Plate Tectonics

by Andrew
(Oregon, USA)

Mine is a fairly short question, and actually it is not my strongest argument, because I don't have one. Nonetheless, it is thought provoking.

If there was NOT a global catastrophe of extreme nature, such as the Genesis account suggests, then what force is pushing the plates together/apart?

Remember, an object in motion stays in motion, unless acted on by an outward force. An object at rest stays at rest, unless acted on by an outward force. The plates sliding against each other creates friction, which is an outward force. (This friction is most visible in the form of earthquakes along the plate boundaries; no friction, no earthquake.) This means that friction is in effect slowing down continental activity. Given enough time, activity would stop completely.

Anything that has an end has to have a beginning, so if the motion will eventually stop, that means it had to be started by something. What started continental drift (technically plate tectonics)? Where do the forces come from to repeatedly break up and re-form supercontinents? (Check the wikipedia article on this.)

Anyway, just my thoughts, as a layman high school student, thought up in about 5 minutes, so therefore not immune to error.

Comments for Plate Tectonics

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Oct 28, 2012
Continental Drift
by: Anonymous

Think of it like the skin on a pot of milk as it comes to the boil. Convection currents happen when hot milk rises, moves to the side, cools then drops back into the depths. This causes a circulation of milk. It also causes the skin to break and crumple at the edges, opeing up in some places and crushing against other pieces in others.

The continents floating on the magma work just like this. The continents are the skin of course. Somewhere around 50 miles thick at the thickest parts.

For a good visual impression of what this looks like go to Google Earth and look how India, which was once over the south pole, has smashed into Asia causing the Himalayas. You can also see the mid-ocean ridges (between the continents) where the magma is slowly rising and moving apart. Its no accident that these places are where most volcanoes and earthquakes happen.

The continents mostly move less than an inch a year. Just in case you were worried.

Nov 18, 2010
GREAT Question
by: Paul Pavao

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for presenting this.

As it turns out, your question is excellent because it's applies to so much.

Have you ever heard that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (the "Law of Entropy") makes evolution impossible?

The answer to that issue is the answer to yours as well. You correctly ask, "What **force** is pushing the plates?"

The force is heat either stored or generated from the inside of the earth. I think the most common theory for why the earth has a hot core is because of radioactivity in the elements in the core. Others, if I remember correctly, believe that the core is simply still hot from when the earth formed.

Either way, the earth's core is hot, and you can imagine what would happen if you were heating something in a closed container. That container would break!

The earth's surface is, so to speak, breaking from the heating of the rocks and ores beneath the earth's surface. Molten rock and super-heated gases are constantly pushing their way to the surface.

Since the tectonic places are simply floating on the magma below, they move around as they're pushed by forces from below.

That's the same reason that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics doesn't apply to evolution or any other aspect of earth science. The sun is constantly applying heat to the earth, and so the earth is not a closed system. The Law of Entropy only applies to closed systems.

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