Today, young-earth creationists are actively promoting a new model of the origin of the diversity of life on Earth. This speculative view borrows a number of elements found in any typical evolutionary biology textbook. For example, modern YECs claim that most and possibly all species alive today—except humans—are related to numerous other, though not all, species via common ancestors though they seldom use such language. They further claim that the act of speciation from those common ancestors has occurred via observable and testable evolutionary mechanisms such as genetic drift and natural selection (again, usually without using words like “evolutionary”). For example, they believe that all canine species shared a common ancestor less than 4500 years ago. Likewise they claim that chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas also shared a common ancestor. If that sounds like a radical evolutionary proposal, it is! And it is a wave of new creationists that are making these claims.
Previously, I have provided evidence that this proposal of rapid speciation or hyperevolution as an explanation for much of our current biodiversity has existed among academic literal six-day creationists for nearly 100 years (The Origin of the YEC Hyper-Speciation Model of Biological Diversity). So the idea of some common ancestry of animals and rapid evolution is not a new idea. However this is not a topic that many creationists cared to talk about and received scant reference or discussion for the first 50 years of the last century. It wasn’t until the 1990s that we find explaining biological diversity via rapid evolution within “kinds” becoming an important point of open discussion in YEC circles and more importantly having seeped into their popular literature which the average Christian non-scientists would see.
Today, YEC leaders are continuing to tell their followers that evolution is impossible (see: Young-Life Creationists—Who are the People that Believe they can Replace Darwin?) and at the same time assuring them that many new species have formed over time and not only does this speciation happen but it happens much faster than evolutionists have ever believed was possible. The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are on the front lines in making these claims. And it appears that they have made great strides in convincing their audience that the formation of new species from a shared ancestor is just fine and that it occurs via naturalistic evolutionary processes.
Ken Ham and other YEC leaders are quick to claim that they have always believed that biblical “kinds” are not to be equated with species (except for humans), but rather much larger groups sometimes categorized as genera or families. However, those, such as myself, that have read large portions of the historical YEC literature recognize that the young-earth belief in speciation from common ancestors is often not clear in early literature and much of the popular creationist’ writing explicitly denies these ideas. So while some leaders may have believed that speciation happens, those ideas were not evident to their followers and many popularizers of creationism in the 1950’s to the 1990’s.
How was speciation portrayed in the 1980s?
What was the typical teenager taught in Christian School or home school in the 1980s about evolution and the origin of biological diversity in particular? I’ve examined one of the post popular textbooks of the time to see how the authors summed up the consensus view of what creationism was promoting at the time. Below I quote selections from the text to give you a flavor of how confusing their messaging was with respect to what young-earth creationists believed then and now.
This textbook is “Biology God’s Living Creation” and was first published in 1986 by aBeka books as a ministry of Pensacola Christian College. This text, now in it’s fourth edition and vastly updated, continues to be used in schools and homes today. The original version lists four authors of which only one, Keith Graham, finds his name on the text today. I have been unable to unable to find out anything about Graham though presumably he has a background in biology. I say this because the other three authors of the first edition were 1) a kindergarten teacher who subsequently had a career helping to produce many aBecka materials, 2) a general editor who helped write many non-science books, and 3) a church history teacher for the Bucer Institute.
So it doesn’t appear as if the authors had extensive training in biology or even science. It is clear to me from reading the portions of the text that interact with evolution that they appear to have obtained most of their knowledge from other creation science materials. Regardless of the problems this may have created with the quality of the text it does help us in one way: it provides us with a stereotypical outlook on the topic of evolution from non-experts who were taught their views by creationist writers. This is helpful because it tells us that what they wrote was probably the impression that most people had from the creationist materials available to them at the time. It also helps us to see just what the next generation of creationists would be experience. Those creationists are now in their 50’s. It is quite likely that this textbook and others like it from this time period shaped the views of parents that are now taking their kids to the Creation Museum and The Ark Encounter.
Below I quote material (all bold words were bold in the text itself) from the textbook (I’m looking at a 1995 reprint edition) and make some observations.
Quote #1: On the limits of biological science
“The limits of biology. True science is limited to that which is observable and repeatable in the natural world; science cannot tell us who God is, what man is, or how everything got here. Biologists have a legitimate science as long as they observe and measure living things, including man’s physical body; but because many of them are not Christians, they are blind to spiritual reality as taught in the Bible. Many biologists take what they know about life and speculate on matters outside the realm of science, such as human behavior and the origin of life.
Science is limited to discovering and formulating God’s laws of nature and using them to benefit mankind. Biology, then, is limited to finding God’s design in the physical part of the living creation and applying that knowledge to help man dominate the earth.”
Although it does not explicitly address speciation and evolution I included this quote to set the stage for the style of presentation in the text. Take special note of the second paragraph and what science is for. In their minds science is limited discovering things that benefit mankind. And then we see in the next paragraph that this benefit takes the form of helping “man dominate the earth.” This dominion language was quite popular at the time. I think the same perspective is still common but the words used are more cryptic in modern texts.
Quote #2: Does breeding show that new species can form by selection? This quote comes from a list of scientific evidence that Darrow introduced at the Scopes Trial and the textbook summarizes this way:
“(6) Plant and animal breeding. One witness argued that because man can bring about new varieties of plants and animals through scientific breeding (artificial selection), this proves that new species were brought about by natural selection. This argument is very simplistic: new breeds are not the same as new species; new breeds are brought about by intelligent guidance, not by chance, and they revert to their original form after several generations if they are left to themselves.”
Here we see the first resistance to natural selection as a viable process for causing speciation. The suggestion is that making breeds is possible (but only because we are purposely doing so) but species cannot be produced by speciation because even breeds go back to some original state (presumably their created state?).
Quote #3: Does geographic distribution of plants and animals support evolution?
“(7) Geographical distribution. At the time of the Scopes trial, evolutionists thought that the way plants and animals are distributed across the earth proves evolution. Evolutionists do not talk about geographical distribution very much today; the facts of distribution support the Biblical account of the Creation and the Flood very heavily.“
This one is weird though it may be an artifact that the authors of this chapter in the 1980’s are reaching back to repeat arguments made fifty years earlier. But even so, since when do biologists not talk about geographical distribution as being an evidence that organisms have changed over time? Ironically, today’s creationists would look at geographic distribution and claim it IS evidence that new species have formed. They would say that the reason Hawaii has thousands of species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world is because a species of plant or animals migrated to Hawaii and then was subject to natural selection, mutations and genetic drift and evolved into many new species on Hawaii. Yes, the odd distribution of plants and animals is a strong signal that organisms have changed in different places on earth.
Quote #4: Natural selection and peppered moths (page 359)
“But survival of the fittest or natural selection is not evolution. It does not explain how new life forms or how one type of organism can change into another type or how an organism can develop new organs. There were always light and dark peppered moths; only their ratio in the general population shifted. No new type of moth, not even a new color, evolved. Furthermore, the light and dark peppered moths can mate and produce fertile offspring. This means they are of the same kind—another indication that a new kind did not evolve.”
This is a quote that we almost could have gotten from a modern YEC text except the flavor here suggests that a “kind” is being equated with a “species.” Over and over in the book there is an emphasis on changes happening within species but that no species has been shown to become another species. Sometimes the word “kind” is used instead of species. Nowhere do the authors ever define what a biblical “kind” is other than as things that are similar to each other and more different than other things (yeah it really is that vague). However, seeing the number of times that it is said that species cannot become other species one is left with the strong impression that each species must therefore be a “kind.” Except when it isn’t as we will see in another confusing passage.
I’ve also included the figure to the right which is from the same page. In it we see a magician pulling two moths from a hat and the kid says “but they’re the same species” indicating an association of species with kind. The message is that changing traits doesn’t make a new species and implies that it can’t make a new species under any circumstances.
Quote #5: Evolution of insect resistance to pesticide?
“The point to be learned is not that non-resistant flies evolve into resistant ones; they do not. The lesson is that only those which already possessed this inherited resistance survived and passed their resistance on to certain of their offspring. No new species are formed.”
They get that natural selection happens and they are right that this one change doesn’t make one species into another but they seem to be implying that those changes could never amount to differences that would accomplish speciation (the splitting of one species into two). This is not definitive evidence that they don’t believe speciation could happen but what do you think that a teenage reader is going to come away thinking their position is on speciation?
Chapter 15 of the textbook is a lightly edited version of an anti-evolution booklet, “Why I accept the Genesis Record” published in 1959 by physics teacher Dr. John Raymond Hand. Hand exposes evolution by listing thirteen barricades or faults that should prevent us from accepting evolutionary theory. Several of these involve problem with the origin of species.
Although written in 1959 the authors of the aBeka text are willing to repeat the claims made at that time and so we must assume they considered these criticisms of evolutionary theory to still be valid in 1986.
Quote # 6: Barricade Number 3: The formation of species lines
“And God created great whales, and every living creation that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, AFTER THEIR KIND, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that is was very good. –Gen. 1:21
Evolution—any sort of development in animal life—would of necessity depend on breeding. Evolution is postulated as a change in the inheritable characteristics of life forms. Unquestionably environment, climate, and food will influence individuals, but such changes are not inheritable. For example, climate might cause a rabbit to grow a heavier coat of fur; food can determine whether it will be a fat and sassy rabbit or a thin and skinny one. But such changes disappear with the individual. They cannot be transmitted to the progeny, and in any case the animal will still be rabbit. However, if it were possible to cross-breed a rabbit and a wildcat, the progeny would be an animal that was neither rabbit nor wildcat but something that had modified characteristics of both. Every cross-breed would further those characteristics so that the individuals instead of differentiating would “amalgamate.” How then could definite species line be formed? They couldn’t, of course. In the course of time, instead of having a number of clearly differentiated species, you would have one kind of animal partaking of modified characteristics of all—in other words, a mongrel.”
I’m not sure how much more clearly they can imply that species can’t change and that species boundaries are quite firm. Surely the reader is given the impression that species boundaries are the same as “kind” boundaries, especially since the Genesis 1:21 is quoted above the text and the phrase “after their kind” is placed in all caps.
But now things begin to really go off the rails. It appears that species are fixed and immutable (at least not able to change into other species) but on the very next page Professor Hand speaks of the lack of transitional fossils. He uses an example of primates. He states that no transitions have every been found between lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans and then make the statement: “we will admit that we do have these four modern kinds and they do have similar characteristics.” He then goes on to talk about the gap between these kinds and equates that gap as the gap between great apes and humans or monkeys as if the great apes were a single “kind.”
This is very confusing, he talks about species as if they are immutable and can’t change from one to another but then on the next page acts as if all thirty species of lemurs are members of the same “kind.” Does he really think that all the lemurs are one kind? Even the Ark Encounter divides the lemurs in to two or three “kinds.” Hand seems to be terribly confused about so many basic aspects of biology he may just not realize that they he is contradicting himself from one section to another, but it is frustrating when one is trying to pin down just what he believes about the limits of a biblical kind.
The back of the book provides a definition but it is not very helpful: “A group of organisms that can freely interbreed in nature: although often identified with the taxonomic species, the Biblical kind may refer to a species, genus or family in some cases.” The confusion comes if you say that species can’t change into other species but that a kind could be a family. Then you still haven’t said if God created many species in a kind right from the beginning or if there was one species in a kind originally and then that kind experienced lots of speciation events. The latter is what modern creationists imply has happened but at this time many creationists may have believed that God made the canine “kind” and it included many species of canines each of which haven’t changed much since their creation. Would that also imply that each species had to be on Noah’s Ark? I’m not sure. You can see this in the figure below where they show dog breeds having formed since creation but deny that different “kinds” of carnivores have evolved during that time.
Quote #7: Barricade Number 5: What stopped the evolutionary process?
“Cross a horse with a donkey and you get a mule the first generation, not in 50,000 years. Bring a man from the tropical jungles of Africa to our temperate climate and watch the results. You will not have to watch very long, either. The first winter, he will hug the furnace and freeze. The second winter, he will get along very well with a heavy overcoat. The third winter, you will find him in the open, his coat off and his sleeves rolled up, working as if he had been born in the snow. Reverse the process. As a missionary who has gone to the tropics. For a year or so, they suffer severely with the heat. At the end of their first term, they come home and freeze to death on the fourth of July.
The fact is that animal life adapts itself very quickly to any sort of changed conditions. Any school boy knows that this is true. He also could tell you with absolute assurance that, if any anthropoid, gorilla or otherwise, were ever evolved into a man, the change was completed in from five to ten generations at the most, not in 50,000 to 50,000,000 years as evolutionists would have us to believe.”
This section is so stunning I don’t know what to say. What was he thinking when he wrote this and why did he think it was helping make a positive case for creationism? Who knows?!
Quote #8: Barricade Number 6 The sterility of hybrids.
“A true hybrid is a cross between individuals of distinct species. Let us remember that changes of individuals within a species can be induced by breeding, but such changes do not change the species. They only develop varieties within species.
…. In this connection I would also call your attention to the fact that there are no natural hybrids. Individuals of different species simply do not cross naturally. Wild horses and wild asses ran side by side on our great western plains for many years, and yet there were no wild mules. Men have forced crosses between some of the large cats, the lion and tiger, for example, and yet these beasts roam the same jungles and never mate.”
Wow, this is very different than the message we hear from AiG and other YECs today. They are constantly reminding us that all felines are the same kind because there are known hybrids among them which proves they all come from the same source. This also contradicts statements about all lemurs and all great apes being one kind just a few pages earlier as that would imply that all lemur species and all great ape species are interfertile which they are not.
The author follows this up with a quote by Russian biologists (Leo S Berg, Bureau of Applied Ichthyology, Leningrad) to support their point about hybridization:
“Hybridization, with the most insignificant exceptions, is successful only when crossings are confined within the limits of one species. It thus leaves the limits of the Linnean species intact. Lastly, in animals hybridization rarely ever occurs: it is rare in mammals, birds and reptiles.”
I find it a bit weird that the author would need to quote a Russian biologists to find support for his view that hybridization doesn’t happen. I don’t know how to interpret this line of logic other than he believes that species cannot be transformed into other species and thus each species is a “kind” since it can’t hybridize with other species.
Quote #9: Barricade Number 11 The constant number of species.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. –Col 1:16,17.
Although scientists discover and name an average of 5200 new species of plants and animals each year, all agree that the actual number of species on the earth has remained constant since the Tertiary Period. Evolutionists admit that this is true. This is difficult to understand. No, it is impossible to understand if we accept the evolutionary hypothesis. That hypothesis states that all life has been evolved from a single form to form all the various orders, families, subfamilies, genera, species and varieties, as we have them today. If that statement were true, the number of species would of necessity be a constantly and regularly increasing one. Any schoolboy can figure that problem. Yet the evolutionists declare that life has developed from a single form to some two millions different forms, and then with the next breath they admit that the number has remained constant. Both of these positions just cannot be true, so, as it is simple to show that the number of species has remained constant, we will have to reject the premise of evolutionary change.”
Wow! The number of species has remained constant since the Tertiary? Really? Who says? I might respond that every schoolboy should also be aware of the concept of extinction and that speciation and extinction rates do not have to be equal thus the number of species alive at any period of time is apt to fluctuate.
Quote # 10: A final word of warning
At the end of Chapter 15 we finally learn a bit more about the author of the quotes above. He wraps up the chapter with a personal perspective:
“This is where the real harm lies. Our young people are not being led astray by real scientists but by the pettifoggers and demagogues; the ambitious high school teacher with an inferiority complex who wants to attract attention; the energetic reporter who wants to fill his column, and the aspiring scientific tinkerer who envisages a place among the elite. These are they who are working the damage to our young folks, and I can speak with some knowledge on this point because for a number of years I was one of them.
But I believe that I have said enough to show you that evolution has no answer to the riddle of life. I realize that my own exploration of the field has been limited. Again I remind you that I am not a scientist. I am a layman as far as science is concerned. I do not seek argument; I want an answer. Until science can provide me with one that will satisfy me as well as the one which I have found not only without its help but actually against its efforts to confuse me—until then I shall stand my ground. There are enough uncertainties in life without making life itself an uncertainty. Thus I stand upon the answer that accounts for everything and explains everything: “In the beginning God created….”
I will just say that his description of science and the scientific arguments he makes in this chapter do demonstrate very clearly that he is a layman he doesn’t even appear to be self-taught other than consuming creation science materials.
If you know the YEC literature then you will be aware of how YECs have been increasing been embracing a number of evolutionary principles. But what about the average person who simply goes to a creation conference or has been told by their pastor or elder they must be anti-evolution but know nothing more? What if all they know about creationism is what they learned in their high school science textbook? It would not be surprising if you are confused about what a kind is and what creationists believe about speciation rates or even the possibility that new species can be formed over time you are not alone. However I think you will agree that the way these authors from the 1980’s talk about species and biological diversity is quite different than what we hear today.
Editing kindly provided by MC