Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 12 (September 1960): 4-8, 11, 13.
In the first chapter of Genesis we read that the basic types of plants and animals appeared upon our earth through an act of special fiat creation. These basic types are described as not only being formed each after its specific morphological pattern, but also with a reproductive mechanism which caused each type to produce new individuals like itself.
The briefness of this Genesis account of origins gives opportunity for the development of at least two schools of interpretation with regard to the degree of fixity in nature indicated by this terse record. During the Middle Ages, or medieval period of history, in round numbers from about A.D. 400 to A.D. 1400, the opinion prevailed among scientists that the statements of Genesis declared that in reproduction the new individuals of a kind were as like as pennies from a mint. The only institutions of learning of the Middle Ages were those controlled by the church, and in these centers of thought the deductive type of reasoning was used. With regard to origins, the general premise was always the assertion of extreme fixity said to be taught in Genesis. In certain theological centers this idea of extreme fixity even resisted the changes of the Renaissance and the shift to the inductive method of reasoning. And it was still taught as dogma to the students of theology at Cambridge when Charles Darwin was graduated from the Department of neology in that university in 1831.
At Cambridge, along with the idea of an extreme fixity which did not permit the development of new varieties since creation, Darwin was also taught that all modern forms of plants and animals had been created and set down in the very pattern of geographical distribution in which we find them today. These two bits of dogma were presented to the students in theology at Cambridge as the only possible teaching of Genesis on these points. Accoutered with these extreme views of special creation, Darwin went forth on his five-year circumnavigation of the globe as a sincere creationistic naturalist.
There is small wonder that as Darwin proceeded from region to region on that voyage and observed abundant concrete evidences that organisms had spread over the surface of the earth and had commonly varied somewhat as groups became more or less isolated from their relatives, he became more and more troubled in his mind over the fixity of the kinds which he had been told was the teaching of Genesis. He pondered the apparent head-on collision between what he had been told that Genesis said and what he could see was really happening. We wish that Charles
* A talk given at the Thirteenth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation at Ames, Iowa, August, 1958.
Darwin had studied Genesis for himself and seen the actual harmony between the Bible and nature. But he accepted the teaching of Genesis as extremists had interpreted it to him, and after battling with the problem for years after his return from his voyage, he finally reached a tragic decision. This decision was to refuse the idea of the fiat creation of basic types of organisms.
This decision was reached in the year 1844. At that time, in a letter written to his friend, the botanist Hooker, he said:
"I have read heaps of agricultural and horticultural books and have never ceased collecting facts. At last gleams of light have come, and 1 am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable." (See Erik Nordenskiold, The History of Biology, 1928, page 463.)
The second school of interpretation with regard to the degree of fixity within the kinds indicated by the statement of Genesis is based upon the opinion that the book of nature and the written Word shed light upon each other. Correctly interpreted these two sources -of truth do agree. They have the same Author. The Bible itself directs us to go to nature for confirmation of profound verities. In job 12:7-11 we read:
"But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."
Therefore, the members of this second school of interpretation go first to the Scriptures and learn that the statements of Genesis neither exclude the possibilities of variation within the kinds, nor do they assert that plants and animals were created in their present details and set down in the areas where we find them today. Then turning to nature these students find that Darwin was entirely correct in his observation of migration over the earth accompanied with variation. What Darwin failed to observe was that variation is not without bounds and is definitely limited in each case to the locus of its basic type or Genesis kind. All individuals of even abundantly variable forms, such as men and dogs, are unquestionably in every instance bona fide members of their respective basic types.
Because of his outstanding ability and because of his great contributions to the basic science of taxonomy, believers in special creation are always glad to recall that the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus, was a creationist. Interestingly it is not unusual even in our day to find people who are of the opinion that he was especially endowed by heaven in his ability to point out the created units or Genesis kinds among living forms. However, an endeavor to learn just what classification groups in nature were considered by Linnaeus to be the Genesis kinds is likely to end in some confusion because during his life he published at least two opinions on the extent of the basic created unit. During the most active period of his life we find in the various editions of his Systema Naturae the following assertion:
"We count as many species as have been created from the beginning; the individual creatures are reproduced from eggs, and each egg produces a progeny in all respects like the parents."
Linnaeus realized the difficulty of determining natural affinities and did, in my opinion, make many mistakes in his endeavor to distinguish the created kinds in nature. Illustrations of this would be his assignment of different species names to the American bison and the European bison, and to spring wheat and winter wheat.
In his later life, after a great deal of observation of the bordering of some species on one another, and particularly as a result of his own experiments in hybridization, he changed his opinion of the created unit. From his twelfth and last edition of Systema Naturae he omitted the statement, "No new species arise." Then in his Systema Vegetabilium, published in 1774, four years before his death, we read the following interesting opinion regarding the original created unit:
"Let us suppose that the Divine Being in the beginning progressed from the simpler to the complex; from few to many; similarly that He in the beginning of the plant kingdom created as many plants as there were natural orders. These plant orders He Himself, there from producing, mixed among themselves until from them originated those plants which today exist as genera.
"Nature then mixed up these plant genera among themselves through generations -of double origin (hybrids) and multiplied them into existing species, as many as possible (whereby the flower structures were not changed) excluding from the number of species the almost sterile hybrids, which are produced by the same mode of origin."
Because Linnaeus used a purely artificial system of classification and recognized only the four taxonomic categories, Class, Order, Genus, and Species, it is not easy from the above statement to secure a clear picture of what was his mature concept of the created unit. It may be helpful, in an effort to understand his mature opinion here, to select his order Gymnospermia as an example. Today our taxonomists use the name Gymnospermae for a class of plants made up of cycads, ginkgo, and conifers. However, Linnaeus' Gymnospermia consisted largely of mints and snapdragons.
Thus in Linnaeus' opinion God spoke into being parent forms of such groups as the mints and snapdragons and then by His own controlled hybridization developed among these, additional plant groups which Linnaeus called genera. Then as the centuries passed He built up the modern groups which we call biological species-groups which, to continue with our example, are illustrated by such plants as skullcap, catnip, motherwort, sage, horsemint, mullein, toadflax, and painted cup. It is possible that not all special creationists of today would be willing to agree that plants as varied as mullein and foxglove had evolved from a single created unit. However, we would stress the fact that we believe Linnaeus was certainly on the right track when he judged that any forms which would hybridize -had sprung from a common ancestor. This would be a limited form of change, but certainly not evolution of new basic types. Possibly it would be more accurate to designate such change as mere variation within the original basic units.I t is obvious from the wording in Genesis that the expression "after his kind," includes both morpho logical and physiological characteristics. That is to say, when the plants and animals appeared upon the earth the individuals of each basic type were distinctly different in the details of their form and structure from the individuals of all other basic types. With regard to their physiology we read in Genesis 1:12 that not only were the members of a basic type alike
Such is the letter of the written record. Should we conclude from this record that Genesis does teach the extreme fixity in nature which the creationists of the Middle Ages averred it did? The creationist of today believes that the Bible and nature are complementary, each helping to explain the other. Therefore, we turn to nature to discover the degree -of fixity indicated by Genesis. In speaking of this situation in nature, Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky, Professor of Zoology, Columbia University, says:
"Organic diversity is an observational fact more or less familiar to everyone.... If we assemble as many individuals living at a given time as we can, we notice at once that the observed variation does not form any kind of continuous distribution. Instead, a multitude of separate, discrete distributions are found. In other words, the living world is not a single array of individuals in which any two variants are conitected by unbroken series of intergrades, but an array of more or less distinctly separate arrays, intermediates between which are absent or at least rare." -Genetics and the Origin of Species, second edition, pp. 3, 4.
This discontinuity is one of the most familiar characteristics of the living world as we recognize men, horses, cows, dogs, and cats, and roses, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and water lilies. This same discontinuity is also one of the most striking features of the fossil world.
The explanation of this very real existence of gaps between the basic types of organisms is one of the great problems of the evolutionist. If all modern forms have evolved from one or a few primeval protoplasmic blobs, why should both the fossils and the living world present us with this striking discontinuity just as if the different kinds had originated as Genesis declares they did?
This problem was one of the topics in a series of letter discussions which I had with Dr. Dobzhansky a few years ago. Dr. Dobzhansky is today one of the leading American disciples of the theory of evolution. In our discussion I pressed him to give me just one instance in our living world where evolution of a new basic type was known to occur. His reply was as follows:
"When one says that evolution is established beyond reasonable doubt, one obviously does not mean that one can see evolution happen and reproduce it in a test tube, but this is the evidence which you escape by your device of saying that it is all change within a 'kind.' What you are after is evidently evidence for the thing which is called by this rather unfortunate term 'macroevolution,l Now, this is a process taking place in geological tirne, hence it as any other historical process (human or natural), can be proven or disproved only by inference from the available evidence."
Dobzbansky's admission of the impossibility to demonstrate the evolution of new basic types among living forms is typical of the testimony of all evolutionists who are really conversant with the pertinent facts. After having admitted that evolution cannot be demonstrated among living forms, Dobzhansky passed the burden of demonstration over to the paleontologists who, in his opinion, could demonstrate that evolution of new basic types had occurred during geological time. He referred me to the then new work of George Gaylord Simpson, famous paleontologist of the American Museum of Natural History. This book bad just come from the press under the title, Tempo and Mode in Evolution. Of this book, Dobzhansky remarked, "To me at least this is a most lucid explanation of paleontological evidence."
I secured a copy of Simpson's book and among much interesting material found the following assertions:
"On still higher levels, those of what is here called ,mega-evolution,' the inferences might still apply, but caution is enjoined, because here essentially continuous transitional sequences are not merely rare, but are virtually absent. These large discontinuities are less numerous, so that paleontological examples of their origin should also be less numerous; but their absence is so nearly universal that it can-not, offhand, be imputed entirely to chance and does require some attempt at special explanation, as has been felt by most paleontologists." Id., pp. 105, 106.
On this same point of gaps between the various types of fossil forms, D. Dwight Davis, Curator, Divison of Vertebrate Anatomy, Chicago Natural History Museum, says on pages 74 and 77 of Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution:
"The sudden emergence of major adaptive types, as seen in the abrupt appearance in the fossil record of families and orders, continued to give trouble. The phenomenon lay in the genetical no man's land beyond the limits of experimentation. A few paleontologists even today cling to the idea that these gaps will be closed by further collecting, i.e., that they are accidents of sampling; but most regard the observed discontinuity as real and have sought an explanation for them."
"But the facts of paleontology conform equally well with other interpretations that have been discredited by neobiological work, e.g., divine creation, etc., and paleontology by itself can neither prove nor refute such ideas."
We will agree with Dr. Davis that it is correct that divine creation of basic types cannot be demonstrated by the fossil record, but we cannot refrain from saying that the distinctness of the basic types in the fossil record witbthe absence of intergrading forms is completely in harmony with the creation of plants and animals after their kinds as portrayed in Genesis. The fossil record constitutes the only natural record we have of what occurred before the dawn of secular history. In the fight of the fossil record, the theory of evolution which asserts that all modern types have evolved gradually from one or more simple blobs of protoplasm requires more faith for its acceptance than does the theory of special creation which asserts that God created the basic types instantaneously in all their morphological differences. We hear every now and then of "the missing link." Actually among both fossil and living forms great chains of links are everywhere absent between the basic types.
Thus it is that by observation of the living world and of the natural record of the past we find that there is no disagreement between Genesis and nature. Organisms appear always to have existed and still do live in a discontinuous pattern. We return to the question which concerns the degree of fixity that is referred to in Genesis. Were new individuals as like one another and their parents as coins from the mint are alike and are identical to the die which stamped them? The creationistic schoolmen of the Middle Ages declared that such was the doctrine of Genesis.
A study of the fossil record reveals to us that groups of organisms have maintained their individuality all the way down to our time. Austin H. Clark of the United States National Museum refers to this fact in the following statement from pp. 100 and 101 of his book, The New Evolution: Zoogenesis:
"Strange as it may seem, the animals of the very earliest fauna of which our knowledge is sufficient to enable us to speak with confidence, the fauna of the Cambrian period, were singularly similar to the animals of the present day. In the Cambrian period crustaceans were crustaceans, echinoderms were echinoderms, arrow worms were arrow worms, and mollusks were mollusks just as unmistakably as they are now."
Here is the sort of fixity referred to in Genesis, and behold nature shows us that the fixity is that of group characters and not a fixity of all individual characters. Each individual bears the distinguishing marks of his kind but is not necessarily identical with other individuals of his kind. Dr. Clark refers to this fact in the following statement from p. 100 of his book:
"In the details of their structure these fossils are not necessarily like the crustaceans, starfishes, brachiopods, annelids, or other creatures living in the -present seas. Nevertheless, if they are sufficiently well preserved, we have no difficulty in recognizing at once the group to which each and every fossil animal belongs."
The testimony of living nature with regard to the extent of fixity indicated in Genesis is all about us in most intriguing forms. The processes of varia-tion furnish us with many interesting breeds of plants and animals. Individuals often vary considerably within some groups. We have over 500 varieties of the sweetly scented sweet pea and over two hundred breeds of dogs. One author (see Griffith Taylor in Environment and Race) has divided human beings into as many as 160 breeds. Evolutionists love to call our attention to all this variation that is going on and insist that here is evolution before our very eyes. We all observe that variation does occur, but evolutionists fail to perceive that after all that the process of variation can accomplish has been accomplished, we unquestionably still have sweet peas, dogs, and men. The sort of evolution that the theory of evolution requires is the natural development of -new.basic types. But every additional case of variation that is studied, be it among the fossils or living forms, merely brings additional evidence that there is a law in nature which declares that every organism can produce only individuals which are unquestionably of the same basic type as the parents.
The evolutionist makes a creator out of Father Time by affirming that if we will just allow enough duration then processes of variation will produce new basic types. The plea that time will do it is no more reasonable here than it would be should we invoke it in trying to lift ourselves. If we see a lad trying to lift himself by his bootstraps, we would be incorrect if we were to say to him, "Just keep trying long enough, sonny, and finally you will be able to do it!" Such a feat can never be accomplished because there is a law in nature which says that just as hard as you pull up just that hard you push down. In the same way time cannot accomplish the appearance of new basic types because there is no mechanism in existence which can accomplish changes of sufficient magnitude to produce one new basic type. Every additional case of variation studied adds one more bit of evidence further to clarify this principle.
Not infrequently the creationistic biologist is asked, "In our present system of classification of plants and animals is there any category which is an equivalent of the Genesis kind or created unit?" The answer to this question seems to be "No." At the time of creation the kinds of basic types were each created after a distinguishing pattern in form and structure, and they were able to produce other individuals like themselves. As we look into nature today we find that man, Homo sapiens, can cross with no other animal. So in his case the species is the created unit. In other instances we find that the dog, Canis familiaris, will cross with the gray wolf, Canis nubilis, and the horse, Equus caballus, will cross with the ass, Equus asinus. Here the genus is the created unit. Again the common goat, genus Capra, will cross with the common sheep, genus Ovis to the extent of producing fetuses which will live until just before the time for birth. A more successful generic hybrid is the case Of the genus Bibos which will cross with the Brahma cow, genus Bos, making the family the created unit. (See Mammalian Hybrids, 1954, by Annie F. Gray, published by Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Farnham Royal, Bucks, England.) Yet again the domestic hen, family Phasionidae, has been crossed with the turkey, family Meleagrididae. Thus the order becomes the created unit. (See Handbook of Biological Data, 1956. Edited by W. S. Spector. Published by Saunders. ) In the naming of plants we find the same lack of harmony with the Genesis kinds. Very commonly species of the same genus will cross, as the bur oak with the swamp white oak. Genera not infrequently cross, for example, rye with wheat, and field corn with Teosinte and gama grass. One of the most interesting crosses in plants probably is that of radish with cabbage, both representing genera of the mustard family. To my knowledge, among plants, members of two different families have not been crossed.If we accept the ability to hybridize as the principal characteristic of the groups within the Genesis kind, we apparently have no single category in our presentday taxonomic system which is equivalent to the Genesis kind. It was in the light of these facts that in 1941 1 suggested the new name baramin (Hebrew bara-created, min-kind) for the Genesis kind. (See F. L. Marsh, Evolution, Creation, and Science, p. 174.) This would be a physiological group into which all forms would be placed where even so much as true fertilization of the egg occurred. Even though the embryo might develop no farther than the earlier stages, its parents would still qualify as members of one basic type. This would give us the man baramin, the dog baramin, the horse baramin, the oak baramin, the maize baramin, and so on.
Deductively, the idea of the baramin springs from Genesis 1 :12 where we are told that plants not only were made after their kinds but also brought forth after their kinds. This reproductive isolation would depend largely upon the chemistry of the different protoplasms. If two protoplasms were compatible, then true fertilization would occur. Morphology arises from the chemistry of the hereditary determiners in the protoplasm. We may believe that fonns which could reproduce would be similar chemically and would be expected to be quite similar morphologically.
Inductively, in every known instance in living nature where true fertilization can occur, the parents are sufficiently similar morphologically to be oonsidered members of a single kind, such as the man kind, the dog kind, the cow kind, the oak kind, the corn kind, the apple kind, and so on.
It is sometimes objected that the baramin concept is weak in that many of the crosses obtained have occurred in captivity and probably would not take place in undisturbed nature. This objection indicates that I have failed to clarify the baramin in the mind of the objector. Actually animal psychology does not enter into the baramin concept. Rather it is a physiological, that is, chemical, test and still applies whether occurring naturally in the aisles of the forest or artificially in vitro in the laboratory. The essential assumption is that the chemistry of the members of the Genesis kind are identical enough to cause them to produce germ cells which will be compatible and able to unite in true fertilization. Artificial pollination and artificial insemination would be the best tools for the discovery of the limits of the baramin.
We realize that the processes of variation, namely mutation, recombination, and chromosomal aberrations, have been working in these basic types since creation and have produced physiological incompatibilities within the Genesis kinds so that ability to interbreed may not now exist among all members of the baramin. In such instances morphological characters will have to be used to determine membership; An illustration here would be the two groups of the fruit fly, Drosophila pseudoobscura, which were formerly called Race A and Race B of D. pseudoobscura. Because complete sterility was found between some members of Race B when placed with Race A, Dr. Dobzhansky assigned to Race B the new species name, D. persimilis. The individuals of D. pseudoobscura and D. persimilis appear identical in external characters but may be completely sterile when mated. In such cases the morphological similarity of adults is sufficient to show that they belong to the same baramin.
Sometimes the question is asked, "Is the modem biological species identical with the Genesis kind?" I would answer that such may occasionally be the case. An example would be the biological species man which is also a Genesis kind. To be true members of the same biological species the individuals must be fertile interse. If within a biological species a group arises whose members are sterile when mated with others of the group, a new biological species would have arisen. The fruit fly mentioned above illustrates such a case. D. persimilis would be a new biological species arising within the older biological species D. pseudoobscua. Obviously all biological species are not originally created units. The growing popularity of the biological species concept among evolutionists is evidenced by the fact that, except for one, all eight contributors to the book, The Species Problem, a symposium edited by Ernst Mayr and published late in 1957 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, accept the biological species and are rather enthusiastic about it. In recognizing the biological species as a natural unit, biologists are becoming less artificial in their classification and are making progress in the discovery of the Genesis kinds in nature.
Of course there are many forms in nature where the fertility test cannot be applied to determine either the biological species or the baramin. This situation would exist where new individuals are produced by such asexual processes as simple fission, budding, formation of spores, and even by the sexual process of hermaphroditism. The fertilization of their own eggs is quite common, in higher plants and in a few animals. However, in these forms it is clearly evident that each is following closely the law of Genesis which says that basic types bring forth after their kinds.
The scientist reads in Genesis of the fiat creation and instantaneous appearance in the beginning of basic types of plants and animals which were made and which reproduced according to a certain fixity. The book of nature, through its fossil record, and in the world of living things, reveals that an actual fixity has ever existed and still does exist among these forms. The fixity is not one which produces identical individuals, but rather is one which produces groups which enjoy considerable variation within their boundaries. These original groups demonstrate that they have no power to produce any new basic types. In this complete verification in nature of the assertions of Genesis, the Christian man of science receives added assurance that the Bible is indeed a book breathed by the God of Truth.