Any serious model for the Genesis Flood must account for the massive tectonic changes evident in the geological record since the point in that record where metazoan fossils first appear. These tectonic changes include the complete replacement of the world’s ocean lithosphere, lateral displacements of continents by thousands of kilometres, significant vertical motions of the continental surfaces to allow deposition of thick and laterally extensive sediment sequences, and large local increases in crustal thickness to generate today’s high mountain ranges. Without a mechanism that can account for these major tectonic changes in a logical and consistent manner, any claims about understanding, much less modelling, the Flood cataclysm are hollow at best. The correct mechanism, on the other hand, will provide a framework into which the vast accumulation of detailed geological observations can be understood in a unified, coherent, and comprehensive manner. A major claim of this paper is that the mechanism of catastrophic plate tectonics, enabled by runaway subduction of negatively buoyant ocean lithosphere into the Earth’s mantle, does account for the main tectonic changes associated with the Flood and provides the best candidate framework currently available for integrating and understanding the vast store of geological observational data.

The scientific revolution in the Earth sciences that unfolded during the decade of the 1960s established the plate tectonics paradigm as the reigning framework for explaining not only present day geophysical processes but also the large-scale geological change in the past. A major point of this brief paper is that while this scientific revolution correctly recognized many important aspects of the Earth’s dynamics and how near surface processes are coupled to phenomena in the Earth’s deeper interior, the prevailing uniformitarian mindset prevented the revolution from reaching its logical end, namely, that Earth had experienced a major tectonic catastrophe in its recent past.

The primary new observational data that precipitated this revolution was from the world’s ocean floors. Sonar technology developed to detect and track submarines during World War II, for example, had provided the means after the war to map the topography of the ocean bottom at high resolution for the first time. The results were startling. Not only did accurately determined margins of continental shelves reveal the striking jigsaw puzzle fit of North and South America with Europe and Africa,1 but the global mid-ocean ridge system, running like a baseball seam some 60,000 km around the Earth, was also unveiled.2 This ridge system, representing a long chain of mountains on the ocean bottom, contained topography some 2,000 m higher than the ocean’s abyssal plains.3 Moreover, its axis displayed curious lateral jumps that came to be known as fracture zones.4–6 As technology became available to measure heat flow from the ocean bottom, it was found that exceptionally high values of heat flow occurred along the axis of the mid-ocean ridge system.7 A logical inference was that the elevated topography of the ridge was a consequence of higher temperatures and hence lower densities in the rock beneath.

Another key observation from the seafloor was the discovery of ‘magnetic stripes’ oriented parallel to the mid-ocean ridges and displaying a near mirror symmetry across the ridge axis.8 Although evidence for reversals of the Earth’s dipole magnetic field had been reported in the early 1900s from studies of successive lava flows on volcanoes,9,10 it was not until after WWII that careful investigation of rock magnetism established the reality of magnetic reversals in the geological record. Therefore, the discovery that basaltic rocks forming the ocean floor basement were magnetized in alternating directions in a spatially coherent pattern of stripes parallel to the ridge axis generated considerable interest. It was realized this pattern suggested a means for mapping the relative time of formation of vast areas of the ocean floor basement rocks and correlating this history with the record of continental volcanism. (This correlation can be done without any reference to or use of radioisotope methods or time-scale.) The correlation is achieved simply by counting magnetic reversals backward in time from the present.

These observations were compelling enough by the mid-1960s for significant numbers of Earth scientists to embrace the proposition that sea-floor spreading was genuine. However, it was data from the first deep sea drilling expedition by the Glomar Challenger in 1968 in the South Atlantic that for many removed all doubt. Nine sites from the east side of the Mid-Atlantic ridge to a point just off the continental shelf southeast of Rio de Janeiro were drilled to basaltic basement.11 Most of the sediment cores contained abundant microfossils—calcareous nannoplankton and planktonic foraminifera—of species already known from studies in continental shelf environments. These microfossils ranged in stratigraphic affinity from lower Cretaceous to late Pleistocene, with stratigraphic age of the fossils just above basaltic basement increasing progressively with distance from the ridge axis. These data now made it possible to correlate the age of the basaltic ocean basement with the sediment record on the continental shelves. They revealed the South Atlantic Ocean floor to be younger, relatively speaking, than early Mesozoic sediments on the continents and implied South America and Africa had been joined prior to that point in Earth history. Subsequent deep sea drilling of more that 2,000 holes through the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) have served to confirm to an overwhelming degree of confidence that none of today’s ocean floor basement anywhere on Earth is older than Mesozoic relative to the microfossil record12 (a well documented record that exists independent of radioisotope methods)….

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