An Initial Investigation into the Baraminology of Snakes: Order—Squamata, Suborder Serpentes

By Tom Hennigan

Abstract

Evolution theory predicts that the ancestry of organisms can be traced down a hypothetical evolutionary tree and eventually back to the first living cell. Creation theory postulates that ancestry can be traced back only a limited distance to a starting organism of that type. Instead of a “tree” the creation model has a “forest” of unrelated organisms with vast genetic potential. I hypothesize that the snake taxon originated from one or more originally created “trees” or “kinds” that have diversified into the snakes of today and that snakes are unrelated to any other group. In order to test this hypothesis, the snake taxon was analyzed using a discontinuity matrix and the data suggest that snakes can be considered a group unto themselves. Subsequently, a literature search was begun in order to determine additive evidence for relatedness. Three families were identified for their interspecific and intergeneric hybridization tendencies and within each family certain genera and species were classified into subgroups of related snakes. This initial investigation indicates that many snakes have the ability to hybridize, even when they are reproductively isolated over great distances, and are capable of a large degree of variation within a “species.” As more data are gathered and quantified, I predict that evolutionary hypotheses will continue to be frustrated because of faulty metaphysical assumptions and will strongly suggest that snakes began from one or a few originally created kinds, just a few thousand years ago.

Introduction

Historically, the evolution model of common descent predicted that we should see continuity among all organisms and that species could be traced along the evolutionary tree to a single-celled ancestor. That prediction has not born itself out. The whole question of just what a “species” is has come under fire for many years. Evolutionary taxonomists maintain that the species taxon is the “currency” of biology at the same time that they realize the term “species” has more than twenty meanings, each of which is vigorously debated among biologists (Agapow et al., 2004). Much of the difficulty arises from the presuppositions of the evolutionary worldview, which is built upon the metaphysic of materialism.

Creation theory, to the contrary, postulates a “forest” of organisms in which each “tree” began with an originally created pair designed with vast genetic potential for variation but discontinuous with (not related to) the other created “kinds.” Although there is great variation within each “tree”, there is a limit to biological change and those limits cause serious problems for an evolutionary model involving common ancestry (Lester and Bohlin, 1989). The creationist begins his scientific inquiry with a Biblical understanding of our world and interprets it from a theistic metaphysic.

The materialistic and the theistic worldviews present very different visions when trying to understand how life progressed on earth. Concepts of morality, God, and even biosystematics can have grossly different explanations and interpretations based on different worldviews. The materialist view postulates that snake ancestry can be traced along the evolutionary tree to the lizards. Up until recently, the prevailing belief was the marine hypothesis, which stated that snakes evolved from limbless marine lizards. Many evolutionists, however, are interpreting new data that favor snakes having descended from terrestrial lizards (Ross, 2004). There is little evidence for either the marine or terrestrial hypotheses in the fossil record however, and much snake morphology appears highly designed and unique to the snake group.

Baraminology is a creationist method of biosystematics that begins with Genesis 1:24–25 and predicts that we should see major unrelatedness, or discontinuity, among various taxa because God made them after their kinds. The purpose of baraminology is to discover the boundaries of the created kind or holobaramin. A holobaramin is defined as all the organisms within the group that are related with each other but not related to any other group. In other words, all members of that group began with an original created pair. Humanity is an example of a holobaramin group in that the members are related by common descent to the originally created Adam and Eve.

The monobaramin is a group of organisms related to one another by common descent, but not necessarily all of them (ReMine, 1993). For example, if a tree represents the human holobaramin, then one or more branches representing specific people groups (such as Caucasians and Ethiopians) would each represent a subset of all humans or a human monobaramin (Frair, 2001).

The apobaramin consists of a group of creatures that do not share ancestry with any other group. For example, turtles are an apobaramin because they share no common ancestor with any other group, such as birds, or snakes. But it also means that within the turtle apobaramin there may be one or more created holobaramins. The apobaramin is different than the holobaramin in that the apobaramin may be made up of creatures that were derived from one or more originally created kinds. In contrast, the holobaramin has been identified as such because all members have been traced back to one created pair. Therefore, humans are not only a holobarmin because they can be traced to the originally created Adam and Eve but also they are an apobaramin because they share no common ancestor with any other group (Frair, 2001).

The purpose of this paper is to view snake biosystematics from the creationary standpoint and to initiate an investigation of snake baraminology upon the premise that God produced life according to specific created kinds (Genesis 1:24–25). In the case of snakes, it is unclear whether all snakes came from one or a few originally created pairs. I hypothesize that snakes are discontinuous with any other group and are therefore an apobarmin. The goal is to determine if all snakes came from one or a few original created pairs by grouping related snake taxa using additive evidence and separating unrelated snake taxa using subtractive evidence in order to identify one or more snake holobaramins. Eventually I would like to develop a creationary model of snake biosystematics that would be more consilient with the taxonomic data, and that would avoid the ambiguous species concept. Hopefully, it would likewise have a more robust predictive value than the current evolutionary origins model….

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