The Creation Explanation
|Beliefs and Interpretations of Evidence|
Taxonomy is the systematic classification of organisms according to the sum of their similarities and differences. The founder of modern taxonomy, Linnaeus, believed that he was merely systematizing the knowledge of the Creator's handiwork. Later, with the advent of Darwinism, the fact that plants and animals could be classified was taken as evidence for evolutionary history and relationship. A "natural" taxonomy became the goal, one in which the system of classification paralleled the supposed course of evolutionary development.
Taxonomy attempts to classify organisms into group of increasing size: species, genera, families, orders, classes, phyla and kingdoms. The species concept is not easy to define precisely. The most commonly accepted and used definition is that a species is a group of interbreeding natural populations that is reproductively isolated from other such groups.13 Thus a species may be considered in terms of its gene pool, each individual in the population holding temporarily a small portion of the genes in that pool. The members of the species interbreed and are normally prevented from breeding with the members of other species by numerous protective devices. In general, the combinations formed from the species' gene pools are normally harmonious, and occasional combinations produced by mixture with genes from other species' gene pools are normally inharmonious and soon rejected by natural selection.
The above species definition, while usually applied without great difficulty, is still in numerous cases subject to problems leading to the necessity for arbitrary decisions by taxonomists. Reproductive isolation between two populations which normally do not interbreed can break down in changing environments, or isolation may never have been completely established. So-called sibling species are exceedingly difficult at times to distinguish, and this sometimes can only be done on the basis of subtle internal differences. Such problems have historically led some taxonomists to be "splitters," identifying large number of separate species, which other taxonomist called "lumpers" later recombined into just a few species. In the case of the higher categories, however, there is usually no particular difficulty in assigning a species to its respective genus, family, etc.
In view of the fact that variation of species within limits has been observed and that the definition of species still leaves some arbitrary character in the classification system, creationists conclude that the created "kinds" were generally higher than the species category, perhaps at the level of genus or family. This is a good area in which biologists who are believers in creation may carry on research oriented to their faith. In any event, it should be clearly understood that the charge that creationists believe in absolute fixity of species is false. Linnaeus himself, who originally believed in fixity of all species, later in his career concluded that speciation had occurred since the original creation. Thus the concept of variation within the limits of created kinds has been a part of the creation model for 200 years.
A second conclusion from taxonomy is that the generally unambiguous classification of all plants and animals into the higher categories, and the demonstrated impossibility of transition from one to another agree with the view that the original created kinds are forever separate. The fact that within the categories exist similarities of structure and form agrees with our earlier conclusion that a rational Creator would employ basic plans with modifications for the creation of the different subdivisions within each category.
If one keeps in mind the fact that similarity does not verify the hypothesis of common descent, it will be clear that taxonomy cannot be taken as scientific proof for evolution. It is important also to realize that although a large amount of evidence has been gathered that demonstrates genetic variation among populations of every sort of plant and animal, the observed changes are trivial compared to the changes required by evolutionary theory. In other words, the actual data of the biological sciences support the principle that various kinds of life were created with impassable genetic barriers separating them. The variability observed in all organisms is part of the created provision which makes each kind capable of adaptation to changing environment.
13. Dickerson, Richard E., Scientific American, Vol. 22, April 1972, pp. 58-72.