Venus (and Earth) Resurfaced in a Single Catastrophic Event?

David Grinspoon is a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Principal Investigator for NASA’s Exobiology Research Program and author of “Venus Revealed” and “Lonely Planets.” He made some interesting statements about the planet Venus in an interview with Astrobiology Magazine. I find them quite interesting because Grinspoon’s statements about what happened on Venus bear a strong resemblance in several important ways to the two leading creationist theories which attempt to explain earth’s present geologic features: Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT) advocated by Dr. John Baumgardner, and the Hydroplate Theory (HPT) advocated by Dr. Walter Brown). I will quote Grinspoon at length, but note the key points to be gleaned from his statements:

1) Magellan scientists were surprised to find that the surface of Venus appears to be all the same age
2) The older surface of the planet was wiped out by massive volcanism, so possibly 90% of it’s supposed 4.5 billion year history is unknown
3) Grinspoon talks about possible heat buildup inside Venus to a critical point at which a “rapid overturning” takes place
4) All three of the above features are very close to what is postulated by CPT and HPT above

Some excerpts from the interview with Grinspoon …

DG: Yeah, perhaps around that time. Now, fast forward to more recent times on Venus. We’ve begun to understand the story of its surface evolution largely due to the Magellan mission in the 1990s. The biggest surprise of Magellan was that the surface seems like it’s all the same age. That’s what I’m calling the second great transition. Something changed on Venus 600 or 700 million years ago to make the surface all the same age. If you use the word catastrophic it rubs some people the wrong way, but something dramatic happened on Venus which wiped out almost all signs of an older surface. The planet got re-paved, basically, 600 or 700 million years ago.

AM: Did some huge impact melt the surface? Or was it the last gasp of volcanic activity?

DG: Clearly, whatever this second great transition was, it involved massive amounts of volcanism. You can see these flows that appear to be flood basalts all over, covering 80 percent of the planet. The remarkable thing is that they seem to be all the same age. The crater density is relatively uniform and random around the planet. So the planet seems to have been flooded with basaltic lavas in a geologically short period of time, simultaneously around the planet.

Now, you talk to some geologists and they argue with that and they say, well, it wasn’t simultaneous. But looking at the map of craters on Venus, all of them seem relatively pristine, and there are no older ones. You can’t escape the conclusion that something dramatic changed on Venus at that time that had the effect of re-paving the surface.

AM: So either something occurred at that time, or something that had been going on stopped.

DG: Right, exactly. Either there was an episode of resurfacing that started and stopped rather quickly, or there was an ongoing process resurfacing the planet that suddenly ground to a halt for some reason.

Notice also Grinspoon’s comments about Plate Tectonics …

Earth’s tectonic activity acts as a cooling mechanism for the interior. If Venus has episodic plate tectonics, where nothing happens for a while, the heat builds up in the interior. Eventually it can’t stand it any more, and you have this rapid overturning. Then it’s quiescent for a while, and the heat builds up again. If you believe that episodic model, then the visible surface we see on Venus is the record of the last time that happened, which is maybe 600 million years ago.

Read the entire article HERE. Thanks to David Coppedge who works in the Cassini program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and writes for the Institute for Creation Research for pointing out Grinspoon’s work HERE.

One final note: Few people realize that the originator of Plate Tectonics was in the Catastrophist School, not the Gradualist School of geological thought. ICR writes …

In 1859 Antonio Snider proposed that rapid, horizontal divergence of crustal plates occurred during Noah’s Flood. … One of the last holdouts for flood geology was a little-known work published by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini [97] – ironically enough the same year Darwin published the Origin of Species. Intrigued by the reasonably good fit between land masses on either side of the Atlantic ocean, Snider proposed that the earth’s crust was composed of rigid plates which had moved horizontally with respect to one another. Snider may have been the first to propose some of the main elements of modern plate tectonics theory. Snider also proposed that the horizontal divergence had been rapid and had occurred during Noah’s Flood. It appears, then, that the first elaboration of plate tectonics theory was presented in the context of catastrophic flood geology. It also seems that a substantial amount of the twentieth century opposition to plate tectonics was due to the fact that geologists were, by then, firmly predisposed to believe that the earth’s crust was horizontally fixed. The catastrophism school of geology was the first to propose plate tectonics; the gradualist school was the first major opponent to plate tectonics. However, by the time plate tectonics was finally accepted in the United States in the late 1960s, gradualism had become a part of plate tectonics theory as well. Rather than Snider’s rapid horizontal motion on the scale of weeks or months, modern geology accepted a plate tectonics theory with horizontal motion on the scale of tens to hundreds of millions of years. (A. Snider-Pellegrini, La Creation et ses Mysteres Devoiles, 1859 [early release, 1858], A. Franck et E. Dentu, Paris.)

Conclusion: If our “sister” planet Venus experienced a catastrophic resurfacing event, then it is reasonable to propose that earth also experienced such an event. Earth scientists should quit laughing at Baumgardner and Brown with their catastrophic theories, abandon their own unlikely gradualist theories, and join the search for just the right catastrophist theory. Hopefully more of them will in coming years.

I’m no earth scientist, but I’m currently debating the merits of the HPT at the Internet Infidels Forum HERE. Come join the fun!

8 Responses to “Venus (and Earth) Resurfaced in a Single Catastrophic Event?”

  1. lordkalvan says:

    If Earth experienced a catastrophic resurfacing event as occurred on Venus and was flooded with molten lava, it is extremely unlikely (impossible, I would think) that any higher life-forms would have survived at all. Also, I do not see how an event variously attributed to having occurred 300-700 million years ago (depending on the report you read) provides much evidence for YE creationist arguments. Additionally, it would seem clear that, if the evidence for such an event can be so readily identified on Venus (which clearly has an active geology) after such an interval of time, it seems strange indeed that evidence for a similar global event on Earth is so sparse. Also, if you accept the science that testifies to the events on Venus, why do you not accept the science that testifies to its antiquity? A (minimum) 300-million year old Venus is convincing evidence for a Solar System at least as old.

  2. dhawkinsmo says:

    I think you need to completely re-evaluate the assumptions of radiometric dating. If you did, you wouldn’t believe the Venus resurfacing event happened 300-700 MYO. Here is my recent analysis of Encyclopedia Britannica’s piece on Radiometric Dating. The piece was written by Thomas Edvard Krogh, Director, Geochronology Laboratory, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

  3. lordkalvan says:

    Thanks for that reference, which I found interesting though not persuasive.

    It seems to me that the weight of evidence that supports the general conclusion to be drawn from the various different methods of radiometric dating – that the age of Earth and the Solar System is to be measured in billions of years – is convincing.

    For the contrary to be true, that the Universe is less than 10,000 years old, would mean that all of those many different radiometric methods would each have to be not only wrong, but wrong in pretty much the same way. Which may be an arguable point, but you then have to deal with the several dating methodologies that have nothing whatsoever to do with radiometric dating directly – ice cores, coral growth, lake varves and dendrochronology, to name but a few – that all return results that are consistent with radiometric estimates for the timescales to which they are relevant.

    There are then the various methods that have been used to calculate the age of the Universe as such; a number of these methods have not relied on radiometric methods – such as the Hubble constant (10-16 billion years) and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (13.7 billion years), for example – but again they all return ages calculated to be in the billions of years and are in the same ballpark as figures returned by measuring the decay of radioactive elements (12-15 billion years).

    Finally, it is the case that radiometric dating is known to be accurate within a relatively small margin of error for historical artefacts of an already known provenance. To cast doubt on radiometric dating techniques as a whole, therefore, you need not just to postulate that they may be in error by the multiple orders of magnitude you require to support YE creationism, but you need also to provide evidence for why those magnitudes of error returned by the different radiometric dating techniques are consistent with each other AND with the different dating techniques that don’t depend on radiometric dating at all AND with dates that can be tied to known historical events or artefacts.

    You will have to forgive me if it seems to be the case that your arguments are conclusion-driven – that is, led by the need to ‘prove’ YE creationism – rather than by observation – that is, to follow where the evidence reasonably leads.

    For my part, I found this resource particularly useful and other readers may like to refer to it as well, ‘A Radiometric Dating Resource List’ available here:

  4. lordkalvan says:

    PS to my response to your comments in reference to radiometric dating.

    It is also the case that the dating of the possible ‘resurfacing’ event on Venus has nothing to do with the evidence (or lack thereof) of a similar event having taken place on Earth less than 5,000 years ago, nor has it anything to say in regard to the obviously disastrous short- and long-term consequences for the biosphere (and everything in it) of such a cataclysmic event. What, for example, would be the effects on the world’s oceans of a global flood of basaltic lava? What would be the effects on the world’s climate of this flood?

    If you doubt that these would be drastic, you need do no more than look up the estimated global effects of the volcanic eruptions that are evidenced by the Deccan Traps and that ‘resurfaced’ an area of the globe equal to less one-half that of the Indian subcontinent (that is, about 1.5 million square kilometres as against the total surface area of Earth of around 510 million square kilometres, or less than one-third of one percent of what you are proposing).

    Again I suggest that any life above the level of bacteria would have been wiped out, Earth’s climate would still be showing the consequences and there would be a clear and unmistakable ‘footprint’ in a range of phenomena that can be reliably dated back over the few thousands of years needed to make your theory plausible. Indeed, you and I would not be here debating the issue.

  5. lordkalvan says:

    It is also the case that your conclusion to your article does not follow. That something happened on one planetary body in the Solar System is not in and of itself evidence that something similar happened (or even COULD have happened) on another suchj body. It suggests only that it might be possible, but determining the extent of that possibility requires a careful examination of the available evidence.

    And again I have to point to the false dichotomy you pose between the catastrophic theories of creationists and the ‘unlikely’ gradualism of contemporary geologists. Creationist catastrophism has been a dead donkey for much more than a century. The current understanding incorporates short-term catastrophic events into a much broader picture of the gradual processes that shape the Earth’s surface. That you seem unaware of this only supports your admission that you are ‘no earth scientist.’

  6. […] resurfacing I was talking about is detailed  in this interview with David Grinspoon “Venus (and Earth) Resurfaced in a Single Catastrophic Event?” and in the paper Catastrophic Resurfacing and Episodic Subduction on Venus from Science […]

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