Evolutionary scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and several universities in the United States, Italy, and Japan have recently claimed the Earth’s axis tilted about 12 degrees in the Late Cretaceous.1 Geological research at ICR shows that the rocks identified as Cretaceous were deposited about the high water point of the Flood, on Day 150.2 While it is possible the Earth tilted significantly during the Flood year, the evidence for such an event remains extremely ambiguous.
Ever since scientists first started collecting paleomagnetic data that indicated the magnetic poles may have wandered, there has been debate whether or not the poles really moved, or just the rocks themselves moved. The rocks can move because of tectonic plate motion. In addition, the magnetic field of the Earth can also change, further complicating matters and making a unique solution more difficult. There is strong evidence that the magnetic field reversed many times during the Flood year.
Let’s step back a little first. What is paleomagnetic data? It is the remnant magnetic signal preserved in the rocks that tells scientists about the past magnetic field orientation of the Earth. It becomes locked in the rocks at the time of their formation—like a ship stuck in ice. Many rocks contain magnetite, a highly magnetic mineral. When lavas cool and/or sediments are deposited, tiny magnetite minerals can line up with the orientation of the magnetic field of the Earth like little compasses. If the magnetic field changes direction, the minerals will form or be deposited at a new orientation that reflects that change. Essentially, the rocks are able to record the Earth’s past magnetic directions like a magnetic tape recorder.
This latest study, published in Nature Communications, argues changes in the Earth’s tilt is the sole cause of the shift in magnetic orientation in the limestone rocks in Italy.1 This particular limestone has a magnetic signal due to bacterially formed magnetite, resulting in measurable magnetization directions.1
Co-author Sarah Slotznick, a geobiologist at Dartmouth College explains, “These Italian sedimentary rocks turn out to be special and very reliable because the magnetic minerals are actually fossils of bacteria that formed chains of the mineral magnetite.”3
But can we sort out the cause of the changes in magnetic orientation? And are they only caused by a change in the Earth’s tilt? It is highly unlikely we can know for certain. A change in the tilt of the Earth is only one solution. A shift in Earth’s internal magnetic field can give the same global result without tilting outer rocks of the Earth at all. Measuring the paleomagnetic signal in rocks gives us an answer, but it doesn’t tell us the path taken to arrive at that answer.
We encountered this same issue in a paper we published on Pangaea vs. Rodinia.4 We couldn’t determine if the Earth’s surface physically rotated 110 degrees (the tilt) early in the Flood, or if the internal magnetic field of the Earth simply shifted by 110 degrees. Either result gives the same signal in the rocks. Rocks do not record the root cause. In our paper, we concluded it was most likely that the magnetic field shifted direction, not the tilt of the Earth.3 However, we had other independent data (plant fossils that do not grow at high latitudes) to support our conclusion.3
The authors of the present study offered no other kind of data (like fossils) to support their conclusion that the Earth tilted 12 degrees. Paleomagnetic data is too ambiguous without some other type of independent check. Did the Earth tilt during the catastrophic upheaval of the global Flood? Do these rocks in Italy show a tilt occurred? Maybe. Only God knows what actually happened. But we have the Words of Jesus recoded in our Bible. We can be sure there was a global Flood just 4400 years ago that completely changed the surface of our planet, leaving a discernable record in the rocks.2
1. Mitchell, R. N., et al. 2021. A Late Cretaceous true polar wander oscillation. Nature Communications. 12:3629.
2. Clarey, T. 2020. Carved in Stone: Geological Evidence of the Worldwide Flood. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
3. Tokyo Institute of Technology. 2021. Did the Earth tip on its side 84 million years ago? PhysOrg. Posted on phys.org October 18, 2021, accessed October 18, 2021.
4. Clarey, T. L., and D. J. Werner. 2020. The pre-Flood world resembled Pangaea. Journal of Creation. 34 (2): 16-19.
*Dr. Clarey is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in geology from Western Michigan University.
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