A Workable Species Concept

One of the ongoing interests we have here at In His Image is that of species and speciation. This ties in strongly with our work in baraminology and our desire to understand the diversity of life on earth.  This has led us to look deeply into the questions of “what is a speciation” and “how does speciation happen?” While we are not in a position as yet to make a firm statement on speciation, we have a few general observations we can make.

Secularists have recognized for a long time that speciation happens and that it can be an issue. Whole papers have been written trying to explain why species exist and what exactly a species is. While examining all of these ideas in detail is beyond the scope of this post, we can make a very brief observation about species concepts. None of them work in every situation. Some are designed for sexual organisms only, such as the biospecies concept of Ernst Mayr. Others, like the agamospecies concept, only apply themselves to asexual organisms. And therein lies the great difficulty most systematists struggle with. Asexuals and sexuals are so very different that the obvious mechanism of classification, mode of reproduction, does not work universally.

This leads to the question of should there be a universal concept of species? This question perplexes biologists. Some give up and apply their concept only within their own fields.  Others attempt to meld a concept that can be applied universally. So far, none have been successful, though some are still trying. From a creationist perspective, should we see a universal concept of a species? I don’t think so, though there may be some broad patterns. For example, all vertebrates may operate under the same idea of what a species is, but this would not necessarily apply to organisms like plants or fungi.  This is an area where much more thought and research is needed.

Since the secular concepts of speciation do not seem to be functional, at least in all cases, do we need a creationist concept of speciation? One does exist, the Katagenos concept of species, developed by Todd Elder. More on Elder’s concept of speciation can be found in his books on the Resources page of our website.  In short, however, Elder’s idea conceptualizes species as breeds within a created kind.  While this seems to work for sexually reproducing organisms, I question whether it works for asexuals or organisms that reproduce both sexually and asexually like plants. Again, more research is needed.

Then there is the question of what drives speciation? This is yet another area where evolutionists are deeply divided. I suspect part of this divide may be due to speciation being driven by different factors in different organisms.  Lightner has begun digging into this idea a bit, but, because of her rejection of natural selection, she has fixated on animals making choices about their own variation instead of natural variation. However, painting with broad strokes here, it seems likely that speciation happens due to factors varying from environmental changes to mutations. In a post-flood world, speciation among vertebrates would undoubtedly have been very rapid as the animals migrated to new habitats, leaving portions of their population behind in territory they passed through.

These are all questions that have to be answered in order for any species concept to be viable. As you can see, it is far from simple. A lot of different factors have to be considered.  Because of this, I think we may need multiple concepts of what a species is, each meant for different things. I’m hardly the only one to think this. The great evolutionary biologist, John Endler, who did extensive work with wild guppies, wrote: “Just as there are a variety of chisels made for different purposes, different species concepts are best for different purposes; and just as it is inadvisable to use a carving chisel to cut a mortise, problems arise when one species concept is used when it is inappropriate.”  It seems wisest then to formulate multiple concepts of a species to fit different needs.

This returns us to the question of whether we can simply accept the secular concepts of speciation and use them. I think the answer is somewhat nuanced. Just because an evolutionist thought of it does not make it wrong any more than a creationist thinking of it makes it right.  Ideas have to be evaluated on their own merit, rather than simply on who thought of them.  That said, many species concepts assume evolution to be true as part of the concept. These cannot be used. However, it is possible to adapt some of the others to our purposes, depending on what those purposes are. I see no problem with nuancing the biospecies or agamospecies to fit the creation model, which, with the biospecies, we already defacto do anyway. Further research is needed and we look forward to getting into some of the details as time goes on.


John A. Endler  “Conceptual and Other Problems in Speciation” in Speciation and Consequences ed Daniel Otte and John Endler Sinauer Associates Inc. Sunderland, MA, 1989.



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  1. Yes species exist. I think species origins must be innate biology reactions to thresholds being crossed. i mean not from selection on mutations or some need to survive. the greatest place for speciation is the amazon forest. It shows species are in thier glory there not because of poverity of resources but because of wealth. God said for biology to multiply and fiil the earth. SPECIATE. so it can. He said this before the fall. so speciation most likely is innate triggers working on a great biology plan. If we want today the best chance to witness in the lab speciation i think we should do it in a lab setting full of great options for a wealthy world. nOt a poverity inpulse as they do teach in evolutionism.


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