The Journey of a Skeptic, Step 9, What Was the Driving Mechanism for the Flood?

In this post we will examine the driving mechanism for the Flood. In answering this question, helpful resources include:

  1. “Global Tectonics and the Flood” by Dr. Baumgardner:  It this video, Dr. Baumgardner describes and models conditions under which the geologic plates of the earth’s crust could move a high velocity. 
  2. Wikipedia: Wikipedia provides good definitions a basic information on the history of plate tectonic theory from a secular perspective. 

Historical Background

Until around 1950, the scientific consensus was that the driving mechanism for 10 nearly global floods to be rainfall, erosion, and isostasy.  The following was excerpted (with cross references and hyperlinks removed) from Wikipedia on 1/2/21:

“Isostasy (Greek ísos “equal”, stásis “standstill”) or isostatic equilibrium is the state of gravitational equilibrium between Earth’s crust (or lithosphere) and mantle such that the crust “floats” at an elevation that depends on its thickness and density…

In the simplest example, isostasy is the principle of buoyancy in which an object immersed in a fluid is buoyed with a force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. On a geological scale, isostasy can be observed if Earth’s strong crust or lithosphere exerts stress on the weaker mantle or asthenosphere, which over geological time flows laterally such that the load is accommodated by height adjustments…

The general term ‘isostasy’ was coined in 1882 by the American geologist Clarence Dutton.”

In the isostacy based model of the earth, rain, and erosion are the driving mechanism for changing continental geology.  Eroding continents filled ocean basins with sediment and the basins became new continents.

The Scientific Consensus Changes from Isostasy to Plate Tectonics

Geologist have long recognized the possibility of the coast lines of Africa and South America being linked.  And the concept of “floating continents” and “continental drift” began to be discussed.  The following was excerpted (with cross references and hyperlinks removed) from Wikipedia on 1/2/21:

“Continental drift is the hypothesis that the Earth’s continents have moved over geologic time relative to each other, thus appearing to have “drifted” across the ocean bed…  The concept was independently and more fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912, but his hypothesis was rejected by many for lack of any motive mechanism. Arthur Holmes later proposed mantle convection for that mechanism. The idea of continental drift has since been subsumed by the theory of plate tectonics, which explains that the continents move by riding on plates of the Earth’s lithosphere.”

By the late 1960’s, plate tectonic theory had replaced Isostasy within the scientific consensus.  Dr. John Baumgardner is a recognized expert in plate tectonics and is the subject of a Wikipedia article quoted below: (portions downloaded on 1/31/21, hyperlinks and cross references have been removed)

“Baumgardner earned a B.S. from Texas Tech University in 1968, a M.S. from Princeton University in 1970, and a Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1983. He worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and in 2002 joined the staff of the Institute for Creation Research. As a professional scientist, Baumgardner is known for developing TERRA, a finite element code designed to solve problems in mantle convection. In 1994 he presented research at a geophysics conference stating that the slip-sliding geologic plates that cover the Earth might once have moved thousands of times faster than they do today. In 1997, US News and World Report described him as “the world’s pre-eminent expert in the design of computer models for geophysical convection”. 

Baumgardner is a Christian who sometimes pursues creationist research. He has, for example, created a computer simulation called Terra to model the Noachian flood.”

Dr. Baumgardner developed, the TERRA model of the earth’s 2000-mile-thick mantle.  The TERRA model consists of 32 radial layers and over 1.3 million individual cells and is used to model conventional plate tectonics. Under conventional conditions, the mantle rocks exist at a moderate temperature and the rate of movement in the earth’s crust is slow. 

Catastrophic Plate Tectonics

Dr. Baumgardner also developed a modified version of the TERRA model which considered behavior of mantel rock at high temperature.  The strength of silicate rocks decreases by a large amount (10^9) at high temperature. When the high temperature properties of silicate rocks are entered into the modified model, rapid movement of the earth’s crust is possible.   

Dr. Baumgardner is featured in the Answers in Genesis produced DVD “Global Tectonics and the Flood.” It this video, Dr. Baumgardner describes and models conditions under which the geologic plates of the earth’s crust could move a high velocity.  This video is well worth watching; in the video Dr. Baumgardner makes some significant observations including:  

  • The Mid-Ocean Ridge and sea floor spreading from the ridge were discovered in the 1940’s.  The Mid-Ocean Ridge system is a 40,000-mile system that extends like a seam of a baseball through the earth’s ocean basins.  The is best known part of the system is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which extends between Africa and the America’s.   The discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge led to a paradigm shift of from isostasy to plate tectonics in the 1960’s.
  • The age of the sea floor sedimentary rocks is younger than continental sedimentary rocks. This is based on fossils, magnetic reversal patters, and radio isotope comparisons.  From these observations, it may be concluded that the formation on the sea floor spreading began during the middle of the Flood.
  • The Flood was largely driven by global tectonic forces.
  • The formation of the Mid-Atlantic ridge resulted in seawater being transformed into superheated steam.  This could have been described as the “… the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened (Genesis 7:11).”
  • The Catastrophic Plate Tectonic (CPT) Model allows the formation of the present continents to take place during the duration of the Flood.  The CPT Model has both a starting mechanism and a stopping mechanism.
  • There is continuing discussion of the driving energy for movement within earth’s mantle.

Dr. Baumgardner concludes that the movement of continental plates began in the Prevailing Stage of the Flood and Continued through the Regression Stage of the Flood.  Movement of Continental Plates initiated the Regression Stage of the Flood.  Movement of water from the continents to the ocean basins shaped observed geomorphology. 


Plate tectonics has become accepted by the scientific consensus. Plate tectonics begins with a single continent; this is consistent with the Genesis account: “And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let dry land appear; and it was so. (Genesis 1:9).”

Dr. Baumgardner, and others have done a good job of presenting evidence for Catastrophic Plate Tectonics as a driving mechanism for the initiation of the Flood, and the regression stage of the Flood.

In our next post, we will provide a summary and conclusion for this series on The Genesis Flood Question.


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