googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Is Creationism a Belief in Hyper Evolution?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is Creationism a Belief in Hyper Evolution?

Creationists believe that Noah took animals on board the Ark in pairs that represented kinds. Actually, it's not a creationist “belief” but rather what the Bible states overtly. Consider this passage (Genesis 6:19-20)
And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.”
So the Bible is clear that animal “kinds” were represented on the Ark. A “kind” is broader than a species. In taxonomical terms, a kind is probably closer to a family than a species. Noah did not have 2 lions, tigers, cougars, lynxes, leopards, ocelots, cheetahs, and house cats on the Ark; instead, he only had one pair of a “cat-kind.” From these two ancestral cats, all other species of cats have descended. One straw man criticism of the Ark is that there is no way that Noah could fit 2 of every species of animals on the Ark. Since Noah only brought animals on the Ark according to their kind, the number of animals necessarily on the Ark is much less than the critics' inflated estimates.
There's a tired, old retort employed by evolutionists whenever creationists talk about speciation after the Flood. They assert that the few centuries or even millennia since the Flood is not enough time for the many thousands of species of animals to have descended from the few thousand kinds of animals that were on the Ark. They say that such rapid diversification is a type of "hyper-evolution."
In a NY Times editorial called, “Creationism = Evolution?” (note the use of the word “creationism” by the way; see my last post on that subject), one science blogger made the following comments after visiting the Creation Museum:

The descendants of the ark dog include foxes, states one of the museum signs. This is pretty incredible if you don’t accept the theory of evolution. Dogs (and wolves) have a genome of 78 chromosomes. The red fox has 34 chromosomes. By most any measure, dogs and foxes are different species and yet here in the Creation Museum, it was stated that foxes had diversified from dogs, with major changes in appearance and genetic make-up, in an incredibly short time of less than 4,500 years — far, far faster than an evolutionary biologist would claim.
If animals speciate rapidly, evolutionists call it “hyper-evolution.”  Part of the confusion in the above quote stems from their penchant to call any kind of change, “evolution.” I've written about that before.  It's a misnomer but not one which I'll visit again in this post.
A common understanding about evolution is that it is a “gradual” process. This stems from several different lines of reason which include things like the rate at which mutations occur in DNA, the length of the reproductive cycles of the host, and common interpretations of geological ages. In some instances, our observations of living populations seems to concur with the idea of gradual evolution since most of the minor variations we observe (what some people call “microevolution”) would have to continue for a very, very long time before they amounted to any significant changes in the populations.

What seems to escape many evolutionists is a very simple point which, to me, seems ridiculously obvious. Animals are adapted to their environment. Unless the environment should suddenly change, there's no reason to expect rapid change in the animals that occupy that environment. So animal populations continue in long periods of stasis, showing only minor changes in response to the minor changes in the environment – like the beaks of Darwin's finches. If these minor changes were all that occurred, then evolution would indeed be a staggeringly slow process.
The world after the Flood, however, was marked by dramatic environmental change. The specialized niches once occupied by the animals on the Ark no longer existed. The animals had to make their way in a new, very different world where the rule was to adapt or die. Rapid speciation necessarily was the norm – not over thousands of years or even over centuries. I'm talking about rapid speciation occurring in a few decades!
In spite of their claims to the contrary, rapid speciation should not be a surprise to evolutionists because there are many examples of rapid changes in species in response to sudden changes in their environment. Very early on in my blogging career, I posted this quote from Sciencedaily:

"Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime -- within months -- as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation, favoring first longer and then shorter hind legs."

Ignore the conflation of “evolution” and “natural selection” for a moment. In light of this comment, it's rather hypocritical for evolutionists to say thousands of years since the Flood is not a long enough time for diverse changes to occur in the descendants of the kinds that were on the Ark. The environmental change in this experiment was rather subtle – they introduced a new predator onto a group of islands. Yet the indigenous species of lizard began to adapt quickly - "within months" according to the article. How much more dramatic was the change in environment after the Flood? The animals then would begin to adapt just as quickly.

Now the quote from the NY Times editorial above specifically said that 4,500 years is not enough time for foxes to split from other dog species. That belief is contrary to the experiments done by Russian scientist, Dmitry Belyaev. In the 1950s, Belyaev used wild, silver foxes in a study about the domestication of dogs. He would put his gloved hand into the cage with a wild fox to try to pet or feed the fox. Foxes that were the most curious or docile were selected to reproduce. Through this form of artificial selection, rapid and dramatic changes took place among the silver foxes:
Belyaev and his colleagues did indeed create a population of foxes that differed in temperament and behavior from their wild cousins. The foxes changed physically as well, with alterations in coat color appearing as early as the eighth generation—typically a loss of pigment resulting in white patches. The foxes also developed floppy ears and curved tails, mirroring traits seen in dogs as well as other domesticated species.” (bold added; source here)

In less than a decade, these wild foxes began to look like domestic dogs. Their behavior changed as well to include things like whining and barking, traits also seen in domestic dogs. Certainly there has been some mutation to the DNA of these creatures since they have a different number of chromosomes but if these foxes could be turned into dogs in a few generations, saying 45 centuries isn't long enough for them to have split from dogs is laughable.

I've said before that, for evolution to occur, novel traits have to be added to a population. The removal of traits from a population will not allow the population to “evolve” regardless of how long the change occurs. On the other hand, if adaptation occurs primarily via different combinations of traits already present in a population, then speciation can occur in a few generations. Long ages aren't even necessary.
Time is not the hero of evolution. It's not even a player in the game. Gradual change is a flawed idea that is practically built into the long age assumptions of evolutionary theory. It's contradicted by simple observation.


Steven J. said...

The Bible is clear that "kinds" were represented in the Ark, but it is less clear that "kinds" are broader than species. At least, it was not clear to, e.g. John Ray, in the late 17th century, who coined the modern definition of the word "species," or to Carl von Linné, who founded modern taxonomy in the late 18th century. On the other hand, linguists have noted that most languages have basic words for animals that discriminate at roughly the genus level (there are exceptions: "rabbit" in English refers to at least two different genera).

Charles Darwin noted, among other points, that nearly every species of domestic mammal included breeds that were floppy-eared, or had spotted or blotched coats. These days, these traits are seen as at least partly the result of retaining juvenile traits into adulthood (neotony).

Belyaev's foxes (Vulpes vulpes did not become dogs (Canis lupus). They became domesticated foxes that resemble dogs because [a] foxes already resemble wolves and [b] domestic animals, as noted, tend to acquire similar traits through the domestication process. Given that Belyaev introduced new genes into his fox population by breeding with wild specimens, I'm pretty sure that these domestic foxes can still breed with wild ones.

It's rather weird holding an argument with a creationist in which I'm the one pointing out that "they're still foxes," but the point is worth making. Likewise, it is worth noting that these island lizards are still Anolis sagrei (and the Italian wall lizards on Pod Mrcaru who evolved intestinal valves unknown in their mainland counterparts are still Podarcis sicula).

You note that foxes have a different chromosome count than dogs (nineteen pairs vs. 39 pairs in most species of Canis). Chromosome fusions or splits do not seem by themselves to be adaptive traits, and while some living species have various chromosome counts (okapis, for example, have breeding populations with 22, 23, or 22.5 pairs of chromosomes), but most species have a fixed number of chromosomes for healthy individuals, and I know of no species that has the sort of variation in chromosome count that could produce the difference between fox and wolf karyotypes in only a few thousand years.

Indeed, at the genetic level (as at the chromosome level) foxes are more different from dogs than gorillas are from humans. Whether you call it "evolution" or not, you're asking for a lot of change in a few thousand (indeed, given that foxes and wolves are noted as separate species in the Old Testament, presumably in a few hundred) years.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

It's true that the Bible doesn't compare a kind with a species but it is still fairly obvious that the defining characteristic of a “kind” is that the animals can reproduce. Of course, a reproductive test is often used to define species so I can see the confusion. The key difference is that the reproductive test for a species is much less rigorous since we know that there are many different species that can hybridize: horses/donkeys/zebras, lions/tigers/leopards, wolves/coyotes/dogs, grizzles/polar bears, etc. Some of these combinations produce sterile offspring but many are successful. The simple fact that they can reproduce at all is demonstrative that these various species belong to the same kind.

Evolutionists tend to agree with creationists that all cats, for example, have a common ancestor. From what we know about genetics and sexual reproduction, speciation is inevitable in any local population so a single kind of cat will invariably produce different species eventually. A key difference in our theories is how long it takes for the descendants to speciate. I was using hyperbole, by the way, when I said the foxes had turned into dogs (I mentioned in the same sentence the different number of chromosomes). My point was about the dramatic change that had occur in the silver fox population after only EIGHT GENERATIONS. That's probably less than 7 years. How much more change could take place in 50 years? What about 100 years? When we observe such dramatic changes occurring so rapidly – literally before our eyes – I can't understand why evolutionists insist tens or hundreds of thousands of years are necessary for foxes to split from other dogs.

By the way, you mentioned that humans are closer to chimps genetically than foxes are to dogs but 1) foxes resemble dogs far more closely than humans resemble chimps and 2) there is no other species of animal with which humans are able to hybridize. We are a different kind than apes or monkeys.

Oh, and another key difference between our theories is that you believe cats have a common ancestor with catfish but I'll save that for another post.

God bless!!


Steven J. said...

Foxes can't hybridize with wolves or coyotes or jackals (given the difference in chromosome number, we probably shouldn't be surprised). There is an imperfect correlation between genetic similarity and anatomical similarity (the most spectacular if not most relevant example being broccoli and brussels sprouts -- which are different varieties of the exact same species). My point is that over thousands of years, we've seen drastic changes in dog shape (and domestic cattle shape, etc.), but not changes in chromosome numbers. We know that the necessary mutations occur, but they seem to be rare; the number of changes needed to produce the differing number of chromosomes in dogs and foxes would seem to take much longer than several thousand years.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

According to Wiki, “A donkey has 62 chromosomes; the zebra has between 32 and 46 (depending on species). In spite of this difference, viable hybrids are possible.” I couldn't find a reference for a fox/dog hybrid but it would seem that a different number of chromosomes doesn't necessarily disqualify the possibility.

To the question of whether enough time has elapsed to allow for the differing number of chromosomes, I would answer that it obviously has because here we are.

God bless!!