Ken Ham’s Darwinism: On The Origin of Species by Means of Hyper-Evolution Following Noah’s Flood

Young life creationists, or baraminologists as they prefer to be called, have experienced a paradigm shift over the past three decades. During that time they have increasingly embracing a model of common ancestry and accelerated evolution as they seek to explain the origins of the vast diversity of life on Earth.

This accelerated or hyper-evolution of species from sets of common ancestors is hypothesized by YLCs to have occurred between the time that pairs (or sevens) of animals departed Noah’s ark some 4350 years ago and a singular short-lived Ice Age just a few hundreds years after that global flood event.   During that time at least 95% (probably 99% or more) of all species of land mammals and birds that have lived are proposed to have evolved from just a few common ancestors—the “ark kinds”—preserved on the Ark.

I have written on multiple occasions about this transformation of young-earth creationism (YEC) to include massive post-Flood hyper-speciation. For example:   Invoking Super-speed Evolution: How to Squeeze 10,000 Bird Species onto Noah’s Ark; Testing the Creationist’s Hyper-Evolution Orchard: Canines, Felines and Elephants;  YEC Biblical Evolution: I have a Book that Says Otherwise.

Answers in Genesis (AiG) published their most direct confirmation of extensive common ancestry and massive rapid speciation in the article: Reimagining Ark Animals. The necessity to hypothesize recent rapid speciation derives partially from their study of the dimensions and holding capacity of Noah’s Ark. Today’s modern incarnation of young-earth creationists acknowledge that there was not enough room on the ark to hold all of the species that have lived on Earth and they have been seeking a means to minimize the number of animals required to maintain the presumed purpose of the Ark as a preserver of diversity for the post-flood world. By defining the biblical taxonomic word translated as “kind” more broadly than it has in the past and accepting a more pliable understanding of how living things can change over time, they have been able to reduce the estimated numbers of animals on the ark to just 1000 to 1500 pairs (or sets of seven in some cases) from 8000 to 20,000 thousand pairs less than 20 years ago.

Capacity constraints of Noah’s Ark and interpretation of the Hebrew word “min” form the foundation of the Biblical evolution model that Ken Ham most famously promoted in his debate with Bill Nye (see figure below).

The YEC biblical evolution model. Screen capture of a slide from Ham's presentation during the Ham/Nye debate Feb 4 2013.
The YEC biblical evolution model. Screen capture of a slide from Ham’s presentation during the Ham/Nye debate Feb 4 2013.  Here you can see that Ken Ham proposed that all species of cats today descended from just pair on the ark. Likewise, dogs and elephants all descended from a two pairs of common ancestors. As they did so they diverged (speciated) into more and more species to give us the animals we recognize today.
I took this picture of a slide during a presentation by AiG speaker Bryan Osborne. He was explaining that the Ark only had to fit about 1000 to 1500 kinds and so it had plenty of capacity to hold the diversity of all animals that had breath and needed to be preserved during Noah’s flood.

Today there are at least 30,000 recognized species of living amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. If you add the fossil species from presumed post-Flood sediments, and hence post-Flood evolved species, the numbers of land animal species that have lived on Earth since the Flood easily eclipses 100,000.  Using the Ark Encounter and AiGs estimate of “ark kinds” we discover that they are proposing that only 1% of the diversity of land-animal life was present on the Ark and 99% of the species diversity we observe today and the recent fossil record is the result of post-flood changes (aka evolutionary mechanisms) to those ark survivors.

There are many problems with the content and conclusions of AiG article, Reimagining Ark Kinds, including: 1) the lack of any Biblical record or documentation by any other non-biblical historical records of such radical biological change, 2) the irony of how AiG is using reconstructions of ancient organisms based on the evidence of historical science—a science they usually denigrate—to justify their belief that organisms have evolved into many new species, 3) the irony of a complete lack of any reference to transition fossils for the thousands of new species that YECs say have formed from each Biblical kind, and 4) the fact they openly admit that hundreds of thousands of fossils exist that are not the product of global flood deposits but rather were fossilized after speciating following their departure from the ark. The latter is a an admission that fossilization can readily occur in a non-global-flood context.

Present vs past diversity of select groups of animals. Notice that fossil (extinct) diversity is always greater than present diversity. This is a slide from a recent presentation of mine. Credit: Joel Duff
Present vs past diversity of select groups of animals. Notice that fossil (extinct) diversity is always greater than present diversity. This is a slide from a recent presentation of mine.  For most of these groups AiG now proposes that there was but a single pair just 4350 years ago that then gave rise not only to the species alive today but thousands of extinct species all of which must have only existed for a very short time but apparently long enough to have been preserved as fossils.  If we include birds as dinosaurs then there are still 10,000 living species. Credit: Joel Duff
The evolution of cats according to Answers in Genesis. One created cat "kind" evolved into the cats we have today. The original image in full size is found here:
The evolution of cats according to Answers in Genesis. One created cat “kind” evolved into the cats we have today. The original image in full size is found here:

Time prevents me from a detailed exploration of each of these points so I will look at just one claim from the AiG article as a sample of the problems found throughout.

The origin of giraffes

In this article the authors suggest that Giraffes form a “family” with the Okapi. Although the Okapi is clearly a different species and is sexually incompatible with giraffes the authors nonetheless tells us that neither of these species we recognize today was on Noah’s ark but rather “their original parents probably didn’t look very similar to either species.” The phrase “original parents” is the YEC equivalent of “common ancestor” in evolutionary parlance.

The authors, neither of whom appear to have degrees in a scientific discipline, of this paper are claiming that giraffes as you know them from Africa were not created on Day 6 and present in the Garden of Eden. Instead, the original giraffe kind was some sort of ungulate-like animal with features in-between a giraffe, an okapi and dozens of other fossil species. Those fossil species and the Okapi suggest the original giraffe kind that God made did not have a long neck but probably only a slightly elongated neck similar to that seen in other ungulate groups. After this common ancestor giraffe-kind departed the ark, selection for new combinations of genes is proposed to have caused the great elongation of the neck in some members of the kind to form what we call giraffes and okapi today.

Does this make sense? Could this happen in just a few hundred years?

While superficially appealing to the young-earth mindset because it solves the problem of how to fit all the present day species of animals on the ark there is nothing to support such wild speculation. This barely qualifies as a hypothesis much less a theory. For Young Life Creationism (YLC) to be true, everything we know about genetics, ecology, evolutionary processes and even much of chemistry, must be completely wrong. The YLC provides no tangible evidence or testable theories of how these tremendous changes might occur. What are the mechanisms? Where is the evidence of this change? Surely there should be eyewitness reports of one species giving rise directly to another since thousands of new species were forming every year for hundreds of years. Why are new species not forming as such incredible rates today?

Let us begin with genetics. I did a quick search and there is a published mitochondrial genome for the Okapi and Giraffe. This genome is small but looking at it gives a general feeling for the genetic divergence among animals.

An Okapi. Image credit: "Okapi2". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
An Okapi. Image credit: “Okapi2”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

So how different are an Okapi and a Giraffe? Their mtDNA genomes differ by about 2100 base pairs which means they have only 87% DNA sequence similarity. To give you a reference point of how different that is, you and any chimpanzee differ by 1400 to 1500 base pairs (nucleotides). Hence we are 92% the same with respect to our mtDNA sequences. I have little doubt that if we examine more parts of the giraffe genomes that we would find that there would be far more differences between members of these “giraffe” kinds than there is among many other species that YECs are unlikely to call the same “kind.”

Answer in Genesis is quick to promote genetic differences between humans and apes as evidence that they must be unique species and special creations. So why do they downplay and outright ignore even greater genetic differences in other species all the while claiming they clearly share a common ancestor on Noah’s Ark? I am very confused and you should be too.

A Nilgai antelope. "Nilgai running" by Rushil Fernandes - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -
A Nilgai antelope. “Nilgai running” by Rushil Fernandes – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons –

I also took a look at the mtDNA genome of the nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), which is the largest Asian antelope. Antelopes are ungulates like giraffes but are in a different group.  In my comparison with the Okapi genome I found them to differ by just under 2200 differences (89% DNA sequence similarity). So the Okapi is about equal distant in terms of its genetic code from a Giraffe and this large antelope. Why doesn’t AiG then just consider all antelopes to be the same “kind” as giraffes and thus all descendants from a common ancestor on the ark? By what criteria do they make their decisions of what constitutes and kind and what does not?

The paradigm shift in Young Life Creationist’s understanding of species

The fact that this AiG article mentions giraffes suggests to me that AiG is vigorously attempting to reorient the creationist understanding of the origins of species diversity. There is a long history of YECs claiming that specific adaptions to their environment are clear evidence of de-novo creation of those species.   The argument goes that the features that a particular species has are so specialized that no intermediate characteristics could have allowed the organisms to survive and thus they must have been formed as we see them today. It’s a form of the irreducibly complex argument championed by Michael Behe.

As you can imagine, if AiG is going to define species as descendants of common ancestors on the Ark then these special features of individual species must be adaptions to their current condition rather than products of special creation in the creation week. Sometime YECs will call upon some sort of pre-programming of genomes that God performed at the moment of creation on Day 6 to give them the ability to form these features later.  This is imagined to be a sort of latent capacity to live in future environments that God place in their genomes such that under just the right conditions suddenly a long neck, stronger heart and special blood vessels would suddenly appear just in a set of descendants to make a giraffe.

All one needs to do is look at a couple of example of how giraffes were talked about 20 years ago to see how different this brave new world of post-flood hyper-evolution has changed the creationist’ landscape.

Here is one example from 1996:

Other mammals do desire the leaves of trees but none of them will ever become giraffes, and the giraffe most certainly did not come from any other ‘less-than-giraffe’ animal.

In this article giraffes have features that could only be explained as God having produced giraffes as we see them today. Below is another example from a blog post written in 2010 of the same sort of argument that is common in the YEC literature:

Everyone agrees, creationists and evolutionists—a giraffe is a giraffe. It is a distinct species, a discrete entity. No one would say a giraffe is a “missing link” or a “transitional form.” A giraffe is not some creature emerging from some other creature or changing into a “higher” or more complex animal—a giraffe is a giraffe! It can be scientifically examined with results that display the necessity of a single creative act. This long-necked creature had to have been originally formed with all of its complex features fully functional.

The common view is that features are so specialized in species that they could not have come to be through any intermediate. But one species becoming another requires intermediate steps. If the animals on the ark did not look like today’s animals they have changed and they have new specializations that give them the attributes as species that they are today.

I’ll end by repeating what I have written before: there is no biblical evidence of such radical changes to organisms. To say that animals reproduce after “their own kind” is to confirm the ordinary observation that all species, as they have been recognized for millennia, give birth to more of their own species. The bible references horses and donkeys very soon after the Flood with no indication that they are any different than we might understand them today. For more on this please see my article (YEC Biblical Evolution: I have a Book that Says Otherwise) written soon after the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate in which I talk about Ken Ham’s most public attempt to reorient creationism to accommodate a radical form of Darwinism. I’m not sure what to call this new take on the history of life on earth but I do like a friend’s suggestion: Radical Anteglacial Darwinism or RAD for short. It accounts for the fact that all the diversity of life we see today and in the recent fossil record must be accounted for in the time between the Flood and the creationist singular ice age and the fact that it requires radical amounts of natural selection (the Darwinian mechanism), mutations and genetic drift to accomplish such changes.


Would you recognize many of the animals that boarded Noah’s Ark? Not according to Ken Ham and his colleagues. The ark contained only the common ancestors to the great diversity of animals you see today. Giraffes on the ark? No. Chimpanzees? No. Lions? No. etc… One cat pair evolved into more than 100 species of cats most of which went extinct just a few hundred years after the Flood. Yes, Ken Ham has fully embraced Post-Flood Rapid Evolution as a mechanism of creating the amazing variation we see today. As he falls further down the slippery slope into the rabbit hole of radical hyper-evolution Ken Ham is, ironically, more accepting of naturalistic speciation (Darwinian evolution) than Old Earth advocates such as Hugh Ross.

Welcome to the RAD new world of YLC.

This is an slightly revised version of a post first published in December of 2015.

11 thoughts on “Ken Ham’s Darwinism: On The Origin of Species by Means of Hyper-Evolution Following Noah’s Flood

  1. Excellent post – comprehensive and factual in every respect. Some would want to be reminded that Ken’s original “cat kind” is on Google: Proailurus. Google also provides great info on now-extinct but supposedly post-Flood elephants. On the issue of the Ark’s capacity, Ken’s people tell you that the “Ark Encounter” as you walk through it is FOR PEOPLE – not showing how it suited animal support. Be that as it may — they’re still stuck with TOTAL WASTE of the top-to-bottom middle of the Ark – for light and ventilation? A “traditional” box form, windows around the outside, 450 feet long, could have an attic floor going down in the middle the same as the roof going up, for light to slant in 75 feet to a far wall. This would allow two tons of hay per foot through 24 (of 30) sections in my design. GLL

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  2. Excellent article! It nicely sums up the extent of YEC cognitive dissonance on this issue. Another irony relating to giraffes is that in the past YECs often cited paranormal advocate Francis Hitchins book The Neck of the Giraffe, even though he accepted evolution and an old Earth, and even tho his main beef was with conventional mechanisms like Natural Selection, and all he had to replace them with was some woo-woo mystical ideas, which even most YECs would reject. Speaking of Nat Sel, YECs advocating post-Flood hyperspeciation can’t seem to make up their minds on how much if any is involved. Some of AIG’s articles imply it was or may have been a major factor; others hedge on it or suggest the opposite. They really seem to be coming apart at the seams. Of course, they know that they don’t have to convince legitimate scientists, just the public and average Ark visitor, many of whom seem eager to lap up whatever they dish out. I’ve seen this many times at Carl Baugh’s “Creative, I mean Creation Evidence Museum” in Glen Rose TX (near the Paluxy tracks). Many of Baugh’s claims are so nonsensical or outrageous they make even Ham’s claims seem sensible.

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    1. Well the good news is that despite Mr. Ham’s optimism for an increase in visitors to his “Ark Encounter” this year compared to last year, the number of tickets sold have decreased. I do not think anyone will be surprised that he claims an increase based on visits from kids under 5 years old, and lifetime/yearly passes. None of whom buy tickets and so remain uncounted.
      Oh but tour bus visits are up 20% so there is that. And I guess if I was president and CEO of the Ark Encounter, I too would be loath to admit any possibility of that sweet gravy train coming to an end.


      1. Part of the issue may be that more and more creation museums are opening, which creates more competition and maybe less incentive to for YECs to travel to Ham’s. ICR’s promises that their “Discovery Center” in Dallas is opening soon. I may try to check them the next time I’m working on the Glen Rose tracks, which hopefully will be in a couple weeks. If anyone here wants to join me, please let me know. The river is drier than it’s been in several years, so lots of tracks on several sites should be accessible. Thanks!


  3. For info. You are also being attacked by Sorensen (a proven liar):
    (Sorensen views the BCSE community forum – and ignores all rebuttals of YEC falsehoods there)

    YECs Wood and Wile were much more honest about this story than were AiG (and the liar Sorensen).


  4. With all due respect, if we ignore all YECs making outlandish claims, we’d have little to write about here, and I’d like to think we influence at least a few readers in positive ways when we do. So allow me to put in my two cents. I agree that Sorensen is being misleading, and in a number of insidious ways. The same toes for Jeanson, the author of the AIG article Sorensen links to:
    First, both YEC authors repeatedly talk about Stoeckle and Thaler’s (S & T) suggesting that most modern animals arose in the same time frame as humans, whereas (S & T) were only clearly talking about modern species, not any prehistoric or extinct ones–a critical point I think the YEC authors hope most readers won’t notice. Second, the YEC authors take one of the S & T “hypothesis” (and that’s all it was–they actually offered others they actually regarded as more likely) was virtually unquestionable. But it can’t be until and unless the “genetic bar-coding” is done on most modern species, and thoroughly reviewed and repeated by other workers, neither of which is the case. Third, even if it were established that most modern did species arose within the last 200,000 years, YECs have no basis for leaping to the conclusion that this supports the idea that all species within the last few thousand years–which compresses the time frame by orders of magnitude, without any supporting evidence, and lots of evidence to the contrary. Despite all this, Jeanson’s article title is: Hundreds of Thousands of Species in a Few Thousand Years?: Recent mitochondrial DNA bar-coding results bode well for the recent origin of species.” On top of all this, Jeanson slams our friend Joel Duff for pointing out the need to consider fossil evidence. According to Jeanson, only DNA (and not fossils or other evidence) can tell us anything about ancestry or evolution, which is absurd.


    1. Glen, Oh, I quite agree about engagement but there are exceptions and Sorenson is one of them for me personally. Obviously I spend a lot of time responding to YEC articles but Sorenson is a fringe creationists with little following and not well respected among other YECs so spending much time there is not worth the effort for me when there are so many more important topics to address though I agree that he needs to be addressed once in a while. BTW, excellent point about prehistoric and extinct species and the response to the S&T. That needs to be emphasized more. BTW, I am in conversation with one of the authors of that paper and will likely be writing something about how my conversations have helped provide me with some new perspectives on their work and how YECs have responded.


  5. Notwithstanding my previous comments, I do agree that it’s probably best not to devote lots of time and space to “Cowboy Bob Sorensen,” “Question Evolution” page, since he seems to be on the fringe even among YECs (similar to Baugh, Patton, Juby, and Hovind). However, I thought I’d mention another interesting comment by him that I noticed on his site today. When discussing sharks and rays, he says they are “related.” My thought is: related how, if not by evolution?
    Interestingly, AIG and CMI argue that they are separate “kinds.”
    Of course, YECs don’t have to explain the hundreds of species of each group by hyperspeciation, since they’d argue that most survived in the oceans during the Flood. However, they still have to account for hundreds of species of each (there are over 400 living shark species alone), presumably all arising from a created pair in 6,000 years. Again, even if sharks are in their own “kind” apart from rays, that would mean that the Genesis shark kind would have had to evolve into species as disparate as great whites, hammerheads, bizarre deep-sea goblin sharks, tiny luminescent lanternsharks, and giagantic, plankton-eating whale shark, not to mention even weirder and larger extinct sharks such as Helicoprion and Megalodon. Yet they don’t accept “macroevolution”?


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