Speciation and Kinds

The evolution/creation war rages on with the extremists on both sides adding gasoline to the other side's fire. Both sides continue to make statements that are absolutely false about both the facts and what the other side believes. Creationist extremists have frequently stated and/or implied that no new species ever came into existence on the earth, a statement that is patently false. Evolutionary extremists have claimed that the Bible says that all forms of life exist today exactly as they did at their creation which is also patently false. The most fundamental argument we try to make in this journal is that science and faith do not oppose each other, but exist in a mutually supportive symbiotic relationship. We have maintained that if there is a conflict between science and the Bible, it must be due to bad science or bad theology. If the creation itself and the written history of creation both came from God, they cannot possibly conflict because they have the same infallible author. It is our limited understandings that must be the source of conflict--and in this case, the bad understandings are on both sides.

 What we would like to do in this article is to look at species and kinds and suggest a way to look at these concepts and see how they can be viewed as being complementary and not adversarial in usage and fact. We hope this will help some of our readers resolve the apparent problems that seem to be flooding the media.


The traditional definition of species is "a group of plants or animals that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring." There are modern definitions that are sometimes given in the framework of genetics, but on a pragmatic level, the traditional definition still works well. A donkey and a horse by this definition are considered to be different species because they can produce offspring, but the offsprings are generally sterile. Even this example has become somewhat jaded as mules have, in a few cases, been bred, but generally this definition works.

 Insects, fish, and plants have gone through enough change that they have speciated. Man has used a variety of techniques to utilize the abilities of animals to change. In the Great Lakes, a whole new sports fishing industry has been produced making the coho a widely prized fish. The lineage of the coho is well known because humans have contributed to its history. Modern-day coho are generally infertile with the original forms of salmon from which they have come. Leopard frogs in Louisiana are a similar case, but in this case man has not been involved. Modern leopard frogs in Louisiana are the product of natural interbreeding over the past 2,000 years. Men have observed the process, but have not manipulated it. The modern leopard frogs are now infertile with both of the species of frogs from which they have come. For fruit growers, the problem of speciation is a major concern. Insects can change and become so different that pesticides have reduced effects. In some cases like the California medfly, the genetic change is extensive enough that the modern forms cannot interbreed with the original forms. The list of examples of this kind of change is very long and in many cases the change has been rapid enough that observers have recorded it.

 It is important to note that the ability to change is a survival technique vital to living things. If animals did not have the ability to change, any environmental change in planet earth would be lethal to life on the earth. Today we have enormous media attention being given to global warming. This is not new. The earth has heated and cooled many times in the past, producing glacial periods and periods of high sea levels and warmth. Living things had to be able to change to survive these global climatic changes. This capacity is a designed characteristic which speaks of the wisdom and intelligence of God. The fact that change can occur to such an extent that it fits the scientific definition of a species is not an issue.


The biblical word kind has almost no relationship to the word species. The Hebrew word min was translated "kind" in the Old Testament, but the word is used consistently throughout the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 15:39, the definition of kind is given as: ".there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds."

 This same breakdown is used in Genesis 1. "God said, `Let the waters bring forth.and fowl.the living creature after his kind, cattle.let us make man in our image (Genesis 1:20-26).'"

 In the flood account, the same four groupings are used (see Genesis 7:21,23; 8:19). Be sure to notice that the Bible does not say flesh of goldfish, flesh of carp, flesh of sucker, flesh of bass, etc. It also does not say flesh of robin, flesh of oriole, flesh of blackbird--just "flesh of fowl." Robins may have speciated from blackbirds or orioles, but they are still the same kind. Buffalo and cows may have a common ancestor, but they are still behemah in Hebrew and translates "cattle." All humans are capable of interbreeding with other humans so we are all one species, but we are also one kind. This is not true of the other forms of life mentioned in Genesis, but it is true of man.

 The Bible also indicates that change can take place in living things. In Genesis 30:32-43, we read of Jacob using a variety of modern techniques to produce a desired population of livestock. In Genesis 3:14. there is a curse placed upon the serpent in the form of a change in how he would move--"upon thy belly shalt thou go.." Genesis 3:20 indicates that all humans on the earth came from Eve. If all races of men on the earth came from the same common female ancestor, it is obvious that changes as great as a pygmy to a Swede take place in man.

 The fact that living things can speciate does not mean that no different kinds exist. Speciation is a demonstration of God's wisdom and design and planning. It not only makes it possible for life to continue to exist on a changing planet, but it also provides man with a way to use all God has given him in a more productive and functional way. There may be some debate as to the extent that this change can occur and what forces are built into nature to control it, but let us not confuse species with kinds. The words refer to very different things.

--John N. Clayton

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