Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Problem with AiG's Hyper-Evolutionary Model

Recently, Ken Ham and his ministry, Answers in Genesis, have begun touting a new model of "adaptation" in order to accommodate both the chronology of Flood Geology, and get themselves out of the impossibility of the Ark, as described in Genesis, housing tens of thousands, or even millions, of pairs of animals.

Introduction:  Problems with the Model

The definition of "kind" as mentioned in the Bible has long been contentious, as it has no clear equivalency in the natural world, as reflected in the Linnaean hierarchy.  Reading through Creationist literature and websites shows that Creationists have variously equated a "kind" with the Linnaean category of Species, or of Genus, or of Family, Order or even Class of vertebrates, depending on the argument they wish to make, and depending on their individual knowledge of zoology.  Using "kind" as equivalent to a biological species immediately exposed their argument to ridicule, as even considering just the living vertebrates, there are estimated to be some 60,000 species
(6,199 amphibians, 9,956 birds, 30,000 fish, 5,416 mammals and 8,240 reptiles) [ The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) 2007 Red List.].  Even disallowing the fish, which the Creationists usually claim would all have survived the Flood outside the Ark, an impossibility give the intolerance to salt of nearly all freshwater fish, we have some 30,000 pairs of animals, 60,000 in total (ignoring the useful animals, mostly large mammals, of which Noah was instructed to take 7 of each "kind".  So most Creationists have abandoned the biological species as being the meaning of "kind".

Now, AiG and Ham have decided that a "kind" is (usually) equivalent to a family in the Linnaean hierarchy.  AiG lecturer Bryan Osborne presented a graphic where he uses this definition of "kind" to graphically illustrate how all the living diversity of life developed by rapid migration and adaptation from a single pair of each "kind".  As an example, he and Aig use Hesperocyon gregarius, a fossil species of canid dating back to the Mid-Eocene 42.5 mya—31.0 Ma. as the basal dog kind from which descended all the known species of wolves, coyotes, jackals, foxes, etc.  comprising 13 distinct genera and at least 31 distinct species.  This of course ignores all the extinct descendants of Hesperocyon, in a total of three subfamilies.


Number of Genera and Species of Living and Extinct Members of the Family Canidae

Number of Genera
Number of species
Fossil Caninae
Living Caninae

[Source: Wang, 1994; Tedford, Tayor and Wang, 1995; Wang, Tedford and Taylor 1999; Tedford, Wang and Taylor 2009].


The adaptive radiation of the initial pair of Post-Flood Hesperocyonids, according to AiG, took place in less than 4,000 years, and as others have documented using Biblical timelines favored by the Creationists, probably less than 2,000 years.  This is a rate of evolution never observed in nature; in fact it is at least three orders of magnitude higher than anything previously documented.  It certainly constitutes macroevolution as defined by evolutionary biologists, and often by Creationists as well, since new species, new genera and new subfamiles resulted.

Bringing the AiG model up to date

I have taken the graphic prepared by Bryan Osborne and updated it by doing two things.  First, I have followed AiG's suggestion that "kind" generally is equivalent to a Linnaean family, and have added the most adequately described and securely dated species known for that family.  Identifying the family was easy in the case of the "dog kind", but in other instances I've had to guess at what family was intended.  In the case of the bird, it is safe to conclude from the silhouette that it is one of the perching birds, the Passeriformes.  I've taken the liberty of choosing Darwin's finches as the birds intended, the family Fringillidae.  The dinosaur is clearly a Triceratops, so I have used the family Ceratopsia.  For the frog I chose the most familiar and widespread of the modern families, the water frogs, Ranidae.  For the lizards I chose the primitive geckos, family Gekkonidae.  I also corrected AiG and Ham's use of Hesperocyon gregarius as the basal canid, when in fact it is Prohesperocyon wilsoni.

Second, I have added a time duration of the two phases of Hyper-Evolution, lest we forget that an equivalent amount of diversity developed prior to the flood, and in half the time.

Summary and Conclusion

So what are the points I'm trying to make here?  The first is that by re-defining "kind" to be a biological family, AiG/Ham are able to accommodate their extreme Hyper-Evolution, which is certainly macroevolution as it has been traditionally defined by evolutionary biologists, in the unbelievably short period of time after the Noachian Flood.

The second point is that the Ark, as traditionally depicted now is impossible.  No elephants, giraffe, zebra or any other recognizable animals.  Instead, the Ark must have been filled with the basal member of each extant family, none of which would be recognizable to us today.

The third point is that the AiG/Ham model conveniently leaves out all of the extinct animals which today have no living representatives.  Once again the Ark flounders and sinks under the weight of animals, dung, and necessary food for the year-long voyage.

They haven't saved the Ark.  And not only have they failed to save it, they've had to admit the existence of rapid hyper-evolution above the species level in the last 4000 years.
The Role of "Appeal to Authority" in the Creationism - Evolution Debate

Very often Creationists will characterize the arguments of evolutionists as committing the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam, commonly called the appeal to authority.  Evolutionists, of course, accuse Creationists of doing the same thing, although they seldom name the fallacy, but it is inherent in the statement that "the Bible is not evidence".

Both sides are guilty of fuzzy thinking and inattention to the meaning of words and phrases.

Here's a brief quotation from An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method, by Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel (1934).

"We may distinguish two forms of the appeal to authority.  One form is inevitable and reasonable.  It is employed whenever we are unable for lack of time or training to settle some problem.....  We...leave the resolution of such problems to experts, whose authority is acknowledged.  But their authority is only relatively final, and we reserve the right to others, (also competent to judge), or to ourselves (finding the time to acquire competence) to modify the findings of our expert.  The second form of the appeal to authority invests some sources with infallibility and finality and invokes some external force to give sanction to their decisions.  On questions of politics, economics, and social conduct, as well as on religious opinions, the method of authority has been used to root out, as heretical or disloyal, divergent opinions.  Men have been frightened and punished into conformity in order to prevent alternative views from unsettling our habitual beliefs."

"...we shall have to resort to some method of fixing beliefs whose efficacy in resolving problems is independent of our desires and wills.  Such a method, which takes advantage of the objective connections in the world around us, should be found reasonable not because of its appeal to the idiosyncrasies of a selected few individuals, but because it can be tested repeatedly and by all men."

So what is the proper role of an appeal to authority in these discussions?  Clearly, appealing to knowledgeable scientists in the field (evolutionary biology, paleontology, etc) is not a logical fallacy on two levels.  First, it is an appeal to a qualified individual, and is thus to be allowed.  Second, it appeals to an individual, or a corpus of work, which is scientific, and is thus available (published) so that the analysis can be repeated and verified; or the experiments can be replicated anew and the prior results confirmed.  On both counts such an appeal is to be logically allowed.  One should note that this is often where creationists will attempt to insert the observable versus historical science distinction.  The historical sciences use the same tools of the scientific method as to the supposedly "observable" sciences.  Cohn and Nagel neatly dispose of that distinction decades before the Creationists ever articulated it, when they note:

"We reserve the term "science" for knowledge which is general and systematic, that is, in which specific propositions are all deduced from a few general principles.  Now we need not enter here into the quarrel which arises because archeologists, historians, descriptive sociologists, and others wish to call their more empirical knowledge science. ...all the logical methods in proving the existence of laws are involved in establishing the truth of any historical event.  In determining the weight of evidence for any human event, we must reason from general propositions in regards to human affairs, though such propositions are generally implicit rather than explicitly assumed.

On the other hand, appeal to God, or appeal to scripture is not an appeal to a qualified person.  It is at best an appeal to the person or persons who wrote the scripture being cited.  The observations of that person cannot be repeated  All that can be repeated is the reading of the particular scripture, and the literature of Biblical exegesis is notoriously contentious, with widely varying interpretations among the various religions, sects, splinter groups and even between individuals within even the smallest and most circumscribed of such groups.  This form of appeal to authority is a logical fallacy.