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Oct 27 2009

The worldwide distribution of species

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)

Some of the most powerful evidence for evolution comes from the geographic distribution of species, because we find the widest range and the strangest species in Australia, Madagascar, the Galapagos, and other isolated landmasses, some of them quite small islands.

Small but isolated regions turn out to be good breeding grounds for producing new species. When some members of a species get isolated from other members and their gene pools cease to mingle, then they start to diverge from each other. This is why one sees new species proliferating on islands or other forms of isolated areas due to separations caused by mountains or lakes or deserts. The appearance of the new species in these isolated areas is explained by requiring specimens of the ancestral species somehow making it to the remote location and reproducing there. The pattern that emerges is of the new species being different from, but sharing common features with, the parent species from which they originated.

Young Earth creationists do not deal with all this evidence from biogeography (the pattern of species distributed across the globe) because it is tough to explain for them. With the Noah’s ark story, you would expect most species to be found close to the Middle East and fewer the further you went away. After all, it is quite a hike for a small flightless bird like the kiwi to get from Mount Ararat all the way to New Zealand. One could postulate that it hitched a ride in a kangaroo’s pouch as far as Australia, and then got a bird to carry it over the ocean to its final destination but I suspect that even hard-core creationists (except perhaps for the delightfully loopy folks at Conservapedia) would find that hard to swallow.

If the young Earth people were willing to consider the continental sprint idea to have occurred after Noah’s flood ended, they might have been able to ‘explain’ the kiwi in New Zealand and other exotic island species by saying that, after emerging from the Ark, they grouped together on different parts of the land before these parts split from the rest and sprinted away. But apparently this after-the-flood continental sprint model would undermine their belief that everything is due to one great catastrophe, and furthermore violates some other verse in the Bible which, of course, rules it out. This is the kind of absurdity that results when you demand that modern science conform to the words in a 2,500-year old text.

They know they also have to deal with all the evidence for biological evolution. In order to limit what they have to explain away, they claim that they accept evolution by natural selection, provided all changes stay within species boundaries. They know that the past existence of dinosaurs are irrefutable and have grabbed the imagination of children and adults but are not mentioned in the Bible, which is pretty odd. After all, you would think that these gigantic creatures would merit a mention. Instead the Bible talks of dragons, which is understandable since they were part of the folklore and mythology of that time. So they suggest that that the dragons were meant to refer to dinosaurs since the word dinosaur had not been coined yet.

They tend to studiously ignore the fact that 99% of the species that ever existed are now extinct because that is hard to explain away in any model of divine creation because it seems so pointless and wasteful. The idea of so many species coming into being and then going extinct is hard to explain away in any model that postulates that everything was part of a grand plan by a super-intelligent and powerful god.

You have to give the people in AiG credit for the sheer brazenness with which they make some claims. They seem to think that if they confidently assert something, people won’t notice that it makes no sense. My favorite is this passage (my emphasis):

[S]cience is only possible because the Bible is true. Only God’s Word provides us with a logical foundation that is necessary for science or any acquisition of knowledge.

The Bible provides the basis for morality, laws of logic, and the uniformity of nature. These are necessary for the observations of science to be repeatable and trustworthy, and yet the evolutionary worldview cannot account for any of these. Evolutionists are forced to assume the Bible is true in order to do science, and then many of them attempt to claim the Bible is false. This is irrational. Dr. Jason Lisle’s new book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, explains this in much greater detail.

Many great scientists were Bible-believing Christians, such as Newton, Kepler, Boyle, and Faraday. Why would we put down Genesis for a second when many of the greatest scientists in history would not? Why would we ignore the eyewitness account of God who knows everything and has always been there?

These four were all undoubtedly great scientists but there was no reason at that time for them to think that the universe was a far older and bigger place than they thought. Notice that the most recent scientist on that list is Michael Faraday who died way back in 1867 just when ideas about a very old Earth and the theory of evolution were gaining steam. The next most recent was Isaac Newton who died in 1727. There have been many, many great scientists since then. Couldn’t they find a single one of them who believes in the Genesis story? The omission is telling.

You gotta love the AiG people. True believers all. And completely disconnected from reality.

POST SCRIPT: What Christians really believe

People might wonder why I am wasting so much time countering the beliefs of young Earth creationists. Aren’t their beliefs self-evidently ridiculous? Well, not if you are a Christian. In discussing religion with sophisticated people such as the accommodationists, it is easy to forget that most Christians believe things that are even more bizarre that a 6,000 year old Earth, if you can imagine that.

Sam Harris has released the results of a poll to probe what Christians actually believe and finds, among other things, that over 90% agree or strongly agree that angels exist and that the biblical story of creation is basically true.

All the results are fascinating in a weird kind of way, providing evidence that to be religious is to sap one’s ability to think rationally in any area that religion touches

(Thanks to Pharyngula)

3 comments

  1. 1
    Ray Foulkes

    Has anyone calculated the size of the arc that would be needed to put two of each species in it or given consideration to the fact that biologists have taken centuries to discover only a fraction of all species that are alive today? how long would it have taken Noah to go around the world and discover every species and collect two of them? or is is supposed by creationists that all species conveniently lived a stone’s throw from Noahs place in those days? I cannot accept that most of those who say that they believe this really do. And what about the incest that would have been necessary in Noah’s family to beget the entire modern human race? ANd how do they explain the wide genetic variation that we see in all species alive today if they came from a single breeding pair. Then how did all the living species today find their geographical niche? You mentioned the Kiwi but the same is true of most species, they are specifically adapted to single geographical and environmental niches that they occupy. How are they supposed to have traveled and found these remote and often small niches?
    Then what about the food chain? Did the lions wait months for the two remaining Zebras to breed before they ate one? If they didn’t there would be no mate for the single remaining Zebra to breed with! and if they did they would have starved to death and there would be no lions.

    Hmmmm…. THINK you people!!!! THINK!

  2. 2
    Paul Jarc

    ANd how do they explain the wide genetic variation that we see in all species alive today if they came from a single breeding pair.

    According to the story, there were multiple pairs of each species: seven or two pairs, depending on the species. Of course, that just makes the storage problem that much worse, and it still doesn’t give much genetic variety. But if you can imagine rapid continental drift between the flood and modern times, then rapid mutation shouldn’t be a problem.

    Noah was also supposed to bring “every kind of food”. This could mean that for prey species, there were more than just the breeding pairs (again, making the storage problem worse).

  3. 3
    Airla

    About Noah’s ark in turkey.This isn’t the first time they found the ark.They also found it in the 90′s and maybe one other time before that.Remember,they aren’t scientists. Before we get to the carbon dating, how about we see the wood, pictures, and layout of the thing they’ve found ?

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