Speciation and the great apes
Rafi A., from Germany, wrote to us with several questions about speciation and the great apes.
A friend of mine was making fun of the idea that after the flood, the animals populated the whole earth and that they also produced new species that fast.
He took sharks and apes as an example. He claimed that such complex animals would never produce such different species this fast (orangutan,chimpanzee, gorilla …).
My question is this, do we know that all apes are related, or could it be that all the ape species we have were [different created] kinds? And as he said, how could it be that speciation took place so fast. And … [why is it] that Australia has [so many unique] animals …
If I am honest this population and speciation story is making me go crazy and I can’t find satisfying answers.
Does the Bible anywhere say that God miraculously helped the animals to spread and differ? Any other thing doesn’t make sense with what we observe in the current animal world.
CMI USA’s Joel Tay reply:
Thanks for writing in with several interesting questions.
On rapid speciation, please refer to this article where I discuss how rapid speciation (within the kind) is part of the creation model.
In this other article, I explain why there are so many species of beetles today. I also show how the Bible teaches rapid post-Flood speciation within the created kinds. For example, In Genesis and Job, around 400–500 years after the Flood, many creatures had already diversified within their kind: horses/donkeys; turtle doves/pigeons, and sheep/goats.
Your friend mentioned sharks and apes as if they share the same baraminology model. This is not so. In the article I just mentioned above, I pointed out that beetles were not reduced to a single breeding pair during the Flood, nor did they have to start with only one single pair of each beetle kind during creation week. God could have created millions of individuals within each created kind of beetle during creation week so that they would be able to fulfill their respective ecological purposes immediately. But if we start with many individuals within each created kind at the start of creation, this would allow us to account for a lot more genetic diversity than possible if we only start with a single pair. Humans (Adam and Eve) are the only “created kind” that are said to have started as a pair.
Many evolutionists assume that creationists start with very little genetic variation, while evolutionists start with a lot. It is actually the other way around. “Creationists can start with a lot more diversity and easily end with what we have today, while evolutionists have to start with a little diversity and slowly evolve till we end up with a lot.” Refer to the four types of baraminology classes in Dr Robert Carter’s, Species are designed to change, part 3 for more details.
Like beetles, sharks were not included on the Ark and could have survived outside the Ark. Apes are different. They may not have started as a pair during creation week, but each created kind would be reduced to a pair after the Flood. So we would expect to see a lot more diversity among sharks than among extant apes—and that is what we see!
On the rapid speciation of complex creatures, we have documented many classes where these creatures have speciated rapidly. Guppies, salmon, lizards, mice, and many other creatures. This has been a surprise for many evolutionists. So rapid speciation among the great apes would not have been a problem even if they are one created kind. Dr Robert Carter explains how the genome is designed to generate diversity, often leading to rapid speciation within created kinds. See: Species are designed to change: Parts 1, 2, and 3.
However, also consider the possibility that there may have been four or five different created kinds of great apes (I discuss this in more detail below).
On the unique animals in Australia, refer to chapter 17 in The Creation Answers Book. The chapter explains why there are so many unique animals in Australia. It also explains why the distribution of marsupials in Australia, as well as biogeography (disjunct distributions) around the world, has proven to be problematic for evolutionists. For example, in my review of Janet Ray’s pro-evolution book, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark, I point out that while most marsupials are found in Australia today, this is a problem for evolutionists.
[W]hen we look at the fossil record, we find that marsupials used to be far more widespread. The remains of extinct marsupials have also been found in Africa (Peratherium africanus), Asia, South America (Thylacosmilus, Borhyaena, Cladosictis), and North America (Stagodontidae). In fact, this is a problem for evolutionists:
“Living marsupials are restricted to Australia and South America … . In contrast, metatherian fossils from the Late Cretaceous are exclusively from Eurasia and North America … This geographical switch remains unexplained.”1
Here, we see that evolutionists struggle to explain the distribution of unique animals and marsupials in Australia! On the other hand, creationists understand that most fossils were formed as a result of the global Flood, while the extant creatures we see today would be creatures that only dispersed to their current location after the global Flood. The Flood with its rapid burial would have provided the best conditions for fossils to be preserved. In comparison, post-Flood fossils would have been much rarer since they do not have the same environmental conditions for fossilization. In other words, post-Flood marsupials may have lived in many other places after the Flood, yet we would not expect to see their fossils there. Later on, these creatures would have died out elsewhere, and only the marsupials in Australia and the surrounding regions survive to this present day (apart from the opossum of North America).
How many kinds of great apes?
How many kinds of great apes were there? Some creationists believe that all the great apes represent one created kind, while others believe that there are multiple kinds of great apes:
1. Great apes are one created kind
In, The uniqueness of humans is clearly demonstrated by the gene-content statistical baraminology method, Dr Matthew Cserhati and Dr Jean Lightner show that all the monkeys (both Old and New World) and great apes cluster closely together, and this can be further classified into three subcategories: great apes, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys.2 This study is based on genetic data. What is significant in the paper is that (see Figure 1, and Table 1): 1) Humans are distinct from the great apes, and 2) the great apes cluster between the Old World monkeys and the New World monkeys. These two points are highly problematic for the evolutionary paradigm, as it has always lumped humans in together with the great apes. The paper not only shows that humans are distinct from great apes and monkeys, but humans are also actually closer to the New World monkeys than the great apes.
2. Great apes are multiple created kinds
In Figure 1 in the above-mentioned paper, monkeys and apes are grouped as one big category. However, if you analyze great apes on their own apart from the other creatures, they are likely to split into even smaller clusters. So it is possible that there may be four different created kinds of great apes (or even five, if australopithecines are regarded as a fifth kind, but we do not currently have genomic data for these).
There have been several reported cases of hybridization within chimpanzees and its close cousin, the bonobo, but as far as I am aware, there are no documented cases of hybridization between chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. Thus, while we are not dogmatic about this, most [all?] of us here at CMI lean towards the view that there are multiple created kinds within the great apes.
In other words, even if all the great apes came from one created kind, I do not see why it would be impossible for them to diversify into what we see today since the time of the Flood—And if there are indeed multiple created kinds of great apes, your friend’s objection, that “all the great apes cannot possibly be from one ancestral pair on the Ark”, becomes irrelevant.
I hope that answers your questions.