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The Evolution of Species

By Les Sherlock


The creation/evolution debate is considerably hampered by the different meanings attached to the word evolution. In general, the creationist uses it in the sense of all living things descending from a common ancestor; i.e. the first living cell emerging in the primordial soup gradually developing into all the life forms we can now see around us. While the evolutionist would do the same, he may also use it to describe the kind of changes that can be observed due to natural selection and mutation, but alone could never produce a new kind of life-form.

Creationist and evolutionist alike accept that these kind of changes take place, which can sometime result in such genetic ‘drift’ that creatures previously able to breed together are now unable to do so. When this has taken place it is considered that they have become a different species. The evolutionist would take this as solid evidence that evolution of species is indeed fact, and given enough time can continue to produce enough difference to achieve what Darwin claimed.

While it is certainly the case that if one takes this kind of change to be evolution, then evolution has been observed. Furthermore, if the definition of species is creatures unable to breed together, then evolution of species has been observed. Is this enough, though?

In order to distinguish between different types of life forms, the system of biological classification has been developed. In this classification, several levels have been identified, with the tiny kind of differences just mentioned at the bottom, and huge differences of body type at the top. So we have: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species.

In the excellent book Explore Evolution,* explanations of these categories are given, with the bumble bee and polar bear as examples. So the bumble bee falls into the classification of Eukarya, Animalia, Arthropoda, Insecta, Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus and terricola; while the polar bear is Eukarya, Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae, Ursus and maritimus.

* This book gives a very balanced representation of the opposing views of the evolutionist and creationist. My one criticism is that because there is no mention of the young-Earth viewpoint, the alternative understanding of geological time and formations and the reason for fossils is completely ignored. Therefore the creationist case is incomplete.

While the above categories may be of great help to those working in the field, the Bible gives a much simpler definition. It says God created everything after its own kind. So for example, we can have a dog kind and a cat kind. Thus, while through natural selection we can find coyotes, wolves, hyenas, etc., and through artificial selection with careful breeding we can have literally hundreds of breeds of dog, the dog kind can never change into a cat kind. This is precisely what we see when we observe the living things around us.

So to give some kind of definition, we could say that a single kind is every species, past, present and future, that can trace its ancestry back to the same breeding pair* God created during the creation week.

* God only created one man and one woman, but we are not told if He created only one male and female of all the other living species or more than one. If it was more than one, then we are referring to all those capable of interbreeding at the time they were created.

The creationist case is that while minor differences may occur at the species level, the amount of change required to produce difference at the higher levels is such that it could never happen. For example, one could play a variety of different games with a pack of cards by varying the number in the hand and the use to which they are put (different Species), but they could never be used to play chess (different Kingdom, or Phylum, perhaps).

The diagrams below will hopefully demonstrate this. The evolutionist believes as a result of net increase in specified complexity, there has been an ever-increasing variety of life forms arising from a single ancestor: rather like the branches of a tree (lower diagram). The creationist believes as a result of a net decrease in specified complexity, there has been an increasing variety of life forming from many ancestors; like the roots of a forest of trees (upper diagram).

Many different kinds created by God

All species seen today

First organism in primordial soup

So the phrase, ‘evolution of species’ can have two different meanings. Darwin’s use of the phrase was in the sense of all species evolving from a common ancestor. On the other hand, the creationist would claim that the only kind of ‘evolution of species’, both possible and observed, is limited to comparatively minor change within the ‘kinds’ that God created: there is no example anywhere in the world, fossilised or living, of any type of change that can be seen to be changing one kind of life form into another.