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3rd International Conference on Creationism - report
Basic Types of life
by Siegfried Scherer

What are the concepts of creationism of which we are certain and sure: foundations that we can reliably rest upon in our defence and promote in strategic advance? One of the cardinal and most powerful tenets is undoubtedly the Genesis Kind. In the Bible (Genesis, Chapter 1), God created animals and plants after their own kind. The opinion among creationists today is that these kinds overall represent higher taxonomic groups such as the family, and that God created an inbuilt capacity for variation within a kind but not between kinds. What is new is the particularly exciting developments in this field of research by Siegfried Scherer and his colleagues. They employ the term Basic Type, coined by Frank Marsh some decades ago, to denote a Genesis Kind, and outlined their findings at the 3rd International Conference on Creationism at Pittsburgh.

An abundant literature of hybridisation data is in existence, particularly for the birds and mammals. At least 1 in 10 bird species is known to hybridise. So for a world total of 9672 bird species, 895 species have bred in the wild with at least 1 other species. As well as interspecific, intergeneric and even intertribal crosses have been found. To these can be added a great number of hybrids obtained in captivity. Scherer and colleagues have seized the opportunity to harness this data by constructing cross-breeding matrices, and in some cases have added supplementary criteria. In this way, 14 Basic Types of animals and plants have been demarcated which display hybridisation within the Types, but not between the Types and their nearest taxa. The Basic Types include, for example, the Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans), Equidae (horses and zebras), Cercopithecidae (old-world monkeys), Canidae (dogs, wolves and foxes), Maloideae (apples and relatives), Aspleniaceae (spleenwort ferns) and Triticeae (wheat, barley, oats and rye). Further details are in the table at the end. An overview of the Anatidae relationships is shown in the diagram below.

Tribes of the Anatidae connected by hybridation

Diagram showing tribes of the Anatidae connected by hybridation

During the European Creationist Congress in 1992, a number of us had a brainstorming session to evaluate the known criteria for demarcating the Genesis kinds and to search for the best way forward. One potential problem is that there are hierarchies of similarity, and it can be difficult to demarcate exactly where the discontinuity between kinds may lie. For example, using the morphology criterion, the sub-phylum vertebrata can be denoted, but no one would argue that this is a single Basic Type: each vertebrate class has its unique characteristics of form. But then does one identify Basic Type with the class, or order, family, genus, . . ? Scherer emphasised the objectivity of the hybridisation criterion. Basic Types will only be possible among organisms sharing similar embryological pathways, ie, having a common morphogenetic machinery. He commented: `A Basic Type determined by hybridisation will thus be open to empirical validation. If hybrids are known, membership is unequivocal.'

Scherer and colleagues have recently brought these ideas together into a publication, Typen des Lebens, which contains an overview, then a chapter focusing on each Basic Type. This is an important book. It may provide the most significant contribution yet offered in this decade to a creationist research programme.

Photograph of book cover 'Evolution ein kritisches lehrbuch'

Phylum  Class  Order  Basic Type (BT) 
Taxonomic level of BT 
Bryophyta  Muscae  Funariales  Funariaceae 
Pteridophyta  Filicatae  Aspidiales  Aspleniaceae 
Spermatophyta  Dicotyledoneae  Rosales  Maloideae  s-f 
  Monocotyledenea  Poales  Triticaceae 
Chordata  Aves  Anseriformes  Anatidae 
    Galliformes  Phasianidae 
    Falconiformes Cathartidae 
    Passeriformes  Estrildidae 
      Carduelinae  s-f 
  Mammalia  Carnivora  Canidae 
    Perissodactyla  Equidae 
    Primates  Cercopithecinae  s-f 

f= family; s-f = sub-family; t = tribe 
(modified from Scherer, 1993) 

Scherer, S. (ed). (1993). Typen Des Lebens. Pascal-Verlag, Berlin.

Sheena E.B. Tyler (1994)

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