Microevolution and Macroevolution

From Reconciling understandings of Scripture and Science
Jump to navigationJump to search

See also Was the Flood followed by rapid evolution? and Postcreationism. TODO THESE SECTIONS NEED REORGANISATION!!

Scientific definitions of microevolution and macroevolution

"Microevolution . . . describes processes occurring within species and populations. We can do experiments on microevolution, and we can study its causes directly. Macroevolution . . . describes patterns perceived in the comparison of species and larger groups—families, orders, and phyla—that are described in systematics and paleontology.

"How microevolution connects to macroevolution is an important question that has not yet been answered satisfactorily. A promising approach suggests that the microevolution of developmental mechanisms produces constraints on the further evolution of the organisms containing those mechanisms. Different lineages evolve different developmental mechanisms. All the species sharing developmental mechanisms may therefore also share similar body plans and evolve under similar constraints. This is probably why we can recognize major groups of organisms by their body plans, what Darwin called Unity of Type. . . ."

— Stearns, Stephen C. and Hoekstra, Rolf F., Evolution: an introduction, OUP, 2000

Philosophical definitions, attributed to theists

Definitions mentioned in passing in an essay at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

  • microevolution: evolution that occurs within a species, such as the evolution of penicillin-resistant bacteria
  • macroevolution: one species evolving from a distinct species

See the context of these definitions at Guided Evolution.

Creationists' varying definitions of microevolution and macroevolution

In a blog post now removed,[1] Kenneth Keathley, a professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, believing that “micro-evolution is the variety and change that occurs within species” while “macro-evolution is the idea that species evolve into other species” accused Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham and his organisation Answers in Genesis of arguing for “macro-evolution; the theory that the species of today evolved from prior, extinct species.” Answers in Genesis responded thus here:

. . . the publication of The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris in 1961 is viewed by historians as the catalyst for the modern creation movement. In this book, Whitcomb and Morris were already discussing the idea of speciation within created “kinds”: “It is unwarranted to insist that all the present species, not to mention all the varieties and subvarieties of animals in the world today, were represented in the Ark” (emphasis added). . . . speciation occurs within kinds, but one kind does not evolve into a completely different kind. . . . Today, the views of young-earth scientists like those at Answers in Genesis are largely the same. We embrace the formation of new species from the kinds that were on board the Ark while rejecting the transformation of one kind into another kind. . . .

Creation Ministries International classifies the statement "Creationists believe in microevolution but not macroevolution" as "doubtful, hence inadvisable to use" [i.e. to use as an argument ], claiming that it is a "distraction" — see Qms:Arguments even professional creationists don't use#60.

See also:

Observing the creation of new species

(Compare Entangled Bank for Charles Darwin's view of the Creator's role; see also Baraminology for evolution "within the kinds" and Ongoing Creation.)
Processes by which new species evolve can be can be classified as allopatric, peripatric, parapatric and sympatric.

  • allopatric

where a species is divided geographically into separate groups which go their own way in succeeding generations

  • peripatric

where some members of a species are in a peripheral area where conditions are different, and they develop differently as a result

  • parapatric

Parapatric speciation occurs where interbreeding (thus, gene flow) continues between a species' main environment and a peripheral area where conditions are different. Unversity of California's public education project Understanding Evolution has this page about parapatric speciation, and deals with the very interesting case of "ring species".

  • sympatric

Sympatric speciation occurs when geographical isolation is not a factor. An example is where a species is divided into a nocturnal group and another that sleeps at night.

Note: No. 12 in the Scientific American target list of "creationist nonsense" is: "Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve."

Christadelphian acceptance of Microevolution

In 2009 Bro Alan Fowler accepted microevolution while rejecting macroevolution:

Far from being a slippery slope leading to Darwinism, the knowledge that both Genesis and nature support the microevolution of species greatly assists us in our fight against Darwinian macroevolution. This it does by allowing us to show the fundamental limitations of species evolution. It also provides us with common ground on which we can enter into a potentially fruitful debate with Darwinian biologists. The alternative is to continue in a ‘stand-off’, with neither side listening to the other.

Fowler, A,Creation and evolution, Testimony Magazine, November 2009 p. 342

Bro Stephen Palmer is a professional medical scientist who as of 2015 accepted microevolution but rejected macroevolution.

Bro Jamie Whittaker, agreeing with Richard Dawkins' enunciation of a "creation or evolution" dichotomy, nevertheless writes:

He [Dawkins] means that God is superfluous to evolution, and he is right. (This is not to deny that ‘micro-evolution’ within a species is an observable fact; it is Darwin’s extrapolation from this to a macro theory about the ‘origin of the species’ that is in dispute.)

Whittaker, J, Theistic evolution and the meaning of creation, October 2019

Lampstand Magazine’s paper "Bible Teaching on Creation", alternative to AACE’s prior paper by the same name, accepts observable microevolution while rejecting macroevolution, understood to be “gradual change in one species to form a new species”.

  1. Preserved by archive.org here
    The post was reviewed by Tim Challies here: Has Ken Ham Embraced Evolution?