There is no average day in a veterinary clinic. One never knows what will walk through the door. The first appointment could be a tiny Chihuahua puppy and the next could be a giant mastiff. Some have the job of being a companion, others for hunting, search and rescue, or dog sports like agility. Despite their plethora of differences in size, shape, common medical concerns, and even sensitivities to certain medications, they are all dogs.
This wide spectrum of traits is not confined to domesticated animals. A recently published article on the red wolf has brought to light what biblical creationists have known all along. Dogs are dogs. The list of distinct species grows day by day and evolutionists are pointing to the spectrum of similarities between different species as proof of the evolutionary family tree. In the past, researchers have had to rely on morphologic (what they look like), behavioral, and geographic differences to differentiate between species. Today, we have the benefit of being able to collect DNA samples to test and compare our previous classifications to classifications based on DNA uniqueness. The red wolf, which researchers had classified as a distinct species based on physical characteristics, has recently been found to have no unique “red wolf” DNA. Based on DNA sequencing they cannot be differentiated from the gray wolf or the coyote, making the red wolf a hybrid of the two.
What Does This Mean for Evolutionists?
Evolutionists now have to face the fact that they have been using a rubber ruler when defining species. In an introductory biology class, most students will be taught the binomial nomenclature system of organism classification: the first is the genus name and the second is the species name. These are just the lower tiers of a multiple-layer system that man has created to organize the life we see here on Earth. Prior to the use of DNA classification, all scientists had to go on was the physical and behavioral traits of animals. Until recent improvements in travel and cooperation between zoos and animal preserves, animals that had similar physical and behavioral traits also had to be defined by where they were on the globe. All this led to having somewhat arbitrary definitions of a species dependent on the situation. Species can be broadly defined as animals that can breed and provide offspring that can grow up and reproduce. This seems cut and dry, but then we also have to look at differences of natural breeding compared to breeding in the laboratory. Two different species that live on opposite sides of the globe and therefore would never breed in the wild may, when placed in a zoo or research environment, have offspring. Are they still two different species? Some animals have similar physical features, but their courting behaviors are slightly different. Using modern breeding technology such as is used in cattle, pigs, and horses, we are able to breed some of these pairs despite behavioral differences. Are these two different species? What about organisms that reproduce without needing a mate, such as bacteria or amoebas? With the advent of genome comparisons, we started defining a species as having greater than 80% common similarity. These are all definitions that have been used for the word species. Depending on the situation, any one or multiple of these definitions may be in use.
Some evolutionists have gone so far as to propose a web idea versus the traditional (evolutionary) tree of life organization for organisms.
Evolutionists use this ambiguity to back up their cause. They state that by at least one of these definitions one species is changing into another species and thus proves evolution to be true. But now they sometimes face a conundrum. With the rising popularity of DNA sequencing as the gold standard for evolutionary research, the data is not always backing up their previously held thoughts. In the case of the red wolf, based on physical characteristics they had predicted that the red wolf has unique DNA sequences that could not be found in other canids (dog family), but they did not find unique DNA. This is not a singular situation, and as researchers sequence more and more organisms they are finding that supposedly unique species are not so unique. Some evolutionists have gone so far as to propose a web idea versus the traditional (evolutionary) tree of life organization1 for organisms.2 The traditional tree of life shows all organisms starting from a single organism and slowly branching off into all the different organisms we see today. The web, though still believed to start with a single ancestor, allows for branches that connect back as in the example of our red wolf hybrid. Both of these are in contrast with the orchard model, which is consistent with the Bible’s description of created kinds. Each kind is the beginning of its own tree that branches into the plethora of living things we see today.
This change of thought goes beyond a naming or organization system or even scientific research in general. This affects laws, money, and land allocation to name a few. We hear in the news about new laws to protect certain species. There are research grants going to groups to preserve other species. There is land that has restricted use to preserve certain species. These decisions are based on the ideology that protecting each individual species (no matter what definition you use) will protect the genetic diversity and allow for the evolutionary process to be prepared for any significant changes in the future.
What Does This Mean for Biblical Creationists?
As scientists we have to review what we know and what we do not know. Even that simple task can be easily blurred when we look at it with man’s wisdom. We are blessed that we do not need to rely on only man’s wisdom. We have the knowledge that God the Creator has given us in His Word, the Bible. The opening chapter of Genesis tells us that God created the universe and everything that is in it. He gives us broad categories of organisms: plants, aquatic animals, airborne animals, land animals, and humans. Then he repeats the phrase “after his kind” eight times in the first chapter of Genesis, giving us further organization within those categories. He reaffirms “kinds” again in Genesis 6 with Noah’s assignment to build an Ark and preserve the life of his family and all the kinds of land and air animals. This is God’s classification system—more like an orchard of lineage rather than a single tree or web.3
It has been pointed out by evolutionists in the past, most prominently by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” both in his debate with Ken Ham as well as in his book Undeniable, that “Inherent in this rejection of evolution is the idea that your curiosity about the world is misplaced . . . They will have to suppress the basic human curiosity that leads to asking questions, exploring the world around them, and making discoveries.”4 The fact that God gives us this broad and accurate classification system has done just the opposite, spawning its own area of scientific research called baraminology. This is a hugely exciting area of research. The term baraminology breaks down to baramin + ology. Baramin is the Hebrew word in the Bible for “created kind” and ology is “the study of.” Researchers are working on defining the details within God’s classification system. Taking the same information that the evolutionists have, creation scientists are looking at the vast variety of organisms throughout Earth’s approximately 6,000-year history and how they are related to each other.
Taking the current data that we all share (evolutionist and creationist) on the wide spectrum of organisms that inhabit this earth, we can use that to help us plan for the future as well as to give us insight into the past. In the case of the red wolf, decisions have to be made if the programs that have been costly and work intensive will continue now that the uniqueness of the red wolf has come into question. Continuing research in cases like the red wolf will give us a better idea of how many kinds of organisms currently inhabit this planet. This could help with resource allocation in working to preserve the greatest genetic diversity of a kind. A common example is the increasing popularity of raising heritage livestock. As humans, we have decided what traits we like in a certain kind and have selectively bred for those traits. As we chose for certain traits, we were always choosing against other traits. Keeping some of the more rare breeds going forward may prove useful later on. For example, if a disease were to wipe out a lot of different chickens, but some breeds still had resistance to that disease, some would say that this is an example of evolution. But the very fact that we can take the remaining chickens and breed them all together reaffirms that they are all indeed chickens. The fact that some chickens retained some favorable traits does not make them anything more than chickens. As DNA sequencing continues, we may find that certain breeds of animals do not contain any unique traits, and time and energy would be better served by preserving those that do.
We can with confidence say that Noah had plenty of room to bring representatives of all the known kinds both extant (still living) and extinct (no longer living) on the Ark.
On the flip side, when looking to the past we are able to picture what some of their common ancestors would have looked like. This is especially exciting as Answers in Genesis is working on creating a life-size reproduction of Noah’s Ark that would include representations of these animals. Not only can we get a glimpse of what they would have looked like, but we can with confidence say that Noah had plenty of room to bring representatives of all the known kinds both extant (still living) and extinct (no longer living) on the Ark. Think of this as reverse dog breeding. As we breed for more and more specific traits, dogs look more and more different. If we let all those varieties of dogs breed together, we would get back a dog that is medium sized, with a medium hair coat and a variety of hair colors. If you travel to a country where dogs are not routinely bred, this is typically what you would see wandering the roads. It is this kind of common ancestor that will be represented at the Ark Encounter.
Tracing these lineages is interesting because it gives us a more detailed look at what life was like during Noah’s day as well as how different traits have been lost over the centuries in different populations of animals. Despite all the “new” physical characteristics we see in these animals, they are all a result of lost or concealed DNA information. The loss of some information and the retention of others may help us learn important commonalities in both the organisms themselves and in how they interact with other organisms and the environment as a whole. By studying the past as revealed to us in God’s Word, we are able to make wiser decisions for the future.
What’s in a Name?
Through the research of many talented scientists, we will create a name for these fascinating organisms, and their descendants, that God has created. This is not so different from when God asked Adam to name the animals (Genesis 2:19–20). God provides the creation and encourages us to explore it. Just as with Adam, His goal is more than to give us something interesting and exciting to do: it is to point out our own uniqueness in His creation. God created all of us in His image, yet each one of us in our own unique way (Psalm 139:14). And sadly we have in common our sin nature (Romans 3:23). Let us focus on the name of Jesus, on God who dwelt among us, died on the Cross to free us from that rebellious sin nature, and rose again conquering sin and death so that He may preserve us for all eternity as His people.