Author Topic: Quran Scientific Error - Mountains as Pegs/Stakes? Do Mountains have roots that  (Read 3271 times)

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The Full Article:

Formerly, it was thought that mountains were merely protrusions rising above the surface of the Earth. However, scientists realised that this was not actually the case, and that those parts known as the mountain root extended down as far as 10-15 times their own height.

Mountains emerge as a result of the movements and collisions of massive plates forming the Earth's crust. When two plates collide, the stronger one slides under the other, the one on the top bends and forms heights and mountains. The layer beneath proceeds under the ground and makes a deep extension downward. Consequently mountains have a portion stretching downwards, as large as their visible parts on the Earth.

A book entitled Earth is a basic reference textbook in many universities around the world. One of its two authors is Geophysist Professor Emeritus Frank Press. He was the Science Advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter, and for 12 years was the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC. His book says that mountains have underlying roots. [1] Another book entitled "How do Mountains form" by Terry A.Hicks also states that mountains have deep roots [2] This is also found in many other sources. [3]

If one takes a look through Academic Sources one finds Geologists speaking about the roots of mountains. For example varying Geologists write:

A three or four mile-high mountain might project a root structure of continental crust thirty or forty miles deep into the surrounding mantle of the Earth. [4]

Cailleux writes:

This shaft of mountain-root serves to support the weight of the overlying mountain, thereby establishing equilibrium or, in the language of the geologist, an isostasy. [5]

Tarbuck and Lutgens write:

The existence of these roots has been confirmed by seismic and gravitational data. [6]
Frank Press and Raymond Silver write:

Continents float because the large volume of less dense continental crust that projects into the denser mantle provides the buoyancy, as shown in Figure 19.6. Note that the crust is thicker under a mountain because a deeper root is needed to float the additional weight of the mountain. [7]

...Isostasy also implies that as a large mountain range forms, it slowly sinks under gravity and the crust bends downward. When enough of a root bulges into the mantle, the mountain floats. [8]

They also write:

Relatively light continental crust projecting into the denser mantle serves as a buoyant root providing "floatation" for the continent. The root is deeper under mountains, where flotation is required to support the heavier load, in accordance with the principle of isostasy. [9]

... The collision of India and Asia is a good example. In this case, the Eurasion Plate is overiding the Indian Plate, creating double thickness of crust and forming the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. The Himalayas are supported isostatically by a crustal root projecting into the denser mantle below. [10]

Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter write:

In profile (Fig.16.8b), the crust beneath the mountains resembles icebergs with high peaks, but with massive roots below the waterline. The accuracy of this analogy is demonstrated by the gravity profile across the United States, shown in Figure 16.18c. Negative gravity anomalies are observed where the crust is thickest. The anomalies are caused by the roots of low-density rock beneath the mountains. [11]

 ... Mountains stand high and have roots beneath them because they are comprised of low-density rocks and are supported by the buoyancy of weak, easily deformed but more dense rocks below. [12]

... The negative gravity anomalies over the Sierra, the Rockies, and the Appalachians are due to the roots of low-density rocks beneath these topographic highs. [13]

... Sometimes it is observed that a mountain has too little root for its mass; sometimes, as in the seafloor trenches, it is observed that low density crust has been dragged down to form a root without a mountain mass above it. [14]

The root below the ancient, deeply eroded Appalachians is smaller than the root beneath the younger and high Sierra. [15]

 Under the sub-chapter 13.2 “How do we know mountains have roots?”  academic geologists Gary Smith and Aurora Pun write:

“Airy’s hypothesis predicts that the base of the crust is deepest beneath areas of highest elevation; in other words, mountains should have roots in the mantle…Seismic data demonstrate the presence of thick roots of crust projecting downward into the mantle beneath mountains as predicted by Airy’s model. “ [16]
Christina Reed writes:
Alfred Wegener favoured a combination of the different models. Wegener relied on a thin, dense ocean crust and less dense mountains with deep roots to support the theory of continental drift. [17]
She also writes:
Airy's model suggested that the Himalayas had mountainous roots of material creating a gravitational deficit of low density material... [18]
Kurt Stuwe writes:
Airy estimated that the density of the crust is largely the same in all continental regions and therefore concluded that topographically higher regions, must be compensated by crustal roots at depth. The models of Airy and Pratt still bear their names. Seismic studies in many mountain belts show that most regions of high surface elevation are indeed compensated by significant roots at depth. [19]
Dr Ted Nield writes in response to the question "When did we first find out that mountains had roots...":
Mountains, Airy said, exert less gravitational pull than they should do because they have roots. Their less dense material extends down into the planet, in whose denser interior they float like icebergs in water. Continental masses, Airy said, stand high above the ocean floor because they are buoyant; in their case, floating in a substrate of denser rock. They stand proud, but only because they have much larger roots below. Mountains are higher than plains for the same reason that big icebergs stand taller than small ones. [20]
In another scientific text, the structure of mountains is described as follows:
Where continents are thicker, as in mountain ranges, the crust sinks deeper into the mantle. [21]
Professor Siaveda, a world-renowned underwater geologist, made the following comment in reference to the way that mountains have root-like stalks attaching them to the surface:
The fundamental difference between continental mountains and the oceanic mountains lies in its material... But the common denominator on both mountains are that they have roots to support the mountains. In the case of continental mountains, light-low density material from the mountain is extended down into the earth as a root. In the case of oceanic mountains, there is also light material supporting the mountain as a root... Therefore, the function of the roots are to support the mountains according to the law of Archimedes. [22]
M.J.Selby writes:
G.B Airy in 1855 suggested that the crust of the earth could be likened to rafts of timber floating on water. Thick pieces of timber float higher above the water surface than thin pieces and similarly thick sections of the earth's crust will float on a liquid or plastic substratum of greater density. Airy was suggesting that mountains have a deep root of lower density rock which the plains lack. Four years after Airy published his work, J.H Pratt offered an alternative hypothesis... By this hypothesis rock columns below mountains must have a lower density, because of their greater length, than shorter rock columns beneath plains. Both Airy and Pratt's hypothesis imply that surface irregularities are balanced by differences in density of rocks below the major features (mountains and plains) of the crust. This state of balance is described as the concept of Isostasy. [23]
Karen M.Fisher in an article found on Nature and other sources writes:
When mountains form through the collision of lithospheric plates, uplift of the Earth's surface is accompanied by thickening of the crust, and the buoyancy of these deep crustal roots (relative to the surrounding mantle) is thought to contribute to the support of mountain topography. Once active tectonism ceases, continuing erosion will progressively wear away surface relief. Here I provide new constraints on how crustal roots respond to erosional unloading over very long timescales. In old collisional mountain belts, ratios of surface relief to the thickness of the underlying crustal root are observed to be smaller than in young mountains. On the basis of gravity data, this trend is best explained by a decrease in the buoyancy of the crustal root with greater age since the most recent mountain-building episode—which is consistent with metamorphic reactions 1, 2 produced by long-term cooling. An approximate balance between mountain and root mass anomalies suggests that the continental lithosphere remains weak enough to permit exhumation of crustal roots in response to surface erosion for hundreds of millions of years. The amount of such uplift, however, appears to be significantly reduced by progressive loss of root buoyancy.
Processes such as lithospheric delamination and rifting may strip away the crustal roots of some collisional mountain regions, but substantial crustal roots have survived in many mountain belts over hundreds of millions to billions of years. Unless the lithosphere is mechanically very rigid, post-tectonic erosion of mass from the surface should be accompanied by some uplift of a buoyant crustal root and inflow of mantle. If the lithosphere is very weak, the region should be in local isostatic equilibrium, and the net change in mass over time would be zero. To examine how mountain crustal roots evolve over time, surface relief, crustal thickness and gravity data were compared in young collisional mountain belts and in old orogens where some crustal root is preserved. Crustal thickness was constrained seismically, primarily by refraction and reflection studies but in a few cases by teleseismic receiver function and surface wave analyses. [24]
Karen M.Fisher's articles countlessly speak about Mountain roots.

Balter H. Bucher writes in an article on Nature:
A hundred years after Bouguer's discovery the English astronomer George B. Airy, having measured the gravitative deficiency of the Himalaya Mountains, suggested the correct explanation: the rocks beneath a mountain belt have a lower density than their surroundings. He postulated that below a mountain belt the light granite rock of the outer crust extends far down into the heavier underlying basalt. From this suggestion came the theory that mountains have "roots." Airy suggested that the young mountains and their "roots" float in their environment like icebergs in water, the lighter mountains projecting higher than the heavier ones.
... What is more remarkable is that the discrepancy grows larger as the elevation of the range increases; it reaches a maximum at the crest. This indeed suggests the existence of a mountain "root." Seismic studies provide a clinching proof. At deep levels of the crust beneath the Eastern Alps earthquake waves travel at a noticeably slower rate than at comparably deep levels in other regions, indicating that the light, low-velocity rocks here extend far down to levels normally occupied by denser rocks. In other words, the Alps do have a granitic root.
... the process of lateral compression of the crust which forms mountains forces the granitic part of the crust downward to form a solid root and upward to invade the thick sediments of the mountain forming belt as molten rock. [25]
...Compression of these belts drew out the sediment filled furrows into roots of mountains, and set in motion the physical and chemical processes that transformed part of the sediments into metamorphic rocks and ultimately into granite. [26]
David James writes in an article found on Nature:
Active mountain belts have crustal 'roots' that gravitationally balance the high topography. [27]
Peter Molner writes in "The Structure of Mountain ranges" an article found on Nature:
Airy assumed that the crust is of uniform density but that it is thicker under mountain ranges: like icebergs, mountains are supported by deep roots of buoyant material. [28]
Amy Whitchurch writes in an article found on Nature:
During the simulated plate collision, the crust thickens to create a high mountain range at the surface, while a deep crustal root forms below. Because the pressures at depth are higher, the root undergoes metamorphism and is transformed into eclogite, an unusually dense rock type. The eclogitic root is denser than the underlying mantle, so it sinks further into the mantle. This, in turn, causes localized deformation at the surface above the root, and promotes further crustal thickening and further eclogitization. [29]
These roots are deeply embedded in the ground, thus, mountains have a shape like a peg/stake (see figures 1, 2, 3.4 and 5).

Figure 1: Mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground. (Earth, Press and Siever, p. 413.)

Figure 2: Schematic section. The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p. 220.)

Figure 3: Another illustration shows how the mountains are peg-like in shape, due to their deep roots. (Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 158.)

Figure 4: Isostacy: mountain masses deflect a pendulum away from the vertical, but not as much as might be expected. In the diagram, the vertical position is shown by (a); if the mountain were simply a load resting on a uniform crust, it ought to be deflected to (c). However because it has a deep of relatively non-dense rocks, the observed deflection is only to (b). Picture courtesy of Building Planet Earth, Cattermole pg. 35

Figure 5
The eye of man sees nothing more than the relatively small nubbin of a mountain, while a forty-mile shaft of Earth's crust lies invisibly embedded in the deeper, plastic asthenosphere, much like the head of a nail peeking above the surface of a block of wood, riding upon an imperceptible shaft of steel.

Or like a peg.

This is how the Quran has described mountains:

 Have We not made the earth a resting place, and the mountains as pegs/stakes?  (Quran, 78:6-7)

Modern earth sciences have proven that mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground (see figures 1,2,3,4 and 5) and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above the surface of the ground. [30] Thus the word peg/stake is an accurate description for them.

Dr. Zaghlouul El-Naggar, who has a PHD in Geology from the University of Wales, writes:
That mountains are not just the lofty elevations seen on the surface of the Earth, but their downward extensions in the Earth’s lithosphere (in the form of pegs or pickets) is highly emphasized. In as much as most of the picket (or peg) is hidden in either soil or rock to hold one end of the tent to the ground surface, most of the mountain must be hidden in the Earth’s lithosphere. The term “picket” or “peg” is both literally and scientifically more correct than the term “root” which is currently used for mountains.  [31]

Mount Everest (pictured above),the height of which is approximately 9 km above ground, has a root deeper than 125 km. [32] So the most suitable word to describe mountains on the basis of this information is the word ‘peg/stake,’ since most of a properly set peg/stake is hidden under the surface of the ground. The history of science tells us that the theory of mountains having deep roots  was introduced only in the latter half of the nineteenth century [33] or the beginning of the 20th century. [34]

So in conclusion the Qurans statement is scientifically correct.

[1] Earth, Press and Siever, p. 435. Also see Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 157.
[2] Terry A. Hicks, How Do Mountains Form?
[3]Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens
Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter
How Does the Earth Work? Physical Geology and the Process of Science. Second Edition. Pearson. 2010
Earth Science, Christina Reed, Willian J.Cannom,
Geodynamics of the Lithosphere, Kurt Stuwe, 2nd Edition, Springer
M. J. Selby, Earth's Changing Surface
[4]Press, Frank and Raymond Siever. 1982. Earth. 3rd ed. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Co. p. 435; Cailleux, Andre. 1968. Anatomy of the Earth. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Translated by J.Moody Stuart. pp. 218-222; Tarbuck, Edward J. and Frederick K. Lutgens. 1982. p. 158.
[5] Cailleux, Andre. 1968. Anatomy of the Earth. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Translated by J.Moody Stuart p.222.
[6] Tarbuck, Edward j. and Frederick K. Lutgens. 1982. Earth Science. 3rd ed. Columbus: Charles E. Merril Publishing Company. p. 157.
[7] Earth, Press and Siever, 2nd Edition, p. 490
[8] Earth, Press and Siever, 2nd Edition, p. 490
[9] Earth, Press and Siever, 2nd Edition, p. 489
[10] Earth, Press and Siever, 2nd Edition, p. 512
[11] Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter, p.469
[12] Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter, p.469
[13]Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter, p.459
[14]Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter, p.471
[15]Physical Geology, Brian J.Skimmer and Stephen C.Porter, p.471
[16]How Does the Earth Work? Physical Geology and the Process of Science. Second Edition. Pearson. 2010, pp. 306 – 307.
[17]Earth Science, Christina Reed, Willian J.Cannom, p.39
[18]Earth Science, Christina Reed, Willian J.Cannom, p.40
[19]Geodynamics of the Lithosphere, Kurt Stuwe, 2nd Edition, Springer, p.164
[20] Retrieved from  on 18/10/2013 at 19:49
[21] Carolyn Sheets, Robert Gardner, and Samuel F. Howe, General Science (Newton, MA: Allyn and Bacon Inc.: 1985), 305.
[23] M. J. Selby, Earth's Changing Surface (Oxford: Clarendon Press: 1985), 32
[24] Retrieved from  on 18/10/2013 at 19:53
[25]The Crust of the Earth, Walter H.Bucher, p. 35 Retreived from  on 18/10/2013 at 19:56
[26]The Crust of the Earth, Walter H.Bucher, p. 41 Retreived from  on 18/10/2013 at 19:56
[27] Retrieved from on 28/10/2013 at 19:58
[28] Retrieved from on 18/10/2013 at 20:00. p.72
[29] Geodynamics: Dense mountain roots, Amy Whitchurch, Nature Publication Group. She references Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 361, 195–207 (2013). Retreived at on 18/10/2013 at 20:05
[30]The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, El-Naggar, p. 5
[31]The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, El-Naggar, p. 7
[32], from an address by Prof. Zighloul Raghib El-Naggar.
[33]The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, El-Naggar, p. 5
[34]Naomi Oreskes, Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History Of The Modern Theory Of The Earth