Intelligent Design News speciation

What is a species?, New Republic asks

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See here (“Single jaw find shows three “species” to be one”), for example, and here (Science journalist discovers she is part Neanderthal). Oh and, Vince Torley notes “No debate about macroevolution? Surely you’re joking, Professor Coyne!”

Surely, he isn’t joking. Darwin’s tenured flock have got on fine for many years without ever taking seriously the mess the whole concept is in.
They can hardly take it seriouly anyway because it is central to the most influential academic book, Dawin;’s On the Origin of Species, which supposedly enshrines the single greatest idea anyone ever had, the foundation of their discipline.

What’s mere plodding science compared to all that. And yet the concept is just one big mess right now. So big a mess that suppressing dissent is easier.

Meanwhile, from New Republic:

“I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other,” Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species in 1859. Nevertheless, his theory of evolution helped biologists in the twentieth century land on what seemed like a firmer definition: A species was not simply a group of animals that looked alike, but rather a population whose members could reproduce only with each other. This was called the “biological species” concept. Over time, the thinking went, populations became divided by geographical or other barriers and evolved separately from each other, never to reunite. “The origin of species is therefore simply the evolution of some difference—any difference at all—that prevents the production of fertile hybrids between populations under natural conditions,” Wilson wrote.

There were always problems with that definition, though.

One of them was hybridization.

As genetic testing has become more common, biologists have found increasing evidence of hybridization among distinct species. Bobcat and lynx are hybridizing in Canada. The clymene dolphin is entirely a hybrid of two other dolphin species. Scientists have theorized that climate change may be the cause of some hybridization, as animals migrate outside of their traditional ranges and encounter new species. The “pizzly bear,” for example, is a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. But the polar bear and grizzly bear genomes show that the two species have exchanged genes throughout history. So have grizzly bears and black bears. Even human beings aren’t quite as distinct as we once thought. The genomes of European and East Asian peoples contain genetic material from long-extinct Neanderthals, indicating that hybridization has played a role in our own development as Homo sapiens.

But the “speciation” paper mill just ground on and on, as anyone paying attention will attest. All the way through the destruction of the Darwin’s finches idol.

And so now?

Scientists had hoped that DNA testing would yield clear definitions for animal species. Instead, it’s revealed just how impossible such precise determinations are. And yet few would suggest jettisoning the concept of a species altogether: It is, as E.O. Wilson wrote, too fundamental to human ideas of nature. The difference would be recognizing that a species is a human construction rather than a biological reality—a shift in perspective that would, if anything, give conservationists more flexibility to pursue their goals. “The Endangered Species Act is tied to typology, where it should be more oriented toward process,” Wayne said. More.

So, with the Tree of Life felled (that’s admitted too, here), the concept of species becomes a talking point of lobbies, like “victimization” or “safe spaces”?

Okay, fine if that’s how it is. But don’t come back later and pretend it is science, in the usual sense. Not if there is anyone around who has been following the story, that is.

Note: Wasn’t New Republic the mag that bounced Leon Wieseltier? He had a good sense of the big picture in these matters, and might have spared them the soppy ending to an otherwise informative article, that focuses on “saving” the hybrid red wolf.

Of course, maybe that would be a problem in these times?

See also: Evolution: The fossils speak, but hardly with one voice

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34 Replies to “What is a species?, New Republic asks

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    Is the whole species concept out the window then?

  2. 2
    wd400 says:

    Surely, he isn’t joking. Darwin’s tenured flock have got on fine for many years without ever taking seriously the mess the whole concept is

    Why do you persist in this error? The so called “species problem” is part of most intro to evolution courses, discussed in every undergrad textbook I’ve read and methods of species delimitation under different (or consilient) species concepts are an active area of research. You’ve had this explained to you multiple times, so why do you continue to get it wrong?

    But even if we ignore this error, what does ID give us here that evolutionary biology doesn’t? How does ID deal with the species problem?

  3. 3
    hrun0815 says:

    Surely this means that Darwinism is as dead as a door nail now that even the concept of ‘species’ is proven completely wrong.

    I mean, if Darwin himself said “I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other”, then certainly if we discover that a species is not rigorously defined and somewhat arbitrary must finally ring in the death of Darwin’s loathsome theory.

  4. 4
    Virgil Cain says:

    Given gradual evolution and “endless forms most beautiful”, a species problem is actually a prediction of Darwin’s.

  5. 5
    wd400 says:

    Hey Hrun,

    If by “Darwinism” you literally mean the exact theory described in The Origin then we’ve certainly moved a long way from there. If you meant modern evolutionary biology then I don’t think disproving something Darwin wrote in 1859 is going to do much.

  6. 6
    Virgil Cain says:

    wd400- hrun0815 was being sarcastic

  7. 7
    wd400 says:

    Ha, OK. Poe’s law I guess.

  8. 8
    Kenneth Hughs says:

    Maybe I am confused, but could someone explain to me how problems with delineating between species supports ID? I had always thought that it was well understood that the distinction between species is not as clear as we, as a species that likes to categorize everything, would like.

  9. 9
    FierceRoller says:

    “…without ever taking seriously the mess the whole concept is in.”
    That will be news to Mayr, Dobzhansky, Simpson, Cracraft, Ehrlich, Van Valen, Coyne et al., Sokal & Crovello, Mishler & Donoghue, Nixon & Wheeler, Wiley, Rosselló-Mora & Amann, Hudson & Coyne, de Queiroz, Bradley & Baker, Ward, Hausdorf, Mallet, and the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of other evolutionary biologists who have weighed in on the topic of species concepts (try searching “species concept” on Google Scholar).

  10. 10
    Robert Byers says:

    is nEW rEpublic still publishing? Please die already!!!
    Species should be coined out of existence by someone who gets enough attention.
    For yEC/ID/Evolutionists species is literally a myth. Biology does not recognize species.
    Whatever the mechanism(s) are for changing populations bodies relative to parent ones IT has nothing to do with ability to reproduce exclusively in those new populations or not.
    Its irrelevant.
    People groups, by mechanism, have different looks. Yet they don’t say we are species.
    Yet we do have important different bodies/looks. So reproductive exclusivity was not relevant to the origin of this segregation. Likewise it never is.
    What case is there where anyone claims reproductive exclusivity was a origin, or important aid, in evolving the new looks of a new population.
    Species as a concept is dead as a dodo. Creationists notive first but in , limited time left for them, evolutionists will notice too.
    Biology change is all about mechanism. Whether in that change new pops can’t reproduce with parent pops is of no relevance at all.

    Evolutionary theory was incompetent in this matter. Possibly darwin was not.
    Careless investigation amongst the small numbers of those who get paid to do evolutionary theory.
    Not that sharp. (keep it under your hat)

  11. 11
    Bob O'H says:

    Kenneth Hughs @ 8 –

    Maybe I am confused, but could someone explain to me how problems with delineating between species supports ID?

    Well, it doesn’t help Creationists and baraminology. ID is not creationism, so anything reducing support for baraminology increases support for ID.

  12. 12
    Bob O'H says:

    Virgil is actually right @ 4. A gradual shift as a species splits into two means that there must be a time when there’s a grey area when it’s not clear if there is one or two species (i.e. when reproductive isolation isn’t complete but gene flow is low enough that it’s not swamping the isolating mechanisms).

    Sorry, Virgil. I know that’s not what you intended.

  13. 13
    logically_speaking says:

    This doesn’t hurt creation science at all. Creationists have been saying the definitions of species aren’t quite right for a long time now.

    Baraminology is, I believe, the study of the created “kinds”.

  14. 14
    bornagain says:


    Ediacaran Fossil Highlights Differences with Cambrian Animals – December 8, 2015
    Excerpt: facts are stubborn things. “There’s no evidence that Tribrachidium could move around,” she admits. There’s also no indication of specialized cells, tissues, and organs seen in real animal phyla, nor a body cavity. Neither is there evidence that this creature evolved into something else. As for symmetry, “humans have two-fold, or bilateral, symmetry, and starfish have five-fold symmetry,” Pappas notes. “Nothing alive today has three-fold symmetry.”,,,
    In short, Tribrachidium was a relatively simple organism — possibly a colony of one-celled organisms — sitting like a pillow on the ocean floor, passively collecting particles of organic material without benefit of a gut, articulated limbs, sense organs, or any of the other complex body parts of the Cambrian animals. Like the other Ediacarans, it appeared without ancestors, and died without descendants. RIP.

  15. 15
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H:

    Sorry, Virgil. I know that’s not what you intended.

    Yes, you are sorry, Bob, as that was exactly what I intended. Transitional forms should rule the roost.

  16. 16
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H:

    ID is not creationism, so anything reducing support for baraminology increases support for ID.

    Wrong again, Bob. Creation is a subset of ID so anything that increases support for Creation also increases support for ID.

  17. 17
    bornagain says:


    How the Origin of the Universe Points to the Existence of God – video (just loaded onto youtube)
    J. Warner Wallace, author of God’s Crime Scene, discusses the nature of the universe and the evidence for God’s existence. Did the universe have a beginning? If so, what is the best explanation? Can the beginning of the universe be explained from “inside the room” of the natural universe, or does the best explanation for the universe lie “outside the room”?

  18. 18
    Vy says:

    Well, it doesn’t help Creationists and baraminology.

    You’re not even wrong!

    Next time you wanna comment on something, try to find out a little about it before making gobsmackingly silly claims.

    ID is not creationism, so anything reducing support for baraminology increases support for ID.

    Surely you must be joking, right?
    How exactly did you miss the fact that ID is a given in biblical creation?

  19. 19
    wd400 says:

    How has baraminology solved the “baramin problem” Vy? That page doesn’t make it seem like a done deal.

  20. 20
    Vy says:

    How has baraminology solved the “baramin problem” Vy?

    What “baramin problem”?

    That page doesn’t make it seem like a done deal.

    Um, duh? It’s not like God’s sending any 2 by 2/7 by 7 animal pairs of every baramin to CMI’s office for hybridization studies but it’s pretty clear (once the evodelusionary fogma is gone) that a fish, even when given umpteen Darwin moyboys (ref: CEH dictionary), will never turn into a dog.

    You may or may not be interested in this.

  21. 21
    wd400 says:


    It seems that if (as News claims) the problem of defining and delineating species is a big problem for evolutionary biology, the the fact baraminology has exactly the same problems whould be a big problem for creationism. No?

  22. 22
    bb says:

    wd400 @21

    The answer is no. The kinds referred to in the Bible are very general, i.e. cattle kind in Genesis 1:25. There is tremendous variety in what are considered cattle, from domestic breeds to buffalo and yak. All can interbreed, yet they are many species. That is a problem for evolution alone. Once again Genesis is right and evolution is mired in an incorrect concept.

  23. 23
    wd400 says:

    How do you decide when one kind ends and another starts?

  24. 24
    Vy says:

    the the fact baraminology has …

    What fact??!?!!
    Why are you and Bob (and any other Darwinist that’s interested in making the same silly claims) propping up strawmen problems?

    How do you decide when one kind ends and another starts

    Did you read the article I linked to earlier?

  25. 25
    wd400 says:


    Yes I read the site, did you? It mostly describes standard statistical techniques, most of which are employed by mainstream biologists (along with genetics, which is not mentioned on that page). The fact so many different methods have been developed suggests to me there is not a simple answer to these questions. Indeed, many of the examples come with a description of the limitations of their use.

  26. 26
    Vy says:

    Yes I read the site, did you?


    The holobaramin is roughly what we call the ‘Genesis kind’. Technically, it simply combines the definitions of monobaramin and apobaramin. A holobaramin contains a complete set of organisms that share continuity among themselves but are discontinuous with all other organisms.

    Because these definitions are not mutually exclusive, they form the basis of the baraminological method of successive approximation. If you divide groups of organisms into smaller and smaller apobaramins by subtractive evidence, you will eventually come to a point when you can legitimately divide the group no longer. Similarly, if you add more and more species to a monobaramin by additive evidence, you will eventually come to a point when you cannot legitimately add any more species. Hopefully, the point at which the apobaramin can no longer be divided and the point at which the monobaramin can no longer be expanded is the same point: the holobaramin.

    Now read your question.

  27. 27
    wd400 says:


    I don’t think you are following. I’m asking how, in practice, you delineate kinds. This definition tells us it’s this point at which you can longer expand a monobaramin or divide apobaramin. OK, so what are rules for expansion or division? The fact the paragraph you’ve quoted says “hopefully” this is possible mysteriously this word escaped the bolding given to its neighbours) suggests maybe it’s not so easy?

  28. 28
    Vy says:

    I don’t think you are following.

    Take a long look in a mirror ’cause you’re describing your situation.

    I’m asking how, in practice, you delineate kinds.

    You do realize that the title of the article is “A baraminology tutorial …”, right?

    This definition tells us it’s this point at which you can longer expand a monobaramin or divide apobaramin. OK, so what are rules for expansion or division?

    What a lovely question considering the next line/paragraph in the article is:

    To do baraminology then, we evaluate two kinds of evidence: Additive and subtractive. Hybridization …

    The fact the paragraph you’ve quoted says “hopefully” this is possible suggests maybe it’s not so easy?

    Duh? From earlier:

    It’s not like God’s sending any 2 by 2/7 by 7 animal pairs of every baramin to CMI’s office for hybridization studies …

    For a guy who claims to have read the article, you sound very ignorant. So it’s either you’re selectively blind, willfully ignorant or both. OR you may have reading comprehension issues.

  29. 29
    bb says:

    I think ability to reproduce is the rule for kind wd, where it isn’t always the rule for species. Even if they can’t conceive hybridized fertile offspring, which can be considered a defect brought on by genetic entropy, instead of evolution.

    Dogs are another obvious “kind”. Domestic dog breeds from chihuahua to great dane, wolves, dingos, coyotes can and do interbreed. Yet they’re considered separate species. It’s a very messy concept.

  30. 30
    wd400 says:

    I’m really not sure you understand what I’m asking. You can apply all these methods, of course. But what do you do when they give contradictory results (the very thing News has been going on about)? The article you linked to is an example of this, with different datasets giving different distances…

  31. 31
    Vy says:

    But what do you do when they give contradictory results (the very thing News has been going on about)?

    Strike FOUR from you Darwinists.

    Still yapping about the same strawman. Stop equivocating baramin and species, they’re not the same.

  32. 32
    Vy says:

    I’m really not sure you understand what I’m asking

    Shouldn’t that be: Do you understand your question?

    If you’re looking for something that’ll be a problem for baraminology, find a non-imaginary COMPLETE transitional fossil series consisting of no less than 5 creatures in between the ancestor and descendant.

    Don’t show up with a just-so-story claiming “this one” (e.g. Ur-ant) is a transitional creature between ants and wasps (or whatever imaginary scenario), show why it isn’t a distinct and unique creature, show the:

    ant -> ant-ant-ant-wasp -> ant-ant-wasp -> ant-wasp -> ant-wasp-wasp -> ant-wasp-wasp-wasp -> wasp

    For example, I can show you an animation from red to blue, but it’s 100% imagination claiming some random purple is the purple in that animation.

    Credible evidence of a single transitional fossil series would be the closest thing to the “species problem” for baraminology. So far, all I’ve seen is hogwash imaginary transitional fossils on Wiki and IrRationalWiki, thanks to a whole lot of mental gymnastics.

  33. 33
    tarmaras says:

    That’s an interesting development, opening up not only the concept of a species, but also the concept of boundaries in nature, and the incompatibility between reductionist materialism and the idea of living FORMS. Ashish Dalela’s got an essay on that subject, which I think is relevant to the discussion — this essay is also his submission to this year’s Royal Institute of Philosophy essay contest (which I saw advertised on UD as well):

    Relevant quotes:

    Biology Needs a Revolution in Physics

    If living forms contradict materialism, that contradiction has to be seen in fundamental physics before its implications can be used to revolutionize our current understanding of life. The crux of that revolution is that ensembles and collections are more real than the particles science currently studies. While these collections represent a material reality, it is not of the same kind as objects. Quite specifically, both material objects and collections have to be described as information.

    If matter is described as a priori real things, followed by the reduction of collections to their parts, then science will forever be incomplete. The alternative is to reinstate the reality of boundaries in space-time but that creates a new problem – how should we model boundaries vs. objects? If we have two kinds of things in nature, how do they interact causally? That problem can only be solved by replacing the two types with only one – information. Both objects and boundaries can be described as information, although neither can be reduced to one another physically. Current physical theories fail because they try to reduce boundaries to objects, which cannot be achieved. If, however, you discard the boundary itself, then you are not describing the system fully.

    We cannot understand the reality of living forms unless we view the whole system as being something additional and logically prior to the constituent parts. We will pragmatically treat the living being as a whole, but theoretically claim to reduce it to the parts. We will assert the moral and political individuality of the person in a society but discredit that individuality as an epiphenomenon of the atoms within science. People outside science will marvel at the achievements of science on one hand and feel the disillusionment of meaninglessness in life on the other. Scientists themselves will struggle with the indeterminism pervading all physical theories. The artists and creative people cannot say that art, literature and music created by humans are objective, but they must say that science – also created by humans – must be objective. The dual standards – in society and in science – result from the fact that science does not acknowledge that collections are real, while society treats them as individual entities.”

    Biological Information

    Biologists can catalogue the mapping between forms and functions, but they can never predict which form (and function) will become real and never explain why a particular form is a specific function, unless an informational view of nature is adopted. For instance, geneticists can catalogue the mapping between a gene and the biological traits, but why a specific gene represents a specific trait, and why a specific kind of gene is expressed or suppressed cannot be predicted. We can find correlations between gene suppression or expression and the existence of epigenetic or paragenetic information, but why that even exists cannot be explained. Without an informational view, biology will remain a cataloguing science, not an explanatory or predictive one.

    We can enhance our catalogue through increasing experimentation, and that growth in data is called the advance in biology today. It helps us improve our predictability, as we find more patterns in the data. But those patterns are statistical correlations, not tied by any theory. These patterns are quite like our measurement of letter frequencies in the English language. We can say that the letter ‘x’ has 0.15% chance of occurrence while the letter ‘p’ has a 1.9% chance. We can even measure the probabilities of letter succession, but they will be averages over large samples. They will fail to predict the individual word sequence in a text and thereby understand what the text means. The statistical approaches to biology may work on an average but will fail in many individual cases. Essentially, biology will be an attempt to understand a book by measuring letter probabilities, unless we induct a real role for information even in the physical world.”

    It’s all here:

  34. 34
    Jack Jones says:

    “When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: “It happened.” Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd.”
    Paleontologist Simon Conway Morris,Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University, UK, “Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold,”

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