Ray Comfort, Answers in Genesis, and Baraminology…It’s Kinda Ridiculous, Exegetically and Scientifically!

About a week ago in one of the “creation/evolution debate” Facebook groups I am in, a young earth creationist (I’ll call him “Bob”) asked the question, “Can anyone point any example that proves evolution can change one kind of animal into another kind?” I have heard this question (or variations of it) many times before. If you want to get a taste of what this question looks like in real time, just watch a Ray Comfort video (pay attention around the 7-9 minute mark). In the one I’ve linked here, he goes around asking various people, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” And time and time again, Comfort emphasizes, “Kindskinds…a change in kinds.”

Well, there’s more going on with this question than I previously realized.

Kinds…Kinds….a Change of Kinds…
If you’re like me and have heard this kind (whoops…let’s say “type”) of question before, you have probably assumed the question is getting at something like, “Is there evolutionary evidence that a monkey has turned into a human, or a whale has turned into an elephant?” And, if you’re like me, you want to say, “That’s not how evolution works…it doesn’t happen all at once.” And that’s correct—that’s not how evolution works.

But when “Bob” asked this question last week, a light bulb went off in my head. This question, however ridiculous it may seem on the surface, is actually another YEC shell game, much like AiG’s “explanation” of the difference between “observational science” and “historical science.” What I realized was that the very way the question is framed makes it impossible for anyone to come to any other answer than the one young earth creationists want. There’s only one possible answer to that question, and young earth creationists know it: there is no example that proves evolution can change one kind of animal into another kind.

“A-ha!” young earth creationists will then triumphantly declare, “You see? Evolution can’t show one kind changing into another kind! Therefore, evolution is a lie!” And from there, they take (to put it kindly) the “highly questionable leap” and declare, “Evolution is the anti-god religion the government is using to indoctrinate our children into atheism and moral degeneracy!” Score one for the young earth creationists!

hamcomfortFor the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore that “highly questionable leap” that often happens in YEC and instead focus on the problematic question itself. To cut to the chase, this typical YEC question, whether it comes out of the mouth of Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, or any young earth creationist for that matter isn’t asking the question you think he is asking.

Current Answers in Genesis literature readily acknowledge genetic mutations and natural selection can happen between various species. What they deny is that there can be genetic mutations and natural selection between various “kinds.” The whole young earth creationist scientific enterprise is based on it, actually. Answers in Genesis will say, “We believe natural selection occurs. We believe speciation occurs. We believe adaptation occurs. But none of that is evolution, because evolution states all life came from a common ancestor, and no one has ever observed one ‘kind’ evolve into another ‘kind.’

I think we need to get some clarity on what YEC means by “kinds.” And yes, I’m sure many who are familiar with YEC will know what they mean by “kinds,” but I’m wondering if we have really thought about the deeper implications of this YEC claim. So let’s first take a clarifying glance at what YEC means by “kinds.”

Baraminology
No, that’s not a typo. It’s a real word—well, not really. It’s a made-up word YEC has created to try to make their really bad exegesis of Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25; 6:19-21 and 7:14 sound “scientific” and therefore legitimate. (In reality, you can’t truly call what they do with these verses “exegesis” in any way, shape or form. In reality, it’s simply Scripture-twisting).

baraminologyNow, the Hebrew word translated as “kinds” in these verses is min. The Hebrew word meaning “to create” is bara, so therefore bara-min would be “created kinds.” And hence, YEC then adds the -ology and (oh the irony) creates its own scientific-sounding word, baraminology, and claims that their baraminologists scientifically study the biblical/scientific category of animals of “kinds.”

You can read some of AiG’s explanations here. For that matter, you can simply google “Answers in Genesis, kinds, baraminology” and find more than enough articles and posts to read. Allow me to save you the trouble, and simply sum up their main points. They say the modern scientific categorization of animals is “man-made,” and, in fact, the modern categories of genus and species were originally used in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate to translate the Hebrew word min. Later, secular scientists changed the meaning of the words genus and species from referring to the “biblical kind” to now referring the modern, man-made scientific classifications, and this somehow paved the way for the acceptance of godless evolution. (I’ll be honest, I still don’t get the logical coherence in that argument, but that is not the point of this post).

In any case, the fact is that the modern classification system is Kingdom–Phylum–Class–Order–Family–Genus–Species, and there is (obviously) no “kind” or min. Why not? That’s simple—AiG claims those are man-made classifications, and God’s scientific classification of animals is that of min…the “biblical kind.” According to AiG, God’s classification of “kind” would be akin to the current man-made category of “family.” Hence, there was an originally created “cat-kind,” “dog-kind,” and “elephant-kind” (we’ll overlook the fact that the category of Elephant is actually that of “order,” and not “family”—AiG isn’t known for being consistent).

In any case, YEC claims that natural selection does indeed happen at the genus and species level—there’s clear “observational” evidence for that. But natural selection doesn’t happen at the level the “biblical kind”—there’s no “observational” evidence for that.

So what baraminology basically claims is:

  1. In the early chapters of Genesis, the Hebrew word min was God’s scientific classification of animals
  2. The biblical classification of “kind” corresponds to the modern classification of family
  3. Natural selection, speciation, and adaptation only happen  within the categories of “kind.”
  4. Therefore, there can be no “common ancestor” of all life because the Bible tells us that God created everything “according to their kinds,” and “kinds” is God’s scientific classification of animals.

So What’s the Problem?
Everything. And this is why Ray Comfort’s question, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” is actually quite insidious.

First, let’s start with those verses in Genesis that talk about plants and animals being made “according to their kinds.” AiG would have you believe that those verses are telling us about God’s scientific classification of plants and animals. They just throw it out there, move on, and hope that you don’t pause and ask a really basic question, “How do you know that Genesis is trying to give a scientific classification when it says, ‘according to their kinds’?”

Indeed, let’s play the game AiG insists we play with the Bible, and ask, “What is the ‘plain reading’ of the text?” I am willing to bet that if someone who had never read YEC literature had just picked the Bible and read Genesis 1:25 (“God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds…”), that person would interpret Genesis 1:25 as simply saying in a plain and general way, “God made all kinds of animals.”

Let’s be honest, the only person who would think those verses are conveying God’s “ancient-scientific classification” of animals is a person who had already been told by groups like AiG that those verses are conveying God’s “ancient-scientific classification” of animals.

In a similar vein, the only way someone would come to the conclusion that I Thessalonians 4:16-17 is about a “secret rapture” right before a literal seven-year tribulation period at the end of history would be for that person to be told ahead of time “this is about a secret rapture.” There’s absolutely nothing in I Thessalonians 4:16-17 that would indicate such a thing, and there’s absolutely nothing in Genesis 1:25 that would indicate “kind” is some sort of scientific classification.

Second, if it is clear that min is not God’s scientific classification of animals, but is rather used much in the same way we use “kinds” in everyday language (i.e. God made all kinds of animals), then it is obvious that YEC is, in fact, misinterpreting the biblical text. Simply put, such a claim about “kinds” isn’t biblical. And since it isn’t biblical, and YEC claims that min is the scientific classification of “biblical kind,” then it goes without saying that such a claim isn’t scientific either…in any way, shape or form.

So Let’s Go Back to the Original Question
With all that said, let’s go back to the YEC question at hand: “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?”

Do you see why the only possible answer to that question is, “No”? It’s simple. Of course there’s no “observable” evidence for Darwinian Evolution producing a “change of kind”…because there’s no such scientific category of “biblical kind.” It would be like asking, “Is there any evolutionary evidence for ogres changing into goblins?” Of course not, because there are no such things as ogres and goblins.

Even if we were to acknowledge (for argument’s sake) YEC’s definition that “kinds” were some sort of original animals from which modern species have come about via natural selection, the fact would still be that those “original kinds” no longer exist. Even if there was an original “dog kind,” that “original kind” is long gone, and all that is left are the varieties of species that natural selection has produced. Therefore, still, there would be no “observable evidence” for evolutionary change of “kinds,” because the “kinds” that YEC is talking about no longer exist, and therefore it is impossible to “observe change” in the present of something that doesn’t exist in the present.

Conclusion
If there is one thing I’ve realized as I’ve researched the YEC of AiG over the past two years, it is this: they are very clever in their presentations. What often happens is that they throw something out, make some claim that sort of sounds right, but also seems a little off, but then quickly jump to another point or topic, never allowing you to take a breath and actually think about the claim they have just made. If you do, if you subject their claims to a little bit of critical thinking, you will soon be able to unravel the twisted tales they spin.

So next time, if you’re in a conversation with a young earth creationist, or find yourself in New Zealand talking to Ray Comfort, or in Kentucky talking to Ken Ham, and they ask, “Can you think of any observable evidence for Darwinian Evolution where there is a change of kind?” You can now respond with:

img_20160711_132211633
What are all these SPECIES doing, getting on the Ark? Ken Ham has assured us that only KINDS went on!

“Of course not, because your claim that min is God’s scientific classification of animals is not only not supported by the Bible, it isn’t a recognized scientific category, period. And even if somehow you were to make the exegetical case that min really is God’s ancient-scientific classification of animals (but of course you can’t), the answer to your question would still be ‘of course not,’ because you define ‘kinds’ to mean some sort of ancient animals that no longer exist—and given your (false) distinction between ‘observational’ and ‘historical’ science, and your definition of ‘observational’ science as being something that can be tested, observed, and repeated—you’re asking for ‘observational evidence’ for evolution changing one sort of ancient ‘animal-kind’ that no longer exists into another sort of ancient ‘animal-kind’ that no longer exists is fundamentally dishonest and misleading, for you are asking for supposed present observable evidence of evolutionary change of past extinct (and therefore unobservable) animals.

I’m pretty sure if you gave that answer, Ray Comfort or Ken Ham would probably just walk away, convinced that you were a “scoffer.”

Now, is that a little convoluted? Probably, but the arguments and claims of YEC are (I believe) designed to be convoluted, making it hard to follow them, and therefore catch them in their manipulative shell-games and double-speak. But it’s something you have to do if you ever hope to call them on their manipulation.

So to sum up: the typical YEC question regarding “observational evidence that evolution causes a change in kinds” is a bogus question for two reasons:

  1. The Hebrew word min (“kind”) is not some ancient-scientific classification of animals, therefore the question (not to mention the whole supposed field of baraminology is a sham;
  2. Even if you grant YEC the existence of these supposed ancient “kinds,” the question is asking the impossible: present, observable evidence for evolutionary change in past, extinct “kinds” (and again, the fact that in reality there were no “original kinds” make the question even more impossible…as if that were…possible!).

Yes, the notion of “created kinds”—it’s kinda ridiculous.

9 Comments

  1. Erm yes, those YEC ‘kinds’ only exist in the present (real) world as individual species or hybrids (which group together into genera and families). How inconvenient for YECs. I doubt that ANY ‘kinds’ (as distinct from members of species) ever boarded any giant ark 4,500 years ago.

    You may have seen this (I’ve only just come across it):
    http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/did-modern-animals-evolve-from-the-inhabitants-of-the-ark

    I’ve also seen a blogged photo of an Ark Encounter display which reads “The Ark needed to house the ancestors of fewer than 34,000 land-dependent species. I cannot decipher all the remaining text but I see they quote a version of Genesis 6:20. Whilst TOTALLY ignoring Genesis 6:19. Together the two verses read (NIV): “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive”. ALL living creatures. And scientists have a pretty good idea how much species variation there was on Earth amongst birds, other wild and domestic land-dependent animals, and invertebrates/insects just 4,500 years ago. Hence this dodge in order to make Noah successfully ‘fulfil’ what God appeared to require of him.

  2. Slow and gradual speciation across those ‘kind boundaries’ happened in the unseen past eg dinosaurs to birds. But I assume it could potentially occur in the future too if ‘novel’ varieties of life appear? However directly observed speciation has been within existing families or indeed genera.

      1. I’ve just seen a new comment by Nathan here:
        https://thenaturalhistorian.com/2016/09/01/ark-encounter-common-ancestors-the-increasing-inclusiveness-of-biblical-kinds/#comments
        Worth a read (he may get a response from Joel Duff to his well-posed questions about AiG claims). AiG telling us that creatures boarded the ark that do not match the real creatures (species) found in the fossil record (most of which they claim results from the flood – but they also claim that most/all speciation post-dates the flood).

  3. Hi Joel, I came across your blog a day ago and am poking around some of your posts. your blog looks interesting. I’ve read about how early earth creationists pose their question and found your post very helpful. I have enjoyed Joe Duff’s blog for the past year or so.

    I’m wondering if it is possible to turn the question back on them by asking a question something like this: Has anyone “seen” or “observed” the kind of changes in the animals that were on the ark into the animals we now have in our modern world? (I’m thinking of the “hyper-specization” that the Hamm Ark posits).

    It seems to me that both evolution and early earth creationism are putting forward theories/interpretations from the past. Both sides are doing similar thing, nothing “observable” in the sense that the original question is posed.

    I hope my musing makes sense.

    I’ll keep poking around your blog. Blessing to you and yours in 2017

    Larry S.

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