Anti-creationists often think that if they can demonstrate that new species can arise today they have proved particles-to-people evolution. "Genesis teaches the fixity of species," they say, "but look! Here is a case in which a new species has been seen to originate in modern times". The reaction of informed creationists to such evidence is usually a great surprise to them. Not only do we affirm that new species can and have arisen, but in fact the recent-creation view of earth history depends upon it! This may seem puzzling, even shocking, to some readers so allow me to explain further.
First, let us take a brief look at what the Bible says. Genesis does not propose the fixity of species; it teaches that the animals and plants reproduce "after their kind". There are no biblical reasons to equate the phrase "kind" (Hebrew: min ) with the modern concept of "species". I would go further and say that there are strong biblical and scientific reasons to distinguish the two concepts. The evidence in support of speciation (the development of new species) within the created kinds is very powerful and the Bible does not preclude it. Informed creationists - especially the biologists - readily acknowledge this. To document this fact, allow me to quote a few of them:
"Anti-creationists commonly raise doubts if new species and genera could arise in only the few thousand years since the Flood. In doing so, they only display their ignorance of both creationist and evolutionist research along these lines. In fact, the release of single pairs and seven pairs of animals [from the Ark] must have facilitated the rapid origin of new species and genera" (Woodmorappe, 1996, p.7, see also pp.180-182).
Dr Lane Lester, Creation Research Society
"The processes of recombination and natural selection in new environments in many instances caused the members of the same baramin [created kind] to divide into separate races and species" (Lester, 1996).
Dr Carl Wieland, Answers in Genesis
"It is clear from such examples [he gives an example in gulls] that species are not fixed and unchanging, and that two apparently different species may in fact be genetically related…The formation of new species actually fits the creation model very comfortably" (Wieland, 1994, pp.10,11).
"Poorly-informed anti-creationist scoffers occasionally think they will 'floor' creation apologists with examples of 'new species forming' in nature. They are often surprised at the reaction they get from the better-informed creationists, namely that the creation model depends heavily on speciation" (Wieland, 1997, p.135).
Dr Don Batten, Answers in Genesis
"New 'species' can and have formed, if by definition we mean something which cannot breed with other species of the same genus, but this is not evidence for evolution" (Batten, 1996, p.22).
Dr Leonard Brand, Geoscience Research Institute
"Genesis does not seem to have anything to say against microevolution and, perhaps, even some macroevolution, at least to the development of new genera" (Brand, 1997, p.125).
I have reproduced these quotations to demonstrate that speciation is not disputed within the ranks of creationist biologists. In fact, it would probably be difficult to find a PhD creationist biologist who does not believe that one species can change into another.
Furthermore, there are numerous documented examples in the published literature where new invertebrate or vertebrate subspecies, species, and genera have originated in modern times. The same is true for plants. In fact, several of these speciation events occurred in remarkably short time spans (years or decades). Many examples have been collected by both creationists (Brand and Gibson, 1993, p.72; Jones, 1982; Lester and Bohlin, 1989, pp.123-125; Woodmorappe, 1996, pp.180-182) and evolutionists (Boxhorn, 1995; Briggs, 1974, pp.442-443). Here is a selection (though check out the references above for many more):
" Green monkeys (Ashton, Flinn, and Griffiths, 1979)
" Myna birds (Baker, 1987)
" Mice (Berry, 1992)
" Snails (Dodson and Dodson, 1976)
" Copepods (Johnson, 1953)
" House sparrows (Johnston and Selander, 1964)
" Cichlid fish (Kornfield, 1978; Owen et al, 1990)
" Tropical birds (Moreau, 1966)
" Beetles (Nagel, 1986)
" Moths (Zimmerman, 1960)
At this point, you may be asking yourself, "How exactly does one species change into another?" A creationist book that is helpful in this respect is Brand (1997), especially his sections 'Microevolution and speciation' (chapter 8) and 'An interventionist theory of natural selection and biological change within limits' (chapter 12). Also, any major textbook covering evolutionary mechanisms would be useful background reading (e.g., Dowdeswell, 1984). There are two main mechanisms by which new species may be formed. The more usual situation is when isolation due to a physical or geographical barrier of some kind prevents further breeding (allopatric speciation). A rarer possibility involves no ecological barrier, only the localised action of strong selective forces on particular variants, resulting in a discontinuous pattern of distribution (sympatric speciation). Brand points out that post-flood conditions would be especially favourable for rapid speciation because:
- there would be an abundance of potential unoccupied niches to which organisms could adapt; and
- rapid geological and environmental changes would favour the separation of organisms into isolated populations, facilitating speciation.
However, I conclude with one crucial point, and it is a point that is fatal to the anti-creationist case. The type of biological change we see occurring today (which often leads to the development of new species) results from a loss of genetic information or the recombination or selective expression of genetic information already present within the created kinds. It does not occur by the addition of functional genetic information and does not result in one biblical kind changing into another. That is why Richard Dawkins was stumped when asked in an interview ( From a frog to a prince , 1998; Truman, 1999) to give an example of a mutation that added functional genetic information, and why new species originating today provide no evidence at all for particles-to-people evolution.
(This article first appeared in Origins (the journal of the Biblical Creation Society), No. 28, pp.19-20, 2000).
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Baker, A.J. 1987. Rapid genetic differentiation and founder effect in colonizing populations of common mynas (Acridotheres tristis). Evolution 41 :525-538.
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Boxhorn, J. 1995. Observed instances of speciation .
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