A Christian geoscientist’s understanding of what the observations and physical laws say about Earth’s history and evolution.

Separation of Science and Faith (Part II)

In Part I I indicated that Thomas Chamberlain stressed the importance of multiple working hypotheses and that science would become biased toward a particular theory even without valid evidence or observations. Exactly how Chamberlain’s fears have come to pass can be demonstrated in countless examples regarding current geological thinking as no counter theory to plate tectonics and old-earth theory has been allowed to enter mainstream secular thinking. I will demonstrate one example here. We know that the Earth’s interior is extremely hot; the boundary between the outer and inner core has now been estimated to be about 6,000o C, believed to be as hot as the surface of the sun. The outer core is composed of liquid nickel and iron. Thermodynamic calculations suggest that it would take approximately 50,000 years for the Earth to conduct its inner heat outward through the crust resulting in a solid inner earth in roughly that amount of time. Rather than consider that the plausibility of the Earth being younger than 50,000 years, which is a legitimate alternative theory and conclusion based on the outcome of this physical fact, scientists instead have invented an alternative explanation to fit their theory of an old Earth, that is, radioactivity in the Earth’s core and deep mantle, even though there is no physical evidence for such radioactivity. Volcanic eruptions today, many of which are believed to originate from deep mantle plumes that extend to the outer core, show no signs of elevated radioactivity originating from the deep mantle necessary to keep the Earth’s core hot for billions of years. (I will in a later post show that all radioactive isotopes are located in the crust and uppermost mantle). Nonetheless secular scientists accept these concepts and ideas without observational proof. Talk about pseudo science.

Many examples can be found where unfounded assumptions established early in the fledgling years of geological thinking have become accepted facts. These unproven concepts have completely biased our thinking about Earth history and have led to a single theory regarding Earth’s geological past that has now been so ingrained in higher education that no alternative theory is even considered plausible even though there is another theory that better fits the observations than old Earth plate tectonics theory. Unfortunately today, any observations that fail to be explained by plate tectonics theory are simply dismissed or, as seen above, are explained to fit the current theory so that conclusions are drawn without observational proof even to the extreme outcome of violating physical laws (subduction is one example of this—see 10 problems with plate tectonics).

Two key assumptions have had the most profound impact leading to an old Earth theology. The first of these assumptions that will be discussed here in Part II is uniformitarianism. This impressively long word simply states that the rates of natural occurrences we observe in nature today have occurred throughout all of Earth’s history. On the surface this seems like a rather innocuous theory, yet it has had profound implications in geologic and evolutionary philosophy that has shaped our world view and greatly impacted the science education we receive today.

This notion of uniformitarianism was first put forth by James Hutton, a Scottish farmer, who argued back in the 1790’s that Earth was shaped by gradual imperceptibly slow changes, not by catastrophic events. Hutton’s thinking was shaped by what he presently observed in the earth. In other words, Hutton used processes that he currently observed in nature to make his assessment and “opinion” about all geologic history. For example, he noted that rain eroded mountains and determined that uplift of molten material pushed up the crust to create new mountains. He saw these processes as being extremely slow and concluded that Earth must be extremely old. Charles Lyell (1797-1875) later built upon Hutton’s ideas and wanted to use pure science to prove his mentor William Buckland wrong because Buckland believed in catastrophism based on biblical concepts, but didn’t use or have valid observational data to validate his view point. Lyell traveled through Europe observing terraces from sea-level changes and viewed depositional sequences as representing vast time and concluded that river valleys were not formed by a flood but by the slow workings of wind and water over countless epochs of time. Estimates of erosion and uplift rates that are measured today throughout the earth are generally on the order of millimeters to centimeters per year.  However, concluding that these estimates have always occurred throughout all time is not scientifically valid because current observations cannot be extrapolated to far reaching time into the past. No statistician would support extrapolating a set of temporal observations back through 99.9% of the time domain in which no data exist. This simply is not good science; worse, it’s “pseudo-science”. Yet that is exactly what uniformitarianism has done.  It has resulted in secular scientists making unverified and unsupported statements of past rates of deposition and erosion as scientific fact.

We have had the opportunity to witness in our lifetime a phenomenal geologic event that allows us to see the potential of what catastrophic geologic events can do to the landscape in an extremely short period of time. That event is the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s on May 18, 1980, which provides a modern-day laboratory to perhaps look into Earth’s past and to imagine what a global catastrophic event could do if this “relatively small” eruption could cause such incredible reworking of the landscape.

Figure 1 is a map showing the landscape with geographic features prior to the eruption. Note, in particular, the location of the North Fork of the Toutle River, which emanated from melt-water coming off the mountain, and the size, shape and elevation of Spirit Lake. Beginning on May 18, 1980 with the initial eruption and later ensuing blasts, over 4000 feet of the top of the mountain was blown off by more than 20 megatons of energy that sent pyroclastic and mudflows down the mountain with incredible force (figure 2). In the days, weeks, and months after the blast, rapid scouring and deposition occurred. As much as 600 feet of stratigraphic sequences have formed since 1980. In one location, fine ash laminae and beds as small as 1 mm thick formed along with beds greater than 1 meter, each taking only seconds to minutes to accumulate, some exhibiting cross bedding and other detailed stratigraphic features typically associated with great amounts of time. In Figure 3, for instance,  25 feet of a stratified pyroclastic deposits are shown that accumulated within 3 hours on the evening of June 12, 1980 (Austin, 2009). This “outdoor laboratory” clearly shows that detailed sedimentary structures form even during catastrophic events, which many scientists thought could not happen with the type of features exhibited here.


Figure 1. Map showing geographical setting of the Mount St. Helens region prior to its eruption (Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Austin).


Figure 2. Map showing the extent of mountain removed from the series of eruptions from Mount St. Helens (Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Austin).


Figure 3. Detailed stratigraphic structures and sedimentary sequences laid down in 3 hours on June 12, 1980 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Austin).

Similarly, mudflows, pyroclastic material and water and steam created a huge debris (avalanche) flow the size of which had never before been observed by mankind. An average of 150 m of deposits were laid down before further mudflows from a steam explosion excavated a dendritic pattern of interconnected channels on the North Fork of the Toutle River. Nearest the blast site, on the north side of the mountain, canyons as deep as 600 feet were cut through bedrock by the forces of mud and water. Farther from the blast site, individual canyons formed in the debris flow materials along the North Fork of the Toutle River, thus creating the Toutle River canyon. So impressive was the rapid scouring and deep canyon walls of more than 140 feet, that it became known as “the Little Grand Canyon”. Figure 4 is a picture of the Toutle River Canyon with its 140 foot high walls, which was formed in less than 60 days (map location shown in Figure 5 identified as “Little Grand Canyon”). Note in Figure 5 how dramatically the landscape changed as a result of the events after the initial blast (compare with Figure 1). The erosion pattern resembles that of the Grand Canyon. Can we conclude that the Grand Canyon formed by similar means and not by the slow process of a small river over millions of years? Looking at Figure 6, one can easily conclude that the Colorado River could not possibly have cut the wide channel (the north-south distance of the eroded canyon here is more than 10 miles) that makes up the Grand Canyon gorge. However, a massive flood event similar to what we’ve seen at Mount St. Helen’s is a far more plausible explanation.


Figure 4. The Toutle River Canyon “Little Grand Canyon” and its 140-foot walls formed in approximately two months (Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Austin).


Figure 5. Map showing the transformed geography two years after the Mount St. Helens initial eruption (compare with Figure 1; Figure courtesy of Dr. Steve Austin).


Figure 6. A portion of Grand Canyon (Colorado river flows east to west (unseen) in the lower third of the picture) showing the vast erosion (about 8 miles across in this photo) that must have occurred by a massive flood, not by slow erosion over millions of years by the Colorado River (Photo courtesy of Dr. Walt Brown).

Mount St. Helen’s represents a modern-day laboratory of what a “small” flood event can accomplish in transforming the landscape and producing features and structures we often associate with vast amounts of time when observed in other localities. What does this tell us about our geologic past? Should we have been so quick to embrace uniformitarianism and base all of geologic thinking on this single premise? The problem isn’t in evaluating observations in the context of uniformitarianism, the problem is in limiting our thinking to this premise alone. We must embrace multiple working hypothesis. In Part III I will deal with the second grand assumption that has transformed geologic thinking—the principle of superposition.

Separation of Science and Faith (Part 1)

If you asked a typical American the questions: “What is the meaning of separation of church and state?” and “Is separation of church and state part of the Constitution?”, you’d likely get a majority of people answering something like this: separation of church and state means that no acts of religious beliefs (eg. prayer) are allowed in government funded bulidings or activities, and yes, it is in the constitution. Both of these answers are dead wrong. The separation of church and state has been flipped on its head by humanistic thinking that has prevailed over decades within our judicial system. It’s easy to prove that the original concept of this idea was intended to keep the government from dictating to the people any particular religious persuasion or belief. It was never intended to keep God or a person’s religious beliefs from being expressed in government, in public, or anywhere for that matter. All you have to do is simply look back at the founding fathers of the Constitution. They regularly prayed in schools and even read the Bible to students. They knew that a democracy would only work if the people believed in and upheld biblical moral principles that each man was “created” equal and were endowed by their “Creator” with unalienable rights. How quickly we have forgotten our founding principles and biblical heritage.

In much the same way, science has been turned on its head regarding origins as secular scientists have long forsaken the many biblical passages that clearly state that “God created the heavens and the earth”. Scientists today refuse to grasp this notion and as a result, hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are spent on research aimed at foolishly trying to discover the origins of life.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that there’s a cultural battle underfoot by mainstream science to discredit creation science by claiming that it’s nothing more than “pseudo science” that is filled with Biblical dogma that promulgates young earth and flood “theology” that can’t be scientifically proven or verified with supporting observations. The National Academy of Science, the government funded premier science agency that dictates and directs the future directions of science, works tirelessly at the grass roots level to support its beliefs that evolution is a fact and that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Their aim is to get every high schooler to believe that they are simply a byproduct of billions of random mutations that somehow has led to increased genetic complexity and order to yield the human race. Yet these scientists are continually stymied and amazed at the intricate workings of the simple cell that they can’t fully explain or understand. Evolution violates the chemical and physical laws we teach in schools. For example, the second law of thermodynamics indicates that chemical (energy) systems tend toward disorder (equilibrium). No mutation has led to increased complexity; yet evolution requires billions of such mutations to work. We call DNA a genetic code. A code is a series of instructions that are written by someone with intelligence and understanding. Since we don’t as yet fully understand the genetic code, clearly someone superior to us must have written this code. To conclude that DNA is a result of evolutionary chance is simply foolishness.

While it’s true that most Christians are biased in that they believe the Word of God is truth and if the Old Testament says that a flood covered the entire Earth and even the highest mountains, then it must be so, even while most creation scientists have failed to adequately explain the flood in the context of geologic history and observational reasoning. Many secular geoscientists simply view the Old Testament as a series of unverifiable stories or allegories that God used to reveal some lesson to mankind, but has no relevance in science or modern secular society. It doesn’t seem to matter that every archeological finding, every historical discovery and ancient text verifies and validates the Old Testament writings regarding people, places, and things discussed in the scriptures. These said scientists typically don’t put the New Testament in the same theologically questionable box as the Old Testament because even the most ardent agnostic would have a hard time insisting that Jesus didn’t exist and perform miracles on the Earth. However, few scientists who don’t actually read the Bible know that Jesus himself talked about Noah’s flood (Matt 24:38-39). Furthermore, almost every ancient culture has historical documents or legends about a world-wide flood event. Secular scientists simply dismiss these anthropological facts because it doesn’t fit their world view of Earth’s history.

I would argue that secular scientists are just as biased, if not more so, than Christian scientists. Secular scientists refuse even to consider an alternative to their world view even though no one has observed more than 99% of their Earth’s history and there are alternative theories that actually fit the observations and obey physical laws far better than plate tectonic theory. They simply believe that their view is the only one that “can” be valid. Plate tectonic theory has become a theology. This, I’m afraid, is not science. Thomas Chamberlain, the founder of Geology Journal, and former President of the University of Wisconsin, sternly warned scientists that if we fail to always consider multiple working hypotheses, we will become biased in our thinking and science will head in a direction that will lead to where observations are misinterpreted to fit into a preconceived theory instead of objectively looking at the observations being used to validate or refute all possible theories. Multiple working hypotheses allow us to find imperfections in our knowledge. Until all scientists, creationists and secularists alike, can come to a common ground of openness on the basis of science alone, where our biases are left on the table, we will continue to fail as scientists based on Chamberlain’s valid definition of true science, which must consider multiple working hypotheses.

The Pangaea Conundrum

Traditional geologic teaching suggests that the continents had converged most recently into the formation of Pangaea approximately 200 million years ago and that at approximately 180 million years ago, a semi-linear rift system developed that split North America from Europe and South America from Africa. What textbooks propose is that a linear source of heat from mantle convection rose along what would become the mid-Atlantic ridge and forced these continents apart and that slow mantle convection caused the Atlantic Ocean to grow as the continents diverged, resulting in the configuration of the continents we observe today. Exactly how this linear heat source (mantle plumes) developed has remained a mystery to geoscientists and the evidence of rifting has never been observed. However, we will digress here to first examine where the idea of Pangaea developed, and why the placement of the continents during Pangaea in the configuration shown in textbooks today is wrong and I’ll explain why.

The idea of continental drift was perhaps first attributed to an Austrian geologist Edward Suess at the end of the 19th century who proposed that the southern continents had been joined into a single continent called Gondwanaland. He assumed that isostatic changes in the crust allowed portions of the continents to sink and create oceans between these continents. Later, in 1912, Alfred Wegner, a German Scientist, noted numerous biologic and geologic similarities along the coasts of Africa and North America. However, he couldn’t postulate how the continents could “plow” through the rocks of the ocean basins to their current locations. He would go on to propose slow drifting due to centrifugal and tidal effects. This, of course was has been found to be incorrect, but his term “continental drift”, although dubbed an impossibility at the time, was later resurrected when new evidences of crustal motion was confirmed. He is also the first to call the supercontinent of conjoined land masses “Pangaea”.

In the early 1960’s Sir Edward Bullard of Cambridge University made several contributions to plate tectonic theory by fitting together the shorelines of Pangaea based on where granitic rocks ended (the true edges of the continental margins) rather than using the present day shorelines. He therefore matched the true continental edges which “fit together almost perfectly” (Bullard 1962, Bullard 1965a). Using seismic marine reflection data along with echo sounder data obtained from the Lamont-Dougherty research vessel Vema, across the Atlantic Ocean to identify a north-south ridge system that formed a similar pattern as the continental boundaries. Bullard’s Pangaea is shown below. Bullard went on to demonstrate that the continents fit together “nicely”. The locations of the continents in Bullard’s Pangaea are still accepted by the scientific community today. However, if we take a close examination of configuration of Bullard’s Pangaea, we can conclude that some serious problems exist.


One huge problem is that most of Mexico and all of Central America are conveniently removed. Where did they go? If one properly connects North America with South America with the proper shape and size of Central America, it would be impossible to obtain the rotation angles shown above. Thus it’s easy to conclude that the shape and angle of the continents have been grossly distorted. In the illustration below, the continents (the actual continental margins) have been placed on a globe instead of a flat map as was done above in order to more accurately show their proper shape and size. Note that there is no feasible way that North America and Africa fit “nicely” when Mexico and Central America are actually included in the map. Furthermore, there’s no way for Europe to “fit nicely” into this configuration either.


Instead, if one aligns the continents to the edge of the mid-ocean ridges instead of along the continental edges, we obtain a much more realistic fit as shown below. This suggests that (1) either the continents were never connected directly, or (2) the crustal material above the mid-ocean ridges has been eroded and removed by some forces not yet addressed. This will be addressed in a future writing.


The purpose of this entry is to get us to see that the continents were never positioned as imagined by Sir Edward Bullard and that this “Pangaea” that is in virtually every introductory geology textbook and accepted as “truth” is simply wrong. Why do we continue to promulgate these false concepts? If the continents were never conjoined as our textbooks point out, then the ancient rifting of the continents that is proposed in our introductory textbooks is also incorrect.

References cited

Bullard E. 1962. The Deeper Structure of the Ocean Floor, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, v. 265, n. 1322, A Discussion on Progress and Needs of Marine Science (Jan. 30th, 1962), p. 386-395.

Bullard E., Everett J.E., and Smith A.G., 1965a. The Fit of the Continents Around the Atlantic, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, V. 258, n. 1088, A Symposium on Continental Drift (Oct. 28th, 1965), p. 41-51.


10 Problems with Plate Tectonics

One of our great geologic forefathers, Thomas Chamberlain, the founder of Geology Journal, warned of the peril of thwarting the advancement of scientific thought if the principle of multiple working hypotheses was not embraced by researchers. Chamberlain concluded that science would become biased toward a particular scientific philosophy if we were not careful to perpetually consider other lines of reasoning that fit the observations and were physically reasonable; that is, they obeyed physical laws.

I’m afraid the geologic community has neglected Chamberlain’s warnings and that we have headed down a biased path where any paradigm contrary to traditional uniformitarianism and plate tectonics theory is considered heresy today.

However, if one were to openly and honestly evaluate some of the large scale problems associated with plate tectonics, we could perhaps begin to consider other more physically realistic mechanisms for what we observe today.

Below I will begin be addressing 10 problems (there are many more) with plate tectonics that need further investigation and discussion.

1. No adequate explanation exists for how plate tectonics began (where did the plates come from) or how subduction originated?

Nowhere in the literature does any scientist adequately address how the observed “plates” came into existence in the first place. Perhaps more perplexing is how subduction commenced. The scientific community seems to concur that plate tectonics began at some point in Earth’s history, yet no one seems to know how such a process could possibly begin. In other words, how could a 60km thick (conservative estimate) oceanic lithosphere with an average density of about 3.0-3.4 g/cm3 begin to subduct into a mantle with an average density of between 4-5.7 gm/cm3 and with greatly increasing geostatic pressures with depth (see figure below). This would be equivalent of trying to push a sledgehammer into the ground. It can’t be done. Furthermore the face of the lithosphere on the overriding plate (see figure below) would begin to flow because no “cliff” could be supported that is 60km high. Nothing remotely approaching lithospheric thickness occurs adjacent to trenches so it is unrealistic to suggest that the lithosphere has subducted beneath continental lithosphere that is at least 60km thick. No adequate mechanism has been given to explain these contradictions in physical reality.


The first and most common explanation for subduction is that as the oceanic lithosphere ages and cools, its density increases so that an instability arises and the plate sinks spontaneously in the mantle under its own weight” (Gurnis et al., 2004). However, numerical modeling has shown “that it is highly unlikely that the entire lithosphere at a fracture zone will spontaneously founder” (Hall et al., 2003). “A self-sustaining subduction zone does not form from a homogeneous plate” (Gurnis et al., 2004). Researchers found that “no combination of fault rheology or geometry produced self-sustaining subduction without applied convergence” (Hall et al., 2003). Sleep (Sleep, 1992) provided another theory that subduction initiated as dip-slip motion along strike-slip accrectionary zones. However, Sleep concurs that the oceanic plates were likely rigid, so the matter of subduction still becomes an issue of physical laws (see #3 below).

Another theory for the initiation of subduction purports that externally applied compressive stresses and moderate convergence are necessary to form a new subduction zone (Gurnis et al., 2004). The most likely mechanism would be through a transfer of stress induced by a collision, leading to ‘forced’ subduction initiation elsewhere. Yet we see no recent evidence that collisions lead to subduction. On the contrary, all recent geologic collisions have resulted in continent-continent collisions leading to large mountain ranges. The formation of the Alpine-Himalayan chain represents the collision of India and Africa with Eurasia in the closure of the Tethys Ocean. If large-scale collisional stress transfer occurred, we would expect subduction to have initiated elsewhere within the Indian and African plates. However, no new subduction zones have initiated south of either India or Africa.


Gurnis, Michael, Chad Hall, Luc Lavier. 10 July 2004. Evolving force balance during incipient subduction. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, Volume 5, Number 7, pp. 1-31.

Hall, Chad E., Michael Gurnis, Maria Sdrolias, Luc L. Lavier, R. Dietmar Muller. 2003. Catastrophic initiation of subduction following forced convergence across fracture zones. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 212, pp. 15-30.

Sleep, N.H., 1992. Archean plate tectonics: what can be learned from continental geology? Canadian Journal of Earth Science, v. 29, p. 2066-2071.

2. There is no adequate driving force for plate tectonics.

Perhaps the biggest problem with plate tectonics is the idea of whole mantle convection. No evidence exists to support mantle convection, but the physical laws to contradict such a process are overwhelming. That is to say, no physical mechanism exists for such a process to commence and this concept contradicts physical laws and even other plate tectonic principles such as theory and location of observed hot spots.

Today, radioactivity is provided as the mechanism for both convection and the existing amount of heat in the core. However, there is no evidence to support the existence of radioactivity below the upper mantle. If radioactivity represented the driving force for convection then why don’t we observe large amounts of radioactive elements in deep-seated volcanic eruptions (so called hot spots)?

Another argument against convection comes from the nature of melts within the mantle. Magma is more compressible than the rock from which it came. (Agee, 1998). Rock that melts under the extreme pressures more than 220 miles below the earth’s surface will contract and occupy a smaller volume than it did before melting! (At about 220 miles of depth, melted rock occupies nearly the same volume as the original solid rock.) At atmospheric pressure, rock expands by 7–17% when it is heated and melts. The density where the rock’s volume does not change as it melts is called the crossover density (Urakawa et al., 2006). The exact crossover depth depends on the minerals present. Because of magma’s compressibility, magma below this depth of about 220 miles is usually too dense to rise, so magma cannot circulate inside the mantle (see illustration below).

This concept of a crossover depth also supports earth’s density structure. Melts below 220 will sink toward the outer core through large fracture zones (not subducting plates) causing the outer core to increase in size over time. Melts above this depth rise to the crust in escape at volcanoes. Plate Tectonic theory seems to indicate that the density stratification occurred long ago in earth’s history but do not indicate how convection of nearly solid rock could commence. The physics of melts do not support convection. If convection doesn’t occur, neither can plate tectonics.

Introductory textbooks talk about hot spots that represent volcanoes that have magma chambers that extend deep into to mantle, some believe to the outer core. Hot spots are thought to occur at fixed locations in the mantle and as the overlying lithosphere moves (through convection) over the fixed heat source it creates a linear chain of volcanoes over geologic time. An example that is often used in the literature is the chain of Hawaiian Island seamounts. There are a number of problems with this idea. A total of 42 hot spots have been identified throughout the earth (see figure below). Many of these hot spots would have to occur within a convection cell. For example, the Atlantic basin is often used as the example for dual convection rising and spreading outward from the mid-ocean ridge and the width of the cell extending outward to a subduction zone (eg the west coast of North America). Yet numerous hot spots occur within the Atlantic basin (see red labeled dots on second figure below). The proposed mechanism for hot spots makes it impossible for large-scale convection to occur. How can a deep mantle plume (see item #9) occur within a convection cell? This idea contradicts many physical and thermodynamic laws. Consequently, convection and hot spots simply can’t coexist. A subducting plate would also obstruct mantle convection.


In addition, the shape of the mid-ocean ridges would suggest that convection would have to change directions in the middle of a cell. How is this even feasible? Furthermore, there are volcanic island chains (hot spots?) that run perpendicular to the Hawaiian Islands. The lithosphere can’t be going in opposing directions to produce such a configuration. No textbooks point out this contradiction.


A convection cell large enough to drive the Pacific plate would have to have a cell width-to-depth ratio that would be nearly 100:1, which we don’t observe in nature (eg. the atmosphere, where the convection cell has a width-to-depth ratio of about 1:1).


Agee, C.B., 1998, “Crystal-liquid density inversions in terrestrial and lunar Magmas,” Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, Vol. 107, p. 63.

Urakawa, S., et al., 2006, “Anomalous Compression of Basaltic Magma,” Research Frontiers, p. 114. Also available at www.spring8.or.jp/pdf/en/res_fro/06/113-114.pdf.

3. The force balances suggest that it is physically impossible for subduction to occur.

The frictional forces required for subduction to occur are enormous and rarely do earth scientists address this problem, let alone the fact that the subducting plate is less dense than the material its supposedly plunging into. Let’s look at a simple force balance calculation for this scenario.

Consider a subducting plate (see illustration below) that has a length L, a thickness, t, a unit depth h, a density ρ2, and is inclined at an angle relative to land surface. The plate undergoes a compressive stress through the earth’s rock mass that has a constant (for simplicity) density ρ1. Solid-to-solid friction between the slab and the host rock occurs with a coefficient of μ and acts to a depth h. The lithospheric pressure at a depth of z is the mean density ρ1gz. A drag force F opposes movement at the leading edge of the plate.

In order to make subduction as likely as possible, we make the following assumptions:

• The thrusting force, σt, is perfectly aligned with the subduction angle θ.

• The thrusting force is the maximum possible, but does not exceed the crushing strength of the subducting plate.

• The plate is denser than the mantle surrounding it (This assumption is necessary or else the plate would not sink. Actually, the mantle through which the plate must push, is much denser than the plate).

For the plate to subduct, the sum of the forces acting down and to the left must exceed the sum of the forces acting up and to the right (in the illustration). That is,

Net thrust + body forces > friction on top and bottom surfaces

subductingplate (σtF) + g(ρ2ρ1)Ltsinθ > (ρ1g(h/2)Lμ) + (ρ1g(h/2)+ρ2gtcosθ)Lμ

In dimensionless form, this simplifies to

(σ-F/t)/(ρ1gLsinθ) + (ρ2/ρ1 -1) > (L/t + (ρ2/ρ1)cotθ)μ

The coefficient of static friction for rock is about 0.6 and is not temperature dependent until temperatures exceed about 350oC. Typical values for the inequality are as follows:

σ = 2×10^8 N/m^2

g = 9.8 m/sec^2

ρ1 = 3200 kg/m^3

ρ2 = 3500 kg/m^3

L = 160 km

t = 80 km

μ = 0.6

In order to make subduction more likely, we assume here that F = 0. Substituting these values in the above inequality gives the false statement that

0.04 + 0.09 > (2.0+1.894)*0.6, or

0.11 > 2.34

Clearly the inequality cannot be satisfied. Thus, a pushing force cannot produce subduction. Recall that this includes the subduction-favorable assumption of no drag force (F=0). Even if we lower the friction coefficient to 1/19 of the current typical value we cannot get the inequality to work in the favor of subdution.

A pulling force cannot be occurring because rocks have no tensile strength. Therefore, based on this rather simple but useful exercise, we can see that subduction cannot occur.

4. There is a huge mass balance problem regarding ridges and trenches

For the earth to remain the same size over time, the amount of crust being created at ridges would have to be equal to the amount of plate being subducted along trenches. If more mass is being created than consumed, then the earth’s volume would be increasing. There is no evidence to support earths growing volume. However, based on the fact that there are 46,000 miles of ridges and only 15,000 miles of trenches, this would suggest that the earth would have to be expanding, otherwise there would be a huge mass-balance problem. Furthermore, why are trenches located primarily in the western Pacific ocean, whereas ridges are more equally developed over the entire earth?

The scientific literature contains countless papers purporting to prove subduction, but if examined closely, estimates of subduction velocities are usually inferred from midocean ridge growth rates, or are based on suggestive geophysical data without empirical measurements to prove the direction and velocity of motion. One location in which it would be easy to make strain or deformation measurements of spreading is in Iceland where the mid-ocean ridge is located above the ocean surface. However, such evidence is never presented in textbooks. The reason is likely not because such measurements haven’t been made but rather because no spreading has ever been measured, which would put the theory of plate tectonics in serious jeopardy.

5. Plate tectonics cannot adequately explain the configuration or large number of volcanoes (seamounts and guyots) in the Pacific basin.

More than 40,000 sumarine volcanoes (many of which are seamounts) are located in the Pacific basin; whereas very few seamounts are found in the Atlantic. Plate tectonics cannot answer this peculiar phenomenon. Furthermore, most of the 2,000 known guyots are concentrated in the western Pacific, between Hawaii and Japan and between 8o and 27o north latitude. Clustered guyots sometimes differ in elevation and depth by 1,000–2,000 feet, even if they are the same distance from a ridge. Furthermore, they can occur alongside a seamount of greater height. This configuration of seamounts and guyots does not fit the plate tectonic model if these features were formed along speading centers. Sediments, including dead organisms, continually fall onto ocean floors, but guyots have few sediments. Currents over guyots are too slow to sweep off sediments. This implies that guyots are geologically young.

If these volcanoes are moving with the plate, then certainly we should observe volcanoes in trenches or at least find scraped-off volcanoes in trenches, yet we find no such occurrences.

6. Plates cannot subduct in an arc.

This is one of my biggest and yet most simple arguments against subduction. Take a thick paperback book and bend it in half downward. Notice that the book bends only in a straight line. This would be also true for a thick rigid lithosphere. It is physically impossible for the lithosphere to subduct in an arcuate shape without either significant compression in a concave shaped arc or extension in a convex shaped arc. Along trenches with concave arcs, massive folds and mountain building would be evident along the hinge of the subducting lithosphere.  Similarly where convex trenches occur, large extensional faults perpendicular to the trench would have to occur, yet we observe neither of these two conditions. The entire Pacific basin has trench systems that are arcuate in shape, not straight as must occur by physical laws of mass balance. Clearly, another process created these trenches. These cannot be locations of subduction based on lack of observational evidence of what we MUST see along these arcs.

7. Plate tectonics cannot explain why there are no seamounts in trenches, or why there is no evidence of scraped off seamounts in trenches.

If plate tectonics is a slow process and if seamounts form along spreading centers or hot spots and migrate as the lithosphere floats over a convecting mantle, then surely these large mountains would eventually reach a trench and either inhibit subduction (like throwing a wrench in a gear box) or the mountain would be scraped off during subduction and we’d find evidence of such a large and likely dramatic physical process. However, not only do we not find evidence for what should have occurred hundreds or thousands of times in the geologic past, we don’t even see seamounts in trench zones anywhere in the world today. Why? Plate tectonics cannot explain why but we need to ask why or how this can be.

8. The mantle plume model that PT theory uses to support spreading centers cannot work on the basis of the structure, morphology, and stratigraphy that currently exist along the ridge network

Geologists have argued for decades about mechanisms for new oceanic material being formed at mid-ocean ridges and causing spreading of the lithosphere away from the ridge crests. Most geology textbooks describe a mantle plume model as representing the source of spreading and new crustal material, the same theory that is used to explain hotspots. A model of this type is needed to support plate tectonic theory and the concept of a spreading center. There are several problems with this theory. First, the supposed source of new crustal material has never been adequately explained. This theory cannot address the current observed ridge system because it would require hundreds or thousands of individual plumes because of the many ridge offsets that occur along the ridge axis. The plume would have to occur directly beneath the ridge crest for equal spreading to occur from this midpoint. This theory is simply not feasible. Anderson (2000) states, “Deep narrow thermal plumes are unnecessary and are precluded by uplift and subsidence data. The locations and volumes of ‘midplate’ volcanism appear to be controlled by lithospheric architecture, stress and cracks.” Furthermore, as Sheth (1999) concludes “All the evidence that has been used so far to support the plume model—geochemical, petrological, thermal, topographic—is equivocal at best, if indeed not contrary. The plume idea is ad hoc, artificial, unnecessary, inadequate, and in some cases even self-defeating, and should be abandoned.” If there is continuous and constant spreading at the mid-ocean ridge system, why haven’t measurements been made in Iceland where the ridge system goes through this country? It would be a simple task to set up GPS or other land-based laser system to accurately monitor spreading rates of 4-6 centimeters per year (the rate claimed in textbooks). The more likely explanation is that these types of measurements have been done, but no spreading has been observed.

As a consequence of uplift caused by the magma plume beneath the ridge axis, slow crustal growth occurs at the ridge system causing slippage along transform faults as a result of uneven spreading occurring on a spherical earth. Geologists erroneously claim that earthquakes in fracture zones occur only between the two offset ridge axes, where the plates, according to PT theory, are moving in opposite directions past one another. This is contrary to what is observed. Earthquakes occur all along fracture zones.

Evidence indicates that the fracture zones are trough-shaped near the ridge axes where the fractures should be deepest (van Andel, et al., 1967). At the ends of the fracture zones, the profiles are V-shaped. Furthermore, the sediments inside these fractures zones are found to be undeformed (Meyerhoff and Meyerhoff, 1967)! If the opposite sides of a fracture zone are sliding past each other, sediments caught between the sliding plate segments would be highly deformed.

In at least 8 places along the mid-ocean ridges, segments of the ridge overlap for about 10 miles (McDonald and Fox, 1983). According to plate tectonic theory, plates are moving away perpendicularly from a spreading center. Therefore, the distance between overlapping segments must be increasing. However, the overlapping regions are always near each other. PT theory cannot explain this clear contradiction.

In the Pacific basin along the East-Pacific rise, a large fracture zone actually crosses over another large fracture zone (non parallel fractures). This observation cannot be explained by plate tectonic theory.


Anderson, D.L., 2000, The Thermal State of the Upper Mantle; No Role for Mantle Plumes: Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 27, p. 3623.

Macdonald, K.C., and Fox, P.J., 1983, Overlapping spreading centers, Nature, Vol. 302, p. 55–58.

Meyerhoff, A.A., and Meyerhoff, H.A., 1967, Tests of plate tectonics: Plate Tectonics: Assessments and Reassessments; editor C.F. Hahle, 108p.

Sheth, H.C., 1999, Flood basalts and large igneous provinces from deep mantle plumes: Fact, fiction, and fallacy: Tectonophysics, Vol 311, p. 23.

Van Andel, et al., 1967, The intersection between the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the Vema fracture zone in the north Atlantic: Journal of Marine Research, Vol. 25, p. 343-351.

9. How can subduction zones and spreading centers exist at the same location?

Yet there are three locations in the Pacific basin where trenches and ridges are concomitant. These locations are at: 50.5oN latitude and 130oW longitude, 20.5oN latitude and 107oW longitude, and 46.3oS latitude and 75.7oW longitude. The same— or even closely spaced—mantle material cannot be going both up and down at the same time and at the same place.

The only known or documented evidence for magma eruptions along spreading centers is where these ridges coincide or occur adjacent to trenches. Hence, an argument cannot be made that the entire ridge system is experiencing such magma flows. In fact there is no evidence along the mid-Atlantic ridge, for example, of magma flows.

10. Crustal GPS signals on the earth do not support plate tectonics theory.

Global GPS stations reveal that a vast majority of the GPS monitoring stations indicate that the observed motion is toward the northwest Pacific basin. Perhaps more surprisingly is the fact that the motions do not conform to rigid “tectonic” plates (outlined in blue in illustration below).


Even on a globe (spherical surface), the vector directions do not produce a pattern that would conform to rigid plate motion.


Many of the references and illustrations here come from Dr. Walter Brown’s book “In the Beginning”: www.creationscience.com