Most people know that the Moon causes tides. The gravitational pull of the Moon mostly causes the ocean tides. The tides are essential for cleaning the coastlines and estuaries.
On average, the Moon is 238,900 miles (384,470 km) from Earth. What if the Moon were only half of its present distance from Earth? The Moon half as far away from Earth would create ocean tides eight times higher than they are now. At one-fourth the current distance from Earth, the tides would be sixty-four times higher than they are today. Imagine a world with tides like that! Coastal cities around the world would be in danger. Coastal lowlands would be uninhabitable. The coasts would be eroded away in a short time. Upflowing tidal waters would overpower rivers that flow into the oceans. Floodplains along the rivers would fill and drain with each ebb and flow of the tide.
With a closer Moon, all kinds of aquatic creatures living along the shore would not survive the destructive forces of the tides. In addition to those catastrophes, seawater would deposit salt on the fertile land along the rivers making them barren. Glaciers along the coast of Alaska and Greenland and the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica would be broken up. Icebergs would clog the Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs would sometimes wash ashore with the tides in places far from the cold climates, crushing whatever was in the way.
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis. This week we have been examining some of the questions people ask. Today we will look at the question, “Where did the water go after Noah’s flood?”
If the flood covered the whole Earth so that the highest mountain was under water by 15 cubits (Genesis 7:19-20), what happened to all that water? Genesis 8:1-3 says that “God made a wind to pass over the Earth” and stopped the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven. That indicates three methods of removing the water. If the fountains of the deep involved underground springs that gushed massive amounts of water, that water could be removed by flowing back into the caverns from which it came. If “the windows of heaven” indicates an extraterrestrial source, it is difficult to suggest any significant return. High winds which the Bible mentions would maximize evaporation, but there are some other factors to consider.
It is important to point out that nowhere in the Bible is there an indication that the waters were level. We will discuss the extent of the flood in our next post, but the known earth at the time of this event was a limited area. At the Straits of Gibraltar, there is a normal fault with the downthrown side to the west. At the base of that fault is a large waterfall gouge. The Glomar Challenger Oceanographic Research Vessel has documented what appears to be an opening of the Straits with the whole Atlantic Ocean having access to the Mediterranean Sea at a time in the past, which was a desert before the flood. It is reasonable to propose a model where hydrostatic pressure could drive water up the western shore of the Mediterranean which is of course where the biblical story takes place.
In 1910 an Arctic explorer by the name of Alfred Wegener coined the term continental drift. Wegener saw the same fossils in South America that he had seen in western Africa, and he proposed that the two continents had been connected at one time. Wegener’s proposal was ridiculed by the scientists of that day who saw the Earth’s crust as too solid to allow any model of that kind to work.
Over the years studies of earthquake epicenters have shown that there is movement of huge slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The rock material bends more and more steeply until the slabs eventually melt into the mantle–the molten interior of the earth. These slabs and everything on them do in fact move.
In 1952 an ocean cartographer by the name of Marie Tharp began making profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor going from west to east. Her profiles showed a ridge down the center of the Atlantic with younger material in the center and older material on both sides. She proposed that molten material was coming up from the mantle and pushing the two slabs of ocean floor material away from each other. Where the slabs hit the edges of the continent, the material is deflected downward making trenches in the floor of the ocean.
All of these discoveries flew in the face of the accepted geological theory at the time, and Tharp was ridiculed. In time scientists came to understand that the Earth is made up of plates sliding along the surface and sliding down into the mantle when a continent is reached.
There is a message in all of this that what is considered to be scientifically impossible, sometimes turns out to be true. At the same time, a pet theory can ultimately be proven incorrect. One of the beauties of science is that eventually it cleans up its own mistakes.
Another message is that sometimes God addresses a problem long before humans know there is a problem. This whole process is one of the greatest recycling systems of all time. As nutrients and minerals get eroded off the continents, they are deposited on the ocean floor. The movement of the ocean floor ultimately returns this material to the mantle to be recycled back to the Earth’s surface.