Friday, March 6, 2020

If They're Common, Then Kind Is Meaningless

As someone who has been debating Creationists for some time (and admittedly without much qualification - my understanding of evolution is more broad brush strokes rather than fine details), I do come across numerous anti-evolution comments and arguments, some which require some thought and knowledge to respond to, and some that are just downright silly.

Among one that requires some thought comes from my Creationist mate Theo (shout-out to you if you ever get to read this!) who challengingly asks: "Can the theory of evolution answer which came first: the penis or the vagina that the penis goes in to?". The simple answer is sexually antagonistic co-evolution, and the longer answer is...well, if you really want the answer, go look at the research. It is publicly available (scholar.google.com is a great first step), a lot of it is free to access, and frankly, if you aren't looking for scientifically-justified statements to come to the most scientifically-justified opinion on something, then what the hell are you doing?

But among one of the ones that are downright silly is a refutation to the evidence of homology.
Just before we get in to the meat of this post, this is the definition of homology that I will use. Homology is the sharing of features between organisms in different taxa, such as how humans and whales both have five-fingered hands despite humans and whales both being very different creatures - whales are cetaceans, whereas humans are hominids (but both are mammals).

So in homology, what some people see as evidence for evolution (genetic change with inherent modification) some people see as Creation by an intelligent designer with the common refrain being that "the designer of both the whales and the humans decided to use the same parts!".
Sometimes, the argument will then reference the fact that motor vehicles, despite there being differences, are made of the same parts - a car and a motorbike and a bus all use motors and brakes and exhaust systems, thus evidence of their common design. We know these things were created, and if all the animals have common features (which is what homology is trying to prove), then we must have been created as well

Now, I've thought about this for a while (as you can see from the amount of time between blog posts, I definitely do take my time!), and while I knew this Creationist argument didn't make sense, and not having the foundational study in biology to know more about the topic, I wanted to take a theological look at why, and I think I've found it...

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Genesis 1:24-25 says: 
"And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." (emphasis added)

Creationists will, in their staunch defence against the big, bad monster of evolution (you know, the one that Billy Graham had no problem with), revert to the blind faith of this verse that says nothing about evolution, but everything about God creating according to the kind.

[It's funny - God also mentions nothing about abortion, yet Fundamentalists believe they know God's most inner thoughts on the topic]

But, what exactly is a kind? From what I can read, a kind is either:

A. A classification of function and appearance (i.e. does it walk, does it fly, do

es it have two or four legs, etc) rather than inherent relatedness.

B. Another way of inferring what is meant by the word species, but without the implicit admission that current evolutionary terminology has got it right.


For the purpose of making a point, I will ignore definition B, because if kind were just a euphemism for species, then we both know the current evolutionary terminology and theory is correct, but only one of us is trying to avoid the baggage.

Furthermore, if kind was analogous to species, why is there no mention in the Bible of the single-celled kind (e.g. the bacteria kind or the virus kind), or even the cat kind (the Bible does not mention cats at all!).

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But now we come to the crux:

If all creatures were made, in their current form, with common parts, using a common design, by a common designer, then the word kind in a biological classification is meaningless. Kind literally becomes just a definition of function and/or appearance, not of relatedness.

But kind also then opens up two cans of worms.

The first is this: the people who wrote the Bible were writing from an extremely limited perspective (and thus, not written or inspired by an all-knowing deity). They clearly had no idea about a spherical earth or of celestial bodies trillions of kilometres away, and they definitely had no idea about genetics, embryology, or how humans and whales both have hands with bones - the best classification they could come up with was that all the animals were made by God according to what they did and what they looked like, not what they were. This is extremely simplistic and should not be relied upon to form a scientific opinion on something, especially when such simplicity flies in the face of what science already tells us.

The second is extinct species kinds. If you want to say that God created all the animals instantaneously in their final forms and ranked in their kinds, you then have to admit that God made hundreds of thousands of kinds of animals, if not millions, that he knew would go extinct.

So an intelligent, all-powerful and all-knowing God created millions of creatures he knew whose lineages would die out, and not only that, but millions of kinds of creatures that he knew humans, his ultimate creation, would never ever interact with?

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But why is kind meaningless in the face of homology?

Because anyone can see what an animal does - but the true beauty of what we see in nature lies in what that animal actually is, and its relatedness to every other animal.

Creationism, and especially Creationism's reasoning for homology not being evidence for evolution - "because a divine designer used common parts" - is simply inadequate, particularly because it has no predictive capability.

Evolution by common descent, on the other hand, is something homology explains, which then drives predictions!

Enough said.

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