News recently flashed around the world of what many scientists hoped to be a nearly whole mammoth, found in permafrost in the Taymyr Peninsula in northern Siberia.1,2 Once again fascinated, people asked: ‘What exactly are mammoths?’, ‘Where did they come from?’, ‘When did they live?’, ‘Why did they become extinct?’ and ‘Can they be cloned?’.
What is a mammoth?
Evidently a variety of elephant, mammoths belong to the mammalian order Proboscidea.3 Mammoths (genus Mammuthus) had the usual elephantine features of a trunk and tusks. Mammoths had a large shoulder hump and a sloping back; small ears and tail; very complex teeth; a small trunk with a distinctive tip with two finger-like projections; huge, spirally curved tusks up to 3.5 m (11.5 feet) long; and spiral locks of dark hair covering a silky underfur.4,5 Some were huge — the Columbian mammoth measured up to 4+ metres (14 feet) high at the shoulders — about the same size as the largest living elephants. But the woolly mammoth was smaller, and there were dwarf mammoths only two metres (six feet) tall.5,6
Where did they come from?
The answer to such questions about the past comes from the Word of one who was there — the Creator. He revealed in Genesis that He created land animals and people on Day Six of Creation Week (Genesis 1:24–27). This passage teaches that God made distinct kinds of animals, which would breed ‘after their kind’.
Each of these kinds could split into a number of varieties, when small populations containing a fraction of the original pre-existing genetic information became isolated. Copying errors (mutations) which reduce information can produce other varieties. This isnot evolution in the particles-to-people sense, because that requires new genes with new information.7
So what are the ‘kinds’? There are often problems matching the created kinds to man-made classification systems, often relying on shape and size, even though the system was founded by the Swedish creationist biologist Carl Linnaeus.8 From God’s Word we infer that reproduction defines ‘kinds’. Thus if two creatures can interbreed, they belong to the same kind. Many scientists define aspecies as a group of individuals which can freely interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Thus the biblical kinds would have originally been species….
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