Wednesday, August 29, 2012

James takes on Harbinger Seven, The Erez Tree Part 3: Does taxonomic classification of trees support evolutionary theory?

James goes on with his discussion of the many faults he finds with Cahn's presentation about this particular harbinger.

Cahn's reasoning reveals that he is depending on the taxonomic classification system to make his case. The taxonomic system is based on a hierarchy of seven ranks for classifying all living things on earth, which are:

kingdom - phyla - class - order - family - genus - species.

The first problem with appealing to this classification system is that it is based exclusively on evolutionary theory. In addition, as evolutionary theory evolves, so does the classification system itself, and it can change significantly over time. A lack of consensus often exists about relationships within and between ranks... [T]he system can be very subjective.
As a matter of fact, the system of classification was invented at least a century before evolutionary theory came along so that it's not "based on" evolutionary theory at all. It was devised by a Swedish botanist named Linnaeus and is useful for organizing living things into recognizable classes in spite of differences of opinion and in spite of evolutionary theory. Linnaeus did offend Christians by classifying human beings along with "simians" as "manlike" on the basis of anatomic similarities, which gave a foundation for evolution when it came along, and now of course the system is used in the service of evolution, but it remains a simple classification system as well, and shouldn't be dismissed by Christians.

From Wikipedia:
Linnaeus believed that he was classifying God's creation and was not trying to express any deeper relationships. He is frequently quoted to have said God created, Linnaeus organized.
Today, yes, it is interpreted to support the assumption of genetic descent from one "species" to another, as in this statement quoted by James:
The taxonomic tree...tells us that humans and armadillos are related, but not closely. We share the same class, but belong to different orders.
To which James replies:
This directly contradicts the biblical view of the way God has grouped life on earth -- which is 'according to kind.' Humans are simply not related to armadillos in any way.
But remember that the system was originally designed simply to classify living things according to anatomic features and did not imply genetic descent. It doesn't have to imply it now either, and I must say it seems like a case of trying to find anything at all to pin on Cahn to make an issue of this.

James goes on to discuss the difference between taxonomic science and Biblical creation, quoting Genesis 1:11 and concluding that
...the biblical biological classification system has boundaries marked off by reproductive compatibility. Among animals, even within kinds, there are often reproductive dead-ends because of sterile offspring (such as mules). If organisms (in this case plants) are not compatible in the realm of reproduction, they constitute a different kind.
This is in fact not true. The problem with this understanding of Kinds is that there are many subspecies or varieties of different Kinds that are known to have descended from other populations of that same Kind, have acquired reproductive incompatibility with that group -- have become "reproductive dead-ends" as far as the whole population is concerned -- yet are not sterile like mules but "reproduce after their own kind" within their own population just as the original Kinds did. Science done in the name of evolution is going to misname and misunderstand everything they observe but sometimes they do manage to simply describe actual observed phenomena in the process. They call this formation of new varieties "speciation," and call the new population a new "species" although it is in fact a variety or subspecies. It belongs to the same Kind as its parent population though it has become reproductively isolated from it, and in some cases this is due to genetic differences that develop in such situations, without any impairment of the new "species" to reproduce within its own population.

I've argued this sort of thing on my Fantasy of Evolution blog over and over. We don't have the original Kinds from the Creation any more. Or, to be more accurate, we have them represented in many different varieties, and most probably none of them is much like the original created individuals. IF THERE HAD BEEN NO DEATH, WHICH ENTERED AS A RESULT OF THE FALL, THE ORIGINALS WOULD STILL BE LIVING, AND MANY OTHER THINGS WOULD BE DIFFERENT AS WELL. My main point here is that most, and probably all, of the Kinds have branched out into subspecies whose ancestors are no long living. These separately get called species by evolutionists if they can no longer interbreed with parent or sibling populations, or even if they are simply not inclined to interbreed -- that IS the evolutionist definition of a new "species," so it's not just a Biblical concept that applies to the original Kinds. They consider this to be proof of evolution from one species to another but from the creationist point of view that's an illusion, it's simply God's design for variation within each Kind playing itself out to its ultimate expression along one genetic path or another.

In fact, as I propose over and over at my creationism blog, each new subspecies involves a reduction in genetic variability that ultimately leads to the end of all ability to vary or "evolve" further.

One of the arguments believers in evolution like to bring against the Biblical Flood is that there are too many species to have fit on the ark. This is based on today's proliferating numbers of species as they define them, but the original Kinds were not so numerous, and the subspecies that had developed up to the time of the Flood must have retained a great level of genetic variability since they were the progenitors of all the subspecies that formed since the Flood.

So for instance, it's a question whether the "cat" Kind on the ark was represented by many different Kinds which might have included lions, tigers, cheetahs, bobcats, mountain lions, all the domestic breeds, and so on, or if these all "evolved" since the Flood from one pair of cats on the ark that wasn't necessarily like any of them but contained the genetic potential to produce all of them. I think the latter must have been the case for many reasons, but also because the evolutionists are right that if there were a dozen different Kinds of cats along with that many of every other animal there wouldn't have been room on the ark for them all.

And I believe that Population Genetics is a good basis for arguing this. Certainly the Flood would have eliminated a huge proportion of the genetic endowment of each Kind by killing all but the few left on the ark, a situation known as a genetic "bottleneck" or "founder effect" which if it occurs now can seriously deplete a new subpopulation of genetic possibilities and in fact bring further "evolution" to a complete end. A case in point is the cheetah, apparently the product of a bottleneck that cut it off reproductively from other cat subspecies and caused such a severe genetic depletion that it has no opportunities left to "evolve" within its own gene pool at all. This, I argue over and over, shows that the very occurrence of "evolution" ultimately leads to an inability to evolve at all -- "evolution defeats evolution." Of course evolutionists wishfully insist that mutations will rush in to save the day and speed the cheetah along to life as a different species, but the lack of evidence for such a possibility is pretty glaring, and believe me, I've argued all this in many ways on that other blog.

But such genetic depletion wouldn't have yet been the case with those on the ark or their descendants. According to the "fossil record," the variety of life forms within one species or Kind was enormous before the Flood and in many cases quite different from living forms today. What is the fossil record? It's the preserved remains of billions of living things that happen to be encased in layers of different kinds of rock -- such as you can see displayed in the walls of the Grand Canyon for instance. Evolutionists claim it records the development of one species into another over time, time according to them climbing from ancient to modern up the ladder of rock, as fossils of one type are found in a layer of rock either above or below fossils of a related "species." But logically, from a biblical point of view all the fossils in the "fossil record" are of creatures that lived before the Flood, and the layered sediments were produced by the action of the water in that Flood. Attempts to account for the layering on the theory of millions of years for each to be deposited are really absurd.

There IS a sort of "evolution" that does occur, in other words, which apparently demonstrates that each biblical Kind was designed to produce interesting new varieties, and this continues in the present. Think of the enormous number of different breeds of dogs, yet all ARE dogs. If a few of the breeds become incapable of breeding with others that doesn't make separate Kinds of them. It's not politically correct to talk of human "races" any more but it demonstrates the principle. We're all related to each other back to Adam and Eve and yet obviously the human race has varied in some rather striking ways involving differences in skin color, stature, and many other traits. Somehow the genetic potential for all variations of human beings was "in" the genetic endowment of Adam and Eve, and continued with great variability as well through Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law, who were the progenitors of all human beings today. The variety of human beings before the Flood should have been much greater than we've seen since the Flood, but even since the Flood it's clear that the genetic endowment of human beings survived even that severe genetic bottleneck with great variability, as did that of all the animals.

So why am I going into all this? Because David James' idea of the biblical Kinds doesn't square with reality. He treats each separate tree as a separate Kind because of course they all reproduce "after their own Kind." I don't know enough about plants to understand their reproductive systems but I'm aware that evolutionists treat them as "evolving" and undergoing "speciation" just as animals do, which suggests that they also have the built-in genetic potential to vary into different types that in some cases can lead to inability to breed with the "parent" population. In which case it would be highly improbable that ANY of them is the actual original Kind God planted at the Creation, the same as it is with animals, but varieties have branched out -- descended from-- the original in great abundance since then, just as we know is the case with animals. Meaning the different tree types within a Linnaean classification COULD be genetically related.

Which are descended from which I'd agree is probably impossible to determine in most cases. Darwin wrote interestingly about this (I have a post or two on that subject at the other blog), as he objected to the subjectivity of the standards for determining which population was a species and which a variety. In those days they still recognized that there WERE varieties of what they regarded as fixed Kinds or Species, although as Darwin made clear the designations were usually arbitrary and often fanciful except where a particular population was known from observation to have descended from another. Darwin of course changed all that with the notion that everything descended from everything else. And at my other blog I blame this partly on "creationist" biologists and geologists of the time who were not true to the Biblical record but had gone off in the fanciful directions Darwin rightly, yes, RIGHTLY, criticized.

All that information may not be necessary, I'm too tired right now to figure it out, but the point of writing it was to argue with James about his view of the biblical Kinds as if we have those same Kinds today.

However, perhaps none of that was really necessary to the main point, which is that the taxonomic system does NOT derive from evolutionary theory and doesn't HAVE to be used to defend the idea of universal descent. And Cahn only uses it as the neutral classification system it was originally intended to be. As most of us do. I think in terms of such classifications at times and I NEVER have the evolutionary explanation in mind.

But since there is such a thing as "microevolution" or descent with modification WITHIN the Kinds, it is possible depending perhaps on earlier reproductive systems that have stopped operating, that the Norway spruce, the cedar, the fir and the pine did all genetically descend from an original conifer if one wanted to make that case instead of merely taking the group as defined by anatomic similarities. It's possible. And if they are genetically related, having descended from an original parent type, the likelihood of any of them being a representative of the original created Kind is remote to nonexistent. (However, there are plenty of reasons to believe that plants are not biblically to be regarded as "living things" as animals are anyway. God did not order Noah to preserve them on the ark but left them to survive the Flood if they could by other means.)

But again, the important point here is that Cahn did not use the taxonomic system in any way that implies evolution, and it's only James' wrong assumption that it ALWAYS implies evolution that has fueled this particular argument against him.

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