The Flood Science Review, Part 2
From the December 2011 issue of the Creation Answers Newsletter
by Wayne Spencer
In Part 1 of this series on the Flood Science Review, I described a research project on Noah's Flood that has been sponsored by an organization called In Jesus Name Productions (IJNP). Some well known creationist authors who have promoted various models of the preflood world and of Noah's Flood submitted information on their models for the project. The goal was to evaluate the science in these author's Flood models to determine which of them, if any, were ready to be used as the basis of a high quality film on the Genesis Flood by IJNP. Part 1 (in the September 2011 issue of Creation Answers) listed the various authors and briefly described their models that were examined in the Flood Science Review.
In this article I wish to say more about the Panelists and give a summary of my own opinions about the Flood models. The ebook published by IJNP contains much much more detail on the Flood models and the thoughts and conclusions reached by the Panelists. The ebook is available from IJNP.org when you make a donation of any size to the organization. I hope that this series on the Flood Science Review will motivate some to donate to IJNP and get a copy of the ebook. Noah's Flood was the greatest catastrophe in the history of our planet and was a complex event to understand scientifically. The Biblical account gives what you might describe as a rough outline of the year-long event from the perspective of Noah. But to have a scientific model of the Flood, we have to fill in details on what happened. If this can be done, it can show that the Bible gives us a true history that is credible and it will help us understand our planet. There are many discoveries in archeology that confirm information in the Old Testament. I believe Science also confirms that Noah's Flood was a real event. The idea of a global Flood may sound like a myth to many, but if there is evidence it is not a myth, then it is very important that people deal with the God of the Bible. If the Flood account in Genesis is real history, then the God of the Bible is the true God of all mankind. Some evidence for creation basically argues for God's existence, as you consider the intelligent design of the natural world. But evidence for the global Flood of Genesis argues specifically for the truth of the Bible.
All the panelists and authors involved in the Flood Science Review have similar convictions regarding the inerrancy of the Bible, six literal days of creation in Genesis 1, that Genesis describes a historical global Flood, and that the Earth is only several thousand years old. So, while there was agreement on these fundamentals, the author's models differed in significant ways. There was some consensus on some issues. For example, some Panelists thought Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT) is currently the most scientifically defensible model. But there was also agreement that in spite of its successes, CPT leaves important questions not clearly answered. I think there was also some consensus on particular ideas from certain models not being plausible. Each Panelist brought their own expertise to the project. Following is a brief list of the Panelists, their backgrounds, and their conclusions. To read more on their conclusions from the Review, please see the ebook (from http://ijnp.org). This is only an extremely brief summary of it, which is necessarily oversimplifying.
John Reed (Geologist, Ph.D.)
Reed made this statement in his conclusion: "I remain skeptical that any of these models offers a true description of the physical events of the Flood. Aspects of some may be possible; in a few cases, even feasible, but none justify confidence as re-enactments of the past."
David Basset (Geologist, M.S.)
Although Basset had several concerns about CPT, he was generally supportive of it: "CPT is well on its way to
having the rigorous mathematical/geophysical base, the experimental/computer-modeling backing, and the seismic/GPS benefits of being a worthy candidate for further research development toward incorporation into IJNP’s THE FLOOD movie production."
Mark Horstmeyer (Engineer, Ph.D.)
Horstmeyer generally supported CPT and had some interesting comments about the general challenges of the Review project. 'Finally, I think that the most defensible position for worldwide scrutiny that have been proposed is the Baumgardner Catastrophic Plate Tectonics notion, given the different issues that still remain with it. Even many secular ideas have many problems with them. I think as Christians that we all see in part as the Apostle Paul stated, so I think that each of the Flood proposers is seeing something of worth and value. I believe that we, as a community, need to help join together and work out the similarities and differences in what each proposer is “seeing” and “not seeing.” '
Ian Juby (creation educator, 2-yr degree)
Juby recommended against basing a movie on CPT as he was skeptical of many aspects of it. He supported Walter Brown's Hydroplate theory more, though he considered there to be problems with certain aspects of it. Juby says, "Overall, I think the Hydroplate model best matches the most evidence we see and are trying to explain, though there are numerous, serious questions and problems remaining for the model."
Karl Duff (Engineer, Sc.D.)
Duff tended to support Brown's Hydroplate model (HPT) as the best but he also liked some aspects of Budd's Collapse Tectonics (CT) model. Duff even suggested some kind of hybrid model combining aspects of HPT and CT may be possible. Duff said the following in his conclusion, "I've concluded we do not have a sufficient Flood model to withstand the world's scrutiny at this time. I think Brown's HPT is reasonably close to being viable, but now needs to deal with the allegations of Baumgardner (some of whose comments I think weak or spurious.) Budd's CT is becoming more attractive to me, but I feel has not been sufficiently analyzed. There is much attractive to consider how the two models might be combined, solving some energy problems but perhaps creating others ...."
Todd Styer (engineer, B.S. + MBA)
Todd Styer indicated Catastrophic Plate Tectonics was the best Flood model to date. He also emphasized the need for creationist scientists to collaborate more on their research. "Though there are numerous problems with the CPT model that would need to be resolved before it could be deemed truly scientifically robust, it is the strongest model to date. I must also mention that the mainstream model of plate tectonics has its share of technical problems as well."
Christopher Lyndon (physicist, Ph.D.)
Christopher Lyndon supported Catastrophic Plate Tectonics as the best model but he also liked some aspects of the Hydroplate theory. "After evaluating the different models, I think that Catastrophic Plate Tectonics is the most defensible, but I also think what actually happened might be a sort of hybrid of CPT and Dr. Walt Brown’s model the Hydroplate Theory, if such a thing is possible. Unfortunately, I am unable to propose how this might be accomplished."
Rob Thompson (physicist, M.S.)
Rob Thompson indicated CPT was the best supported model of the Flood. He called it the "most successfully defended" model during the Review. "The only model which has both robust explanatory power and is scientifically defensible is the Catastrophic Plate Tectonics model. The CPT model has theoretical underpinnings along with both field evidence and computer modeling to defend its claims. While questions remain (and will always remain), this is the best candidate right now for a Flood model to present to the world in a film."
(Chemical Technology, 2 yr degree)
Ray Strom indicated none of the models were sufficiently developed and there was a need for more research. "We are at a crossroads in terms of significant scientific breakthroughs regarding Flood geology in particular, and perhaps additionally in the area of pre-Flood meteorology. What becomes clear is that no one individual or group working on particular aspects of the Flood has a sufficient explanation for what might constitute the significant events of the Flood." Strom pointed out particular strengths of CPT. He emphasized the need for creationists to work together and not alone. 'We are still at a somewhat primitive stage of model building. It is like the pioneers of aircraft construction, each having their own ideas regarding flight principles. That is the stage where we are currently situated. We can choose to collaborate, or we can choose to “lone ranger” the process. The latter will take a great deal longer to produce a workable solution. In my view, a comprehensive model will never be achieved if we work alone.'
Wayne Spencer (physicist, M.S.)
I was one of the panelists, and following are my thoughts on the author’s models.
Catastrophic Plate Tectonics
I also felt that Catastrophic Plate Tectonics is the best model of Noah's Flood we have currently. There has been much debate and discussion about CPT even outside the Flood Science Review. I respect individuals like Mike Oard and John Reed who have been critical of CPT. I think they have raised some valid questions challenging CPT but so far I generally do not see those issues as fatal to CPT. I suspect CPT will have to part company with old age Plate Tectonics on some issues. I think the biggest weakness of CPT is that there are many details left somewhat vague about the beginning of the Flood.
Dr. Baumgardner has accomplished a great deal in his computer modeling and he did a good job of defending CPT in the Review and explaining the evidence for Plate Tectonics. Catastrophic Plate Tectonics tends to follow accepted ideas of old age Plate Tectonics (often called uniformitarian Plate Tectonics in the Review), except in regard to the time scale of processes. Dr. Baumgardner's computer simulations show how plate subduction and continent motion could happen over a period of weeks during the Flood. But, these simulations do not show the entire Flood from start to finish, which was an event a little over a year long. A lot of the science of the event depends on how the Flood starts. Relating the Flood to the present geological properties of the Earth depends a lot on how the Flood finished.
Catastrophic Plate Tectonics has a proposal for the water jet on the ocean floor to cause the rains, but this proposal has no definite continent configuration to go with it at the start of the Flood. I have reservations about the water jet idea in CPT. It depends on supernatural intervention, which I do not object to. But it would have to happen in a particular way to work as Dr. Baumgardner proposes. I think CPT does have some answers related to the end of the Flood but not as much has been published on that by Dr. Baumgardner or others. It is also a drawback for CPT that only Dr. Baumgardner was involved in defending or explaining CPT in the Flood Science Review. I think that Dr. Andrew Snelling also has contributed greatly to some of the science of CPT. There are others as well who have made significant contributions to it as a model. The Panelists in the Flood Science Review may not all be aware of all the other material from the other contributors to CPT. Though six out of the ten panelists agreed that CPT was the best model we have of the Flood, they also agreed that it was not complete enough to be ready for making the basis for a film and documentary. I see CPT as having some vague aspects that need clarified and some problems but probably not fatal problems.
I want to say a few words about the no flood and local flood ideas that were studied in the Flood Science Review. This included a book by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley which advocated no Flood and articles by Carol Hill, which said the Flood was not global. These type of views always underestimate the research of young age creationists. The writings of Carol Hill show that she really does not understand how creationists think about Noah's Flood. She does not know how creationists typically relate the Genesis account to geology even in the most basic points. I do not expect atheists to believe the Flood account or know much about it. But I expect Christians to at least be familiar with the Genesis account before they make arguments that it could not mean the Flood was global as Genesis implies. There were obvious misunderstandings of the basic Flood story in Genesis that Carol Hill had and this led her astray in her thinking.
The Young and Stearley book was very interesting. It brings up a number of things in geology to challenge the young age creation viewpoint that says there was a global Flood. Davis and Stearley have at least read some of the technical papers from creationists. But they still do not seem to be aware of much creationist research. In some cases, they have obviously avoided mentioning important facts and avoided dealing with some evidence. The book criticizes the RATE research project, for instance, about accelerated radioactive decay in the past. But it does not really even try to explain the evidence dealt with in the RATE project. Young and Stearley mention some material in a well known creationist book about the Grand Canyon, but they fail to mention important examples that refute what they were saying. So my impression of Young and Stearley's book was that they presented things in a very selective way without really doing adequate study of the creationist research literature on the subject. They always seemed to leave out important creationist sources. I found it pretty easy most of the time to find creationist sources they did not mention that answered many of their issues.
There are some topics that were mentioned in the book which I have not looked into seriously, so I don't have an opinion. There are particular topics where creationist geologists have different points of view but that does not mean that there was no global Flood like the Bible says. One good example is the famous Green River formation, known for its extraordinary fossils. There has been some controversy over whether these fossils formed in the Flood or after the Flood. But the point I think is that there are ways of accounting for the evidence without rejecting or distorting the history of the world from the Bible. Both Carol Hill and Young and Stearley fail in their interpretation of Genesis and they do not deal well with creationist research on the science of the Flood either.
So the conclusion after looking at these views is that Christians should believe that Noah's Flood really happened in the Earth and it was a global judgement. If Christians do not hold to this understanding of the Flood, we open ourselves up to criticism from skeptics and unbelievers for being hypocritical about saying we believe the Bible. Jesus also believed in Noah's Flood (see Luke 17:26-27 for example), so how can Christians not accept what Genesis says?
What about the other models from the project? I will give some of my thoughts on them briefly. First, the Vapor Canopy theory (from Larry Vardiman) and the Solid Canopy concept (from Carl Baugh) are not complete Flood models. In my conclusions I refer to them both as "specialized sub-models." They have been proposed to address certain issues. They have both been heard of and accepted by a number of Christians, so some explanation is needed.
The Vapor Canopy
The Vapor Canopy used to be accepted by many creationists but after some research on it by the Institute for Creation Research, support for it dropped off. It was proposed to be a transparent layer of water vapor high in Earth's atmosphere. It was proposed 1) to explain where the water for the Flood rains came from for the 40 days of rain and 2) to explain how the preflood Earth could have an idillic global climate. Most creationists in the sciences now agree that a vapor canopy could not explain how there could be 40 days and nights of rain. The greenhouse heating effect from a thick vapor canopy makes it impractical. On the other hand, a thinner vapor canopy, if it could be shown to be stable in the atmosphere, might help explain the preflood climate. But a vapor canopy is not a necessity. Fossils give us some clues about the preflood world. It was a nicer world, without many of the dangerous weather phenomena and natural disasters we experience today. The Panelists in the Flood Science Review seemed to mostly reject the Vapor Canopy theory, though I do not consider it completely ruled out.
The Solid Canopy
Carl Baugh from Glen Rose, Texas, who is known for his excavations of dinosaur and possible human footprints along the Paluxy River, believes Genesis 1 teaches there was a solid canopy in the preflood Earth. This canopy collapsed at the beginning of the Flood. Baugh seems to sincerely believe this is how Genesis 1 should be interpreted, unlike most other creationists. So he starts with this concept and looks for special materials that might provide a physical scientific explanation of how a solid canopy could be possible in Earth's atmosphere. It was a common concept in ancient times that some people groups believed that the stars existed in a solid dome and space has often been described this way. It may be possible that even the ancient Hebrews believed this at least some of the time, because they may have heard it from the peoples around them.
But, I do not accept that this is something Genesis 1 clearly teaches. Genesis 1 gives very little information about the sky and does not say what the sky is made of. Nor does it really even make the distinction between outer space and Earth's atmosphere since the Hebrew word for "heavens," "shamayim" can refer to either one. It does conceive of where the birds are as different from where the stars are, but there is no explanation of what the atmosphere is or what outer space is. So I do not accept the Solid canopy biblically, and some of the Panelists in the Review would agree with this. But the Review project focused on the science, not primarily biblical interpretation.
I spent significant time looking into Carl Baugh's ideas proposing various possible exotic solid materials that could make up a solid canopy. Looking into these materials was interesting to me. I looked up some of Baugh's sources, and looked up other relevant sources about the physics of the materials he mentions. I found that none of the materials he proposes are likely candidates because they would all be unstable in Earth's atmosphere. Baugh seems to think that a solid canopy could be held up by superconducting magnetic levitation. Superconductors can levitate in a magnetic field, but this would not work in Earth's atmosphere. In fact, none of the materials Baugh proposes have been shown to be superconductors. If someone feels strongly that Genesis 1 teaches Earth had a solid canopy, I would say they just have to believe God did a miracle to make it possible. I can see no support for the idea from solid state physics.
As a side note, I also looked into Baugh's proposal that the preflood Earth atmosphere had a light magenta or pinkish hue to it in its appearance, unlike the bluish appearance of it today. I think Baugh's understanding of this is incorrect and he actually has no basis for it at all. His attempts at answering me on this showed he did not understand the relevant physics involved. I have no doubt of Baugh's commitment to Scripture or his sincerity as a Christian, but his scientific explanations of the physics related to his ideas are very inadequate. I would not say that all of his ideas are wrong. The ebook from the Review has a lot of discussion of Baugh's ideas from the Panelists that is very worth reading.
The Hydroplate Theory
Walter Brown has published a number of revisions of his book "In the Beginning" and many Christians have familiarity with it. Brown's idea of a layer of water under Earth's crust which violently breaks open in the Flood is an interesting idea. It does seem to naturally relate to Genesis about the "fountains of the great deep" as the King James Bible describes the start of the Flood. In fact, something similar to this has been proposed to exist by planetary scientists in certain moons in the solar system, such as Europa at Jupiter for instance. Brown has a somewhat unique view of Genesis 1 related to his hydroplate that I find questionable but the Flood Science Review gave a great deal of attention to considering Brown's Hydroplate model. The Review Panelists also were apparently some of the first to see a new chapter that Brown will add to his book, which presents his proposal for enhanced radioactive decay.
Brown rejects Plate Tectonics and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, so there was much discussion comparing the Hydroplate (HPT) theory and CPT. On the geology of HPT, I do not find Brown's ideas on a hydroplate under Earth's crust to be supported by evidence about the Earth. Brown proposes that the continents moved during the Flood, but by a sliding process rather than by plates subducting and sinking as in Plate Tectonics.
Brown's hydroplate breaks open at the start of the Flood and large amounts of water, as well as some rock, get ejected up into the atmosphere and even out into space. Brown then proposes that the water and other material that ejected into space pulls together into solid objects that makes the asteroids and comets and other small bodies in our solar system. Brown argues that some water which ejected into space came back down to Earth. This water would come back down as extremely cold ice that buried Siberian mammoths. I also disagree with Brown on the Siberian mammoths. There is logical reason to believe these mammoths must have lived and died after the Flood, related to the post-Flood ice age. (Note: Mike Oard has done the best research on this issue.)
I think that Brown's concept of the water in the hydroplate erupting to cause the rains of the Flood would be plausible, if his hydroplate were supported by geophysical data about the Earth. But I do not believe he has put forward good geophysical evidence that Earth once had a hydroplate. I think his attempt to explain all asteroids and comets in our solar system as coming from the material that erupted out of the hydroplate is very unrealistic. I do not believe there would be enough energy or force for various processes he proposes. I also do not believe material ejected into space would behave as he thinks it would. I addressed his ideas on comets and asteroids a lot in my questions to him in the Review. Other panelists also had difficulty accepting his ideas about asteroids and comets. Some panelists liked some aspects of Brown's Hydroplate model. Again, I would not disagree with everything in Brown's book. One observation about it is that it does cover the Flood "from start to finish" more than CPT for example. But I think it has many scientific problems and does not deal with geological evidence well.
This is an interesting model of the Flood from geologist Philip Budd. Please see my Part 1 article on the Flood Science Review for explanation of this model. Budd suggests Earth was created without large oceans but with large bodies of water within an essentially global land surface. He envisions the Earth's crust as solid in the beginning but the mantle of the Earth was created in what I would describe as a semi-differentiated state. This means that there were pockets of low density minerals within more dense materials and these low density materials would eventually separate and move upward. Mineral changes under Earth's crust took place between creation and the Flood until the Earth's surface became unstable when the Flood started. Water trapped in the mantle came out and ejected up through fractures in the crust at the beginning of the Flood. Also, the changes in the mantle lead to a reduction of volume of minerals that caused the surface of the Earth to collapse. Thus, with water moving up out of the mantle and ejecting from the surface, Earth was flooded.
In Collapse Tectonics, the hot magma materials in the mantle melted and destroyed everything from the surface of the preflood world. Therefore, there would be no fossils left today from the Flood. Budd believes the fossils we find today formed after the Flood. Continents were uplifted late in the Flood year after magma lifted up certain blocks or plates that became the continents.
Philip Budd attempts to explain the Flood with no appeal to the supernatural. Everything proceeds by natural forces from how the Earth was first created. This tries to avoid the problems of not adequately applying science to the problems. In some ways I can applaud this, but it is debatable whether this approach is adequate or even appropriate for dealing with an event like the Flood. In the Flood, I would say God intervened into history to judge mankind. So I think we should not understand things in a way that makes the Flood "inevitable" from creation. It must have depended on mankinds actions. Most of the other authors see Earth as created good and stable but God somehow intervenes to cause the Flood to happen after mankind became sinful. In Budd's model, I think there is a problem theologically because Earth seems to be basically "created to fail," rather than being created to be a good stable home for mankind. I also have doubts that Adam and Eve would be safe on the Earth's surface. I believe there would be many earthquakes and probably some volcanic eruptions in the preflood world in this model.
Collapse Tectonics proposes novel concepts about the minerals in Earth's mantle at creation. A number of panelists commented to the effect that there was no known evidence that Earth had been like Budd's model described it. So I think Budd's model fails in being backed up by evidence about the Earth and its interior. Also, Budd's model differs drastically with much creationist research about explaining fossils. There is much evidence from fossils, as well as from the formation of sedimentary rocks, and various land forms that demand flooding on a large catastrophic scale to explain. Budd seems to try to explain fossils in a manner somewhat similar to evolutionary geologists, he proposes his own idea for fossils forming after the Flood related to the effects of water being trapped on the uplifted continents. Budd's explanation of the formation of fossils and sedimentary rock ends up being local events, which I think are inadequate to explain the evidence. I think Collapse Tectonics does not do justice to the evidence of many kinds that point to large scale catastrophic flooding of the Earth as in a global Flood.
Impacts and Vertical Tectonics
Michael Oard is proposing a new model of the Flood in which Earth is hit by approximately 36,000 impacts during the Flood and these impacts set off great Earth movements during the Flood. Earth would have flooded partly as a result of impacts tending to level the topography and also due to rains caused by ocean impacts putting large quantities of water vapor into the atmosphere. Some of the panelists questioned how the Earth would be covered with water by this model. I have argued for impacts during the Flood and I wrote about the possibility of impacts into the ocean ejecting large amounts of water into the atmosphere. Yet, I have not attempted to make this the basis of a Flood model. I do not see how impacts can be a complete driving mechanism for the geology and tectonics of the Flood, though I believe they must be an important part of what happened.
There are some aspects of Oard's model that need clarified and are yet incomplete. It will be most interesting to see how he developes his ideas. He rejects Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. I believe there is clear evidence of impacts from space during and after the Flood. Remnants of impact craters are found in all types of rock and in many rock layers that most creationist scientists say formed during the Flood. I think the number of impacts is uncertain. Mike Oard has also done some valuable geological research about the end of the Flood and the post-flood period that I agree with. He has proposed some good ideas on what happened from the Flood waters running off the continent that seem reasonable to me. Oard proposes there was uplifting of parts of the continents late in the Flood, causing rapid Flood water runoff into the ocean basins. There is geological evidence for this. However exactly how this happened is not clear in his model. Oard's model needs to be developed more on how the continents, ocean basins, and mountains formed, as well as what drove volcanism, just to name a few issues. Noah's Flood changed the entire surface of the planet and this model needs to clarify how that happened. I consider Impacts and Vertical Tectonics the second best model in the Review. But it does not seem ready to be presented in a film.
I think there were some consensus ideas from the Flood Science Review. By consensus I mean that there were several panelists or authors that agreed on certain basic concepts, even if they differed on some details or timing of those events. Consensus to me also means that there was some agreement that the best science points to certain processes being a part of the Flood. One point to note as an aside is that the Flood Science Review did not deal much with issues about the design of the Ark or with care of animals in the Ark. Those questions have been dealt with elsewhere by creationists. Not all the authors or panelists would agree with all these points but I think there was significant agreement on these basics, considering all who were involved in the project:
1) Most fossils and rocks formed in Noah's Flood, not after the Flood (Note that Philip Budd and Walter Brown disagreed with this point.)
2) There were large scale Earth movements, either vertical or horizontal or both, taking place during the Flood
3) The 40 days and nights of rain mentioned in the Bible is possible by several possible mechanisms without
reference to a vapor canopy
4) There was large scale erosion in the Flood which determined aspects of how the continents look today
5) The Flood included changes in Earth's magnetic field (though there were different views of the details)
6) Mountain formation on the continents was a consequence of the Flood, though by various proposed
7) God intervened supernaturally in the Flood in some manner
The Bible, in Genesis 6-9, describes God intervening in history to judge mankind with a global Flood. The Flood Science Review was an important project to evaluate the science of various creationist ideas on how the Flood may have happened. I believe there has been progress in understanding some effects of the Flood in the Earth, but creationists definitely have not come to agreement on many details. There are multiple working models creationists have developed and are still working on to understand what the Flood did to the Earth. Though we may not figure out everything, we can see evidence of a global Flood in the Earth we live on. The scientific evidence does not show that the Genesis account is impossible. Rather it implies that a global Flood catastrophe really happened. If the Genesis Flood really happened, the God of the Bible is the God of all mankind. Therefore the God of Noah, who also sent his Son into the world, is who we should seek answers from.
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