I wrote my review of "In the Beginning" in 2009. At that time, I posted details of my asteroid orbit calculations in this comment section. My calculations follow, but I am now (March 2014) adding this update to describe a recent CREATIONIST review of Walt Brown's work. This review should be of interest to anyone interested in hydroplate theory, as well as other creationist attempts to develop a workable model of the Global Flood.
First, some background. In 2009 I became aware that a northern Virginia-based film company, In Jesus' Name Productions (INJP), was interested in developing a big-budget movie based on the Biblical Flood. (This has nothing to do with the current "Noah" movie that stars Russell Crowe.) I attended a "Creation Forum" at a local evangelical church, at which INJP's CEO announced his plan to conduct a scientific review of the leading creationist Flood models and theories. The intention was to identify the most-credible model, with the hope that it would have enough scientific validity to form the basis for the movie's depiction of the Flood. The developer of each Flood model would be asked a number of questions by a panel of reviewers (all of whom would be creationists with scientific credentials). The developers of the Flood models would also be given the opportunity to critique each other's work.
Initially, there was some interest in getting me involved as a sort of unofficial adviser to this process, but this fell through. At that point, I stopped paying much attention to the progress of the review.
I now see that the review has been completed. An e-book, containing all the exchanges and communications between the creationists, is available for download (for a donation) from the INJP website. For creationists, this book is a great resource. For critics of creationism, it is a fascinating (if eccentric) inside look at how today's creationists think about themselves and each other.
Walt Brown and his hydroplate theory (including its astronomical claims) were an important part of the review. His work was subjected to strong scrutiny, and reading his exchanges with his critics reveals much about the scientific status of his work, as well as his attitude toward anyone who challenges him.
One of the review panelists was someone I had met at the Creation Forum. He posed my angular momentum calculations (the ones seen below in this comment) as a question to Walt Brown.
Several things are clear from Brown's response. First, he really doesn't like me very much! He and I had gotten off to a regrettably bad start when I first communicated with him, and he sort of went ballistic as soon as my name came up. He described me as an "arch antiCreationist" who refuses to debate him fairly (giving "flimsy excuses"). He claimed that he had pointed out errors in my criticisms, but that I was just on a "fishing expedition" to find chinks in his armor. He claimed that I go public with my criticisms without giving him the opportunity to respond in front of the same audience. He even got nasty with the creationist who had dared to cite my critique of Brown's work (the review moderator then chastised Brown for his disrespect to the creationist panelist).
I find all of this amusing, and won't go into detail about his angry comments here. I will note that I don't see myself this way. I don't remember that he has ever communicated any serious errors in my work to me. The only "public" criticism I have made of him (that I can recall) is in this Amazon review. If he wants to present his side of the story, I'll gladly delete half of my review to make space for him to do that.
It's gratifying to me that several of the creationist panelists raised the same points that I made in my review. The lack of calculations to back up his assertions was noted. Brown was asked for details of the computer modeling that allegedly supports his claims. In all of these cases, Brown kept insisting that his critics reread his book, even though the desired information isn't in there. Perhaps he sincerely doesn't understand what we are asking for. He repeated what he said to me: that no one but himself could understand his mathematical work and computer code, so it would be pointless to give this material to outside reviewers. He was defensive and resentful at being asked to justify his claims (beyond simply proclaiming that things would happen in a certain way).
The most telling aspect of this exchange is its ending: Brown prematurely withdrew, partway through the review process. He was the only participant to do so (another author wanted to participate, but could not because of a health problem). As I've noted, I wasn't part of this process, so I don't know the full story. At first, I wondered whether Dr. Brown had dropped out because of illness or personal issues. But the comments in the INJP writeup make it clear to me that there were no ameliorating circumstances. Walt Brown just decided he'd had enough.
In the comments following my Amazon review, I was repeatedly taken to task by creationists for failing to accept Walt Brown's ridiculous "debate challenge." It was claimed that he is eager to take on his critics, and that the fault lies with "evolutionists" who are afraid to confront him directly. But INJP's Flood Review was congenial to Dr. Brown right from the start; in fact, he helped design the process. It gave him the chance to defend his work before a panel of creationists, who could hardly be accused of religious-based hostility. And in this forum, Walt Brown did exactly what he has done in the past, with me and with others. He refused to acknowledge legitimate questions or provide essential information needed to assess the value of his work. He couldn't take the heat, and left the kitchen.
I take no pleasure in this. As I've said elsewhere, Walt Brown is probably a terrific person, apart from the creationism hobbyhorse he's ridden for so many years. He's a frustrating person to deal with, but I don't feel personal animosity toward him. But after this review, his credibility among knowledgeable observers (creationist or not) must be gone. The INJP documentation of his comments and behavior records his inability to engage in scientific debate, and reveals the sad destiny of someone who thought he knew better than anyone else.
One more note of interest: no creation Flood model or theory was found credible enough to justify the production of the "Flood" movie. To be sure, the standard "old Earth/no Flood" scenario was found lacking as well, but the format of the review made it impossible to consider the vast evidence in favor of the authentic scientific worldview.
Plans for the "Flood" movie have been shelved until a credible Flood model can be developed. Obviously, I don't think that day will ever come. The panelists, and INJP management, are to be commended for their willingness to admit an unwelcome conclusion to their study. Of course, the importance of this conclusion - that no credible creation-science account of the Biblical Flood exists - should be noted by all students of this issue.
And now, as promised, here are the details of my calculations relating to Dr. Brown's claims for asteroid orbital enlargement, as originally posted in 2009...
The book's lack of details on the density of the vapor cloud, its variation with radius and time, and the size of the asteroids during the acceleration period make it difficult to mathematically assess Brown's asteroid claims. In what follows, I do the best I can with the limited information available in the book.
Charitably, I ignore decelerating drag forces on the asteroids, even though these would probably be much more significant than the tiny accelerations provided by Brown's acceleration mechanisms.
First, let's try to assess the force needed to enlarge the orbit of a large (1 km) asteroid from 1 to 3 astronomical units (1 A.U. = the Earth's distance from the Sun). Assuming a density of 2.0E3 kg/m3, such a body would have a mass of about 2.0E12 kg. The angular momentum needs to increase by about 70%. Since 1 A.U. is about 149 million km and the orbital velocity is about 30 km/s, the needed change in angular momentum is approximately
(delta)L = 0.7mvR = (0.7)(2.0E12 kg)(30,000 m/s)(1.49E11 m) = 6.0E27 kg m2/s
The torque needed (allowing, charitably, an acceleration period of (delta)t = 1000 years) is
tau = (delta)L/(delta)t = 2.0E17 kg m2/s2 The force needed is then F = tau/R = 6.7E5 Newtons where the radius R is taken to be 2 A.U. (average between Earth and asteroid belt orbital radii). This force is equivalent to 150,000 lb. Since the area of the asteroid is on the order of 1 km2, the unbalanced pressure needs to be 9.7E-5 lb/in2, or 7.0E-6 atm.
Brown doesn't tell us how he calculates the force on the asteroid, for a given (but unknown) gas density. But since his pressure is not exerted uniformly over the asteroid surface and is a difference between the pressures on the warm and cool surfaces (which would actually involve relatively small temperature differences), we can reasonably guess that the total gas pressure must be at least several orders of magnitude greater than the differential calculated above.
Nevertheless, let's be generous and ignore the differential factor, demanding that the gas pressure be only 7.0E-6 atm. How much water is needed to produce an interplanetary cloud of vapor with this pressure?
Brown says the cloud would be a "torus" but doesn't give its assumed dimensions. Favoring Brown, let's assume a relatively small cloud: an annular disk with inner radius at the Earth's orbit and outer radius at the orbit of Mars, and a thickness of a million miles. The volume of the vapor cloud is then 1.6E38 cm3. Since 7.0E-6 atmosphere corresponds to a density of 2.0E14 molecules per cm3, the total number of water molecules is 3.2E52. Since approximately 3.0E22 molecules of water corresponds to one gram, Brown's theory requires 1.0E30 grams of water to be injected into interplanetary orbit. But the mass of the Earth is only 6.0E27 g! The water needs to be over a hundred times as massive as the Earth! Applied to full-sized asteroids, Brown's scenario is utterly unworkable.
Accelerating very small asteroids would be easier. However, the particles would have to be bigger than 10 cm or so, because smaller particles would heat all the way through, resulting in little temperature difference between the dark and illuminated sides. Calculations, analogous to those shown above, show that 10-cm particles would require at least 1% of the Earth's mass to have been shot into space in the form of water vapor. This is equivalent to a subterranean layer 120 km thick, much greater than Brown's estimate of less than a mile. But considering the unrealistic assumptions I made that favor Brown's scenario, even in the case of small particles the actual amount of water vapor needed would probably be greater than the Earth's mass.