Re: a question or two

David J. Tyler (
Wed, 3 Jun 1998 17:06:15 GMT

David Tyler responding to Brendan Frost's post pf 3rd June.

> I'm Brendan Frost, a health care reporter in Washington, D.C. and history
> undergrad.

Welcome to the list!

> 1) there has been a distinction made between micro- and macro-evolution.
> I have been thinking of micro- as, for example, the development of
> different types of dog from wild stock. Is this fair or accurate? What is the
> definitional distinction between the two?

It is my view that the "micro-" "macro-" distinction has generated
more heat than light. Probably we need different terms. Certainly
the development of different domestic dogs is an example of
microevolution - but saying that does not take us beyond the species
boundary. Informed creationist thinking has always argued for much
more variation than this within the created type: from Marsh onwards,
it has been customary to talk of the Canidae as genetically related.
This involves variation to create new species and new genera. The
best recent study of this is by Nigel Crompton: a chapter on the
Canidae is in the volume "Typen des Lebens". Whilst most of the book
is in German, Crompton's contribution is in English.

> 2) it occurs to me that the descent from wild stock to Great Danes and
> chihuahuas, if "evolution" in any sense, is also a prime example of a
> non-metaphysical
> "creation by design," in this case, by humans. Is this a fair conclusion,
> and if so are there any analogies to this evolution by design and a metaphysical
> evolution by design?

It is an inadequate conclusion - because it does not address the
issue of where the variation is coming from. Most of the human
breeding of domestic dogs draws on the innate potential of dogs to
vary. Very little of the variation is associated with mutation.
Where does this innate potential come from? Creationists suggest
that it is a product of intelligent design - adaptation is a
God-given trait which facilitates survival, etc.

> 3) evolution is a concept that applies to more than species diversity. For
> instance,
> language is often said to evolve--I believe Dawkins would call a cultural
> trait that
> perserveres over time through transmission through descent a "meme." Is
> there
> an overarching rejection of evolutionism as an idea, which might say in the
> example
> of language that it was created ex nihilo by God, or are the criticisms
> basically directed toward the biological aspect?

One linguist I heard addressing the issue of language development
argued that it is a case of simplification over time - not increasing
complexity. He then went on to relate this to a biblical perspective
of linguistics. Some see "evolution" as a strictly biological issue,
whereas others see "evolution" as part of philosophical naturalism
which permeates every part of the scholarly world. The linguist
referred to above belonged to the latter group: he was challenging
the evolutionary presuppositions that he found in his discipline and
was seeking to develop a different foundation.

> 4) what are the historical interactions between the old science of taxonomy
> and evolutionary
> (or anti-evolutionary) theory? To me, this is my most interesting question.

You may need to elaborate on this question, as it opens the door to
many avenues of thought. Carl Linnaeus was a creationist - he was
"naming" the animals and plants in the spirit of God's command to
Adam. Towards the end of his life, he realised that there had been
variation subsequent to creation - but this change of view seems to
have been overlooked by Darwin in his review of individuals who had
supported the concept of variation in living things.

The most interesting recent contribution on this topic IMO is by
Sigfried Scherer in the first contribution to "Typen des Lebens".
His article is "The Basic Types of Life" and he argues for the new
category of "Basic Type" to run alongside the Linnean scheme. The
significance of this new category is that it can draw on data to
establish meaningful relationships between organisms which makes it a
much more robust concept than "species" and "genus". Sigfried
Scherer has a further paper on this theme in the forthcoming
Proceedings of the Mere Creation Conference - to be published in the
US this Autumn.

Hope this feedback is of interest,
Best wishes,
David J. Tyler.