Three years ago Ken Ham very publicly promoted what he believes is a biblical model of biological evolution to explain the diversity of life on Earth. However, 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 new or 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 because he believes that every species, except man, is derived from common ancestors.
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.* He showed what biologist would call an evolutionary tree even if all the branches were not connected at the root.
I have written many times about how young earth creationists have increasingly been embracing massive species formation after the Flood. See my YEC Hyper-evolution Archive for links to my articles exploring this topic in more depth. I want to just focus on one point that Bill Nye made but he did not explain particularly 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 rates that would make any Darwinian evolutionist blush.
Take the finches of which Darwin’s finches are just 10 of 1200+ species! For a single pair of finches to give rise to 1200 distinct species of finches in 4500 years would require near constant species formation. We should expect to witness the evolution of new species of finches right before our eyes. Or at least we should have reports of people who have witnessed brand new species being born. Such reports are lacking but we do have evidence of many finch species that thousands of years ago looked just as they do today.
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 speculative idea 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 young-earth creation (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. We could ask: where are the intermediate animals? Are they mentioned in the Bible? We could even go as far as to say that the YEC has no evidence of this speciation because they haven’t produced any intermediate fossils that represent the missing links between the species we have today.
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 – which aren’t even full-fledged species – that live in Egypt today. We even have mummies of dogs and other animals that confirm that they are indistinguishable 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 distinguishing characteristics of their kind 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 modern 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 no evidence in the Bible that animals have been rapidly morphing from one species into another. In fact the eyewitness evidence derived from the Bible strongly supports the conventional biological understanding that very little change in species have occurred in the past 5000 years. Lions are still lions, leopards are still leopards, tigers are still tigers and so forth.
So why are YECs claiming something for which there is NO biblical support? Because they have a more pressing problem: how to fit all living and recently extinct 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. Those dates are based on 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 as humans and gorillas are with respect to their genomes. And yet Ham and his para-church organization 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 plausible 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 it can but that doesn’t help the young-earth hypothesis.
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 doubtless had millions of individual members have been derived from just two animals only 4500 years ago?
Consider that 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 – other than their extinction. So how can Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis 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 new species formation into a small amount of time is neither supported by the observation evidence gather from the world or the eyewitness testimony presented in the Bible. YECs have proposed biblical evolution solely as an 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.