Monday, 27 November 2017

Walt Brown's hydroplate theory. Not just wrong, but too crazy even for CMI and AiG

One example of such a 'not even wrong' idea is Walt Brown's "hydroplate theory" which argues that the Genesis Flood was caused by water bursting forth from a vast subterranean ocean on which floated a thick planet-covering slab of granite. It also asserts that the continents were created out of the broken fragments while the comets, meteors, and asteroids were formed as water jets blasted debris out of earth orbit into the outer solar system.

Brown's hypothesis is untenable for many reasons, if only because the hot, highly pressurised water released would have turned into steam, and roasted everything on the surface of the Earth, let alone the devastation to the surface of the earth caused from the energy released by creating the equivalent of  hundreds of millions of years of continental drift in under a year, or that released when the material that he asserts created the asteroids and comets was blasted into space. Even Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International have reservations about this hypothesis, which makes the fact that some in our community are seriously appealing to this lunacy nothing short of embarrassing.

Walt Brown is a retired mechanical engineer who in the early 1980s argued that prior to the Genesis flood, the Earth consisted of a single solid thick granite crust that floated over a vast subterranean lake, with crust and mantle connected by pillars to ensure they rotated at the same rate. He argues that the flood was caused when this crust broke, allowing the subterranean water to blast forth, flooding the earth and at the same time creating the comets, asteroids, and meteors by blasting into outer space rocky debris. The continents he argues were created from the broken fragments of the previously-solid crust which skidded around on the surface of the earth, crashed into each other, creating the mountains, and eventually settling into their current positions.

Diagram from W. Brown's website and book

For any Christian who respects the Biblical text, the first question that needs to be asked is "on what Biblical evidence is this hypothesis based?" For biblical literalists such as Brown, this is the first question that needs to be asked, if only to ensure that his hypothesis at least can claim to be backed by a literal reading of a substantive amount of scripture. Unfortunately, the Biblical evidence is meagre:
 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened (Gen 7:11)
Absent is any reference to the creation of asteroids, meteorites, and comets, or of the creation of continental plates from the shattering of a solid granite shell, or their rapid skidding across the surface of the earth. The argument owes much to an overactive imagination which has twisted a single verse out of its ancient Hebrew cosmogeography in which the earth was seen as a flat surface covered by a solid firmament keeping back waters, with a primal ocean underneath:

In this worldview, the flood was caused by the breaching of the firmament and the waters underneath, effectively reversing the sequence of events at creation where the earth was created by the separating of waters above from waters below. Brown's hypothesis is based on a fundamental error: failing to read the text in its ANE context, and reading it as a scientifically accurate account.

Leaving aside the fundamental exegetical error which invalidates Brown's hypothesis, we turn to the first scientific problem with his hypothesis, which is that any earthquake or meteorite strike on the solid surface of the earth would crack it and release the pressurised water beneath. Geophysicist Glenn Morton points out that:

There are several things to notice about this situation. First the crust must be absolutely impermeable to the water. There must be no earthquakes before the flood since the first crack in this sphere would allow the water to escape. This means that there must be no meteorites before the flood. [1]
YECs generally concede that pre-Cambrian rock predate the flood (even though they deny the absolute age), and as there are a number of pre-Cambrian meteorite craters, Brown's model fails. [2]

The next problem is that water held deep underground would be hot and pressurised. What happens when hot, pressurised water is suddenly released?

Now imagine this on a planetary scale. It is not hard to imagine that the ocean life and Noah's ark would remain unscathed. Glenn Morton puts numbers on this intuition:
Suppose you placed the water under 10 km of crust, the pressure of the water would be 10 x 10^5 * 980 * 2.65 = 2.58 x 10^9 dynes= 2562 atmospheres of pressure.

The temperature gradient is 1 deg C for every 30 m so there is a 166 deg. C increase in temperature as we go deeper. 330 + 30 deg C (the surface temperature) =360 deg. C. (see below for justification of the temperature. For a layer of cave water 2 km thick all around the earth would contain 1 x 10^24 cubic centimeters of water. At 360 deg C, the high temperature water would contain 3.3 x 10^26 calories. (1 calorie per degree rise (330 degree rise)). The minute the pressure is released the water will turn to steam and you will cook the earth. Dividing the calories by the surface area of the earth shows that heat /cm^2 = 3.3 x 10^26 Calories/5.09 x 10^18 square centimeters = 6.4 x 10^7 Cal/cm2.

This energy represents 1 year's worth of sunshine on a square centimeter at the equator. (The sun gives each square centimeter 2 calories per square centimeter per second) I don't think Noah could survive this. This enough energy to raise water to 64 million degrees C (assuming a specific heat of 1 cal/degree. Even if you use the 121 deg C value that Brown wants to use, this represents over 4 month's of solar radiation per square centimeter. No one could survive this event. It is a poor mechanism for a flood. [3]
The cooking of all life on earth as a result of the release of pressurised hot water is only the beginning of the problems for Brown's hypothesis. Glenn Kuban notes that energy from the cataclysmic evengts would have destroyed the Earth:
Another serious problem with Brown's model is the immense heat that would be generated during the proposed cataclysmic eruptions (Castagnoli, 2009; Morton, 2003), which would have literally boiled the oceans and steamed to death all animals and humans aboard Noah's ark. Appealing to supposed experiments with "supercritical water" (SCW), Brown claims the heat would be insignificant, but the calculations demonstrate that the heat would indeed be more than lethal. Sharp (2005) calculated that the energy released in ejecting just the still-orbiting asteroids is the equivalent to approximately twenty trillion hydrogen bombs. Sharp remarks, "The mind completely boggles how Noah and his family, together with his menagerie of animals and plants could have possibly survived all this in a large wooden boat!" Even more energy and heat would have been involved if one includes in the calculations the many other comets, asteroids, and meteoroids that have impacted on various planets and moons of our solar system (as evidenced by many millions of craters on many of them), and others that impacted the sun and gaseous planets, or escaped into outer space. Even YEC author Danny Faulkner (2013) of AIG demonstrated that the heat involved in the eruption phase alone would have been many times beyond lethal to all life on earth. In a video at his home page, and in the on-line draft of his 9th edition, Brown himself states that the energy released during the hydroplate eruptions would have exceeded 300 trillion atomic bombs (Brown, 2016). This makes it even more implausible that Noah and his cargo, or any macroscopic life on earth for that matter, would have survived the proposed hydroplate eruptions, to say nothing of the additional sources of massive heat and violence discussed below.[4]
That about wraps it up for Brown's hypothesis. Even YEC organisations such as CMI have reservations about Brown.

As a result of my analysis of Brown’s HPT model for the Flood, I do not consider his model a viable Flood model for the general and specific reasons summarized above. It seems to rely on the deductive method of science in which an idea is first considered and then a whole host of data is fitted into the model. Great errors can occur with this approach as geologist Chamberlin warned. A better method is the inductive method of science in which one lets the observations speak for themselves and sees if the model can survive critical analysis. Contrary data should lead to the rejection or modification of the model. We can safely say the big picture points to the Flood as the origin of sedimentary rocks, fossils, and surface features, but as for a Flood mechanism and an explanation of diverse phenomena, Brown’s model falls far short.[5]
The credibility of Brown's hypothesis is further eroded by the fact he refuses to publish his arguments, even in the pseudo-journals maintained by special creationists:
Brown complains of evolutionist bias in mainstream publications, but he has not published such papers even in YEC journals. According to AIG, when he was invited to submit a manuscript to their Technical Journal, he declined. In Brown's 9th edition on-line draft (Brown, 2016), he noted that one reason for this is that he cannot explain his model in only a few pages. However, YEC journals such as TI and CRSQ do not limit their articles to only a few pages. Moreover, he could prublish a series of articles if the key points of his model could not be covered in one paper. He also would not need to cover his entire book in such papers, since most of it does not deal with unique aspects of his model, but alleged anti-evolutionary arguments and claims on other topics. [6]
Given that even YECs regard Brown's idea with suspicion, it is deeply disappointing to see a Christadelphian page uncritically endorsing this nonsensical idea.

Advertising pseudoscientific nonsense that even YEC organisations disavow is not how to credibly preach the truth.


1. Morton G "Walt Brown's Hydroplate Theory". Accessed 27th November 2017 
3.See ref 1
4. Kuban G "Walter Brown's "Hydroplate" Flood Model Doesn't Hold Water" Acessed 27th November 2017
5. Oard, M.J. "Analysis of Walt Brown's Flood model" CMI 7th Aprul 2013
6. See ref 4