Creation Science

Creation Science Rebuttals

Institute for Creation Research

"Racing" Plate Tectonics Nonsense


By Greg Neyman

© 2010, Old Earth Ministries

First Published 23 August 2010


     The headline article on the Institute for Creation Research website for 23 July 2010 was titled "Continents Didn't Drift, They Raced."  The article by Brian Thomas makes the claim that a new report about the speed of plate movements during the Cambrian is further proof of the young earth model of catastrophic plate tectonics.1 

     The article points out that observed rates of movement of continental plates today are about 4-5 centimeters per year.  The new study by a Yale graduate student makes the claim that during the Cambrian, the rates must have been about 16 centimeters per year.  Thomas points out that this is three times the observed rate today.  Some of his quotes are:


The popular theory holds that continents drift slowly across earth's surface atop deeply buried molten rock, and that plate movements creep along at leisurely paces. But new research by Yale University geologists calls that into question.


.....concluded that instead of crawling at today's slow rate, ancient continents must have moved over three times faster.


If the Cambrian rocks travelled across the globe as far as the various clues indicate they did, then they had to have moved at quite a clip, even within the standard evolutionary timeframe.


     Thomas is attempting to cast doubt upon the old earth position by using the disagreement between the rates of plate movement.  However, I would hardly call 16cm/year "racing."  Granted, I believe the racing term is probably being applied to the young earth model he is trying to support, which, if you read the fine print in Footnote 4, the young earth model supports short bursts of plate movement that is equal to 2 meters per second!  That is an annual rate of over 63,000 kilometers!  In all fairness, the young earth model for catastrophic plate tectonics claims that the process of rapid plate movement occurred within a matter of weeks, so continents did not move 63,000 km.

      There is another interesting point in Footnote 4...


Under realistic conditions, runaway plate tectonic motion could have occurred at two meters per second for a short time, but even this is insufficient to account for apparent continental motion relative to the geographic poles in the Flood timeline.


     This is an admission that the speed of the continental motion in the young earth model is insufficient.  They need it to move faster than 2m/sec to accomplish all the plate tectonic history that we see in the rock record in a matter of weeks.  It's interesting what YECs slip into the footnotes!  Sometimes the literally "shoot themselves in the foot."


Computer Modeling?


     When talking about catastrophic plate tectonics, young earth creationists often refer to computer modeling which shows the theory is plausible.  This computer modeling was done by John Baumgardner, a young earth creationist.  However, when you do computer modeling, the computer output is directly related to its programming.

     The so-called software is called Terra.  In a US News & World Report, this statement appears:


In fact, Baumgardner created Terra expressly to prove that the story of Noah and the flood of Genesis 7:18--"And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the Earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters"--happened exactly as the Bible tells it. .2


      Sure, it's possible to show by computer modeling that the global flood and catastrophic plate tectonics is possible, especially if you program the computer to produce such a result!

     On a side note, Baumgardner used a supercomputer facility where he works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.  So, our tax dollars are funding young earth creationist research!


Can Catastrophic Plate Collisions Form Mountains?


     On another note, the young earth model claims that;


Moreover, whether at the current rate of movement—only 4 in (10 cm) per year—the force and energy of the collision between the Indian-Australian and Eurasian Plates could have been sufficient to push up the Himalayas (like two cars colliding, each only traveling at .04 in/h [1 mm/h]) is questionable. In contrast, if the plate movements were measured as feet-per-second, like two cars each traveling at 62 mph (100 km/h), the resulting catastrophic collision would have rapidly buckled rock strata to push up those high mountains.3


     If the Himalayas were raised up from the ocean floor in a matter of weeks, the resulting collision between two masses of mud (which was just underwater from the flood) would have simply formed a muddy hill.  As the mud collected, it would have slumped and not formed tall mountains at all.  Snelling claims that it would have rapidly buckled rock strata.  However, there was no "rock" strata to buckle, as there would have been no hardened rocks. 

      Thus, the young earth model simply slumps away.




     Scientific observations of plate movements today and in the past indicate speeds in the range of centimeters per year.  Whether we are talking 5 cm per year, or 16 cm per year, this is still very slow, and fits the old earth model nicely.  Thus, scientists have hard data showing the rate of plate movements has been very slow. 

      What evidence do young earth creationists have of catastrophic plate tectonics?  They have a computer simulation, programmed by a young earth creationist, for the express purpose of proving a global flood.  Hence, they have no observable, scientific evidence of their claims.  As usual, this is an empty young earth claim with no proof.



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1  Brian Thomas, Continents Didn't Drift, They Raced, ICR website, 23 August 2010.


2  US News & World Report, 16 June 1997.  Report is available on Baumgardner's website.


3   Andrew Snelling, from 



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