Friday, April 1, 2011

Creationists, kinds, Noah's Ark and Genesis 1:25

The issue of "kind" is a Ken Ham-ism. He made it up because he needed to be able to fit all the species of the earth into Noah’s Ark.

The “kind” argument goes like this:

We can observe small changes in species so those must be true (he calls this “microevolution”), but there is a point beyond which a species cannot change, like an evolutionary brake. Proponents of this theory (including Ham) present no evidence for the existence of this brake and rely totally on their interpretation of the word “kind” in Genesis 1:25:
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
However, this interpretation has significant problems. Unless Ken Ham is claiming special revelation from God then he and everyone else only has the words on the page to go on. I have had a brief look at the uses of "miyn" in the old testament (this is the word translated "kind" in Genesis 1:25). Ken Ham says that kinds are an archetype or root species. For example, having one pair of archetypal cats on the ark would allow all types of cat, from domestic cats to lions, to descend from that pair. In fact, for his ark theory to work you need as few “kinds” as possible or the boat won't float. However, the use of miyn in other parts of the pentateuch shows that it does not mean an archetype. Leviticus 11:22 says that the locust and bald locust and the grasshopper are all different kinds:
Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.
That’s not how Ham and other young earth creationists want to interpret it.

Or how about Deuteronomy 14:15-16 which states that the ostrich, owl, seagull, hawk, little owl, great owl, white owl, pelican, vulture, cormorant, stork and heron are all different kinds.

“Miyn” seems to mean visibly different species not an archetypal ancestor animal. If the ostrich, owl and hawk are different kinds then these, and all other  all other bird species, had to be on the ark too.

In addition to this Leviticus 19:19 is an instruction not to breed animals of different kinds - "Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind" - yet under Ham's interpretation of "kind" this would be biologically impossible so why mention it at all? The different "kinds" of cattle are what we would call breeds.

In order for the “kind” theory to hold water the young earth creationists are going to have to:

  • Prove scientifically that there is a point beyond which one species cannot evolve.
  • Explain to their supporters why they are using a process of "micro evolution" to prove that the Noah's Ark story is true while at the same time denying that species have evolved by a process of natural selection.
  • Prove that the Hebrew word “miyn” means a fixed archetypal animal and not just visibly different species.
  • Explain how all the “kinds” listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy fitted onto the ark.

The most worrying aspect of this is that people trust the creationist's interpretation of the Bible without looking at it themselves.