How do we account for so many species of beetles if Noah’s Flood was only 4,500 years ago?
Chris Z. from USA wrote to us with an interesting question about beetles.
I searched your website, and I couldn’t find an answer to speciation on insects. It is estimated that there about 350,000 species of beetles. According to the creationist’s perspective, how do we account for all those different species? Could God have created the variety of beetles at the beginning? How many do you think survived the flood, or were they on the ark? I know evolutionists try to say that there is not enough time to produce that many species in 4,500 years or so, but I know insects would not have been required on the ark.
CMI’s Joel Tay responds:
4,500 years would not be a problem for the creation model unless we mistakenly assume that beetles had to be on the Ark to survive. Genesis 7:21–22 tells us that everything on dry land “in whose nostrils was the breath of life died” (Genesis 7:22). Beetles are not included in the list of animals that Noah had to bring on his Ark as they are not ‘living souls’ (Nephesh Chayyah). They would be able to survive as stowaways on the Ark or on floating debris outside the Ark. Also note that what we call ‘species’ is not the same as the created kind. The created kind usually corresponds to the family but may sometimes correspond to the genus or superfamily level. They are often many species within each created kind. Beetles (Coleoptera) are not a single species or family, but an entire order representing just under 300 families of insects.1
On the large number of beetle species:
Possibility 1: God could have created millions of individual beetles within each beetle kind. This would frontload each beetle kind with a lot more genetic diversity than would be contained in just a single pair of individuals. This would also allow beetles to speciate rapidly within their kinds, since they had a much larger gene pool to choose from at the beginning. There is no conceivable reason why God would only create a pair of each beetle kind at the beginning.
The Bible is clear that humans began with two individuals: Adam and Eve, followed by a severe bottleneck at the time of the Flood that reduced the human population to eight individuals. Land animals could have started with millions of individuals within each kind, only to get reduced to a single pair (or seven pairs for clean animals) after the Flood. But beetles would not have needed to be on the Ark, and many would have survived outside the Ark. Thus the Flood bottleneck may not have affected them as drastically. For this reason, as biblical creationists, it actually makes sense that there are far more diverse types of beetles (or for that matter, insects) than air-breathing land vertebrates.
Possibility 2: Beetles diversify rapidly. Take the platypus as an example. There is only one living species of platypus (although several exist in the fossil record). Alternatively, there are many species of mouse around the world. Both came out of the Ark, yet mice speciate much faster than platypuses. This tells us that not all creatures diversify at the same rate. It could be that God designed beetles such that they are able to diversify much faster than other insects. The biblical creation model predicts and requires not just speciation, but rapid speciation!
Consider Genesis 15:8–9:
But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Here, we read about a female goat and a ram (a male sheep). These are the same biblical kind, yet enough diversification had occurred by this time to differentiate them as two distinct animals.
We also read about the turtle dove and the young pigeon (members of the Columbidae family). Again, these are the same biblical kind, yet diverse enough for the author to differentiate turtle doves from young pigeons.
Abraham was born about 352 years after the flood. This passage describes an event when he was 75 years old, so this event dates back to around ~427 years after the flood. Similarly, Genesis 30:32 speak of goats and sheep around 512 years after the flood. Rapid speciation had already occurred by this time, as shown in these passages.
Both groups of animals (sheep/goat and pigeon/dove) can hybridize, indicating that they came from the same ancestral kind on the Ark.
Another important passage would be Job 39:5 (and Job 39:19) which speaks of the donkey and the horse. Again, we have two creatures from the same kind that have diversified enough to be identified as two distinct animals. This was written approximately 300 years after the flood. Yet, unlike the groups discussed above, horses and donkeys can no longer successfully hybridize. When they try, they produce mules and hinnies, which are (usually) sterile. Yet, the rise of a reproductive barrier within a created kind is not a problem for the creation model.
So rapid speciation is actually taught in the Bible! If this is true of multiple mammalian groups only several hundred years after the Flood, how much more would we expect from beetles which did not have to start from a pair after the Flood?
I hope this answers your question.
References and notes
- Meyer, H., Coleoptera, NC State University [Last accessed: 1 Dec 2021], https://projects.ncsu.edu/cals/course/ent425/library/compendium/coleoptera.html. Return to text.