Noah’s Flood and Plate Tectonics

This example of creationist babbling is quite ridiculous, but then — aren’t they all? At the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom, we found this: Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History.

A “Global Flood Model”? Oh, goodie! It appears to be in the form of a scientific paper, attributed to these people: Steven Austin, ICR, John Baumgardner, Los Alamos National Laboratory, D. Russell Humphreys, Sandia National Laboratories; Andrew Snelling, Answers in Genesis (USA); Larry Vardiman, ICR; Kurt Wise, Truett-McConnell.

We recognize some old-time creationists in that collection of worthies. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

In 1859 Antonio Snider proposed that rapid, horizontal divergence of crustal plates occurred during Noah’s Flood. Modern plate tectonics theory is now conflated with assumptions of uniformity of rate and ideas of continental “drift.” Catastrophic plate tectonics theories, such as Snider proposed more than a century ago, appear capable of explaining a wide variety of data — including biblical and geologic data which the slow tectonics theories are incapable of explaining.

Antonio Snider? In 1859? Hey — that’s the same year Darwin published Origin of Species. Why haven’t we heard about Snider?

We’ve long known about Alfred Wegener, who proposed a theory of continental drift in 1912. Alas, he had no supporting evidence — other than the easily observable fact that the continents seem to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. He also provided evidence of similar geological structures and fossils on opposite oceanic coastlines, which supported his hypothesis that the land masses has once been joined; but he needed a mechanism that could cause the continents to move around, and without that his idea didn’t go anywhere. Wegener was never regarded as a kook, however. Unfortunately, he died before his hypothesis was accepted in the 1950s, after the discovery of evidence like seafloor spreading and mid-ocean ridges.

But what about this Snider chap? Why doesn’t he get some credit? So we Googled around and found this at Wikipedia: Antonio Snider-Pellegrini. They say:

Antonio Snider-Pellegrini (1802-1885) was a French geographer and scientist who theorized about the possibility of continental drift, anticipating Wegener’s theories concerning Pangaea by several decades. … He proposed that all of the continents were once connected together during the Pennsylvanian Period. He based this theory on the fact that he had found plant fossils in both Europe and the United States that were identical. He found matching fossils on all of the continents.

Well, darn! That sounds pretty good. Why has this man been overlooked? Oh, wait — Wikipedia then says:

He also attributed the cause of the fragmentation of the supercontinent to the Great Flood of the Bible.

Aha! The man had good data, but he offered a supernatural explanation. Not very scientific. Although he was undoubtedly a keen observer, he thought like a creationist. Let’s get back to AIG’s article and see what they say:

Snider may have been the first to propose some of the main elements of modern plate tectonics theory. Snider also proposed that the horizontal divergence had been rapid and had occurred during Noah’s Flood. It appears, then, that the first elaboration of plate tectonics theory was presented in the context of catastrophic flood geology.

How wonderful — he was a pioneer. What else does AIG’s paper say?

Because of the enormous explanatory and predictive success of the plate tectonics model … we feel that at least some portion of plate tectonics theory should be incorporated into the creation model. It appears that taking the conventional plate tectonics model and increasing the rate of plate motion neither deprives plate tectonics theory of its explanatory and predictive success, nor does it seem to contradict any passages of Scripture. Therefore, following the example of Antonio Snider we would like to propose a model of geology which is centered about the idea of rapid, horizontal divergence of rigid crustal plates (that is, rapid plate tectonics) during Noah’s Flood. We feel that this model is not only capable of the explanatory and predictive success of conventional plate tectonics, but is also capable of clarifying a number of scriptural claims and explaining some physical data unexplained by conventional plate tectonics theory.

Good grief! They’re trying to revive the creationist’s model. The paper is very long, and it’s filled with geology-talk. If Flood geology is an interest of yours, by all means you should click over to AIG and read it.

Did we find anything else in that paper worth quoting? Not really. At the end they say:

This paper was originally published in the Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, pp. 609–612 (1994) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Creation Science Fellowship of Pittsburgh

It’s nice to know that the creationists have a place to publish their work. Have we learned anything? Yes, now we know why we never heard of AIG’s pioneering Flood geologist.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Noah’s Flood and Plate Tectonics

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    So God magically made molten rock flow like running water and separated the plates in a very short time–this is supposed to be scientific?

  2. Gabriel Hanna says: “… this is supposed to be scientific?”

    I can’t help but think that Antonio Snider himself would scoff at these AIG guys. But we’ll never know.

  3. This doesn’t seem, on the surface, much different from Walt Brown’s Hydroplate Theory. One of the critiques I recall of that was for the plates to move that distance in that short a time would create enough heat energy to boil the oceans off. Little bit of a problem for Noah and his menagerie, wouldn’t you think? I may wander over to AIG later and see if they have solved this problem.

  4. Well, their model certainly would extinguish almost all life on earth, including most marine life. Also including Noah, as carlsonjok noted.

    It would be quite a sight though…like being on a continental sized cruise ship. I picture an Indian sitting on the side of one of the new volcanoes as the continent plows westward pushing up bow waves in front of it and the volcano steams away behind him like a ship’s smokestack. Probably a bumpy ride with the constant mega-earthquakes, though.

    I wonder if creationists ever actually think about what they write? They come up with these convoluted inventions to reconcile their myths to the facts of the natural world, and wind up with “theories” that are even more unbelievable than the myth they are trying to support. They just dig that hole deeper and deeper.

  5. Creationist Baumgardner has already done the calculations and, alas, rapid movement melts the planet. Nice try.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    1: Goddidit, made it look like it didn’t happen.
    2: Goddidit, made the plates swoop around at high speed, magically took away the heat, deluged everyone with water magically produced and magically removed, protected one guy and his family magically from the effects…

    1 is way simpler and a lot more plausible, I think.

  7. In 1859 Antonio Snider proposed that rapid, horizontal divergence of crustal plates occurred during Noah’s Flood.

    Fitting together South America and Africa was sort of natural, something that many people did. Saying, “then a miracle separated Africa and South America” adds no useful information. Still, he adduced some of the evidences that indicate that plate tectonics works as AiG notes, so he deserves some credit.

    Of course it appears that while he was a catastrophist he was no YEC. I don’t have anything conclusive, just that most geologists by then at least recognized that the world had to be old, and better web sources don’t call him a young-earther.

    He also provided evidence of similar geological structures and fossils on opposite oceanic coastlines, which supported his hypothesis that the land masses has once been joined.

    He did better than that, arguing from glacial evidence that continents must have been joined, since glaciers don’t move from the sea up to the land. He explained what is otherwise a genuine paradox, which is not an inconsiderable feat.

    but he needed a mechanism that could cause the continents to move around, and without that his idea didn’t go anywhere.

    The linked Wikipedia source notes that he had mentioned the possibility of sea-floor spreading, and Arthur Holmes came up with a pretty good mechanism–in broad outlines what we accept today–in 1929. It could have been considered much more seriously in America than it was. In Europe the idea simmered along until the evidence became too strong for reasonable folk to deny.

    The catastrophist model explains nothing, of course, instead negating much of the explanatory nature of sea-floor spreading, such as the heat and sediment distributions.

  8. The problem is that the understanding of such physics (that the rapid separation would have boiled out the oceans) is beyond most people. Thus, they don’t even think about it. And they don’t have to. Their public does not know. Their aim is not scientists, their aim is ignorants who pay for whichever source of comfort they can get to keep in their ignorance and reassured that the bible is 100% reliable. If any of us told their clientele about this heat, they would look at us perplexed. I doubt they would even consider it to be true. Most probably they would think we are pulling their legs.

  9. My favorite (and I forget which creationist it’s actually attributed to, but I think it’s Woodmorappe) is the chart that shows the timeline of the flood.

    It has the continents moving from Pangea to their present position in 1 day. So each continent accelerated to 100-150 mph, moved several thousands miles and decelerated in less than 24 hours.

    And while these petatons of material are moving an insanely high speeds (considering we’re talking about continents here), the ark is floating happily above all of this.

    And people actually believe this to be true… sigh

  10. If the plates moved to their present locations in 6000 years, are they still cruising at that same speed or did God plan for them to slow down?

    If the plates did move at fast speeds to get where we are now, how is it that the maps have not changed in a few hundred years?

    If landmasses were moving so fast, wouldn’t England be a suburb of France by now?

    Silly creationists