Ken Ham’s Darwinism: On The Origin of Species by Means of Hyper-Evolution Following Noah’s Flood

Young life creationists, or baraminologists as they prefer to be called, have experienced a paradigm shift over the past three decades. Initially, creationists made a point of identifying every possible characteristic of an organism as the result of special, unique creation. This, however, has changed; they are now increasingly embracing a model of common ancestry and accelerated Darwinism as they seek to explain the vast diversity of life on Earth.

This period of hyper-evolution is hypothesized to have occurred between the time that pairs (or sevens) of animals departed Noah’s ark some 4350 years ago and a singular short-lived Ice Age just a few hundreds years after that global flood event.   During that time at least 95% (probably 99% or more) of all species of mammals and birds that have lived are proposed to have evolved from just a few common ancestors preserved on the Ark.

I have written on multiple occasions about this transformation of creationism to include massive hyper-speciation. For example:   Invoking Super-speed Evolution: How to Squeeze 10,000 Bird Species onto Noah’s Ark; Testing the Creationist’s Hyper-Evolution Orchard: Canines, Felines and Elephants;  YEC Biblical Evolution: I have a Book that Says Otherwise.

Recently, Answers in Genesis (AiG) published their most direct confirmation, to date, of extensive common ancestry and massive rapid speciation (Reimagining Ark Animals). The need to hypothesize recent rapid speciation comes from their study of the dimension and holding capacity of the Ark. Today’s YECs acknowledge that there was not enough room on the ark to hold all of the species that have lived on Earth and they have been seeking a means to minimize the number of animals required to maintain the presumed purpose of the Ark as a preserver of diversity for the post-flood world. By defining the biblical word “kind” more broadly than has been done through the history of creationism, they have been able to reduce the estimated numbers of animals on the ark to just 1000 to 1500 pairs (or sets of seven in some cases) from 8000 to 20,000 thousand pairs just a decade ago.  This forms the basis of the Biblical evolution model that Ken Ham most famously promoted in his debate with Bill Nye (see figure below).

The YEC biblical evolution model. Screen capture of a slide from Ham's presentation during the Ham/Nye debate Feb 4 2013.

The YEC biblical evolution model. Screen capture of a slide from Ham’s presentation during the Ham/Nye debate Feb 4 2013.  Here you can see that Ken Ham proposed that all species of cats today descended from just pair on the ark. Likewise, dogs and elephants all descended from a two pairs of common ancestors. As they did so they diverged (speciated) into more and more species to give us the animals we recognize today.

Osborne-ark-kinds-total-kidsdinotalk-nov2015

I took this picture of a slide during a presentation by AiG speaker Bryan Osborne. He was explaining that the Ark only had to fit about 1000 to 1500 kinds and so it had plenty of capacity to hold the diversity of all animals that had breath and needed to be preserved during Noah’s flood.

Today there are at least 30,000 recognized species of living amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. If you add the fossil species from presumed post-Flood sediments, and hence post-Flood evolved species, the numbers of species that have lived on Earth since the Flood easily eclipses 100,000. Thus only 1% of the diversity of land-animal life was present on the Ark and 99% of the diversity we see today is the result of post-flood changes (aka evolutionary mechanisms) to those animals.

There are so many problems with the content and conclusions of this new AiG article including: 1) the lack of any Biblical record or documentation by any other historical records of such radical biological change, 2) the irony of how AiG is using reconstructions of ancient organisms based on the evidence of historical science to justify their belief that organisms have evolved into many new species, 3) the irony of a complete lack of any reference to transition fossils for the thousands of new species that YECs say have formed from each Biblical kind, and 4) the fact they are admitting that hundreds of thousands of fossils exist that are not found in global flood deposits but rather were fossilized after they speciated after departing the ark. It seems to me this is an admission that fossilization can readily occur in a non-global-flood context.

Present vs past diversity of select groups of animals. Notice that fossil (extinct) diversity is always greater than present diversity. This is a slide from a recent presentation of mine. Credit: Joel Duff

Present vs past diversity of select groups of animals. Notice that fossil (extinct) diversity is always greater than present diversity. This is a slide from a recent presentation of mine.  For most of these groups AiG now proposes that there was but a single pair just 4350 years ago that then gave rise not only to the species alive today but thousands of extinct species all of which must have only existed for a very short time but apparently long enough to have been preserved as fossils. Credit: Joel Duff

The evolution of cats according to Answers in Genesis. One created cat "kind" evolved into the cats we have today. The original image in full size is found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/images/articles/am/v5/n2/cat-kind-chart.gif

The evolution of cats according to Answers in Genesis. One created cat “kind” evolved into the cats we have today. The original image in full size is found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/images/articles/am/v5/n2/cat-kind-chart.gif

Time prevents me from a detailed exploration of these points now so I will look at just one claim from the AiG article as an illustration.

The origin of giraffes

Let us look briefly at just one example from AiGs article: the giraffe kind. In this article the authors suggest that Giraffes form a “family” with the Okapi. Although the Okapi is clearly a different species and is incompatible with giraffes the authors nonetheless tells us that neither of these species we recognize today was on Noah’s ark but rather “their original parents probably didn’t look very similar to either species.” The phrase “original parents” is the YEC equivalent of “common ancestor” in evolutionary parlance.

The authors, who have very little training in biology I might add, of this paper are claiming that giraffes as you know them from Africa were not created on Day 6 and present in the Garden of Eden. Instead, the original giraffe kind was some sort of ungulate-like animal with features in-between a giraffe, an okapi and dozens of other fossil species. Those fossils and the Okapi suggest the original giraffe kind that God made did not have a long neck but probably only a slightly elongated neck which is also seen in other ungulate groups. After this common ancestor giraffe kind departed the ark selection for new combinations of genes seems to have caused the great elongation of the neck in some members of the kind to form what we call giraffes and okapi today.

Does this make sense? Could this happen in just a few hundred years?

While superficially appealing to the young-earth mindset because it solves the problem of how to fit all the animals on the ark there is nothing to support such wild speculation. This barely qualifies as a hypothesis much less a theory. For Young Life Creationism (YLC) to be true, everything we know about genetics, ecology, evolutionary processes and even much of chemistry, must be completely wrong. The YLC provides no tangible evidence or testable theories of how these tremendous changes might occur. What are the mechanisms? Where is the evidence of this change? Surely there should be eyewitness reports of one species giving direct rise to another since thousands of new species were forming every year for hundreds of years. Why are new species not forming as such incredible rates today?

Let us begin with genetics. I did a quick search and there is a published mitochondrial genome for the Okapi and Giraffe. This genome is small but looking at it gives a general feeling for the genetic divergence among animals.

An Okapi. Image credit: "Okapi2". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Okapi2.jpg#/media/File:Okapi2.jpg

An Okapi. Image credit: “Okapi2”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Okapi2.jpg#/media/File:Okapi2.jpg

So how different are an Okapi and a Giraffe? Their mtDNA genomes differ by about 2100 base pairs which means they have only 87% DNA sequence similarity. To give you a reference point of how different that is, you and any chimpanzee differ by 1400 to 1500 base pairs (nucleotides). Hence we  92% the same with respect to our mtDNA sequences. I have little doubt that if we examine more parts of their genomes that we would find that there would be far more differences between these “giraffe” kinds than there is among many other species that YECs are unlikely to call the same “kind.”

Answer in Genesis is quick to promote genetic differences between humans and apes as evidence that they must be unique species and special creations. So why do they downplay even greater genetic differences in other species and claim they clearly share a common ancestor on Noah’s Ark? I am very confused.

A Nilgai antelope. "Nilgai running" by Rushil Fernandes - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nilgai_running.jpg#/media/File:Nilgai_running.jpg

A Nilgai antelope. “Nilgai running” by Rushil Fernandes – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nilgai_running.jpg#/media/File:Nilgai_running.jpg

I also took a look at the mtDNA genome of the nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), which is the largest Asian antelope. Antelopes are ungulates like giraffes but are in a different group.  In my comparison with the Okapi genome I found them to differ by just under 2200 differences (89% DNA sequence similarity). So the Okapi is about equal distant in terms of its genetic code from a Giraffe and this large antelope. Why doesn’t AiG then just consider all antelopes to be the same “kind” as giraffes and thus all descendants from a common ancestor on the ark? By what criteria do they make their decisions of classification?

The paradigm shift in Young Life Creationist’s understanding of species

The fact that this article mentions giraffes suggests to me that AiG is vigorously attempting to reorient the creationist understanding of the origins of species diversity. There is a long history of YECs claiming that specific adaptions to their environment are clear evidence of de-novo creation of those species.   The argument goes that the features that a particular species has are so specialized that no intermediate characteristics could have allowed the organisms to survive and thus they must have been formed as we see them today. It’s a form of the irreducibly complex argument championed by Michael Behe. As you can imagine, if AiG is going to define species as descendants of common ancestors on the Ark then these special features of individual species must be adaptions to their current condition. Sometime YECs will call upon some sort of pre-programming that God did to give them the ability to form these features later. A sort of latent capacity to live in future environments that God place in their genomes such that under just the right conditions suddenly a long neck, stronger heart and special blood vessels would suddenly appear just in a set of descendants to make a giraffe.

All one needs to do is look at a couple of example of how giraffes were talked about 20 years ago to see how different this brave new world of post-flood hyper-evolution has changed the creationist’ landscape.

Here is one example from 1996:

Other mammals do desire the leaves of trees but none of them will ever become giraffes, and the giraffe most certainly did not come from any other ‘less-than-giraffe’ animal.

In this article giraffes have features that could only be explained as God having produced giraffes as we see them today. Below is another example from a blog post written in 2010 of the same sort of argument that is common in the YEC literature:

Everyone agrees, creationists and evolutionists—a giraffe is a giraffe. It is a distinct species, a discrete entity. No one would say a giraffe is a “missing link” or a “transitional form.” A giraffe is not some creature emerging from some other creature or changing into a “higher” or more complex animal—a giraffe is a giraffe! It can be scientifically examined with results that display the necessity of a single creative act. This long-necked creature had to have been originally formed with all of its complex features fully functional.

The common view is that features are so specialized in species that they could not have come to be through any intermediate. But one species becoming another requires intermediate steps. If the animals on the ark did not look like today’s animals they have changed and they have new specializations that give them the attributes as species that they are today.

I’ll end by repeating what I have said before. There is no biblical evidence of such radical changes to organisms. To say that animals reproduce after “their own kind” is to confirm the ordinary observation that all species, as they have been recognized for millennia, give birth to more of their own species. The bible references horses and donkeys very soon after the Flood with no indication that they are any different than we might understand them today. For more on this please see my article (YEC Biblical Evolution: I have a Book that Says Otherwise) written soon after the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate in which I talk about Ken Ham’s most public attempt to reorient creationism to accommodate a radical form of Darwinism. I’m not sure what to call this new take on the history of life on earth but I do like a friend’s suggestion: Radical Anteglacial Darwinism or RAD for short. It accounts for the fact that all the diversity of life we see today and in the recent fossil record must be accounted for in the time between the Flood and the creationist singular ice age and the fact that it requires radical amounts of natural selection (the Darwinian mechanism), mutations and genetic drift to accomplish such changes.

Summary

Would you recognize many of the animals that boarded Noah’s Ark? Not according to Ken Ham and company. The ark contained only the common ancestors to animals you see today. Giraffes on the ark? No. Lions? No. etc… One cat pair evolved into more than 150 species of cats most of which went extinct just a few hundred years after the Flood. Yes, Ken Ham has fully embraced Post-Flood Rapid Evolution as a mechanism of creating the amazing variation we see today. As he falls further down the slippery slope into the rabbit hole of radical hyper-evolution Ken Ham is, ironically, more accepting of naturalistic speciation (Darwinian evolution) than Old Earth advocates such as Hugh Ross.

Welcome to the RAD new world of YLC.

 

Comments

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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  2. Christine Janis says:

    Hi. Hate to be nit-picky again, but no one bovid is closer to giraffids than any other. They’re quite separate families, and bovids are actually more closely related to cervids (deer) than they are to giraffids.

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    • No problem, I was speaking very generally about relationship but you are right, my languages suggests a sister relationship relative to other ungulates. I looked at the pronghorn mtDNA as well and the story was about thee same but I liked the image better for the antelope. I’ll change the wording there to be more accurate.

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  3. “the fact they are admitting that hundreds of thousands of fossils exist that are not found in global flood deposits but rather were fossilized after they speciated after departing the ark. It seems to me this is an admission that fossilization can readily occur in a non-global-flood context.” Unless you have a link showing otherwise I fear they are in fact NOT admitting this (even though it must have happened even if the flood occurred 4,300 years ago in a 6,000 year old Earth). I suspect they would prefer to insist that the land species that evolved ‘within kinds’ post-flood were previously around and most of them (apart from the pairs of ‘representative kinds’ on the ark) died in the flood and are the ones we find fossilised since the flood caused ‘rapid burial’ (as if landslides or real regional floods could not cause that) whereas since fossilisation is rare the vast majority of the fossil record ‘must’ be explained/explainable by the claimed global flood (which ‘washes away’ millions of years and thus by extension ‘Darwinism’).

    In fact I see you are referring to this, new, article:
    https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/reimagining-ark-animals/ (I thought the hybrid offspring of matings of related animals within a ‘kind’ or perhaps genus were frequently infertile and thus would have difficulty multiplying on the Earth. Is that the Bible ‘making sense’ of reality? But they are indeed doing an awful lot of imagining/re-imagining.)
    And, despite what Ken Ham tells kids about ‘billions of dead things’ and a global flood, the article DOES admit in passing “The remains of some animals have been found in rock layers we believe were deposited in the centuries after the Flood.” Yet they then deny that this has ever happened with dinosaurs ie they survived the flood as a ‘kind’ because of the ark but ALL dinosaur fossils are FROM the flood event and not later. Presumably they simply have to say this because of the reality that dinosaur fossils are always found in deep layers whereas eg fossils of ‘ice age creatures’ or indeed hominids having lived much more recently are found in much shallower, more recent, layers.
    The article concludes: “Even though God graciously spared the Ark kinds from complete destruction in the Flood, roughly half of the land-dwelling, air-breathing kinds have since gone extinct trying to survive in this sin-cursed world.” But that is not what you would expect to have occurred from reading the latter part of Genesis 8 (even if you falsely blame humanity for extinctions of creatures such as dinosaurs).

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    • David MacMillan says:

      “I thought the hybrid offspring of matings of related animals within a ‘kind’ or perhaps genus were frequently infertile and thus would have difficulty multiplying on the Earth.”

      Indeed. The AiG folks would claim that the original parent pair had all the genetic material which would be passed on to its descendants, but that diverging environmental adaptations caused different sub-populations to “specialize” into distinct species by losing a portion of the original genetic code. In their view, hybridization may come close to reconstructing the original parent “kind”, but the reconstruction will almost always be incomplete, leading to infertility or other problems.

      This leads to a related conundrum for the YECs. The pre-flood world was already under the “curse” and so speciation and genetic losses were inevitable. Since hybridization can never fully reconstruct the full genome of the progenitors, how then could the full diversity of antediluvian life have been preserved on the Ark? YECs believe that the vast majority of species today descended from a few thousand Ark kinds in just a few centuries…how much more speciation and divergence must have taken place in the nearly 2,000 years before the flood! There is no way that any feline pair or canid pair or bovid pair or girrafid pair living so many centuries after their creation week could still preserve the full genome of the kind.

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      • Exactly! This is the elephant in AiG Ark that they seem to be ignoring or just don’t know what to do with. The Ark is a the most fantastic genetic bottleneck that has ever happened and there are hundreds of studies (observational science no less) of genetic bottlenecks that show us that organisms do not suddenly have vast genetic diversity and speciate after undergoing a genetic bottleneck, even those not nearly as strong as Noah’s ark would have been.

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  4. Fascinating, fascinating. If the YEC position continues to stretch so much diversification of ‘kinds’ as to unavoidably include development of irreducibly complex features, I imagine they would claim God was clearly involved, either in actively guiding such development or in setting it up beforehand to be possible… in which case they would be sounding remarkably similar to views of theistic evolution…

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  5. I did a quick search of the AiG website for articles about mammoths. But they only seem to discuss the extinction of these ‘ice age animals’. My impression is that, based on the new ‘re-imagining’ article, they think some ‘kind’ of mammoth-type creature was created as described in Genesis 1 but then eg woolly mammoths ‘evolved’ as a distinct species post-flood – only to then go extinct shortly afterwards towards the end of a rather unbiblical ‘post-flood ice age’.

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  6. Martha Baring says:

    I had stopped reading AiG so I am fascinated to see this new webpage that adds fossil info to their hypothetical ark animals. It is impressive how closely Ham’s staff chooses to stick with biological data, up to the point where it seems to contradict their views. In the past Ham has talked about ‘dogs’ that were heterozygous for some feature, which was then sorted out by loss of diversity in the populations. I wonder how they will argue that a less than 4 lb canid ancestor was the ancestor of wolves. (I am sure they will manage.) Since Ham is dismissive of the (miniature) poodle as being a laughably degenerate version of the wolf, and since Ham’s picture of increasingly degenerate dog breeds goes from larger to smaller, I would have guessed that being small was considered a degenerate trait to him compared to the mighty (macho) wolf.

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    • Martha Baring says:

      I made a comment on Ken Ham’s FB post that linked to their article on reimagining the ark animals. (Initially my comment had some snark which I edited out). One of the authors of the article replied to my comment.
      I had pointed out that the earlier posts on the ark mammals had described using a method they called ‘cognitum’, the general appearance of the animal, as a way to categorize it into a particular ‘kind’. One expression of this idea – I can’t remember where I saw this, maybe on AiG or ICR – was that ‘cognitum’ was related to how Adam would have named the animals based simply on how he saw them. I was puzzled by how the AiG staffers could be using cognitum on fossil canids that could not be seen in the flesh. The Hesperocyons, based on their bones, were shaped more like a civet or small raccoon than a dog anyway (wikipedia). so that they would not have matched the dog ‘cognitum’ even in life.
      From the answer to my comment it seems that either I misunderstood AiG’s use of ‘cognitum’ or the definition of the word has shifted. It now can be applied to anatomical features like teeth and bone shapes. Another way in which AiG is weaving biological information into its view of biblical kinds.

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  7. Reblogged this on Age of Rocks and commented:
    The Young-Earth paradigm touted by Answers in Genesis is slowly dying the death of a thousand qualifications.

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  8. I don’t understand AiG’s “genetic potential” argument, and I’m not sure they do either. Where did this pre-programmed capacity to change rapidly come from? An organism can only hold so much diversity within its own genome, at most the “original kind” would have had two different alleles for each gene. Unless there’s some other mechanism that would allow for concentrated diversity to be programmed into the genome? Are they proposing genomes were massive in the past as have been trimmed down? We know they can’t allow new genetic information to have evolved, after all. That doesn’t happen, even when we directly observe it, it must be denied.

    Also, given the diversity of dinosaurs and other animals in the “flood” deposits, it appears animals had fully diversified and used up their genetic potential by the flood. Unless those animals taken aboard by Noah were magically preserved from genetic change for over one thousand years, only to sprint into speciation immediately after the flood.

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    • Missed your comment earlier. I’ve been very confused by all of their genetic models, if I can even call them models. Good point about the dinosaurs, even if there was some sort of super amounts of variation in the original kinds it would have been “sorted out” by the Flood. If pushed I expect that AiG will suggest that either the two animals brought on the ark were taken from the most divergent members of a kind, which would be a very weird sight, or they will just appeal to God having made it happen as you say. The more one thinks about the consequences of this proposal the less sense that it makes. I think they hahven’t really thought about it and they were simply trying to solve one problem (limited room on the ark) and this seemed like the best way to do it.

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    • Martha Baring says:

      One way they could get around the dinosaur problem is by assuming that there were initially many created dinosaur kinds, two of each taken on the ark and the rest killed in the flood.

      Since God apparently sent the animals to the ark, the pairs that were sent could have been specially chosen for their genetic variations. (If it were up to me I would suggest that God could have specially tweaked the genomes of the ark pairs but I am not sure creationists would include that possibility.)
      I do think some people envision that the pre-loaded genomes contained more than just different alleles. They could argue that modern animals had lost those regions.
      I would like to think that eventually there will be clear contradictions that the creationists can’t explain away by their hypothetical variability claims. The increase in modern and ancient sequenced genomes plus functional genomics makes that seem possible.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] A great post on this can be found here, by Joel Duff, who has a blog entitled Naturalis Historia. In any case, this “charge” by Ken Ham against evolution (i.e. evolution can’t explain how life came about in the first place) is a completely bogus and false charge. It is a lie. […]

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