Walt Brown's "Hydroplate" Flood Model Doesn't Hold Water

© 2009-2015, Glen J. Kuban (last revised July 31, 2015)

Part of Kuban's Paluxy Website

Hydroplate theory diagram from Wal Brown's book

Diagram from W. Brown's website and book
showing what he calls the "Rupture Phase of the Flood"

Introduction

Walt Brown, a young-earth creationist and retired mechanical engineer, has developed a "Flood model"1 which he believes accounts for virtually all geologic evidence on earth, as well as a variety of astronomical phenomena. His central thesis is that only a few thousand years ago the earth's entire crust consisted of a granite slab 20 to 60 miles thick (until recently, claimed to be 10 mi thick), suspended over a large reservoir of highly pressurized water. According to Brown, due to centuries of "tidal pumping" from the Moon's gravity, the crust suddenly cracked and burst open, violently releasing the subterranean water and flooding the entire earth. He asserts that large masses of rock and water were ejected into outer space during this massive eruption, creating all the asteroids, comets, and meteoroids in our solar system. He further claims that the immense slabs of broken crust, which he calls "hydroplates," undulated, heaved and slid thousands of miles in a matter of months or less, and then crashed into each other to form mountains within hours.

Brown presented early versions of the model during the 1980's (Brown, 1986), and subsequently revised and expanded it into a more comprehensive model of earth history, which he described in a book entitled In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, now in its 8th edition (Brown, 2008). He provides updates and excerpts of large portions of his book at his CSC website. Brown indicates that he is "Director of the Center for Scientific Creation" in Arizona, which apparently consists of one person (himself).

Brown's Flood model and associated claims are overwhelmingly rejected by conventional scientists, since they conflict with many lines of evidence that the earth and solar system have had a long and complex history, and that the earth is about 4.6 billion years old (Hazen, 2013; Strahler, 1987). Detailed critiques of Brown's specific claims (based on earlier editions of his book) have been made by Lippard (1989a, 1989b, 1990) and Jellison (2009a, 2009b), while one or more his specific claims have been refuted by others (Bahcall, 2004; Fleming, 2012; Kuban, 1997; Matson, 1995; Morton, 2003a; Sharp, 2005; Van Till, 1986). Although Brown's model has garnered a modest level of popularity among mostly lay creationists, even many YECs have strongly questioned or rejected it, and refuted many of his specific arguments (Oard, 2013; Faulkner, 2014). In the wake of such criticisms, Brown removed a few of the most glaring errors from his book and website, such as those regarding the "shrinking sun," "missing neutrinos, and a "Japanese plesiosaur"; however, he continues to promote many other dubious or unfounded claims. This review expands on past critiques, and addresses recent updates to Brown's book and web site.

Major Problems from the Start

Brown's Flood model requires that the proposed water reservoir be totally sealed under the earth's crust. This precludes any significant earthquakes, meteorite impacts, or fissures in the crust anywhere on entire earth, even though such phenomena are well evidenced throughout the geologic record. As Christopher Sharp (2005) notes, Brown gives no satisfactory explanation as to how so much water could be trapped below the upper layer of rock, and how that upper layer remained impervious until the flood. As demonstrated by geologist and former creationist Glenn Morton, the earth's surface would also have to be almost perfectly smooth--lacking any mountains or even hills-- or the crust would buckle in places and release the subterranean waters (Morton, 2003a). Yet according to the Bible (Genesis 49:26) there were mountains before the Flood, which Brown even refers to and shows in his diagrams.

For years Brown held that the granite "hydroplates" were 10 miles thick, even though no evidence supported that assumption, and despite extensive geologic evidence indicating that the earth's crust ranges from 20 to 60 miles thick. Although the current (8th edition) of Brown's book still includes the 10 mi. figure, he recently modified his website to indicate that the thickness of the pre-Flood crust ranged from 20 to 60 miles thick. Evidently he is not just suggesting that the crust was a uniform thickness somewhere within this range, but that its thickness varied widely from place to place, as indicted in his own diagrams, showing mountains and valleys before the Flood. While this allows one facet of his model better coincide with geologic data, it creates a Catch-22 for him, since it greatly exacerbates the problem discussed above -- that any irregularities in the topography of the crust prevent a tight seal on the supposed pressurized water chambers below. This alone is fatal to his model.

Further exacerbating the problem is that Brown claims the supposed "granite pillars" helping support the hydroplates formed in less than one day as earth's crust deformed and sagged all the way to the bottom of the subterranean water (miles below). Besides being physically untenable (to say the least), even if this were possible, it would have produced massive earthquakes and huge cracks in the crust, immediately releasing the pressurized water.

What Initiated the Flood?

Brown claims that "tidal pumping" from the pull of the Moon's gravity led to the eventual rupture of the hydroplates, implying that the start of the Flood was a natural and inevitable event. However, elsewhere he indicates that the Flood was directly initiated by God in response to mankind's rampant sinfulness, in accord with his literal interpretation of Genesis. Even other YECs such as have noticed this inconsistency and its troubling theological implications. Oard (2009) notes that this would imply that God created the earth as a "ticking time bomb." Brown denies this, stating (p. 371) that the Flood was "not inevitable at that time," because at the end of the creation week, everything created was "very good." But Brown immediately goes on to describe how God made the earth with subterranean waters during the creation week, followed by various natural processes that eventually led to the crustal eruptions--which seems to reinforce rather than resolve the discrepancy. Adding to the confusion, Brown suggests on p. 376 of his book that if humans did not sin, they may have learned to drill into the earth for geothermal energy and somehow averted the flood in the process. However, by Brown's own comments elsewhere, any small opening into the super-heated, super-pressurized waters below would have caused a massively violent eruption and initiated the Flood. Indeed, a few sentences later he suggests that because mankind sinned, human activities may have initiated the Flood by weakening the crust. In any case, his suggestions about human activities seem to not only contradict each other, but also his initial claim that the Flood was due entirely to natural, geologic events, and his later assertion that the Flood was directly initiated by God. While many readers of Brown's book would already be scratching their heads, Brown then states a "second possibility" (actually forth, by my count), is that God "simply commanded the earth's crust to crack or a pillar to collapse", adding that this is "not difficult to imagine." He then states, "The hydroplate does not assume that a miracle happened." Perhaps not, but didn't he just suggest it may well have? Good luck to anyone trying to sort all this out.

Earth Boiled, Steamed and Roasted

Another serious problem with Brown's model is the immense heat that would be generated during the proposed cataclysmic eruption (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, 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 got swallowed by the sun or gaseous planets, or which escaped into outer space. Although he does not say how many of these he included in his calculations, Brown himself states that the energy released during the hydroplate eruptions would exceed 300 trillion atomic bombs. 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 unimaginable heat and violence discussed below.

In his reviews of Brown's book at Amazon.com, physicist Gerard Jellison noted that he also did calculations on Brown's claims, and found serious problems. For example, he calculated that the mass of particles and water vapor expelled from earth in order to explain the comets, asteroids, and meteoroids in our solar system would be over 100 times greater than the earth's mass (Jellison, 2009a). He further calculated that if only 0.001% of the mass and energy of the eruptions wound up in the earth's atmosphere (an estimate very generous to Brown; realistically it would have been much greater), the atmosphere would have been raised by 3000 degrees F!

More Fatal Problems

Brown states that temperature of the highly pressurized subterranean water would have reached over 705 degrees F, and elsewhere he implies it may have been over 1300 F. He also states that its volume was about the same as the oceans above. Therefore, if even a moderate about of mixing of two occurred during the Flood (which would have been inevitable), the ocean waters would have turned into boiling caldrons, killing virtually all sea life.

Moreover, based on Brown's own descriptions, after the initial "rupture phase" the subsequent "undulating," "crashing", "sinking" and "sliding" of continent-sized hydroplates would have produced even more lethal heat from friction, as continent sized plates moved thousands of miles in weeks, and entire mountains were pushed up in "hours." Still more heat, which Brown himself calls "massive" would have been produced from widespread volcanic activity and magma outpouring during these events.

The proposed hydroplate eruptions and volcanic eruptions would also have launched enormous quantities of aerosols and fine sediment into the atmosphere, leaving it heavily contaminated and largely opaque, on top of top of already catastrophic climate changes and habitat destruction. Jellison (2009a) remarks: "Brown never explains how the already stressed, genetically depleted organisms from the Ark could have dealt with the resulting climate changes and loss of photosynthesis."

Meanwhile, according to Brown, huge masses of dissolved salt and calcium would have been released from subterranean deposits. It's inconceivable how most ocean creatures could have survived these sudden and massive environmental onslaughts, especially since many are adapted to narrow ranges of salinity, acidity, turbidity, and other conditions. Of course, these problems are admittedly largely moot in view of the multiple sources of lethal heat in Brown's model (the most severe of which has yet to be mentioned).

Astronomical Problems

Near and Far Sides of the Moon
Near site (left) and far side (right) of the Moon. Credit: NASA.

Origin of Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets

Attempting to bolster his claim that meteoroids, asteroids, and comets originated from earth, Brown describes them all as "earth like" in composition. However, their composition is quite variable. For example, many meteorites contain large portions of iron and nickel, which does not match the proposed composition of Brown's hydroplates (mostly granite), nor the known composition of most of the earth's crust. Brown tries to account for iron-rich meteorites by proposing that they came from the lower parts of the water chambers, where heavier metals sank before the hydroplates erupted, but overall meteorites have compositions considerably different than earth rocks (Korotev, 2015). Moreover, one of the major rock types on earth is limestone (and its metamorphosed form, marble) which are not found in comets, meteorites, or asteroids, except as small traces. Moreover, such traces are in inorganic forms, whereas most earthly limestomes (discussed below) are largely composed of organic remains.

Another line of evidence against Brown's claims about the earthly origin of asteroids is that, as Sharp (2005) notes, "We can calculate the motions of the asteroids back in time, and find no evidence at all that they originated from the earth, or the vicinity of the earth's orbit, a few thousand years ago. Indeed, their orbits correspond to them being in existence in many cases for billions of years, as determined from long term stability calculations taking account of the perturbations of the planets..." Brown's astronomical claims are also contradicted by the Baptistina asteroid family, which have similar orbits and evidently were produced by an ancient collision of two large asteroids. By tracing the orbits of the resulting asteroids back in time, augmented with data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, astrophysicists have calculated that the original collision occurred about 80 million years ago (Rationalwiki, 2012).

Brown suggests that the near side of the Moon received far more and larger impacts than the far side, implying the objects that made them originated on earth. However, photos of the far side show even more craters than the near side. Brown acknowledges that the near side is "smoother," but attributes this to volcanism (as do conventional scientists) caused by a greater number of impacts. However, any way you slice it, the far side is heavily cratered, even though his model predicts it should be largely devoid of impacts. Brown suggests they were the result of material kicked up by the impacts on the near side, and as support he suggests most craters on the far side are small. However, the craters there exhibit size ranges similar to those on the near side, and include many large craters. In fact, it contains the largest crater on the moon, and one of the largest in the Solar System: the South Pole-Aitken basin (Dutch, 2009).

Moon Dust

Brown promotes many other outdated arguments supposedly demonstrating a young earth. He claims that the Moon should have a thick layer of surface dust if it were really billions of years old. This claim was once popular among YECs, but was largely abandoned after strong refutations were published by both mainstream scientists and YECs (Matson, 1995; Thompson, 2006; Snelling and Rush, 1993). The major YEC groups Answers in Genesis (AIG) and Creation Ministries International list this argument among those that creationists "should not use" (CMI, 2015).

Helium in the Atmosphere

According to Brown, helium enters the atmosphere through radioactive decay much faster than it escapes, so that the current level of helium could be produced in only 40,000 years old. Besides this being far older than Brown believes the earth is, he ignores the process of ion outflow, and when this process is considered along with thermal escape, the outflow of helium balances balances its production from radioactive elements (Lie-Svendsen and Rees 1996). For a detailed refutation of YEC claims about Helium diffusion dates see Henke (2010).

Receding Moon?

Brown argues that due to tidal friction, the Moon is receding from the earth too fast to be over 4 billion years old. He presents two pages of calculations to demonstrate this. However, Brown's calculations and assumptions have been shown to contain serious errors. When these are properly accounted for, there is no inconsistency with a 4.6 billion year old earth (Thompson, 2000). Furthermore, data from fossil corals and other geologic evidence confirms the mainstream conclusions on lunar recession, and on the related issues of the earth's rotation and change in the length of the day (Strahler, 1987; Isaac, 2005). Despite the existence of the effective refutations cited here, as is often the case, Brown fails to even mention or reference them, let alone adequately deal with contrary evidence and writings.

Geologic Problems

Origin and Composition of Sedimentary Rocks

Brown argues that most sedimentary rocks were derived from the eroded granite hydroplates, along with deposits of calcium and salt deposits which he says accumulated in the subterranean chambers before being released during the Flood. Thus, we should expect most of the earth's sedimentary strata would be made largely of eroded granite, along with deposits of salt and inorganic calcium. Brown states that the sedimentary strata of the Earth are "typically parallel, thin, uniform in thickness, vast in area.... " and asks, "Why are strata so uniform in hardness?" Actually, rock strata are far from uniform in hardness, thickness, composition, or geographic extent. Even in one outcrop they can vary from very soft and friable layers to incredibly hard beds. Strata also very greatly in grain size, type, and distribution, and many other features, precisely because they were deposited in many different environments and in many different ways. Extensive evidence indicates that most limestone deposits are not produced by rapid precipitation of inorganic calcium, but gradual accumulation of organic material (discussed further below). Throughout much of the geologic record we even find many "paleosols" (ancient soil beds) which are incompatible with Brown's model.

Hydroplates vs. Plate Tectonics

Brown argues that the mid-Atlantic ridge, deep ocean trenches, and "ring of fire" volcanism, and mountain building are all better explained by his model than conventional plate tectonics, even though extensive geologic evidence indicates the opposite. Brown especially objects to the concept of subduction, where one tectonic plate is pushed under another over millions of years, gradually forming mountains and ocean trenches (Keary et al, 1996; Thompson, 1997). Brown claims that subduction is physically impossible; however, elsewhere in his book (p. 135) he argues that the reason the oceanic ridge appears to disappear under western North America is because the "The North American plate probably overrode that segment of the ridge...", which implies subduction. Moreover, Brown's calculations purportedly proving subduction impossible have been to contain serious errors (Thompson, 1997). Not only is there compelling evidence that plate movements and subductions have occurred and are still occurring, but their rate has been precisely measured, and the geologic details of the movements well mapped in places (Zhao et al, 1997). Ironically, it is Brown's assertions that continent sized "hydroplates" slid thousands of miles in a matter of months, and that entire mountain ranges were pushed up in a matter of "hours" as hydroplates "crashed" that strongly contradicts physical principles and extensive geologic data.

Radiometric Dating

All but the stratigraphically highest beds yield dates orders of magnitude older than his model allows, and several different and independent radiometric dating methods show a consistent, sloping pattern from stratigraphically lower to higher strata. Like many YECs, in an effort to account for this, Brown proposes that radioactive decay rates were dramatically higher during the Flood. Lacking a viable mechanism for such accelerated nuclear decay (AND), some YECs have proposed ad-hoc miracles, as well as more miracles to shield humans and other life from the lethal levels of radiation and heat it would generate. In contrast, Brown proposes a supposed scientific explanation for AND--that as the Flood began, the "massive fluttering crust" resulted in huge electrical voltages and a "piezoelectric effect," (hereafter abbreviated as the "p. effect"), disrupting atomic nuclei and forming super heavy elements that quickly fissioned and resulted in AND. Recently Brown added a new section to his website, supplemented with a YouTube video, discussing these and related ideas about a "Z-Pinch." While these claims will undoubtedly be fully evaluated by physicists as they become aware of them, they already appear to involve a number of problems:

1. Publishing status. Brown has not published these new proposals in rigorous scientific papers, even in the creationist press.
2. Undemonstrated extrapolations. Brown evidently bases his new ideas largely on anecdotal accounts of unusual forms of lightning and other atmospheric observations, along with some highly specialized lab experiments involving small-scale phenomena. He has not shown with calculations or other rigorous data that these phenomena would apply in subterranean water chambers during a global Flood, or at the precise levels needed to explain the amount and patterns of nuclear decay in the geologic record.
3. Lethal radiation. Even the proposed mechanisms generated the needed accelerated decay rates, the massive radiation levels would be more than lethal to humans and most other life forms (Fleming, 2012).
4. Lethal heat. Vastly accelerated nuclear decay would also generate lethal levels of heat, greatly exacerbating the already deadly heat from other aspects of Brown's model. Meert (2002) states, "Radioactive decay at a rate fast enough to permit a young earth would have produced enough heat to melt the earth." Brown has denied this, and recently argued that certain isotopes created by the p. effect would absorb a lot of the heat. But again, he has not rigorously demonstrated that his mechanisms would even apply during a Flood, or generate the specific decay rates he needs, let alone eliminate the heat problem.
5.C14 dates unexplained. His mechanism would apparently not apply to atmospheric carbon, and thus not explain C14 dating results.
6. Deepest rock dates unexplained. His mechanisms would be expected to affect sediments involved in the Flood, but exclude deep Precambrian strata, even though they yield the oldest radiometric dates.
7. Sloping patterns. None of his mechanisms explain the overall, slopping patterns of radiometric dates from stratigraphically lowest to highest rocks, since according to his model, almost all sedimentary rocks were generated within a single year, and even the oldest and youngest rocks would be separated by at most 6,000 years. Yet the slopping patterns do exist, and are well documented for several different dating methods.
8. Conflicting dates from meteorites. Most yield radiometric ages from 4.5 to 4.6 billion years BP (Krot, 2002; Krot et al, 2002; USGS, 2009), rather than showing a much wider range similar to earth rocks, even though Brown asserts they were all ejected from earth at the time of the Flood (the early stage of the Flood), and that they are made from the same materials
. 9. Conflicting dates from the Moon and Mars. Rocks from these bodies have been radiometrically dated from 3.0 - 4.5 billion years (Farley et al, 2013). If Brown believes all of the dated rocks came from earth (which is not clear), the same problem apples as in number 8 above. If he accepts that some did not come from earth, then his mechanisms cannot account for these old dates, unless he envisions hydroplate floods on the Moon and Mars.

Other Geologic Features

Brown argues that the Grand Canyon, plateaus, salt domes, earthquakes, oil and coal deposits, and other geologic phenomena are all better explained by his model than conventional explanations, However, in many cases he neglects or oversimplifies much of the mainstream research that provide the conventional explanations, and which often strongly contradict his model. It would take a book almost as long as Brown's to detail all of the problems in his claims, but the examples discussed here should give a good indication of Brown's credibility and approach.
White Cliffs of Dover
White Cliffs of Dover, England
Microfossils in Cretaceous limestone
Ammonite from White Cliffs of Dover
Ozark track site, Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas
Sauropod and theropod dinosaur tracks, in Cretaceous
Limestone, Glen Rose, Texas. Many additional layers of
fossiliferous or track-bearing limestone occur above and
below the picture bed. © 2006, Glen J. Kuban
Dinosaur tracks crossing mud cracks
Theropod dinosaur tracks crossing mud cracks
Lower Jurassic, St. George, Utah
Clearly the tracks shown in the photos above
as well as many others at these and other sites,
were not formed in the ways Brown suggests.

Fossil Evidence

While trying to account for limestones in his hydroplate model, Brown shows a picture of the famous "White Cliffs of Dover" in England--a massive limestone outcrop. He suggests the strata were formed from precipitated calcium during originating in the sub-crustal waters, and that "a simple, visual examination of limestone grains shows that few are ground-up seashells or corals, as some believe." However, Brown's statements are misleading at best, since no paleontologist claims the Dover Cliffs or most other limestone deposits are made of "ground up" macrofossils. What they do maintain, based on abundant evidence, is that most are composed of the accumulated remains of numerous micro-fossils such as foraminifera, coccoliths, and calcareous algae, as microscopic examinations of the rocks readily reveals. The Dover limestones and many others also contain a large number and variety of intact macrofossils that can be easily seen with the naked eye, including ammonites (extinct squid-like creatures with coiled shells), mollusks, echinoids (urchins), brachiopods, sponges, corals, crinoids, and shark teeth (Shepherd, 2012)--all incompatible with his assertion that the formation represents chemically precipitated calcium carbonate.

Tracks and Other Trace Fossils

Brown also cannot explain how many such limestones (and other geologic formations supposedly deposited during the Flood) contain thousands of dinosaur tracks and other vertebrate trackways, and in many cases, extensive invertebrate burrows (sometimes millions on one surface), as well as numerous surfaces with mud cracks. All of these phenomena are indicators of relatively calm, low-energy, shallow water or dry environments which dramatically contradict Brown's violent Flood scenario (Kuban, 2006a; Morton, 2003b). Even more problematic are vast dinosaur nesting sites, which obviously could not form during a violent global Flood (Carpenter, 1999; Chiappe and Dingus, 2001).

Brown suggests that fossil tracks, ripples, burrows, etc. would be preserved if liquefaction stopped at the boundary of "lenses" where they might occur, without explaining why the liquefaction would conveniently stop at footprint surfaces. Even more problematic is the question of how humans, horses, or dinosaurs would be walking around during the midst of a violent global flood, let alone how the latter could be mating, making nests and laying eggs. Brown suggests that salamanders might have swum to the top of a "lens" of sediment to make tracks on its surface, while (if I understand Brown correctly) still underwater and surrounded by sediment. However, this imaginative scenario doesn't work for countless dinosaurs and other land animals that left millions of tracks in the fossil record, let alone dinosaur nesting sites. Of course, it's not plausible for salamanders either, since the conditions are far from those realistically needed for track formation and preservation (Kuban, 1994), even if the animals somehow survived the lethal conditions discussed earlier. The fact that many vertebrate trackways also cross mud cracks and even raindrops in some cases (indicating exposed sediments) further refutes Brown's claims about fossil tracks.

"Flash-Frozen" Mammoths?

Brown proposes that soon after the Flood began, freezing rain caused many mammoths to become "flash-frozen," after which they were quickly buried with many additional layers of sediment--supposedly explaining why some still have flesh attached and food preserved in their stomachs. However, only a handful of frozen mammoth carcasses have been found in this state (compared to many thousands of bones lacking any flesh or stomach contents). Brown's model also does not explain why countless other large animals, including dinosaurs (or Noah and his ark passengers for that matter), were not also "flash frozen." Indeed, for reasons previously discussed, they would be much more likely to be broiled and incinerated than frozen. Moreover, a number of mammoth and mastodon specimens show evidence of scavenging and/or significant decay before burial, which further undermines Brown's claims. Finally, in view of Brown's belief that mammoths were buried in the early stages of the Flood, and his hydrologic sorting claims (discussed further below) their remains should be found among the lowest fossil-bearing strata. In contrast, they are consistently found in stratigraphically high geologic horizons, which almost all other YECs consider post-Flood. Brown states that to his knowledge no marine fossils, limestone deposits, or coal seems have ever been found below mammoth remains. However, at dozens of sites in the U.S. alone, mammoth remains and other Pleistocene fossils have been found above one or more such beds. For these and other reasons even other YECs have strongly criticized Brown's mammoth claims. Writing for AIG, Snelling (2002) lists "snap frozen mammoths" among the lines of evidence that fellow creationists "should not use," while CMI author Oard (2013) includes a chart summarizing the many lines of evidence that contradict Brown's frozem mammoth claims.

Coal Deposits

Brown suggests that coal was formed as a result of large floating mats of vegetation, which has been well refuted (Morton, 2004). Based on the thickness of many coal seems and amount of compressed vegetation it represents, there would have had to be floating vegetation mats hundreds of feet high, or laid down one on top another. Brown suggests many thin layers of plant remains would be concentrated together through "liquefaction" (a misguided idea, already dealt with), and has no way to explain how, even if these mats formed, they would stay together during a catastrophically violent flood. Brown says these mats included "leaves, ferns, grass, and wood fragments." However, neither grass nor other angiosperm remains are found in coal, even though if YECism were true, there should be. What is found in coal are plants typical of the period in which they are found. For example, in the abundant Carboniferous coal deposits, the most common fossil plants are extinct seed ferns, whose leaves superficially resembled those of modern ferns, but which reproduced with seeds instead of spores.

Brown and other YECs also have a major problem accounting for the sheer volume of coal on earth. According to Ricklefs (1993), there are 1.16 x 1013 metric tons of known coal reserves, and at least 100 times that much unrecoverable organic matter in sediments. A typical forest, even if it covered the entire earth, would supply only 1.9 x 1013 metric tons. And most coal is clearly made of particular type of plants, and most occurs in Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata, which Brown and most other YECs consider Flood deposits. In short, the amount of coal on earth is far too large to have existed at the time of the Flood, and therefore most have grown and accumulated over long periods of time.

Archaeopteryx (Berlin specimen) showing
feathered wings, as well as claws on the
forelimbs, teeth, and a long, bony tail.
Several other Archaeopteryx specimens
also show feather impressions.
Sphecomyrma freyi in Cretaceous
amber, showing features intermediate
between wasps and ants

Fossils on Mountains - A Geologic Mystery?

Brown suggests that fossil shells on mountains are controversial and a mystery to geologists. He states that if mountain ranges like the Himalayans rose millions of years ago as geologists believe, "the fossils on top should have eroded away." This is a naive comment, evidently based on Brown's mistaken assumption that fossils were preserved only on the surface of the highest beds. In reality, abundant evidence indicates the fossils occur throughout the sedimentary beds comprising the upper portion of these mountains. These layers were once much lower, at the bottom of the shallow Tethys sea about 400 million years ago--before they were later uplifted by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian continental plates, starting about 65 million years ago. In the case of Mt. Everest, the upper 250 meters (~800 ft) are composed of partially metamorphosed limestone, dolomite, and siltstone/shale of the Ordovician age Qomolangma Formation, which contains certain trilobites, crinoids, and osctracods that represent species typical of the Ordovician period. Under these beds are more heavily metamorphosed rocks (marble, gneiss, etc) containing fewer fossils, and still farther down, non-fossiliferous basement rocks (Sakai et al, 2005; Green, 2015). None of this requires or implies a global flood, let alone Brown's hydroplate model, which in many ways conflicts with the data, and does not explain the type and order of fossils found here or at thousands of other sites. A lot of the fossil-bearing rock has eroded from these mountains, but a lot is still left, so the mountains can continue to erode for many years, and still show abundant fossils.

Intermediate Forms

Brown disputes that any valid intermediate fossils exist, but often neglects or mischaracterizes evidence for them. For example, he argues that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx (an apparent dinosaur-bird intermediate), is a likely forgery --supposedly a small theropod dinosaur with added feather impressions artificially pressed into a glue-like material. This notion, initially promoted by the late Fred Hoyle, a prominent astronomer with no paleontological training or experience (Hoyal and Wickramasinghe, 1986), has been thoroughly debunked (Charig et al, 1986; Nedin, 1997). Brown suggests that only two Archaeopteryx specimens show feather impressions, and implies both are in doubt (even though Hoyle only examined one in person). In actuality, several other specimens also show definite feather impressions: the London, Eichstatt, Maxberg, Munich specimens, plus an unnamed specimen in a private collection and an isolated feather fossil. Brown incorrectly implies that except for the feather impressions, these fossils would be identical to the small theropod dinosaur Compsognathus. However, his cited source merely states that Archaeopteryx closely resembles small theropods "such as" Compsognathus, not that they are identical. Indeed, despite similarities the two genera exhibit clear differences; for example, the proportions of the hind to front limbs are considerably different, and Compsognathus has prominent haemal arches (bony processes extending off its tail vertebrae), which Archaeopteryx lacks. Even most YECs reject the claim that Archaeopteryx is a fraud, but also reject it's transitional status. Ironically, most YECs argue that Archaeopteryx is 100% bird, whereas Brown argues that it is 100% dinosaur. In reality, it shows a both reptilian and avian features (including a full set of feathers and perching feet, along with teeth in the jaw, claws on the forelimbs, and a long bony tail).

Brown asks how the leap from land animals to whales could have been made, but does not discuss the many fossils that shed considerable light on this transition (Babinski, 2015; Perrin et al, 2009; Thewissen, 1998).

Brown implies no intermediates are known between fish and amphibians, ignoring a number of classic examples, including Tiktaalik, which shows a variety of features intermediate between these two groups (Daeschler et al, 2006).

Brown insists no transitional forms have been found in amber (fossilized tree resin). Ironically, however, one of the most impressive intermediate fossils was an insect found 1966 in Cretaceous amber in New Jersey. Assigned to a new genus, Sphecomyrma, it showed intermediate features between wasps and ants. Since then other specimens of Sphecomyrma have been found, two of which have been assigned to new species, and also show intermediate features (Simmons, 1997).

For many more examples of intermediate fossils, see "List of Transitional Fossils" at Wikipedia (2015), and "Transitional Fossils" at RationalWiki (2015).
Homo habilis skull KNM-ER-1813

Human Evolution

Brown dismisses the evidence for human evolution by oversimplifying and neglecting much the relevant evidence. He mentions two early finds of Homo erectus ("Java Man" and "Peking Man"), implying that early workers believed they were just apes, and that the latter lost during World War II--as if they were the only evidence known for this species, and dubious evidence at that. Actually, casts of Peking man (Homo erectus pekinensis) were made and are still available, and many subsequent specimens of H. erectus have been documented. All show features intermediate between humans and earlier hominids --in skull shape, dentition, brain capacity, etc. (Foley, 2002). Moreover, even the early author Brown cites (DuBois, 1937) did not say they were just apes, but possibly "allied" (related) to gibbons. The early workers discussing Peking Man actually drew the opposite conclusion Brown implies, stating "...these are creatures with physical characteristics intermediate between the group of anthropoid apes and the group of Hominians." (Boule and Vallois, 1957).

Brown cites a paper suggesting that Homo habilis should never have been classified in the genus Homo, implying that it too was merely an ape, even though its remains are often associated with stone tools, and a number of other YECs argue that it was probably "human." In fact, like H. erectus and other hominids, it exhibits intermediate features, as the same author acknowledges, whatever the taxonomic and nomenclature issues. True to form, Brown implies that all Australopithecus species (including A. afarensis -"Lucy") were merely apes, citing an author who concluded that some Australopithecines could swing from trees. However, Brown did not clarify that the same author concluded (as have many others) that Lucy and most other Australopithecines could also walk bipedally, even if not as efficiently as modern humans (as would be expected for an intermediate form).

In a thorough review of Brown's hominid claims, Jim Foley (2002) showed that virtually every statement by Brown on the subject is erroneous or misleading. He also noted that some of the strongest evidence for human evolution, such as hominid specimens ER 3733 (a Homo ergaster specimen) and WT 15000 (Turkana boy) were not even addressed by Brown. Foley mentioned that despite Brown's professed eagerness to debate evolutionists, when he invited Brown to respond to his critiques, Brown declined.

Fossil Succession and "Liquefaction"

Although not clearly explained by Brown, fossils in each geologic period show a characteristic assemblage of organisms, which differ from those in preceding and succeeding periods, and conform to expected evolutionary patterns--a widely recognized phenomenon known as "fossil succession." For example, the previously discussed White Cliffs of Dover contain fossils typical of the Cretaceous period (certain corals, gastropods, ammonites, etc.), which differ from the fossils in periods above and below, and which change even within the period. Likewise, vascular plants first appear in the late Paleozoic, but many others do not arise until the early Mesozoic, and flowering plants not until the early Cretaceous. Many other examples could be cited.

Brown claims that "liquefaction" during the Flood explains "fossil layering". However, it is not even clear how liquefaction could be very applicable to his model, let alone explain fossil succession. In geologic usage, liquefaction normally refers to damp, sandy rock or soil becoming fluid-like during earthquakes. In contrast, a large portion of fossils occur in shales, limestone, dolomite, ash beds, clay, and other sediment types which were clearly not produced by liquefaction. Also, since Brown claims that most sediments were eroded at hydroplate edges, the sediments would already be under water and unconsolidated, and thus not involve liquefaction.

Brown describes an apparatus he built with two 5-gallon jugs on each end of a 10 foot long pole --one filled with water and the other with a "mixture of different sediments." He claims that his manipulations of this device demonstrated how sediments liquefy, and how fossils and particles sort together by "size, shape, and density." However, Brown doesn't say what kinds of sediments he included, or what organisms he used (obviously no large ones). Even if this simplistic exercise represented a realistic representation of conditions during a violent global Flood, or a realistic liquefaction scenario (and it seems far from either), and even if sediments and fossils sorted in the manner he describes, it would do more to undermine than help his case. That's because even though local sorting can occur, on global scale neither sediments nor fossils are sorted by size, shape, and density. If they were, we would see large heavy boulders concentrated at the bottom of the geologic column, and the particle size and densities getting smaller toward the top of the column, which is not what we find. Instead we find sediments of many different sizes, shapes, and densities occur in every geologic period. That's because, as demonstrated by many lines of evidence, they were not produced from a single global Flood, but under different conditions over extended periods of time. If Brown's apparatus results and assertions really matched the fossil record, we should find, for example, large modern mammals (rhinos, hippos, cattle, horses, etc) sorted with medium and small sized dinosaurs; whales and dolphins deposited with mososaurs and ichthyosaurs; many modern boney fish preserved with ancient placoderms and jawless fish; and many modern aquatic arthropods (crabs, lobsters, etc) sorted with ancient arthropods like trilobites and eurypterids. None of these combinations are ever found.

Brown also describes an experiment conducted by Loma Linda University (which holds to YEC views) where a dead amphibian, reptile, mammal, and bird were placed into an open water tank. Brown reports that "the natural order of settling following death was, from the bottom up, amphibian, reptile, mammal, and finally, bird", suggesting that this essentially matched the order of fossils in the geologic record. There are several problems with this experiment. First, it was not published in any scientific journal, but was simply an anecdotal account, lacking in many details. We are not told what specific animals were chosen, whether they all died at the same time (which would relate to decomposition and bloating), what if any sediment was in the tank. Brown mentions "buoyancy" and settling from bottom to top, implying they recorded the order in which the animals floated to the surface. But if so, it would be largely irrelevant to the order in which they would be buried and preserved as fossils. Second, each of these groups includes thousands of different species of many different sizes, shapes, etc., so depending on which species and individuals (young vs. old, etc) were chosen, one could get almost any results, including an order opposite the one reported. Third, even if the results consistently showed the same order, they would not be a good representation of the actual fossil record. For example, amphibians do not appear in the lowermost sediments, nor are they confined to the period in which they first appear in (Devonian). They occur in every subsequent period as well, in different forms. Granted, this would not even be possible to show in the experiment, since only one specimen for each animal group was included, which is another problem with it. The important point is that in the fossil record, different types of organisms appear in different periods, with the oldest (stratigraphically lowest) species generally the most different from modern ones. This is consistent with evolution, not the Loma Linda experiment or Brown's model, or his apparatus results. This applies not only to the four types of vertebrates used in the Loma Linda tank, but also fish and countless invertebrates, which the Loma Linda team did not include in the tank, even though they are more common as fossils than the groups they included.

The Geologic Column

Brown also attempts to discredit mainstream geology by stating that geologic column is "almost nowhere visible." This is misleading, since
1. One would not expect continuous deposition in any one spot for all of geologic history;
2. There are tens of thousands of outcrops around the world where multiple periods are exposed --with all the periods and fossils within each in the expected mainstream orders;
3. At least 25 sites around the world have been documented where every period of the fossil record from Cambrian onward is exposed, with each period in the expected mainstream order-- and all containing fossils typical of that period (Morton, 2001), and
4. The fossils at these sites comprise literally trillions of specimens, all in expected mainstream (evolutionary) orders.

This situation is a serious problem for Brown and other YECs, since according to their view, all organisms were living at the same time before the Flood, and therefore many should have been buried and preserved together, or at least at the same stratigraphic horizons. Again, any hydrologic sorting would not help, but foster the comingling of modern and ancient forms in the fossil record. Other YEC proposals for explaining fossil succession, elsewhere encouraged by Brown, such as ecological zonation and differential escape abilities, fare no better, and in some cases also make the matter worse (Strahler, 1987). For example, differential escape abilities cannot begin to explain fossil succession for plants (which of course cannot run for higher ground), and many ancient marine animals had extensive and overlapping habitats (many swimming or drifting widely throughout the ocean), yet are not found together as fossils. If YECism were true, countless thousands of "out of place" (OOP) fossils would be readily found and well documented. Brown asserts that fossils are "frequently" not found in the expected order, but all he offers are a handful of dubious cases, none of which are supported by convincing evidence, or endorsed by any major creationist groups.

Polystrate Fossils

The term "polystrate fossils" refers to fossils that extend through multiple sedimentary layers, such as tree trunks that sometimes buried in a vertical position. Brown and other YECs implying that such finds are a problem for "evolutionists", and support a global Flood, but their attempts to make hay out of them turns out to be a straw-man argument. Brown implies that based on "uniformitarian" principles, mainstream geologists hold that all sedimentary beds were laid down slowly over millions of years, which would not preserve the upper part of the trunk. However, this is a misleading depiction of uniformitarianism, which simply holds that present geoplogic processes (including occasional violent events) explain most geologic features. Geologists have no trouble accepting many examples of exceptionally rapid burials, though local floods, storms, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, tsunami's, etc. These are perfectly capable of explaining such polystrate fossils, without requiring a global Flood (Lindsay, 2009), and without discounting the abundant evidence that in many other cases, sediments were deposited more slowly and over long periods of time.

Charnia masoni, an Ediacaran
lifeform from England, believed
to be an early filter-feeding marine
organism.
Dickinsonia from Ediacara Hills
(Vendian rocks) of southern Australia.
It is thought to be a possible early
relative of corals.
These Precambrian fossils are among
those Walt Brown implies do not exist.

Missing Trunk?

Brown states, The "evolutionary tree" has no trunk. In what evolutionists call the earliest part of the fossil record (generally the lowest sedimentary layers of Cambrian rock), life appears suddenly, full-blown, complex, diversified, and dispersed worldwide. Evolution predicts that minor variations should slowly accumulate, eventually becoming major categories of organisms. Instead, the opposite is found. Almost all of today's plant and animal phyla including flowering plants, vascular plants, and vertebrates appear at the base of the fossil record. In fact, many more phyla are found in the Cambrian than exist today. Complex species, such as fish, worms, corals, trilobites, jellyfish, sponges, mollusks, and brachiopods appear suddenly, with no sign anywhere on earth of gradual development from simpler forms. Insects, a class comprising four-fifths of all known animal species (living and extinct), have no known evolutionary ancestors. Insects and other arthropods found in amber, supposedly 100-230 million-years-old, look like those living today. The fossil record does not support evolution.

In this one paragraph Brown manages to make several false and misleading claims. First, contrary to Brown's suggestion, the earliest fossils are not found in the lower Cambrian, but in the Precambrian. Many indisputable Precambrian fossils are known, including stromatolites (matted algal & bacterial structures), and a large variety of soft-bodied forms and trace fossils from several locations, dated between 542 and 635 million years. The soft-bodied fossils are often referred to as Ediacaran or Vendian biota (Fortey, 1999; Hazen, 2013). Although their taxonomic status is debated, some may be forerunners of known phyla, but are not readily identified with any extant orders or classes, let alone modern species. LIkewise, Brown's comment about "Complex species, such as fish, worms, corals... " appearing in the lowest beds is similarly misleading. These entities are not "species" but much larger taxonomic groups--at the class or higher level. This is critical, because by using this linguistic sleight of hand, Brown gives the impression that many modern species occur at the lowest levels of the fossil record, when in fact none do. Even most extant genera and families are not found in either the Precambrian or Cambrian, nor even in the rest of the Paleozoic. However, as one progresses up the fossil record, more modern families and then genera begin to appear, and finally, in the upper most strata, more genera and species appear more like modern ones. This well documented pattern of "fossil succession", discussed in more detail later, which holds for all groups of plants an animals, is strong support for evolution. Brown can only state the opposite conclusion by obscuring the actual fossil evidence, and painting an entirely different picture.

Brown's remarks about flowering plants and vertebrates (animals with backbones) likewise foster the impression that many modern species of plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals appear at the start of the fossil record, whereas in reality, none do. Not only do no modern angiosperm or vertebrate species appear anywhere in the Precambrian or even Cambrian (although in the YEC paradigm, one would expect to find many there), we don't even find any extant classes, families or genera of these groups in either time period. The earliest flowering plants do not appear until the Mesozoic Era. The earliest amphibian-like animals occur in the Devonian; the earliest reptile-like animals in the Pennsylvanian; the first mammal-like reptiles in the Permian, and the first true mammals in the Cretaceous. Even when mammals appear, they do not include any large modern ones, even though again, by the YEC paradigm, they should. All of this supports evolution, and starkly contradicts the picture Brown paints.

Brown claims that there is no sign that any of the groups he mentions show an origin in "simpler" forms is also very misleading. Whether "simpler" or not, each of the groups he mentions shows fossil evidence intermediate forms, as discussed earlier.

Alleged Out-of-Place Footprints

Brown states that human-like and dinosaur tracks have been found in Arizona, and a supposed "shoe print" with trilobites in Utah. However, the Arizona markings are lacking in any distinct human features, and appear to be merely inorganic structures, or in some cases, severely eroded dinosaur tracks (Kuban, 2007). They are even less convincing than the supposed Paluxy "man tracks" which most YECs abandoned in the 1980's after rigorous refutations were published (Hastings, 1987, 1988; Kuban, 1986a, 1986b). The alleged "shoe print" from Utah, sometimes called the Meister print or a "sandal print," has also been well refuted, and rejected even by most creationists. Upon close inspection appears to be merely an iron concretion which happened to spall in a manner creating an oblong shape. The "heel" is part of a crack, and the alleged print was not part of a bedding plane, nor in any striding sequence (Kuban, 2011). Brown mentions that similar putative tracks have been found in the area, without clarifying that they too show no convincing evidence of being real human footprints.

Brown claims that 86 consecutive "horse" prints were found in dinosaur age rocks in Uzbekistan, citing the Moscow Pravda (hardly a reliable scientific publication), without any photographic evidence or corroborating scientific reports.

Brown asserts that a Science News article reported that dinosaur tracks and "hoofprints [sic] of some other animal" were found in Virginia. Brown seems to imply that the latter are out-of-place (OOP) mammal prints. However, the popular-level article, which discussed a large Triassic tracksite near Culpeper VA with hundreds of dinosaur and reptile tracks, used the term "hoof-shaped" only loosely to refer to some indistinct quadruped reptile prints. When better preserved tracks of the same type were later documented at the site, they were more precisely identified as likely tracks of aetosaurs - Triassic reptiles that resembled heavily armored crocodiles (Weems, 1993; Weishample and Young, 1996; Lucas and Heckert, 2011). I personally worked on the site with USGS geologist Robert Weems, and can testify that no anomalous "hoof" prints occurred at there (as can many others who worked or visited there). Gerard Jellison, who thoroughly reviewed Brown's book (8th edition) at Amazon.com, related similar points and wrote: "I confirmed all of this through correspondence with Dr. Weems, and by reading his published articles. I also informed Brown of this issue on several occasions. He has refused to respond to me, and by keeping this false information in his book he is knowingly and unethically misrepresenting the work of a reputable scientist (Jellison, 2009).

Brown suggests that "human-like footprints" have been found with dinosaur tracks in Turkmenistan, but no tracks closely resembling human tracks have been documented at the site. Even if some human-like prints occurred there, it would mean little unless they showed distinct human features, since it is known that elongate, metatarsal dinosaur tracks can sometimes resemble human tracks when their digits are infilled or poorly preserved (Kuban, 1989). The only tracks reported by scientists who worked at the site, and the thousands of tourists who also visited it, are dinosaur tracks. Some are elongate, but show indications of dinosaurian digits (Lockley, 2006; Lockley et al, 1996; Kuban, 2008a). The Geoscience Research Institute, a YEC organization at Loma Linda University in California, states "There have been unsubstantiated reports of human and dinosaur tracks in the same place, but none of them has been confirmed." (GRI, 2015).

Brown asserts that "humanlike" tracks also occur in Paleozoic rocks in Kentucky, Missouri, and "possibly Pennsylvania" without mentioning that these often show very unnatural and stylized shapes (some with four or six toes), are typically not in striding trails, and occur in areas where Indiana petroglyphs are common (Kuban, 2005). Brown suggests that only evolutionary bias would lead one to question any of these supposed human footprints, which is dispelled by the above points, as well as the fact that none are endorsed by any major creationist groups.

Alleged Out-of-Place Bones and Human Remains

Brown states that phosphate beds in South Carolina, which provide raw material for fertilizers and other commercial products, were reported to contain "Dinosaur, whale, elephant, horse, and other fossils, plus crude human tools." He cites two references from the 1870s, one of which (Nolan, 1870) is merely a short note from a scientific meeting, that did not mention any dinosaur, elephant, or horse fossils, nor any human tools. It did mention some fish fossils and sloth remains (of similar ages), but attributed the latter to "animals that became mired in marshes after the elevation of the Ashley deposits." The second source (Homes, 1870), a popular-level rather than scientific treatment, mentions that a variety of land and marine fossils have been found in the phosphate beds, but that they were generally in separate strata except where there was evidence of "redistribution." He noted that the confusion was compounded because early workers often used different terms when referring to the same beds, or vice versa. He does list Hadrosaurs among animals that roamed Carolina forests, and even shows a Hadrosaur dinosaur drawing on the cover of the publication, but provides no photographs, stratigraphic details, or supportive scientific references. The only account he mentions of a supposed dinosaur bone is from a local farmer, which should be taken with a large grain of salt, since at the time whale and large mammal bones were often mistaken by laymen for "dinosaur" bones. Moreover, with mining companies well aware of the public's growing fascination with dinosaurs, it was common for them to play up any possible "dinosaur" angle, and to show such creatures in their literature and advertisements, --similar to the way the Sinclair Oil used a Brontosaurus in its logo--fostering the common misconception among many people even today that oil is made up of decomposed dinosaurs (by all evidence it was actually formed from large accumulations of algae and other microbes). Homes identified himself as a professor of geology at Charleston College, but also had substanial financial interests in several mining companies, and evidently published no peer-reviewed scientific papers. Homes mentioned supposed human artifacts and remains in the area, but again, they are not accompanied by photos or other rigorous documentation, and he indicated that such finds were on the surface of "upper beds," so it is not clear that any would be "out-of-place" even if correctly identified. At any rate, the phosphate beds in the Carolinas have been studied by many geologists, paleontologists, and commercial workers, as well as visited by thousands of fossil collectors. I personally have collected fossils at several such sites in NC and SC. If anamolous fossils occurred in them, they would have been readily confirmed and rigorously documented, but none have been, even in the creationist press.

Brown claims that bones of "modern-looking" human remains have been found in strata formed "long before man supposedly began to evolve". As support he lists the Calaveras Skull, Castenedolo Skull, Reck's Skeleton, Swanscombe Skull, Steinheim Skull, and Vertesszollos fossils, noting that these finds are "almost always ignored by evolutionists." However, all of these cases have been addressed by a number of mainstream workers. Upon close scrutiny, none support Brown's claims (Lippard, 1989a; Foley (2004b; Jurmain et all, 1987). Three of the cases (Calaveras Skull, Castenedolo Skulls and Ricks Skeleton) have been convincingly shown to represent intrusive burials. In commenting on the first two cases, even YEC author Sarfati (2002) agreed, and noted that the Calaveras Skull was a likely hoax, "planted into a mine by miners." The other specimens are dated within the time range of human evolution, and all show at least some features intermediate between modern humans and earlier hominids, thus contradicting Brown's claims about these specimens as well as human evoution in general. Curiously, the source Brown cites for the supposed out-of-place nature of the Calaveras Skull (Holmes, 1999) actually contains a convincing debunking of it, leading Lippard to remark "It makes one wonder if Brown even reads the articles he cites."

Alleged Out-of-Place Bees' Nests

Brown claims that petrified trees in Arizona's Petrified National Park contain fossilized nests of bees and cocoons of wasps, dated as Triassic -- approx. 220 million years old --about 100 million years before flowering plants are thought to have evolved. His cites "personal communication" from USGS worker Stephen Hasiotosis. Brown adds that such finds are almost always ignored by evolutionists. In actuality, the structures in question were thoroughly studied by a team of paleontologists and trace fossil experts, who published a detailed scientific paper (not cited by Brown), concluding that the supposed bees nests were the likely borings and larval chambers of wood-boring beetles, while the cocoons (described by Hasiotosis as "weave impressions"), were inorganic texture features of the wood grain (Lucas et al, 2010).

Alleged Out-of-Place Plant Fossils

Brown states that some coal beds "contain flowering plants that allegedly evolved 100 million years after the coal bed was formed." However, this involved a single case from a 1923 article, which was later shown to be an archaic plant rather than an angiosperm (Steward, 1923; Schopf, 1947). Brown claims that pollen of flowering plants have been found in Cambrian and Precambrian rocks, and cites the work of Clifford Burdick as support. However, Burdick has a long history of sensational and unfounded claims, and his assertions about anomalous pollen have been refuted by both YEC and conventional workers (Chadwick, 1973, 1981; Isaac, 2003). As in other cases, what Brown doesn't say is more telling than what he does say. Brown neglects the important fact that countless billions of angiosperm plant fossils and pollen grains from thousands of different angiosperm species, are commonly found in Cenozoic and late Mesozoic rocks throughout the world. Moreover, pollen readily fossilizes and travels widely through air and water. So if YECism were true, and thousands of flowering plants were living before the Flood, their remains should be just as common, diverse, and well-documented in Paleozoic and pre-Cambrian rocks. Yet not a single indisputable angiosperm fossil or pollen grain has been verified in any pre-Mesozoic rocks. Neither Brown nor any other YEC has a plausible explanation for this.

Anomalous Artifacts?

Brown also claims a number of out-of-place artifacts have been found in coal or other "deeply buried rocks", including a "gold chain," "iron pot", "thimble", screw," and "strange coin." However, like his alleged OOP fossils, none are supported with convincing evidence, or endorsed even by major YEC groups. In regards to the "gold chain", AIG authors Batten et al (2006) state "we see no evidence that the chain was actually in coal, just the claim that it was." In fact, AIG acknowledges that no convincing human remains or implements have been found in any Flood or pre-Flood sediments (Batten et al, 2005; Snelling, 1991). Typically the objects in these cases were not documented in situ, and may well have been intrusive even if the finders were sincere in their reports (Kuban, 2006b). Brown ends his list of supposedly anomalous specimens by commenting that because "evolutionists" do not accept them, "something is wrong." Indeed it is -with his tendency to promote sensational claims without convincing evidence, and neglect contrary evidence and views, even from other YECs.

Ordovician stromatolite
Sliced Ordovician stromatolite, Wisconsin
Ordovician stromatolite
Sliced Cretaceous stromatolite, Mexico

Stromatolites are slow-growing, laminated algal mats.
They occur throughout much of the geologic column
and indicate a calm, shallow water environment.

Where is the Flood in the Geologic Column?

Like most creationist Flood models, Brown's is vague on where the Flood occurs in the geologic column the Flood, but implies many if not most sedimentary layers were produced by it. However, no matter where he places it, major problems arise, since every geologic period from Precambrian onward exhibits evidence for multiple episodes of slow deposition and non-deposition. Besides the many tracks and burrows mentioned above, these also include many other trace fossils such as nests, dens, hives, and coprolites (fossil feces) as well as stromatolites (laminated algal and bacterial mats, formed in calm, shallow water conditions), none of which would form during a violent flood (Kuban, 2006a).

Misleading Claims about Evolution

Brown describes many complex biological structures and systems, and repeatedly asks how the "chance" or "random processes" of evolution can explain them. This is misleading. Although evolution acts on largely random mutations, the main mechanism of evolution is natural selection, which is not random but (as the term implies) a selective process. Brown suggests that structures like an eye would be of any use until in its final, perfected state. However, a primitive eye or even collection of light sensitive cells would be better than no eye at all, and any intermediates between those and more advanced eyes would confer additional advantages (in finding mates or food, avoiding predators, etc). They thus would improve survival chances and the likelihood the trait would be passed on to offspring--the very crux of natural selection. Likewise, Brown suggests that a partial wing would be a disadvantage, whereas it actually could allow improved gliding or leaping, and thus better predator evasion. Rather than explaining these things, Brown seems to do everything possible to obscure how natural selection operates, and depict evolution as totally "random" and "impossible."

In several places Brown argues that there is no evidence for "speciation" (the origin of new species), even though there is strong empirical evidence for it in the fossil record, in the wild, and in the lab (Boxhorn, 2005; Callaghan, 1987; Darwin Was Right, 2015; Understanding Evolution, 2008). Even other creationist acknowledge that speciation has occurred (CMI, 2015), though most claim it has limits. Brown's denial of speciation seems to conflict even with other statements in his own book. For example, when discussing the capacity of the ark, he suggests that every species of land animal need not be taken aboard, since the Genesis "kinds" could represent broader taxonomic categories such as genera or families. He argues that these could rapidly diversify after the Flood into the species we see today--tacitly admitting that speciation must have taken place (as if he wants it both ways). Like many creationists, Brown insists that any changes in organisms never involve "new information," but merely reshuffling of existing genes. However, this is demonstrably false, since there are far more genetic alleles (variations of a gene) for many traits among humans today than could have existed in the few individuals aboard the ark. A similar argument can be made for many plants and animals as well (Kuban, 2015). Clearly the development of new alleles (which involve gene duplication, cross-overs, etc, combined with natural selection) constitutes new genetic information by any reasonable definition. Moreover, the "kinds" on the Ark were broader than a species, then even more alleles would have to evolve since the Flood. Ironically, in view of this, in order to account for all the variation we see among organisms today, YECs would need more rapid and dramatic evolution than even mainstream scientists allow.

Brown's diagram on evolution

Diagram from Brown's book (8th edition, Fig. 4)
fostering misconceptions about evolution



Bird evolution diagram

More realistic view of bird evolution, based on fossil evidence.
This diagram shows representative examples of each "branch; many additional
fossils are known of feathered dinosaurs and dinosaur/bird intermediates.
Posted on Scienceblogs.com by Darren Nash

Brown repeatedly claims that "macroevolution" requires an "increase in complexity", and that such an increase is never demonstrated, both of which are false. Whereas there has been an increase in complexity in some groups from the first appearance of microbial life in the Precambrian to many multicellular forms in later periods. However, once various phyla and orders were established, extensive diversification and adaptations to various environments often occurred (with corresponding changes in form and function) without any necessary increase in complexity. For example, early dinosaurs in the Triassic period were considerably different than many dinosaurs in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, but arguably no more complex.

Brown presents a simplistic diagram on page 6 supposedly contrasting a critical difference between horizontal "microevolution" involving minor changes, and vertical "macroevolution", but the diagram is misleading in a number of ways. It fosters the idea that the former has nothing to do with the latter, whereas evolution has been shown to involve the accumulation of small changes (microevolution) into larger changes over time (macroevolution). It also falsely suggests that scientists believe roadrunners evolved from a four-legged, iguana-like lizard, and that evolution occurs in a linear or ladder-like fashion, both of which are false. As supported by extensive fossil and DNA evidence, evolution typically occurs in branching or bush-like patterns, and most paleontologists hold that birds descended from a branch of theropods (two-legged, carnivorous dinosaurs). Brown states that if bird really evolved from reptiles, intermediates would be found but "never are." However as discussed earlier, he unfairly dismisses a classic example (Archaeopteryx) by falsely depicting it as a "fraud". Moreover, many other fossils have been found with intermediate features between theropods and modern birds, blurring the distinction between them. In fact, most paleontologists today not only regard birds as descendents of dinosaurs, but a proper group of feathered dinosaurs. Questions about which specific fossils are in the direct line to modern birds and thus strictly "transitional" takes nothing away from the fact that many show features of both modern birds and earlier theropods, and occur at expected geologic horizons, and therefore are still intermediate forms, and valid evidence for evolution.

Brown's misunderstandings about evolution are further illustrated when suggests that there was an unexplained "giant leap" from placental mammals to marsupials mammals . Biologists and paleontologists do not hold that placental mammals evolved into marsupials, nor even the other way around, but that both shared a common ancestor, as fossil evidence supports.

Speaking of marsupials, Brown does not address the serious question of how to explain the survival and current distribution of various land animals if they all debarked from the same location on or near Mt. Ararat only a few thousand years ago. For example, the vast majority of marsupial mammals are endemic to Australia and surrounding islands. How they managed to travel from the Ark to their current home, requiring a trek of thousands of miles in foreign and hostile environments without their normal food or habitat, and even cross an ocean, while virtually no marsupial mammals did, Brown does not explain. The problem is especially severe for animals such as the flightless Kiwi, the blind marsupial mole (which lives only in sand), or the sugar glider (a gliding marsupial superficially resembling flying squirrels, which lives in trees), Koalas (slow-moving, tree-dwellers which subsist mainly on Eucalyptus leaves--and only certain species at certain times of year (Adams, 2014)), or the Duckbilled Platypus (adapted to small creeks). Ironically, Brown shows a photo of a platypus and notes that it is found only in Tasmania and Australia, and it as "perfectly designed for it's environment", seemingly unaware of the problem this creates for his Flood scenario (during the ark voyage, or afterward). The mainstream explanation for the concentration of marsupials in Australia is that due to plate tectonics, Australia separated from other continents millions of years ago, allowing animals there to evolve and diversify largely independent of those on other continents. For more discussion of this problem for YEC models, see Kuban (2014b).

Other Problems and Inconsistencies

Brown implies that one either accepts a recent, fiat creation or atheistic evolution, which unfairly neglects and slights millions of theists who accept evolution. Brown also attributes virtually every societal ill (hedonism, murder, sexual immorality, etc.) to belief in evolution. This is overstated at best, since not only do many believers and decent people accept evolution, but obviously such woes have been around a lot longer than Darwin. Brown also does not mention that millions of believers allow that the Flood account could be allegorical, or that it involved a regional flood, especially since the Hebrew word for "land" in the Biblical description can refer to a region rather than the entire globe (Morton, 1999).

Problematic References

Brown states that his references are "usually from evolutionists"; however a large portion are from YECs or ID (Intelligent Design) proponents (seldom identified as such), while many of the remainder are obsolete sources, don't say what he claims, or involve quotations taken out of context. Meanwhile, more relevant and current sources are often omitted, as illustrated by examples cited earlier. As another example, on page 53 Brown quotes the following statement: "There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems." In fact, dozens of papers, books and conferences, have dealt extensively with this issue and various aspects of it, as compiled by John Catalano (2004). Brown's source was a book by Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe (1996), whose claims on this point and many other issues have been well refuted (Dunkelberg, 2003; Miller, 1996, 1999, 2003; Robinson, 1996).

At times Brown seems to take unfounded liberties even with Biblical references. For example, in arguing that a passage about Behemoth in the book of Job refers to a sauropod dinosaur, Brown states: "Behemoth had a 'tail like a cedar.' Any animal with a tail as huge and strong as a cedar tree is probably a dinosaur." However, the verse in question (Job 40: 17) says nothing about the size of the animal's tail; it merely states, "He moveth his tail like a cedar." Moreover, when the entire passage (Job 40: 15-24) is studied carefully, the dinosaur interpretation appears less likely than other alternatives (Kuban, 2008).

Another problem is that Brown lists references for each section by number, and when checking a reference, one often finds additional references and quotes under it, but with only an author and date attached (no title, volume and number, etc). Since nowhere in his book are references listed by author, this often makes finding the full references in these cases unnecessarily tedious and time-consuming. Ironically, Brown boasts that his book is in the "ideal format".

Noah's Ark Sightings

In his book section entitled "Earth Sciences" Brown's first curiously placed topic is: "Noah's Ark Probably Exists" He notes that he will cover "the more credible" Ark sightings, but then states that "some are probably mistaken." Indeed, the various accounts often disagree on basic details such as which mountain, or what level or side of the mountain, the Ark rests on. One of the accounts relates that a Russian pilot in World War I (1916) saw the Ark while flying over it. This supposedly led to two expeditions by soldiers who explored the boat, but could not report to the Czar before the Russian Revolution began. Brown acknowledges that the account contains "a few fictional elements" but neglects to mention that the story was first published in a German newspaper on April 1, 1933, and it is widely regarded as an April Fool's Day joke (Moore, 1989a). Brown spends an entire page describing the "CIA's 'Ararat Anomaly'" and even shows color drawings of what the ark "could look like" at the site, only to conclude that it is "probably not the Ark." Similar problems exist with the other sightings he relates, and none include any convincing, extant photographs. In view of all this, one must wonder by what criteria Brown considers any such accounts "credible" or how they lead to the conclusion that the Ark "probably exists."

Plenty of Room on the Ark?

Brown suggests that only about 16,000 animals need be taken on the ark, reasoning that this would represent the likely number of Genesis "kinds" (rather than species) of "reptiles, mammals, and birds," and that the Ark could easily accommodate them and their provisions. Brown does not show how he calculated this total, although it may have been from the writings of John Woodmorappe or the late Henry Morris, who have used similar numbers. Brown suggests that dinosaurs could be taken on the ark, if they were young ones. Others such as Moore (1983), and Isaac (1998) have argued that the 16,000 figure is way too small. Indeed, it appears that it:
1. Fails to include thousands of other prehistoric land animals besides dinosaurs, many of which were large
2. Fails to include the likely vast number of prehistoric animals yet to be discovered (many new ones are found every year)
3. Fails to include many prehistoric animals that may never be discovered due to the incompleteness of the fossil record. Paleontologists estimate that animals alive today represent only a tiny fraction of those that ever lived on earth.
4. Seems to neglect the "clean" animals taken by "sevens". Woodmorrape suggests the number of clean birds would be negligible, but Genesis 7:3 says indicates that all birds were taken by "sevens"
5. Fails to include many animals besides reptiles, mammals, and birds that cannot live even in calm water for a year, let alone catastrophically violent, mud-choked, lethally hot Flood waters. Even if we disregard the many fish that require fresh water or other narrow environmental conditions, these include many terrestrial amphibians (toads, tree frogs and caelians), arachnids (scorpions, spiders, etc), isopods, myriopods, and insects (many of which can only survive in colonies), as well as many terrestrial crustaceans and mollusks (land crabs, land snails, slugs, etc).

Taking all the above into consideration, and the fact that species would need to be taken for genetic reasons, Moore (1983) estimates that over 3,800,000 animals would have to be aboard the Ark. For a vessel approx. 450 x 75 x 45 feet = 1,518,750 cubic feet, that leaves less than 1/3 cubic foot per animal, not even counting food, aisles, humans and their quarters, etc., which seems quite problematic. However, even if we grant Brown the 16,000 figure, it still leaves a serious problem in terms of the care and feeding of so many different animals (many of which require fresh meat or live prey, specific types of plants, or other narrow diets, and which collectively would generate unimaginable amounts of waste every day (Isaac, 1998; Morton, 2003). Indeed, a zoo with far smaller and less diverse population would require a staff many times larger, even if all the humans and animals were healthy, which brings us to the next issue...

Diseases on the Ark

Brown also neglects another large group of organisms that must have been on the ark, which presents more serious problems. Though not mentioned by Brown, hundreds of serious diseases and illnesses that are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens that cannot survive more than a few days outside a living host. Among human diseases, these include measles, smallpox, typhus, rubella, yellow fever, hepatitis, Ebola, numerous sexually transmitted diseases, and countless parasites, including various fungi, insects, tapeworms, etc. Most produce symptoms ranging from painful and debilitating to lethal. Many of these diseases could not survive the Flood year without infecting live human hosts. However, if even a small fraction of them infected Noah and his family (the only humans left alive on earth), the Ark family would soon expire, along with the pathogens. Yet both humans and all the pathogens are still with us--creating a serious dilemma for Brown and other global Flood proponents. The problem also begs the question of how and why the humans on the ark would have contracted all of these diseases in the first place. Similar problems exists regarding the hundreds diseases that infect many specific animal species. One must explain how all the host-specific diseases survived unless they infected many of the animals on the ark, and how the animals survived if infected with so many diseases (Kuban, 2014a). Even YEC author Carl Wieland (1994) acknowledged that this is a challenging problem. Of course, YECs can propose ad-hoc miracles to explain how both the diseases and humans somehow survived. However, that invites the thorny question of why God would take special measures to save hundreds of horrible diseases rather than let them expire. In any case, appealing to miracles would not help Brown, since he states that miracles should not be invoked to solve problems. On the other hand, Brown seems to forget that at times, which raises the next issue...

No Miracles?

Brown claims that his model requires no miracles, but as noted earlier, when discussing the start of the Flood Brown implies that miracles either took place or may well have. In an early summary of his model entitled "What Initiated the Flood?" Brown began by stating, "Sometime after the Fall but before the Flood, God set in motion a chain of physical events that produced a global Flood" (Brown, 2003). On page 3 of his book he quotes a Bible verse stating that at God's rebuke the waters "fled", "the mountains rose," and "the valleys sank down," which also implies miracles. Miracles also seem to be implied in other aspects of Brown's model, and any other YEC Flood model; how else, for example, would two of every kind of land animal on earth know that they needed to migrate to the ark, and exactly where and when to go? (the poor tortoises, sloths, and land snails would have had to have a big head start). Although Brown seems not to realize it, his model would also require miracles in order for the ark passengers and other life forms to have survived the multiple sources of lethal heat, radiation, and violence inherent in it (summarized in the Table at right). As discussed by Moore (1983), as well many other aspects of the Genesis account of Noah's ark and the Flood seem highly untenable (such as the construction of the ark, care of the animals, the disease/parasite problem noted earlier, etc) unless still other miracles were involved. By disputing all natural explanations for the origin of the Moon and planets, Brown also implies that they were all supernaturally created, implying more miracles. Last, he argues that life was created supernaturally only a few thousands years ago, hence more miracles. Brown is welcome to believe in all the miracles he likes, but to suggest his model doesn't involve any just doesn't hold water.

No Reliance on the Bible?

In the Introduction to Brown's book, he says that the "gigantic flood" he describes was "the most cataclysmic and literally earthshaking event the world has ever experienced..." and adds, "A detailed and scientific reconstruction of these events now can be made independent of Scripture." Yet a few sentences later he quotes Bible verses as support for various aspects of his model, as he does throughout his book. Indeed, it's apparent that many parts of his model were largely derived from his literal reading of Genesis, including the basic concept of a recent global deluge, the existence of subterranean waters and "pillars," the concept of a large wooden Ark and its human and animal passengers, and the direct, supernatural creation of the Earth, Sun, and planets, etc. Moreover, some entire sections of Brown's book focus largely on Biblle passages, such as the topic "According to the Bible, When was Adam Created?". If these are supposed to be separate from his model, it is not apparent. Indeed, if his model stands without any reference to Bible passages, it is curious that he cites over 500 of them (which are separately compiled in the index).
SOURCES OF LETHAL HEAT in BROWN's MODEL
Energy from the release of the pressurized water eruption
Friction of quickly "sliding" and "crashing" hydroplates
Extensive volcanic activity and release of magma
Mixing of oceans with sub-crustal water (over 1200 F)
Return of jettisoned sub-crustal water to earth as rain
Dramatically accelerated nuclear decay rates
(with both lethal heat and lethal radiation levels)

Go Figure

Many of Brown's specific assertions about geologic and astronomical matters have been shown to involve erroneous calculations or assumptions, while others lack supporting data and calculations. When other workers and reviewers have asked for them, Brown has frequently stonewalled. When invited to explain his model at a meeting with numerous fellow YECs, where a Christian film company was researching different YEC Flood models in preparation for a possible documentary about the Flood, Brown resisted requests for clarifying information and calculations on various aspects of his model. When pressed, he withdrew from the proceedings (Jellison, 2009c). Interestingly, at the end of the meetings, the film company concluded that at present no Flood model was credible enough to warrant production of a "Flood movie." Old-earth and local flood models were also discussed and found lacking, but as Jellison notes, "the format of the review made it impossible to consider the vast evidence in favor of the authentic scientific worldview."

Debate Challenges

Brown has issued a challenge to evolutionists to debate him in person or over the phone, but has stipulated a number of questionable and one-sided conditions, and repeatedly evaded attempts by mainstream scientists to accept his offer (Foley, 2004; Isaac, 2004; Meert, 2006; Castagnoli, 2009; Jellison, 2009). In any case, scientific issues are not settled in verbal debates, but through careful scientific work, published in rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific papers, which Brown has not done. Brown complains of evolutionist bias in mainstream publications, but this does not explain why 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.

YEC Critiques

In view of the considerable influence his book and website have had among lay readers, and the many questions YEC leaders were receiving about them, a number of YEC organizations have evaluated them and written substantial critiques. Although agreeing with Brown on the age of the earth and general criticisms of evolution, they found many problems with his Flood theory and related claims. Danny Faulkner of AIG, discussing Brown's assertions about the origin and composition of comets and asteroids, the mechanics and physics of hydroplate eruptions and movements, and other matters, stated that "many of these statements claims are incorrect or misleading" (Faulkner, 2013). Michael Oard of CMI noted that many of Brown's claims involved "questionable initial conditions, lack of in-depth analysis, the arbitrary fitting of data to his model, questionable references and analogies, the dubious significance of his predictions, and problematic comparison tables." He concluded: "I do not consider his model a viable Flood model" (Oard, 2013).

Brown's Rebuttal

Near the end of his book Brown states that "Almost all critics of the hydroplate theory have not read it" and "choose to remain anonymous." One wonders how he can know the former, and the latter is clearly unfounded, as shown by many references to named critics in this review. Granted, not all who criticize Brown's model or parts of it may have read his entire book, since 1. Some may have wished to focus on claims relating to their areas of expertise, which is understandable and still useful, and 2. Brown's 480+ page book, is a complex matrix of sensational but poorly supported claims on many topics, often presented in disjointed and redundant ways, while using an awkward and unconventional reference system; so slogging through it all requires considerable stamina and patience. Nevertheless, I for one have managed it, as well as read the excerpts and summaries at his web site (which change from time to time), while comparing what Brown asserts to what other research and writings indicate. By all evidence many other reviewers have as well, and most are not anonymous. Ironically, it seems that it is often Brown who has not sufficiently read, understood, or dealt with opposing views and evidence.

Conclusions

Walter Brown's hydroplate Flood model is an imaginative but woefully deficient model of earth history, flying in the face of many lines of evidence from geology, paleontology, biology, cosmology, and physics. It has not been published in rigorous peer-reviewed papers, and is not supported by any conventional scientists, or even most young-earth creationists with backgrounds in relevant fields.

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank Frank Lovell, Gerard Jellison, Kevin Henke, and Jon Fleming for their helpful comments and corrections. However, any errors that remain are my own.

Footnotes

1. Walter Brown often uses the term "Flood theory"; however, I believe the term "Flood model" is more appropriate for the following reasons. First, although the word "theory" in everyday parlance can mean an general idea or hypothesis about something, in scientific usage a "theory" refers to an explanation of something that is well supported by observable or experimental evidence, and which is generally accepted within the scientific community. For reasons that should be apparent from my review, I do not believe that fits Brown's ideas. Second, although one could argue that the less scientific meaning of "theory" could still apply, since Brown maintains that his ideas are scientific, that could create some confusion. The more neutral term "model" seems more readily understood, as it generally refers to a description or representation of certain phenomena that can be evaluated and tested by others. Third, even most YECs routinely refer to their competing "Flood models."

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