A Little More Than Kin, And Less Than “Kind”

Question from Anisa:
Is there any observable evidence of Darwinian evolution where there is a CHANGE OF KIND? By ‘KIND’, I mean from monkey to human etc. Not adaptation. CHANGE OF KIND.

Answer by SmartLX:
“Kind” in this context is used only by creationists as a pseudo-scientific term adapted from its use in the Book of Genesis, and a very inconsistently defined term at that. It has no place in actual biology, and nor does the Hebrew version “baramin”.

Regardless, there is plentiful evidence of the common descent of all living things, which means that no matter how you group them as separate “kinds” they are all descended from the same organisms, and their “kind” is irrelevant. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list here, ranging from geographical to genetic to morphological evidence, so I won’t cover it all redundantly.

You did ask the right question; “kind” seldom groups animals below the level of genus (except in the case of humans which are separated even from other apes in the genus Homo), so changes of that magnitude take far too long to be observed in a lifetime or even over all of recorded history. It is the evidence that is observed, not the full-scale phenomenon itself. That said, there have been many instances of observed speciation, where one species becomes two. You would dismiss such events as “adaptation”, as for instance a mouse becomes another kind of mouse, but there is no observed barrier to this process repeating and accumulating changes over sufficient time until the differences between relatives are greater than any “kind” could encompass. That a “kind” is a self-contained and somehow limited family is nothing more than an ill-informed assertion.

15 thoughts on “A Little More Than Kin, And Less Than “Kind””

    1. Ah, so it’s another supposedly unanswerable question posed by none other than Ray Comfort in Evolution vs God. He has still not released the uncut interviews from which he created these clips, let alone the interviews he did not use, very possibly because they would paint a very different picture of the merit of Comfort’s questioning. Thank you for giving me an excuse to write this fact one more time and thus add to the online clamour.

      Anisa, your “clarification” is exactly the opposite of what I wrote. While evolution between kinds has not itself been directly observed for reasons of time, there is a great deal of observable evidence for Darwinian evolution where animals you would regard as being of one kind did evolve into another kind, no matter how you define “kind”. Some dinosaurs evolved into birds, some quadrupeds evolved into sea mammals and some apes evolved into humans; indeed, humans can still be physically and genetically classified as apes.

      The evidence isn’t just in the ground, it’s in the bodies and brains (if present) of every living thing on the planet. That’s a very general statement, but that’s really where it is – as you would know from my link to Wikipedia, comparative physiology and biochemistry are right at the top of the list. You will not convince anyone by persistently claiming that there is no evidence when it is in fact everywhere.

    2. Mr C may not have released the uncut interviews from which he created these clips, but that does not explain why a biologist, someone who is specialised in biology, was not able to answer the question. The uncut interviews are therefore not relevant.

      I used the terms ‘observable evidence’, the examples that you have given me cannot be observed. You stated that animals evolved into other animals, but there is no observable evidence of this. Wouldn’t you agree that this is therefore blind faith and not fact? If you believe there is any OBSERVABLE evidence, please provide it. Enlighten me. Show me the “right path”.

      It is ironic that atheists say that those who believe in God have blind faith, would you not agree that so do atheists? I believe God exists and you BELIEVE in the evolution THEORY.

      Oh and please refrain from using ‘Wikipedia’, it is not always correct.

      1. Anisa, what you don’t seem to understand is that the evidence is perfectly observable. We can observe our hair standing on end, which benefited our mammalian ancestors by puffing up their fur and making them look bigger. We can observe our own tailbones and the lack of a tail, which can only mean our ancestors had tails and lost them. We can observe the seam in the middle of one of our chromosome pairs from when two pairs merged in an earlier species of ape. We can observe the laryngeal nerve unnecessarily stretching several metres down and back up the neck of a dissected giraffe, following the route that is most direct in fishes. We can observe a particular jawbone structure only in two places: in fossils of Ambulocetus and Pakicetus, which had legs, and modern whales, which do not.

        We can now observe the entire layout of our genome, and determine very specifically that we share at least 96% of it with chimpanzees, 90% with cats and 60% with chickens or fruit flies (whereas the least possible similarity between two humans is 99.5%). Genes are either inherited or mutated, and though mutations are common the odds against even 1% of a genome mutating over any period of time to resemble its counterpart in an unrelated genome are staggering. This indicates that all these species have common ancestors, contradicting the very idea of segregated “kinds”.

        All of this evidence was listed on Wikipedia, if you’d looked. Just because some things on Wikipedia can be wrong doesn’t mean it all is, it just means you don’t take it at face value. You click the references and read the information at the sources, which in the above cases are credible. If you still don’t accept their conclusions, you can retrieve the anatomical pictures and diagrams yourself and draw your own conclusions, which for me are the same.

        Thus, in the presence of good evidence acceptance of evolution is the opposite of blind faith; It is justified, materially supported confidence. How is your belief in God supported? Or are you happy with your own blind faith?

  1. “If you believe there is any OBSERVABLE evidence, please provide it.”

    Anisa, I’m puzzled why you place so much emphasis on evidence needing to be directly observable. It’s not a requirement in science. Using your logic if one person murdered another person and there were no eyewitnesses we should always be unable to find the murderer guilty of the crime regardless of the presence of abundant genetic and other chemical and trace element evidence, circumstantial evidence, prior behavioural history etc etc as there would be no OBSERVABLE evidence. The legal system would collapse if it relied only on observable evidence. Any guilty verdict in the absence of eyewitnesses could only ever be made by ‘blind faith’. Remember, evolutionary biology and criminal forensics share a great deal of scientific methodologies. For example, skeletons are dated using radioisotopes whether they died 2 years ago or 2 million years ago.

    My second point concerns your insistence on using the concept of ‘kind’. This concept doesn’t exist in science for very good reasons. Even creationists themselves cannot agree on a definition of a kind, though they usually concern themselves with the observable morphological and anatomical similarities. Let me give you some examples of why the concept of ‘kind’, based on visual similarities makes no scientific sense:
    Many species around the world have independently evolved prickly protrusions of the skin, such as (i) Australian echidnas of the family Tachyglossidae. These lay eggs. (ii) The European, African and Asian hedgehogs, of the subfamily Erinaceinae, which are distantly related to shrews; (iii) some species of Madagascan tenrecs, which are mammals of the family Tenrecidae and (iv) the Asian, African and American porcupines, all of which are rodents belonging to the family Erethizontidae. Other than having spines, how on earth can these animals be considered as related? Certainly not by any genetic relationship – even the genetic basis for their spine growth differs. Likewise the the spiny anteater of Australia, the pangolin of Africa and the giant anteater of Latin America are considered by many creationists to be the same ‘kind’ simply because they look similar and share several morphological features such as a long sticky tongue, a lack of teeth, large salivary glands and scimitar claws. Yet they are only very distantly related genetically, being prime examples of convergent evolution.

    My third point concerns time-frames. Try to think of this in terms of mountains. Imagine that each year two colliding tectonic plates result in pushing the earth upward by only 1mm. Assuming the process started on the day of your birth, by your death the resulting mound would probably reach your ankle. You wouldn’t have even noticed it forming. The oldest written records we have date back to about 5000 years ago, so if the process stared at the beginning of recorded history, the mound would be only 5 metres high – a hillock at best. Again, human beings wouldn’t even notice, yet you surely accept that mountains exist, don’t you (that’s how Everest was formed)? This process is analogous to evolution by natural selection – changes from one species to another have certainly been observed within a single person’s lifetime, on many occasions, but obvious morphological changes aren’t observable because the genetic process progresses at the same sort of slow rate that mountains form. Unless, of course, we force a change artificially such as wolves becoming chihuahua’s and Irish wolfhounds in as little as 10-15,000 years – they are now physically incapable of breeding in the wild. Despite their strong genetic similarity they would certainly be considered as different ‘kinds’ by creationists if they did not already know they were both bred from wolves.

    As far as Ray Comfort is concerned, I understand there is an uncut version of his movie floating around the web in which he has been caught out asking biologists certain questions and then dishonestly editing the footage by inserting their answers to different questions. One of the biologists, PZ Myers, has written about this scam. But what would you expect from the guy who made a total fool of himself with his banana film clip and then tried to make out it was intended as a joke!

  2. Hi again Anisa

    I forgot to mention something – if you are truly interested in learning about biological evolution please don’t listen to the likes of Ray Comfort. He has no qualifications or standing in the field and readily admits it and he has a reputation as a charlatan. When I want to know what current thinking is in Christianity, I don’t listen to people like Comfort or Josh McDowell or Chuck Missen etc – they’re obvious con-men. I seek out qualified academic theologians. Similarly, if you want to learn about evolutionary biology from qualified people who are Christians there are some excellent sources such as Ken Miller, a professor at Brown University – his book and lectures on the evolution of human beings are as good as any you’ll find anywhere. He is a devout Catholic. You might also like to read work by Frances Collins, the ex-head of the Human Genome Project who describes himself as an ‘evangelical Christian’.

  3. SmartLX
    Before, in your previous comment, you stated “evolution between kinds has not itself been directly observed for reasons of time”. This is what I have been trying to explain to you from the beginning. If evolution between kinds has not been directly observed, then there can be no valid evidence of there being a change of kind.
    My belief in God is supported through The Qur’an. The Qur’an has many scientific evidence that shows us God exists. You may or may not be aware, but the Qur’an was revealed to prophet Muhammed (PBUH) more than 1400 years ago. It has not been changed ever since.
    For example, the Qur’an mentions the developmental stages in the mothers womb. The Qur’an states that (40.67) ‘He is Who created you from the earth soil , then from a nutfah, then from a leech (a fertilised egg sticking to the womb sucking nutrients from it like a leach), then He brings you out (of the womb) as a child.’
    A ‘nutfah’ is the Arabic word for a fertilised egg, a zygote, or the union of a father’s sperm and a mother’s egg. An ‘alaqa’ is the Arabic word for a leech. In this case, it refers to a fertilised egg sticking to the womb sucking nutrients from it like a leech. Other related verses (23.12-14) mention other main stages in the development of the foetus in the womb, the mudgha (this is explained in the next paragraph), bone, and flesh stages.
    23.12-14 ‘We created the human being from a product of wet earth; (12) Then, We placed it as a nutfah (fertilised egg) in a safe (deep) lodging; (13) Then, We created the nutfah into an alaqa (leech). Then, We created the alaqa into mudghah (a little lump, like a chewed substance). Then, We created the mudghah into bones. Then, We clothed the bones with flesh. Then, We produced it (the human being) as another creation.’
    Only recently in human history, biological and medical researchers could reach such accurate knowledge about the major stages of the foetus development, as described in the verses above.
    This description was revealed to the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) more than 1400 years ago. There was no way for an illiterate man in Arabia to know about the human creation by himself and with this accuracy. This gives us evidence that the author of this book could be nobody else except God.
    This is another Youtube clip that gives us more evidence. Please watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtrDSVolwEU
    The Earth is described as egg-shaped (not a perfect circular globe), a fact which was discovered recently in human history.
    In Chapter 79, Verse 30, the Qur’an mentions that: ‘And the Earth, after that, He made it egg-shaped.’
    In Verses 68-69, we are told that it is the female bee that makes honey, a very recent bit of knowledge for humans. We know now that male bees die after mating with the queen and live only for about 90 days. Only female bees survive to be the workers, which gather nectar and make honey. This bit of knowledge could never be known to humans before the invention and use of microscopes. It is another piece of evidence that the author of the Qur’an could never be a human being more than 1400 years ago. Rather, He is the All Knowledgeable One.
    ‘And your Lord inspired the female bees to take (build) its houses (hives) on mountains, trees, and in (people’s) gardens
    Then (you female bee) eat from all the fruits and (you female bee) follow the ways of your Lord laid down (for you). There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colours, in which there is healing (cure) for people. In that, (there) is a sign for a people who give thought’ (Al-Na’hl, 16: 68-69).
    In dealing with Verse 68, some translators did not pay attention to the feminine form of the Arabic verb (‏اتَّخِذِي), which refers to female bees in particular, not bees in general. The same meaning is confirmed in Verse 69, in verbs (‏كُلِي), which means “you female bee eat,” and verb (‏فَاسْلُكِي), which means “you female bee follow.”
    The Qur’an tells us in several verses that Allah (God) has created plants in pairs (male and female) in order for plant reproductive activities to happen leading to giving us the fruits we enjoy on this Planet.
    In Chapter 20, Verse 53, Allah (God) also says:
    “… and (God) has sent down water from the sky. With it, We have produced diverse pairs of plants (Taha, 20: 53).
    In Chapter 13, Verse 3, Allah (Praise to Him) also says:
    “and of all fruits, He made in them pairs, two each (a male and a female).
    In Chapter 31, Verse 10, Allah (Praise to Him) also says:
    We send down water from the sky, (in order that) We cause goodly pairs to grow out of it (of earth) (Luqman, 31: 10).
    In Chapter 36, Verse 36, Allah (Praise to Him) also says:
    Glory to Him, Who created all pairs, of what the earth produces, of themselves (humans), and of others unknown to them
    Here’s more examples. http://www.aljazeerah.info/Islamic%20Editorials/2007/September/The%20Scientific%20Evidence%20That%20God%20Exists%20and%20the%20Holy%20Qur'an%20Is%20His%20Message%20to%20Humanity%20By%20Hassan%20Ali%20El-Najjar.htm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw5gs3c5-xQ – More evidence
    Hope that answers your question. 🙂
    Science is all about facts. Therefore being able to observe that there was a ‘change of kind’ is a requirement. And thanks Garry for the suggestions. I’ll definitely take it on board. 🙂
    To both SmartLX and Gary.
    I am not against the idea of the evolution theory. I do not want to change your beliefs. 🙂

    1. Obviously, one cannot directly observe a change in kind in higher organisms because evolution happens over generations and a generation of most higher creatures lasts for a time period that’s relatively of the same order of magnitude as humans who do the observation. We are thus forced to rely on the fossil record for that (which, I know, is unacceptable to some religious folk as it is not “direct observation”).

      However, when you go to much smaller, much shorter lived organisms, drastic changes can be observed in the lab by controlling for environment. RNA Viruses for e.g., in an environment that promotes mutations, are known to split into viral quasi-species – which though not really biological species are sufficiently different in their actions to be considered different viruses. That sounds like a change in kind to me … but I have known people to raise the bar when I give this argument (“have you seen a virus turn into a bacteria in a lab” is the retort I have got in the past),

      No – I haven’t read of a virus turn to a bacteria – but I’ve seen reasonable, intelligent people turn very unreasonable when they try to punch holes in/ show flaws in evolution (showing, perhaps, that maybe not evolution directly but a discussion of it can sometimes cause an observable change in kind in higher mammals).
      I am not saying this about anyone here … I’m just pointing out my experience in general.

    2. Anisa, if the only valid evidence of a given event were direct observation of it, it would be impossible to convict anyone of a crime that the police (and the jury) had not witnessed for themselves. Our entire system of law and law enforcement is based upon the validity of evidence after the fact. This is the type of evidence that exists for large-scale evolution and the common descent of all living things, and it is plentiful.

      The claim that the Qur’an accurately describes embryology depends heavily on shoehorning real science into the language used in the scriptures through wishful interpretation. It is addressed directly here, and the same site addresses many other claims of miraculous foreknowledge in the Qur’an. Likewise this excellent series of videos, which tackles one claim at a time.

      May I suggest to you that these claims are not actually how you support your faith, because they are not how you have come to believe in Islam yourself. They are instead arguments you have researched afterwards in order to defend your faith from doubters. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but it really has very little to do with your own beliefs and as such it is not likely to convince non-believers.

  4. Rohit
    I appreciate your thoughts.

    Yes, I am aware of that. Garry has already mentioned this before. I agree with you that ‘it would be impossible to convict anyone of a crime that the police (and the jury) had not witnessed for themselves’. The police may not have seen it directly for themselves, but they are sure to have valid evidence through for example fingerprints on objects, CCTV cameras, any form of DNA etc and therefore are then able to convict an individual of a crime.

    I wouldn’t go to the conclusion that this is a ‘wishful interpretation’. I feel that this is concrete evidence that shows us the formation of a child in its mothers womb. This is another Youtube clip that has more examples. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HONF5YsqdUs In particular I find the one about iron being sent down to us from space, the one that women are not responsible for the gender of the child and the universe expanding to be extremely accurate and also interesting.

    Yes I was brought up as a Muslim. But that hasn’t stopped me from checking to see whether the Qur’an is correct or false. After researching the Qur’an I have come to the conclusion that it is correct and the word of God. Therefore you are wrong. These ‘claims’ as you say, are how I support my faith. The scientific evidence shown in the Qur’an has a large impact on my belief in God. I mentioned before in my previous comment ‘I do not want to change your beliefs’.

    SmartLX. After this long conversation I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

    1. Well, I stand corrected about the way you support your faith, and perhaps I should have not have presumed. I can only add that the correlations in these videos do not convince me, and do not tend to convince anyone who does not already believe; their primary purpose is to reassure the faithful.

  5. Anisa – I always find it interesting when a believer uses religious text to attempt to prove that a god exists. They usually believe, as you do, that because certain phrases MIGHT mean something, it constitutes proof that a god must have given that information to man.

    I should probably point out here that there is no “observable evidence” that a god ever spoke to Muhammed. If it isn’t good enough for evolution then it isn’t good enough to believe the Quran is the word of a god, right? But anyway…

    Let’s take 40.67. First off it should be noted that most translations say a drop of semen, not a “nutfah” (zygote). Then they go on to say a clot or a clump or a leech, and then an infant, etc. In 23 12-14 we start with clay , and again find drop of semen usually instead of “nutfah”, or sometimes a mixing of male and female fluid, but from there placed in a “lodging” and so on as you mention in your post. It is at this point that I tell you that the Quran doesn’t get it right. The bones don’t form first. They don’t even all form at the same time. The spinal cord starts forming very early on. Most of the rest of the bones don’t form until the 2nd trimester. You’ve already got skin, a beating heart, and many other things by then.

    But despite that glaring error in the supposed word of a god, why would it be so surprising that man would know some of this? In today’s society one out of every four women will experience at least one miscarriage in her lifetime. 25%. Given the lower standard of living, poorer nutrition, and work needed to survive in Muhammad’s day, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was higher. But even if it wasn’t, you don’t think people looked at the miscarried bodies of the babies that died in the womb? Every fourth woman in Muhammed’s time miscarried at least once. Miscarriages happen at all stages of pregnancy, for a wide array of reasons. You don’t think people didn’t notice what the miscarried bodies of humans looked like at various stages? Of course they did. History is full of documentation, from the Chinese to the Egyptian to the Romans and so forth, about how to abort an unborn child and women miscarrying, all before Christ was born. To claim that the Quran had “accurate” knowledge (and its not even accurarte) of fetal development when none existed until recently (when clearly humans knew a lot about human reproduction long before Muhammed) is plainly absurd.

    Instead of going on, let’s just suffice it to say that religious claims that a god exists because of what some ancient text is supposed to mean does not constitute proof at any level of the imagination.

    1. Tim

      Hiya there Tim! Before I get started I just want to say, Assalamualaikum (peace be with you). This is how Muslims greet each other.

      Anyway, moving on. I should probably point out here that there is ‘observable evidence’. We believe that there is sufficient evidence.The Quran. The scientific evidence shown in the Qur’an. And let me explain, if you weren’t already aware, we believe that Muhammed PBUH received the word of God through the angel Jibra’il (Gabriel).

      I study Biomedical Science. The Qur’an says: 23.12-14 ‘We created the human being from a product of wet earth; (12) Then, We placed it as a nutfah (fertilised egg) in a safe (deep) lodging; (13) Then, We created the nutfah into an alaqa (leech). Then, We created the alaqa into mudghah (a little lump, like a chewed substance). Then, We created the mudghah into bones. Then, We clothed the bones with flesh. Then, We produced it (the human being) as another creation.’

      I can assure you what the Qur’an says is correct. Let me add, you may be forgetting that the Qur’an is a book of SIGNS, not a book of SCIENCE. Therefore what you stated, ‘the bones don’t form first. They don’t even all form at the same time. The spinal cord starts forming very early on. Most of the rest of the bones don’t form until the 2nd trimester. You’ve already got skin, a beating heart, and many other things by then’ isn’t relevant. Yes I agree that what you stated does happen, (other than the skin forming before the bones), but as the Qur’an is a book of SIGNS and not a book of SCIENCE, having ALL of the developmental stages of a child in its mothers womb written in the Qur’an, is not required.

      You may want to take a look at this youtube clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXRbV33J5qk
      And this…http://www.academia.edu/1360747/Embryology_in_the_Quran_The_Alaqah_Stage

      Tim, I don’t believe this to be ‘plainly absurd’. Humans obviously did know about human reproduction, otherwise how did we come to be. Right? But what I don’t believe is that they were able to identify the developmental stages of a child in its mothers womb, during the time that the Qur’an was revealed. Yes, women may have had a miscarriage, during a miscarriage women begin to bleed and pass tissue. So if a woman did have a miscarriage they would not exactly be able to see the development of the foetus as the foetus had come out of the woman in clotts of blood and tissue.

      Let’s just suffice to say that those who believe in God and those who believe that God does not exist will always agree to disagree. Hope you have a nice day Tim! Goodbye! 🙂

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