Nested Hierarchies

If you have been around the creation/evolution debate for a while, I suspect the term “nested hierarchies” might mean something to you. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it is in reference to the fact that life tends to be easily categorized. We have fairly obvious groups; fish, birds, bacteria, mammals and so on. Evolutionists like to tout this as evidence that all organisms arose from a common ancestor. However, there are deep flaws in this idea; flaws we will explore today.

When explaining nested hierarchy, evolutionists almost always point to a phylogenetic tree. Generally they point to the fit between various groups of organisms and how well they “nest” into a phylogenetic tree. However, there are huge assumptions being made in making such an argument. The first one, is that the given tree is true. No evolutionist with a working knowledge of phylogenetics will ever say that a phylogenetic tree is true. If someone tells you a given tree is true or even completely accurate, assume they are ignorant of phylogenetics and call them on it. Generally, the statement from someone who understands phylogenetics will be “most probable” or “most likely” or “most parsimonious”, depending on the method used. The methods themselves do not generate the same results in many cases and are statistical in nature. This makes them incredibly data-dependent. Slightly different data, or an internal bias can cause results to vary widely.

However, when thinking about nested hierarchy, phylogenies are not required. Simple common sense says that birds are different than reptiles which are different from fish, which are different from invertebrates and so on. Even the earliest classification systems separated many of the groups we observe today. So the nesting does happen on a grand scale. It is not perfect. Where do you nest a platypus? It has fur like a mammal, a bill like duck, poison like snakes, lays eggs like a reptile, and lives in the water like a fish. So how do you nest that? Realistically, you don’t, you just kind of shoehorn it into mammals because what else can you do with it? Mosaic animals make the nesting more difficult but can be accomodated.

While nesting does occur on the grand scale, this does not imply evolution by common descent. The Darwinists think it does, but it does not. The mantra of evolution is, among others, descent with modification. This step wise pattern is supposed to be born out in the nested hierarchy. There should be a pattern of ancestors gradually turning into descendants by means slow, gradual modification, and, according to evolutionists, nested hierarchy fits this pattern.

There is, of course, a problem. There always is where neo-Darwinism is concerned. In this case, it is the obvious discontinuity between groups. Birds and reptiles, fish and flowers look nothing like one another. There are broad groupings, but at a certain point, depending on how tightly you draw the lines, organisms cease looking like one another. The hierarchy does not go all the way, nor does is it universal.

Evolutionists will undoubtedly object that the fossil record links these groups. While it is beyond the scope of this article to deal with the missing links, the name should tell you what you need to know. The vast majority if not all of the missing links are, you guessed it, missing. This breaks the nesting apart into distinct groups, that do not overlap.

From a creationist perspective, nested hierarchies appear to be best explained by a designer. Consider this analogy. In a previous job, I worked for a company that packaged vitamins. Each item had it’s own “spec brief” that detailed what needed to be included in the item. There was wide variability in the components. The bottles could be glass or plastic and varied widely in size. They might or might not have labels on them. Desiccants and cotton may or may not have been included. They might have colored or white caps, and the caps might be childproof or not. They could have full body sleeves or simple neck seals. Sometimes they went in cartons, and they might be placed in boxes or trays. However, every single one of those “spec briefs” was put together by a team of four or five designers who decided what went with what.

Now take the analogy of variability in products we produced and look at animals. There are variable kinds in the world. Each kind is characterized by an “essential nature” as characterized by Joubert (2011). This essential nature has never changed, though other aspects of the design may have. The essential nature may be thought of as the bottle and cap of our analogy. Every product had those. However, the exact dimensions and makeup of the bottle and cap varied from product to product. In our example, the essential nature varies from kind to kind, but all kinds have it. The kinds can then be nested based on things outside their essential nature, the desiccants, cotton, and cartons of our example. While the kinds vary greatly, just like the products in our bottles, they all have an essential nature, the bottles and caps, and can be nested based on non-essential aspects. That does not mean, however, that they were not designed. In fact, it would indicate that they were!

Just as the products we produced were all designed from start to finish by a team of very smart, very talented people, the organisms we see in the world were also designed. Yes, they nest to an extent, but so does literally every other form of design. Nested hierarchies are in the zone of overlap: both sides can accommodate them and they may fit creation better than evolution. Regardless, a nested hierarchy does not demonstrate evolution.

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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