Biblical Absurdities: Animal “Kinds”.

If you are familiar with the fable of Noah’s Ark, you may recall that the Bible discusses how Noah took two of each kind of animal onto his inadequate Ark. What is all this talk of kinds?

As you would expect, the people that wrote the Old Testament were more than a little lacking when it came to knowledge of taxonomy.

Their knowledge of animals presumably extended to the animals they knew about in their geographic area. As well as, perhaps, some other animals they heard about from those that had travelled to other areas.

They had no way of knowing that there are by some estimates 6.5 million species of land-dwelling animals.

They probably thought that there were only a few hundred, maybe several thousand different species of animals. It seems likely that they had no conception that there might be millions of species of land animals.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that they believed that a giant wooden ark might be able to house two of every species of land animal.

But wait, the Bible does not say species, now does it? No, it does not. It talks of kinds of animals in several places. We will focus on this example of the use of “kinds”:

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.”

Genesis 6:20, King James Version.

What is a kind? Good luck figuring that out. Nobody seems to know. Does that stop the Creationists chiming in? No, of course not.

What do they say a kind is? I do not know what they think a kind is. They do not seem to know themselves.

It would help if we appreciated the problem that they think they are solving. Which is what?

The Creationists seem to be aware that we have a lot of land-dwelling species around us (to say nothing of all the countless extinct ones). So many that two of each of these species could not all have fit onto this mythical boat.

Whoops! But God said two of each kind of animal was on the Ark!

plant kinds
Um, what about all the land-dwelling plants? Did they all get destroyed in the flood? Or did Noah take kinds of plants too?

Yes, two of each kind. Who is to say that kind is the same as the concept of species?

Maybe Noah got two of the cat kind and two of the dog kind and two of the bear kind and two of the rabbit kind and so on.

This seems like it might be helpful. Then Noah does not need nearly 6.5 million species of animals. He just needs two of every kind of animal. And how many kinds of animals are there?

Not nearly as many animals right? Well, this does not really help.

You see, Creationists like to use this anti-concept of “kind” to group all sorts of organisms together into undefined and undefinable groups.

They do this based on grouping together things that look and or act similar. Orwhich they arbitrarily decide are related and hence part of the same “kind”.

For instance, they like to pretend that anything they consider to be a cat, must belong to the cat kind.

Lions look like cats, so they are part of the cat kind. Tigers look like cats, so they too are members of the cat kind.

What about the lynx or panthers? Are they members of the cat kind? Presumably.

But let us consider the Carnivora suborder of Feliformia. This includes the taxonomic order Felidae or cats. I would assume Creationists would classify most or all members of Felidae as the cat kind.

But what about some very cat-like members of Feliformia that are not in the order Felidae and therefore not cats?

What about the extinct family known as Barbourofelidae, a family of sabre-toothed “cats” ? They are not in the Felidae family, but they are closely related to this family.

Are they members of the cat kind?

What about members of the extinct family Nimravidae? These are even more distantly related than the family Barbourofelidae and had different bone structures in the ear to extant Feliformia. As well as more low-slung bodies with shorter legs and tails than typically associated with cats.

Are members of the Nimravidae family considered part of the cat kind?

At what point does something stop being in the cat kind? How dissimilar to cats does something have to be to what they consider cats before it is no longer part of the cat kind?

They do not know! They have no answer to this. Because there is no logical answer to this. There is no clear, logical point where you can logically suddenly decide that something closely related to cats is not part of the cat kind.

We can do the same with any kind they care to name. Such as the bear kind.

Bears are animals of the family Ursidae. But what do Creationists consider to be part of the bear kind? Presumably, brown bears, polar bears and giant pandas and other similar bears, such as the sun bear.

But what about sloth bears? They are members of the family Ursidae, are they part of this bear kind? What about spectacled bears?

What about members of the extinct subfamily of Ursidae known as Hemicyoninae or “dog-bears”? They are very bear-like but also very dog-like. Are they in the bear family or the dog family?

bear-dog kinds
Yeah, is this of the bear or dog kind? How would you know? It looks a lot like both a bear and a dog to me…

Yes, remember we know that bears and dogs are very closely related. Both Ursidae, bears and Canidae, dogs are closely related branches of the family Caniformia.

What kind are the members of the Caniformia family? At what point does something leave this family and become either part of the dog family?

What kinds are members of the Arctoidea family that includes both bears, bear-dogs and mustelids?

Are mustelids part of the bear kind? They are closely related and look a lot like small bears? Or do they form their own arbitrary mustelid kind? Or the Arctoidea kind?

At what point does something stop being a bear and become some related kind?

Creationists have no clear or logical answer. Again, because there is none.

What about rabbits? Rabbits are organisms in the family Leporidae

Are pygmy rabbits part of the rabbit kind? What about the Sumatran striped rabbit which looks quite different? Or the Anami rabbit which barely looks like a rabbit at all? Or the tiny Swamp rabbit which I can hold in my hand?

Are these all part of the rabbit kind?

What about hares? They are rabbit-like. But they belong to a different family, the family Lepus. Are they part of the rabbit kind or a separate hare kind?

What about the Pika? They are another family in the Lagomorpha order which includes rabbits and hares. Are they part of the rabbit or hare kind? Or the Pika kind? Even though they look like short-eared rabbits or hares

What about members of the Glire clade? It is the parent clade of the Lagomorpha order. Where do you draw the line between Glires and members of the Lagomorpha order you consider part of the rabbit kind?

At no point is it clear where something closely related to a cat stops being part of the cat kind. Or where something closely related to a bear stops being part of the bear kind. And so on for every other kind you care to name.

There is never any clear and distinct point where you decide something that is closely related to members of one kind is no longer part of that kind.

It is easy to include things that clearly look like “cats”. But at some point, you have no way to clearly decide which closely related species belong to this kind or another kind. And so on.

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