(See YouTube version of this post below).
Answers in Genesis (AiG) have just published a series of articles that claims several young-age creationists, myself in included, are actually something called young earth evolutionists (YEE). Here is what they said in one of these articles:
“A ‘new’ wrinkle in sneaking evolution into the church is something we are terming young-earth evolution. Subtle ideas that don’t comport with Scripture or are unnecessarily accommodating of evolutionary ideas are causing problems within the church, confusing the people in the pews” (https://answersingenesis.org/young-earth-evolution/).
But as I will demonstrate, all young earth creationist scientists incorporate, and this is really important, modified evolutionary ideas, even if its ever so slight, into their creationist frameworks, and AiG is no exception. Let me explain.
When Charles Darwin wrote the Origin of Species in 1859, creationists whether young earth or old earth did not believe that the zebra and the horse were members of the same created kind. That’s because the creationists of Darwin’s day believed in something called “fixity of species,” and staunchly rejected the idea of speciation. Yet it was Darwin who successfully overturned the fixity of species doctrine, favouring instead the common ancestry of zebras and horses. Darwin says this in the Origin:
“How inexplicable on the theory of creation is the appearance of stripes on the shoulder and legs of the several species of the horse genus and in their hybrids! How simply is this fact explained if we believe that these species have descended from a striped progenitor” (The Origin, Page 473. See also page 166).
As it turns out, all modern creationists, including AiG, fully accept the common ancestry of zebras, donkeys, and horses. Now, some might object and say, “well that’s natural selection, or micro-evolution.” But those mechanisms are not found in the Bible. Natural selection, micro-evolution, adaptationism in a Darwinian sense, and speciation, as well as a plethora of other mechanisms that creationists, including AiG now accept, were developed by Darwin and the early evolutionists first.
In fact, if you lived in the mid to late 1800s and believed that zebras and horses shared a common ancestor, you would have been labelled an evolutionist! Creationists didn’t distinguish between the legitimacy of micro-evolution over the “heretical” claims of macro-evolution. It’s only later that creationists began to make those distinctions, and it is for that reason the above claim by AiG lacks any objective merit.
For example, AiG’s full acceptance of speciation, that’s when a group within a species separates and becomes its own species, would have been considered anathema by early creationists, who no doubt would have accused AiG of the exact same things they are accusing me and others of in this quote!
Ok, now let’s crank it up a bit. The Ark Encounter in Kentucky, one of AiG’s premier attractions, houses thousands of museum quality animal exhibits that collectively demonstrate the reliability of many of the historical aspects associated with Noah’s Flood. I’ve been there with my family and I highly recommend going. One of the most remarkable exhibits in the ark is the horse exhibit where the ancestor to our modern horse, Equus, is identified as Mesohippus, an extinct three-toed horse that, from a conventional perspective lived about 35 million years ago (see figure).
Now, importantly for our discussion, Mesohippus differs substantially from modern Equus. Perhaps the most iconic difference is in the number of toes—Mesohippus has three toes while the modern horse has one. It is, however, the modifications found in the teeth that are most significant. Mesohippus had low-crowned molars while Equus has high-crowned molars that are deeply buried in both the upper and lower jaws (see figure).
Now, here’s what is significant. Not all creationists are on the same page here. Some creationists are opposed to the diversification of the horse and have used this difference in particular to reject the notion that Mesohippus is an ancestor in the Equine family tree. Consider this article by Mats Molén writing for Creation Ministries International (CMI):
“This change of tooth structure from bunodont (low-crowned with rounded cusps) to hypsodont (high-crowned) is not just supposed ‘microevolution’, but a complete change in design, even though it may not seem to be much of a new thing for those not acquainted with tooth construction” (https://creation.com/the-evolution-of-the-horse).
Whether Molén is right or wrong remains to be seen and is not of importance here anyway. What is important is that AiG have publicly portrayed Mesohippus as being in the Equine family tree. Yet the diversification of the horse from Mesohippus is also not a creationist idea. It is a secular one that has been developed by evolutionists for over 100 years. So, although AiG do reject the idea of mutations plus millions of years equals Equus, they once again are accepting of other ideas that were first developed by the secular scientific community. And although AiG have no “official” position on horse diversification, their public stance has changed over the last few decades. Here’s a quote from an AiG article, published nearly 30 years ago and still available online, that clearly rejects horse diversification, which importantly for the topic at hand, was, at that time called horse evolution by most creationists:
“My research has left me troubled. Why do science textbooks continue to use the horse as a prime example of evolution, when the whole schema is demonstrably false? Why do they continue to teach our kids something that is not scientific?” (https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-against-evolution/whats-happened-to-the-horse/).
Notice that the author says, “the whole schema is demonstrably false.” Since Mesohippus is somewhere at the bottom of that schema from an evolutionary point of view, then what would this author think as he strolled through the stalls at AiG’s ark encounter today?
Now that we have some context, let’s look at that YEE quote again:
“A ‘new’ wrinkle in sneaking evolution into the church is something we are terming young-earth evolution. Subtle ideas that don’t comport with Scripture or are unnecessarily accommodating of evolutionary ideas are causing problems within the church, confusing the people in the pews.”
Since many young age creationists still do not accept the diversification of the horse from a Mesohippus-like ancestor, would it fair of them to say to AiG, that they are “unnecessarily accommodating of evolutionary ideas”? In fact, given AiG’s changing stance over the past 30 years, would it be fair of these other creationists to say to AiG that the exhibits in the ark encounter are “causing problems within the church, confusing the people in the pews”?
That this has occurred is well documented in some of AiG’s Readers Response sections. Here are just two examples from concerned AiG supporters:
“In the Kids section of the January–March issue, the Mesohippus is given as an ancestor of the modern horse. That sounds like the typical evolutionary mantra. What evidence is there of such a relationship between the small three-toed animal and Equus caballus? Couldn’t Mesohippus have just been an odd kind by itself?” (Emphasis mine).
Here’s another letter from another concerned AiG supporter:
“The article by Mike Belknap and Tim Chaffey (‘Reimagining Ark Animals’) caused me some anguish because it sounded like all the ‘just so stories’ from evolutionists. How could a tiger, for example, appear from a mating of the cat kind depicted in the article?” (https://answersingenesis.org/answers/magazine/v11-n2/readers-respond/readers-respond-answers-january-march-2016/).
Clearly then, and apart from their full acceptance of natural selection, micro-evolution, and speciation, AiG have used other modified evolutionary ideas to help them construct many of the animals in the ark Encounter exhibits.
But let me come to AiG’s defense here. Does this mean AiG are “sneaking evolution into the church”? Of course not. Does it mean they have compromised, in any way whatsoever, on a faithful interpretation of Genesis 1-11 as history? Again, of course not.
Look, we can’t change the past. As it turns out Darwin was right about the adaptive capabilities of organisms and speciation. If it wasn’t for his theory of natural selection, we might still believe in the fixity of species, classifying zebras and donkeys as separate created kinds.
But thanks to the work of creationists, we also know that Darwin took his ideas too far by proposing the common ancestry for all living organisms. Darwin didn’t know about DNA, genes, and the complexity involved in generating phenotypic traits. Even today scientists cannot agree on exactly how complex structures evolved, and some have even called for a complete overhaul of Darwinian evolution. On the other hand, old earth creationists such as Stephen Meyer have successfully confirmed that genetic complexity requires a complex intelligence, and young earth creationists such as Randy Guliuzza (2018), have demonstrated that biological change requires an internal pre-programmed genetic blueprint, that as he says, “contrast [s] starkly with the evolutionary framework’s randomness of tiny, accidental “hit-and-miss” phenotypes fractioned out to lucky survivors of deadly challenges.”
So, in conclusion, claims such as the one above from AiG, although well-intentioned, can only bring with them even more fear and confusion, and that’s because AiG have themselves adopted various modified evolutionary ideas. The way forwards, is not take a step backwards, and I think that’s exactly what AiG are doing.
Guliuzza, Randy J. and Phil Gaskill. (2018). “Continuous environmental tracking: An engineering framework to understand adaptation and diversification.”
Meyer, Stephen. (2009). Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. New York: HarperCollins.