Posted by: paulgarner | October 16, 2009

Young earth creationism ≠ species fixity!

Last night I attended a meeting at St Mary’s Church in Ely addressed by Dr Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. Readers of this blog may know Denis as the author of Creation or Evolution: Do we Have to Choose? published by Monarch in 2008.

Denis’ lecture basically summarised the thesis of his book, namely that the biblical account of creation and the evolutionary explanation of origins are complementary, rather than competing, narratives. He appealed to his audience to accept both the evolutionary and theological narratives and seek models for understanding how they relate to one another.

Of course, I disagree with Denis about the compatibility of evolution (in the sense of universal common ancestry) with the biblical record of creation. If you want to explore the reasons why, the theological arguments outlined by my BCM colleague, Steve Lloyd, in the recently published book Debating Darwin: Is Darwinism True & Does it Matter? (Paternoster, 2009) are a good place to begin. Steve shows that the debate is not merely over the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis but the coherence of the historic Christian understanding of core doctrines such as the cross and resurrection. The arguments in Steve’s carefully reasoned chapter are very pertinent as we try to evaluate the theistic evolutionary thesis presented by Denis.

However, what stood out for me last night was the description Denis gave of young earth creationism. According to Denis, young earth creationists believe that the creation occurred less than 10,000 years ago (so far, so good), that every species was separately and independently created by God (no!), and that Genesis should be read as a scientific text (again, no!). It needs stating very clearly that young earth creationism is not, and never has been, synonymous with belief in species fixity. Earlier this year, at the Genesis Kinds Conference, I presented an historical survey of scholarly Christian views on the origin of species from the seventeenth century to the present day. Far from unanimously asserting that species are fixed and immutable, many creationists, both before and after Darwin, rejected fixity and embraced the idea of biological change within broad limits. Today, acceptance of species change within broad limits is integral to creationist thinking in the biological sciences. And as for young earth creationists reading Genesis as a scientific text, that isn’t how we see it all. We read it as an historical text with implications for how we reconstruct earth history, perhaps, but not as a scientific text. That would be anachronistic and very silly.

I did have the opportunity to point these things out during the question time, and Denis was very gracious in acknowledging that what he had said was mistaken and that he’d seek to be more careful in future. Afterwards I wondered how Denis could have got it so wrong in the first place. Perhaps as young earth creationists we haven’t been as careful as we ought to have been in setting out our own position. Perhaps naïve claims made by the less well informed have been taken as representative of young earth creationism as a whole? But the main lesson I think we should draw from this is that all of us bear some responsibility for making sure that we represent the views of others fairly and accurately – and let me be clear that that applies as much to creationists making claims about evolutionists as it does to evolutionists making claims about creationists. Perhaps some of the ‘sting’ might even be taken out of our discussions if we all sought to raise our game in this respect.

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Responses

  1. I’ve got to call “bull” on your statement that YEC people don’t view Genesis, and indeed much of the entire Bible, as a scientific description.

    There are hundreds of examples of how verses are mined for scientific details. The whole vapor canopy is one example. I realize AiG doesn’t support that theory ANY MORE but it certainly used to, and it got it by looking at a couple of verses as a scientific text.

    Ditto for Humphrey’s entire book, Starlight and Time. “Waters of the deep”, “heavens spread like a tent”, “heavens rolled up like a scroll”, “waters above … waters below”, etc.

    And then there is the entire matter of describing the physics of how the Creation happened; plants being before the Sun; light and dark being separated before the Earth, Sun, anything else existed; stars, Moon, and Sun created at same time days after the Earth, etc, etc, etc.

    Or, looking later than the Creation, AiG puts Joseph into the 12th dynasty of Egypt (after wildly re-dating the time of the 12th dynasty), and says Moses was born before its end – all based on “scientific” calculations of generations coupled with their own archeology ideas. (just as an aside – AiG says the 12th dynasty lasted for around 200 years, which obviously conflicts with Paul’s statement of 430 years of bondage)

    How is all that not looking at Genesis as a scientific text?

    And as to the species fixity, ICR and others have only recently (as in 10-20 years) moved away from that position. Up until then, the position was that God created one of each “species” (and preserved two of each on the Ark) and they diversified into the variety we see _within_ the species today. (I still have the old AiG books.) It has only been the last 10-20 years that the field of baraminology has started to be widely talked about in Creationist circles, and it is still the minority view among Creationists outside of the ICR, AiG sorts of groups.

    I see you represent those views as “naïve claims made by the less well informed”, but those claims were promoted by AiG until fairly recently.

    Denis might be out of date for PART of the Creationist movement when he says they are species-fixity oriented, but it is only for part and it is only being “out of date”, not completely wrong.

    • On species fixity, I think I’ll simply refer you to my paper in the proceedings of the Genesis Kinds conference and also the edited compilation of source material on which my paper was based. I don’t deny that some creationists have held to species fixity, but historically speaking it is quite incorrect to identify young age creationism exclusively, or even predominantly, with that view. Creationist biologists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have, almost without exception, rejected species fixity and embraced species change within wide limits. My review establishes a long historical pedigree for their ideas.

      As for the other matter, creationists do, of course, find inspiration for their scientific ideas in the factual details and historical and theological insights provided by the biblical text. But that is quite different to saying that creationists read the Bible as though it were itself a scientific textbook. Rather, we seek to apply the historical-grammatical hermeneutic accepted by mainstream evangelical scholars, and it is in that context that our exegetical claims must be evaluated.

  2. This seems to be a pattern, I think you’re missing my point.

    NOW species fixity is being rejected by parts of the Creationist movement, but 20 years ago species fixity was firmly promoted by the Creationist movement. I still have my old AiG books that talk about how God created all the species and we’ve just gotten variation within species now.

    Creationist biologists may have rejected species fixity for many decades, but the Creationists MOVEMENT certainly promoted it, and still does quite widely.

    Like I said, Denis is out-of-date in his statements about species fixity for (a significant) PART of the Creationist MOVEMENT. That’s not nearly the same as being generally incorrect with that statement.

    For reading the Bible as scientific text:
    You can say it is “historical-grammatical hermeneutic” if you want, but when someone takes poetry (Isaiah 40) and pulls out just part of a particular verse as a scientific description leaving everything else around it as poetry … yeah, that’s called reading the Bible as a scientific text.

    • I see you want to draw a distinction between creationist biologists and the wider creationist movement, which I suppose includes everyone who self-identifies as a creationist. But if you wanted to understand what is being proposed by evolutionary theory, would you ask an evolutionary biologist or Fred down the pub who thinks it’s about monkeys turning into people? Likewise, to understand what young earth creationism really entails concerning the nature of species, go to the biologists. My survey shows that most of the significant figures in the development of creationist biology (e.g. Whitney, Dewar, Clark, Marsh) rejected fixity. Others (e.g. Nelson) said they believed in species fixity while re-defining ‘species’ to include entire families. In fact, there has never been a consensus on fixity among special creationists, so trying to make the two things synonymous is simply incorrect. Just take a look at the range of views represented in my historical survey.

      • Paul, I’m a bit surprised at your depiction of AiG. Comparing them to “Fred down at the pub” is a bit surprising. I’m talking about the not-long-past views of AiG, and you describe arguing against those views as arguing against the views of “Fred down at the pub”.

        I agree with you that asking some random person about a topic has almost no correspondence to to the actual facts of that topic, especially a fairly technical, scientific topic. If I were talking about random people off the street, you would have a point, but I’m not.

        AiG is, hands down, the biggest organization promoting YEC and they put out thousands of articles discussing it and hundreds of seminars promoting it.

        And yet, they certainly used to promote species fixity. Talking to a “Fred” at the pub would certainly be a useless way to deal with arguments about a YEC. If that were what Denis was doing, he should rightly be chided and corrected.

        But that’s not what he was doing – he was talking about the fairly recent views of the largest YEC group in the world. You compare AiG with “Fred down at the pub”, and that may or may not be accurate, but if it is, it’s hardly Denis’ fault for answering their views, they are after all the biggest organization of their type in the world. If you’re wrong, and AiG is actually a reputable scientific source, then so much more the reason Denis had to discuss their past views, especially since so much of the public seems to have missed the memo that AiG has changed its stance.

  3. WebMonk claims:

    “And as to the species fixity, ICR and others have only recently (as in 10-20 years) moved away from that position. Up until then, the position was that God created one of each “species” (and preserved two of each on the Ark) and they diversified into the variety we see _within_ the species today. (I still have the old AiG books.) It has only been the last 10-20 years that the field of baraminology has started to be widely talked about in Creationist circles, and it is still the minority view among Creationists outside of the ICR, AiG sorts of groups.”

    I’m not sure what ‘books’ by AiG, or ICR, you’re talking about. Can you be more specific? How about an actual reference or two? (I daresay you don’t have near the collection of ICR/AiG material I have…)

    Frankly, I wouldn’t even go so far as Paul in suggesting the idea of “fixity of species” comes from the wider creationist movement as opposed to creationists with training in biology.

    Two examples:

    Theodore Graebner in his book, “Evolution: An Investigation and a Criticism” (1921 & later editions) has a chapter on fixity of species. He clearly recognizes variation, citing dogs, fowl, and plants as examples of variation among species.

    Alexander Patterson in “The Other Side of Evolution” (3rd ed. 1912) also recognizes changes in such organisms as roses, tomatoes, pigeons, and dogs. He certainly accepted an early form of barminology.

    Both of these creationists (and others) wrote before Marsh, Clark, Dewar (before he started writing on evolution later in life), and Whitney.

    I expect that you are honestly confused and not reading creation literature very careful. Many of the early writings against evolution focused on Darwin’s claim that one species evolved out of another. Frankly, I can understand your confusion. Graebner talks about the “fixity of species” as a constraint upon Darwin and evolution, not as a limit or problem with the meaning of a Genesis kind.

    So, even at the turn of the last century, we have creation writers acknowledging variation in nature/organism. Absolutely nothing about God creating each individual kind or species. You’re going to have to go back further to find any substantive proof of your claims.

    It’s only been with increased knowledge of genetics that creationists have made a more forceful and elegant argument.

    CP

  4. WebMonk, I was using “Fred down the pub” as a proxy for the wider “movement”, not AiG specifically. Like CP, I was also wondering what specific books from AiG and ICR you had in mind?

  5. One thing to realize is that lay people speak with a different vocabulary than scientists. Thus, both materials from lay people and material directed to lay people often appropriate terms used in their lay sense rather than their technical sense. For example, with species, a lay person who is a creationist generally uses the word “species” as a proxy for “baramin”, because they are unfamiliar with both the word “baramin” and the exact meaning of “species”.

    Likewise, the phrase “monkeys turning into humans” is a proxy used by lay people to signify any ape-like creature that gave rise to humans.

    My work often sits on the edge between technical and lay people, so I am always having to interpret. Lay people appropriate words as best they can, but to think that their definitions must match the technical definition of terms is simply foolish. I’ve learned that a lot can be learned from lay people when you stop holding them to a standard of language that you would use for professionals. Many have great insights, and you simply have to be gracious in your listening to understand it.

    I think that is the reason why many think Creationism is equivalent to species-fixity — they are listening to lay language and thinking that the terms used by lay people are supposed to exactly correspond to technical definitions, rather than being a proxy for a more general idea.

    • I think you have a point. I’ve spoken to lay people who tell me that they reject the idea that new species have arisen since creation. But then you question them a bit more closely, and they happily admit to thinking that lions, tigers, pumas, lynxes and domestic cats all had a common ancestor – they just want to redefine the Felidae as “one species”! That’s kind of frustrating, and may partly account for why creationism is often viewed by outsiders as a belief in fixity. But you know what I find even more frustrating? It’s people who ought to know better, such as Denis Alexander, who perpetuate this myth instead of making the effort to actually understand creationism based on a careful reading of the literature.

  6. Well, I can’t find the book I am recalling, it was a big AiG book that came with some VHS tapes and I thought it guessed around 10-15K species on the Ark. The closest I can find online is a guess of 8000 species on the Ark, which have evolved over the years to our current 25-30K species of birds and land animals.

    That’s about a 1:3.5 ratio of Ark “species” to modern species, and like Bartlett and Garner mention above, that’s within spitting distance of ‘species fixity’.

    If I understand the baramin theories properly, there would be less than 2000 “species”/baramins represented on the Ark. Quite a difference! Especially when considering that the hundreds of dinosaur baramins died, so the remaining baramins (less than 1500?) spread out into the current 25-30K species. That’s a 1:16 or a 1:20 ratio – most definitely NOT species fixity.

    Each pair only splitting into 3 to 4 different species (on average) is pretty darned close to species fixity. If I am remembering the book I’m thinking about properly, then the Ark was purported to hold 10-15K “species”, that’s only a 1:2 ratio, which is even closer to species fixity.

    While AiG may not claim species fixity, they promote what is something that is darned near the same thing.

    Respectable scientists have long since rejected species fixity and close approximations thereof, but AiG still hasn’t received the memo.

    Added:
    Oh, so my point is, that while AiG promotes something that is species fixity in all but name (and other YEC organizations support it in name, too), one can hardly blame Denis for ascribing that view to them.

    As Bartlett mentions, there is a lot of confusion in the general public about the meaning and use of ‘species’. Understandable. It’s when AiG and the other YEC organizations start screwing up the use of ‘species’ that things start getting a lot less understandable.

    • The book that you can’t find sounds like John Woodmorappe’s ‘Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study’ which was originally published by ICR in 1996. In that book, Woodmorappe explicitly says that the created kind is broader than the species (p.5), and suggests that it’s approximately equivalent to the taxonomic rank of family (pp.6-7), at least in the mammals and birds (p.7). That would necessitate about 2,000 animals on the ark (p.7). However, in order to make his ‘crowded-ark problem’ more challenging, Woodmorappe adopts for the sake of argument the genus as the taxonomic rank of the created kind, thus necessitating almost 16,000 animals on the ark (p.7). How this is supposed to support the claim that YEC=belief in species fixity is, I’m afraid, beyond me.

      P.S. I hope you don’t mind me pasting your last two posts into one.

  7. The book I’m thinking of was back when I was in high school in the early ’90s and even then we got it used. I have asked my brother (who’s visiting my parents at the moment) to look around to see if I left it behind or something, since I can’t find it on my shelves. It was a book that covered everything from radiometric dating to the flood to some pretty weird speculations on ancient advanced technology, and came with a series of a dozen or so VHS tapes.

    Regardless, the articles on the AiG website, articles in “Answers”, articles on ICR website, Acts&Facts, etc. all speak of 8000 species (~16000 animals). I’ve never heard that number being described as put forward “only for argument’s sake”. I read through Woodmorappe’s book years ago, and I don’t remember a 1000 number being mentioned in it, but then it was years ago. I borrowed the book back then, but I’ll try to borrow it again from someone to see what it said.

    If he did actually put forward 1000 kinds as the likely number on the Ark, then everyone needs to get the memo to shift from 8000, because that’s the only number I can find anywhere, including articles written by Woodmorappe since then.

    Like I said, 8000 kinds is really close to being just another name for modern species, which indicates something that is just about the same as ‘species fixity’.

    Promoting something that is _almost_ species fixity, and then scolding Denis for saying creationists believe in species fixity is splitting some very, very thin hairs.

    • Here are a few direct statements from Woodmorappe (1996):

      “Despite years of work by creationists demonstrating that the created kind must be broader than the species, anti-creationists (e.g. Moore, 1983) perpetuate the old objection about the Ark being grossly overcrowded with every species of animal.” (p.5)

      “For instance, there is a wealth of evidence that, at minimum, the created kind is broader than the species of conventional taxonomy (see below).” (p.6)

      “If, as the preponderance of evidence (Jones 1972b; Scherer, 1993) shows, the created kind was equivalent to the family (at least in the case of mammals and birds), then there were only about 2,000 animals on the Ark (Jones 1973) … However, in order to make this exercise more interesting, I have deliberately made the problem of animal housing on the Ark more difficult by adopting the genus as the taxonomic rank of the created kind.” (p.7)

      Woodmorappe is clearly not advocating species fixity and, even if he were, that wouldn’t prove that fixity is, or ever has been, a characteristic of young-age creationism in general. In my historical survey, I found no such consensus.

  8. One of the interesting things that Todd Wood figured out is that the diversity within ark-based kinds is _much_ more limited than non-ark-based kinds. This is probably because of the amount of time they’ve had to diversify.

    • This sounds cool; do you have a link to the paper or article? I haven’t been able to find everything of Dr. Wood’s but just about everything of his that I’ve found, I’ve loved.

  9. Thank you for the quotes Paul, that clears up what has been said in that book.

    However, the point remains – the message that has been presented everywhere else except for that passage has been one that is essentially the same as species fixity. Sure, they avoid the name, but in practice it is the next best thing to species fixity. In the book, he uses 1000 kinds in that one instance, but everywhere else in all the publications produced, the number promoted is 8000 kinds, which is essentially the same as species fixity.

    Every bit of publication (outside a single article I’ve found by Dr. Wood) that is produced by AiG and ICR uses the 8000 kinds which is the next best thing to species fixity. (and I still think they used to promote a higher number, though I can’t find that #%$@! book)

    If “in-all-but-name species fixity” is the message being propagated, it is splitting a vanishingly thin hair to object when someone ascribes the stance of “species fixity” to the broader creationist movement.

    • I give up. Anyone else want to try?

      • As someone who is an avid bird watcher (along with my wife) I can attest to how confusing this all becomes when there’s talk about what is a species! In the past 20 years since we’ve been birders, we seen guide books go back and forth on the classification of several birds!

        Apparently WebMonk is unwilling to recognize, or knows about, ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’ in the science community. In the past few decades the ‘splitters’ have come to dominate classification, while creationists (but not all) tend to being ‘lumpers.’

        I see that Todd Wood has waded in on this discussion via his blog. Unfortunately, I see him as making the same mistake of interpretation as WebMonk when it comes to claiming modern creationists believe in fixity of species.

        Todd pulls these quotes of context. If not, then how does one explain that these authors definitely believe in variation? Are we talking about degrees of variation? Some creationists believing in more variation within a species/kind, while others less variation? In a sense, we are back to the old ‘lumpers’ vs ‘splitters’ camps, but now in the creationist community.

    • Let’s take a look at a book that is _critical_ of creationism – “Scientists Confront Creationism”, which was published in 1984. On page 208, one of the _critics_ of creationism says, “Creationists allow ‘created kinds’ to encompass lots of variability; entire genera, tribes, or even taxa of higher rank may represent ‘created kinds’.”

      So, if variability is brand new, someone forgot to tell our critics in 1984. That’s 12 years before Woodmorappe’s book. Also, the critic didn’t seem to think it was a small number of creationists that held this, but rather that it was the standard position, and had been so for some time (he cited Marsh’s book from the 1970s).

      • Am I missing something? Is 8000 kinds expanding out to less than 30000 species not essentially the same thing as species fixity, regardless of what level the kind is stated to cover?

        Whether the kinds are stated to cover genera, families, or orders, the basic message has been that there were almost as many “kinds” as there are species today.

        While it avoids the precise definition of “species fixity”, it seems to look almost identical. Each “kind” on the Ark only expanding into three or four modern species, sounds like the “kind” is pretty darned close to a species.

        Everyone says “No, no, it’s different than species,” but in practical purposes, the “kinds” look a lot like species. What am I missing?

        • WebMonk: “Whether the kinds are stated to cover genera, families, or orders, the basic message has been that there were almost as many “kinds” as there are species today.”

          You are kidding, right? So if a creationist thought that cats, dogs, civets, hyaenas, bears, weasels, skunks, seals, and every other Carnivoran was descended from a common ancestor, you’d still think it was legitimate to describe that as “species fixity”?

          • No, of course not. But, that’s not what the message from the Creationist organizations like AiG and ICR has been.

            Their message has been that each one of the kinds on the Ark has diversified just a little bit – on average each kind has only split into 3 to 4 different species. 8000 kinds into less than 30000 modern species.

            That is pretty darned close to species fixity.

            • Well, as I explained earlier, the 8,000 figure comes from Woodmorappe who deliberately exaggerated the number of ark kinds for a debating point. But even if on average each kind only split into three or four species, that’s not fixity – is it?

              • I think I mentioned this already – if 8000 isn’t the number that should be used, then someone needs to pass a memo around! That is the ONLY number I can find anywhere in YEC publications except for one web article by Dr. Wood where it is mentioned in passing.

                You are correct in that 8000 to 30000 TECHNICALLY avoids the definition of “species fixity”. What you seem to be ignoring though, is that 8000 to 30000 is functionally almost the same as species fixity.

                Criticizing Denis for attributing the position of ‘species fixity’ to YEC groups is only valid in the strictest dictionary sense. Sure, AiG et al haven’t supported species fixity, they have just supported something that is almost identical.

                • Okay folks, I’m off to look up the word “exasperated” in the dictionary.

                  • You’re not the only one.

                    Is 8000 to 30000 not FUNCTIONALLY almost the same as species fixity?

                    Is the 8000 number not what AiG et al have continually propagated?

                    If both of those are true, then it is merely splitting hairs over whether or not AiG hold to species fixity. If those are true, then AiG can deny the name of species fixity, but it doesn’t change the fact that they hold to the substance of species fixity.

                    What am I saying that is so obtuse?

                    • Well, you’ve yet to demonstrate the validity of either of your above contentions (e.g. by citing anyone). Besides, you seem very fixated on what AiG say, but creationism does not equal AiG any more than it equals species fixity.

                    • “Is 8000 to 30000 not FUNCTIONALLY almost the same as species fixity?”

                      I think not, although it’s possible that we just disagree on semantics.

                      What I remember from school biology (probably GSCE, but wikipedia seems to pretty much agree), is that species is roughly understood as ‘two organisms of different species cannot produce fertile offspring. I hear there are plenty of exceptions (especially plant ones), but it’s good enough.

                      So the transition from ‘same species’ to ‘different species’ is conceptually quite a jump, and even if there is not much species diversification (eg every one kind produces four species) it’s still functionally a very different thing to have fixed species.

                      Interestingly, in Journal of Creation 20(3), there is an articles about trying to find species that are in the sheep-goat kind, and they see if they can produce a hybrid embryo (which then dies during development) as their method of testing. The transition from ‘can fertilise eggs’ to can’t is also quite a jump in my head (although ram+doe is fertile and buck+ewe isn’t, according to the article), but I wouldn’t call it practically species fixity.

                    • (this came out longer than I intended, don’t feel like you have to reply to it, since I ramble all over the place)

                      PhiJ, yes and no. Species is a bit slippery, as you’ve alluded to, but the tag of ‘species fixity’ is in comparison to what is currently being suggested by the more recent Creationist theories.

                      Currently, the theories being put forward are that in somewhere around 2000 years, less than 1000 kinds multiplied into the current approximation of 30,000 species. A ratio of 30:1. Especially if you follow Dr. Wood’s articles, he stresses the mutability of genetics to form new species, and discusses the incredibly rapid changes that must split one pair of animals into over 30 distinct species in something like 2000 years. (Flood around 2300 BC, and most species seem to be evident since Greek/Roman times, or earlier.)

                      Compared to that, each kind only splitting into 3 or 4 species, while still an incredibly rapid rate by standard evolutionary views, is virtually standing still compared to the current theories in the modern YEC scientific theories.

                      Especially considering that after the Flood, the entire world was available with new and wildly differing environmental niches and plenty of room with little competition for new species to separate and split. With all that, combined with the theories recently promoted by Dr. Wood and others which suggest 30:1 rates, 4:1 is an extremely limited level of diversification, not significantly separated from species fixity.

                      If it were a series of scientific papers and debates being had among scientists, then Denis would have needed to be very precise and address strictly the current ideas in YEC biology circles. But, when he is speaking to (or writing to) public audiences who generally hold to ‘species fixity’ (meant in the 4:1 sort of idea – very tightly limited change, not zero change), it’s hard to blame him for addressing the views of the vast majority of rank-and-file creationists.

                      Interestingly, I’ve asked some of my friends at church (who don’t know I’m not a YEC because if they did I’d be kicked out) to see if they had a copy of the book by Woodmorappe, it generated a couple side discussions in which each person stated very vehemently that 8000 was the smallest number of kinds likely to be on the Ark, and that you couldn’t have less than that and still have all the species we have today. When I mentioned current estimates of 1000 kinds, one guy suggested that a theory like that was a ‘fringe theory’ by someone who didn’t understand how large the Ark was.

                      That isn’t to prove what “Creationists truly believe”, since I am very firmly of the opinion that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

                      However, I suspect in this case that sort of view really is the commonly held view, since I’ve seen that general view in every YEC speech advocate I’ve run across outside the Internet. All four families I asked are all avid/rabid YEC and devour their subscriptions to Answers and Acts&Facts, regularly send me links from the AiG and ICR websites, and organize trips to the Creation Museum and any speakers that come to the area.

                      When someone addresses them (Denis, in this case), he has to deal with what the commonly held view is. Ask Denis’ audience if they hold to “species fixity”, and they’ll say yes, even though they probably don’t mean it in the strictly dictionary sense. By all means, Denis should be enlightened to the more recent scientific views, but his mistake is hardly an issue of great fault since he is addressing the widespread views of the vast majority of his audience.

                    • I think you’ve made the case quite clear that YECs (at least above the lay level) have never held, as a group, to species fixity, though in the past the postulated rate of diversification, while still being faster than evolutionists would say, was a lot less than the rate postulated today.

                      As to Denis, I have never bothered with him, so I can’t speak directly to him. If he was simply using lay terminology, using “species” as a proxy for “kind”, then, while I would hope that as an educator he would raise the standard of discussion, I certainly understand the point. However, if he uses counter-examples to “species fixity” something that an academic creationist would find still within the classification of “kinds”, then he is being disingenuous.

                    • Yes, it’s pretty clear from the literature that special creationism, even of the young earth variety, has never been synonymous with species fixity, despite the protestations of WebMonk.

                      I also think there’s little doubt that Denis is giving people the impression that species fixity is the creationist position. Consider, for example, his assertion that creationists believe “that each species was created by God separately” from his book, Beyond Belief, co-authored with Bob White and published by Lion (p.108). In the same chapter, he goes on to give examples of speciation, such as in Drosophila or cichlid fishes, as though those examples were sufficient to refute the creationist position.

                      I really don’t think that Denis is using “fixity” as a proxy for “only a few species from each ancestor” as WebMonk has suggested. Rather, I think Denis is using “fixity” in its usually accepted sense and leading people to think that this is what characterises creationism. He’s simply wrong on that, and I reiterate what I said in my original post: we should all make better efforts to fairly represent one another and avoid trading in caricatures.

  10. “That is the ONLY number I can find anywhere in YEC publications”

    But you haven’t mentioned _any_ YEC publications you have found it in!!!! Paul actually had to find it for you, and it turned out you had misread it.

    So please, link us to these publications!

    And please explain what the difference is between being “functionally almost the same as species fixity” and not. It seems you’ve latched onto this argument and can’t let it go. Why is that?

  11. AiG happens to be the 800 lb gorilla on the block, and they’re pretty tightly tied with ICR, so I sort of put them as the presentation of YEC.

    As for statements about 16000 animals, theoretically that shouldn’t exist, right? Since clearly 2000 animals (1000 kinds) is the official message? Uh, huh.

    Do a quick Google search for “16000 animals on the Ark site:answersingenesis.org”

    My favorite result – the advertisement for Woodmorappe’s book: http://www.answersingenesis.org/PublicStore/product/Noahs-Ark-A-Feasibility-Study,4605,354.aspx

    There are lots and lots of other results too:
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2/4351news7-26-2000.asp
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v27/i3/day.asp
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/feedback/2006/0908.asp

    and many, many more.

    Just for giggles, I did a similar search on ICR’s website, and found Woodmorappe wrote articles himself stating 16,000:
    http://www.icr.org/article/402/
    http://www.icr.org/article/resource-for-answering-critics-noahs-ark/

    • Sadly I think you’re demonstrating the very failure to grapple with what creationists are actually saying that I was pointing out in my original post. Your mind is made up that YEC=species fixity and that’s that. Ho hum. Let’s move on.

      • So what AiG and ICR are printing isn’t what they’re actually saying? You’ve lost me.

        I just pointed to a half dozen out of scores and scores of instances where creationists are actually putting forward the 8000-30000 comparison.

        I realize that isn’t the same as the dictionary definition of species fixity, but it’s so close as to be practially the same thing.

        I realize that AiG and ICR tend to put a lot of things forward to the public in layman terms, and so things get simplified and stuff like that. I also get that they post behind the curve of what the cutting edge scientists are developing.

        This seems to be neither of those things, and I can’t see why they shouldn’t be called out on it.

    • EVERY SINGLE ONE of these traces back to John Woodmorappe’s “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study”, in which 16,000 was used as a _maximum_ (in which, as has been pointed out, 2,000 was used as the _likely_ figure). In NONE of these articles was the _point_ of the article being the number of created kinds that existed, instead ALL of them are about the feasibility of the number of animals that were on the ark. Therefore, the estimate of 16,000 was Woodmorappe’s _maximum_ estimate.

      How hard is that to understand? EVERY ONE of these is based on Woodmorappe’s book. And Woodmorappe’s book makes it clear that 2,000 is the likely number.

      If simply looking at what people say is that difficult, it makes conversation impossible.

      • I realize that, and that’s part of my point. I think I may have said something about people not getting the memo?

        The background book gives 2000, but what does everyone else say in all the articles, including the author of the book? 16,000.

        In THEORY, respectable creationist organizations have a stance that is not ‘species fixity’. In practice, that stance is well hidden, and they publicly preach and teach what is essentially the equivalent of species fixity. Am I the only one who sees a major problem here?

  12. I think the WebMonk might be a fixed species.

    Some Google stats:

    2000 animals on the Ark site:answersingenesis.org = 150 results

    16000 animals on the Ark site:answersingenesis.org = 28 results

    2000 animals on the Ark site:icr.org = 157 results

    16000 animals on the Ark site:icr.org = 1 result

    So let’s give WebMonk a break – it’s clear that creationists actively teach fixity of species, even though none of them are willing to admit they do. While you’re looking at your dictionary, Paul, flick over the page to “fixed”, and you’ll see that it means “able to change by a factor of 3 or 4 but not by a factor of 16 or 20”. Now if AiG and ICR taught that there were 2000 animals on the ark, then clearly they would not believe in fixity of species. But since they stick resolutely to the 16000 figure, then fixity it is.

    • I did notice that Anthony, but I happened to look deeper into those results than just the number of Google results.

      If you look at those results for the number 2000, you find something interesting – the “2000” that comes up as a result is almost universally part of a DATE. You know, as in the year 2000, or talks of Jesus who came 2000 years ago. I found only 2 instances where it was talking of the number of animals on the Ark. In those “2000” results, I also found half a dozen results that actually spoke of 16,000 animals being on the ark, and that was just in the first several pages of results.

      You saw a nice observation, but you need to follow it a bit deeper to get to the truth.

      And as I’ve mentioned numerous times now – what is promoted on all the public documents from ICR and AIG is PRACTICALLY the same as species fixity, though it avoids the strict dictionary definition. (note the word “practically”) “Kinds” splitting into only 3-4 species is, in practice, almost the same as species fixity. “Kinds” splitting into dozens of different species is plenty different enough to avoid being a proxy of species fixity.

      • Okay, fair comment, and I take back my statistics above.

        Would you describe a 200-300% rate of interest as “practically zero interest”?

        And isn’t the 30,000 figure the number of species alive today? (What kind of species? Where did this figure come from?) Do creationists believe that no species have become extinct since the Flood? How does this change the figures?

        And what is the rate of speciation according to the standard evolutionary view? Is it a factor of 3-4 over 4-5000 years? I rather suspect it might be lower than that – would that mean that evolutionists believe in “practical” fixity of species too, if their rate of speciation is even lower than that of the creationists?


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