William Paley Institute
CATASTROPHIC PLATE TECTONICS: A GLOBAL FLOOD MODEL OF EARTH HISTORY
STEVEN A. AUSTIN, Ph.D.
Institute for Creation Research
JOHN R. BAUMGARDNER, Ph.D.
D. RUSSELL HUMPHREYS, Ph.D.
Andrew A. Snelling, Ph.D.
Creation Science Foundation
LARRY VARDIMAN, Ph.D.
Institute for Creation Research
KURT P. WISE, Ph.D.
Presented at the Third International Conference on Creationism,
Pittsburgh, PA, July 18-23, 1994.
Creation Science Fellowship, Inc.
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.
We would like to propose a catastrophic plate tectonics theory as a
framework for earth history.
Geophysically, we begin with a pre-Flood earth differentiated into
core, mantle, and crust, with the crust horizontally differentiated
into sialic craton and mafic ocean floor. The Flood was initiated as
slabs of oceanic floor broke loose and subducted along thousands of
kilometers of pre-Flood continental margins. Deformation of the
mantle by these slabs raised the temperature and lowered the
viscosity of the mantle in the vicinity of the slabs. A resulting
thermal runaway of the slabs through the mantle led to
meters-per-second mantle convection. Cool oceanic crust which
descended to the core/mantle boundary induced rapid reversals of the
earth's magnetic field. Large plumes originating near the
core/mantle boundary expressed themselves at the surface as fissure
eruptions and flood basalts. Flow induced in the mantle also
produced rapid extension along linear belts throughout the sea floor
and rapid horizontal displacement of continents. Upwelling magma
jettisoned steam into the atmosphere causing intense global rain.
Rapid emplacement of isostatically lighter mantle material raised
the level of the ocean floor, displacing ocean water onto the
continents. When virtually all the pre-Flood oceanic floor had been
replaced with new, less-dense, less-subductable, oceanic crust,
catastrophic plate motion stopped. Subsequent cooling increased the
density of the new ocean floor, producing deeper ocean basins and a
reservoir for post-Flood oceans.
Sedimentologically, we begin with a substantial reservoir of
carbonate and clastic sediment in the pre-Flood ocean. During the
Flood hot brines associated with new ocean floor added precipitites
to that sediment reservoir, and warming ocean waters and degassing
magmas added carbonates especially high magnesium carbonates. Also
during the Flood, rapid plate tectonics moved pre-Flood sediments
toward the continents. As ocean plates subducted near a continental
margin, its bending caused upwarping of sea floor, and its drag
caused downwarping of continental crust, facilitating the placement
of sediment onto the continental margin. Once there, earthquake-
induced sea waves with ocean-to-land movement redistributed sediment
toward continental interiors. Resulting sedimentary units tend to be
thick, uniform, of unknown provenance, and extend over regional,
inter-regional, and even continental areas.
After the Flood, the earth experienced a substantial period of
isostatic readjustment, where local to regional catastrophes with
intense earthquake and volcanic activity were common. Post-Flood
sedimentation continued to be rapid but was dominantly basinal on
the continents. Left-over heat in the new oceans produced a
significantly warmer climate just after the Flood. In the following
centuries, as the earth cooled, floral and faunal changes tracked
the changing climate zonation. The warmer oceans caused continental
transport of moisture that led to the advance of continental
glaciers and ultimately to the formation of polar ice caps.
Early in the history of geology, it was common to appeal to the
flood described in Scripture to explain the origin of most or all
rocks and fossils (e.g. [100,14,126,116]). In such theories Noah's
flood was typically recognized as a catastrophic event of global
proportions. The earth's crust was typically pictured as dynamic and
capable of rapid vertical and horizontal motions on local, regional,
and global scales. However, especially with the influential works of
Hutton [43,44] and then Lyell , Noah's flood began to play an
increasingly less important role in historical geology during the
nineteenth century. Theories of gradualism increased in popularity
as theories of catastrophism waned. Ideas of past catastrophic
geology were replaced with ideas of constancy of present gradual
physical processes. Ideas of global-scale dynamics were replaced
with ideas of local erosion, deposition, extrusion, and intrusion.
Ideas of rapid crustal dynamics were replaced by ideas of crustal
fixity with only imperceptibly slow vertical subsidence and uplift
being possible. So complete was the success of gradualism in geology
that ideas of flood geology were nowhere to be found among the
English-speaking scientists of the world by 1859 [65), or rarely
found at best .
One of the last holdouts for flood geology was a little-known work
published by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini  ironically enough the
same year Darwin published the Origin of Species. Intrigued by the
reasonably good fit between land masses on either side of the
Atlantic ocean, Snider proposed that the earth's crust was composed
of rigid plates which had moved horizontally with respect to one
another. 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. It also seems that a substantial amount of the twentieth
century opposition to plate tectonics was due to the fact that
geologists were, by then, firmly predisposed to believe that the
earth's crust was horizontally fixed. The catastrophism school of
geology was the first to propose plate tectonics; the gradualist
school was the first major opponent to plate tectonics. However, by
the time plate tectonics was finally accepted in the United States
in the late 1960s, gradualism had become a part of plate tectonics
theory as well. Rather than Snider's rapid horizontal motion on the
scale of weeks or months, modern geology accepted a plate tectonics
theory with horizontal motion on the scale of tens to hundreds of
millions of years.
Because of the enormous explanatory and predictive success of the
plate tectonics model (reviewed in [122,124]), 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 (i.e. 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.
It is important to note, however, that our model is still in its
formative stages, and is thus incomplete. What is presented here is
a basic framework upon which more theory can be built. We anticipate
that a substantial amount of work is still needed to explain all the
salient features of this planet's rocks and fossils. Additionally,
although the authors of this paper have all had some association
with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the model presented
in this paper is a composite perspective of the authors and not
necessarily that of the ICR.
Any flood model must begin by speculating on the nature of the
pre-Flood world. Virtually every flood event and product is in some
way or another affected by characteristics of the pre-Flood world. A
partial list of Flood events determined at least in part by
pre-Flood conditions would include: global dynamics of the crust (by
the pre-Flood structure and nature of the earth's interior);
magnetic field dynamics (by the pre-Flood nature of the magnetic
field); tectonic activity and associated earthquakes (by the
pre-Flood structure and dynamics of the crust); volcanic activity
and emplaced igneous rocks (by the pre-Flood nature of the earth's
interior); formation of clastic sediments (by the pre-Flood
sediments available for redeposition and rocks available for
erosion); formation of chemical sediments (by the pre-Flood ocean
chemistry); formation of fossils (by the nature of the pre-Flood
biota); distribution of sediments and fossils (by the pre-Flood
climate and biogeography); and the dynamics of the inundation itself
(by pre-Flood topography). The more that is determined about the
nature of the pre-Flood world, the more accurate and specific our
flood models can be. Our initial inferences about the pre-Flood
world include the following.
We agree with many previous theorists in flood geology that the
pre-Flood/Flood boundary should stratigraphically lie at least as
low as the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary (e.g. [100, 117]).
Currently there is discussion about how close [120,5] or far 
below the Cambrian rocks this boundary should be located. For our
purposes here, it is provisionally claimed that at least many of the
Archaean sediments are pre-Flood in age.
Pre-Flood Earth Structure
We believe that the pre-Flood earth was differentiated into a core,
mantle, and crust, very much as it is today. We conclude this for
two major reasons. The first is that under any known natural
conditions, core/mantle differentiation would destroy all evidence
of life on earth completely. The current earth has a
core/mantle/crust division according to the successively lower
density of its components. If this differentiation had occurred by
any natural means, the gravitational potential energy released by
the heavier elements relocating to the earth's interior would
produce enough heat to melt the earth's crust and vaporize the
earth's oceans. lf differentiation of the earth's elements did occur
with its associated natural release of energy, it is reasoned that
it most certainly occurred before the creation of organisms (at the
latest Day 3 of the creation week). Secondly, even though such a
differentiation could have been performed by God without the
natural release of gravitational potential energy, the
already-differentiated earth's interior also provides a natural
driving mechanism for the rapid tectonics model here described.
The earth's mantle appears to have been less viscous than it seems
to be at present [6,7,8]. This is to allow for the thermal runaway
instability which we believe produced the rapid plate tectonic
motion we are proposing .
With regard to the earth's crust, we believe that there was a
distinct horizontal differentiation between oceanic and continental
crust, very much as there is today. First, we believe that before
the Flood began, there was stable, sialic, cratonic crust. We have
three major reasons for this conclusion: 1) Much Archaean sialic
material exists which probably is below the pre-Flood/Flood
boundary. This would indicate that sialic material was available in
pre-Flood times; 2) The existence of low-density, low temperature
keels beneath existing cratons  implies that the cratons have
persisted more or less in their present form since their
differentiation. It also argues that little or no mantle convection
has disturbed the upper mantle beneath the cratons; and 3) If the
pre-Flood cratons were sialic and the pre-Flood ocean crust was
mafic, then buoyancy forces would provide a natural means of
supporting craton material above sea level thus producing dry land
on the continents.
Second, we believe that the pre-Flood ocean crust was mafic most
probably basaltic. Once again three reasons exist for this
inference: 1) Pre-Flood basaltic ocean crust is suggested by
ophiolites (containing pillow basalts and presumed ocean sediments)
which are thought to represent pieces of ocean floor and obducted
onto the continents early in the Flood; 2) If, as claimed above, the
pre-Flood craton was sialic, then buoyancy forces would make a mafic
pre-Flood ocean crust into a natural basin for ocean water. This
would prevent ocean water from overrunning the continents; and 3)
If, as claimed above, the continents were sialic, mafic material
would be necessary to drive the subduction required in our flood
We believe that there was a significant thickness of all types of
sediments already available on the earth by the time of the Flood.
We have three reasons for this position: 1) Biologically optimum
terrestrial and marine environments would require that at least a
small amount of sediment of each type had been created in the
creation week; 2) Archaean (probable pre-Flood) and Proterozoic
sediments contain substantial quantities of all types of sediments;
and 3) It may not be possible to derive all the Flood sediments from
igneous and/or metamorphic precursors by physical and chemical
processes in the course of a single, year-long Flood. We believe
that substantial quantities of very fine detrital carbonate sediment
existed in the pre-Flood oceans. This is deduced primarily from the
fact that not enough bicarbonate can have been dissolved in the
pre-Flood ocean (and/or provided by outgassing during the Flood
see below) to have produced the Flood carbonates.
Such quantities of carbonate as we believe to have existed in the
pre-Flood ocean would mean that there was a substantial buffer in
the pre-Flood ocean perhaps contributing to a very stable
pre-Flood ocean chemistry. The existence of large quantities of
mature or nearly mature pre-Flood quartz sands might explain the
otherwise somewhat mysterious clean, mature nature of early
There has been considerable discussion both reasonable and
fanciful about what event might have initiated the Flood.
Considerations range from a) the direct hand of God [56-62,6-7]; b)
the impact or near-miss of an astronomical objector objects such as
asteroids , meteorites , a comet [116,75], a comet or
Venus, Venus and Mars , Mars , Mars, Ceres and Jupiter
, another moon of earth , and a star ; c) some purely
terrestrial event or events, such as fracturing of the earth's crust
due to drying  or radioactive heat buildup , rapid tilting
of the earth due to gyro turbulence  or ice sheet buildup ,
and natural collapse of rings of ice [114,103]; or d) various
combinations of these ideas. We feel that the Flood was initiated as
slabs of oceanic crust broke loose and subducted along thousands of
kilometers of pre-Flood continental margins. We are, however, not
ready at this time to speculate on what event or events might have
initiated that subduction. We feel that considerable research is
still needed to evaluate potential mechanisms in the light of how
well they can produce global subduction.
At the very beginning of plate motion, subducting slabs locally
heated the mantle by deformation, lowering the viscosity of the
mantle in the vicinity of the slabs. The lowered viscosity then
allowed an increase in subduction rate, which in turn heated up the
surrounding mantle even more. We believe that this led to a thermal
runaway instability which allowed for meters-per-second subduction,
as postulated and modeled by Baumgardner [6,7]. It is probable that
this subduction occurred along thousands of kilometers of
continental margin. The bending of the ocean plate beneath the
continent would have produced an abrupt topographic low paralleling
the continental margin, similar to the ocean trenches at the
eastern, northern, and western margins of the Pacific Ocean.
Because all current ocean lithosphere seems to date from Flood or
post-Flood times , we feel that essentially all pre-Flood ocean
lithosphere was subducted in the course of the Flood. Gravitational
potential energy released by the subduction of this lithosphere is
on the order of 1028 J . This alone probably provided the energy
necessary to drive Flood dynamics.
The continents attached to ocean slabs would have been pulled toward
subduction zones. This would produce rapid horizontal displacement
of continents in many cases relative motion of meters per second.
Collisions of continents at subduction zones are the likely
mechanism for the creation of mountain fold-and-thrust-belts, such
as the Appalachians, Himalayas, Caspians, and Alps. Rapid
deformation, burial, and subsequent erosion of mountains possible in
the Flood model might provide the only adequate explanation for the
existence of high- pressure, low-temperature minerals such as
coesite (e.g. [92, 17, 113, 37, 91]) in mountain cores.
As Baumgardner [6,7] assumed in order to facilitate his modeling,
rapid subduction is likely to have initiated large- scale flow
throughout the entire mantle of the earth. Seismic tomography
studies (e.g. ; and as reviewed by ) seem to confirm that
this in fact did occur in the history of the earth. In such studies
velocity anomalies (interpreted as cooler temperature zones) lie
along theorized paths of past subduction. These anomalies are found
deep within the earth's mantle well below the phase transition
zones thought by some to be barriers to mantle- wide subduction. ln
fact, the velocity anomalies seem to imply that not only did flow
involve the entire depth of the mantle, but that ocean lithosphere
may have dropped all the way to the core/mantle boundary.
One important consequence of mantle-wide flow would have been the
transportation of cooler mantle material to the core/mantle
boundary. This would have had the effect of cooling the outer core,
which in turn led to strong core convection. This convection
provided the conditions necessary for Humphreys' [40,42] model of
rapid geomagnetic reversals in the core. As the low electrical
conductivity oceanic plates subducted, they would be expected to
have split up the lower mantle's high conductivity. This in turn
would have lessened the mantle's attenuation of core reversals and
allowed the rapid magnetic field reversals to have been expressed on
the surface. Humphreys' [40,42] model not only explains magnetic
reversal evidence (as reviewed in ) in a young-age creation time
scale, but uniquely explains the low intensity of paleomagnetic and
archaeomagnetic data, the erratic frequency of paleomagnetic
reversals through the Phanerozoic, and, most impressively, the
locally patchy distribution of sea- floor paleomagnetic anomalies
. It also predicted and uniquely explains the rapid reversals
found imprinted in lava flows of the Northwest [21, 22, 2, 15].
As ocean lithosphere subducted it would have produced rapid
extension along linear belts on the ocean floor tens of thousands of
kilometers long. At these spreading centers upwelling mantle
material would have been allowed to rise to the surface. The new,
molten mantle material would have degassed its volatiles  and
vaporized ocean water [6,7] to produce a linear geyser of
superheated gases along the whole length of spreading centers. This
geyser activity, which would have jettisoned gases well into the
atmosphere, is, we believe, what Scripture refers to as the
fountains of the great deep (Genesis 7:11; 8:2). As evidenced by
volatiles emitted by Mount Kilauea in Hawaii , the gases
released would be (in order of abundance) water, carbon dioxide,
sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen,
carbon monoxide, nitrogen, argon, and oxygen. As the gases in the
upper atmosphere drifted away from the spreading centers they would
have had the opportunity to cool by radiation into space. As it
cooled, the water both that vaporized from ocean water and that
released from magma would have condensed and fallen as an intense
global rain. It is this geyser-produced rain which we believe is
primarily responsible for the rain from the windows of heaven
(Genesis 7:11; 8:2) which remained a source of water for up to 150
days of the Flood (Genesis 7:24-8:2).
The rapid emplacement of isostatically lighter mantle material
raised the level of the ocean floor along the spreading centers.
This produced a linear chain of mountains called the mid-ocean ridge
(MOR) system. The now warmer and more buoyant ocean floor displaced
ocean water onto the continents to produce the inundation itself.
The events of the Flood would have made substantial modifications to
the thickness of the pre-Flood continental crust. This would have
been effected through the redistribution of sediments, the moving of
ductile lower continental crust by subducting lithosphere, addition
of molten material to the underside of the continental lithosphere
(underplating), stretching (e.g. due to spreading), and compression
(e.g. due to continental collision). These rapid changes in crustal
thickness would produce isostatic disequilibrium. This would
subsequently lead to large-scale isostatic adjustments with their
associated earthquakes, frictional heating, and deformation. Since
many of those tectonic events would have involved vertical rock
motions, Tyler's  tectonically-controlled rock cycle might
prove to be a useful tool in understanding late Flood and post-Flood
The magma at spreading centers degassed, among other things,
substantial quantities of argon and helium into the earth's
atmosphere. Both of these elements are produced and accumulated due
to radioactive decay. However, the current quantity of helium in the
atmosphere is less than that which would be expected by current
rates of radioactive decay production over a four to five billion
years of earth history [52, 24, 25, 104-106], so perhaps what is
currently found in the atmosphere is due to degassing of mantle
material during the Flood. The same may also be found to be true
about argon (see, e.g., ).
Several sources have been suggested for the water of the Flood. Some
creationists (e.g. [117, 26]) have proposed that the "waters above
the firmament" in the form of an upper atmosphere water canopy
provided much of the rain of the Flood. However, [84, 85, 112] argue
that if the water was held in place by forces and laws of physics
with which we are currently familiar, forty feet of water is not
possible in the canopy. Perhaps, they argue, the canopy could have
held a maximum of only a few feet of water. This is insufficient
water to contribute significantly to even forty days of rain, let
alone a mountain-covering global flood. A second source suggested by
[118, 6, 7] is condensing water from spreading center geysers. This
should provide adequate water to explain up to 150 days of open
windows of heaven. Another substantial source of water suggested
by this model is displaced ocean water (6, 7]. Rapid emplacement of
isostatically lighter mantle material at the spreading centers would
raise the ocean bottom, displacing ocean water onto the continents.
Baumgardner  estimates a rise of sea level of more than one
kilometer from this mechanism alone.
Cooling of new ocean lithosphere at the spreading centers would be
expected to heat the ocean waters throughout the Flood. This heating
seems to be confirmed by a gradual increase in oxygen 18/oxygen 16
ratios from the pre- Flood/Flood boundary through the Cretaceous
Precipitites sediments precipitated directly from supersaturated
brines would have been produced in association with horizontal
divergence of ocean floor rocks. Rode  and Sozansky  have
noted rock salt and anhydrite deposits in association with active
sea-floor tectonics and volcanism and have proposed catastrophist
models for their formation. Besides rock salt and anhydrite,
hot-rock/ocean-water interactions could also explain many bedded
chert deposits and fine-grained limestones.
Contributions to Flood carbonates probably came from at least four
sources: a) carbon dioxide produced by degassing spreading center
magmas; b) dissolved pre-Flood bicarbonate precipitated as ocean
temperatures rose during the Flood (given that carbonate dissolution
rates are inversely related to temperature); c) eroded and
redeposited pre-Flood carbonates (a dominant pre-Flood sediment);
and d) pulverized and redeposited pre-Flood shell debris.
Precipitation of carbonate may explain the origin of micrite ,
so ubiquitous in Flood sediments, but of an otherwise unknown origin
. Until pre-Flood ocean magnesium was depleted by carbonate
precipitation, high-magnesium carbonates would be expected to be
frequent products of early Flood activity (see  for interesting
data on this subject).
As Morton  points out, most Flood sediments are found on the
continents and continental margins and not on the ocean floor where
one might expect sediments to have ended up. Our model provides a
number of mechanisms for the transportation of ocean sediments onto
the continents where they are primarily found today. First,
subducting plates would transport sediments toward the subduction
zones and thus mostly towards the continents in a conveyor-belt
fashion. Second, as the ocean plates were forced to quickly bend
into the earth's interior, they would warp upward outboard of the
trench. This would raise the deep sea sediments above their typical
depth, which in turn reduces the amount of work required to move
sediments from the oceans onto the continents. Third, rapid plate
subduction would warp the continental plate margin downward. This
again would reduce the amount of energy needed to move sediments
onto the continent from the ocean floor. Fourth, as more and more of
the cold pre-Flood ocean lithosphere was replaced with hotter rock
from below, the ocean bottom is gradually elevated. This again
reduces the work required to move sediments from the oceans to the
continents. Fifth, as ocean lithosphere is subducted, ocean
sediments would be scraped off, allowing sediments to be accreted to
and/or redeposited on the continent. Sixth, wave (e.g. tsunami)
refraction on the continental shelf would tend to transport
sediments shoreward. Seventh, it is possible that some amount of
tidal resonance may have been achieved [18-20]. The resulting
east-to-west-dominated currents would tend to transport sediments
accumulated on eastern continental margins into the continental
interiors. Resulting sedimentary units have abundant evidence of
catastrophic deposition , and tend to be thick, uniform, of
unknown provenance, and extending over regional, inter-regional, and
even continental areas .
The volcanism associated with rapid tectonics would have been of
unprecedented magnitude and worldwide extent, but concentrated in
particular zones and sites. At spreading centers magma would rise to
fill in between plates separating at meters per second, producing a
violent volcanic source tens of thousands of kilometers in length
. Based upon 2-dimensional experimental simulation [38, 81] and
3-dimensional numerical simulation, subduction-induced mantle flow
would generate mantle plumes whose mushroom heads would rise to and
erupt upon the earth's surface. These plumes would be expected to
produce extensive flood basalts through fissure eruptions, such as
perhaps the plateau basalts of South Africa, the Deccan Traps of
India, the Siberian flood basalts , and the Karmutsen Basalt of
Alaska/Canada . Correlations between plume formation and flood
basalts have already been claimed (e.g. ). At the same time,
the heating and melting of subducted sediments should have produced
explosive sialic volcanism continent-ward of the subduction zone
(such as is seen in the Andes Mountains of South America, the
Cascade Mountains of the U.S., and the Aleutian, Japanese,
Indonesian, and New Zealand Islands of the Pacific).
The rapid bending of elastic lithosphere and rapid inter-plate shear
of plates at subduction zones as well as abrupt phase transitions as
subducting plates are rapidly moved downward would be expected to
produce frequent, high- intensity earthquakes at the subduction
zones. There is also earthquake activity associated with explosive
volcanism, isostatic adjustment, continental collision, etc. This
earthquake activity would facilitate thrust- and detachment-faulting
by providing a) energy to aid in breaking up initially coherent rock
blocks; b) an acceleration to aid in the thrusting of rock blocks;
and c) vibration which reduces the frictional force resisting the
motion and thrusting of rock blocks.
When virtually all the pre-Flood oceanic floor had been replaced
with new, less-dense, less-subductable rock, rapid plate motion
ceased. The lack of new, hot, mantle material terminated
spreading-center-associated geyser activity, so the global rain
ceased. This is very possibly the 150-day point in the Genesis
chronology when it appears that the fountains of the great deep
were stopped and the windows of the heaven were closed (Genesis
After the rapid horizontal motion stopped, cooling increased the
density of the new ocean floor. producing gradually deepening oceans
 eventually producing our current ocean basins. As the waters
receded (the Great Regression) from off of the land the most
superficial and least lithified continental deposits were eroded
off the continents. This would leave an unconformity on the
continent not reflected in ocean stratigraphy. The absence of these
most superficial continental deposits may explain the absence of
human as well as most mammal and angiosperm fossils in Flood
sediments . Sheet erosion from receding Flood waters would be
expected to have planed off a substantial percentage of the earth's
surface. Such planar erosion features as the Canadian shield and the
Kaibab and Coconino plateaus might well be better explained by this
than by any conventional erosional processes.
The definition of the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geologic
column is a subject of considerable dispute among creationists.
Estimates range from the Carboniferous  to the Pleistocene
[79,117]. For our purposes here we would like to define the
Flood/post-Flood boundary at the termination of global-scale erosion
and sedimentation. Based upon a qualitative assessment of geologic
maps worldwide, lithotypes change from worldwide or continental in
character in the Mesozoic to local or regional in the Tertiary.
Therefore, we tentatively place the Flood/post- Flood boundary at
approximately the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. We believe
further studies in stratigraphy, paleontology, paleomagnetism, and
geochemistry should allow for a more precise definition of this
After the global effects of the Flood ended, the earth continued to
experience several hundred years of residual catastrophism . A
cooling lithosphere is likely to have produced a pattern of
decreasing incidence  and intensity of volcanism (such as
appears to be evidenced in Cenozoic sialic volcanism in the Western
United States ). The large changes in crustal thicknesses
produced during the Flood left the earth in isostatic
disequilibrium. lsostatic readjustments with their associated
intense mountain uplift, earthquake, and volcanic activity would
have occurred for hundreds of years after the global affects of the
Flood ended (e.g. ). In fact, considering the current nature of
the mantle, there has not been sufficient time since the end of the
Flood for complete isostatic equilibrium to be attained. As a
result, current geologic activity can be seen as continued isostatic
readjustments to Flood events. Modern earthquake and volcanic
activity is in some sense relict Flood dynamics.
Because of the frequency and intensity of residual catastrophism
after the Flood, post-Flood sedimentary processes were predominantly
rapid. The local nature of such catastrophism, on the other hand,
restricted sedimentation to local areas, explaining the basinal
nature of most Cenozoic sedimentation.
By the time Flood waters had settled into the post-Flood basins,
they had accumulated enough heat to leave the oceans as much as 20
or more degrees centigrade warmer than today's oceans (Figure 1).
These warmer oceans might be expected to produce a warmer climate on
earth in the immediate post-Flood times than is experienced on earth
now . More specifically, a rather uniform warm climate would be
expected along continental margins [66-68], permitting wider
latitudinal range for temperature-limited organisms  e.g.
mammoths (e.g. ), frozen forests (e.g. ), and trees .
This avenue in turn may have facilitated post-Flood dispersion of
animals [68, 125]. Also expected along continental margins would be
a rather high climatic gradient running from the ocean toward the
continental interior [66,68]. This might explain why some Cenozoic
communities near the coasts include organisms from a wider range of
climatic zones than we would expect to see today for example,
communities in the Pleistocene [35,68] and the Gingko Petrified
Forest in Oregon .
Oard [66-68] suggested that within the first millennium following
the Flood, the oceans (and earth) would have cooled as large amounts
of water were evaporated off of the oceans and dropped over the
cooler continental interiors. Although Oard's model needs
substantial modification (e.g. to include all the Cenozoic),
quantification, and testing, we feel that it is likely to prove to
have considerable explanatory and predictive power. The predicted
cooling [66,68] seems to be confirmed by oxygen isotope ratios in
Cenozoic foraminifera of polar bottom [90,46,108] (Figure 1), polar
surface, and tropical bottom waters, and may contribute to increased
vertebrate body size (Cope's Law: ) throughout the Cenozoic.
 suggests that the higher rates of precipitation may provide a
unique explanation for a well-watered Sahara of the past [53,47,72],
rapid erosion of caves, and the creation and/or maintenance of large
interior continental lakes of the Cenozoic. Examples of the latter
include Quaternary pluvial lakes [93,68], Lakes Hopi and
Canyonlands, which may have catastrophically drained to produce
Grand Canyon [13,4,70], and the extensive lake which produced the
Eocene Green River deposits. We would expect floral and faunal
communities to have tracked the cooling of the oceans and the
corresponding cooling and drying of the continents. Such a tracking
seems to explain the trend in Cenozoic plant communities to run from
woodland to grassland and the corresponding trend in Cenozoic
herbivores to change from browsers to grazers.
According to Oard's [67,68] model, by about five centuries after the
Flood, the cooling oceans had led to the advance of continental
glaciers and the formation of polar ice caps (see also ). Oard
 suggests that rapid melting of the continental ice sheets (in
less than a century) explains the underfitness of many modern rivers
 and contributed to the megafaunal extinctions of the
Pleistocene [12,51,48]. It may also have contributed to the
production of otherwise enigmatic Pleistocene peneplains.
We believe that rapid tectonics provides a successful and indecative
framework for young-age creation modeling of earth history. We feel
that this model uniquely incorporates a wide variety of creationist
and non-creationist thinking. It explains evidence from a wide
spectrum of earth science fields including evidence not heretofore
well explained by any other earth history models.
This model, like many Flood models, predicts the following: a) a
consistent, worldwide, initiation event in the geologic column; b)
most body fossils assigned to Flood deposits were deposited
allochthonously (including coal, forests, and reefs); c) most
ichnofossils assigned to Flood deposits are grazing, moving, or
escape evidences, and not long-term living traces; and d) sediments
assigned to the Flood were deposited subaqueously without long-term
unconformities between them. Since Flood models are usually tied to
young-earth creationism, they also claim that it is possible on a
short time scale to explain a) the cooling of plutons and ocean
plate material; b) regional metamorphism (see, e.g. [95,96]); c)
canyon and cave erosion; d) sediment production and accumulation
(including speleothems and precipitites); e) organismal accumulation
and fossilization (including coal, fossil forests, and reefs); (f)
fine sedimentary lamination (including varves); and g) radiometric
This particular model also predicts a) a lower earth viscosity in
pre-Flood times; b) degassing-associated subaqueous precipitate
production during the Flood; c) (possibly) east-to-west dominated
current deposition during the Flood; d) (possibly)
degassing-produced atmosphere argon and helium levels; e) a decrease
in magnitude and frequency of geologic activity after the Flood; f)
flood basalts that correlate with mantle plume events; g) a
sedimentary unconformity at the Flood/post-Flood boundary on the
continents not reflected in ocean sediments; h) current geologic
activity is the result of relict, isostatic dynamics, not primary
earth dynamics; and i) a single ice age composed of a single ice
The Flood model presented here suggests a substantial number of
research projects for young-earth creationists. Besides the further
elaboration and quantification of the model, the predictions listed
above need to be examined. Most significantly, we still need to
solve the heat problem [119,6] and the radiometric dating problem
. As creationists we could also use the services of a geochemist
to develop a model for the origin of carbonates and precipitites
during the Flood. It is also important that we re-evaluate the
evidence for multiple ice ages (as begun by [39,67]) and multiple
ice advances (as begun by [68,69,55]).
In addition to testing claims of the model, there are a number of
other studies which could help us expand and refine the model.
Successful studies on the nature of the pre-Flood world, for
example, are likely to aid us in placing better parameters on our
model. Events and factors postulated in the initiation of the Flood
also need to be re-examined to determine which are capable of
explaining the available data and the beginning of plate subduction.
It is also important that we evaluate the role of extraterrestrial
bombardment in the history of the earth and Flood, since it was most
certainly higher during and immediately after the Flood than it is
now [118,34]. The suggestion that the earth's axial tilt has changed
(e.g. [64,89,71]) needs to be examined to determine validity and/or
impact on earth history. It is also important that we determine how
many Wilson cycles are needed to explain the data of continental
motion [50,124], and thus whether more than one phase of runaway
subduction is necessary. More than one cycle may be addressed by
partial separation and closure during one rapid tectonics event,
and/or renewed tectonic motion after cooling of ocean floor allowed
for further rapid tectonics. Finally, it will also be important to
determine more precisely the geologic position of the initiation and
termination of the Flood around the world in order to identify the
geologic data relevant to particular questions of interest.
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Understanding of the Intelligent Design of the Universe