Created kinds are not new

I recently posted a rejoinder to a paper from Joel Duff and colleagues regarding "postcreationism."  It was my plenary at this year's Origins 2020 conference, and it was a fun way to respond and express some of my disagreement without getting all caught up in a rebuttal.  Joel sent me an email mostly clarifying a few points, and that was that.  In correspondence, Joel always struck me as a decent guy with whom I might actually enjoy sharing a meal someday.

Then I was alerted to a response by one of his coauthors, David MacMillan, on the website Peaceful Science.  David makes two points, both of which I don't accept at all.  Let me go through them one at a time, and I want to address a third point also.  I'm not particularly excited about writing a rebuttal, and I hope I don't regret this.  At the same time, I would not want anyone to interpret my silence on this matter to represent acceptance of David's claims.

First up, David was pleased with one of my claims.
First, the history of creationism was very good. Ham and Mortenson and others from AiG love to gloss over the history and act as though a strict six-day creationist synthesis was always the default even long before The Genesis Flood. That, of course, is just not true, and while Wood doesn’t appear to be directing his presentation toward AiG in any way, it is a very effective foil to their notions. It’s hard to maintain the idea of YEC as historically monolithic in the face of all his evidence to the contrary.
That is incorrect on several points.  Both Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson point to the acceptance of the great antiquity of the earth during the emergence of the discipline of geology as the "great turning point," which led to the plurality of opinions that we have today.  That turning point came about during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, considerably before the publication of Origin of Species.  I don't really dispute that point.  I just push the "turning point" back to the Galileo affair and the introduction of Galileo's version of the doctrine of accommodation, which effectively divorced science from the Bible at the outset of the scientific revolution.  I'm not sure they would even disagree with that much, but the most important issue here is that my discussion of the plurality of Christian opinions about science and the Bible was all nineteenth century and later, after Mortenson's "great turning point."  So Mortenson and Ham do not "pretend" there was unanimity on young age creation prior to The Genesis Flood, and my presentation dovetails very nicely with what they already say about the history of creation thought.

Further, while it is true that strict six-day, young-age creationism as we have it today was never the unanimous opinion of Christian authors, it was indisputably the default, majority opinion at least through the middle of the eighteenth century.  Everyone likes to point to Augustine and Origen as examples of church fathers who did not take a historical view of the six days of creation, but even conceding that, Augustine and I agree far more than he would with any old-age creationists or theistic evolutionists of today.  Augustine's motivation in the allegorical reading of the six days was inspired in part by his conviction that God's creation took no time at all, so he thought that creation was actually six days younger than I do.

More importantly, even though we can find symbolic readings of Genesis throughout the history of the church, we must remember that premodern theologians held to a multiplicity of interpretations that were held to be simultaneously true of the same text.  In our modern world, we insist on only one textual meaning, which we think then falsifies other possible interpretations.  This was not the way of the church fathers.  Consequently, you could easily have one author writing on the symbolic meanings of the days of creation, but if that same author does not deny the historical reading, you can't actually say whether or not that person accepted the historicity of Genesis 1-11.  At the same time, we find many examples of individuals who endorsed the historical reading of Genesis 1-11, including calculating the age of the earth from the Bible's genealogies and chronologies, stretching all the way back to the beginning of the church.  (For a fascinating example of this duality of interpretation, see Hippolytus of Rome.)  Young-age creationism absolutely has been the default view of most of the Church for a very, very long time.

Next, David expresses disappointment with what he perceives as my ignoring his main point:
The whole point of our article is that this modern hyperspeciation view espoused by Jeanson (and, to some extent, Wood) is a qualitative departure from the creationism that solidified around Morris and Whitcomb, as well as the neocreationism that came after it. If Wood argues he was a “Native Creationist” from the beginning, he needs to look closely at whether the evolving acceptance of expansive common ancestry is actually aligned with the “native” creationism he grew up with. We argue (convincingly, in my view) that it is not.
There's a tone here to this response that I admit riled me up to write this rebuttal.  So let me assure you, I do not speak out of ignorance or ideology.  The history of creationist thought on this issue is simply not as you portray it, and I can demonstrate that.

First, let's define what David thinks characterizes this "hyperspeciation view."  In the original EE&O paper, their description of this idea goes on for several pages, but it contains the following elements:
  • "...descent with modification from a common ancestor at the level of the taxonomic family or higher."
  • "...the emphatic insistence that any common ancestry above this arbitrary level is categorically impossible."
  • "...these seemingly evolutionary changes took place on an exponentially aggressive timescale, far more rapid than actual biological processes permit."
  • "...excess genetic variation was supernaturally pre-loaded into the common ancestors of living species by an act of miraculous creation and expressed through an accelerated, poorly-understood version of natural selection."
Put more succinctly, "In contrast to the findings of mainstream biology, they propose that all extant land vertebrate species descended from a small population of precursors—the Ark kinds—by modification and accelerated speciation since Noah’s Flood ... via standard evolutionary mechanisms ... resulting in the formation of tens of thousands of new species in just a few thousand years."  Notice there are several ingredients of this view that get mashed together.  First, there is what I have called rapid, post-Flood diversification, what they call "hyperspeciation."  Second, there is the question of how much common ancestry is warranted by the data, or what a creationist might call "the limits of the created kind."  Third, there is the question of how this speciation takes place, which in the "postcreationist" view is a sorting of created alleles.  These three ingredients are asserted to be the view of modern creation scientists as well as something qualitatively different from past generations.  Both of these claims are incorrect: The three ingredients are not agreed upon by modern creationists, and they're not qualitatively different from past generations.

Just to really challenge me, they also state, "As will be shown, young-earth creationists depend on their rhetoric being perceived as 'consistent' or 'unchanging' and thus they would dispute any implication that their views have departed significantly from earlier conceptions."  For the record, I couldn't care less whether I present my views as consistent or unchanging, and I celebrate true advances in creation science that have come about over the years.  I fully accept that modern creationism really is different from the creationism of previous generations.  But is it really that different?  Let's find out.

Let's take a look first at what I wrote about this subject seventeen years ago in Understanding the Pattern of Life:
More recent baraminological research has helped to clarify the pattern and rate of diversification in vertebrate baramins.  The picture emerging is one of rapid initial diversification after the Flood followed by a period of relative stasis.  We infer the period of rapid diversification from the biblical record and archaeological studies that supplement our understanding of baramins.  We readily find records and remains of modern species very early in post-Flood history.  Because these species belong to baramins with many other species, we know that they must have diversified from their ark-born ancestors very quickly after (or even during) the Flood (p. 170).
So that's the rapid diversification clearly articulated in a book published in 2003, but wait, there's more.
Perhaps out of convenience, acceptance of neodarwinian microevolution and speciation remains a common feature of creationist writing about the post-Flood diversification.  Having established the characteristics of diversification and its mechanism, we can see now that diversification is far too fast, specific, and permanent to be generated by neodarwinism.  This is not to say that neodarwinian mechanisms do not operate; they certainly do (p. 178).
In reality there are differences of opinion on the subject of the mechanism of diversification among modern creationists.  Hence, I do not recognize myself as a "postcreationist," and I never have been a postcreationist as defined in the EE&O paper, despite long embracing the post-Flood diversification paradigm.  Given Dr. Jeanson's response to the EE&O paper, I'm not sure that any modern creationist biologist would identify with the postcreationist position.

What about speciation up to the taxonomic level of family?  In my own work that was expressed in my 2006 paper "The Current Status of Baraminology" from the CRSQ, where I wrote,
Though bias in group and character selection prevents firm conclusions, it appears at this time that Price’s suggestion that the family is an approximation of the “created kind” may be correct.
So that's two out of three ideas of their "postcreationism" from my own work at least fourteen years ago.  You can see why I find their claim that this view is a novel development to be personally unwarranted.  I've held to two of the three post-creationist ideas for most of my career.

But enough about me.  What about other creationists?  Let's pick up the story with William Tinkle, one of the founders of the Creation Research Society, in his 1967 book Heredity: A Study in Science and the Bible.  In chapter seven, Tinkle presents his "Theory of Heterozygous Creation."
Although it is hard to find evidence that one branch or phylum of animals sprang from another phylum, with its different body plan, or even one class from another class, varieties and species probably did so.  We need not think that there were as many species and varieties in the beginning as there are now.  The Biblical "kind," which my friend Dr. Frank Marsh has named baramin, may have segregated into smaller groups.  Owing to an unfortunate lack of standardization in naming, these smaller groups are variously called genera, species, breeds, and varieties (p. 88).
That's not exactly an endorsement of created kinds being the rank of family, but the secondary origin of genera at least implies that he could have accepted families as created kinds in some cases.  Tinkle doesn't have much to say about the Flood, and so he does not emphasize the speed at which these changes take place.  But he does indicate his belief in what he terms the segregation of latent genes:
These simple examples have been chosen to illustrate the potential segregation of genes in the original kinds.  The possible extent of such variation is a subject for further research.  This variation is limited by the number of latent genes created in the plants and animals but the number of new characters appearing can be greater than the number of latent genes, since a gene by itself could make one character, and another character in combination with another gene (p. 89).
How does this segregation take place?  By genetic drift largely, but natural selection plays a role in eliminating unfit varieties.  So Tinkle, in 1967, embraces several points of the supposedly recent "postcreationist" paradigm.

The Genesis Flood, being largely a book on the Bible and geology, does not address this question of "postcreationism" in great depth.  Their treatment of the "created kind" comes in their section on "The Capacity of the Ark" (pp. 65-70), where they sympathetically quote Frank Marsh and his concept of the baramin.  They definitely emphasize the development of new "varieties" after the Flood.  It's not a full endorsement of the points of "postcreationism," but it's not a rebuttal either.

Let's jump back another twenty years and look at Frank Marsh's views in the 1947 second edition of his book Evolution, Creation and Science.  In this book, Marsh clearly advocates that the created kind includes more than just species.  He is so concerned about avoiding the term species that he introduced the term baramin (from the Hebrew for "create" and "kind") to replace it as a technical term for the related group of "species" descended from created ancestors that is identifiable by their ability to hybridize (see pp. 174-175).

In dealing with the taxonomy of the baramin, Marsh is not so concerned with whether kinds are families or genera, but he seems cautiously optimistic that we might be able to identify enough baramins to learn more about their relationship to taxonomy:
Because of natural processes of change and because of the thousands of races and even kinds which have become extinct since the Flood, it is difficult now to get a complete picture of the baramins as they were created.  But through the very real laboratory test of fertility [i.e. hybridization] it is possible clearly to mark off the boundaries of all the kinds today.  A great deal of work is yet to be done to accumulate data sufficient to give us anything like a comprehensive mapping of the kinds.
With regard to post-Flood changes, Marsh argues that some kinds may have been created "polytypic" with different ecological adaptations already present in the original created population.  Thus, he claims that the created members of the canid kind consists of three types: foxlike, doglike, and hyaenalike (p. 179).  But he also emphasized the changes that took place since the Flood.  In fact, chapter twelve is all about "variation since the Noachian Flood."  There we read,
The fact that, except for a very few "species," every niche is occupied by a different modern "species," cries out to us that as the original kinds spread out over the uneven surface of a destroyed world, they left trails which can often be followed, not by lines of individuals of the same "species," but rather by more or less interrupted lines of different "subspecies," "species," and "superspecies," which vary from one another because they have been acted upon by, and have reacted to, natural forces - forces which, according to all known facts, have repeatedly served to erect new variants within a kind, but which have never accomplished the origin of even one new kind (pp. 219-220).
What are these "natural forces" he refers to?  He discussed them back in chapters seven and eight, and it's mostly mutation.  Later in the book, he addressed natural selection:
Natural selection takes variants from the accumulated stock of changes, but does not itself produce new variants: natural selection does not induce mutations.  The favorable gene combinations must arise before they can be judged by natural selection.  Mutation produces the changes, and sexual reproduction serves as the mechanism for producing various gene combinations.  The number of gene combinations is enormous.  ... Although natural selection creates nothing new and is a conservative factor, still it has at its disposal a colossal store of new combinations and variants upon which to work in the development of new forms. ... The special creationist sees these changes going on in nature just as clearly as does the evolutionist (pp. 318-319).
I'll admit that Marsh here is a bit fuzzy to easily fit into the "postcreationist" category, but the nascent elements are there: Created kinds that encompass more than just species and genera and lots of change since the Flood by natural mechanisms that include natural selection.  That puts these ideas at least back to the 1940s.  Do they go back any earlier than that?

Let's check out George McCready Price's The Phantom of Organic Evolution, from 1924.  It's his only book on biology (he was convinced the entire evolution problem was geological), and he does address the question of "species and their origin."  Here are his comments on post-Flood adaptation:
And we may be very sure that the great superintending Power which is over nature, adapted these men and these animals and plants to their strange world.  That healing power which quickly covers over a wounded branch, or which rapidly restores a bleeding back or a broken leg, could be depended upon without question to set about the rapid transformation of that seemingly ruined world into one whic, while not at all equal to the marvelous one before the Flood, is yet a very beautiful and well-ordered habitation for man and his companion animals (pp. 105-106).
This passage comes specifically in a discussion of human variation, so what does he think about animal kinds?
We may conclude that "descent with modification" will explain the origin of most of our species and genera, as descendants of some primal representatives of the families; but when we undertake to explain in this way the relationships between the orders and classes and phyla, we get into a field of sheer speculation, where a man has to shut his eyes to reason and common sense and go it blind (p. 129).
Since Price is writing during the "eclipse of Darwin," his discussion of mechanism is dominated by those concerns about how species could arise within the primal families, and he expresses skepticism about natural selection.
Various other modern works might be mentioned which have effectually disposed of natural selection as being in any sense a vera causa of organic development.  Indeed, it may be truthfully said that any one who in this year 1924 still stands up for natural selection as an explanation of organic evolution, is too hopelessly behind the times to be reached with any further arguments of mine (p. 194).
This is very much in keeping with then-contemporary debates over Lamarckism, natural selection, and others as possible mechanisms of evolution. Despite that expressed skepticism, Price still manifests features of the "postcreationist" position of speciation within families after the Flood way back in 1924.

So what of the "postcreationism" assertion that these views are a modern novelty that differs substantially from the creationism of the Whitcomb/Morris generation?  Did the authors just make it up?  I don't think so.  I think the evidence is pretty clear that species fixity has been part and parcel of the antievolution world for a very long time (see my discussion in this post from 11 years ago).  People who are not that familiar with biology (and Walter Lammerts) have long asserted that species are just the same as when God created back them in the beginning.  In fact, looking through the quotes in that old post, you can see that species fixity has a parallel life to the alternative view of speciation within created kinds.  What David and his colleagues have "discovered" is that there are two quite different streams in the larger world of "creationism," one of which focuses mostly on destroying evolution without much care for the right answer and the other is building a completely new understanding of the science of origins.  The antievolutionist species fixists have long enjoyed prominence and popularity, and their views persist to this day.  The creationists, with their created kinds and post-Flood diversification, have only recently come to positions of prominence and influence, most notably in the Ark Encounter.  But there hasn't been anything qualitatively new.  It's just been a more thorough and systematic articulation of ideas that extend back at least 100 years, even while disagreements over mechanisms still exist.  With the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, the outside world of anticreationism is finally noticing and paying attention.  That's not a discovery, other than the sort of personal "discovery" made by anyone who looks seriously into a field with which they are unfamiliar.  Such personal revelations aren't worth publishing, that's for sure.

So no, I do not recognize myself in that paper.  Even though I endorse rapid, post-Flood diversification, I continue to believe that the mechanism of diversification is not well-understood and that sorting or segregating a created gene pool cannot explain what we see in known baramins.  I also don't recognize myself in their discussion of microevolution vs. macroevolution nor in their assertion that "YECs have long used—or in some cases created—popular misconceptions of scientific terminology to redefine biological terminology and misrepresent evolutionary theory to their followers."  It makes for strange reading: It seems like I ought to identify with their "postcreationists" (native creationists), but I do not.

Having said all that, there might yet be a complaint that I do not deal with their other claims about the efficacy of natural selection nor the baraminology of carnivoran ancestors.  So I'll just say here in print, I agree that conventional models do not explain rapid diversification (and I have believed that for twenty yrs), and the question of carnivoran ancestors is at most a research hypothesis that could be tested by someone who cares about it more than I do.  Could all of carnivora be a single created kind?  Maybe.  Probably not, but ultimately I just don't care.  The biblical revelation prohibits universal common ancestry, so I have little motivation to go fishing for bigger and bigger baramins.  Perhaps I'll get to the question of carnivoran ancestry some day, but not today.  I've given enough of my time to this paper.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Have you read my book?  You should check that out too!