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If you look at a globe of the Earth, it appears that the continents could be pushed together into one land mass, much like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This got folks thinking that perhaps the continents were together at one point in Earth's history. After core samples were taken and compared across continents, they learned that the data across the oceans matched.
There were then two questions: What caused the one large continent (now called Pangaea) to break apart in the first place? Also, how fast did the continents move apart from one another?
In 1859, Antonio Snider proposed that the continental plates moved apart very rapidly during Noah's flood. Because of uniformitarian thinking (rates observed today were the same throughout Earth's history) – introduced by Hutton and Lyell in the late 1700s and early 1800s – modern geologists have adopted a model that states that continental plates moved very slowly over hundreds of thousands of years ... but they give no suggestions as to how it all started.
Answers were forthcoming, however, from creation scientists Austin, Baumgardner, Humphreys, Snelling, Vardiman and Wise in a paper they wrote in 2010 titled "Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History". In this paper, the authors describe in more detail the conditions that set plate tectonics into motion and how the plates could have moved very quickly, based on super faults that likely occurred as a result of the events set off by the global flood described in Scripture.
Before the flood, it appears that the ocean floor was much denser than it is today. Once events were set into motion, this caused very rapid subduction (sinking) of the ocean floor at the coastal margins of the continents. The rapid subduction generated a lot of heat, which caused molten rock to act like a lubricant between the subducting ocean floor and the continental edges. This allowed the continental pieces to move apart very quickly, perhaps within weeks and certainly within a year.
New ocean floor was created out of the magma that came from the mantle. This new ocean floor was lighter than the original floor, so once the original ocean floor was completely replaced, continental plate movement stopped. It is important to note that the pre-flood land mass was probably relatively flat (referred to as high hills in Genesis 7:19). Post flood, the ocean floor sank and mountain ranges rose due to the crust being lighter than the ocean floor. This process had to have happened quickly because water drained from the land relatively quickly post flood (150 days), as described in Genesis 7:24, and the Ark rested after five months (Genesis 7:11, 8:4). So by five months from the start of the flood, land appeared and mountains were rising. This rapid recession of water created large canyons like the Grand Canyon.
It is still unknown what caused the flood to begin with. Some have postulated that a large meteorite hit the Earth. But energy calculations by Baumgardner dispelled this hypothesis. Any meteorite large enough to have caused the flood would have vaporized all of the water on Earth. A recent proposal by Baumgardner showed that a close encounter by an object at least the size of the moon could cause tidal disruptions large enough to generate all of the sedimentary deposits we see today around the globe, including the breakup of Pangaea.
Of course, it could have also been a completely supernatural event, with God setting the flood event in motion through direct intervention. Whatever the cause, it had to be massive to set the events in motion that resulted in the geological effects we clearly see today.
This blog entry was written by Dr. Donald Clark, vice-chairman of the board of Creation Moments.