NH Notes: Todd Wood on Creationism and the Origin of Species

If you have followed my blog for the past six months you know that I have been discussing the feasibility of the young-earth creationist’ (YEC) rapid-speciation model which proposes that hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals have been formed by natural selection in just the past couple thousand years (YEC Hyper-evolution article archive).  More recently, I wondered when and how YECs had come to accept that new species can be generated by natural selection (The Origin of the YEC Hyper-speciation Model of Biological Diversity).

Since writing this last post I was made aware of a paper that I had overlooked that sheds much more light on the history of YEC views of the origin of species.  That paper was written by Dr. Todd Wood and is titled: Species Variability and Creationism.  Although I possess a fairly extensive library of older YEC published material I did not have or missed many interesting documents that Dr. Wood was able to track-down and inspect himself. This well-researched history of YEC thought on what constitutes a biblical “kind” helped me better understand the YEC view of how much speciation has occurred.  I believe Dr. Wood makes a compelling argument that YEC leaders have accepted some degree of speciation for earlier than I had reported.

Dr. Wood works outside of the larger YEC organizations (eg. AiG, ICR and CMI) but has written some of the most articulate and scientifically literate articles that are found in the young earth creation literature. You might take that as a positive assessment of Dr. Wood or an indictment of the quality of most YEC literature.  He is one of a very short list of creationists with authentic biology credentials who are actively thinking about what constitutes biblical kinds and the proposed mechanisms of rapid-speciation.

This week, Dr. Wood updated his followers on is current research on defining biblical kinds.  In that update he shared a video he made earlier this year that explains his conception of how a “kind” might be defined and tested.  I think this video is an excellent summary of the current state of the YEC model of the origins of species.   I have linked to that video below for those that are interested in hearing Dr. Wood describe what a “kind” is and explain why he thinks that rapid speciation is not evolution.  I would disagree with some of his conclusions but I commend him for taking a data-driven approach to addressing the questions he is interested in.  The rest of the YEC community would be well-served, as I have noted in the past, to follow his research closely and model his approach to scientific inquiry.

 

Comments

  1. Tony Jelsma says:

    Joel, do you think YECs argue that rapid post-Flood speciation occurred by natural selection? I would have thought that the absence of selection might be more conducive to rapid speciation.

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    • I do think they think selection is the primary mechanism. I’ve watched Jeanson, Ham and Purdom all employ natural selection as the “sorter” of genetic variation that results in species forming which are genetic units adapted to particular niches. But your question does make me wonder if they understand that natural selection is not as powerful in smaller populations as it is in larger populations. After the Flood population sizes would have be very small and genetic drift would seem to a strong contender for explaining difference in populations. They don’t deny genetic drift happens but I think that selection seems to intuitive and easy to explain that they gravitate to using it as the default explanation for genetic variation between populations.

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      • I honestly don’t think that ‘understand’ is the word here. What the YEC(k) crowd ‘understands’ is that they have to constantly come up with lofty-sounding scenarios to patch their threadbare interpretation of Scripture. They know their basic audience does not look deeply into nature.
        It’s simply forcing a path to a pre-selected conclusion.

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      • To justify this rapid speciation they often cite some extreme form of heterozygosity (but how extreme can it be with a breeding pair), “front loading” the animals with genetic diversity that, when crossed, allowed for rapid adaptation and speciation.

        But as you said, Joel, in smaller populations genetic drift tends to dominate. I have always thought that in population bottlenecks animals can become crippled from homozygosity resulting from genetic drift. So wouldn’t any genetic diversity post Ark quickly be wiped out by genetic drift to give nearly homozygous populations within a few generations?

        It seems like this crazy speciation is reliant upon a magical amount of genetic diversity, but that wouldn’t even work because that genetic diversity would quickly be gone.

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    • Despite previous material on the AiG website affirming natural selection, this 2016 article by Jeanson appears to be rowing AWAY from natural selection (and not really answering the question in the article’s title with a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ though my guess is that he means ‘no’):
      https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/speciation/did-natural-selection-play-a-role-in-speciation/
      “Once God created kinds with enormous genetic variety from the start, reproduction and migration were virtually all that were needed to produce a huge number of species.”
      “When God created the kinds heterozygous, He virtually guaranteed the formation of new species. The statistics of reproduction ensure the appearance of new traits in one or a few generations, and simple population growth curves indicate that these offspring can found new populations in short order. As these populations moved away from one another geographically, new species could form.”
      He of course ignores fossil evidence and attempts a genetic ‘explanation’ to account for alleged hyper fast post-flood speciation (namely created the heterozygosity that he and Lisle proposed/insisted must be true in their article on the AiG website dated 20 April 2016.)

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  2. What I keep struggling to understand is how any of this can rightly be called “science.” I respect the position that says, “I believe the Bible teaches X, therefore I believe X.” But if a scientist has to give up the uniformity of historical natural processes and insert all sorts of unrepeatable, unobserved miraculous points of intervention, is that really science? It may be that Todd Wood is correct that God did it the way he says, but what is the point of bringing science in to the equation. You don’t need it. YECism seems to be an alternative to science, not science.

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    • Tony Jelsma says:

      So are you saying that science can only be methodological naturalism? If something miraculous occurs, is science unable to detect that it occurred, even if it can’t study how it occurred?

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      • I think what your are asking is whether biblical-recorded miraculous events could be measured and/or sensed by a spectator of the events when they happened. If that is your question, then of course, “science” would have detected a miracle.

        But YEC is not talking about miracles recorded in the Bible, they are talking about theoretical miracles that the biblical authors said nothing about – specifically here, hyper-speciation. This theory has never been observed presently or recorded in any historical observation, not even in the Bible. Neither has it been reproduced in a lab.

        In my view, hyper-speciation is a far more radical solution to the interpretive difficulties of Genesis 6-9 than simply reading the Noah story in its ancient Near Eastern context where hyperbolic language is common in such historical accounts. Young Earth Creationists are solving for a problem that does not exist.

        Retreating to the concept of extra-biblical, theoretical miracles every time one comes to a piece of scientific data that is inconvenient to one’s interpretation of the Bible is fair to neither science nor biblical studies. Let’s remember that God is the author of both “books,” and humans are fallible interpreters of both.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Tony Jelsma says:

          I agree with you. The AiG crowd have painted themselves into a corner by insisting on a young earth and global Flood. Their only option now is to postulate rapid speciation when there is no evidence for it.
          I was just concerned that you were equating science with naturalism.

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  3. vastergotland1 says:

    Who else is on the short list you mentioned above?

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    • I have another post almost ready that asks just how many people are Ken Ham another others relying on to develop an entirely new understanding of genetics and then lists the YEBs (Young earth biologists). I am hoping to have that ready to go withing a week. My list includes 10 individuals.

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  4. I’m kind of disappointed in this. There doesn’t seem to be any thought towards comparing evolution as an explanation for diversity with his “created kinds” hypothesis. Instead it’s just written off as an option, which isn’t really scientific thinking. Wood has been pretty honest of the weakness of creationist explanations in the past, so maybe this video is just too short/not meant for that type of thoughtful discussion. Real hypothesis testing is good to see, though.

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    • Yes, very fair point. This video is very simple and doesn’t provide mechanisms at all. I do think that Wood is interested in mechanisms. He has suggested some in the past that don’t make any sense but he is fairly willing to consider the evidence and he is trying to think of ways to test his own ideas which is pretty novel among YECs.

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  5. WHAT hypothesis testing? There is absolutely none. He just arbitrarily decrees that post Flood changes happened in “decades” rather than in centuries, as (he says) evolution would require, therefore his changes would be much faster than evolution. (Evolution in centuries, really?) He also just asserts that evolution is “random” whereas his changes (arctic hares turning white) are neatly “designed” to the environment. Does he even understand “adaptation to the environment?”
    There is no testing here at all, just a cartoon version of the standard creationist line, completely uniformed by any contact with biology, geology (overwhelming evidence against the Flood) or even reality. To his credit, Wood never said there would be any of that, it is you who seem to be projecting that onto his video.

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    • I am being charitable but I’m thinking more of his work with human ancestors. He certainly starts from the a particular presupposition of “kinds” but he is at least willing to let some data inform him about the boundaries of kinds rather than the AIG approach which just arbitrarily pontificates on the topics. Woods video is very simple and I didn’t meant to sound like that is his testing but it does lay out the presuppositions of the YEC view more clearly than I have seen elsewhere.

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      • Oh, I see what you are getting at. If Wood uses his statistical method for counting “kinds,” he might well come up with a number too large to fit in the Ark. That would cause ructions!

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    • Based on his own blog post about the video, the hypothesis he is testing is whether or not mammals can be categorized as discrete groups with statistical significance. It certainly isn’t a very useful hypothesis for testing the validity of his created kinds idea vs. common descent via evolution, and the experiment doesn’t seem to have any real implications for the internal validity of the “created kind” concept. Any set of species that isn’t statistically different can just be arbitrarily called a created kind, and the concept of created kinds is just assumed. It’s definitely a hypothesis couched in an awful lot of handwaving away evolution, but it is a hypothesis, and is being tested for what (little) it’s worth.

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  6. I have heard good things about Todd Wood, but I am also disappointed. I got the impression (perhaps erroneously) that in the arctic, bunnies are white, not because they adapted through natural selection, but because God put the white bunnies there (and made them white). OTOH, i think I have seen NS referred to by Ham and others. Can you clarify?

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    • Hmm, hard to clarify things that aren’t clear:-) Terms are thrown around so freely with YECs that it is hard to know what they mean at times. In the case of bunnies, I am sure that Wood would say that there was lots of allelic variation in preserved pair of bunnies on the Ark. When they reproduced that would would have resulted in many different variations of bunnies. Depending on where the bunnies lived those variations either be beneficial or harmful and thus strongly selected for or against. Thus there was a quick sorting of all the variation into discreet gene pools which he would label as species like the arctic bunnies. So yes, I think he would say this is natural selection in action. What I find interesting is that he thinks this sorting happened very quickly after the Flood because he admits that populations in the present are NOT changing very rapidly. This is contrary to Dr. Jeanson at AiG who thinks that specieation is still happening in the present at a pace similar to that in the past. I suppose they must have very different views of the strength of natural selection but I suspect they just both having really thought it through and have a good grasp of population genetics.

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