What is a Perfect Trait? The Prelapsarian Paradise in Our Own Eyes

Creationist’ literature can be baffling to read at times. It isn’t just common misunderstandings of science and theology but sometimes it’s the feeling you get that they haven’t thought through the implications of what they have written.  One article frequently contradicts the thesis, or even the facts, of another. 

Today’s example come from Dr. David Catchpoole (PhD in plant physiology).  From the Creation Ministries International (CMI) website we find this article that tells us how most examples of evolution are simply the result of the three Rs:  Rearrangement of existing genes, Removal of genetic information and Ruining genetic information.

He is quite confused about the effects of all three processes and their effects but let’s skip right to the third and focus on one example. Let me quote the relevant portions starting after he mentions that there was tremendous variation in the original creation that would have been rearranged to make new species.  He recognizes that mutations happen and goes straight to the common young-earth creationist’ “all mutations are bad” mantra. Here is how he characterizes this “ruin” of the genetic information:

However, there are forms of dog genes today which were not present at Creation but have arisen since. But those have not arisen by any creative process, but by mutations, which are copying mistakes (typos, we might say) as genes are passed from parents to offspring. You would expect such accidental changes to wreck the existing genes, and that’s what happens. For example, the dog pictured in Figure 3 has just such a mutated gene, resulting in ‘floppy ear syndrome’.

Dogs with this genetic mutation have weaker cartilage and cannot lift up their ears. So they just hang, floppy before dinner, and sloppy after it—unless their owners are diligent in cleaning them. Such regular attention to ear hygiene is necessary, as dogs with floppy ears are prone to serious ear infections, which can even lead to hearing loss. Not that their hearing was especially good anyway. As you might expect, dogs with erect ears are far superior to floppy-eared dogs at detecting prey by sound.

I can remember reflecting on this when I was an atheist/evolutionist, and wondering how such floppy-eared dogs could have ever evolved and survived in the wild. I now know that they didn’t. Instead this mutation in the genes has arisen since the original “very good” world (Genesis 1:31) was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17–19). The floppy-eared mutation in dogs is but one example of how a post-Fall world is very much “in bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–22). So common is this mutational defect in modern domestic dogs that many people have naïvely come to think of floppy-eared dogs as ‘normal’. But Adam and Eve, if they were alive today, would no doubt be shocked to see such deformity. The original dogs, probably something like today’s gray wolves, would have had erect, superbly functional, ears.

There is a lot of problems here but it’s the last two sentences that strike me as especially interesting.  I have no doubt that Catchpoole believes in the standard perfect paradise model that most YECs adhere to wherein there was no death in the original created state that Adam and Eve experienced. Animals —at least all vertebrate animals—were not able to die nor presumably be hurt. Therefore, according to YECs, these animals did not eat other animals nor where they hunted in their original created design.  

If this is true, why is Catchpoole so confident that the original canine must have had “erect, superbly functional, ears”? He provides a rationale.  He suggests that upright ears would allow dogs to be better at “detecting their prey by sound.”  That sounds reasonable except that Dr. Catchpoole also believes the original canines lived in a world were they did not need to detect their prey by sound since they were eating plants! And canines didn’t have to worry about another animal sneaking up on them either. 

And what about that presumed maladaption of floppy ears that he mentions?  Yes, today floppy ears lead to more ear infections but would this have any meaning in the perfect paradise where ear infections would not exist since they are presumably the result of pests. What reason does he have to believe that floppy ears or upright ears would be more “perfect” in the perfect creation?  How does one judge “perfection” if survival or even morality—for the animals—has no role to play?  We might also ask how Catchpoole knows these things, was he there?  He assumes that floppy ears are a mutation but how does he know that floppy ears wasn’t a variation that God created in the beginning that was either expressed in the first dogs or that was meant to be used later? Catchpoole is assuming it is a mutation because he thinks that a wolf was on the ark and that it gave rise to domestic dogs but how can he be sure that the canine on the ark had floppy ears and then there was mutation to create upright ears which had an advantage in the post-flood world?  

What he might be thinking—if he wanted to create the appearance of consistency—is that the “perfect” canines in the perfect paradise were perfectly pre-adapted for a non-perfect world.  He might say that God knew that the perfect world He created would not last and so He simply created all animals with features that were better adapted to a world of death and decay.

What Catchpoole is doing here I see over and over again. His and other’s descriptions of what a perfect paradise was like often sound like conditions best fit for a dynamic world filled with death and rebirth.   He expects certain features in the creation based on his understanding of what makes a character good or bad for the present environment.  Rather than asking what God meant when he said he made the world “very good” YECs and others have a tendency to ask themselves what they think a perfect world would look like in their own eyes.

I’ve written about this tendency to create the perfect paradise in our own eyes rather than through God’s eyes on multiple occasions:

Was the young-earth perfect prelapsarian paradise a maladapted world?

The prelapsarian ostrich: Paradise lost or portrait of a good creation?

Reflections on the death of toads and the Edenic perfect paradise.

Cover image: My youngest son Elijah with Calvin (goldendoodle) as a puppy. We happen to think Calvin’s floppy ears are pretty perfect.  But I suppose you could say he was designed that way:-)

 

Comments

  1. Very very good points.

    “I can remember reflecting on this when I was an atheist/evolutionist, and wondering how such floppy-eared dogs could have ever evolved and survived in the wild. I now know that they didn’t.”

    Of course they didn’t. Floppy-eared dogs, along with all domestic dog breeds, are the result of intentional selective breeding by intelligent designers: humans. If Dr. Catchpoole had ever understood the basics of evolution and natural selection, then he would have never “wondered” how domesticated dogs involved in the wild. The more likely solution is that the good doctor is making up a caricatured story about his “atheist/evolutionist” days which bears no actual resemblance to his experiences.

    Incidentally, the genes for pointy ears are tied to some of the same genes for overall aggression. When silver foxes were selectively bred for lower aggression, their descendants ended up with lighter bones, smaller teeth, and droopy ears. The thing that allows them to survive in the wild (aggression and keen senses) are liabilities in domestic environments, and so they are lost.

    What purpose do predatory adaptations serve in the prelapsarian world? Devoting metabolic resources to a predatory phenotype is a waste; those resources could better be served in reaching maturation age more quickly or gaining enhanced intelligence. So a true prelapsarian apex canid would not, in fact, have been adapted for predation, but for community.

    Also, Dr. Catchpoole may not have realized it, but AiG now denies that the ark canid looked like a gray wolf. After years of showing the “descent” of “decreasing information” from wolf to dingo to collie to poodle, they are now reversing position and claiming that the monobaraminic canid progenitor looked like a cross between a cat and a fox: https://i.postimg.cc/m2yJnsP2/0059fdc3c27e8efe88118be6e8f09401-kentucky-museum.jpg

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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  3. I used to get little devotional emails called “Creation Moments” by the YEC website Creation Moments.com. Dozens and dozens of these mails (perhaps as many as half of them) focused on animals that had structures or behaviors “perfectly designed” to prey on other animals, or animals that had structures, coloration, or other features “designed” to prevent being detected or captured by predators. Apparently like Catchpoole, it never occurred to them that these examples appeared to starkly contradict their doctrine that all animals were originally designed as vegetarians.

    It doesn’t get YECs off the hook to suggest that even if not originally needed, the original animals were created with huge amounts of variation. For one, if only pairs of each “type” were created (and that’s not clear) they would not be able to carry enough alleles for much variation. Even if many animals of each species were originally created, and carried lots of alleles for every trait, it still would not help YECs, since at the time of the Flood, every “kind” would have been reduced to a single pair (or at best seven animals per kind), and thus would have had very low genetic variation, and little potential to quickly produce more in a short time period — the opposite of what AIG’s claims about hyper-rapid post-Flood speciation. Indeed, a species or “kind” reduced to a single pair would be the ultimate genetic bottleneck, which even under the best conditions (let alone the devastated ecosystems after the Flood), would result in a long period of genetic stagnation and low diversity, not thriving, high-diversity, quickly changing species. This is this not only logical and consistent with genetic principles, but can be directly observed in species such as Cheetahs that have gone though less severe genetic bottlenecks and still exhibit low diversity. Yet AIG and other YECs largely ignore or downplay these serious problems,

    By the way, if floppy eared dogs have more ear infections or other ear problems, I doubt it’s because they are sloshing their ears in their food and water, since their ears don’t hang down that low (except perhaps for very long eared breeds like Basset Hounds). I had a floppy eared dog, and I don’t think it never got food or water in them while eating or drinking. Nor as far as I know did he ever get an ear infection.

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  4. Lars Cade says:

    This is what invariably happens when you’ve decided in advance that something is “True” and start making up rationalizations to fit with it. Since Catchpoole (and his fellow young Earth creationists) have simply assumed that their ideas are true, they often further assume that anything they say in support of such ideas must also be true, and rarely check their statements or publications for consistency, assuming that everything will automatically fit together, since their ideas are “True.”

    Indeed, if a theory or model is accurately descriptive of physical reality, that is exactly what will happen—statements based on one aspect of it will automatically bolster other aspects. This is one of the ways scientists gain confidence in a theory or model—it’s internally consistent and self-reinforcing.

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  5. Excellent observations. I too think Calvin’s floppy ears are perfect!

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  6. Ann Gauger of “Evolution News” believes: “Cetacean evolution appears to have occurred,at least in part, by a loss-of function mutations in key genes.” They devolved from land to sea, not evolved from land to sea

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    • There is certainly truth to that. Cetaceans have lost function of many genes (100s of smell genes, the ability to taste sugar, development genes for growing legs etc..) but cetaceans also have hundreds of highly specialized adaptations for living in the ocean which require adapation of old genes to new functions of the duplication of genes and assigning new functions including many new regulatory networks. The way that cetacean ears work is very different, some have the ability to see by sonar etc.. This is no de-evolution.

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      • Yes, it’s plain that whales have numerous specialized adaptations for aquatic life, including their blowholes, ability to dive very deeply, the baleen filters many use for feeding, etc. Plus, YECs can’t seem to make up their mind on what whales are, often saying contradictory things. While some say that “whales have always been whales”, whose features were all specially created by God, others (as you note) dismiss them as just land animals that devolved and largely lost their feet (even tho, despite what’s already been mentioned, fins are far from “lost” feet). The claim of devolution by some was probably their way of trying to deal with the fact that some modern whales (especially Right whales) are sometimes found with atavistic leg bones. YECs also dismiss or ignore extensive fossil evidence for whale evolution, and try their best to ignore or dismiss many intermediate forms and features. Our local fossil club has been fortunate to host paleontologist Hans Thewissen as as speaker several times. He’s excavated and analyzed many of the key fossil whales and intermediate forms, and even brought some of them (and casts of others to our meetings. In 2014 he published a great book on whale evolution entitled The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years. Ed Babinski has a nice web page devoted to whale evolution at:
        https://etb-whales.blogspot.com/2012/03/evolution-of-whales-adapted-from.html

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