Reading young-earth creationist’ literature can be a very confusing experience. Because they employ so many ad-hoc explanations to tackle specific problems it is not uncommon to find articles that contradict one another. Sometimes those articles are written by the same author (see: The Dangers of Poor Scholarship).
One of the most common mixed-messages can be observed when young-earth authors discuss the amazing adaptations of a species to its environment. One author lauds the adaptations as being so specialized that it isn’t possible that these characteristics could have produced by any natural process and thus must have part of that species as it was originally created. Another author recognizing that the particular species didn’t exist at creation but rather diversified from a common ancestor that departed from Noah’s ark will propose what sounds like a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the same features.
For example, I’ve read many times that the long neck of a giraffe is so specialized that is must be the product of fiat creation/design. However, the Ark Encounter proposes that giraffes are but one of many species living and extinct that are in the same “kind.” Most of these other species have short necks. Thus they propose – and even illustrate – the original members of the giraffe kind as having a shorter necks and propose the longer necks of the three giraffe species are a post-creation adaptation. (for an extended discussion of this problem see: Ken Ham’s Darwinism)
I saw another example of this yesterday. Answers in Genesis posted a tweet to an article about sea otters. In this brief popular magazine article the amazing adaptation of sea otters to their life in the sea were praised. An emphasis was paced on God’s creation of sea otters to specifically take care of kelp forests in the sea. Here are two relevant quotes:
Because they must eat almost continually to keep their energy up, otters can’t stop hunting when the sun goes down. So God equipped them with “night vision goggles”—reflective crystals at the back of their eyes. These crystals allow the eye to gather more light when the water is murky. Such a brilliant design would have helped them harvest plant food even before the Fall.
Despite the curse, we can still see hints of God’s original designs for the lowly seaweed and the furry sea otter—the caretaker of His underwater sea forests.
The author clearly believes – he mentions that even before the Fall they had this design – that the sea otters were created much as we see them today with many special characteristics allowing for them to live nearly their entire lives in the sea.
What then are we to think when we enter the Ark Encounter and discover that sea otters “evolved” from a pair of land-loving common ancestors on Noah’s Ark rather than having been part of the original creation? Answers in Genesis has published numerous articles about how the “kinds” that were on the ark have diversified greatly to fill the present world. In the article “Mammalian Ark Kinds” by Jean Lightner, the sea otter species is considered to be just one of 59 living species of animals we recognize today as weasels, badgers (including those crazy honey badgers), otters, martens, ferrets, minks, stoats, and wolverines. The Ark Encounter argues that all of these diverse species were represented by just a single pair of animals on the Ark which then hyper-speciated into all of this diversity we have today including the sea otters.
What are we to make of the special features of sea otters that one author tells us are so amazing they must have been created in this species even before the Fall when the Ark Encounter portrays a pair of animals on the Ark that were not sea otters but some kind of land animal and the sea otters then adapted to living in the sea within the past 4000 years?
The rescuing device that AiG has used in the past to escape from this mixed message is to propose that God endowed all the genetic variation necessary to form all these amazing adaptations to specific environments in the original members of the “kind” at creation. In the case of the sea otters, the genetic capacity for producing all the specialized characteristics which makes them capable of living in the sea when none of their other relatives can was pre-coded and somehow maintained in the ancestor brought on the ark and then sorted out from the variation that made honey badgers, minks, weasels and other land-otters leaving only the sea otters with their unique characteristics. How did this sorting occur? Apparently some form of natural selection and genetic drift albeit at rates faster than anything measurable today.
Despite this hypothetical explanation for how God could have pre-created specialized characteristics that would appear thousands of years later, the first author clearly portrays the sea otter as a special creation endowed with its characteristics from the very beginning. He treats the sea otter as a “kind” in itself. As such I think he does just what is natural and just how the biblical authors would have understood living things. They associated animals that we generally call species as kinds which produced “after their kind” meaning they had offspring that looked like themselves. Sea otters give rise to more sea otters, not to honey badgers.
Sea otters on the Ark?
You might wonder, if sea otters can live on the open ocean – even giving birth on the seas – why then would they have had to have been preserved on the Ark? After all, they really aren’t an air-breathing land animal. The Ark Encounter tells its audience that whales didn’t have to be on the ark because they live in the sea. I’m not sure what they think of seals and walruses.
So, maybe the first author could be right. The sea otter could be its own kind and he could then argue that it could have survived the Flood outside the ark. The problem with this is that genetic studies clearly show that sea otters are closely related to one particular group of land otters. They are as similar to other otters and to weasels as an African wild dog is to other canines. This is partly why AiG wants to put them into the same “kind” with other otters despite their unique and amazing adaptations. They are convinced that they are “related” to other otters despite their unique features. So they prefer to explain the origin of sea otter not as a special creation adapted for life as it lives from the very beginning but rather as the descendant of a land animal that has, over time, become exquisitely adapted to living in the sea through natural selection, genetic drift and even mutations. I think you probably know what that sounds a lot like to me.