The theory of Continental
Drift is one of the primary "evidences" that is used by evolution
believers to promote the belief in an old earth. The theory goes like this:
Since it appears that the coasts of North and South America would fit together with
the coasts of Africa and Europe, perhaps they once did. And if they were once joined together, then
we are told that it must have taken
millions of years for them to separate: 200 million (years) for North America
and Europe, but only 20 million for South America and Africa.
Few realize it but these 'dates' were not arrived at by
direct measurements (of actual drift) but by radiometric dating of ocean bottom rocks. In other words, since the oldest date
for ocean bottom rocks is 200 million years, then this must be the time that it took for the continents to separate:
at least for North America and Europe. So if we take the distance between any given point from the
East Coast of North America to its corresponding midway point along the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge (half-way point to Europe), this gives us the distance that
the Continents have traveled. Then we simply divide this distance by our
200 million year "date" to arrive at the (assumed) distance that the
Continents are still moving apart each year, or so the theory goes. The
figure is around five feet per century
or 0.6 inches per year.
Although there are problems with this theory, there is compelling evidence that the continents have split apart.
This is supported primarily by:
- The puzzle-like fit
between the North and South American coastlines and those of Europe and
- The location of the
Mid-Atlantic ridge itself.
- The discovery that
similar rock formations and mineral deposits match up along these two
Since we have never witnessed rapid movements of huge landmasses over the surface of the earth, many
think that it must have taken many millions of years for the continents to
separate. They base this on present day earthquakes and
radiometric dating of ocean bottom (igneous) rocks.
Since present day earthquakes only move adjoining faults from one to five inches per year (on
average), it is assumed that this must have been the case throughout the earth's
past. This assumption would be reasonable except for two things:
There is little, if
any, proof that earthquake faults are the same as ocean-bottom spreading,
- There is very
little, if any, scientific evidence that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is still
For these reasons it
is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate how long it took for the continents
to separate. In other words, this "clock" is invalid simply because the
200 million-year "age" of the Atlantic ocean is not based upon any
measurable movement at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but rather upon the (assumed
accuracy of) radiometric
dating of ocean bottom rocks. 2
Radiometric Dating of
Ocean Bottom Rocks
When one gets
beyond the dogmatic parroting of popular (i.e. evolutionary) "science"
publications, it becomes
increasingly clear that virtually all radiometric dating methods are highly
questionable and subjective. However, the dating of ocean bottom sediments by
radiometric methods is even more questionable. Perhaps the simplest way to
illustrate this is by looking at Table 1 of
In it there are three different dates given for the same eruption at Mt.
Kilauea on the island of Hawaii.
Because this volcano produced lava flows that
went into the ocean, it provided an excellent opportunity to take samples from
the same flow at various depths beneath the ocean's surface. This allowed
scientists to see whether or not there was any relationship between the
radiometric "age" of the sample versus the depth at which the sample was
collected. By doing this it was discovered that there is a relationship between
the radiometric "age" (vs. true age) and the ocean depth at
which the sample was collected. This means that the 200 million-year date for
the oldest ocean bottom rocks is virtually meaningless.
If we assume that the continents did at one time form a solid land-mass, and if
they have separated from the Mid-Atlantic ridge, then how long did it take for
this to occur?
The answer to this question cannot be "proven" in a
scientific sense because we can't go back in time to observe the splitting up
of the continents. And since it has not been proven that the continents are
still separating at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge it is impossible to know how long it
So How Long did it Take?
creationists (both scientists and non-scientists) claim that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, the question
that needs to be addressed is whether or not there is any evidence to suggest that this event took place rapidly within the
recent past. For those who accept that the Bible is accurate, both
historically and otherwise, the
answer is simple since it tells us plainly that the earth
was divided in one man's lifetime. For example, Genesis 10:25 tells us
sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth
Some have said that
this verse only applies to the spreading out of mankind from the Tower of
Babel. This is certainly a possibility; however, it is also possible that
it is talking about the literal break-up of the "earth"
For those who don't
believe the Bible the answer becomes more difficult to "prove."
However, there still is evidence that the continents moved quite rapidly within a few
hundred years after massive amounts of sediments were laid down. Lets look at
some of this evidence.
Massive layers of sedimentary rock in many parts of the
world have been severely distorted (i.e. bent out of shape), yet they display little, if any, cracking or breaking.
In other words these rocks appear to have been bent before they had time to
harden. Even the crystalline structure displays little, if any, stretching of
the individual sand grains -- thus strongly implying that they were bent while
the sediments were still wet, and before they had time to harden. And since
this hardening would only take from perhaps one hundred to a thousand years,
this strongly implies that something caused these massive sedimentary
rock layers to become bent within a relatively short time after being laid
down. This also implies that the layers themselves were deposited rather
rapidly (i.e. virtually all at once) and that some massive event--such as the
moving of the continents -- caused them to be uplifted and bent.
In many parts of the world tree stumps have been found
imbedded in vertical position running through multiple layers of strata.
Such facts indicate that these trees
were buried catastrophically, or before they had time to
Nova Scotia, for instance, at a place called Joggins,
tree stumps are imbedded vertically and randomly throughout approximately
2,500 feet of layered sedimentary strata. In some cases they are more than
20 feet long. 8,
details see the Polystrate
Fossil section of Evidence for a Worldwide Flood
and our article on Fossil
Links to other sites are provided in the text and at the end of
the each article.
According to Roth, "a clastic dike is a cross cutting body of
sedimentary material which has been intruded into a foreign rock mass."
dikes... (may) penetrate horizontal sedimentary strata (or) they may occur...
in igneous and metamorphic rocks. The process of formation of a clastic dike
is analogous to wet sand oozing up between ones toes, but on a much larger
present a problem to the "millions of years" mindset of evolution in that "millions of years" older sediments (that should
have been rock-hard for "millions of years") are found
intruding up into overlying younger ones while still in a plastic state.
presents a profound and puzzling question:
What took these
older sediments so long to become hard?
think that 80--400million years would be more than enough time to turn massive
sand-laden sediments into sandstone,
10, 11, 12
yet these were still in a wet and plastic state when an earth movement caused
them to be forced up into "younger" sediments. Such things place
serious strain on the evolutionary method of "dating" rock
formations. They also provide us with strong evidence that massive amounts of sediments were
laid down rapidly, and suggest that the Earth isn't very old at all.
On Axel Heiberg
and Ellesmere Islands,
in Northern Canada, numerous large tree stumps and fallen tree trunks have been
found at or just below the earth's surface.
13, 14, 15,
What is so strange about
this is that today the only type of vegetation that grows in this area are
small plants and shrubs. 14
How did these trees
get there? And more importantly, when did they get there?
claim that they are leftover remnants of numerous forests which
inhabited this area 45-60 million years ago.14
The scientific data seems to suggest
otherwise. For instance, these trees are not petrified 13,
14, 15, 16
meaning that the wood can be sawed and
burned. In addition, pine cones, pine needles, and leaves are also preserved
in the sandy silt-like soil.14,
Another clue to this puzzle is that the roots of these trees are not
14, 15 This strongly suggests that they were missing when the trees were deposited,
and that the trees themselves were uprooted by a catastrophic event similar to what
happened to the trees at Mt. St. Helens during its 1980 eruption. And
although the trees on these two islands are frozen for most of the year, each
summer the snow melts and for several months the temperature reaches into the
70 degree F. range. I mention this because warm temperatures allow
decomposition to take place much more rapidly. Taken together, the evidence
suggests that these trees were uprooted via a major catastrophe and
transported by water and buried at different depths -- (most
likely) within the past 5-10,000 years -- otherwise they would have decayed long
Ocean Bottom Evidence
Another piece of
evidence to the continental drift puzzle is the existence of magnetic imprints
in ocean bottom rocks on both sides of the Mid-Atlantic ridges. These suggest
that the earth's magnetic field may have oscillated back and forth many times
when the continents were spreading apart. This evidence was collected by towing
magnetometers along the ocean bottom and by drilling holes into the rocks at
regular intervals away from the ocean ridges. The data shows that the reversals
were randomly distributed both horizontally along and vertically down these rock
holes. This finding was unexpected and implies that whatever mechanism caused
the continents to split was much more complex
than old earth models had
Dr. Kurt Wise goes into
more detail on this in his book on the age of the Earth. Dr. Wise also shows how the actual evidence supports a Catastrophic
Tectonics model better than a Conventional (slow) one. A portion is quoted below:
both Baumgardner and Humphreys are right, new ocean floor was being created
during the Flood at miles per hour with reversals occurring every
couple of weeks. And it's likely that there were always pockets of the
ocean floor that stayed hot well into the next reversal period. The
young-age creationist would then predict that the entire ocean floor
should be magnetically mottled, with adjacent pockets throughout the basalt
having opposite magnetic orientations. Such mottling does seem to exist
in every one of the hundreds of cores made in the basalts of the ocean
floor. This is consistent with young-age creation theory and contrary to
alternative theories." 22
Emphasis in text.
See also: The
'Principle of Least Astonishment', by Andrew Snelling -- to learn more on
how fast the field could flip-flop (based on actual measurements).
San Andreas Fault
evidence seems to suggest that the plates along San Andreas Fault have only been
moving for a few thousand years at most. This can be observed by
looking at a map of the San
Andreas fault area, near Point
Reyes California. For even though the fault
runs directly through two peninsulas (Sand Point and Toms Point), neither of
them appear offset at all. 23
Furthermore, since these plates
presently move at the rate of one to two
inches per year. If we assume that this has been going on for (only) the past 10,000 years, then these two peninsulas should be offset by
more than 1/4 mile. However we don't observe even the slightest offset of
these peninsulas on the map.
Some have suggested that this is
because of the types of sediments along this portion of the coast, and that they
would be worn down as they were beaten up by the waves; if this were the case
then it would still only apply to the Northern upper left side portions,
but not to the lower Southern left side portions. In other words,
the bottom portions should still be offset. This strongly suggests that the San Andreas fault is quite young,
and likely less than
5,000 years old. It also is an indication that the continents themselves
are young as well. The diagram below illustrates this point.