The Question of Species and Variation

Opponents of the literal rendering of the Genesis record base their opposition on two main points: (1) the problem of species and (2) the record of the rocks. In this study we shall consider the first of these.

H.W. Clark, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Pacific Union College

Opponents of the literal rendering of the Genesis record base their opposition on two main points: (1) the problem of species and (2) the record of the rocks. In this study we shall consider the first of these.

1. What is the Bible record of creation of plants and animals?

In Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25 we read of the creation of plants and animals each "after his kind." In Genesis 7:14 we are told that the beasts and birds went into the ark "after his kind." Genesis 8:19 says that they came forth from the ark "after their kinds." The margin says "after their families." These words would indicate that as the world was repopulated after the Flood, the original kinds, what­ever they were, were continued. It would seem to be a reasonable conclusion, there­fore, that we should be able today to recog­nize the original kinds, unless genetic proc­esses since the Flood have been of such a nature as to obscure them or destroy their identity. This question we shall consider from the scientific angle, to see whether the evidence is such as to verify this conclusion or lead us to believe otherwise.

2. Upon what premise was Darwin's theory based?

Darwin observed that there was varia­tion in nature, and that this variation led to the production of new varieties of plants and animals. He assumed that if these new varieties were subjected to the action of the elements of nature, selective action would go on. The varieties that were best fitted to survive would remain, whereas those less fitted would die out. This principle was rec­ognized in the three expressions he com­monly used, natural selection, struggle for existence, and survival of the fittest. In other words, in the struggle for existence, through which all living things must pass, natural selection would result in the sur­vival of the fittest.

Incidentally, it might be noted in passing that Darwin did not invent these ideas; some of them were expressed by Aristotle three hundred years before Christ. Neither were they necessarily false ideas; practi­cally all biologists today recognize them as being true to a certain degree, at least. It is the conclusion that Darwin drew from these observations that has led to so much controversy.

What conclusions did Darwin draw front his observations?

Darwin concluded that since this selec­tive action was going on continually, it would result in varieties diverging farther and farther from one another, until even­tually they would become so different that they would have to be called separate species. The same process carried still further would eventually separate species into different genera, and so on, until all the great categories of classification would be produced.

4.     How is Darwin's theory regarded by modern scientists?

As a whole they accept the general as­pects of the theory, although they do not necessarily agree with Darwin that natural selection is the only, or even the principal, cause of such separation among living forms. There are some, however, who definitely disagree with the general opin­ion, and who do not believe that the gradual accumulation of small variations can cause new species, genera, et cetera.

5.     What is the actual scientific evidence along this line?

In answering this question it should be pointed out that what constitutes "evi­dence" to one person may appear very weak proof to another. All that can be done is to state the facts, and then leave the reader to judge for himself the validity of the evidence, as to whether the facts seem to support the theory of evolution.

Also, it might be well for us to notice the categories into which the animal king­dom is divided. Perhaps the best way to do this would be to take a common animal, such as the gray squirrel, and notice its classification. The following table will show this:

Phylum:         Chordata                          Animals with a notochord (primitive gelatinous structure from which the backbone develops in most forms).

Class:              Mammalia                       Animals bearing their young alive, and nourishing them with milk.

Order:               Rodentia                         G massing mammals.

Family:             Seittridae                         Squirrel family.

Genus:             Sciurus                            Tree squirrels.

Species:           Griscus                            Western gray squirrel.

The scientific name is Sciurus griseus. Sciurus means "squirrel," and griseus means "gray."

In the same family we find many com­mon animals, such as fox squirrel, red squirrel, marmot, ground squirrel, chip­munk, flying squirrel, and prairie dog.

Now the question arises as to how much variation is possible among these animals, and whether it is possible for one to be­come so confused he could not tell one from the other. It may be possible for the amateur to confuse one with another, but not for the person who studies them care­fully. The classification is distinct, as far as the genera are concerned. Between differ­ent species there may be at times a bit of uncertainty, although as a whole the dis­tinctions are clear. In other words, no se­rious student of mammalogy can confuse a tree squirrel with a ground squirrel, nor a Chipmunk with a squirrel, nor a marmot with a prairie dog.

As to how much variation is possible, let me give an experience that I once had. In 1932 I was studying at the University of California when Dr. Richard Goldschmidt visited that institution to lecture on his studies on Darwinism. Goldschmidt, in­cidentally, is opposed to Darwinism, even though he is an evolutionist. In discussing his objections to Darwinism, he was chal­lenged by students in the Museum of Verte­brate Zoology to explain some phenomena of variation that they wished to point out to him. The next morning after the lecture those students laid out on the museum ta­bles many series of mammals, such as squir­rels, foxes, rabbits, et cetera, in such a way as to illustrate variation in size, color, et cetera, among them. Then they asked Dr. Goldschmidt, "If these things do not mean evolution, what do they mean?"

I will never forget his answer. He looked the exhibits over carefully, and with a slight grin on his face he answered some­thing like this: "Gentlemen, I observe one peculiar thing: your rabbits are all rabbits, your rats are all rats, your foxes are all foxes. I do not see one single case where any of them is turning into anything else."

And here is where the crux of the whole question lies. Variation there is, to be true; but that variation in no case seems to be sufficient to cause any crossing over the gap that separates one of the main categories from another.

6.   Does genetics support this conclusion?

Goldschmidt was at that time, and still is, one of the world's greatest geneticists. His conclusions were based on his genetic studies on gypsy moths, which he had been carrying on for twenty-five years without successfully causing them to vary enough to produce anything but new varieties of gypsy moths. When asked how evolution did work, he remarked that all he could say was with respect to gypsy moths, but that so far as they were concerned, Dar­win's theories simply did not work.

Modern genetic studies have shown the possibility of producing many variations in plants and animals. Thus far it has been shown that some of these changes are suf­ficient to produce what we, in our present system of classification, call new species. It may be possible, in some instances, to pro­duce changes sufficiently great to be dis­tinguished as genus differences. But so far no genetic changes are known that are of sufficient scope to cause the production of variants that would have to be classified as belonging to a new family. To illustrate, we might find that a new species of chip­munk could be produced by genetic varia­tion, or possibly, but not likely, a new ge­nus. But as to an animal that was different enough to be classified in something else outside the squirrel family, we have no knowledge of any such drastic changes be­ing produced by any known genetic proc­esses. Accordingly, the Genesis record of creation, each after his kind, or family, holds good in modern scientific studies.

7.   If the science of genetics does not support the idea of the origin of higher cat­egories by processes of variation, then how can the families, orders, classes, and phyla be accounted for?

They can be accounted for in only two ways—evolution or creation. But the evo­lutionist does not have the facts behind him. He bases his theories on pure specu­lation. The facts of variation, which show how new species may have come into ex­istence in the past, are assumed to apply with equal validity to the origin of the higher categories, but for this assumption there is no actual proof.

The creation viewpoint, on the other hand, offers a clear, understandable expla­nation. The different "kinds" of animals, represented in the beginning by one or more typical pairs for each family, would undergo variation in later years, until the present elaborate array of species would come into being. (At present about a mil­lion species of animals and a quarter of a million species of plants are known, and many more are being discovered each year.) Just how many pairs would have been represented in the original creation, it would be impossible to say, as we do not know how much variation has been pos­sible in the past. For instance, if we take the cat family, we find such animals as the lion, tiger, lynx, bobcat, and several others. How many of these may represent original creations? Lions and tigers are known to interbreed, and may possibly have come from one original pair. But it is hard to imagine all cats as having come from one single pair of ancestors. The whole sub­ject must be left in a somewhat uncertain status.

One thing is certain, however—the million or more species of animals now known to exist could never have been in the ark; they must be considered as having been produced by variation from original forms. But at present our knowledge of variation is so meager that we cannot make any very exact statements as to the amount that may have been possible during the ages between the Flood and the present. The limitations that we find in the science of genetics do, however, place the creation­ist definitely on the scientific side of the problem.

8. May interbreeding between original kinds have confused the lines of distinction so much that we cannot tell anything about them?

I do not think so; and our Adventist bi­ology teachers are generally settled in their opinion that the amount of interbreeding possible is limited quite definitely to the lower categories. In fact, most of it can take place only between varieties within the species. Occasional cases of breeding be­tween species are known, but beyond that it is an almost unknown phenomenon. This statement must be qualified by the ob­servation that interbreeding is possible be­tween more divergent groups in the lower vertebrates than among the higher ones. This may be due to the fact that exact classification of fishes and amphibia is not so easily made as in the case of birds and mammals, or it may be due to the fact that the physiological processes among lower forms are of a simpler nature.

Some of our biologists are of the opin­ion that interbreeding can take place only between animals belonging to the same original kinds. On this point there is some difference of opinion, owing to the fact that it is not easy to prove just what the original kinds actually were. But whatever the case, the fact remains that the major groups, from the family upward, are so clearly dis­tinguishable that we need have no trouble in recognizing their differences.

In conclusion we may say that the Gen­esis statement, "after their kinds," still holds good in the scientific interpretation of changes in plants and animals, and no matter how earnestly the evolutionist may contend for his theory, we may feel con­fident that the actual data of scientific evi­dence are on the side of the Genesis story of creation.

In the next study we shall consider the final question that is always thrown at creationists: What are you going to do with the geological evidence?

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H.W. Clark, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Pacific Union College

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