A confusing area of science for many believers is trying to understand the difference between species and kinds. Each Kind of plant or animal can contain many (sometimes dozens or rarely hundreds) of species.
For example, the elephant Kind includes not only the modern-day species of African and Asian elephants but also the now-extinct mammoth and mastodon. The entire Kind is recognized as containing the same basic shape, or form, while the individual species vary in surface characteristics such as color and size. This ties in heavily with studies in genetics and the relatively new field of epigenetics which demonstrate how speciation can occur within a Kind.
What Is a Created Kind?
The created Kinds are defined as the plants and animals that were spoken into existence by the Creator. The concept of a created kind is based on the biblical account of creation as found in the book of Genesis.
Although common design elements may exist, each created kind is uniquely made and separate from all other Kinds. The Creator wanted the earth filled with animals and set things in motion by having them reproduce ‘after their kind’. This phrase suggests that there is a limit to how different the descendants could be from the parents. It leaves room for some acclimation and variation within a Kind but suggests that limitless change from one Kind into another is not possible.
In the Hebrew language, “after their kind” comes from the word min which suggests a likeness or form that fits a type of plant or animal. The plants and animals were spoken into existence directly by Elohim and, therefore, did not have any ancestry nor were there any evolutionary means involved.
What Are Species?
When looking at the differences between types of animals like dogs or of plant crops like oranges, it is probably easier to use the terminology used in farming and breeding rather than the scientific use of genus, species, and sub-species. Breeding is the development or refinement of certain traits within a type of plant or animal. This is typically done by man to bring out certain desirable traits while diminishing undesirable traits.
Many people ask what taxonomic level is equal with the level of created Kinds, but the answer is that it is more complicated than that. Historically, our taxonomic system has been based on similar morphology (appearance). Created Kinds are based on breeding capability. These are two different systems and they do not necessarily equate to each other. Simply put, Kinds do not equate to any one taxonomic rank.
The amount of variation expected within created Kinds works on a different scale. The taxonomic rank for Kind strongly averages near the Family level. To align with the Bible’s witness of creation, all the variation in the Created Kinds model has to appear below the Kind level because there are no higher connecting taxonomic levels above it.
Within a creationist perspective, species are defined as a breed within a created kind. Each has a specific set of reproductively connected characteristics that produce a recognizable pattern. An individual of the species is able to reproduce with others of the same species and potentially able to hybridize with other breeds/species within the same Kind. Habitats and geographical distribution can be indicators of where species boundaries may occur.
We are hardly alone struggling to accurately describe the specifics of variation within living creatures. By some counts, at least 22 different (although maybe somewhat overlapping) species concepts have been proposed within evolutionary circles. Each of them has its own benefits and problems which tend to be associated with the field of science for which it was made.
Examples of Species and Kinds
One way to get a glimpse of how species and kinds relate is to look at a couple of examples. A great place to start is with the birds. Today, there are approximately 10,000 recognized general scientific species while creationists estimate there are 196 Kinds of bird. A simple average sets this at about 50 species per Kind, but the reality is that some Kinds have only one species and are nearly extinct while others (like the finches) have hundreds of species.
How much change can occur within a Kind? Using the Hibiscus Kind as an example, there are changes to color, overall size, and even complexity of the petals (ornamentals). At the same time, the major features that distinguish this Kind do not change. These include a corolla of five petals fused at the base and an Androecium composed of many stamen fused with the carpels of the Gynoecium.
Where did this variation come from?
Environment Acclimation is a selection of traits favorable for a given environment and is the primary cause of natural breeding and speciation. Mating selections are typically based on appearance/phenotype which in turn selects the genetics behind those traits/genotype. This is similar to the evolutionary process of natural selection; however, it can occur rapidly because already existing traits are chosen and no new genetic material must form over time.
Is the “Fixity of Species” Accurate?
One phrase that has been used to describe this limited amount of change is “fixity of species.” When this phrase was first used, the scientific definition of species was roughly equivalent with a Kind. It is only in more modern biology that “species” changed meaning to represent breeding pairs. This has caused some confusion because a fixity of species was true by the old definition, but is untrue by the modern definition. However, in modern wording, a fixity of kinds is still a basic and true concept.
Previous Articles in this Series:
- Introduction to Baraminology Part 1: Why Study Created Kinds
- Introduction to Baraminology Part 2: Finding the Limits of Created Kinds