|Rescued from the|
|Twelve of the clean kind|
Baraminology (pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable; also known by its Intelligent Design technobabble name "discontinuity systematics") is a pseudoscience that attempts to provide a creationist alternative to animalian Linnaean taxonomy and cladistics based on a biblically literal young-Earth creationist worldview. It seeks to redefine the word "kind" (as used in Genesis)[note 1] to mean a much wider group (a baramin, an ignorantly constructed portmanteau of the Hebrew words for "creation" and "kind", so literally "created kind"). Baramins have allegedly since diversified into the animal species we know today.
Baraminology was invented ad hoc for the sole purpose of solving a major creationist and literalist problem: how to fit two (or seven) of every kind of animal aboard Noah's Ark without the number of individual animals (and thus the size and scope of both the vessel and of the animal-rescue operation being undertaken by the senior citizen in question) instantly reaching whimsical proportions.
The 30-million-plus species estimated to exist today could not have fit, let alone survived, on any plausible boat — and the dimensions of the ark given and accepted by creationists put an upper hard limit on the size and scale of the boat which creationists can work with. The modern invention of "baramins" thus aims to allow for a scriptural reading, reducing the number of animals Noah would have to care for from the absolutely farcical to the "merely" highly implausible.
Many attempts have been made to make "baraminology" into a science, and creationist journals such as the Answers Research Journal have published attempts to figure out what suitably counts as a "kind". Most of these approaches, however, are subjective at best — and at worst, don't even attempt to hide the desperation to shoehorn observations into the literalist Biblical narrative.
History of baraminology
Baramins were first proposed in 1941 by Frank Marsh but lacked sufficient social backing to gain currency. In 1990, when creation "scientists" were becoming more eager — and desperate — to explain how their concepts could be feasible, Kurt Wise and Walter ReMine reintroduced baraminology and tried to work out the criteria for membership in a baramin. "Research" (for a given value of the word) has since continued apace as a key component of young Earth creationism and its pseudojournals.
Marsh coined the word "baramin" by taking two words out of a Hebrew glossary and tacking them together with no regard for how the Hebrew language works, much as in the long scientific tradition of mangling Greek with Latin.
Min is typically given the meaning "kind" in elementary glossaries. In Modern Hebrew, it means both "species" and "sex". The citation form for the Hebrew verb is the "third person singular masculine perfect active", so (for those who don't speak linguist) bara means "he created" (the Semitic root B-R-A in this context is reserved in Hebrew for the act of creating. "He conjured" may be a better translation). It is used in the opening words of the Hebrew Bible: B'reshith bara elohim… means "In the beginning God created…". If one replaces elohim, the subject of that verb, with another noun (min), and tries to make some sort of sense out of it, it would be saying that a "kind", rather than "God" did the creating.[note 2] Of course, those who use the word "baramin" would be averse to ascribing the act of creation to something other than God.
Although Ancient Hebrew has the subject following the verb (irrelevant if the subject isn't there), it also has the object following the verb (and the subject, if present) (e.g. "bereshit bara elohim [et ha-shamayim ve-et ha-aretz]", 'in the beginning God created [the sky and the earth]' — the object is the last part of speech). As such, "bara min", 'created a kind', might plausibly be something you might say in Ancient Hebrew (if you have been sniffing the incense too much) or Modern Hebrew as a reply to the question "ma 'asa elohim?", 'what did God do?' — the order of parts of speech is not an issue. Hebrew is very flexible in syntax as long as a direct object is indicated with the word "et". Therefore, "bara elohim et-haShamayim" and "et-haShamayim elohim bara" both mean the same thing, but with different emphases (the second phrase might imply that God only created the heavens, but not the Earth. Thus, "bara min" and "min bara" both mean "the species created (something)". If one said this intending the opposite, they would have been considered an uneducated, illiterate fool; perhaps this neologism is apt.
Marsh seems to have been attempting to coin something like "created kind" under the assumption that both verb morphology and syntax worked the same in Biblical Hebrew as in modern English. If that's what he was after, he would have done better to write something like min baru — baru is the perfect passive participle, and typically it would follow the noun it modifies.
|Baraminological term||Cladistical term|
|Holobaramin (typically abbreviated as baramin): an entire group believed to be related by common ancestry, not excluding any members of the group.||monophyly, clade|
|Monobaramin: some, but not all, members of the same baramin||paraphyly|
|Apobaramin: one or more holobaramins; must contain the entirety of each holobaramin.||polyphyly or paraphyly, depending on relation of members|
|Polybaramin: any mixed grouping of things that includes members of more than one holobaramin.||polyphyly|
Later added terms include::108
|Baraminological term||Cladistical term|
|Archaebaramin: the original created members of a baramin. For instance, Adam and Eve were the archaebaramin of the "human kind". A type of monobaramin.||most recent common ancestor|
|Neobaramin: the set of all currently alive members of a baramin, not excluding any or including any dead members. A type of monobaramin.||living population|
|Palaeobaramin: a monobaramin containing all members alive at a particular time.||previous living population|
Baraminology aims to break polybaramin groups into their component monobaramins and ascertain to which holobaramin each one belongs.
Rather than common descent, in which all life on earth is descended from a single ancestor, baraminology posits multiple special creation events. This can be seen in the "creationist orchard", a diagram showing multiple trees of life, each with its own separate starting point. Thus, baraminology seeks to show discontinuity rather than continuity.
(Baraminologists do not use the "creationist orchard" much these days, it being entirely too reminiscent of the evolutionary tree of life that has had the trunk removed at an arbitrary point — because that's exactly what it is. They now tend to use matrices of characteristics.)
Despite this scheme recognizing only one "true" level of taxonomy (the baramin), creationists acknowledge the existence of other groupings and even treat these as real categories: Classes like fish, (non-human) mammals, and birds. (For example, they assert that Archaeopteryx was "fully bird" rather than calling it "fully Archaeopteryx" as per a purely-baraminological concept.) They present no explanation for vast cross-class similarities other than "common design", and species are now mysterious.
We are eager to learn the rigorous methodology baraminologists use to meaningfully demarcate the line between separate baramins. For instance, eukaryotes have in common the eukaryotic cell, in contrast to prokaryotes, which don't. How does one define a baramin? Are eukaryotes a baramin? And if so, what of the various "baramins" within baramins that possess a eukaryotic cell in common? Are baramins nested in a hierarchy of fundamental tiers of genetic relationships? If so, what is the difference between baramins and clades? Why not just call them clades instead of resorting to pseudoscientific technobabble? Of course, we all know the real answer, don't we?
How to do baraminology
Baraminological research uses some of the techniques of cladistics (much as the terminology mimics that of cladistics) to put species into trees of descent based on common anatomical and DNA features. It is hampered by explicitly rejecting evolution as the science behind what is going on, but some baraminology research approaches excellent evidence for evolution if only baraminologists could admit this to themselves. (Some all but do.) Evolutionary scientists have even used baraminologists' techniques to show that Archaeopteryx is related to dinosaurs, refuting the idea that they are of separate kinds.
Baraminologists use negative evidence to look for discontinuities between trees of life: DNA and morphology differences, unique features in each baraminic group, and lack of fossil intermediates. Unfortunately, negative evidence cannot confirm discontinuities, merely showing that the common ancestor is not immediate. Of course, since the Bible says that there are different kinds, that trumps all biological evidence.
Which baramin is it in?
Creationists have been repeatedly grilled for a clear explanation of how to tell if two creatures are part of the same "kind" but have been unable to formulate a consistent answer. The only thing that defines a group as a baramin is whether or not a given creationist claims a group to be one.
Baraminologists often argue that a baramin is a group composed of creatures that can interbreed, pointing to examples of tiger-lion and horse-zebra offspring to show that separate "species" can interbreed. However, most organisms are incapable of hybridization, leaving this definition insufficient to trim down the number of animals Noah would have had to bring. Current baraminological "research" indicates that the possibility of hybrids definitely means the same baramin, but the lack thereof does not mean different baramins.
The clearest summary of the art of baraminological classification is given by Roger W. Sanders in his 2010 paper on placing plants into baramins:
The cognita are not based on explicit or implicit comparisons of characters or biometric distance measures but on the gestalt of the plants and the classification response it elicits in humans.
Or: "Forget all this 'measurement' stuff and just follow my feelings."
Ultimately, the only consistent definition of a baramin is a set of creatures whose common ancestry is so mind-blowingly obvious that even creationists have trouble denying it. Unless it's human, of course, in which case it shares its baramin with no non-human primate. Where various hominids go is another story.
Baramins and DNA
Baraminologists generally accept the existence and function of DNA and even measure changes in it as part of baraminological analysis. However, the idea of baramins seems counterintuitive to the observed similarities in the DNA of every organism on Earth. The DNA of humans and chimpanzees is 98.7% identical — sufficiently similar that we can point to the places in the code where the differences emerged, such as the fusion of chromosome 2.
Fortunately, baraminology knows how to deal with this sort of science: it blankly denies it. For example, after baraminologist Todd Charles Wood noteds the similarity of primate genomes, he stated:
How does this happen? Is it random? No, we can totally rule out random similarity. Statistically speaking, it's essentially zero probability that this could be random. Could it be somehow functionally necessary that these repeats be the same? That's unlikely, because some of these repeats are naturally variable and you would never even notice. So you could change them, and nothing would happen. Could it be inheritance from a common ancestor? That's at least a logical possibility. A creationist has to rule that out, though, because the Bible says that God created humans separately from apes.
And that is why this similarity has to be the result of design. We know that God created apes and humans separately. The similarities they share must by necessity be a result of that creation event.
Is there a Biblical concept of "kind"?
In the appeal to the Bible in support of the idea, one critical point is whether there is any Biblical support for entities called "kinds".
The word min occurs in the Hebrew Bible only in a very special construction: the preposition l'+min+possessive pronoun. This is evident in translation: the repeated phrases according to its/their/his kind. A fixed phrase is consistent with it being an idiom with a non-transparent (i.e., not literal) meaning.[note 3] At least a bit of justification is needed that the Biblical expression "according to their kind" is meant to refer to a "kind" and that this supposed referent is something which is (1) the thing that is created (rather than it being individuals which are created, for example, or processes, or who-knows-what-else) and (2) unchanging for all time. There is little to support such a supposition.
But the word is suspect for another reason. The word in Biblical Hebrew has something of a mysterious origin. There is no known good relative for the word in closely related languages, supposing that it is a noun. It has been suggested that the word is not a noun in its own right but only part of a derivation from a grammatical oddity.[note 4] This is not universally accepted, but it does at least add a bit of suspicion which ought to be addressed.:262:392
The concept of fixed species did not occur in the history of thought until the 16th-17th century.:232 In fact, it was invented to help explain Noah's Ark. It is an anachronism to attribute to the compilers of the Old Testament (circa 800 BCE) a concept some two thousand years later. And once the concept did develop, it was a concept of fixed species, not any larger biological taxon, such as family, perhaps for the obvious reasons that it is not obvious how and why any larger biological taxon would have any objective reality or how and why it would remain fixed, and that no one has found any evidence or reason for this to be the case.[note 5]
The concept of fixed kinds seems to have arisen not from Biblical hermeneutics but out of the necessities imposed by trying to save the doctrine of creationism from the undeniable reality of the immense diversity of nature.
Do humans form a "Biblical kind"?
The Hebrew word min is never used in reference to humans in the Bible. Of the other words which could be translated as kind, the only instance in which such a word is applied to humans, in general, is in the Deuterocanon, 2 Maccabees 7:28 — the original Greek anthropon genos, meaning mankind. In other passages where the Greek genos is used in the Septuagint version in reference to humans, it is applied to a subgroup of humans, meaning "relatives" or "clan", as in Exodus 1:9, "people of the children of Israel".
Baraminologists have consistently rejected the notion that humans are in the same baramin as any non-human primate. Recent "research" places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the human holobaramin, although this is quite controversial in the creationist community. Never mind that those findings (based on skull similarities) are far better explained by Homo sapiens having evolved directly from them.
As far as the Bible saying that God created humans separately from apes… To begin with, there is nothing in the Bible explicitly about God creating apes. That is "interpretation". By the way, the Bible has nothing about chimps, gorillas, and the other apes for the same reason it's got nothing about chinchillas, kangaroos, or the deep-sea anglerfish: nobody in the Biblical lands or Europe knew about them. The English word "ape" in the King James Bible was the Early Modern English word for "monkey". There is no more any Biblical authority on apes than there is for Neanderthals, Australopithecines, or Smilodon.
Of course, even if the Bible completely, explicitly, and unambiguously supported the idea, it would still be wrong.
Explaining it away with… evolution!
Creationists hold that baraminology explains the diversity of life observed today despite the extinction level event of the alleged global flood. This requires new species to diverge — by whatever means — from the original "kinds" taken on board Noah's ark. From the fossil record and Biblical text, Todd Charles Wood estimates that 15 million species arose in only three to four centuries after the flood, and many of those are now extinct.
This poses a sizable problem because proponents of baraminology are the same people who reject most evolution, asserting that new species do not, and cannot, form over time. According to them, only "microevolution" occurs since horses are still horses and haven't evolved into anything startlingly different in the last few hundred years. Proponents of baraminology hold that instead of loading some of every species on Noah's Ark during the global flood, only examples of each baramin would have to be brought. This removes, for them, the problem of the idea of biblical inerrancy — how millions of creatures could have been housed and fed on a single boat.
Extreme rates of differentiation
The problem is that evolution just does not happen that fast, and this claim has the side-effect of making baraminology proponents supporters of what could be called "Super Evolution" — an evolution that works at blinding speed. If genetic differentiation was accelerated up to the level where a few thousand creatures[note 7] change into the many tens of thousands of vertebrate species alone, then it would be quick enough to easily submit the "proof" of evolution that creationists often ask for — such as demonstrating it in the lab, or monkeys giving birth to humans.
One could, of course, resort to special pleading that God "switched on" the "Super Evolution" briefly — and then switched it off again — as soon as humans were bright enough to spot it. However, the creationists have presented no evidence as to why God is unwilling and/or unable to repeat such a process now or in the future, or indeed any evidence that such a thing has happened in the past, particularly as fossil evidence only indicates a smooth and relatively slow evolutionary process. Even the best evidence for rapid evolutionary change (known as punctuated equilibrium) — such as the Lenski experiment or the Cambrian explosion — do not show evolution happening near fast enough for "Super Evolution" to be realistic.
The greatly increased mutation rate that baraminology requires to achieve this differentiation would have caused severe problems in the organismal populations. The mutation rate required for such rapid genetic change would not leave enough viable genomes for negative mutations to be selected out of the gene pool.
There are an estimated four harmful mutations per human zygote (embryo). Normally, this is not a problem because nearly all mutations are recessive, and natural selection can weed out these malignant changes. Baraminology would require the mutation rate to be sped up by a factor of up to 250,000, and we could expect to see a gigantic influx of mutations approaching one million detrimental genetic changes per fertilization. This would result, of course, in the sudden termination of all life on earth.
In addition, genetic mutations cause most types of cancer; an increase of even a few hundred times, far less than baraminology demands, would have tremendous and fatal consequences for animal life.
Baraminology finds a first answer
Fortunately, baraminology has found a possible mechanism for rapid diverse genetic change that doesn't conflict with the Bible or kill everything. Jean Lightner claims that chromosomal translocations are the primary source of variation in the cattle baramin and posits God as the agent who personally set up the cattle genome in such a manner to ensure that each of the translocations would play out just right. Thus, creation science uses God as evidence of God. And they think we use circular reasoning.
- Linnaean taxonomy
- Various articles in Answers Research Journal:
- The Baraminology Study Group (or "BSG")
- Wood, Todd Charles, Wise, Kurt P., Sanders, Roger, and Doran, N., "A Refined Baramin Concept." Baraminology Study Group, July 25, 2003.
- Wood, Todd Charles. "The Current Status of Baraminology." CRSQ, 2006.
- (Or, for that matter, anything by Todd Charles Wood: his blog)
- National Center for Science Education: Baraminology — the NCSE warns you about these lunatics
- CreationWiki's guide to mammalian baramins
- Genesis 1:24-25 — "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind…"
- The subject in Ancient Hebrew typically follows the verb.
- With the caution that analogies between languages are to be used with reserve, think of the idiomatic English expression kind of, as in he was kind of happy — there is clearly no intended referent for the word kind.
- To risk another cross-language analogy, think of the English verb burgle, which is a back-formation from the noun burglar. Or the noun ilk (meaning kind), whose ultimate origin is a pronoun meaning "same".
- Not to mention what it means and looks like for a large taxon to be created and where the smaller taxa come from.
- Though The Creator may have an even greater fondness for nematodes.
- Baraminologists do not yet claim a solid figure for the number of baramins. John Woodmorappe's Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study, as summarised by Jonathan Sarfati, says 8,000 genera would be sufficient.
- How Many Animal Species Are There? by Bob Strauss (Updated on January 25, 2019) ThoughtCo.
- Baraminology by Alan Gishlick (July-August 2006) Reports of the National Center for Science Education 26(4).
- Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald R. Prothero (2017) Columbia University Press, 2nd edition. ISBN 9780231543163.
- Baraminology Classification of Created Organisms by Wayne Frair (2000) Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal 37(2):82–91.
- Baraminology by Richard Paley (created: 8/19/2001, updated: 9/5/2008) Objective: Ministries.
- Baraminology (September 11, 2011) North Dakota Home School Association Blog (archived from 8 Oct 2015 08:42:35 UTC).
- Baraminology (September 11, 2011) Biblical Thinking Students (archived from 8 Oct 2015 08:42:40 UTC).
- About Us: Taxonomic Concepts and Methods Creation Biology Society.
- Created Kinds, Baraminology and the Creation Orchard by Todd Elder (2017) Scripture Advocate Publishing. ISBN 0997307706 (archived from January 16, 2023).
- Is the evolutionary tree turning into a creationist orchard? by Pierre Jerlström (2000) Journal of Creation 14(2):11–13.
- Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin by Todd Charles Wood (2010) Answers Research Journal 3:71-90.
- The truth about evolution by Todd C. Wood (September 30, 2009) Todd's Blog. In which Wood calls evolution "an extremely successful scientific theory" but says that "It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution."
- Dinosaur man: playing creationists at their own game. by Jeff Hecht (4 August 2010 ) New Scientist.
- Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true? by Matt Walker (5 July 2011) BBC.
- "Systematics, Comparative Biology, and the Case against Creationism by Joel Cracraft (1984) In: Scientists Confront Creationism, edited by Laurie R. Godfrey. W. W. Norton. ISBN 0393301540. Page 166.
- See the Wikipedia article on Hybrid.
- Karyotype Variability within the Cattle Monobaramin|by Jean Lightner (2008) Answers Research Journal 1:77–88.
- A Quick Method for Developing a Cognitum System Exemplified Using Flowering Plants by Roger W. Sanders (2010) Occasional Papers of the BSG 16:1-63.
- A Quantitative Approach to Baraminology With Examples from the Catarrhine Primates by D. Ashley Robinson & David P. Cavanaugh (1998) Creation Research Society Quarterly 34(4). Archived from October 29, 2000.
- Comparison of all skulls by Jim Foley (10/28/2008) Talk Origins.
- Bonobos Join Chimps as Closest Human Relatives: Genome sequence reveals tantalizing clues to differences in behavior and intelligence between three species by Ann Gibbons (13 Jun 2012) Science. doi:10.1126/article.25670.
- Human Chromosome 2 is a fusion of two ancestral chromosomes by Alec MacAndrew, Evolution Pages.
- A tale of two chromosomes by Jean Lightner (November 14, 2007) Answers in Depth 2:160–162.
- Stickman explains homology by Todd Charles Wood (June 16, 2010) Todd's Blog.
- The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, edited by David J. A. Clines (2001) Sheffield Academic Press. Volume 5. ISBN 1841272175.
- "Etymological Miscellanea" by Chaim Rabin (1961) In: Studies in the Bible, edited by Chaim Rabin. Magnes Press of the Hebrew University. Volume 8, pp. 384-400.
- Species: A History of the Idea by John S. Wilkins (2009) University of California Press. ISBN 0520260856. "The biological notion of species did not develop until the end of the sixteenth and through the seventeenth centuries CE."}}
- We have 'species' thanks to Noah's Ark by John Wilkins (October 28, 2013 2.30am EDT) The Conversation.
- Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin: Discussion by David N. Menton (2010) Answers Research Journal 3:153-158. Archived from April 12, 2015.
- Gautengensis vs sediba: A battle for supremacy amongst 'apeman' contenders, but neither descended from Adam by Peter Line (17 June 2010) Creation Ministries International.
- Sediba, the bad, and the ugly by Todd C, Wood (August 24, 2010) Todd's Blog.
- What Is Life? by J. B. S. Haldane (1947) Boni and Gaer.
- Building a Community for Discovery by Pam Sheppard on (January 22, 2009) Answers Magazine
- Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study by John Woodmorappe (1996) Institute for Creation Research. ISBN 0932766412.
- How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark? by Jonathan D. Sarfati (1997) Creation 19(2):16–19.
- The X Chromosome and the Rate of Deleterious Mutations in Humans by Francesco Giannelli & Peter M. Green (2000) The American Journal of Human Genetics 67(2):515-517. doi:10.1086/303010.
- The Creation Museum teaches super evolution (Jun 19, 2007) YouTube. Note that "super evolution" is a description by skeptics of the required process, not a term used by creationists.
- See the Wikipedia article on Cancer.