The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Velikovskian Tectonics and Pangaea
Andrew MacRae

This is a response to some of Ted's comments about Owen's "expanding Earth theory", and a more lengthy discussion of some of the problems in a paper presented by Lynn Rose, from which Ted has obtained some of the information he has posted in

Ted Holden ( writes:

Owen and others have noted that the earth's present diameter is too large for Pangea to work. Rose's notion of an egg-shaped earth, with Pangea sitting atop the high part, solves the problem outright, without requiring matter to be created magically at the center of the earth.

Actually, what Owen noticed was that there was a slight divergence in the fit of continents like South America and Africa as you went away from the center of the N-S pre-Atlantic suture. If the Earth was a bit smaller, those gaps at the edges would be closed. His hypothesis does not say "Pangaea can not work". What it says is that you can join all the margins of the continents (including across the paleo-Pacific) if you shrink the Earth. It does not exclude Pangaea, "it just works better"(TM) (theoretically). By the way, there are alternative explanations for the "gaps".

While Rose's idea does not require "matter to be created magically at the center of the Earth", it suffers the same disadvantage that conventional theory suffers with regards to Pangaea - specifically, the large "outside" margin of Pangaea that has no matching continental boundary. In that sense, it is no better than conventional theory versus Owen's theory.

Secondly, some of Owen's more recent ideas have suggested that matter was not "magically" introduced, but that phase changes of the dominant minerals in the mantle and core as they have chemically differentiated have resulted in larger volume for the same bulk composition. This is not as far fetched as it sounds. For example, diamond is more compact a structure than graphite, although both are the same composition.

Thirdly, you or Rose have not provided an adequate explanation for what I consider the most important failure of the theory you presented: Why do you find marine animals like corals and rudists in rocks along the length of the "non-existent" Tethyan Ocean suture? Those animals had to live in an ocean. Where was/is it? How did they get there if the Tethys never existed?

You have provided me with a copy of Rose's paper [1]. I greatly and honestly appreciate that. It elaborates on some of the details you have presented in Unfortunately it is quite disappointing in terms of basic information used, and the logic of the ideas presented.

With regards to the Tethys, Rose says (p.8): "(There is of course no direct evidence that the Sea of Tethys ever existed; it was simply invented [Rose's emphasis], just because the fitting together of the continents seemed to leave room for it.)"

This is a truly incredible statement, given that the Tethys Ocean was proposed in 1893 by Suess [2], years before Wegener's proposal of "continental drift", and many decades before modern plate tectonics refined the nature of continent movement.

I have a map sitting in front of me with the oceans of the Permian marked on it. It was published in 1928 [3]. The continents are depicted in exactly the same position as now, and there is a strip of water that runs from the present Mediterranean through the Middle East, north of India, and into China. It is labeled "Tethys". The paleogeographic data is being used in this paper to support the theory of "continental drift". How could someone use the existence of the Tethys as evidence for "continental drift" if the ocean was "invented"? The short answer is, the evidence is real, and is independent of "continental drift" theory.

The point of this is that there is evidence for Tethys Ocean beyond continent geometry, and you and Rose have ignored it. That evidence is explained by conventional theory. Rose's theory does not. I.e. Rose's theory fails.

This pattern of avoiding of alternative evidence also arises with regards to the "problem" of the Ural Mountains. Rose proposes a theory that, essentially, they are the result of "wrinkling" of the crust due to compression as the "world mountain" collapsed. A basic problem is that such "collapse" would result in radially-arranged extensional forces, not compressional. Rose makes the rather apologetic speculation that the edge of the "mountain" somehow resisted stretching. This is very unlikely. Rocks have high compressive strength, but low extensional strength, and there is no reason to suggest the margins of Pangaea were different in composition from the interior. Even if this did occur, the orientation of such compressive bands would be circular, with a center (presumably) in the center of Pangaea. The Urals are clearly radially oriented relative to the center of Pangaea, and the apex of the "world mountain" Rose is proposing in the Afar Triangle. I.e. Rose's model does not produce the claimed effects.

However, let us forget these important details, and consider the argument Rose presents to dispute the conventional explanation (p22-23):

"The usual view is that the Urals mark the site of a Paleozoic collision of two crustal plates as Pangaea was being formed."

This is correct.

"But there is apparently no other indication that the Eurasian plate was formed from two colliding plates...".

False. There is ample evidence for a continent suture in the Urals. Specifically, there are marine fossils (the type area for the Permian is there), and there are fragments of oceanic crust known as "ophiolites", which can only occur where there was once an ocean. Incidentally, Scuchert [3] also shows an ocean extending over the present Urals. It connects to the Tethys at its southern end.

Another point raised by Rose (p.9) is the "problem" of the speed at which India crossed the Tethys Ocean. It is indeed fast. However, Rose simply quotes conventional authors as saying it is "remarkable", the "longest migration of all the drifting land masses" and attributable to "ideal" conditions. Well, big deal. In a set of continents moving at different rates, one will be fastest, right? That is all that Rose quotes. Nothing is presented to suggest that the actual rate at which India drifted is impossible. In fact, this topic is dealt with quite well in Meert et al. 1993 [4]. They quote (from others) a rate of 19 cm/year for the maximum rate of motion of India for part of its travel. Modern rates are up to 10cm/year. That is not outside the realm of possibility, especially considering the unique nature of the breakup of Pangaea. There is no indication that either of these numbers are hard limits. In fact Meert et al. quote other authors who have suggested maximum theoretical rates as high as 30 cm/yr.

You would expect that the collision of such a rapidly-moving continent would produce a dramatic effect, and it has. The Himalayas are the highest mountain chain in the world. I.e. the extraordinarily high rate of drift of India is consistent with the extraordinary nature of the collision effects. I find it ironic that Rose, Velikovsky, and you continually berate conventional geologists for using "uniformitarian" assumptions in their calculations. It is you who is doing so, when you assume that 19 cm/year is impossible because no modern plates move that fast. Geologists do not make that assumption (see [4]).

One of the features that Rose examines at length is the nature of the rift between Africa and Arabia at the Afar Triangle. Briefly, the problem is that you can not close both the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden using a rigid plate model (p.10). What Rose apparently does not realize, is the significance of the third segment of the rift, which proceeds due south from the Afar Triangle. It is known as the East African Rift, and extends down much of the length of eastern Africa. Considerable extension (i.e. stretching) has occurred across this rift as evidenced by the style of volcanism and widespread normal faults. The effect is to rotate the eastern part of Africa about a pole near the southern end of the rift. If you "undo" this process, it completely closes the Gulf of Aden when the Red Sea is also closed. Rose even mentions the East African Rift, but does not discuss the implications for the conventional theory honestly: If you do, THERE IS NO PROBLEM.

The evidence for the rift was known at the time Rose wrote the paper, and expressed on page 11. I have no idea how the evidence could be so cheerfully ignored with this comment:

"Despite Tazdieff's confident assertions, I am not convinced that this region is the birthplace of future oceans."

Come on. The place is almost at sea level. There is extensive basaltic volcanism of oceanic affinity, and huge fault escarpments dropping the base of the rift more than 1000 meters! Rose even says on page 7:

"Most of the Afar Triangle has characteristics (rifting along a central axis, basaltic rather than granitic rocks, and so forth) of an ocean floor rather than a continental surface."

This seems contradictory.

Rose discusses some of the geometric "problems" with the structure in the Afar Triangle, including the rather obvious fact that it "gets in the way" if you close the Red Sea. The Afar Triangle crust has been significantly stretched due to the rifting process. This is explained in detail in Souriot and Brun (1992 [5]). If you "undo" the stretching, there is no problem.

Rose then proceeds to demolish the conventional interpretation of the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. Surprisingly, the solution to the "problem" is expressed by Rose on page 15:

"In order to save this situation, there might have been a considerable distortion of one of the three plates, presumably the East African one, so that the 'horn' [of Africa] could (as it does) jut out at more of an angle with respect to Arabia."

"But this sort of distortion is ruinous for drift theory."

This is completely wrong. Rose is using vintage "continental drift" ideas that assumed continental plates were rigid. They are not. They are fairly rigid, but the edges get stretched or compacted depending upon the stresses. Imagine a demolition derby. A car is essentially rigid, but collisions will deform the edges extensively. Continental plates are the same, but for extensional deformation too. See the Himalayas, the Basin and Range province, the North Sea, or Iceland for examples. Rose is disputing an outdated model that is known to be wrong, even in 1979 (this is better known as a straw man argument).

While I can admit that Rose's theories are original, their predictions fail tests consistently. You can discuss all the human-historical background you want, but the geologic components of Rose's theories are wrong.


[1] Rose, L.E., 1979 (Fall). The Afar Triangle as the nether reaches of Eden and Babel. Kronos, v.1, p.12-46.

[2] Seuss, E., 1893. Are great ocean depths permanent? Natural Science, v.2, p.180-187.

[3] Schuchert, C., 1928. The hypothesis of continental displacement. In: Theory of continental drift. American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, Oklahoma, p.104-144.

[4] Meert, J.G.; Van der Voo, R.; Powell, C.M.; Zheng-Xiang Li; McElhinny, M.W.; Zhong Chen; and Symons, D.T.A., 1993 (May 20). A plate-tectonic speed limit? Nature, v.363, p.216-217.

[5] Souriot, T and Brun, J.-P., 1992 (October). Faulting and block rotation in the Afar Triangle, East Africa: The Danakil "crank-arm" model. Geology, v.20, p.9 11-914.

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