CHAPTER 2: Some Mechanisms Postulated for Past Catastrophes of Planetary Scope

What possibly could have caused such monstrous upheavals of our planet? Until very recently, science has denied that the possibility of events of such magnitude could occur at all, since, in line with uniformitarian thinking, no mechanism of sufficient strength can be observed today. Consequently, for the past few centuries the earth sciences have insisted, sometimes with tantrum-like behavior, that the earth has been stable for multiple thousands, if not millions, of years. Yet evidence continues to mount that such events did indeed take place. Some of this evidence, moreover, points to events which occurred within the memory of man.

Christian scholars John Whitcomb and Henry Morris describe the great flood of Noah in terms of just such a titanic catastrophe that befell the earth when civilizations were upon the land. In chapter six of their book The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications is found one of many capsule summaries of the disaster and its effects:

“The picture then is of awesome proportions. The vast ‘waters above the firmament’ poured forth through what are graphically represented in the Scriptures as the ‘floodgates of heaven,’ swelling the rivers and waterways and initiating the erosion and transportation of vast inland sediments. At the same time, waters and probably magmas were bursting up through the fractured fountains of the great subterranean deep. In the seas, these ‘fountains’ not only belched forth their waters and volcanic materials, but the corresponding earth displacements must have been continually generating powerful tsunamis.

“This tremendous complex of forces, diastrophic and hydrodynamic, must beyond any question have profoundly altered the antediluvian topography and geology of the earth’s crust. Powerful currents, of all directions and magnitudes and periods, must have been generated and made to function as agents of immense eroding, transporting, and depositional potency. Under the action of this combination of effects, almost any sort of deposit or depositional sequence becomes possible and plausible. An immense variety of sediments must finally have been the result, after the Flood had run its course.

“And yet, in spite of the complexity of physical agencies involved and the resulting variety of formations and sediments, certain general semblances of order might be anticipated in the deposits when the waters abated. The creatures of the deep sea bottoms would universally be overwhelmed by the toxicity and violence of the volcanic emanations and the bottom currents generated thereby and would in general be mixed with the inorganic materials simultaneously dislodged from the bed, transported and eventually re-deposited on the bed.

“In similar fashion, the fish and other organisms living nearer the surface would subsequently be entrapped by either materials washing down from the land surface or the shallow coastal sea bottoms or by materials upwelling from the depths. Again these sediments would be transported and re-deposited either on the sea bottom or occasionally on top of other sediments already laid down.

“On the land, the raging rivers would carry great quantities of detritus seaward, occasionally entombing animals or reptiles, together with great rafts of vegetation. These would normally be depositied finally in some more or less quiescent reach of stream or finally in the sea on top of other deposits or perhaps on the exposed bottom itself.

“As far as land animals and man were concerned, their greater mobility would have enabled most of them to escape temporarily to higher ground as the waters rose, only occasional individuals being swept away and entombed in the sediments. Eventually, of course, the floodwaters overtook even those who had fled to the highest elevations, but in most cases these men and animals would not be buried but simply drowned and then carried about by the waters on or near the surface until finally decomposed by the elements. Certain spectacular exceptions to this rule might occur when groups of animals, huddled together in a cave on some hillside or on a summit, were swept away by a sudden, sediment-laden wave of water to be buried en masse at another place.

“Even after the first forty days, when the greatest of the rains and upheavals diminished, the Scriptures say that the waters ‘prevailed’ upon the earth for one hundred and ten days longer. This statement – together with what one might infer from the prevalent unique meteorological conditions during that period, with a universal ocean still reacting to the great dynamic imbalance so recently imposed on the earth – would certainly imply that extensive hydraulic and sedimentary activity continued for a long time, with many earlier flood deposits perhaps re-eroded and reworked. Some sediments may well have been transported and deposited several times before reaching their final resting-place.”

In other words, according to Whitcomb or Velikovsky or any of the other writers of that persuasion, there weren’t a large number of people who escaped the consequence of the Flood. There wasn’t anybody, in fact, who evaded the monstrous event. Anywhere on earth.

How could that kind of damage be accepted as actually having occurred if no appropriate mechanism can be found on earth? Patten supplies one possible and logically reasonable answer in a source outside our planet. As we have noted, he postulated that the earth prior to the Flood possessed a canopy of water vapor which moderated the temperature differential between the equator and the poles. At the time of the flood, according to him, the earth suffered a close encounter with a comet, bringing the water of the canopy crashing down upon the earth and forever changing the atmospheric regime. This canopy was destroyed by the visitation upon earth of an icebound comet. Patten’s mechanism of violence was not a small, fast object that collided with the earth. Like Velikovsky before him, Patten saw a large mass which was captured temporarily by the earth’s gravity, wreaking destruction on earth through the influence of gravitational and possibly electromagnetic coupling forces. The interaction between this unwelcome visitor and earth not only destroyed the canopy of water surrounding the earth, but also caused great tectonic disturbances, one effect of which was the breaking up of the fountains of the deep.

In support of his thesis, Patten supplies an interesting observation regarding the earth’s two primary systems of mountain ranges, the Alpine-Himalayan and the Circum-Pacific. He notes that each of these ranges consists of a linear series of arcs, the centers of which follow a great circle path along the surface of the earth. This pattern is precisely what would be expected from coupling stresses, either gravitational or electromagnetic, or possibly both, arising from a large object orbiting closely about our planet.

Patten notes further that the earth is not a perfect sphere: due to the centrifugal force of the earth’s rotation, the polar regions are flattened by tens of miles with respect to the equatorial regions. The great rift valley in Africa exhibits properties that are consistent with an expansion of ground due to an increased diameter over its location caused by a continental movement from a polar toward an equatorial location. Similarly, a continental movement in the opposite direction, or from equatorial to polar, would cause a wrinkling of the earth’s crust, evidenced by mountain ranges, due to a decreased diameter of the earth over that location. This process of diametrical adjustment must have taken years, perhaps centuries, after the polar shift occurred, and may have been the cause of the dividing of the earth in the days of Peleg in the fifth generation after Noah.

Having penetrated Earth’s gravitational field sufficiently close to Roche’s limit to cause a fragmentation of its icy cloak, Patten’s comet shed pieces which fell to the earth toward the polar regions under the influence of the earth’s magnetic field. Patten sees as one effect of this event the disruption of the pre-existing atmospheric system, which with his suspected canopy of water vapor, included a much larger proportion of atmospheric water than the present regime. His interpretation borrows from the hitherto difficult-to-understand Genesis account of the creation, wherein God divided the waters of heaven from the waters of the earth.

If the ice age itself was suddenly initiated by the mechanism that caused the flood, transient effects would be expected. The levels of the oceans would undergo an adjustment due to the melting of ice. Firm and generally acknowledged evidence exists throughout the world that the oceans once were hundreds of feet lower than at the present time. The same may be said of our atmosphere, which may have been significantly cooler immediately following the flood and steadily rose in temperature toward a new equilibrium. That equilibrium may not yet have been reached even today: lakes continue to dry in the American Southwest; the Sahara Desert continues to encroach upon land that was fertile and productive; the Antarctic Ice continues to melt. The earthquakes we experience may indicate that our contents are still being subjected to diametric adjustment following an initial rapid shift either toward or away from the equator. Perhaps also our continental plates are continuing a long process of deceleration, reaching toward an eventual stability that has not yet been achieved. After all, to feed the uniformitarians a little dose of their own medicine, a duration of a few millennia is supposedly a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. In that context, we, living a cosmic instant after the cause, may still be observing its effects.

Other investigators support this notion that the ice age began with the flood, and while they also assume a primordial canopy that encompassed the globe, theirs is of ice rather than water vapor. They, too, see the initial cause of this catastrophe as an unwelcome visitor from space that sent the waters from heaven crashing upon the polar regions of the earth under the influence of its magnetic field. Some of those who have taken this view have speculated on how the atmosphere must have appeared to those who lived before the flood. They supply vivid images of Adam gazing up at a rose-colored sky of surpassing beauty, and of Eve watching crystalline sunsets of spectacular colors. If they are correct, the world then was of an entirely different order of perfection.

The gradualist would be tempted to summarily dismiss the canopy scenario, pointing to recently developed or improved techniques which earth scientists have been employing to ascertain, from historical data, probable mechanisms to explain our currently accelerating global warming process. Among these techniques are pollen and ice-core sampling. Ice cores have been taken from the Greenland Ice Cap, for example, which supposedly extend back 100,000 years. If Greenland was continually covered in ice all the way back then, both the canopy thesis and the notion of very recent catastrophes lose some (but not necessarily all) of their credibility. But there is a possible problem with the interpretation of the data to date: even as it demonstrates sudden changes in line with potential catastrophic causes, the data, and especially its timing, is probably based on uniformitarian assumptions. Do the layers actually represent yearly depositions, especially back beyond a few thousand years? Are links made between thickness and time on the basis of uniformitarian expectations of yearly accretions? The cores may present a very different picture of events and their timing if all such uniformitarian assumptions were stripped of their a priori status at the very beginning of the investigation.

[to be continued]


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