Monday, July 23, 2012

BioLogos and baraminology

BioLogos recently posted an interesting set of essays by Richard Hess on the meaning of the Hebrew term  mîn  (Part 1 and Part 2), which many readers might recognize as relevant to issues of baraminology.  Or as the BioLogos editors put it:
The baraminology Wood and others pursue as an alternative to evolution is predicated on taking Genesis to mean that God created (Hebrew bara) such fixed species (Hebrew mîn).
Frankly, I think it's a really nice essay that everyone interested in creationist biology ought to read.  I endorse Dr. Hess's conclusions: Those attempting to draw any formal classification or biological significance from mîn are asking too much of a word that does not appear to serve that purpose.  I concur that mîn seems to be used equivalently to the colloquial "all kinds" or "every sort."  I know that many creationists have asserted otherwise (most famously Frank Marsh), and I think they are mistaken.

Does this therefore falsify research efforts on baraminology?  Is baraminology predicated on this particular word?  No, not at all.  Baraminologists have known about the ambiguity of mîn for at least 15 years now.  Our dissatisfaction with resting baraminology on a single word was part of our motivation for introducing a "refined" baramin concept back in 2003 (could it really be nine years ago?).  In that paper, we noted, "Unfortunately, the word [mîn] is poorly understood, and many scholars disagree on its meaning," and we supplied a discussion with bibliography to back up that claim.  We also attempted to lay out a biblical basis for accepting limited evolution that goes far beyond a single, ambiguous word.  To do so we drew upon accounts of creation week, the Garden of Eden, Noah's ark, and the general notion of a young earth (as implied by numerous biblical passages).

In the conclusion to the biblical discussion of our paper, we wrote:

These conclusions fall far short of defining a baramin as a fixed unit of creation among living things in the sense of Frank Marsh, but the refined baramin concept as a separate philosophical construction accommodates all of the Biblical data.

That's a bit different from claiming biblical support for baraminology from a single word, and I personally think it is as tentative as the biblical text itself.  But maybe I'm biased.  You can check out the full refined baramin paper right here:

Wood et al.  2003.  A refined baramin concept.  Occasional Papers of the BSG 3:1-14.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.