1. What are the "Genesis kinds?"[1]

The term “Genesis kinds” is not a biblical expression. The word “kind” (Hebrew “min”) is used in the Genesis creation account, but no definition is given. The Bible uses the term "according to their kind" to refer to the diversity of plants and animals that God created (Genesis 1), or that were saved in the ark (Genesis 6:20), or that were clean or unclean to eat (Leviticus 11). Many creationists have held the tradition that God commanded the animals to reproduce only "after their kind," but a study of the text shows that reproduction is not the subject being discussed. The Bible gives no rule about animals reproducing after their kind. It is certainly true that parents and offspring are similar, but this is a scientific observation more than it is a biblical mandate. The Hebrew word “min” may be a collective term applied to a group of similar species, rather than a specific term referring only to a single species.[2] The term "Genesis kinds" is used by creationists to refer to the idea that God originally created many separate groups of interbreeding populations which have produced the diversity of plants and animals living today.[3] Each original “kind” may have diversified into numerous fossil and living varieties. Thus the term "lineage" could be used in association with "kind," recognizing that there may be considerable genetic flexibility within any given “kind.”

2. How do we account for predators, parasites and poisonous creatures if animals originally ate plants?

Scientists have not yet determined how harmless animals could be changed into parasites and predators, but the topic of development is under intense study at present.[4] The Bible does not say how such things originated, but it does say that all of nature changed because of Adam's sin (Genesis 3:14, 18; Romans 8:20). Apparently humans were created to have dominion over the living creatures (Genesis 1:26-28). It seems one of the consequences of their sin was to forfeit control of the world to Satan (John 12:31; Job 1:6,7; Job 2:1,2). Thus, the evil we see in nature is the responsibility of Satan and those he influences (Matthew 13:28; Luke 13:16). Violence and corruption of the original creation were major reasons for the destruction of the world by the flood (Genesis 6:11-13). When the world is restored, harmony in nature will be restored (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 22:3).

3. Aren't there limits to how much species can change?

The Bible does not address this point, but science shows that variation is limited. We do not have a system for quantifying morphological differences among species, so the limits cannot be quantified. However, thousands of experiments have been conducted by breeders and geneticists, and much information has been gained. Species have a great capacity for variation (e.g., variation among breeds of dogs is equivalent to that seen among different genera of wild canids[5]) and can produce new varieties and species; but it appears implausible that this kind of variation can add up to the production of new organs or new body plans.[6] On the other hand, the existence of predators and parasites suggests that some species have undergone a considerable amount of change. The mechanism of this change has not been fully demonstrated.[7]

4. What is the taxonomic unit that best represents the originally created kinds?

There is no general answer — different groups often have different traits that are not comparable. Taxonomic units, such as genus, family, order, etc. are subjectively defined, based on the opinion of an expert taxonomist. We do not have a way to determine whether two families of insects are as similar to each other as are two families of reptiles or two families of algae?[8] Scientists have not developed a measure that could quantify morphological differences among species. Some groups, such as dogs, bears, cats, deer, elephants and others seem to fall naturally into distinct groups at the level of taxonomic families, and the family unit might be a good estimate of the distinction between some of the originally created kinds. As embryological development becomes better understood, we may improve our ability to estimate the relationship between present diversity and original created kinds.

5. Can species change rapidly enough to account for present biodiversity in a relatively short time?

We do not know how much species have changed since the creation, because we do not know what they originally looked like and we don’t know what changes are required to produce the morphological differences in similar species. Scientists have learned that small morphological changes in species can occur very rapidly,[9] especially during periods of environmental stress. Most observed changes are minor, such as might distinguish species or genera. These observed changes were probably driven by natural processes, such as epigenetic processes differing combinations of genes as described by quantitative genetics.[10] Random mutations may not be as effective as neodarwinian theory has assumed.[11]

If a species spread out over a large geographical area with many available habitats, few competitors and predators, it may rapidly increase in numbers. Populations in different habitats might undergo local selection for different traits. If selection continued for several generations, it could result in simultaneous production of many locally-adapted species. Conceivably, an ancestral species might split into dozens of separate species in a few hundred years immediately following the flood.

6. How do we explain the genetic and molecular similarities of humans and chimpanzees?

We do not know exactly how DNA molecules make bodies, but it seems clear there is a relationship between the DNA sequences and body form and function. If so, then similar bodies can be expected to have similar DNA sequences. Thus, one would expect humans and chimps to have greater genetic similarity than humans and pine trees, for example. DNA sequence similarities between humans and chimps are striking, and it is understandable that evolutionists would explain them as the result of common ancestry.[12] If the similarities are so great, one may wonder why the two species are so different. What makes them different? We don't know the answer, but the genetic differences are now understood to be greater than realized only a decade or two ago.[13] Unless we learn how differences among species are produced, we probably will not understand the meaning of the similarities between humans and chimps. On the other hand, many DNA and protein sequences are quite similar in all living organisms, and it is increasingly recognized that other factors must be controlling body form. One idea is that proteins are like building materials, while some other factor in living organisms functions like a blueprint. As many different types of building can be constructed using similar bricks, wood, steel, etc, so the same proteins can be used to construct an almost endless variety of living forms. The differences are due to the blueprint, not to the construction materials.

7. What unsolved problems about change in species are of greatest interest?

Some of the questions relate to the differences between the original creation and the present world. What did the originally created animals and plants look like? How might we determine which species truly share the same originally created ancestor, and which species do not? How are bodies constructed by genes, and what mechanisms control body form?

[1] For additional information see Cowles, DL and LJ Gibson, Does the theory of evolution explain the diversity of life? In Gibson, LJ and Rasi, HM, eds., Understanding Creation, (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2011), 167-177.

[2] Schafer, ARD. The “Kinds” of Genesis 1: What is the meaning of “min”? Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 14/1(2003):86-100.

[3] Marsh FL. Evolution, Creation and Science. 2d edition. (Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1947). On pages 174-175, reference is made to the term "baramin", a term coined by Marsh earlier (see Marsh's footnote on p 174). For an application of this concept, see: Wood T, Cavanaugh DP. A baraminological analysis of the subtribe Flavertinae (Asteraceae: Helenieae) and the origin of biological complexity. Origins 52(2001):7-27.

[4] E.g., the journal, Evolution and Development specializes in this field.

[5] Wayne RK. Cranial morphology of domestic and wild canids: the influence of development on morphological change. Evolution 40(1986):243-261.

[6] Sanford, JC. Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome. (Lima, NY: Elim Publishing), 2005.

[7] Cowles, DL and LJ Gibson. Does the theory of evolution explain the diversity of life? In (LJ Gibson and HM Rasi, eds) Understanding Creation, ( Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2011), 167-177. See also Fodor, J and M Piattelli-Palmarini. What Darwin God Wrong. (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).

[8] A discussion of this question is in: Van Valen L. Are categories in phyla comparable? Taxon 22(1973):333-359.

[9] E.g., see: Hendry AP, Kinnison MT. The pace of modern life: measuring rates of contemporary microevolution. Evolution 53(1999):1637-1653.

[10] E.g., see the introduction to a special issue on epigenetics, at Riddihough, R and LM Zahn. What is epigenetics? Science 330(2010):611.

[11] Shapiro, JA. Evolution, A View from the 21st Century. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press Science, 2011).

[12] Pseudogenes provide an important example. For an evolutionistic view, see: Max E. Plagiarized errors and molecular genetics. Creation/Evolution 6(9, 1987):34-45. For contrasting reactions, see: Gilbert G. In search of Genesis and the pseudogene. Spectrum 22(4, 1992):10-21; and Gibson LJ. Pseudogenes and origins. Origins 21(1994):91-108. Recently pseudogenes have been found to have functions: Wen, Y-Z et al. Pseudogenes are not pseudo any more. RNA Biology 9(2012):1, 27-32.

[13] Cohen, J. Relative differences: The myth of 1%. Science 316 (29 June 2007):1836; Hughes, JF et al. Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure and gene content. Nature 463(2010):536-539.