Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: The Physics Behind the Genesis Flood

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Presented at the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 4–9, 2003. Published in: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. L. Ivey Jr. (Ed.), pp. 113–126, 2003.

© 2003 Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Published with permission. All Rights Reserved.


The wealth of new data, mostly from the ocean bottom, that precipitated the acceptance of plate tectonics during the 1960s simultaneously also opened the door for the first time in more than 200 years to a technically credible defense of the Genesis Flood. From the mid-1700s through the days of Hutton, Lyell, and Darwin to the 1960s, it overwhelmed the human mind to imagine a mechanism that could possibly deliver, in a single brief event, the magnitude and complexity of geological change evident in the continental rock record above the point where fossils first appear. However, with the new awareness that the earth’s interior could participate in the process and that the stiff layer of rock some 50 miles thick beneath the oceans could be recycled into the earth, the stage was set for a breakthrough in regard to the mechanism for the Flood cataclysm. The crucial final piece of the puzzle has come from laboratory experiments that have carefully measured the way in which silicate minerals deform under conditions of high temperature and high stress. These experiments reveal silicate material can weaken dramatically, by factors of a billion or more, at mantle temperatures and for stress conditions that can exist in the mantles of planets the size of the earth. The scenario in which all the earth’s ocean lithosphere is rapidly recycled into the mantle via a runaway process, enabled by this stress-weakening behavior, is now known as catastrophic plate tectonics (Austin, 1994). Evidence in the geological record is compelling that such a cataclysmic episode indeed has occurred in the earth’s recent past. A reasonable inference is that this event corresponds to the Flood described in the Bible and other ancient sources. I report new computational results from 2-D and 3-D simulations of this catastrophic plate tectonics process. In particular, I describe how fundamental advances in computational techniques now make it possible to advance the numerical solution successfully through the most extreme phase of the runaway regime.


Genesis Flood, Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, Runaway Subduction, Mantle Rheology, Stress-Weakening

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