This article was first published in the December 2005 ABR Electronic Newsletter.
According to the Genesis model of origins, God created not each individual species, but the wider genus to which each species belongs. Genesis 1:11 and 1:21 state that God created animals and plants “according to [their] kind.” “Kind” is miyn in Hebrew; the Latin Vulgate translates miyn as genus. Charles Linnaeus, the scientist who formulated the genus/species system of nomenclature for animals and plants, used the Bible as the source of his formula. When he saw the word genus in his Latin Bible—the Hebrew miyn—he chose that as the designation not for an individual species, but for the wider genus to which it belonged.
For example, the scientific name for the domesticated dog is Canis familiaris. Canis is the genus/miyn, while familiaris is the species. Canis is Latin for “dog,” referring to the wider dog “kind,” while familiaris refers to the familiar, domesticated dog as an individual species. Canis encompasses wolves and coyotes: Canis lupus is the wolf (lupus being Latin for “wolf”), while Canis ladrans is the coyote (ladrans being Latin for “thief”). The same logic applies to Felis domesticus, the scientific name for the housecat. Similarly, the lion is Felis leo.
Genesis thus indicates that God created each genus/miyn, not each individual species. Within each genus He provided a blueprint for diversity, enabling each genus to split, over time, into numerous species (a process called speciation). This has happened before the eyes of Harvard and Russian scientists, who have witnessed the speciation of the Agrodiaetus genus of butterflies. In a process called reinforcement, new species within the genus/miyn are being created, as individual butterflies’ wing colors are becoming different enough to avoid confusion at mating time with other species within the genus. This avoidance helps prevent the butterflies from creating less-fit hybrid offspring (Powell 2005: 11).
According to the Harvard Gazette, the researchers, led by Harvard biology professor Naomi Pierce, found that
newly diverged species [within the Agrodiaetus genus] living in the same area that could still mate and have hybrid young had more distinctive wing colors than other closely related species that had diverged at an earlier time, as well as those living in different areas from each other (ibid.).
This happens because the butterfly species are still closely related enough that they occasionally interbreed, but the resultant hybrids are less fit than their parents. To ensure that this does not persist, the various Agrodiaetus species have developed distinguishing characteristics, such as male wing color, that reduce the risk of mating with a different Agrodiaetus species and producing weak offspring. “The fact that the hybrids are less viable,” Pierce noted, “drives the divergence between the parent species” (ibid.).
Since the Agrodiaetus genus lives in a huge swath of territory in Eurasia, its members frequently become geographically isolated. Pierce’s team has observed that, among groups that have been isolated long enough to diverge into new species, wing color is one of the first traits to change. When diverged species are brought back together, they are still able to mate with each other. However, when these incipient species interbreed, they produce hybrid offspring that are less able to survive and reproduce than are the offspring of butterflies that mate within their species. Male wing color was the leading factor in preventing members of incipient species from interbreeding (ibid. 28).
This fact weakens the theory that new species appear as the result of natural selection. According to the Harvard Gazette,
Natural selection’s role in the creation of new species is a controversial topic among biologists. Some biologists believe that natural selection does not play a direct role in the formation of new species. Rather, speciation is seen as simply the byproduct of changes that take place when populations evolve in isolation over time. This can happen when populations are geographically separated by a barrier such as a mountain rising up to isolate populations in valleys on either side. In these cases, the accumulation of different traits over time in the two populations living in different environments eventually results in different species that, if reunited, will not interbreed (ibid.).
This matches the Genesis model: As each genus spread out and became geographically isolated, they underwent changes that eventually became significant enough that they could no longer interbreed with members of their genus from whom they had become separated. The resultant “evolution” was not an upward march from primitive to more-advanced species, but a divergence into roughly equal species within the created kind/genus/miyn. The various species of the Agrodiaetus genus are not evolving upward into superior butterflies, but are fanning out to become new species, none of whom is more advanced than the others, but merely better adapted to the particular geographical location which they find themselves in.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
Powell, A. 2005. “Wing color not just for looks.” Harvard Gazette, October 27.
Stephen Caesar holds his master’s degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard. He is a staff member at Associates for Biblical Research.