Genetics and Morphology in Baraminology

Darwin's Finches

This is something I’ve been bouncing around in my head for quite some time and, since it impacts baraminology, is something I’ve decided to sketch out. It is not my goal in this article to make definitive statements. Rather, I’m tossing out some ideas which might be helpful to aspiring baraminologists and may also provoke some discussion.  The ideas of genetics and morphology are regularly used in baraminology, but rarely together. The primary baraminological methods have rejected genetics as unreliable, while newer methods have ignored morphology as subjective and focused on genetics. The two are rarely, if ever used together  However, I have serious doubts about all the methods currently in use for reasons I will explain below.

Before going into the issues I have with the current methods of baraminology, it’s important to understand where the methodologies are coming from. The most popular method of baraminology is statistical baraminology, which is a purely statistical method that focuses on morphological data obtained from evolutionary datasets.  It codes characters numerically then plugs them into a statistical program to generate results. It has been critiqued for producing results inconsistent with both science and the Biblical text.  When Answers in Genesis was building the Ark and trying to determine what kinds went on the Ark, they borrowed the cognitum concept, which was originally meant as a baraminological aide, and elevated it to a full baraminological concept. They did use genetics and statistical baraminology but these were considered less valuable than hybrid and morphological data.

By contrast, more recently developed genetic methods do not use morphological data. Instead, they rely on gene content, a genetic-based method which compares genes, rather than morphological features.  This method is new and has only been used on a few organisms as yet so it is unclear as yet where these methods issues are. However, there is one overarching issue with all the methods.

Ironically, it was reading an evolutionary journal on a topic totally unrelated to baraminology which led me to this insight.  Natural selection, the force most responsible for molding species to their habitat, is blind to the genotype. It does not act directly upon the genotype at all. Instead, it only influences which phenotypes are most common among a wild population. If natural selection is blind to the genotype, we cannot rely on genes alone to inform our understanding of baraminology.  Since we know that, at least among land animals, all diversity has taken place since the flood, we can build a model based on all drivers of speciation. Some of those do directly influence the genotype, such as founder effect, and genetic drift. Thus we cannot rely exclusively on morphology to inform our ideas on baraminology.   However, natural selection is what separates one species from another, at least in most models.  Therefore, our models of baraminology should reflect what we know about diversification. Diversification is not completely tied to the genotype. Our models should reflect this and make use of morphological data.

Given that we know that all diversification is not dependent on the genotype and, in fact, much of it is blind to it, our baraminological models must consider this.  Our models have focused exclusively on morphology or genetics, to the exclusion of the other. In order to have an accurate model of baraminology, this probably needs to change. We need to be incorporating both genetics and morphology into the model.  Whether there needs to be weights attached to the data to get accurate results, and exactly what method needs to be used remains to be described.  This is something I will be doing some thinking on in the future and hopefully, proposing a theoretical framework.

What this means is that we do not have a complete baraminological model. Given the issues we have seen with the statistical baraminological model, this should not surprise anyone.  There is much work to be done here.  Tying out models to either the genotype or the phenotype is unwise. Blending the two together should be the goal if we are to gain a correct understanding of the original created kinds. Again, there is no definitive method to do this yet.  However, hopefully, this article will provoke some discussion and get people thinking about these issues and eventually, lead to a solution.

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

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