Chilean Earthquake Highlights Darwin Error
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
On February 27, Chile experienced an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the fifth-largest recorded quake since seismographs were implemented. Charles Darwin experienced a similar quake in the same area on February 20, 1835. The conclusions he drew then provide an interesting contrast to what is now known about earth’s geologic activity.
The epicenter of Chile’s devastating February 27th earthquake was 62 miles north of the city of Concepcion and was the second strongest in Chile’s recent history.1 The largest recorded temblor was an estimated magnitude 9.5 in 1960 that occurred 143 miles north of the recent quake, although geologic faults around the world indicate that some past earthquakes absolutely dwarfed these modern ones.
The magnitude 8.5 earthquake Charles Darwin experienced while aboard the HMS Beagle struck Concepcion and devastated the inhabitants. At the time, he was making careful notes at each stop on his long voyage. He noticed that a nearby island was uplifted as a result of the quake and was able to measure the distance from sea level to the top of the old water line.
Darwin interpreted this as confirmation of a long-age view of mountain-building that has since been shown to be false. Historian Sandra Herbert wrote in her 2005 book Charles Darwin, Geologist, “In Darwin’s view, a mountain chain, with its axis of plutonic rock, is the effect of ‘an almost infinite series of small movements.’”2 And those movements were earthquakes.
But whereas Darwin thought of vertical pressure pushing up mountains from below, today it is known that the island was uplifted in 1835 by horizontal pressure from offshore. Earthquakes are not known to lift continents or mountains. The recent quake moved Concepcion ten feet westward, with surrounding areas traveling shorter distances in the same direction.3 This tendency flattens South America instead of raising it.
Today, mainstream geologists do not follow Darwin’s concept of mountain building. They recognize that the formation of mountains, like the Andes range in South America, was probably related to pressures from crustal plate movements. But if plates currently push mountains upward, they seem to do so more slowly than erosion and gravity can bring them downward. Thus, the existence of today’s high mountains, which appear to have been elevated in a recent powerful pulse, is a mystery for those trying to reconcile tall, steep, young-looking mountains with vast ages of geologic time.4 This is one reason why some creation geologists have added the concept of very rapid plate movement to the standard plate tectonic model.5
Mountain-building was not the only geological concept that Darwin got wrong. He misinterpreted a giant boulder dike in the midst of Argentina’s Santa Cruz River valley as having been deposited by slow river and marine erosion, when in fact those boulders and cobbles must have been transported and rounded on a journey from five miles upstream during a catastrophic glacial dam breach.6,7
Geologists are currently studying the causes and effects of the recent quake.8 But enough is known about the event and the geology of the area to conclude that Chilean landforms were shaped by catastrophic processes, as would be expected from the creation/Flood model.
- Amos, J. Chile’s long experience of quakes. BBC News. Posted on news.bbc.co.uk February 27, 2010, accessed March 12, 2010.
- Herbert, S. 2005. Charles Darwin, Geologist. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 228.
- Researchers Show How Far South American Cities Moved in Quake. Ohio State University press release, March 8, 2010.
- Baumgardner, J. 2005. Recent Uplift of Today’s Mountains. Acts & Facts. 34 (3).
- Austin, S. et al. 1994. Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History. In Walsh, R. E., ed. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism. Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 609-621.
- Where Darwin Went Wrong. Video. Cinco Talentos Midia. Posted on youtube.com February 11, 2009, accessed March 12, 2010. See also Austin, S. A. 2009. Darwin's First Wrong Turn. Acts & Facts. 38 (2): 26.
- If Darwin was wrong about geology, could he have been wrong about biology? Evolutionists Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-palmarini have presented serious flaws in Darwin’s thinking about natural selection. They wrote, “The theory that evolution proceeds by a process of natural selection cannot be true [if that theory is] meant to articulate principles according to which the distribution of phenotypic traits in a population changes over time.” (Fodor, J. and M. Piattelli-palmarini. 2010. What Darwin Got Wrong. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 95.
- OSU prof heads to Chile for quake info. Gazette Times. Posted on gazettetimes.com March 12, 2010, accessed March 12, 2010.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on March 22, 2010.