Friday, 19 August 2011
Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study
By John Woodmorappe
Since I've had no less than eight Xangans in the last 24 hours express to me that they have no idea what evolution is, or that creationism is not a science, I thought I'd bring out a classic of mine:
Kind. It's a word often used by creationists. But what does it mean?
The term is central to understanding the young earth creationist's take on the deluge. Without knowing what a "kind" is "Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth." - Genesis 7:2-3
Without knowing what a kind means, we cannot know what Noah loaded onto the ark. Creationists love to claim that evolution is wrong since one kind has never been observed to evolve into another kind. Well, if we don't know what kinds are, how can we know if this ever happened?
So what explanations have I gotten from creationists as to what a kind is?
1) It's so simple even a child could understand it, so I don't need to explain it. (A favorite of the currently incarcerated "Dr. Dino" Kent Hovind)
2) Dogs are a kind, horses are a kind. (Also a favorite of the good "doctor.")
3) Kinds are what were on the ark. (Circular reasoning, anyone?)
4) Kinds are those that can reproduce more of their own kind. (Finally, an actual explanation. There are problems with this, which I'll get to later.)
5) (Yes, often I am met with silence.)
Only answer (4) is a definition, but it looks an awful lot like the definition for a species.
Species: The members of a group of populations that interbreed under natural conditions and are capable of producing fertile offspring.
Kind cannot mean species for two reasons:
1) It has been scientifically proven that an ark of the size described in the bible could, in no way, hold two of every species that walks (or walked, in the case of dinosaurs and mammoths) on the land. It is simply impossible. When this is pointed out to proponents of definition (4), they suggest that kind might mean genus, family, or even order. To put this in perspective, the order Carnivora includes dogs, bears, cats, weasels, and seals. The order Primates includes lemurs, monkeys, apes, and yes, humans.
Conservative estimates suggest that the ark could hold about 10,000 pairs of animals, while there are currently estimates between 3,000,000 and 30,000,000 species of animals (for math simplicity, we'll assume 1,600,000). This means that a speciation event must have occurred every 1.6 days for the past 4400 years since the flood. This is a rate of evolution orders of magnitude beyond what all available data agrees is possible.
That's right, some creationists don't believe in the theory of evolution, claiming that such changes cannot occur over millions of years, but have no problem believing in the completely unsupported idea of SUPER EVOLUTION. And all this happened somehow without any increase in information or beneficial mutations.
2) Another reason kind cannot mean "species" is because there have been over a dozen documented cases of speciation in the past century, in the field and in the lab. And since according to creationists, one kind has never been observed to evolve into another kind, kind cannot mean species.
This is why kind is not a scientific term. Its meaning is subjective.
So what do creationists mean by the word kind? If they mean species we know it is impossible to literally interpret the story of Noah's Ark. Also, there are many examples of a population of one species splitting off and evolving into a completely separate species.
If they mean some categorization higher than species (i.e. genus, family, or order) the animals may fit on the ark, but one must now accept the completely unscientific, unsupported, and undocumented idea of SUPER EVOLUTION.
So next time a creationist uses the word kind when discussing this with you, bring this up. Most likely, they already know most of it, they're just hoping you don't. Ask them to define the term kind and we'll discuss it.