Origin of Tectonic Plates Best Explained by the Flood

A new study published in Nature Communications claims to have figured out how the tectonic plates may have originated.1 It’s been over 50 years since the theory of plate tectonics became an accepted idea in the scientific community. But, secular scientists are still struggling to explain both the origin of the continental crust and the tectonic plates.2

Earth is unique in our solar system because it is the only planet with tectonic plates. As far as we know, it may be the only planet in the universe to possess these features. This creates another conundrum that secular scientists also cannot explain: why is Earth so unusual?

Chunan Tang, from the State Key Laboratory of Coastal and Offshore Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, China, and a group of multinational geoscientists, admitted:

Fifty years after the foundational works establishing the geometries, kinematics, and mechanics of plate tectonics, we still lack a consensus understanding of how the plate tectonic system initiated.1

Tang and his coauthors created a 3-D spherical model that shows the development of massive rifts in the crust due to thermal expansion. They believe these rifts originated about a billion years after Earth formed through the heating of the lithosphere (the tectonic plate) by the hotter mantle below. In their model, this thermal expansion caused rifting into separate plates.1

Space.com reported study coauthor Alexander Webb as saying that the answer "lies in consideration of major heat-loss mechanisms that could have occurred during Earth's early periods. If volcanic advection, carrying hot material from depth to the surface [similar to a lava lamp], was the major mode of early heat-loss, that changes everything."3 The authors concluded that multi-plate tectonics—and all of the conditions leading up to them—can be sufficiently explained by the warming of the early lithosphere.1

But did they really solve the origin of the tectonic plates? Their model merely showed that cracks could develop under the conditions that they established. It is highly unlikely this was the way Earth’s plates originated. If so, why didn’t similar-sized planets, like Venus and Mars, develop massive rifts—and eventually plates—as well?

And their model also fails to explain how the subduction process—when one tectonic plate is pulled under another—began and even how plate motion was initiated. Tang and his colleagues wrote:

The initiation of a global network of rifts, as modeled here, is distinct from plate tectonics because plate tectonics includes creation of new lithosphere at rifts and destruction of old lithosphere at subduction zones. Absent an expanding Earth hypothesis, a global rift network is unsustainable: Earth’s surface cannot extend without balancing contraction [subduction].1

It all comes down to worldview. Most of the secular community denies the account of the global Flood as described in Genesis. They have had to create a narrative—a fictional story—to try and explain the tectonic plates we observe today.

In contrast, God has told us that the Flood began with the bursting of the fountains of the great deep in Genesis 7:11. It seems most likely that this initiated the plates on Earth. Movement of these newly formed plates destroyed the original ocean crust through subduction and created an entirely new seafloor. This new, hot and lower-density ocean crust pushed the water of the ocean higher and higher until the entire earth was covered with water.4 Today, we merely see the residual effects of this rapid and catastrophic activity.

The Bible is historically accurate. It also gives us insight into the origin of the tectonic plates. No computer model can compete with the truth of God’s Word.

Stage image: Image from Earth plate tectonics origin model.
Stage image credit: The University of Hong Kong. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

1. C.A. Tang et al., “Breaking Earth’s shell into a global plate network,” Nature Communications 11 (2020): 3621.
2. Clarey, T. Plate Tectonics After Fifty Years. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org March 1, 2018, accessed July 31, 2020.
3. Gohd, C. How did Earth crack? New study may explain origins of plate tectonics on our planet. Posted on Space.com July 22, 2020, accessed July 31, 2020.
4. Clarey, T. 2020. Carved in Stone: Geological Evidence of the Worldwide Flood. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research: 172-193.

*Dr. Clarey is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in geology from Western Michigan University.

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