AIG: Bird Speciation Since Noah’s Ark

This is another gem of creation science from Answers in Genesis (AIG), the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.

AIG’s new essay is Bird Speciation from the Flood to the Present. It was written by Dr. David W. Boyd, Jr., a name we haven’t encountered before. This seems to be his first article for AIG. Google indicates that someone by that name teaches zoology at Bob Jones University, so that could be the author. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Ornithologists estimate the diversity of living bird species in the entire world to be around 10,380. … That number almost doubles the number of extant mammal species (5,416) and is almost 3,000 more than extant amphibian species (7,509).3 The number of reptile species is the closest to the bird number with a current count of 10,272 extant species. Because most of these vertebrates are terrestrial, we have about 33,500 different species of terrestrial vertebrates on earth today. I am leaving out the aquatic vertebrates (mainly the fishes) because they would not have been represented on the Ark (33,200 fish species have been described, and the implications of that are important for creation scientists who are trying to model the diversity of all life from the Flood to the present).

Okay, that’s a lotta species. How did we get from whatever was on Noah’s Ark to what we have today? Boyd explains:

The answer to this question is more easily answered once we distinguish between biblical kinds and species.

[…]

Scientists who accept the biblical account of creation and the worldwide Flood compile evidence from Scripture, genetics, the fossil record, hybridization data, and morphological characteristics to suggest that God created many kinds of birds that began radiating and diversifying over the world after the worldwide Flood destroyed the earth about 4,500 years ago. These birds included both flying and non-flying birds.

Yes, that’s the creationist view of things. Let’s read on:

One of the key factors to keep in mind when interpreting the evidence from genetics, the fossil record, and so on is that all scientists interpret the evidence through the lens of their worldview — their foundational belief system. A scientist with a materialistic worldview has to account for the first bird; it would have to be the ancestor of all birds. Models of speciation and radiation for events like that would need millions of years.

Silly materialists! Boyd continues:

A scientist with a biblical worldview has to account for the different species of birds found today in each created bird kind from the Flood to the present. Models of speciation and radiation for those events would only need thousands of years.

That’s much better! Here’s more:

Dr. Jean Lightner [whoever that is] has conservatively estimated that birds are comprised of about 196 created kinds. If we round that up to 200 bird kinds, we could account for all 10,380 extant species by each species diverging into two species just once every 750 years — just six times (200 to 400 to 800 to 1,600 to 3,200 to 6,400 to 12,800). That would even give us 2,420 more bird species to account for some extinction events. That is a very simplistic view and does not account for many variables, but it does provide us with a quick way to estimate if simple speciation (doubling) could account for all the birds we have today.

Wow — it works! Boyd devotes several paragraphs to the subject of speciation. This is typical:

Some of the varying traits can help individuals within a species to thrive in certain environments and pass on those thriving alleles to their offspring more than individuals with other traits. Because of these differences, different geographic populations can arise which no longer interbreed. If that separation of populations last for many generations (say 750 years!), then the populations might have diverged enough so that, if they came into contact, viable offspring would be impossible. That would mean that the first species has undergone speciation and at least two species now exist. If populations can thrive in many environments, then after enough time, one species could actually become many species.

All it takes is 750 years! Moving along:

To some people, what I just described sounds too much like evolution. The evolutionary process definitely includes the idea of speciation, but the formation of species in response to geographic (or habitat) differences is consistent with a biblical worldview.

As long as it doesn’t involve the evolution of a different “kind.” That could never happen! Another excerpt:

When the birds were released from the Ark, they faced a new environment with quickly developing habitats. Birds could migrate quickly from the location of the Ark in all directions. As they were faced with different environments, their inbuilt genetic variability allowed them to diversify and adapt to these environments, forming different populations of the same bird kind.

No doubt about it. At the end of the article, he compares the creationist view with that of the sinful evolutionists:

Evolutionary scientists argue for a South American origination for all flying birds. The evidence they use is interpreted through their worldview and might be satisfactory to them; however, creation scientists argue for the northern regions of the Middle East.

Just as it says in the bible. Another comparison:

Evolutionary scientists argue for one ancestor to all flying birds — a descendant of the dinosaurs (that means if you are consistent with the evolutionary worldview, by the way, that birds are reptiles).

What fools! One last comparison:

Creation scientists argue for many different bird kinds that could fly from their creation on Day Four, as Genesis 1 clearly describes. Evolutionary scientists need millions of years, while creation scientists can show that within a few thousand years, the birds we see and enjoy today diversified from those birds that came off the Ark.

That was great! Ignoring the problem of such extremely rapid speciation, it makes sense. After all, birds could fly to their various habitats — well, probably not penguins, but creationists never mention them. On the other hand, as we’ve observed before, there’s a big problem with animals that can’t fly — like kangaroos (how did they get to Australia?), and the tree-dwelling three-toed sloth, which somehow migrated across the ocean to South America. Perhaps AIG will deal with those in a later article. But we doubt it.

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21 responses to “AIG: Bird Speciation Since Noah’s Ark

  1. When they are done with that have them explain why we are not all of the same race as Noah and his wife, from whom we are all descended. Where did all of the human races come from? Or, gasp, were Noah and his wife an interracial couple? How scandalous! If true, that means we are all the progeny of an interracial couple!

  2. If bats are of the bird kind (according to some biblical passages), then does Boyd adequately explain bats?

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    His math doesn’t include extinct birds. He probably assumes they were all pre flood, even if they are similar to birds we have now.

  4. “Evolutionary scientists need millions of years…”

    I’m pretty sure that with a few minutes of googling one could find a bevy of creationists insisting that millions – or even billions! – of years is not nearly long enough for evolution to do its thing.

  5. Anyone know a good physical therapist? I think the cognitive dissonance in Ham’s screed gave me whiplash.

  6. Moses named several birds according to whether they clean or unclean, and that was about 1400 BC, or a bit more than 4.5 x 750 years ago. I wonder how that fits with this extra-biblical speculation. How do the named birds fit into baraminology?
    I would think that they would pay more attention to what the Bible says, rather than just dreaming up stuff about speciation. Where does the Bible say anything about speciation? Where does it say anything about species? For that matter, where does it tell us about a fixed number of “kinds”, or the relationship between species and kinds, or what does it tell us about kinds?

  7. Eric Lipps

    Scientists who accept the biblical account of creation and the worldwide Flood compile evidence from Scripture, genetics, the fossil record, hybridization data, and morphological characteristics to suggest that God created many kinds of birds that began radiating and diversifying over the world after the worldwide Flood destroyed the earth about 4,500 years ago. These birds included both flying and non-flying birds.

    In other words, after the Flood there was a period of galloping evolution which turned what was at most a handful of bird species preserved on the Ark into the thousands known today plus all species known to have gone extinct since the presumed date of the worldwide deluge.

    Of course, the Hamster would probably squeak that this is “microevolution within the bird kind rather than molecules-to-man evolution.” But a concept like “kind” which means whatever you need it to mean at any given moment is garbage; imagine the kind of world we’d inhabit if the word “law” were treated the same way.

  8. “Evolutionary scientists argue for a South American origination for all flying birds. [I thought many of them appeared in China.] The evidence they use is interpreted through their worldview and might be satisfactory to them; however, creation scientists argue for the northern regions of the Middle East. Evolutionary scientists argue for one ancestor to all flying birds—a descendant of the dinosaurs (that means if you are consistent with the evolutionary worldview, by the way, that birds are reptiles). Creation scientists argue for many different bird kinds that could fly from their creation on Day Four, as Genesis 1 clearly describes. Evolutionary scientists need millions of years, while creation scientists can show that within a few thousand years, the birds we see and enjoy today diversified from those birds that came off the Ark. [No, they cannot.]”

  9. Why does creacrappish evolution allow for speciation in just 750 years but Evolution Theory doesn’t?

  10. @mnbo
    I once heard a joke about a mathematician’s description of the plot of an opera: locally consistent.
    Creationism allows for whatever seems to work for the moment, with no concern for what a mathematician would call “global consistency”.

  11. Would love to see a cladogram of birds over the last 4,500 years. Be sure and include how exisiting evidence from Scripture, genetics, the fossil record, hybridization data, and morphological characteristics supports the cladogram.

  12. Evolutionary scientists argue for one ancestor to all flying birds — a descendant of the dinosaurs (that means if you are consistent with the evolutionary worldview, by the way, that birds are reptiles).

    Birds are not so much descendant of dinosaurs, but rather a subset of dinosaurs. We would likewise say that we are a type of ape, rather than descendant from apes.

    It’s questionable whether we would even classify the non-avian dinosaurs as reptiles if they were alive today. Most were probably warm blooded, had feathers, walked with their legs under their bodies, and certainly did not resemble modern lizards, snakes, turtles or crocodiles. We might even call them “birds.” Like the little flying versions.

  13. @Ed
    Why do we have the category “reptile” for such different animals as lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles? While the category excludes amphibians? (Doesn’t “herpetology” cover amphibians?)

  14. Boyd writes, “A scientist with a biblical worldview…”

    A person who deals only with a biblical worldview isn’t a scientist.

    That type of person would be the exact opposite.

  15. The mathematical model would only work if all the Biblical ‘kinds’ hold roughly the same number of modern species.

    Also, it ignores the fact that the populations would be descended from a single pair (unclean) or small number (clean) of individuals, and so lack the genetic diversity to allow this level of speciation.

    Further, some genuses of birds, most notably parrots, live for several decades, so speciation, even once every 750 years, may be unreasonably optimistic in terms of number of generations of the populations involved.

    To call this attempt at consilience between YEC and the scientific evidence “half-baked” would actually be unreasonably complimentary (“unbaked”, maybe?).

  16. @TomS Reptiles are distinct from amphibians because, among other things, they have evolved a waterproof egg shell. Their reproduction can happen on dry land, whereas amphibians must return to water to breed. This is one of the big evolutionary steps among vertebrates. I forget most of embryology but the amniotic cavity is another innovation in reptile eggs I think. I could be wrong, but even creationists will probably classify them in different “kinds”.

  17. @TomS

    Why bother with groups or kinds at all? Doesn’t zoology cover all animals?🙂

  18. I was just commenting on how different are lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles. One might also mention how dimetrodons, pterodactyls, and plesiosaurs are so often included among dinosaurs.

  19. Hrafn asks a serious question: “(“unbaked”, maybe?).”
    I prefer “crappish”.

  20. There is, of course, an answer to all of the questions raised by this article. I think this blog post answers them all: https://wisconsinhumanist.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/the-secret-identity-of-ken-ham/