor are several others, though Brown has altered his theory in the last few years to render moot a major problem with previous iterations of HPT—i.e. by increasing his initial condition for the granitic crust from 10 km/10 mi to 60 mi, he has rendered the problem of thickening the crust from 10 km/mi to the present ~30 km moot. Return to text.
  7. Baumgardner, J.R., Numerical simulation of the large-scale tectonic changes accompanying the Flood; in: Walsh, R.E., Brooks, C.E. and Crowell, R.S. (Eds), Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism, Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, pp. 17–28, 1987; creationicc.org/1986_papers/ICC86V2-2.pdf. Return to text.
  8. Oard, M.J., An impact Flood submodel—dealing with issues, J. Creation 26(2):73–81, 2012. Return to text.

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