Creationist Arguments Debunked Part 1 of 4; The Difference Between Micro and Macro Evolution Clarified

What is The Difference? 

What is evolution?

Evolution in simplest terms with regards to biology means a change in the frequency of alleles over time.  The process by which this occurs is known as natural selection, where in which the organism best adapted to its environment will be the one most likely to reproduce.  For example take the Nightjar

As you can see it is very well camouflaged against the background, but in another picture you can see they can be far more difficult to see than this.

Now how did this animal acquire the capability to be camouflaged so well against the background.  Well, this can be explained in light of evolution.  It would have originally started off looking like most other birds and some individuals would have had traits that would make them better camouflaged against the forest litter.  Now you might ask, OK, how did that happen? Surely if it originally looked like any other bird, and one bird had a slightly mottled color as opposed to a solid color, it would be just as easy to spot amongst the  leaf litter as the solid colored one.  However that’s only if you’re looking at it in a standard picture view.  If the predator only got a fleeting view of the creature or under conditions of low light, the slight mottling could make a difference and thus that color will become more and more common.  And from that basic change in color pattern will develop into something like a night-jar that is almost impossible to see amongst the leaf litter.  And this is not only theoretical as we can see the processes that shape life still at work today.  One of the most famous examples of the peppered moths, who preceding the industrial revolution in Britain were light colored to match the color of the lichens on trees.  This is because the dark colors stood out on the trees and were easy prey for birds.  However, during the industrial revolution the soot killed the lichens, exposing the dark bark on the tree.  Now the light colored moths stood out and were easy prey for the birds while the dark colored ones blended in.  Because they weren’t getting eaten, the dark moths reproduced more prolifically than the white ones and became the most common color among the moths.  According to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, it’s by this process that all life on Earth came into being.

The micro vs macro evolution dichotomy

In spite of the many observed examples of evolution, many creationists say that they don’t prove Darwins’ Theory that all life on Earth shares at some point a common ancestor.  What they say instead is that all the above examples are just “micro evolution” and Darwins Theory refers to the unproven idea of “macro evolution”.  They say things like moths changing colors is simply an example of micro evolution but “humans evolving from apes” or “birds evolving from dinosaurs” is “macro evolution”.  Well what is the difference between micro and macro evolution.  Well, in simplest terms micro evolution is variation within the species level.  For example, A species of Darwins’ finches has been known to have varying beak sizes with different weather conditions.  During wet years, the seed shells are thinner and the birds have smaller beaks.  During dry spells however, the seed shells are thicker and the birds with thicker beaks fair better and thus survive making the larger beaks more abundant.  Creationists would argue that this is just an example of micro evolution.  It may explain the changes in the size of the beaks of finches but it doesn’t explain the origin of beaks or finches.  Or if one population of organisms got disconnected from the rest and became genetically distinct, they would argue that that doesn’t count because they’re the same kind of organism.  But to understand the what the distinction between micro and macro evolution really is we have to look at what a species actually is.

Biological species concept

What is the critical difference between micro and macro evolution. Well, the simplest definition is that micro evolution describes evolution within a species and macro evolution is defined as two or more species arriving from a single species. When we use scientific nomenclature for organisms, their scientific name has the name of what genus they belong to with the species name afterward.  For example, the species that wolves belong to is Canis lupus.  Furthermore, if there is a subspecies that can be identified, there will be a third word denoting the subspecies name such as Canis lupus familiaris (the domestic dog). So exactly what is a species?  Well according to the biological species concept, a species refers to organisms that can mate and produce fertile offspring. As long as two species can do this, they’re in the same species. If two populations of a preexisting species became isolated from each other so there was no gene flow between them and after a duration of time and later the two populations came into contact with each other and could no longer interbreed, they would have speciated.  The inability to interbreed would be the result of enough small changes that eventually it would become more and more difficult to interbreed until it was no longer possible.  In short, macro evolution is simply an accumulation of micro evolutionary changes.  Now that we know what a species is, we can then ask what is the functional definition of a genus or subspecies.  Well these are in a more “grey area”, but I would argue that they do have functional definitions.  Just as a species can reproduce and produce fertile offspring, two organisms that are members of the same genus but different species can mate and produce and offspring, but that offspring will be sterile preventing any gene flow between them.  As for subspecies, one way to assign a functional definition is as follows.  If you pick out two individuals in a population of a species and a third individual from a different population, it will be more likely that the two individuals picked from the first population will be more likely to be more related to each other than either will be to the member of the second population.  However, it right after the populations diverged the likely hood that the two members of the first population will be more closely related to each other than a member of the other population will be only around 50%.  However, as the two populations genetically diverge, eventually all the members of one population will always be more closely related to each other than members of the other population.  If this happens but the two populations are still chemically inter-fertile, they would be different subspecies.

Known examples of speciation (macro-evolution)

Has this ever been observed? The answer is a big fat YES. One (but not by any means the only) example is the “Madeira mice”. 600 years ago, the Portuguese colonized the island of Madeira and brought with them the house mouse (Mus musculus) and now there are six distinct “kinds” of mice on the island and they cannot interbreed with each other or the mice back on the mainland. In other words, they have speciated (i.e. macro evolved).  That and more examples of speciation can be seen and explained in this video.

The creationist concept of macro-evolution and “kind”

But when faced with instances like this, creationists will usually attempt to redefine the term “macro evolution”. Instead of it meaning speciation, they will define it as meaning “one animal becoming a different kind of animal”. Well, right off the back we can see two problems with this definition. First is the use of the word “animal” because evolution explains the diversity of all life, not just animals. Second, what do they mean by the term “kind”? A common example they give is what I call the “cat-dog” explanation. Saying that we have many kinds of dogs, but they’re still dogs and their are many kinds of cats but they’re all still cats. But we never see is dogs evolving into cats. This can of course mean one of two things: the many dog breeds within the dog species (Canis lupus familiaris) are still of the same species and the many breeds of the domestic cat (felis silvestris) are also still of the same species. And yes before you ask the fancy scientific name of the domestic cat came from this cartoon character.

But those who are aware that observed instances of speciation are well documented will usually again try to move the goal post. Instead of just reffering to the breeds of domestic dogs and cats, they extend it to the entire dog (canidae) and cat (felidae) families. Many creationists are willing to accept that all liviing species of dogs such as foxes, bush dogs, wolves, jackals and coyotes share a common ancestor and that all living species of cats such as the domestic cat, bobcat, cheetah, lion, jaguar and clouded leopard share a common ancestor. But in either case all of the descendants of the first cat are still cats and all the descendants of the first dog are still dogs.

The Difference Between Micro and Macro Evolution Clarified (With Cute and Fuzzy Animal Pics)


For example, if something like a jackal (Canis mesomelas) evolved into another dog species such as the grey wolf (Canis familiaris) they would say that it’s not macro evolution because the wolf is still the same kind of animal (i.e. it’s a dog).  In fact, a fossil canid known as Canis ferox has been identified as the common ancestor of all members of the genus Canis and it would have looked like a Jackal.

Similarly, if an animal resembling the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) evolved into the jaguar (Panthera onca) creationists would say that it doesn’t count as macro evolution because it’s still a cat.

But evolution just doesn’t apply to cats and dogs, we have to look at other groups as well. The animal depicted in the picture below is the ring-tailed cat (Bassariscus astutus) which actually is not a cat at all.


And the animal in the picture below is the common genet (Genetta genetta). Obviously, the ring-tail and the genet have many similarities and morphologically speaking are about as similar to one another as the jackal is to the wolf or the clouded leopard is to the jaguar. So if an animal resembling the ring-tailed cat evolved into the genet or vice versa, would you consider that to be a macro-evolutionary event? Because if you do but reject the notion that dogs and cats have a common ancestor, then we have a problem.

Because the ring tialed cat is as closely related to the genet as the wolf is to the jaguar but in order to undersand this, it’s important to understand a few things about mammal taxonomy and how evolution actually works.

Basic Laws of Evolution.

The ladder vs the tree

Lets get a few things straight

1. There’s no such thing as a “more and less evolved” organism. All organisms alive today are eequally evolved because they’ve been evolving for the past 4 billion years. The only way an organism could be more evovled than another is if it lived at a later time.

2. There is no such thing as a “higher” or “lower” organism. The only way one organism could be “higher” than another is if it lived at a higher altitude than another.

3. There is no such thing as a more “advanced” or “primitive” organism. “Advanced” would imply and advancement towards an ultimate goal when evolution only has a temporal goal of making a species most fit for its enviornment.

There ARE more conserved and derived organisms with the more conserved organism sharing more features (whether they’d be morphological, physiological or biomolecular) in common with the common ancestor of the two organisms and the more derived one has less in common. However, one or another won’t necessarily convey a survival advantage.

The law of monophyly 

Also, the argument that creationists use to claim that “evolution” means one “animal” becoming another animal (like cats evolving into dogs or vice versa) shows a blatant misunderstanding an evolutionary principal known as the law of monophyly.  This states that when a species of organism gives rise to two new ones, the daughter species will together form a clade and at no point will they evolve into another independently derived “clade”.  Lets say you have species A which evolves into species B and C which together form the clade A’.  Then B and C both give rise to daughter species; B gives rise to D and E and C gives rise to F and G.  D and E will form the clade B” and F and G will give form the clade C” and both the clades B” and C” will be part of the lager clade A’.  At no point will the any of the descendants of F and G evolve into a member of the clade B”.  A great parallel to look at is the evolution languages.  The romantic languages like Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French and Romanian are classified together because they are descended from Latin.  The Nordic languages like Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish are classified together because they all came from Old Norse, the language that the vikings spoke.  At no point would a Nordic language evolve into a Romantic one.  So creationists who say that “because dogs don’t evolve into cats, evolution doesn’t happen” makes as much sense as saying that because a Nordic language doesn’t become a Romantic one, languages don’t evolve (even though they do).

Conserved traits and paraphyletic groupings

In order to understand taxonomy, it is important to understand the difference between primitive and derrived traits.  primitive traits (and notice I said primitive TRAITS, not primitive ORGANISMS) are all the traits that the common ancestor of any one clade of organism possessed.  Any member of this clade that retains these characteristics is said to share this conserved traits.  Any different traits that emerge further down the line to charecterize daughter clades within this parent clade are said to be derived traits.  When classifying organisms correctly  it is important to make the disticntion between primitive and derrived traits, because if you include a bunch of clades together because they share primitive character states and exclude only those with derived ones,  you can end up with paraphyletic groupings, which include some but not all of the descendants of a common ancestor.  Take the image above.  A, B, C and D may have been placed in a group excluding E and F because E and F may have developed more derived traits than any other members of this clade.  However, they would still have the defining original charecter state that defined the parent clade.  Furthermore, they also would have quasi primitive character traits shared with D that weren’t shared with A, B, or C.  Hence it would be impossible to lump A, B, C and D together and exclude E and F.

Convergent evolution and polyphyletic groupings

Another problem that can confuse taxonomists is convergent evolution.  This is where two different and unrelated species occupy a similar niche and evolve a similar shape.  A classic example of this is the Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which as its name implies lived on Tasmania.  Unfortunatley, it was hunted to extinction with the last one dying in 1936, but because it occupied a similar lifestyle to canids, selective pressure caused it to develop similar dimensions.  One might think that it was closely related to dogs but it’s not.  In fact, it’s a marsupial being more closely related to Kangaroos.  Even though it has similar portions to dogs, it has none of the characteristic traits of canids.

While a paraphyletic taxon will include some but not all descendants of a common ancestor, if two organisms are grouped into a polyphyletic taxon, they will ultimatley at some point share a common ancestor but both clades that form the taxon will also have sister clades that will not be included in the taxon.  Apparent similarities brought about by convergent evolution can cause polyphyletic groupings to occur.  However, if one lineage had a derived trait of another, that wasn’t shared by the common ancestor of the two, it would make it a chimera which, contrary to what Kirk Cameron claimed, would violate evolutionary law.

The further you look back the more resemblance you will see.

In accordance with evolutionary principal, the further you look back in time two different lineages, the more the members of each lineage will resemble each other.  This is because as the lineages diverge and time passes, they develop more and more derived traits that makes them seem more and more dictinct.  So as you look back further in time, or the more conserved the members of a lineage are, the more of the original character traits the common ancestor of both lineages had will be present in those lineages and hence the more they will resemble each other.  To look at this principal we can again look at languages.  For example, English and Swedish are both Germanic languages that are descended from the proto Germanic languag.  They may not sound very similar now but 1000 years ago this wasn’t the case.  Old English and Old Norse actually sounded quite similar.  Here is the story of Beowulf spoken in Old English.

The only part of that I could make out is “That was good king”.  However, of all the Nordic languages, the one most similar to Old Norse is Icelandic (they are mutually intelligible) and a speaker of Icelandic can actually read Old English.

Carnivorans as an Example of Evolutionary Principals.  

The diversity of cats and dogs

Now lets go back to the creationists’ favorite example of cats and dogs and look at the diversity of the two families.  Depicted below are fours species of cats: the tiger (Panthera tigris), the Cheetah, the cougar (Puma oncolor) and the house cat (Felis silvestris).  There are many different species and creationists may very well be willing to accept that all living felids share a common ancestor.  But they’re all still cats.  But lets explore felid diversity a bit more.


Depicted below is a family tree of the family felidae.  It devides into two main sub families, felinae and pantherinae which we can call “felines” and “panthers”.  Two genus live in this subfamily, Neofelis and Panthera.  Neofelis is the clouded leopard and Panthera is all other big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards and the jaguar.  The other branch is “felinae” which is also known as the small cats.  Although the lowest ancestor of the panthers was considerably derived from the oldest fossil cats, the common ancestor of felinae would have closely resembled the oldest cats as many felines continue to do.  So the felid clade is basically divided into one more derived group (the panthers) and one more conserved group (the felines).  However some felines like cougars are highly derived but unlike panthers they are unable to roar and meow like other “small cats”.   However, the smallest of the panthers, the clouded leopard has some traits characteristic of both large and small cats.  This is because it has more in common with the common ancestor of panthers which itself had more in common with the common ancestor of all cats.  The apparent similarities it has in common with the felines are primitive traits that the common ancestor of all cats had that wasn’t present in the common ancestor of Panthera.  This is an example of how the further you look back, the more members of two lineages will resemble each other.

Below is a side by side pictures of the major groups of canids including the grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the culpeo, (Lycalopex culpaeus).and the coyote (Canis latrans).


The while the divisions in the feline family are relatively straightforward, the same is not true for the Canids.  At the base of the canid family tree, you have a division between the grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and all other canids.  The tree divides again between the true foxes (Vulpini) and again all other canids.  This branch divides again between the South American Canids and the “Canines” the most derrived group of canids that includes the wolf and domestic dog.

Now we can start to see some of the evolutionary principals we discussed in action.  For example if we were to lump the grey fox in with the true foxes, we would form a paraphyletic group.  The reason that they seem similar is that the oldest canid Hesperocyon would have closely resembled  a fox when alive.


The common ancestor of the canines and true foxes would have changed very little from the ancestor that it shared with the grey fox and the lineage that gave rise to the true foxes didn’t evolve as many derived traits as the canines, hence they seem to share more in common with the grey fox than they do with the canines.  But this similarity is deceptive because true foxes are more closely related to canines than they are to Urocyon.  The principal of “seeing more resemblances the further you look back” can be seen in canids as well as cats.  Just as the clouded leopard shares traits with both felines and other panthers, the black backed jackal is the most conserved canine, most closely resembling C. ferox which itself would have had more in common with the common ancestor of true foxes and canines.  Hence it’s apparent similarity with both foxes and other canines.  But wait you may ask, why am I going on about the diversity of cats and dogs.  All cats are the same “kind” of animal just like all dogs are the same “kind” of animal so aren’t these diversifications merely examples of (what creationists consider to be) micro-evolution?  Well, there’s actually allot more to it than that.

When we take a good look at foxes like the red fox, we start to notice something.  While they have obvious traits in common with dogs, they also seem to have some traits in common with cats such as the basic shape, eye shape with the vertical slit and even similar behaviors.  For example, like dogs foxes whine, but their wine sounds vaguley like a “meow”.  When dogs feel threatened, they bare their teeth, growl and put their tail between their legs.  When foxes feel threatened, they arch up their back, open their mouth and hiss, just like a cat.

A common misconception is that the similarities (notice I said similarities and not “apparent similarities”) is because of convergent evolution.  However similarities in things like specific threat gestures are hard to explain by convergent evolution.  So what’s going on here?  Why are distinctly feline traits popping up in a canid lineage?  Does this mean that the law of monophyly has been violated?  Well no.  As to why, the answer is simple: the traits that foxes share in common with cats are not distinctly feline traits.

Cat is NOT the opposite of dog

While we can see some similarities between the red fox and the common house cat, the similarities become even more discernible in the most conserved canid, the grey fox.  Not only do they look more like cats but if you observe their movement, it is even more “cat like” than other foxes (they even climb trees).  But why do they have these features in common with cats.

While you may have to look deep to see similarities with a wolf and a jaguar, the grey fox bears many cat like characteristics.

The answer is this: because as opposed to being “feline” traits, these are the primitive charecter traits of the order carnivora.  A clade of mammals that includes most of the major land mammal predators.  This clade divides into two main branches the caniform (dog) branch that includes as well as dogs, bears, skunks, weasels, red pandas, raccoons and pinnepeds.  The feliform (cat) branch includes cats, civets, genets, hyenas and mongooses.  And this is what is quite ironic about the use of cats and dogs as an example by creationists.  When we teach children what “opposites” are we often give the example of cats and dogs.  But cats and dogs are not opposite nor are they distantly related.  Below is a family tree of the order carnivora to which both belong.

Just as within both the cat and dog families we can see the principal of “the further you look back, the more resemblance you will see, when comparing the two families we can see this principal in action.  In the more derived lineages of the two families like panthers and canines, there isn’t too much resemblance (although there is still some) but in the more conserved members (like the felines and foxes) there are abundant similarities which are all shared primitive traits.  In fact many people say that foxes look like a dog mixed with a cat.  Also, many of the features we think of as being feline that are shared with foxes aren’t shared with panthers.  If instead of domesticating the more derived canids and more conserved felids, we domesticated foxes and panthers, er probably would have thought of those traits as being canine.  The traits that felines and foxes share in common are ones that they both share with their common ancestor that were lost in the more derived members of their respective families.  That ancestor was a curios little creature called Miacis which lived  around 50 million years ago.

And of all the living carnivorans, some still have changed very little since the days of Miacis.  One example is the Genet.  And interestingly enough if you look at it in profile, it looks very much like the grey fox with some cat like characteristics.


Yet if you look at it head on, it looks mostly like a cat with some fox traits.  Also, it’s body looks like a cross between that of a cat and a weasel.  Genets also make hreat displays and meow like vocalizations that are similar to those of cats and foxes.

Untitled (1)

The Genet is on the cat branch of the order carnivora.  However, in the dog branch there is another species that closely resembles miacis; the ring tailed cat (which is actually a raccoon).  Which again seems to have features of both cats and foxes (albeit only the very cutest ones like the fenec fox, Vulpes zerda).


And if you again look at the image at the top of the page and compare the ring tail and the genet you can see even more similarities between them than either house cats share with tigers or foxes share with wolves.  It’s hard to make sense of this in the light of special creation of certain “kinds” but it can be easily made sense of from an evolutionary perspective because the similarities between the genet and ring tail are the primitive charterer traits of Miacis, many of which were subsequently lost in both the cat ad dog lineages. And it’s this very dis-conjunction between similarities and degree of relatedness that calls into question any legitimacy to the notion of created “kinds” or organisms.

Carnivoran diversity further explored

Many creationists view the different families of the order Carnivora as separate kinds of animals and if you look at the more derived species and lineages, they don’t seem to have that much in common.

Untitled.png Each of these comes from a different family and creationists would argue that they are different “kinds” of animals.  However, if you look at the more conserved species in the order, things are a bit different.  All of the animals depicted below are in the order carnivora but are in each different families like the ones above.  Some of the ones in the image below are in the same family of some of the ones depicted above (the dhole, Cuon alpinus and the grey fox, the wolverine, Gulo gulo and the maten, Martes americana the marbled cat, Pardofelis marmorata and the snow leopard, and the meerkat, Suricata suricatta and the ring-tailed mongoose, Galidia elegans).  Apart from having a similar shape, many of them have a characteristic face mask and a ring tail.

carnivoran diversity

The ones depicted below are so similar that if this was 30 million years ago and represented the total carnivoran morphological diversity at the time and they didn’t have the diversity of living dogs, cats, mustelids and mongooses to compare them to, creationists probably would have accepted that they share a common ancestor but would have said that “it doesn’t count, it’s just micro evolution because they’re still carnivorans” even though this initial diversification was the basis for the diversification of the various families within the carnivoran collective, each of which creationists would consider to be just “micro evolution” (even though it’s not).  However, the morphological diversity seen here is on par with the morphological diversity seen in the canid and felid families.  From their initial template, it’s easy to see how carnivorans diversified into the variety of species that exist today.  For example, if an animal like Miacis was to start living on the ground, it would elongate its legs, make its body more rectangular and look like a fox.  If it started to live a more subterranean existence, it would evolve shorter ears and a tail with a more elongate body it would look like a weasel.  If it started swimming, it would evolve smaller ears, webbed feat and a powerful semi flattened tail like an otter.

However, the animal depicted above is not an otter, it’s Puijila darwini and at 25 million years old, it’s the first ever pinniped.  

And while the more derived members of the carnivorans may not share as much in common with each other as the more conserved species, similarities between them can still be seen, more so when you not only see what the animals look like but how they move. And if you ever seen images like this,

If you indeed “Think about it” you’ll understand why.

So if creationists saw Miacis evolve into the first caniform Procynodictis, they would say “that doesn’t count, that’s just micro evolution because it’s still a carnivoran” and if they saw that animal evolve into Hesperocyon, the first canid, they would say “that doesn’t count, that’s just micro evolution because it’s still a caniform” and if they saw that animal evolve into Canis ferox they would say that “that doesn’t count, that’s just micro evolution because it’s still a canid” and if that animal evolved into a wolf they would say “that doesn’t count because it’s still in the genus Canis“. Yet via these small incremental steps that they would claim “is just micro evolution” we went from the arboreal miacis to the grey wolf which just about everyone would consider to be macro evolution.  So what exactly do creationists mean when they say”kind”?  Dogs and jackals are both the same “kind” in the sense that they are both in the genus Canis, dogs and foxes are the same kind in the sense that they are both canids, dogs and bears are the same kind in the sense that they are both caniforms and dogs and cats are the same “kind” in the sense that they are both carnivores.  Latley I’ve been talking a bit too much about carnivora so lets go further.  Dogs and kangaroos are the same “kind” in that they are both mammals, dogs and trout are the same kind in that they are both vertebrates, dogs and jellyfish are the same “kind” in that they’re both animals, and dogs and ameoba are the same kind in the sense that they are both eukaryotes.

Taxonomy and Evolution

The Linnaen construct

Many of us are familiar with the linnaen (named after Carlos Linnaeus) system by which organisms are classified (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus Species). Creationists who are aware that organisms are known to speciate will say that they can only be altered only within limits.  The website states “In fact, rapid speciation is an important part of the creation model. But this speciation is within the ‘kind’,” In the case of the cats and dogs, their specific kind refers to what family that they belong to.  But the problem with this is that apart from maybe genus and subspeices, species is the only level of taxonomy that has a functional definition. beyond the actual sequence, pretty much all levels of classification are arbitrarily assigned.  For example, felidae and canidae are families within the larger clade carnivora which is a higher level of classification than family.  But there’s no reason that caniforms and feliforms couldn’t be separate orders within a carnivoran superorder.  Furthermore, we’ve found so many clades amongst existing organisms that we’ve had to make levels like superfamilies magnaorders, parvfamilies, infraclasses ect to account for all the levels in between the original levels of classification.  So much information has actually emerged that the original construct can no longer bear the load and now newly discovered clades are becoming unranked.

Ring species

Even though species has a functional definition, it can get complicated.  For one, many microorganisms reproduce asexually so it’s harder to discern what a species is amongst them.  Also, there is what’s known as “Ring species”.  One of these is the greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides).

The greenish warbler originally came from the foot hills of the Himalayan mountains where the original subspecies P. t. trochiloides still resides.  One population migrated to the northwest into central Asia and became P. t. ludlowi and another migrate northeast into china and became P. t. obscuratus.  However, both subspecies can interbreed with the original where there ranges overlap.  Populations of both subspecies then migrated north and from central Asia into Western Siberia P. t. ludlowi gave rise to P. t. viridanus and those two subspecies can interbreed and from China into Eastern Siberia P. t. obscuratus gave rise to P. t. plumbeitarsus in eastern Siberia and again those two subspecies can interbreed.  The west Siberian subspecies can interbreed with the central Asian one and produce fertile offspring, the central Asian one can interbreed with the Himalayan warblers, the Himalayan warblers can interbreed with the Chinese ones and the Chinese ones can interbreed with the east Siberian ones.  All of these offspring will be fertile, so all of them should be considered to be part of the same species in accordance with the biological species concept.  However, in central Siberia, the ranges of the eastern and western Siberian subspecies can overlap but they cannot interbreed and produce any offspring, let alone fertile ones.  So in that sense they should be considered to be in separate genuses.

The creationist concept of “kind”

When face with examples of speciation, creationists will often say that those are still micro evolution because it’s the same kind of organism whether it’d be a mouse, fly or plant.  But the only scientific way to say two organismisms are part of the same “kind” is that they are in the same clade.  And if you remember that in  accordance with the law of monophyly, all organisms and all of their descendants will always be part of their parent clade and each new diversification will make daughter clades within the parent clade.  So no new species will be a different kind of organism than the one it came from; it will always be a modified version of what it’s parent species was.  So if they say “it’s still a fly, mouse or plant”, well of course it is, evolution wouldn’t permit it to be anything else.  and even the most profound changes in evolution; from sea to land, from land to air and even from single celled to multicellular organisms were the sum of these small incremental steps.  Yet creationists still allege that natural selection can generate changes “only within limits” but the overarching question is, what are these limits?

The phlyogeny challenge

If the creationist model is true, there should be three kinds of clades: artificial, original and derived (the original clade being synonymous with “kind”).  With the original clades being all of the descendants of the first organisms put on the Earth at the time of creation, the derived clades being the clades within the clades that came into existence via the evolutionary process, and the artificial ones being the clades that are made up of created clades that were put together by human taxonomists.  However, amongst all of the known clades of organisms, they seldom identify which of these are the created kinds (cats and dogs represent only a minute fraction of all the species on Earth) and more poignantly, they are never able to identify how they could be recognized.  If you are a creationist reading this: here’s my challenge, show me which of the following clades are created with all of the clades within it being derived ones and all of the ones including it being artificial.

Is the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) related to the marine, neotropical and southern river otters and all members of the genus Lontra?  Is the Genus Lontra related to all other otters (Lutrinae)?  Are otters related to badgers, weasels, wolverines, martens and all other mustelids?  Are mustelids related to raccoons, seals, red pandas, bears, skunks and all other arctoideans?  Are arctoideans related to dogs and all other caniforms? Are Caniforms related to cats, civets, genets, mongooses, hyenas and all other carnivorans?  Are carnivorans related to pangolins, whales, bats, insectivores, hoofed mammals and all other laurasiatherians?  Are laurasiatherians related to rabbits, rodents, tree shrews, primates, colugos and all other boreoeutherians? are boreoeutherians related to elephants, aardvarks, hyraxes, elephant shrews, hyraxes, sea cows, anteaters, sloths, armadillos and all other placenta mammals.  Are placenta mammals related to marsupials and all other therian mammals.  Are therian mammals related to the platypus, echidna, and all other mammals?  Are mammals related to birds, lizards, tuataras, crocodiles, turtles and all other amniotes?  Are amniotes related to amphibians and all other tetrapods?  Are tetrapods related to ray-finned fishes, coelacanths, lungfish and all other teleostomes (bony vertebrates)?  Are teleostomes related to sharks, scates, rays, chimeras and all other gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates)?  Are gnathostomes related to hagfish, lampreys and all other craniates?  Are craniates related to lancelets, sea squirts and all other chordates? are chordates related to starfish, sea urchins, acorn worms, sand dollars, sea cucumbers and all other Deuterostomes?  Are Dueterostomes related to mollusks, arthropods, annelid worms, flat worms, round worms and all other bilaterians?  Are bilaterians related to jellyfish, anemones, corals and all other eumetazoans?  Are eumetazoans related to sponges and all other animals?  Are animals related to choanoflagellates, filasterians and all other filozoans?  Are filozoans related to ichthyosporidans, dermocystidans and all other holozoans?  Are holozoans related to fungi, rozellids, fonticulid slime molds, nucleariidans and all other opisthokonts?  Are opisthokonts related to ameobas, breviata, and all other Unikonts?  Are unikonts related to plants, red alges, dinoflagellates, diatoms, paramecium, giardians and all other eukaryotes?  Are eukaryotes related to bacteria, archea and all other life forms?

Squid colors 2.jpg

Is the Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea) related to the bigfin, southern and all other reef squids?  Are reef squids related to the Siboga, Bartsch’s, swordtip, grass, brief, dart, beka, veined, spear, inshore, longfin, thumbstall squids and all other pencil squids (Loliginidae).  Are pencil squids related to Australiteuthis and all other myopsinans?  Are myopsinians related to all other “true squids” (Tuethida)?  Are true squids related to cuttlefish, bobtail squids, rams’ horn squid and all other decapodiformes? Are decapodiformes related to the ooctopus, vampire squid and all other Coleodeans?  Are Coleodeans related to the nautilus, ammonites and all other cephalopods?  Are cephalopods related to scaphopods, bivalves, gastropods and all other conchiferans?  Are conchiferans related to monoplacophorans, aplacophorans, polyplacophorans and all other mollusks?  Are mollusks related to segmented worms, ribbon worms, flatworms, spiny headed worms, bryozoans, rotifers, hairybacks and all other lophotrochozoans?  Are lophotrochozoans related to arthropods, tardigrades, velvet worls, pripulanids, roundworms and all other protostomes?  Are protostomes related to all other bilaterians?

Is corn (Zea mays) related to Z nicaraguensis, luxurians, mexicana and all other members of the genus Zea?  Is the genus Zea  related gamagrass and all other tripsacinae?  Are tripsacinae related to sorghum, crinklelawn grass, browntops, beard grass, tangleheads, saehim and all other Andropogoneae?  Is Andropogoneae related to barnyard grass, rosette grasses, crabgrass, cupscale grass, mulga grass, switchgrass, canegrass and all other Panicoideae?  Are Panicoideae related to purple three-awn, finger millet and all other members of the PACMAD clade?  Are all members of the PACMAD clade related to every other species of grass (Poaceae)?  Are grasses related to Joinvillea, Georgeantha and all other graminids?  Are graminids related to bromeliads, sedges and all other poales? Are poales related to bananas, spiderworts, palms, and all other commelinids?  Are commonelids related to lilys, yams, sweet flags and all other monocots?  Are monocots related to dicots and all other flowering plants (angiosperms)?  Are angiosperms related to ginkgos, cycads, conifers and all other seed plants (spermatophytes)?  Are seed plants related to true ferns, horsetails, whisk ferns and all other euphyllophytes?  Are euphyllophytes related to clubmoss and all other tracheophytes (vascular plants)?  Are vascular plants related to liverwworts, mosses, hornworts and all other land plants (embryophytes).  Are land plants related to charophytes and all other plants?  Are plants related to green algae and all other Viridiplantae?  Is Viridiplantae related to glaucophytes, red algae and all other Archaeplastids?  Are Archaeplastids related to haptophytes, rhizarians, cryptomonads, brown algae and all other bikonts?  Are bikonts related to all other eukaryotes?

Which of these clades were created, which are derived, which are artificial and more importantly, how could we tell?  As long as creationists cannot answer these questions, there concept of “kind” has no basis and their distinction between micro and macro evolution holds absolutely no merit whatsoever.



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