Two years ago Ken Ham very publicly promoted what he believes is a biblical model of evolution to explain the diversity of life on Earth. I have a book before me that provides compelling evidence that his model of evolution is wrong. That book is the Bible. For those that follow young earth creation literature nothing that Ken Ham said in his debate with Bill Nye was surprising but I suspect that most of the national audience was surprised to hear how Ken Ham talked about the origin of species. He talked about a Biblical creation model of the earth’s origins but when it came to the origins of species he might as well have called his view biblical evolution.
To illustrate his view of biblical evolution he showed a slide (see below) and explained that on Noah’s ark there were only one pair of the felines, canines and elephants that represented their “kind.” After departing the ark those pairs of animals “diversified” (ie. evolved) into all the feline, canine and elephant species we see today including all of the fossil species that have ever been described.*
I have written many times about how young earth creationists have been embracing massive species formation after the Flood. (See: Invoking Super-Speed Evolution: How to Fit 10,000 Species of Birds on the Ark; Thoughts on Baraminology; When is a Horse a Horse: The Species Definition Problem; Ken Ham’s Darwinism: on the origin of species by means of hyper-evolution after a global flood). I want to just focus on one point that Bill Nye brought up which I thought was accurate but not explained well.
Nye pointed out that if there was massive species formation (Ken Ham can call it diversification, genetic sorting or whatever he wants, it is still the creation of new species from an ancestral species) there is a rather obvious prediction of this super-speed Biblical evolution model: Species would have to have been created on a generation by generation basis. To get all the species we see today species would have to have forming at unbelievable rates in the past and even into the present.
Take the finches of which Darwin’s finches are just 10 of 1200+ species! For a pair of finches to give rise to 1200 species of finches in 4500 years would necessitate that we should be able to witness species formation right before our eyes. Or at least we should have reports of people who have witnessed brand new species being born.
Ken Ham claimed that the Bible predicts the presence of “evidence confirming after their kind”. Presumably he is suggesting that because some hybrids can be formed between some canines that this proves the Bible is correct about kinds. But how does this prove that all species evolved from pairs of kinds on the ark?
Animals mentioned in the Bible are the same species we see today!
I have a book before me that provides compelling evidence that Ken Ham’s view of Biblical evolution is wrong. That book is the Bible. Massive fast-paced evolution has not happened in the recent past. I know this because the Bible refers to or describes over 100 animals. In most cases we can be quite certain from the descriptions that these animals represent species that are still around today and look the same today as they did when the biblical authors laid eyes upon them.
The YEC model suggests that a pair of canines got off the ark and then changed into many species of foxes, wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs. If this is the case we should find many intermediates of these living in historical times. But what do we find in the scriptures. We find that even in the earliest records, people easily distinguished between foxes, wolves and domestic dogs and probably jackals. We can also go to extra biblical sources like Egyptian writings and see images of domestic dogs which look like breeds of dogs that live in Egypt today. We even have mummies of dogs and other animals that confirm that they are no different from those we see today. It seems that there is no evidence of speciation here at all but rather fully formed species that have maintained the characteristics of species since their very first mention in scripture.
What about other animals groups? There are donkeys, mules, and horses in the Old Testament but YECs say none of these were on the ark. Rather, they claim only a pair of something like a generic equine was present. There are bison, buffalo, and other cattle in the OT. There are gazelles, addax, antelope, and deer (see my recent post: Are Ruminants Derived from a Common Ancestor? Ruminating on the Meaning of Noahic Kind). There are domestic cats, lions and probably a cougar. Egyptian writings clearly identify both female and male lions and they had multiple forms of domestic cats. The earliest paleolithic drawings depict lions and other types of cats. So it appears that cat species were well established during the earliest biblical times.
The book of Job, which YECs often claim is a very early book recording events right after the Flood, records many animals that are just as we know them today such as the Ostrich (Consider the Ostrich: Job 39 and God’s Commentary on Creation; Consider the Ostrich: Adapted for the Present World Part III). What about camels? Yep, they seem to be just like camels today. Ancient drawings of camels show all the familiar characteristics that are familiar to all of us.
I could go on and on but I think the point is made that the there is absolutely no evidence in the Bible that animals have been rapidly morphing from one species into another. In fact evidence derived from the Bible suggests little if no change in species boundaries over the past 4000 years.
So why are YECs claiming something for which there is NO biblical support? Because they have a more pressing problem: how to fit all those animals on the ark. By only requiring a pair of each “kind” on the ark they think they have solved that problem. Ken Ham actually mentioned this in his debate. But by making this claim he has created myriad of other problems for his creation model of evolution.
Massive genetic change required to support the biblical evolution model
Ken Ham’s slide that shows the elephant kind is probably the most instructive here. He includes mastodons and mammoths with the living elephants as members of the same kind. So there were only two elephants on the ark that evolved into these elephants but he also needs to include some as many as 150 extinct species of elephants that included many strangely tusked and trunked ones (see my article: A Trunk and Tusk-Challenged Fossil Elephant).
Let’s think about the genetic challenges. Mastodons and modern elephants are thought to have diverged from one another 25 to 30 million years ago. That is based dating of the fossil record but also on the total amount of genetic divergence seen in the mastodon and modern elephant genomes. To give you some perspective, these species are more than twice as different with respect to their genomes as humans and gorillas. And yet Ham and associates are saying that these vast differences in genomes could have been created in just a few hundred years! Wow!
But how? I have seen NO genetic models from YEC scientists for how this could have happened. Certainly nothing we know about genetics right now could explain such dramatic changes in such a short period of time. Can modern genetic theories explain that much genetic change in 25 million years. I think they certainly can but that doesn’t help Ken Ham.
A good critique of the debate on Age of Rocks pointed out (Ham and Nye agree: Ken Ham’s creation model is not scientifically viable) that elephants are especially problematic for the biblical evolution model. This is because elephants have a long generation time. It takes a decade for an elephant to become sexually mature and then they only have a few offspring during their long lives. How could 100+ species of elephants each of which had doubtless millions of members have been derived from just two animals only 4500 years ago? Over 2000 tons of tusks of just one species, the mastodon, have been sold on world markets in the past 50 years. It is estimated that this represents on a tiny fraction of the estimated 140 MILLION tusks still trapped in the Siberian tundra. There are likely millions of mastodon fossils as well and we are not even considering that fact that a majority of mastodons that died would never have been fossilized. Mammoths and mastodons are recorded in very old rock art and so we know they were present long ago and as long as people have seen them they never experienced any significant changes. So how can Ken Ham claim that the Bible’s prediction of change within a kind is borne out by evidence?
A biblical evolution model that compresses massive amounts of evolution into a small amount of time is neither supported by evidence gathered from the natural world or the Bible. YECs have proposed biblical evolution as a purely ad hoc theory to help them escape other perceived problems with their flood geology model of Earth’s history.
*Regarding fossil species: there are many fossils of extinct cats, canines and elephants. Some might wonder if young earth creationists think that these are part of the fossils formed in a global flood. The answer is: not usually. This is because the fossils of theses mammal groups are all found in the upper portion of the fossil record which they consider to be post-flood deposits. That raises a natural question: were there no cats, dogs, elephants, whales, cows, etc.. before the flood? If there were why are there NO fossils of any of them but so many of dinosaurs?
** This article has been updated from one written soon after the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate in February 2014.