What do giraffes, cows, sheep, antelope, pronghorn and deer have in common? Foremost, they all share a specialized digestive system that includes a four-chambered stomach that allows them to obtain nutrients and energy from vegetation that is inaccessible to most mammals. This ability and other shared morphological traits are used by scientists to classify all of these animals in one large group: the Ruminatia. Biologists regard these shared features as evidence that the members of the Ruminatia, consisting of more than 500 living and fossils species, all share a single common ancestor in the distant past.
Recently, I wrote a response to an Answers in Genesis (AiG) article which was proposing extensive and rapid evolution of a limited number of ancestral pairs of animals into tens of thousands of species after a global flood just 4350 years ago (see: Ken Ham’s Darwinism: On the Origin of Species by Means of Hyper-Evolution Following Noah’s Flood). In that response I reported that Ken Ham and AiG are proposing that the species that you and I recognize as a Giraffe did not exist 4350 years ago. Instead, they insist we need to “reimagine” the ark “kinds” as the common ancestor of both the modern-day giraffe, the Okapi and dozens of other extinct giraffe-like species. To that end they included a possible reconstruction of that ancestral giraffe in their paper (Reimagining Ark Animals) and have produced a model which they have including in their Ark Encounter theme park.
I had noted that the anatomical and genetic differences between a giraffe and an okapi were not insignificant and I asked: if these two shared a common ancestor why should Answers in Genesis stop there? Why not propose that Noah only had to bring onto the ark a single ancestral pair of animals with genetic programming to become pronghorn, antelope, sheep, goats, giraffes, okapi, and all cattle? In other words, why not propose a single common ancestor to all the true ruminants just as evolutionary biologist do? After all, they all share many features including a unique stomach architecture.
Since posing this question I have discovered that my suggestion had already been considered by a young-earth writer. Retired veterinarian Jean Lightner is an independent young-earth researcher who has been working with Answers in Genesis for several years to determine the number of “kinds” of animals that should be displayed on Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter. I discovered that she had already speculated about the origins of bovines and other ungulates in an article published on Creation.com (the website of another young-earth ministry, Creation Ministries International). Here is the pertinent quote (highlights are mine) from Lightner’s article, Identification of Species Within the Cattle Monobaramin (Kind):
Alleged hybrids of cattle with members of another subfamily (Caprinae) and family (Cervidae) hint that the holobaramin (all organisms derived from the created common ancestors, whether known or not) could possibly include the entire family Bovidae and several, if not all, of the five other ruminant families.
Considerable variety is apparent within the cattle monobaramin. In my previous paper on the Tsoan (sheep-goat) monobaramin, I suggested that some of the variety may have resulted from directed mutations. These are changes in genes that occur in response to certain environmental clues and help the organism adapt to the new environment. So far, heritable directed mutations have only been documented in microbes. Within the evolutionary paradigm, mutations are essentially the result of random processes. In the creationary paradigm, mutations may be programmed into the genome so animals could adapt to changing environments after the Curse. Further study of variation within monobaramins, particularly looking at the molecular basis of these differences, may reveal programming of an infinitely wise Creator who provides for his creation in ways we had never before imagined.
In case you are not familiar with bovine classification the Bovidae includes: bison, buffalo, antelope, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen and all domestic cattle. There are more than 140 recognized living species and over 300 extinct species of bovines.
Dr. Lightner is proposing that, at a minimum, all of these bovines could share a single ancestral pair of parents. But she doesn’t stop there. She is willing to consider that the other five families of ruminants may also share a common ancestor with the bovines. These five families include the chevrotians (mouse-deer), pronghorns, giraffes and okapi and all true deer.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Lightner has suggested all of these animals may have originated from the same ancestor. In her article “Mammalian Ark Kinds” for Answers in Genesis she wrote the following:
There are species of deer (Cervidae) and antelope (Bovidae) that are not easily identifiable to family unless the cranial appendages are present. All this hints that one created kind could have given rise to all in Ruminantia. However, given the diversity of this group I will split them so as to avoid underestimating the number of kinds on the Ark.
This is a simply astounding proposal. The very fact she is willing to consider such expansive diversification and the editors of creation.com are willing to publish these ideas is truly mind-boggling. If she is right then the Ark Encounter could represent the parents of cows, sheep, goats, giraffes and deer with just a single pair of animals. I have created a graphic (below) that represents Jean Lightner’s possible hypothesis that young-earth creationist’s may propose for the origin of the ruminants.
What would the ancestor of a giraffe, cow, antelope and a sheep look like? Has Lightner and AiG considered how the inevitable transitions between these animals might look and where we might find them? Given all of this occurred within the past 4000 years, why are there no written reports of animals undergoing such dramatic transitions in either secular or sacred historical writings?
If a giraffe, a cow and a sheep can be borne a single set of parents then the question becomes: just how far can biological variation be stretched in the young earth viewpoint? David MacMillan’s guest post, Dodging Darwin: How Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Slowly Embracing Evolution , explored that very question with respect to the animals classified in the Carnivora. Lightner and others have embraced so much change one has to wonder, how long will young-earth creationists deny that whales were not born of a land-dwelling ungulate ancestor (1) that was on the ark or that seals do not share a common ancestor with bears?
Lastly, how will the greater acceptance of the flexibility of life forms effect the YEC dogma that “vast differences” between human and chimpanzee biology make the story of human origins from an ape ancestor impossible? I can’t help but feel that the growing acceptance of vast amounts of change is undermining their own view on the uniqueness of man. I believe this is a question they need to think about carefully as they proceed into uncharted waters.
(1) We don’t have to wait for this one. One creationist, Dr. Wise, has already suggested that whales are descendants of a walking relative that was preserved on Noah’s ark.
Credits for Images used in the article above:
“Abomasum (PSF)” by Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: PSF A-10005.png.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abomasum_(PSF).png#/media/File:Abomasum_(PSF).png
“Flickr – Rainbirder – Reticulated Giraffe drinking” by Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland – Reticulated Giraffe drinking. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_Reticulated_Giraffe_drinking.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_Reticulated_Giraffe_drinking.jpg
“Flickr – Rainbirder – High-rise living” by Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland – High-rise living. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_High-rise_living.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_High-rise_living.jpg Giraffe
Bovids “Family Bovidae six species” by This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:Sable bull.jpg (uploaded by user:Redf0x)File:Take ours!.jpg (uploaded by user:Steven Walling)File:Female zebu cattle.JPG (uploaded by User:Mammalwatcher)File:Nemorhaeduscaudatusarnouxianus.JPG (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske)File:Stavenn Cephalophus maxwellii.jpg (uploaded by User:Stavenn )File:Nyalas male.jpg (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske) – This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:Sable bull.jpg (uploaded by user:Redf0x)File:Take ours!.jpg (uploaded by user:Steven Walling)File:Female zebu cattle.JPG (uploaded by User:Mammalwatcher)File:Nemorhaeduscaudatusarnouxianus.JPG (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske)File:Stavenn Cephalophus maxwellii.jpg (uploaded by User:Stavenn )File:Nyalas male.jpg (uploaded by User:Magnus Manske). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_Bovidae_six_species.jpg#/media/File:Family_Bovidae_six_species.jpg
“Pronghorn antelope”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pronghorn_antelope.jpg#/media/File:Pronghorn_antelope.jpg
Mouse deer: “Mouse-deer Singapore Zoo 2012” by Uspn (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen). – Own work; .. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mouse-deer_Singapore_Zoo_2012.JPG#/media/File:Mouse-deer_Singapore_Zoo_2012.JPG
“Moschus moschiferus in Plzen zoo (12.02.2011)” by Николай Усик / http://paradoxusik.livejournal.com/ – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moschus_moschiferus_in_Plzen_zoo_(12.02.2011).jpg#/media/File:Moschus_moschiferus_in_Plzen_zoo_(12.02.2011).jpg
“Family Cervidae five species” by This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:PNSC Veado Campeiro Correndo.jpg (uploaded by User:Halleypo)File:RangiferTarandus.jpg (uploaded by User:Sydpolen)File:Red deer stag 2009 denmark.jpg (uploaded by User:Atomicbre)File:The barasingha.jpg (uploaded by aloshbennett)File:Dama dama 002.jpg (uploaded by User:Lily_M)) – This image is a derivative work of the following images:File:PNSC Veado Campeiro Correndo.jpg (uploaded by User:Halleypo)File:RangiferTarandus.jpg (uploaded by User:Sydpolen)File:Red deer stag 2009 denmark.jpg (uploaded by User:Atomicbre)File:The barasingha.jpg (uploaded by aloshbennett)File:Dama dama 002.jpg (uploaded by User:Lily_M)). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_Cervidae_five_species.jpg#/media/File:Family_Cervidae_five_species.jpg
Cover image: Pronghorn from Wyoming. Photo by Joel Duff
“how will the greater acceptance of the flexibility of life forms [a]ffect the YEC dogma that ‘vast differences’ between human and chimpanzee biology make the story of human origins from an ape ancestor impossible? I can’t help but feel that the growing acceptance of vast amounts of change is undermining their own view on the specialness of man. I believe this is [a] question they need to think about carefully as they proceed into these uncharted waters.”
My observation: For Ham and company, SCIENCE is ALWAYS secondary to their interpretation of Scripture. As a result, I don’t think the issues you raise bother them in the least. They are attempting to find a solution to what one might call a practical exegetical question (“How can we fit enough animals on an ark of the proportions described in the Bible?”). They are not concerned about demonstrating that “their” science is better than “the evolutionists'” science. The evolutionists are simply wrong, based on [AiG’s (human, therefore fallible) interpretation of] the infallible Word of God. THEREFORE, they can adapt all the (secular) science they want to demonstrate the feasibility of their interpretation of God’s Word . . . and just as easily dismiss whatever secular science they want to dismiss.
Science is secondary. Exegesis (or eisegesis, as the case may be!) is primary.
I think the kind of “Emperor is Wearing No Clothes” work you are doing has a definite place, but I sense–as I have said elsewhere–that Old Earth Creationists and/or Evolutionists will have to take on the task of Biblical exegesis if they want to change large numbers of hearts and minds that have bought into the AiG viewpoint.
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I really couldn’t agree more. Yes, I’ve spent considerable effort showing how the evidence of creation does not point to a young earth but I quite agree that at the end of the day it is all about Biblical interpretation. My reflections on the creationists approach to scientific apologetics reiterates the points you have made so well. https://thenaturalhistorian.com/2015/06/15/reflections-on-a-creationist-approach-to-scientific-apologetics/ I really should be spending more time on the theological side of this discussion rather than the scientific one but I get so wrapped up in the interesting stories of science. I am encouraged by a wide variety of books that have been written in that last 10 years that have brought more theological rigor to the origins debate. With respect to hitting the YECs where it really counts, I really enjoyed “Peril in Paradise” by Mark Whorton which I read just recently. http://www.amazon.com/Peril-Paradise-Theology-Science-Earth/dp/0830857346
Hey John and Joel, I certainly agree that this issue would really be served well by some exegetical discussion. I’ll look forward to it.
Joel, you recommended a book on theology written by a scientist. Have you read any theology books by a theologian that you respect? I’d recommend “Coming to Grips with Genesis” written by a group of thoroughly trained theologians.
Hi Trevor, Thanks. Its been interesting though I am falling behind in my responses. Regarding books on Genesis I really like Jack Collins’ “Genesis 1-4: A linguistic, literary and theological commentary” http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-1-4-Linguistic-Theological-Commentary/dp/0875526195 I also have a number of other recommendations (the page is a bit dated now) in my Science/Faith books page on the blog https://thenaturalhistorian.com/modern-creation-debate-books/ I have a brief blurb about the books there.
Regarding “Coming to grips with Genesis” I do have the book and have read portions. Honestly the fact that Terry Mortenson is a primary author is a problem for me since my faith is his ability to report information correctly or understand it himself is not very high. I say this from much experience reading and assessing his other writing and personal interaction. Mortenson has some theological training but his PhD in is the history of geology (AiG claims he has a PhD in geology which is misleading). I have participated in a college apologetics course with Mortenson and sat through many hours of his lectures which were straight from this book. I’ll just say that I came away doubting his knowledge about theology or geology.
Thanks for sharing. I can see your perspective on Mortenson. Nonetheless, he only wrote two of the chapters. I’ve found the other chapters to be very honest and accurate.
I’ll have to check out my copy again. I didn’t realize his contribution was that limited.
Trevor: I sense that Miller and Soden’s In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood (http://smile.amazon.com/Beginning-We-Misunderstood-Interpreting-Original/dp/0825439272/) goes a long way toward introducing an exegesis of Genesis 1-3 that actually “makes sense” more than any other I have found.
I don’t think Miller and Soden go near far enough for their “solution” to be fully satisfactory. Someone–they and/or someone else–needs to work out for the REST of Scripture the exegetical/hermeneutical/theological implications of their proposed understanding of Genesis 1-3. But, as I say, they have, in my opinion, made a great start.
Of course, you will find scornful critiques of the book as well as strong tributes. I myself wrote a fairly lengthy commentary/review (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R24CQ3RJUBITM/).
I will say that someone else recommended Coming to Grips with Genesis in a comment here on Joel’s blog. I bought it and have read a fair portion. I’m afraid that the authors of that book don’t do (what I would call) real EXEGESIS. Instead, they present arguments for a point of view–many of which arguments can be found elsewhere. What I’m looking for–and what I think Miller and Soden provide–is a real attention to the biblical TEXT and its proper understanding from an historical-grammatical perspective.
Most young-earth advocates, obviously, seek to interpret from an historical-grammatical perspective. Miller and Soden are the first old-earth advocates I have found who approach things in much the same way but come to very different conclusions from their young-earth brethren (and from their younger young-earth SELVES). Their book explains why.
Well, I’ll withhold judgement on “Coming to Grips with Genesis” as I haven’t finished it yet. But I’m intrigued by Miller and Soden’s book, especially since they appear to be well trained in theology. I’m very interested in understanding more about the theology of the old earth perspective, but I’m getting somewhat tired of reading books about exegesis from scientists (on either side of the issue). Not that they can’t do it well, just that I like to see some formal training in theology since that’s at least half the issue. Thanks for sharing.
This has certainly been an enjoyable series of articles. At the end of this post, however, I simply find us back at the same question; namely, are micro and macroevolution simply different ends of same spectrum, or are there many micro-spectrums (which we call kinds) between which a species will never move? Joel, you’ve posed the question in a little different way. You asked, “If a giraffe, a cow and a sheep can be borne a single set of parents then the question becomes: just how far can biological variation be stretched in the young earth viewpoint?” Lightner’s concept of the cattle monobaramin, for example, appears to be an honest attempt to answer that question; moreover I find that her assessment does not open up the young earth perspective to the sort of inconsistency that you suggest. If we consider all of the animals that you’ve placed in your figure depicting the origin of the ruminatia, two things are apparent: 1) there is a tremendous amount of variation, and 2) all of the variation seems to be well defined without any discernible trajectory towards a new kind or body plan. Speaking reductionistically of gross anatomy in the animals you presented, there are a few traits that are clearly represented (those that don’t have them likely lost them). These include horns, hooves, tails and four legs, all laid out in a similar orientation or body plan.The stark phenotypic differences that grab the eye actually seem to only be variations of those traits. The neck is longer or shorter, the body is either wider or more narrow, the horns are longer or shorter (or lost all together), and the legs are longer on some and shorter on others. Furthermore, they are all numinants. Based on this framework, it is fairly straightforward (yet still awe-inspiring) to visualize the mechanism of change without being beset by the question of why “whales were not born of a land-dwelling ungulate ancestor.” Note that by simply looking at the animals in your figure, there are no new physical innovations, for example the rise of fins, tail flukes and blow holes that would have been needed for a cow to take up life as a whale. These are the sorts of changes that punctuate our concept of “kinds,” and although there is room for great variation within kinds according to AiG’s concept, I still see no room to suggest that such extraordinary innovations as fins and blow holes could fit into such a concept. So although AiG is accepting of great variation, it does not indicate that they are on they’re way to accepting or even needing to accept, for example, evolution from a cow to a whale. Their inclusion of vast variation simply does not necessitate that sort of concession. Lightner puts it this way in her AiG article on the cattle monobaramin:
“Biblical creationists recognize that intrabaraminic (within kind) changes may occur over time. Such changes may be related to God’s provision and help animals survive in particular environments. Other changes are recognized as being degenerative and the result of the Curse (Genesis 3, Romans 8:19–23). However, the evolutionary notion that all living things have a common ancestor and throughout history have gained new organs and complex, well-integrated biochemical pathways is rejected.”
Regarding chimp-to-human evolution, there is a actually a tremendous amount of novelty between the genomes. Although its thought to only be about a 4-5% difference, that means over 35 million nucleotide differences, and perhaps more than 50 genes that exist in the human that don’t in the chimp. Consider also how much more we now appreciate the role of non-coding regions of the genome, which is where much of the 4-5% uniqueness resides. Also, genome wide association studies, while informative, are beginning to demonstrate that simply understanding sequence similarity (even between two humans) tells us relatively little about phenotypic differences. There are other levels of genetic control that contain massive amounts of information that are not obvious by sequence alone (histone codes, DNA methylation patterns and alternative splicing to name a few). To suggest that chimps and humans are so similar by sequence as to call into question man’s “specialness” I think misses the sheer majesty and uniqueness of humanity above other superficially similar species.
As an aside, I wonder if you intended the comment about “proceeding into uncharted waters” as a subtle allusion to YECs evolving on issues of evolution the way terrestrial species purportedly entered the water to become whales. It was well received if you did ;)
“Note that by simply looking at the animals in your figure, there are no new physical innovations, for example the rise of fins, tail flukes and blow holes that would have been needed for a cow to take up life as a whale.”
Whales don’t have fins like fishes. They have flippers, which contain the full complement of bones seen in terrestrial vertebrates but absent from any extant fish.
Tail flukes are merely cartilaginous extensions of the tail.
Blow holes are simply nostrils that have moved to the top of the head. This “transformation” can be seen in whale ontogeny.
The fact that you think that a cow turned into a whale is rather telling of your understanding of the science on this issue. But can you explain why the genomes of modern whales cluster within those of extant artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates, including ruminants, camelids, pigs and hippos)?
Hey Christine, my use of the cow-to-whale motif was simply a quick way to talk about the complex evolutionary paradigm that Joel referred to when he referenced whale evolution. It was sort of akin to saying “molecules-to-man” evolution. I guess I could have been more precise.
None the less, whales do have fins in addition to flippers. Whether they are like those of a fish was not the point. The point is they have fins and the ruminants discussed in this article do not. My point was that AiG’s perspective is that the ruminants, although quite variable, only vary within a certain range. The addition of other novelties (fins and blowholes) suggests a different kind which biblical creationists believe to be distinct. Also, I’m not sure you do justice to the complexity of biology when you assert that “tail flukes are merely cartilaginous extensions of the tail.” It may be precise to say that a long tail on an ungulate is an extension of a short tail, but to say that a new appendage like a tail fluke with a completely different function and morphology is “simply” anything other a complex, genetic marvel is to betray a lack of appreciation for the depths of biology.
But to your question, the genomes of modern whales clustering with other ungulates is, to be overly simplistic, a function of them sharing certain genomic qualities. I state that so simplistically in order to illustrate that the conclusions placed on those sorts of data (i.e. sequencing data) are far more conclusive than the data actually support. The conclusion that I suppose you are inferring from these similarities is that the animals evolved from one another because their genomes resemble one another, and I believe you draw that conclusion because your evolutionary presuppositions justify it. Nonetheless, another possible conclusion is that, rather than evolving from common ancestors, they were created with similar features that are coded at the genetic level. Thus their clustered genomes represent a similar designer, not a common ancestor.
“There are species of deer (Cervidae) and antelope (Bovidae) that are not easily identifiable to family unless the cranial appendages are present. ”
Simply nonsense —- all extant ruminants are identifiable to the species level by features of the teeth, skull, limb bones.
“Alleged hybrids of cattle with members of another subfamily (Caprinae) and family (Cervidae) ”
The source of this material seems to be the extremely dubious site “macroevolution.net”. which includes this wonderful photo of a perfectly normal horse foal.
The bible is quite clear on the uniqueness of man. We are not animals. If you are a christian, you have to deal with this. Theistic evolutionists are no more free from the question of biblical interpretation and science than old-earth creationists or young-earth creationists. Even if you choose to take Genesis as some sort of allegory (which I strongly disagree with), that doesn’t change the matter much. Jesus didn’t come to save chimpanzees. So what is a human if you have no Adam?
Let me be clear that my statement at the end was directed as what I believe is a problem for YEC thinking. They put great emphasis on the physical uniqueness of man relative to the apes. I was pointing out that they are going to undermine that belief by arguing for dramatic changes in other organisms. Jesus did not come to save Chimps and I believe that humans are unique as the Bible indicates. What makes them unique is less so their biology though than it is the fact their are created in the image of God which is something beyond biology.
Trevor answered to me, concerning the evidence for common ancestry of whales with extant artiodactyls:
“Nonetheless, another possible conclusion is that, rather than evolving from common ancestors, they were created with similar features that are coded at the genetic level. Thus their clustered genomes represent a similar designer, not a common ancestor.”
It’s interesting that you say this, because the previous part of your post was a disclaimer that whales had any specific features in common with artiodactyls, and were a separately created kind.
Strange to state whales sharing a common ancestor with artiodactyls as undisputed fact, when less than 20 years ago the reigning paradigm was that cetaceans were evolved from a wolf-like creature (presumably a carnivoran). Until the view was revised. Evolutionary trees are highly speculative at best.
The “wolf-like creature” was a mesonychid, which is an ungulate (it even had hooves), albeit one that turned to carnivory. Whales have been associated with ungulates in general, and artiodactyls in particular, since the late 19th century (Flower 1883), based on details of anatomy (mainly on the deciduous dentition). It was not until the arrival of better techniques, including molecular-based phylogenies, that whales were specifically placed “within” Artiodactyla.
Yes, phylogenetic trees, like all of science, are speculative. However, like all of science, they can be tested by the application of different data to the same issue. The clustering of cetaceans among artiodactyls has been confirmed by many different types of molecular analyses.
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Christine, my previous line of reasoning does not preclude all similarity. Many organisms share commonalities that could be identified by a cluster analysis in the absence of true ancestry. But you haven’t dealt with my larger point which is that phylogenetic analyses cannot prove ancestry. They demonstrate similarity, and that’s it. Its your subsequent interpretation of those data that says similarity equals ancestry. Yet you still come back with more clustering arguments. Phylogenetic techniques are trained using data from species whose divergence was observed and therefore known. Then they’re extrapolated to identify more “ancient” relationships regardless of the fact that that extrapolation crosses a macro-evolutionary border that young earthers believe to be uncrossable. Molecular similarities don’t prove macroevolution; they demonstrate a measure of similarity that runs throughout much of biology. You seem to understand the history of the application of phylogenetics, but you are ignoring the problems with its underlying assumptions.
Hi Trevor, I’m running a bit behind on the comments but wanted to speak to the Whale part since I started it by asking the question in my article. Whales have long been associated with ungulates but which ungulate has been the question. In the past 20 years so much more has been learned about whales especially with so many new fossils and all the molecular evidence. I would add another piece of data that I think any YEC must consider and why I believe that eventually some YECs will accept a land-animal ancestor of whales. The whale genome is chock full of pseudogenes and many of those are busted versions of genes that would have been used by a land animals. The most obvious example are hundreds and hundreds of genes that whales have for nasal receptor proteins (smelling genes). The vast majority of these have been shown to be non-functional. In fact, some whales probably don’t even have a functioning nose to even express the protein in. Yet, the genomes have these genes and the genes are in positions that are the same as those found in other ungulate genomes. This totally makes sense if whales once lived on land. At that time they needed to be able to smell but in the water smell is not as critical and so those genes would accumulate mutations because there is not selection to maintain their function. In my molecular methods class, as a class project we hypothesized that some whales may not be able to taste glucose but they may still have the gene since ungulates can. We used the ungulate genome to predict what the DNA sequence in a whale may be and then went into the genomes of two whales – I happen to have DNA of two whales in my lab freezer – and we successfully obtained the gene and sequenced it. Not suprisingly we found multiple mutations in the gene that resulted in corrupted reading sequence including several deletions of sequence. We concluded the whales had the sweet taste receptor gene but that almost certainly did not work.
The larger point here is that anyone studying whale genomes architecture and sequence is going to use ungulates- I would love to have a hippo genome done and I am sure it will be at some point – for comparison.
Now, you have been saying that whales are really different than land animals but the YEC argument is often that a super-organism with lots of genetic variation was sorted and information lost resulting in species with different gene pools. Why not look at whales as degenerate land animals. You could argue they have lost feet and thousands of genes are no longer being used that once were used. Surely there is a good fossil record of the transition to water with the blowhole the nasal passageway that has shifted over time further up the cranium. You could argue that front flippers are just adapted feet and that the genetic programming was in a hippo. More interestingly, maybe a YEC argument could be that the hippo and whales are the same kind and their common ancestor was somewhere between (there are plenty of fossils of footed whales that lived in shallow waters) and the hippo adapted to its water-loving land animal status and the whales just took the extra steps to go into the water. Maybe a better example would be seals and bears or manatees and elephants which are more similar than whales and hippos.
I guess the question is for YECs where does clustering mean “kind” and where does it indicate common design but no common ancestry. The only criteria that I am aware is the ability to hybridize but even that hasn’t been defined very well (I believe Lighter at one point argues that bovids are all the same kind because a hybrid embryo has survived to the 64 cell stage thus showing enough genetic similarity). Phylogenies have assumptions yes, but what a phylogeticists is looking for is when multiple independent data sets point to the same relationships that increases our confidence that we are heading int he right direction. Add in things like pseudogenes whose simplest explanation is shared history and shared design becomes a less parsimonious explanation.
To add to my previous comment. When I look at a whale genome, and I have spent a considerable amount of time examining whale genes, it is obvious that the gene structure and sequence is most similar to ungulate genes. I can’t help but wonder how this can be explained by special creation. To argue for common design doesn’t make must sense to me. Sure, they are air-breathing mammals, which is interesting in itself, and so they would need to have a certain complement of genetic information to make them so but why then did God make them so similar to ungulates and not other aquatic mammals like the manatees and seals. If God were to start with a general design – some sort of essential mammalian operating system – and then modify it why start with a hippo and make a whale, and an elephant and make a manatee when the land animals have so little in common with their habitat and needs? And why leave behind lots of pieces of land-animal remains in the genomes and not just clean up the mess and throw those pieces of the genome out altogether. You could say that phylogenetic reconstruction involves some extrapolation but its not hard to see why biologist believe that aquatic mammals have their origins in land-dwelling animals.
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Joel, I think your interpretation of the phylogenetic methodologies is sound (and so is Christine’s), but only if we accept a number of propositions. First, we have to assume a macroevolutionary paradigm. A good textbook on the subject (I’ve enjoyed “Phylogenetics: Theory and Practice of Phylogenetic Systematics” by Wiley and Lieberman) will start a discussion of phylogenetic methodology by conceding that homology must already be assumed even before beginning any alignments. But this is the premise that my position denies in the macroevolutionary realm, so I certainly can’t assume it for my analyses. This is why I have to reiterate my point that phylogenetics cannot be used to demonstrate common ancestry, because common ancestry is explicitly assumed in the method; it would be a logical fallacy to draw such a conclusion. Certainly I respect that a great deal of science has been done across many species using a variety of character types, but all of those analyses begin with the same assumptions which I don’t believe can be taken for granted. In the end I find the entire methodology unable to reliably distinguish between common ancestry and common design. In reality, its not even meant to make such a distinction because common design was ruled out by convention almost two centuries ago.
As to the teleological questions that you posed (e.g. why would God leave behind useless pseudogenes from land animals); 1) It seems your scientific worldview is biasing the very question. You already assumed in the asking of the question that there was ancestry such that certain genes were “left behind” (that’s macroevolutionary language). If we want to make an objective assessment about comparing genomes, we have to ask questions that don’t already assume part of the conclusion. 2) As scientists, we can’t assess why God created in one way or another. Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, loves to say that God would never have designed something so terrible (referring to the human body). That’s a theological statement, not a scientific one. 3) Regarding psedogenes, when you say that the sweet taste receptor gene almost certainly didn’t work, I think what you mean is that it almost certainly didn’t do what you thought it would. We are routinely uncovering new functions for pseudogenes, some of which suggest that they are genes in their own right, not broken remnants of the past. We might have made some of these discoveries earlier if we weren’t assuming a macroevolutionary paradigm that told us to expect a mostly useless genome.
All said, I think you have nicely summarized a strong strategy for assessing how organisms are similar. But in drawing your conclusions about ancestry it becomes apparent that the arguments are circumstantial and based on other assumptions and assertions that simply cannot aspire to demonstrable fact. Certainly I agree that its not hard to see why biologists believe aquatic mammals came from land mammals. The assumptions of mainstream biology have pointed them in that direction with their starting assumptions.
One last note; I don’t hold these perspective out of some conspiratorial mindset that all scientists are evil and deceptive. I simply can’t assume what they would like me to assume. My training tells me that those assumptions should be empirical (at which point I guess they would cease to be assumptions).
“But you haven’t dealt with my larger point which is that phylogenetic analyses cannot prove ancestry. They demonstrate similarity, and that’s it.”
And you have not addressed *my* point, which is that if whales are a completely separate creation to artiodactyls, then why do their genomes cluster within the sample of extant artiodactyls? Common design cannot answer this, but it is certainly consistent with all of the other evidence (morphological, embryological, paleontological, molecular from things like proteins, etc.) for common descent.
Science does not deal with “proof”: but it does consider consilience of evidence.
Christine, please note that I did indeed respond to your point. You just didn’t agree with my response. And I didn’t see any rationale for your disagreement, simply an assertion that I’m wrong. If you can give specific examples of how morphology, embryology, etc support phylogenetics’ conclusion of common descent, I’d be happy to respond. But I can’t refute a list of disciplines.
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Trevor states that homology must already be assumed even before beginning any alignments. Such an assumption is not necessary. Some similarity must already have been found before beginning alignments (otherwise the excercise is somewhat nonsensical), but this is not identical to an assumption of homology. Modern methods like maximum likelihood, Bayesian methods do not need any assumption of homology or evolution to be effective.
Peter, certainly the evolutionary bias in earlier phylogenetic methods is more overt (like assuming homology a priori) whereas Bayesian methods employ more subtle biases. Nonetheless, contrary to your statement, evolutionary assumptions are indeed required in Bayesians methods, and they set an unavoidable course towards assuming ancestry where it may not exist. Bayesian methods require the use of an evolutionary model, for example the Equal-rates Markov (ERM) Model or the proportional-to-distinguishable-arrangements (PDA) model. These types of models come pre-wired to interpret character differences in light of ancestry and diminish (almost to the point of nonexistence) the possibility of concluding common design. So whether you force the homology bias onto your character data or introduce it as an evolutionary model, the bias exists. Thus I maintain that (unless a speciation event was observed from start to finish) the method cannot be used to offer evidence of common ancestry, only evidence of similarity. That similarity must be interpreted as either common ancestry or common design by other methods that don’t start with their conclusions.
I stand correct on the whales/ungulates history thing. Though I do seem to recall cetaceans once being said to be descended from carnivorans. I suppose it was just a minority position at some point.
I still stand by my point that evolutionary trees are speculative though. The best cases for macroevolution from the fossil record in my opinion are equine evolution and cetacean evolution (yes I know what I said about it before, but that doesn’t change the fact that we do have what seems to be a progressive succession of whale-like species over time). Unlike say, the dinosaur/bird thing, which has all the right fossils, but not in the right order at all.
But personally, when I look at the whole of the fossil record, it looks to be better explained by God creating many animal species over millions of years. And there are ways to explain the few instances we have of a solid progression without assuming natural processes.
As for genetics, I simply don’t see any merit to building elaborate histories based on genes. Let alone using those histories to shape your bible interpretation. Whales may have *seemingly* unfunctional genes, as do birds. But not too long ago we thought most of the human genome was “junk”. Then the Encode project happened.
And we still don’t have a good grasp on epigenetics (or even “normal” genetics). It is simply arrogant to state otherwise, Because every 5 years, there are people who say that, but then the whole paradigm shifts later.
Just as a final note here: Even if universal common descent is true, that doesn’t validate macroevolution. Because the change that occurs from ancestor to descendant is not by necessity by natural process. I don’t see anything wrong with the idea that God sometimes creates new species by modifying old ones supernaturally.
The rate they are back-tracking on the ‘no macro-evolution’ dogma in the face of all the science they can’t get away with ignoring any longer, the ‘Ark Encounter’ scam will soon be a picture of a self-catalysing RNA molecule asking ‘God’ what to do next.
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Not quite. They are accepting levels of macro-evolution to fit all the animals they need to on the ark. Because they dogmatically believe that Noah’s flood was global in geography. Nothing to do with evolutionary biology.
That’s why old-earth creationists, like Hugh Ross, Rich Deem, etc. typically consider the boundary between real evolution and imaginary evolution to be close to what we would call a “species” than any higher classification. Because Old-earth creationist typically adopt a local model for Noah’s flood, rather than global. Thus, appealing to hyper-evolution to cram all necessary animals on the ark in unnecessary.
Thanks for adding this. In my recent discussions I have been focused solely on young-earth creationism and haven’t taken any time to contrast this with other Christian viewpoints.
How does the percent or number of genome difference of man and apes compare with differences between okapi and giraffes or other pairs of ruminants?
Are there any differing features between pairs of ruminants that creationists might argue are each irreducibly complex, that also cannot be explained by an original pair possessing both complex features and each descending pair losing one or the other? (because they are both uniquely complex variants of the same organ, or would conflict with each other, etc)
“Are there any differing features between pairs of ruminants that creationists might argue are each irreducibly complex, that also cannot be explained by an original pair possessing both complex features and each descending pair losing one or the other?”
The various forms of cranial appendages (horns, antlers, etc.) are not homologous between the families that possess them: that is, they are not formed in the same way developmentally, and the presence of hornless forms both today (e.g., musk deer, family Moschidae) and in the fossil record also support independent evolution in different families. Of course, this could be interpreted as either showing irreducible complexity or common design, depending on the view of the person concerned.
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@ Trevor: “Christine, please note that I did indeed respond to your point. You just didn’t agree with my response.”
What I noted is that your response is self-contradictory. You first say that whales are sufficiently different from artiodactyls to represent a completely separate creation, and you then explain the genomic similarity (specifically between whales and artiodactyls, not just whales and mammals in general) to represent common design. If you are happy with self-contradictory responses, so be it. As a scientist I find them problematical.
Sometimes contradiction is how you know you’re doing real biology — just a little joke to lighten the mood (which seems to have gotten really heavy in the last couple of responses). But to your comment; I understand your concern, but I think the contradiction you perceive is a function of the complexity of life. Each species has an endless number of characters (especially of the molecular variety). As such, its perfectly reasonable to expect that any two species will have a number of character similarities that could place them in the same cluster with another species, all the while being quite different and lacking true ancestry. This nicely illustrates why clustering methods are not equipped to parse out the true relationships among organisms. This also illustrates the problematic nature of starting with assumptions of ancestry (as I’ve already explained that phylogenetics does). When making an interpretation with that paradigm, you are bound to arrive at ancestry even where it doesn’t exist. I would reiterate here that no one knows how well clustering methods can assess macroevolutionary change (which I still maintain doesn’t happen), because all of them are trained using microevolutionary paradigms. You can claim that other disciplines corroborate the findings, but this is simply not convincing considering those other disciplines are plagued by the same confounders as phylogenetics. I think that anywhere common descent could be concluded from phylogenetic analyses, so could common design. They would be indistinguishable. For example, when asking why two species share commonalities in their cytochrome b gene, either of two conclusions is reasonable; 1) Because one species was derived from the other or from a common ancestor, or 2) they were designed by the same God who endowed them with a gene that allows the same function in both species (in this case transferring elections for the production of energy) while at the same time contributing to the uniqueness that sets it apart from the other species. The deciding factor in your interpretation will be your starting assumptions regarding ancestry.
Now I think I’ve been very fair in trying to give reasonable answers to your questions, Christine. If you still feel no compulsion to answer any of mine with substance, I’ll kindly let the conversation rest here. Otherwise I’m happy to continue talking.
The point here against Trevor is of course why non-functioning genes should show common design. Or, why mammals should be designed with a non-functioning gene for egg protein.
Peter, I think my previous response in this section to the idea of pseudogenes has already addressed your concern. Briefly, the notion of non-functioning genes is quickly dying; we keep finding function for those genes. Gene function is often context specific; in an amphibian cellular context the gene may function in egg protein synthesis, while in a mammalian cellular context perhaps it functions in membrane stabilization (totally hypothetical by the way). Just because someone found that it functions in egg development in one species doesn’t mean that’s its function in another.
Trevor — can you explain, in terms of common design, how life is clustered in nested hierarchies, as would be predicted by common descent? Why, for example, are we more similar (in terms of both shared molecular and morphological features) to a lungfish than to a goldfish; but more similar to a goldfish than to rabbitfish; and more similar to a rabbitfish than to a hagfish?
Christine, I think that’s an interesting question, but I feel like I’m doing all of the talking here. Perhaps you’ll answer some of my questions now.
Trevor – I’m coming late to the discussion & so am trying to catch up with your position. Regarding what might be labeled “broken” or pseudogenes, as indicators of common descent…Can you give me citations for any that were thought to be broken versions (of intact genes inherited from an ancestor) but that turned out instead to have different, independent functions? Google doesn’t seem to be giving me any leads. Thanks
Mel, here are just a few examples. There are many others. Most interesting to me, since I study non-coding RNAs, is that some pseudogenes that have been found to be functional are not translated into a protein, but rather a regulatory RNA. Of course others are indeed translated and function is similar or unique ways to their paralogues. Some regulate their paralogues; others regulate completely different genes.
@ Peter (January 7, 2016 at 4:22 am):
??? Have I missed something?
First, what do you mean, Peter, when you say, “alignments.” –I don’t think I have ever seen that word used before in this context.
Second, Doesn’t homology MEAN similarity. The Google definition defines homology (actually, homologous) as being “similar in position, structure . . . but not necessarily in function.”
You will notice an ellipsis in my quotation from Google. What I elided was the phrase, “and evolutionary origin.”
I think it is pretty clear that Trevor is arguing–and I think rightly–that similar positions and structures don’t prove or necessitate evolutionary origin. The source of the similarities, after all, is the question under discussion!
And then: “Modern methods like maximum likelihood, Bayesian methods do not need any assumption of homology or evolution to be effective.”
Once more, Peter, I am having a hard time following your train of thought.
Wikipedia’s basic definition of “maximum likelihood” (or “maximum parsimony (phylogenetics)”) is this: “[T]he phylogenetic tree that minimizes the total number of character-state changes is to be preferred.”
I read that and wonder, How or why does this overcome Trevor’s objection? Aren’t the ideas of the phylogenetic tree and character-state changes being ASSUMED?
“We are able to show how a [relatively short] series of genomic character-state changes could (at least theoretically) result in A being transformed into B.” –That’s cool. But it doesn’t answer the question of whether A actually WAS transformed into B: i.e., whether B evolved from A.
Proposed ANALOGY: Suppose we are from a galaxy far, far away, and we come to Earth and find a bunch of Model A Fords and a bunch of Ford Mustangs. Moreover, we figure out that the Model A’s came into existence before any Mustangs showed up. And, lastly, suppose we discover that the Model A’s are constructed from substances, and ENOUGH of such substances, that, theoretically, at least, they could be refashioned into Mustangs.
QUESTION: How would we be able to tell whether the Mustangs evolved from (descended from; were made from) Model A’s?
ANSWER: My sense: I don’t think we could tell. At least not with the given set of data.
It is POSSIBLE that the Mustangs were refashioned from Model A’s through a series of “character-state changes.” But it is also POSSIBLE that, though the Mustang has many homologous parts (in the sense that they are functional and/or conceptually similar) to a Model A, someone could have “simply” used completely different/separate design parameters to make the Mustangs out of physical materials that had never been part of Model A’s. . . .
[Pardon my use of obviously DESIGNED and MANUFACTURED objects for my analogy. I am not attempting to prejudge the outcome, here. I am “simply” attempting to figure out a way to think about and communicate the problem we all–Trevor, you, Christine–are facing as we try to determine how to distinguish designed created homologs from evolved homologs.]
Are there purely scientific/forensic means by which the evidence becomes so overwhelming that the “other side” is almost “forced” to concede? . . . I’m not convinced that is possible.
AT THE SAME TIME, I imagine the number of lines of argument on one side can multiply (while the lines of argument on the other continually come up short) until, eventually, many/most/almost all of the people who advocate for the perspective whose arguments keep falling away eventually “convert.” –Honestly, I have a sense that it is this “multiplication of arguments” on the one side (and attempted demolition of arguments on the other) that Joel is engaged in. But/and WHILE he does this, he is attempting to maintain a gracious, open dialog with those who are coming from “the other side.”
I will tell you: while I find the scientific arguments interesting and, in many ways, compelling, I still find the exegetical/biblical issues most problematic. I have no question that Ham and friends are being honest when they say that the “authority of the Bible” is their chief concern. Whether their opponents admit it or not, the fact is, if you jettison a kind of naive/literalistic (concordist) interpretation of Genesis 1-3, then, if you are going to be consistent and diligent in your hermeneutical principles, you are pretty much going to be forced to jettison that same kind of interpretive structure at many other points throughout the Bible. Many evangelical Christians will deny the necessity, but, from what I can see, they can only do so by kind of willfully refusing to buckle down to face the details they are overlooking.
I have yet to find an evangelical biblical scholar who has produced a “bibilical theology” that follows a consistent, understandable non-concordist line from Genesis to Revelation (or even Genesis to the Gospels).
Is it impossible to do? I have no idea. (Frankly, I am hopeful it can be done, because I have “bought” a non-concordist view of Genesis 1-3, at least, if not 1-12 . . . and most other sections of the Bible. But, as I have said to a number of PhD/ThD biblical scholars: having adopted such views, it leaves my theology with a whole lot of holes in it!)
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Just thought I would make the point that there are concordist theistic evolutionists (even though I am not a theistic evolutionist, I’m an old-earth creationist with similar views on genesis as Dr. Hugh Ross). Taking a number of views
1. that God is using evolution to create in Genesis 1-2
2. Either that Adam was altered or evolved from a previous hominid
3. Some conservative theistic evolutionists take the view that evolution was used to create everything but humans, but Adam & Eve were created specially/supernaturally. (I used to believe this before I rejected macroevolution completely, becoming an old-earth creationist)
4. Some take the view that Adam is merely a representative, but still a real historical person.
5. Most take the day-age interpretation seriously. (I still do, just minus macroevolution) though I know of one who instead subscribed to the gap theory.
In fact, because he rejects both evolution and concordism, William Lane Craig is actually a non-concordist old-earth creationist. So concordism does not = creationism and non-concordism does not = theistic evolution or secularism.
I agree with your analysis, here, wowfunny251. I wrote up some analysis of the various options on my blog about two and a half years ago: What should a good Christian “origins” science program cover?.
“??? Have I missed something? ”
Definitely! There’s lots of similatity that is not homology.
“Wikipedia’s basic definition of “maximum likelihood” (or “maximum parsimony (phylogenetics)”) is this: “[T]he phylogenetic tree that minimizes the total number of character-state changes is to be preferred.””
Wiikpedia is not the arbiter of all things – here it uses ‘changes’ where the exact word would be ‘differences’. Note that a maximum parsimony tree can be made on material that is known not to derived from common ancestry. That assumption is not in the method, if you knew about the method. take that example of cars and apply any sorting method that gives optimal sorting. You’ll get a tree. In biology the tree gives an evolutionary hypothesis by ‘inference to the best explanation’.
Peter, phylogenetics is a powerful tool for assessing organism similarity as well as for making and testing hypotheses. But your assertion that common ancestry is not already assumed is simply not true. Wiley and Lieberman in their book “Phylogenetics: Theory and Practice of Phylogenetic Systematics” lay out a number of propositions on which the discipline is based. Here are a couple of them.
1. There is a tree of life that links all living organisms in a genealogical nexus, and its possible to reconstruct relationships among the species that populate the tree.
2. Relationships among organisms do not have to be invented and treated as some form of scenario; they only have to be discovered. Our hypotheses reflect our best efforts to discover these relationships.
In proposition one its clear that an evolutionary relationship among all life is assumed (common ancestry). This is not an hypothesis. Its an assertion on which hypotheses are built. Phylogenetics is not asking IF a tree exists. Its asking what the tree looks like. Its existence is assumed from the outset which is further illustrated by proposition two. The second proposition almost sounds like a theological statement asserting common ancestry as if it were divine revelation.
Furthermore, Wiley and Lieberman demonstrate by their language that they have founded their entire concept of systematics on the notion of common ancestry as an existential reality. They call the idea that “life has a single origin” a “truism” and preface statements with phrases like “given evolution.” Common ancestry and the evolutionary paradigm are assertions that the field is based on; that simply can’t be denied.
Listen to this quote from the second edition of Brown’s “Genomes” textbook regarding reconstruction of phylogenetic trees. “The first issue to consider is whether the sequences being aligned are homologous. If they are homologous then they must, by definition, be derived from a common ancestral sequence and so there is a sound basis for the phylogenetic study.” Note that Brown makes this statement generally, without regard for any particular phylogenetic method. This is a fundamental assumption of the discipline that isn’t removed simply by applying Bayesian models.
Finally, you said “In biology the tree gives an evolutionary hypothesis […].” I disagree. Trees don’t give hypotheses; they are inform the scientists design hypotheses, and they do it based on the presuppositions that I’ve highlighted above. But more importantly, the trees don’t just inform hypotheses about common ancestry; they are also based on them. Listen to another quote from Wiley and Lieberman. “Empirically, a genealogy proposed by a phylogeneticist is a graphic representation of a hypothesis of the descent relationship of one or more organisms from one or more ancestors.” He is clearly demonstrating that any phylogenetic hypothesis has been designed by already assuming ancestry. Notice the language here. He isn’t suggesting that he’s testing the EXISTENCE of ancestry. He’s testing the VALIDITY of the ancestral relationship. It’s existence has already been assumed.
The conclusion again is that phylogenetics finds common ancestry because it assumes it at the earliest stages of analytical workflow and makes it’s conclusions in the same light. A phylogenetic conclusion of common ancestry is therefore not an independent corroboration of other disciplines, and other disciplines cannot be said to independently corroborate phylogenetics.
Bounced over here because you quoted this on the other post and I wanted to reply at the source…
“While I find the scientific arguments interesting and, in many ways, compelling, I still find the exegetical/biblical issues most problematic. I have no question that Ham and friends are being honest when they say that the “authority of the Bible” is their chief concern.”
I would tend to disagree…in spirit if not in letter. I argue that Ham & Friends are not so concerned with the “authority of the Bible” as they are with the authoritative validity of their traditional interpretation of the Bible. One need look no further than the last dozen or so featured articles on the AiG website to see numerous examples.
Over the past decade or so, AiG has become more and more vocal about the perceived erosion of fundamentalist evangelical influence in the culture. They’re increasingly alarmed that their views on cloning, on the supremacy of an evangelical worldview, on family and gay rights, on exclusive soteriology, on abortion, on politics, and on any other of several hot social issues are being treated with less importance. Authoritarians like AiG creationists derive their sense of certainty about these issues from their presuppositions of plenary inspiration and deterministic authoritativeness of the text. This presupposition is so central, so necessary, that any suggestion of a different possible way of looking at the text completely undermines their entire worldview. They cannot conceive of a Christianity without this approach.
“If you jettison a kind of naive/literalistic (concordist) interpretation of Genesis 1-3, then, if you are going to be consistent and diligent in your hermeneutical principles, you are pretty much going to be forced to jettison that same kind of interpretive structure at many other points throughout the Bible. I have yet to find an evangelical biblical scholar who has produced a “bibilical theology” that follows a consistent, understandable non-concordist line from Genesis to Revelation (or even Genesis to the Gospels).
“Is it impossible to do? I have no idea. (Frankly, I am hopeful it can be done, because I have “bought” a non-concordist view of Genesis 1-3, at least, if not 1-12 . . . and most other sections of the Bible.”
Why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus’s death was the only possible solution to a problem, then what was that problem? These questions seem to be at the root of most systematic evangelical approaches to Christian theology. Unfortunately, this practice of trying to find a problem to fit a particular solution (rather than the other way around) is rarely satisfying. Even in the most stringent evangelical gospel messages, like the one presented by AiG, there’s an inherent “punt to Genesis” where the necessity of the Cross is somehow bound into the fabric of the post-Fall creation. As the story goes, the events of Genesis 1-3 left God without any option other than the Cross. Understandably, this leads to very energetic defenses of creationism and the fall as historical events, because evangelicals have committed themselves to what they feel is the only possible consistent explanation. Question the historicity of the fall, and the Cross suddenly ceases to be necessary, plunging the entire religious system into disarray.
Personally, I find the question “Why did Jesus have to die?” rather limiting.
Is it possible that we could have been saved in another way, a way that didn’t require the Cross? Evangelical fundamentalists would say absolutely not. But that’s an unnecessary and indefensible limit on the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, isn’t it? What basis could we possibly have to claim that God couldn’t come up with another option? I don’t think there is one.
The question changes now. Instead of asking “What sequence of events could have made the Cross a necessity?”, we ask, “Why would Jesus want to die if there were other options?” And that’s a more interesting question, I think.
You commented that “Authoritarians like AiG creationists derive their sense of certainty about these issues from their presuppositions of plenary inspiration and deterministic authoritativeness of the text. This presupposition is so central, so necessary, that any suggestion of a different possible way of looking at the text completely undermines their entire worldview. They cannot conceive of a Christianity without this approach.”
First of all, you rightly said that the authoritativeness of the text is our presupposition (I am one of those people by the way). We consider the bible to be the ultimate source of truth which is unrivaled by any other, even natural revelation. However, the plenary inspiration of scripture is not a presupposition. Scripture attests very clearly to that point. We don’t presuppose it. We presuppose authority and then let that authority demonstrate inspiration.
You are also right that we can’t conceive of a Christianity without this construct. Since our presupposition of the authority of scripture is from Christ and He is the one that demonstrated the authoritative use of scripture, it is challenging to see another way (although I know others do).
So yes, you are right on these points. So I guess my question is, what was the purpose of bringing them up? It seems as though you don’t agree with our position, but I don’t see any arguments against it. Were you just being informative?
You also said “Why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus’s death was the only possible solution to a problem, then what was that problem? These questions seem to be at the root of most systematic evangelical approaches to Christian theology. Unfortunately, this practice of trying to find a problem to fit a particular solution (rather than the other way around) is rarely satisfying.”
The evangelical Christian faith doesn’t seek to find a problem for a solution. That really is an ignorant caricature of Christianity (not calling you ignorant, just saying the description is not based on an understanding of reality). That’s a question that someone asks who doesn’t understand Christian doctine; it’s not a theological tactic to rationalize doctrine. Christian theology finds the problem (i.e. sin and a broken relationship with God) in early Genesis and the answer (Christ and His sacrifice) in the following pages and books.
You also said “As the story goes, the events of Genesis 1-3 left God without any option other than the Cross. Understandably, this leads to very energetic defenses of creationism and the fall as historical events, because evangelicals have committed themselves to what they feel is the only possible consistent explanation.”
And again, this is simply not an accurate assessment of much of evangelical theology, although some “free will” people may go that far. I don’t believe that God was blindsided by the entrance of sin, nor did he lack any soveriegnty in the situation. He was in full control and even ordained these events of the fall so as to be able to display his love and other characteristics to a chosen group of people who he would redeem. This was a plan set forth from the beginning.
You also said “Is it possible that we could have been saved in another way, a way that didn’t require the Cross? Evangelical fundamentalists would say absolutely not. But that’s an unnecessary and indefensible limit on the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, isn’t it? What basis could we possibly have to claim that God couldn’t come up with another option? I don’t think there is one.”
Yet again, you’ve mischaracterized the evangelical position. We would not object to the notion that God COULD have found another way. We would object to the idea that he DID find another way, or that it’s even necessary to look for an alternative. God could have redeemed the world in all sorts of ways, but He only revealed on method by which he actually did it. To ask why Jesus would want to die if there were other options is purely a hypothetical exercise that doesn’t seem to have much utility. Christ submitted Himself willingly to God’s plan for redeeming humanity in the precise manner that God desired. What I would like to hear from you is, why do you think it’s necessary to find an alternative?
Evangelical YECs believe in an inerrant Word of God as explained first by BB warfield. He was the first theologian to precisely explain what the inerrancy doctrine was, yet he didn’t take a literal view of Genesis One and a case could be made that he didn’t necessarily accept Darwinism as some have said that he did. I am an Old Earth Creationist. I am not an inerrantist I am an infalliblist. I believe the Bible is infallible and it is also a work of man.
There are no mistaken doctrines or prophecies in the Bible. It does have mistakes of memory and wrong genealogies. There are gaps and there are different points of view amongst the Apostles. Peter said Judas died one way and the Gospels say different. I’ve heard some very stretching explanations for this that are hard to accept. I think Peter in his speech to replace Judas he made a mistake and it’s no big deal if you look at it that way. It becomes a big deal if you try to put the two accounts together. The hanged himself and the falling to the ground do not jibe. There is a time problem. I actually had a crisis of faith because of the doctrine they were both right. Peter made other mistakes as documented by Paul in Galatians. I’m not a Papist and Peter wasn’t the first Pope.
Has anyone read the interpretation of the Creation by the Jewish physicist Gerald Schroeder? I would also recommend reading the Kabbalistic Rabbi Nahmanides in the 13th century. Hugh Ross was correct when he testified about his conversion that he thought there was something funny going on when the 2nd chapter of Genesis started off with “in the DAY God created them”. I get into it all the time with YECS at their insistence, not mine. I am having memory problems and I can’t rattle off all the references I should. Go to http://WWW.equip.org and click on the articles tab and then the Creation tab please. Here is G. Schroeders explanation, http://www.geraldschroeder.com/AgeUniverse.aspx
That is a good beginning for just one explanation. I do not think Christians should be fighting over interpretations of the first part of the Bible and I most assuredly do not believe that Ham should be spending millions of dollars on a YEC amusement park. Millions spent over this, literally millions if not a billion since the debut of The Genesis Flood, a book I still have. Now it has come out that Ham has got his park being paid by a bond issue? He stands there and says the taxpayers are not paying for a penny of his menagerie? He has joined the ranks as far as I’m concerned of Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and Fred Price. He hasn’t been honest when he should have been. Methinks he is too much about the money and when was the last time he preached the real Gospel?
I believe we need to spend more time on the Gospel and not trying to refute people that make the Bible look ridiculous. Alas we do not have a choice. I have been interrupted by a YEC in the middle of presenting the Gospel. He couldn’t just shut up and let it be. This nonsense has eternal consequences and they are more worried about prayer in public schools and a fair explanation of YEC in school. I didn’t want my children praying with pagans and Creation theology shouldn’t be taught in schools. I am glad that some pastors think the time of the Creation isn’t that important.
My own personal thoughts on the Creation is that the Angels helped with a bunch of it. Who was God talking to when he said let the land bring forth etc. etc. I think the Angels helped with a bunch of it. Let there be Light and there was light. Maybe God told the angels to start clearing up the atmosphere so the light from the sun could start to shine through and the angel in charge of Australia had a thing for pouches and kangaroos and duck billed half mammal/birds. You can’t prove I’m wrong now can you? Some angel thought pandas should only eat bamboo to boot.
I can’t prove you’re wrong about angels, but I can prove you’re wrong about monotremes being half mammal and half bird.
You probably can, but I was just making a point and hopefully a humorous one at that.LOL
Real quick note – there have also been (at least to my knowledge) two other creationist writings that are along the same lines. The first is Kurt Wise’s post-flood continuity criterium, published in “Genesis Kinds, Creationism and the Origin of Species”. In this paper, he uses fossil-record continuity to establish a likely “created kind”, and wraps Ruminantiae as a single created kind. Also is my own “Surprising Distinguishing Features Characterizing an Apobaramin” (abstract, slides).