Baraminology (Research Article)

Baraminology is a product of numerous creation minded thinkers over the last half-century or so attempting to classify creatures according to the Biblical kind. It is a very young, relatively, field of science and has not progressed as far as perhaps it could have.  This is due to a combination of strong opposition from the ruling paradigm in science, and the fewness of its proponents.

The founder of baraminology was a botanist, zoologist, and nurse named Dr. Frank Lewis Marsh.  Marsh was one of the earliest proponents of creation science, alongside Drs. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb.  Marsh was more influential than perhaps even he recognized at his time, and his ideas angered the scientific ruling class. He was subjected to numerous scathing book reviews, but this did not stop Marsh and he was able to correspond with numerous prominent scientists of the day, including Theodosius Dobzhansky, perhaps one of the most influential evolutionists of the early to mid-twentieth century. In fact, Dobzhansky, regarded Marsh as one of the few reasonable men who rejected evolution, even if he had a dislike for his ideology[1].

Marsh started his writings on creation during WWII and continued publishing periodically until the 1970s.  In his 1941 book, Fundamental Biology Marsh coined the term, baramin for what he called the “Genesis kind”[2]. In doing so, Marsh set creationist biology on a course which it has followed to this day, with only minor adjustments.

Marsh also provided the first real delineation of what Biblical kind actually is.  Marsh viewed the kind as a reproductive grouping to be distinguished by whether hybridization could occur. However, the hybrid offspring need not survive. “I am of the opinion that the union of two gamete nuclei, regardless of the dissimilarity of the individuals from which they come, and regardless of the fact that development may cease in the early stages, is evidence that the parents are members of the same Genesis kind[3].” In other words, if gametes from one creature can fertilize the gametes of another, they are the same kind. However, this is impossible. The Bible specifically states God made man in His image[4]. Thus man is excluded from the animals. However, in the lab, some slightly less than ethical researchers have succeeded in uniting hamster and human gametes[5]. While this is far from an ethical test and introduces all kinds of problems, it is informative in one sense.  Since man is not an animal, and thus not a member of a created kind, fertilization cannot be the true test of a Biblical kind.

Marsh’s ideas did not really generate many results until the mid-1980 and into the 1990s. The fathers of Creation science, Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. John Whitcomb, were an engineer and geologist and a theologian respectively and Dr. Duane Gish, who perhaps was the most active speaker and debater in the early creation science movement was a biochemist. Studying the created kinds was not a high priority to these men, as it was something of an ancillary topic to refuting the evolutionary paradigm. The subject did get discussed periodically by some, including in a paper presented to the inaugural International Conference on Creationism in my hometown of Pittsburgh by Lane Lester and Raymond Bohlin.  Though they rejected the “created kind” term in favor of prototype in an attempt to avoid any bias from the scientific community, the idea remained the same[6]. The term prototype never caught on and, four years later, when the ICC met again a paper was presented that permanently pushed the prototype idea to the background.

1990 was a good year to be a creation biologist if you were interested in the baramins. Three separate papers on the topic were presented including one that permanently changed the landscape of creationist literature. Dr. Kurt Wise, who earned his doctorate in paleontology from Harvard, as an open creationist under the tutelage of noted evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, coined the term “baraminology” and proposed mechanisms for its operation[7].  He built on the work of Walter ReMine, an electrical engineer and fellow at the Discovery Institute who had proposed what he called “discontinuity systematics”. ReMine also rejected kind as a term, claiming that it was “…an ill defined and ambiguous term.[8]” Wise’s paper introduced terms which creation baraminologists still use today.

Wise referred to the concept of a kind as the archaebaramin. Beneath this, Wise proposed several groupings.  Wise proposed that the kind is something called a holobaramin. He defined the holobaramin as “…a group of known organisms which is completely surrounded by a phyletic discontinuity and yet is not completely divided by one[9].” In other words, the holobaramin is a distinct grouping in nature, not divided by discontinuity. The holobaramin is meant to be the equivalent of the Biblical kind. He further proposed the grouping monobaramin, which is a group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and apobaramin, which are groups of unrelated organisms.

Wise did not build on his proposed process in follow up papers to the next ICC, but others began to take his work and build on it, with numerous baraminology papers having been published since then, both at the ICC and in the creation technical journals.  However, it is logical to ask why bother study baraminology at all? Does baraminology matter?

Why Study Baraminology?

There are numerous reasons to study the created kinds, but perhaps the most obvious one has to do with Noah’s Ark. The Bible tells us that two of every kind got on the Ark[10]. Atheists regularly scoff at the Ark, saying it could not fit the required number of animals. However, they always cite species rather than kind since they do not acknowledge the kind concept, and completely ignore the actual number of animals on the Ark[11]. Thus studying the created kinds helps refute one of the numerous spurious objections voiced by those who do not believe the Bible.

A second reason to study the baramins comes from the need for a taxonomy that is actually based in reality, rather than the arbitrary Linnaean system.  Being able to determine the relationships between organisms based on their natural relationships, rather than their perceived evolutionary ancestry can be beneficial for a number of reasons. For example, this might allow man to breed more useful work animals, much as the mule has been used for centuries. Alternatively, it might allow food animals to be crossbred to create more nutritious or healthier stock. It also can be used to delineate which organisms should be the focus of conservation efforts, by, instead of salvaging species, salvaging variants of the kinds with enough genetic diversity to repopulate if necessary.

Ultimately though, the study of the kinds is not about the Ark, conservation, or taxonomy. It is about getting to know God.  The baramin was God’s idea, and He built it his creation. Since God made them, learning about the created kinds is ultimately learning about the mind of God. Baraminology provides an insight into the mind of the creator. This alone would be reason enough to study the baramin, even apart from the modern world applications.

Methods of Baraminology

Baraminologists are divided into two camps, much like cladists. Some prefer a solely statistical method of baraminology, while others prefer a hybridization-based approach, with a cognitum approach when hybridization data is not available.  Both mechanisms have their ardent defenders but is there a valid choice between the two? To answer that question, we need to examine the various methodologies.

The baraminology proposed by Wise, and later developed and advocated by Wood, is largely a statistical variety.  However, to arrive at the groups they perform their statistical analysis on, they ask a number of questions to determine whether they are looking in the right places.  Wise proposed fifteen questions in his original 1990 paper[12], while Wood in a book he coauthored in 2003 proposed eleven questions[13].  We will briefly address these questions, pulling largely from Wood’s list as Wise was the general editor of Wood’s book and thus likely at least tacitly approves of Wood’s list.

The first question both Wood and Wise ask is whether the Bible identifies or implies that a group is an independent kind.  Wood asks it as two separate questions, but the idea is the same. This is an excellent question. As a Christian, our ultimate authority is the Bible. If the Bible identifies creatures as being a created kind, then we must accept that it is a created kind, no matter what our human mechanisms tell us. In fact, if our mechanism contradicts what is found in the Bible, that is cause to either reject or adjust the mechanism.

Wise then asks if hybridization occurs within the group but fails outside the group. In this he is ahead of Wood who completely does not ask the hybridization question, likely because he views it as less useful than his statistical method. “We certainly should not rely on hybridization as the exclusive method of baraminology.[14]” However, hybridization is the ultimate, Biblical test of a kind so, while it cannot be exclusive based on fossil data, it is the gold standard. In this instance, Wise is far ahead of Wood.

Perhaps Wood fails on this question because he does not consider miyn as adequate justification for the kinds. “Following Marsh’s example, creationists often look to the term min (Hebrew for “kind”) to justify baramin, sometimes even claiming that min is an absolute category of biblical classification.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence for this position.[15]” Apparently, the Bible is not a sufficient authority for Dr. Wood on this issue. One wonders on what issues the Bible is authoritative for him. If miyn is not the justification for the existence of the Biblical kind, where exactly are we to get that justification? The kind exists because God said it exists. We should not be seeking justification from the secular scientific paradigm above the absolute authority of God’s Word.  If the kind is not founded in Genesis, then it has no foundation at all and is just as arbitrary as the species concept.  Perhaps this explains why Wood favors statistical baraminology since it is also arbitrary, but more on that below.

Wise then asks about the ancestry and lineage of the organisms. This is important because it keeps baraminologists from attempting to separate zebras from horses for example. Wood asks similar questions last, though his focus is on the fossilized data, rather than on living data. Wise asks these questions about fossilized data a little lower in his list. In this case, the questions are essentially focused on ensuring that everything is within the created kind, and that potential members of the kind are not excluded by overlooking a geological intermediate.  This is an important question because it permits baraminologists to assemble a baramin that includes extinct creatures.

The remaining questions deal with molecular, genetic, and morphological discontinuity which all very important and necessary questions to ask. Certain traits, in particular, are incredibly valuable when performing baraminological analysis. Feathers, for example, are unique to birds. Hair is unique to mammals.  Other traits are less obvious or are confined to smaller groups, but traits are valuable.  Genetics is also valuable because the genetic similarity is relatively easy to calculate and tends to point to related creatures, though this is not always reliable.

Once they have answered the questions, Wood and Wise’s next step is to fill out what they call a discontinuity matrix.  The matrix is simply a list of the questions asked, and their answers.  It is a useful tool to keep track of the data as the baraminologists work through the process.  Wood then goes further and delves into statistical baraminology.

Statistical baraminology is essentially cladistics applied to baraminology. However, instead of using just one or two traits as many cladists do, Wood heavily emphasizes a holistic approach, using every available piece of data for a given taxa, from skeletal shape to genetic data.   While this is a noble thought, statistical baraminology is foredoomed to failure for a number of reasons.

The primary failure of statistical baraminology is the same as that of cladistics. It is arbitrary. My college statistics teacher liked to repeat a saying that illustrates this well. “There are three kinds of liars in the world: Liars, blankety blank liars, and statisticians.”  In other words, statistics are only as good as the person generating them.  They can be selected arbitrarily to make the point the statistician wants to make, as Wood did when placing Homo naledi in the human holobaramin[16], which has been thoroughly debunked by O’Micks[17].  Interestingly, as pointed out by Dr. Gordon Wilson, evolutionists have taken Wood’s methods and used them to prove ancestry between unrelated groups[18]. Thus Wood’s excessive reliance on statistics has the potential to completely undermine baraminology.

This reliance on the foundation of cladistics is extremely dangerous. As we illustrated in the preceding article, cladistics is rooted in the evolutionary worldview.  Attempting to use something meant to prove evolution as a mechanism to demonstrate the Biblical kind is foolish. Cladistics assumes common descent by default[19].  Despite evolutionists best efforts to divorce cladistics from their dogma, cladistics remains irreparably linked to the evolutionary paradigm[20]. Thus attempting to incorporate its methodology and terminology into baraminology is both counterproductive and dangerous, something Wood should recognize.

A further issue is that statistics are not always predictive. Let me draw on a sports example for a moment. If you are into sports statistics at all, you know they may vary from season to season. As a hockey fan, let me draw on that sport to demonstrate this idea. Suppose I told you that a mid-twenty something winger had played two and a half seasons in which he had scored 3, 9, and 6 goals. How many goals would you predict he would score in the next season based on those numbers? Most people would say maybe 6-8.  A few more positive ones would predict 10-15 if he got some additional ice time or perhaps better linemates. No one predicted that William Karlsson would score 43 goals in 2017-18, more than doubling his career total in goals and ranking third in the NHL in goals scored. His previous statistics were not predictive. So it also is with baraminology. Statistical baraminology has produced data that breaks the fundamental rule of baraminology.  In some cases, published holobaramins determined by statistical baraminology have placed hybridizing groups in different created kinds[21]. This is Biblically unsound and thus must be rejected. We will address this particular published study in a later article.

Even if these issues were not in play, there is still the issue of how to weigh each trait.  Most statistical baraminologists use 1s and 0s to indicate the presence or absence of a given trait. This is also the method of cladistics, with the idea being the more number each organism has in common with others, the more closely related they are. However, some traits are less inherently valuable for classification purposes than others. For example, the presence of webbed feet in birds would be more important than the presence of feathers. However, introducing weights also introduces arbitrariness.  No one doubts that some traits are more important than others for defining a baramin, but introducing a weight leaves it open to interpretation and therefore further arbitrariness.

The one case where statistical baraminology has a strong use is with fossils.  Fossilized creatures cannot hybridize, by definition. They’re dead. Further, since we do not have most of their soft tissue, and often not even their full skeletons, attempting to place them using a cognitum is more difficult than it is in living creatures. This has been done for the Tyrannosaurids, with the author concluding that family Tyrannosauroidea is a monobaramin with several extra tag-alongs forming a holobaramin[22]. However, because these are fossils, any statistical baramin discovered is not scientifically testable.  Because we cannot see these creatures in life, nor interbreed them to test the statistics, fossil statistical baraminology is not falsifiable, a key part of the scientific method. As such, very little weight can be attached to such baramins.

Taken together, the above paragraphs demonstrate that statistics alone cannot be relied on as a mechanism of baraminology.  In fact, because of its inherent bias, statistical baraminology is perhaps the least reliable method of baraminology available.  This is not to say that we need to completely ignore results obtained by using statistical baraminology. In fact, I’ve already cited some of Wood’s results on plants in a previous article. We simply need to recognize that statistical baraminology is both limited and fraught with problems because of its underlying worldview, which is inherently unchristian. However, there are still uses for it, which will be discussed in article ten when I propose a distinct mechanism of baraminology.

The original view of hybridization came from Marsh but as Wood and Murray point out, Marsh reasoned in a circle[23].  He proposed that hybridization was the test of a baramin but failing this test did not always mean that two animals were not members of the same kind.  While they are correct, circular reasoning is not always fallacious[24].  In this case, the circular reasoning works because of post-flood speciation. It is perfectly logical that species could differentiate enough to become reproductively isolated, particularly in the four thousand odd years since the flood. Dr. Jeanson’s Replacing Darwin covers post-flood speciation in much greater detail than I can here.

However, while Wood’s criticism of hybridization is unfounded, he is correct that hybridization is not a panacea for the problem of baraminology.  For example, consider the seals, which may or may not be a unique baramin (discussed in a later article). There are twenty-four species of seal recognized by the current literature. Only eight species are known to hybridize. While this is helpful, it is not enough to classify the earless seals as a baramin.

This lack of complete hybridization data led to the development of the cognitum method of baraminology. Originally proposed by Wise and Roger Sanders in 2003[25] as a baraminological aide, it was elevated to a full baraminological method in 2011 as part of Answers in Genesis’ research into the Ark kinds[26].  This is in keeping with Marsh’s idea of the baramin. “In the living world, baramins are usually easy to distinguish.[27]” Wood and Murray concur, even citing Adam as support for this. “Adam’s intuitive naming of the animals implies that the pattern of life should be intuitively recognizable.[28]” Lightner et al referred to this intuitive grouping as a cognitum.

However, there are limits to the cognitum as well. Going back to the seal example above, elephant seals are significantly larger and have unique features when compared to other seals, yet they lack external ears and largely physically resemble seals. Are they their own created kind or do they lump with the rest of the seals?  The cognitum method appears to be just as arbitrary as the statistical baraminology method.

Even if it was not arbitrary, the cognitum method has other potential problems which need to be addressed. “Using current taxonomic placement as a guide, pictures and/or personal experience with the animals will be used to find obvious groupings.[29]” There are a couple of issues here that make the cognitum troublesome, at least on their face.  The first is the heavy reliance on the current taxonomy. As we demonstrated in the previous article, the current ruling paradigm has completely corrupted the taxonomic system. Using it as a basis for searching for a biblical kind seems somewhat counterproductive.  However, there is little other choice. The current taxonomic system is what we have to work with, so it is hard to fault these researchers for using the Linnaean system, however flawed that system might be.

Personal experience might appear to be less defensible.  Experience is not a good delineator of anything. We regularly argue that personal experience is irrelevant to sound theology, because God set down in His Word, what we ought to do, regardless of personal experience. It would seem that the created kind ought to be viewed in the same light.

Before jumping to conclusions, it is wise to consider what these researchers are actually saying. In referring to personal experience. They are not referring to the kind concept. The researchers are not attempting to define what a kind is based on their experience. Instead, they are attempting to determine what goes into a created kind based on their experience.  Determining the contents of a created kind by experience is not the same as attempting to define the created kind by experience.

That said, personal experience is certainly not the ideal arbiter. Hard data would certainly be more objective. However, until such time as baraminology has vast fields of data to draw on, experience with animals and observation of them can be of great value.

Baraminology of the Ark

The cognitum method of baraminology was employed when Answers in Genesis built the Ark Encounter and the results of each study published in the Answers Research Journal. Since these are some of the most comprehensive baraminology studies present in the literature, we will briefly examine some of the baramins the cognitum method proposed to illustrate both the strengths and the weaknesses of the method.

The first of the cognitum baraminology papers to appear in Answers Research Journal came in October of 2012 and attempted to define the Mammalian kinds. Other papers followed in the ongoing years. Keep in mind, Answers in Genesis has repeatedly publicly stated that they think they have overestimated the number of kinds that were on the ark, so they are aware that some of these kinds could potentially be merged.  With that in mind, let us examine a few kinds in these papers.

The first example we will examine is the honey possum kind. There is a single species in this kind, Tarsipes rostratus. Directly following this kind is the Feather-tailed possum kind. Superficially, and based on some phylogenetic studies, the two baramins do resemble one another. However, the author splits them into separate kinds[30].  The reasoning behind this presumably comes from certain morphological differences, including an extended rostrum on the honey possum, and a fluffy tail on the feather-tailed possum kind since hybridization data is lacking.  Since they inhabit similar ranges and have similar morphology it will be interesting to see if this changes as we gain more knowledge of their interactions. Until such time, however, this appears to be two separate baramin.

In the analysis of the Anurans, the author delineates out Genus Ascaphus, the tailed frogs, as their own separate kind. This is the cognitum method at its finest.  The tailed frogs have a specialized cloaca that looks like a tail and permits them fertilize eggs internally rather than externally[31]. No other frog has this special feature. Thus, pending hybridization data, calling this genus its own baramin is probably a sound designation.

In the paper on the bird kinds, however, in the first few kinds delineated, Lightner illustrates the weakness of the cognitum method, at least as far as it was used for the purposes of building the Ark Encounter.  Based on morphology alone, emus, ostriches, cassowaries, and rheas all could easily be placed in the same kind.  However, because Answers in Genesis did not want to underestimate the number of kinds on the Ark, they were split. Hybrid data does not exist, except between the two rhea species and the two ostrich species, so it is understandable on the basis of what they were trying to do that they split the groups[32]. However, I suspect this is an example of the overestimation that they talk about.

A further example of this comes from the salamanders. Genus Rhyacotriton is delineated out into its own kind, called the torrent salamander kind, while genus Ambystoma is likewise delineated out as its own kind. However, as the researcher freely admits, this is hardly definitive. “I was not able to locate hybrid data and much of the natural history for this family (Rhyacontritonidae) is unknown. Because of their strong cognita, the debate surrounding Rhyacotriton/Ambystoma systematics, and the desire not to underestimate the kinds, I include them in the Ark as the torrent salamander kind, until future researchers better understand and interpret the meaning of the genetic data in the context of their biosystematics and taxonomy.[33]” In other words, the two delineated kinds cognitively would group together but were separated in order to ensure that the Ark was given the correct number of kinds.

One final example will suffice to illustrate how the cognitum has been used. This is a bit of an outlier for these studies as most split at the expense of the cognitum. This kind lumps at the expense of the cognitum. The Mustelidae kind contains badgers, weasels, otters, wolverines, and minks.  Otters and weasels appear to share at least some morphological continuity, but otters have their own subfamily. Badgers do not resemble anything else in the kind, while wolverines look like a weird cross between bears and weasels.  This family appears to be something of a lumped together group in taxonomy yet Lightner has kept them lumped together instead of splitting them out as might be expected that she would do[34].  We will examine this family further in our baraminology studies of a future article.


Based on what we have seen in this article, both the statistical and cognitum methods of baraminology have their drawbacks.  Neither one is perfect but we do not live in a perfect world so it is likely a perfect baraminology method will elude us. While we cannot obtain the perfect method, we should strive as Christians, to develop the best possible method.  In the remaining articles of this series, we will attempt to do just that.



[1] Roland Numbers “Ironic Heresy” in Darwinian Heresies ed Abigail Lustig, Robert J. Richards and Michael Ruse. (London: Cambridge University Press, 2004.)

[2] Frank Lewis Marsh Fundamental Biology (Lincoln, Union College, 1941.)

[3] Marsh, 1976.

[4] Genesis 1:26-28

[5] H. Van Someren, A. Westerveld, A. Hagemeijer, J.R. Mees, P. Meera Khan, and O.B. Zaalberg. “Human Antigen and Enzyme Markers in Man-Chinese Hamster Somatic Cell Hybrids for Syteny Between the HL-A, PGM, ME and IPO-B Loci.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Volume 71, No.3 (1974) Pages 962-965.

[6] Lester and Bohlin, 1986.

[7] Kurt Wise “Baraminology: A Young-earth Creation Biosystematic Method.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism. 1990.

[8] Walter ReMine “Discontinuity Systematics: A New Methodology of Biosystematics Relevant to the Creation Model.” Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism 1990.

[9] Wise, 1990.

[10] Genesis 6:19-20

[11] “Noah’s Ark” Rational Wiki Accessed December 10, 2018

[12] Wise, 1990

[13] Wood and Murray, 2003.

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Todd Charles Wood “An Evaluation of Homo naledi and “Early” Homo from a Young-Age Creationist Perspective.” Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series B: Life Sciences Volume 6 (2016) Pages 14-30.

[17] Jean O’Micks “Homo naledi Probably Not Part of the Human Holobaramin Based on Baraminic Re-Analysis Including Postcranial Evidence.” Answers Research Journal Volume 9 (2016) Pages 263-272.

[18] Gordon Wilson “Classic Multidimensional Scaling Isn’t the Sine Qua Non of Baraminology.” Answers in Depth Volume 5 (2010).

[19] de Queiroz and Donoghue, 1990.

[20] Kluge, 1998.

[21] Todd Charles Wood, Issues in Creation: Animal and Plant Baramins Eugene, OR: WIPF & Stock, 2008.

[22] M. Aaron. “Discerning Tyrants from Usurpers: A Statistical Baraminological Analysis of Tyrannosauroidea Yielding the First Dinosaur Holobaramin.” Answers Research Journal Volume 7 (2014) Pages 463-481.


[23] Wood and Murray, 2003.

[24] Jason Lisle. The Ultimate Proof of Creation Green River, AR: Masters Books, 2009.

[25] Roger W. Sanders and Kurt P. Wise “The cognitum: A perception-dependent concept needed in baraminology.” In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism (2003) Pages 445-456

[26] Jean Lightner, Tom Hennigan, Georgia Purdom, and Bodie Hodge. “Determining the Ark Kinds” Answers Research Journal Volume 4. (2011) Pages 195-201.

[27] Marsh, 1976.

[28] Wood and Murray, 2003

[29] Lightner et al, 2011.

[30] Lightner, 2012.

[31] Tom Hennigan “An Initial Estimate toward Identifying and Numbering the Frog Kinds on the Ark: Order Anura.” Answers Research Journal Volume 6 (2013)

[32] Jean Lightner “An Initial Estimate of Avian Ark Kinds” Answers Research Journal Volume 6 (2013) Pages 409-466.

[33] Tom Hennigan “An Initial Estimate Toward Identifying and Numbering Amphibian Kinds within the Orders Caudata and Gymnophiona.” Answers Research Journal Volume 6 (2013) Pages 17-34.

[34] Lightner, 2012.

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