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

© 2009-2015, Glen J. Kuban (Latest rev. July 1, 2015)
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"

Walter Brown, a young-earth creationist (YEC), mechanical engineer, and Director of the Center for Scientific Creation in Phoenix, Arizona, has developed a "Flood Model" which he believes accounts for virtually all geologic evidence. His central thesis is that only a few thousand years ago the earth's entire crust was suspended over a large reservoir of pressurized water, which suddenly and violently burst forth, releasing most of the water that caused the Noachian deluge. The model also purports to explain the origin of asteroids, meteorites, and comets in our solar system, suggesting that this massive eruption was sufficient to propel huge chunks of earth into outer space. Brown describes his current model in the 8th edition of his book entitled In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, although he presented early versions of the model during the 1980's (Brown, 1986). He also provides updates and chapter summaries at his "Center for Scientific Creation" website.

Brown's model is overwhelmingly rejected by conventional scientists, since it conflicts with extensive geologic evidence that the earth is over 4.5 billion years old, as well as many specific lines of geologic evidence (Lippard, 1989a, 1989b; Morton, 2003). Some are so severe and obvious that even many other creationists have rejected or severely criticized the model.

Model Starts with Major Problems

One serious problem is the need for the proposed water reservoir to 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 Glenn Morton (a geologist and former creationist), 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 waters (Morton, 2003). Yet according to the Bible (Genesis 49:26) there were mountains before the Flood, which Brown acknowledges and shows in his diagrams.

Another major problem is the immense heat that would be generated during the proposed cataclysmic eruption (Castagnoli, 2009; Morton, 2003; Sharp, 2005). The magnitude of such heat would have literally boiled the oceans and incinerated all animals and humans, including the inhabitants of 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.

Astronomical Problems

Brown's claim that all of the comets, meteoroids, and asteroids in our solar system originated from earth during the hydroplate explosion has also been shown to be entirely untenable (Sharp, 2005), even considering only currently orbiting ones, let alone the millions of others that impacted on moons and planets in our solar system (as indicated by the heavy cratering on such bodies). Sharp (2005) calculated that the energy released in ejecting just the still-existing asteroids is the equivalent to approximately twenty trillion hydrogen bombs. He 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!" Indeed, regardless of the exact amount of energy involved, based on Brown's own descriptions of the violent eruptions --with supersonic water jets and massive heaving and "sliding" of continent-sized "hydroplates" (which he claims moved thousands of miles in a matter of days), would undoubtedly have produced unimaginably large earthquakes and tsunamis around the globe (with waves at least hundreds of feet tall), which would have made the largest recorded tsunamis look like pond ripples, and easily capsized and ripped apart the ark.

Another line of evidence against Brown's claims 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).

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

Attempting to bolster his claim that comets, meteoroids, and asteroids originated from earth, he describes them all as "earth like" in composition. However, their composition is quite variable. For example, many meteorites contain significantly more iron and nickel than is common in the earth's crust. Conversely, many rock types that are common on earth, such as limestone and marble, are not found in comets, meteorites, or asteroids.

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" of the moon shows 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.

Brown also claims that the moon should have a thick layer of surface dust if it were really billions of years old--a claim long ago refuted by mainstream and YEC workers alike. Indeed, the YEC group Answers in Genesis (AIG) lists this argument among those that creationists "should not use."

For these and other reasons, fellow YECs have strongly criticized Brown's geologic and astronomic claims. In reviewing Brown's assertions about cometary water, escape energies and heat, long period comments, comet composition, and other matters, Danby Faulkber of Answers in Genesis (AIG) stated that "many of these statements claims are incorrect or misleading" (Faulkner, 2013). Michael Oard of Creation Ministries International (CMI) noting that 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).

Geologic Problems

Brown suggests that most sedimentary rocks were derived from the violently eroded walls of the supposed 10-mile thick layer of granite above the water reservoir. Thus, we should would expect virtually all the earth's sedimentary strata would be largely uniform and made largely of granite or eroded granite. Indeed, 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, 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, inclination, and many other features, precisely because they were deposited in many different environments and in many different ways. They also are often altered or deformed long afterward. Not only does his model not account for the wide variety of rock types and their distribution, but if his model were true, we should readily find extensive remains of the 10-mile thick granite "hydroplates". We find no evidence of this, and instead the evidence indicates that continental and oceanic plates (composed of a variety of other minerals and sediments besides granite) range from 20 to 60 miles thick. Moreover, major features in them such as the mid-Atlantic ridge and deep ocean trenches, have been shown to be due to tectonic plate movements and subductions, not a recent global Flood and "hydroplate" eruptions.

Brown repeatedly objects to conventional plate tectonics, especially the concept of "subduction" (where one continental plate moves under another), and yet 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.

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 mulitiple 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, and hives, which cannot form during a violent flood (Kuban, 2006).

Brown's model also does not account for the worldwide pattern of radiometric dates from rocks throughout the world. All but the stratigraphically highest beds yield dates orders of magnitude older than his model allows, and show a consistent, sloping pattern from stratigraphically lower to higher strata. His proposal that radioactive decay rates may have been dramatically higher at the time of the Flood lacking in any credible evidence, and is contradicted by rigorous studies (Isaac, 2004). Even if such acceleration occurred, it would not yield the sloping pattern of dates mentioned above, since in his model most rocks are essentially the same age--only a few thousand years old. Accelerated decay rates would also greatly exacerbate the already horrendous heat problems inherent in Brown's model. As demonstrated by Meert (2002), "Radioactive decay at a rate fast enough to permit a young earth would have produced enough heat to melt the earth."

White Cliffs of Dover
White Cliffs of Dover, England
Microfossils in Cretaceous limestone
Ammonite from White Cliffs of Dover

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 his Flood eruption, 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, and support with 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.
Osark 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. These and many other limestones
were clearly not deposited in the way Brown suggests.
© 2006, Glen J. Kuban

Brown also cannot explain how many such limestones (and other geologic formations supposedly deposited during the Flood) contain thousands of 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, 2006). Even more problematic are vast dinosaur nesting sites, which obviously could not form during a violent global Flood.

Brown encourages the long-discredited idea that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx (an apparent dinosaur-bird intermediate), is a forgery--supposedly a dinosaur with feather impressions artificially added. This notion has been thoroughly debunked by paleontologists, and rejected even by most creationists (who accept the reality of the fossil, but reject it as a transitional form). Ironically, most YECs argue that Archaeopteryx is 100% bird, whereas Brown argues that it is 100% dinosaur. In reality, it shows a combination of reptile and avian features.

Brown suggests that soon after the eruption phase of his model, freezing rain caused many mammoths to become flash-frozen, supposedly explaining why some still have food preserved in their stomachs. However, only a handful of frozen mammoth carcasses have been found (whereas tens of thousands of bones have been found), and stomach contents have been found in mammoths from areas clearly not flash frozen. Brown's model does not account for this, or explain why many other large animals were not "flash frozen" along with the mammoths, since the freezin rain would presumably been world-wide. He also fails to explain why mammoths (and other Pleistocene animals) are consistently found at stratigraphically high (recent) geologic horizons, whereas they should be burined in deep strata according to his model. For these and other reasons even other YECs have strongly criticized Brown's claims about mammoths (Oard, 2013).

Fossil Succession and Alleged Out-of-Place Fossils and Artifacts

Fossils in each geologic period show a characteristic assemblage of plants and animals (or in the earliest strata, microfossils). The organisms in each period differ from those in preceding and succeeding periods, and conform to expected evolutionary patterns. For example, the previously disccussed White Cliffs of Dover represent the Cretaceous period, they contain many typical marine Cretaceous organisms (Cretaceous corals, gastropods, ammonites, etc.). Likewise, plant vascular plants do not even appear until the late Paleozoic, and flowering plants not until the Cretaceous, with major changes documented from period to period. No where does Brown explain these patterns, let alone adequately account for them. He ambiguously suggests that "liquefication" during the Flood can account for "fossil layering" (whatever that means), even though liquification (as explained elsewhere) is not even the way most fossil bearing beds form, and even if it were, it would not account for Fossil Succession.

Attempting to discount mainstream geology, Brown states that the 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, and 2. There are tens of thousands of outcrops with multiple periods exposed--all showing the each period and associated fossils in the expected mainstream order. 3. There are over twenty sites around the world where every period of the fossil record from Cambrian onward is exposed, again, with each one in the expected mainstream order--that is, containing fossils typical of that the period. Literally trillions of fossils have been found in the expected evolutionary orders and geologic horizons, with not one verifiable out-of-place (OOP) specimen that would conflict with major evolutionary patterns, such as any large modern mammal anywhere in the Mesozoic or Cenozoic. This is quite a problem for Brown and other YECs, since according to their view, all organisms (modern and prehistoric) 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 geologic horizons. There should be countless thousands of well documented "out of place (OOP) fossils if YEC were true.

Indeed, Brown claims that fossils are frequently not in expected evolutionary orders. However, he only cites a handful of alleged examples, which range from highly dubious to well-refuted. For example, he encourages claims about alleged human-like and dinosaur tracks in Arizona, and a supposed "shoe print" with trilobites from Utah, both of which have been well debunked (Kuban, 2002, 2011). 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 sources. Brown asserts that "hoofprints of some other animal" in Virginia. However, the popular-level article, which discussed a large Triassic tracksite in Culpeper VA with over numerous dinosaur and reptile tracks, used the term "hoof-shaped" loosely, to refer to some unusual quadruped reptile prints which were tentatively attributed to a crocodile-like animal, and later more precisely identified as a phytosaur (Weishample and Young, 1996; Weems, 1993). I personally worked on the site with USGS geologist Robert Weems, and can testify that no anomalous "hoof prints" occurred there (as can hundreds of others who worked on or visited the site).

Brown suggests that human-like prints have been found with dinosaur tracks in Turkmenistan, but no clear human tracks have been documented at the site. Even if some human-like prints occurred there (and even this has not been well documented), it would mean little unless they showed distinct human features, since it is now well known that elongate, metatarsal dinosaur tracks can sometimes resemble human tracks when their digits are infilled or poorly preserved (Kuban, 1989). Brown also suggests that human like tracks occur in ancient rocks in Kentucky, Missouri, and "possibly Pennsylvania" without mentioning that these often show shapes that are very unnatural and cartoonish (often with four or six toes) and occur in areas where Indiana petroglyphs are common (Kuban, 2005). Brown suggests that only evolutionary bias would lead one to questions any of these supposedly anomalous footprints, which is dispelled by the fact that none are supported by any major creationist groups. Brown also doesn't explain how humans, horses, and dinosaurs were walking around in the midst of a violent global deluge.

Brown states that phosphate beds in South Carolina were reported to contain a mixture "Dinosaur, whale, elephant, horse, and other fossils." He cites two articles from the 1870s and a personal communication. However, it is not clear from these old reports if the "dinosaur" fossils were supposed to be in the very same beds, or stratigraphically lower beds in the region. Nor is it clear that the "dinosaur" fossils were correctly identified. The Cenozoic phosphate beds in SC and NC contain a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates, but no verified dinosaur fossils. These beds have been well studied by many geologists and paleontologists for many decades, as well as visited by thousand of fossils collectors. If OOP fossils occurred in them, they would have been readily confirmed and rigorously documented in the last 140 years, but none have been, even in the creationist press. Nor do any major YEC groups support Brown's claims about these beds.

Brown also claims a number of out-of-place artifacts such as "gold chains," "an iron pot", and "a screw," and a "strange coin" have been found in coal or other "deeply buried rocks. However, like his alleged OOP fossils, none of the cases are convincingly documented or supported even by most YEC groups. Indeed, the prominent YEC group AIG acknowledges that no convincing human remains have been found in any Flood or pre-Flood sediments. Brown ends his list of supposedly anomalous artifacts by commenting that "something is wrong." Indeed it is --with his tendency to promote sensational claims without compelling evidence.

Evolution Misrepresented

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, even a primitive eye or 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." Brown dismisses the evidence for human evolution by oversimplifying and misrepersenting various aspects of it. For example, rown discusses only two early finds of Homo erectus ("Java Man" and "Peking Man") noting early questions about the former and the fact that most bones of the latter were lost during World War II--as if this were the only evidence known for this species. Actually many subsequent specimens of H. erectus have been found, which show many features intermediate between humans and earlier hominds. Brown also hastily dismisses Australopithicus merely an ape, and suggesting it mainly lived in trees, whereas there are several named species of this genus which show a range of features interemediate between humans and earlier pimates. Brown cites certain authors suggesting that some Australopithicus species could swing from trees, without clarifing that the same authors indicated that at least some often walked bipedally.

In several places Brown argues that there is no evidence for "speciation" (origin of new species), even though there is strong empirical evidence for it in the fossil record and population studies, and even though Brown's assertion conflicts with other parts of his 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 familes. 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).

Other Problems and Inconsistencies

Many other inconsistencies and errors abound Brown's book, as detailed in reviews by Gerald Jellison (2009), Lippard (1989a, 1989b), Bahcall (2004), VanTill, 2986), and others. In the wake of such refutations, Brown removed a few unfounded claims from his website and his book (such as those about a "shrinking sun", "missing neutrinos, and a "Japanese plesiosaur"), but continues to promote all those mentioned above, as well as others.

Despite Brown's young earth views apparently stemming from a literal reading of Genesis, parts of his model appear to conflict even with that. For example, he suggests that the proposed water reservoir under the hydroplates became increasingly pressurized, then finally erupted due to "centuries of tidal pumping" from the moon. This implies that the Flood was initiated by a natural and inevitable cause, rather than initiated by God in response to humanity's rampant wickedness (Genesis 6: 5-7). Ironically, Brown suggests that problems should not be solved by "appeals to miracles". Yet a literal reading of Genesis implies that not only was the Flood started supernaturally, but that other miracles were involved as well. For example, how else would two of every land animal on earth know that they needed to migrate to the ark, and exactly where and when to do so (the poor tortoises, sloths, and land snails would have had to have a big head start). Moreover, although Brown does not seem to realize it, his model would also require miracles to deal with its multiple sources of immense heat (summarized in Table 1), any one of which would have destroyed all macroscopic life on earth. Likewise, it's hard to imagine how Noah and the ark could have withstood the many incredibly immense tsunami's that the first three sources would have generated, without additional ad-hoc miracles being postulated.
SOURCES OF LETHAL HEAT in BROWN's MODEL
Energy from the release of the pressurized water eruption
Friction of quickly "sliding" and "crashing" hydroplates
Mixing of oceans with sub-crustal water (over 1200 F)
Return of jetisoned sub-crustal water to earth as rain
Dramatically accelerated nuclear decay rates

Brown implies that one is either a YEC or atheistic evolutionist, 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 seems 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 has issued a challenge to evolutionists to debate him, 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 public debates, but through careful scientific work, which should be 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 his work even in YEC journals. According to the prominent YEC group Answers in Genesis (AIG), when he was invited to submit a manuscript to their Technical Journal, he declined.

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, cosmology, and physics. It has not been properly published in scientific journals, and is not supported by any conventional scientists, or even most young-earth creationists with backgrounds in relevant fields.

References

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Arthur, Joyce, 1995, A Few Silly Flaws In Walter Brown's Hydroplate Theory. Website article at: http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/hydro.html. Note: Brown had made a number of modifications to his theory since Joyce's article, but many of her criticisms are still valid.

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