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How Do We Classify Living Things?

Buchart Gardens quarry: Photo 28828804 / Botanical Garden © Meisterphotos |

We know that in Genesis chapter one God created animals and plants to reproduce “after their own kinds.” These “kinds” would have had a vast genetic potential and thus, were able to fill earth’s different niches as they multiplied and spread out. Each “kind” of animal or plant would be expected to produce an amazing amount of variability, but one kind would not change to another kind. Bears would still be bears, horses would still be horses, and oak trees would still be oak trees.

There was a man named Carolus Linnaeus who was born in 1707 in Rashult, Sweden. His parents were both strong in their Christian faith and taught him the Scriptures from an early age. Both of Linnaeus’ parents loved plants and grew gardens through the years of his childhood. Like his parents, he also loved plants and would spend his summer days studying the plants in the family garden as well as in the countryside.

As a schoolboy, Linnaeus spent too much time looking for plants in the nearby area and reading every book he could find on botany, rather than putting effort into learning mathematics. In college, he studied to become a doctor and had a successful medical practice, but he continued to enjoy the field of botany.

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In 1741, Linnaeus quit his medical practice to teach at a university, taking as many trips as he could throughout Sweden to study and collect plants. He wrote several books on plants and classified many species.

Linnaeus wanted to develop a scientific system to classify the animals and plants created by God. Building on the work of scientists before him, Linnaeus felt he was led by God to classify God’s organisms. Since the word genus is the Latin word meaning kind, he used this word to designate the created kinds. Linnaeus knew of the Latin translation of Scripture from Hebrew and directly took that word from it. When he was classifying animals and plants according to their genus, Linnaeus was actually classifying God’s creatures according to the created kinds.

Because of the built-in genetic potential to produce amazing variety within each created kind, these varieties were classified under each genus as species. At that time, it was common for scientists to take the Bible at its word and classify animals and plants in this way. Linnaeus’ system soon became widely accepted by the scientific community and the general population.

Unfortunately, evolutionary researchers have taken over much of the original classification system. The current system has created kinds more closely aligned with the family level. Creation scientists are attempting to correct this flawed thinking with a fairly new field of study called baraminology. This field of classification of created kinds has its foundation in the Bible as well as science.

Written by Doug Velting

Doug has a heart for kids and has taught elementary and Junior high students biblical creation for over 30 years.

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