One Way to Reject Common Descent


I’m all for creating as many options for people as possible. A while ago, I proposed one way a special creationist (such as RTB) might come to peace with evolutionary science, without affirming physical common descent. I’m curious everyone’s thoughts, especially @Revealed_Cosmology, @Guy_Coe, @jack.collins, @jongarvey, @kkeathley and @AJRoberts. I’ve developed this a bit from the original suggestion here.

There are some creationists that argue God periodically create new species by special creation in a particular way: by copying their genomes, tinkering a bit, and instantiating a new species. This possibility is raised by Reasons to Believe (RTB).

Depending on the exact manner in which God does this type of special creation, it is possible that this could be consistent with the data (not indicated by the data). God would have to be creating us from lower species, using transformations of our genomes that are readily understandable by known biochemical mechanisms (like point mutations, chromosome fusions, neutral drift, and transposons). Perhaps these special creation events were periodic “guidance.” Is this possible? Absolutely. He can do all things. Perhaps it is even true.

Evidentially speaking, this type of progressive creation might be no different than common descent, and could produce the genomes we see today. I would note, anyone who adopts this model is tacitly agreeing that evidence for common descent (without progressive creation) is strong, so strong that they have chosen a creation model to be consistent with it. This does not mean it is false, but it should tamper their attempts to argue against common descent.

To be clear, this is not a scientific theory precisely. It is a type of evidence driven theological model, much as is the Genealogical Adam. Such models are legitimate, and should be taking seriously, but they are not science as I understand it. Breaking free of scienctific strictures, we are still constrained by theological reflection.

We could ask why would God do this? Why would He choose a creative mechanism that is so easily understood through the lens of common ancestry? Why was evidence against evolution not part of His design goals? Maybe the theologians can help us here. One important, and nearly self evident fact, is that God does not seem to prioritize revealing Himself clearly in genomes. This should trouble no one. There is no good a prior reason to think he should directly reveal Himself in Genomes. He does this another way: Peace Be With You.

Some will certain make objections about the “appearance of common descent,” suggesting that God is somehow deceptive in this scenario. I’m not convinced this is a valid objection. If God has no desire to reveal His mechanism of creation, there is no reason to expect we should detect it.

This leaves us, again, with the theological question. God could have made us to have genomes that were obviously inconsistent with common descent. He did not. Why not? It seems the natural theology of this model is to conclude that God’s design goals were not to disprove evolution. If that is true of Him, it might be good to follow His example here. After all, He already makes himself known through Jesus.

I want to offer this as one viable option for old earth creationists that cannot personally accept common descent (i.e. evolution) for some reason. Is this not theologically sound? It seems to me, also, that this is a scientifically sound position, even if it extends beyond the limits of science.

A Better Way to Reject Common Descent

A series of non-sequiturs here, Joshua. God did what he did (he is Yahweh - he will do what seems right to him). He seldom tells us why, and in something as astonishing as life, we’d be unlikely to understand anyway if he did.

But the process of observation, always determined by our presuppositions, leads us to theories which explain the data in line with those presuppositions. As soon as we assume we’re looking at the real causes in the real world, we’re increasingly likely to err according to the complexity of our theory. That’s even without second-guessing God’s motives.

So, mankind generally believing in the spiritual (the presupposition), living things were clearly designed. And as it happens, both Scripture and theology encourage such a common conclusion. Furthermore, observation shows they were designed in some kind of rational order, because they can be classed in groups. As I’ve said many times before, Linnaeus saw that order as evidence for plenitude. Agassiz saw it as evidence for a platonic realm of forms. And Darwin saw it as evidence for common descent.

Nowadays the molecules provide a more complex and fine-grained pattern, but in an evolutionary age there have been no Agassiz or Linnaeus to see things differently. We think atomistically, and so family realtionships of molecules seem significant to us. And yet overall the molecular hierarchy is sufficiently different from the morphological hierarchy to lead to turmoil in taxonomy as more genetic data emerges. And like morphology, it too is full of exceptions to the neat order.

So God’s priority was clearly not to reveal the true relationships of his creatures, on your reasoning. “Why was evidence against evolution not part of His design goals?” Well, there are those who would say that conflicting phylogenies are none-too-subtle evidence against it… a possible argument, but distinctly weak when it used to predict why God chose to do it that way.

Such arguments about God’s aims in nature are always bad - except where Scripture and common experience show otherwise, and the self-revelation of God through what he has created is common to both.

So as messily as in any life-science, “molecular evolution” and “common descent” support each other reasonably nicely. But since we know less than we think we know about either, we can’t be sure that the next breakthrough in understanding won’t make the “appearance of common descent” clearly illusory (Orfans, convergent evolution, dinosaur taxonomy, anyone?), and have people questioning God’s next mysterious and cackhanded way of creating “against the evidence”.

Another serious non sequitur, Joshua. Go back to taxonomy under Linnaeus, and it was equally clear, at the time, that God’s design goals were not to disprove the principle of plenitude. But that was not a signal to acquiesce in that philosophy on divine authority - it remained simple a meta-theory that was entrely open to challenge on any other grounds, including the theological, and it’s a theory which most of us are grateful to be rid of (no thanks to molecular biology, which eschews the principle pf plenitude over time as much as Darwin did with his gradualism).


Alright then, how would you fix this proposal?


I think you are misreading this. I’m not making an argument for what Gods purpose was, or against this model. This model might be correct even if we can’t explain why he did it this way, for all the reasons you’ve laid out.

It does however seem clear that clearly disproving common descent was not one of his design goals. How is that inference not valid?



I think it is perfectly fine and expected for those Christians supporting the “Genealogical Adam/Eve Scenario” (GA/ES) to take theological positions about science. That’s what this site is all about.

It is much more credible that Christians can make Theological statements about Science, than Scientific statements about God and Theology!



I have mentally prepared myself for many Theological Descriptions of Science like this… but this is not the same as accepting them as probable.

My view of God is that he does not intentionally deceive humanity. And thus there is an Extra Burden for credible explanation (of great significance!) owed to us by those who suggest that Old Earth Evolution (Plus Special Creation of 2 humans) is less credible than Serial Punctuated Special Creation of all major branches of species.

This is not just a random collection of Special Creations… but would REQUIRE that the sequence of Special Creations intentionally mimic the result of Evolutionary Speciation. And such a position is virtually undetectably different from simply having a phobia against natural lawful operations for speciation!


Well, clearly it’s valid in a trivial sense, in the same way that God did not intend homology as a disproof of plenitude, or platonic forms, or evolution (though it can’t confim all three). I’m not sure that any of the prog. creationists who might embrace the “creation with modification” view would see it as a disproof of common descent in the first place, but as another interpretation of the data.

Their usual analogy is the re-use of components (why design a peregrine from scratch when you have a perfectly good falcon ti adapt?). Such arguments are in big danger of implying that God has reasons to save himself work, but one could postulate as many less theologically problematic reasons for it as one could for his use of “natural” common descent, all equally speculative. For example, as a variation on plenitude, one sees how God can produce so many wondrously varied forms from a similar pattern - Picasso in his blue period, maybe.

Again, I see an argument like this as assuming the “standard” theory as a given reality, and any different understanding as tacitly supporting it. But that is no more true than that Darwin’s use of homology to support common descent is tacitly supporting the strength of its discoverer Owen’s concept if a divine archetype. The models are simply competitors in explaining the same phenomena, and in 1859 were equally scientific.

I agree that such a theory as progressive creative adaptation (a fair term?) might arise from, or lead to, theological reflection, but that isn’t necessarily, or commonly, along the “Why would God do it that way” line. In my experience, the kind of argument used is:

(a) There are both too many anomalies in genetic phylogenies, and insufficient grounds to believe the mechanisms would produce what we see, that some morecrucial process is involved.
(b) In any case, the God of Christain Theism is a God who acts determinatively within his creation, both in human history and in natural history.
© Ergo, it makes sense that the really creative changes to taxa would result from divine action.

They usually stop there, but I would add that in such a scenario. the practical difference between his taking a living Protoceratops and transforming its offpsring is impossible to distinguish, and conceptually much the same as, modifying an Owenian divine Protoceratops archetype and instantiating it.


I agree that this is the special creation model to go with based on what we know about the genomes so far. I still think evolution overall has a rate problem, but the data from the human line is not a good example of that.

Now as for your questions, as it regards humanity I have some speculations, but they are related to just the points of contention in our other thread concerning the model you have cautioned me against naming the “Christ-Centered Model” of early Genesis. So I would rather hold off for now on that part of it.

Regarding the rest of creation the answer is the one I have already spelled out in “Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology”. It takes several chapters to show where I am getting all of this, so understand here I am just going to make the claims, not lay out all the nuance in the text to support the claims.

The text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is speaking about creation in two realms in the same “days”, high heaven and the natural universe. Once He is done separating the two realms each realm has a role in executing His word. There is High Heaven where God just speaks the command and “it was so” quickly, perfectly, and without the need for His further intervention. Then there is the natural universe, subjected to “futility” for a time but only in the hope it can be raised out of it once the harvest of humanity is ready.

This realm is a poor copy of the land above. There is resistance to God’s word in this realm. Its going to be fulfilled in the end, but there is resistance to it. That is “darkness” or “sin” or “evil” or “chaos”. Whatever you choose to call it. It would not be a suitable place for humans like us to live if there were not resistance to His word being fulfilled, for there is resistance to His word in our hearts. So it happens, but slowly, imperfectly, with many mis-steps and tribulations along the way.

So what happens in high heaven, if slowed down, looks a LOT like “Theistic Evolution”. God speaks a word and “it was so”- it all unfolds right there without Him having to lift a finger. And what is happening down here is a poor copy of that and it is slowed down. What we see here is a mutated and marred form of what is happening up there. The phrase “God saw that it was good” is actually far short of the sinless perfection YEC ascribes to it. “Suitable” would be a better translation.

Regarding plants on day three, even the text down here is basically TE. He tells the land to bring forth plants of various kinds, and the land does so without any further direct action from God. And it is still doing so as far as I can tell.

So where does the “creationism” part come in? Why isn’t it just unpleasant TE down here? Because on days four, five, and six we see that in the land below the universe needs help from God to accomplish His word. This is the case even though “it was so” on days four and the first part of six in the land above (day five does not apply to the land above) without His further intervention. There it just happened according to His word. Here its a process and while the earth could pull off making plants without His further intervention neither the waters nor the lands could produce the diversity of living creatures God wanted without His jump-starting the process.

None of this applies to man. The text shows that God did that Himself, both in the land below and the land above. That’s probably not talking much if any about the DNA part though, but rather what He did with it. It is talking about something which makes man according to the likeness of God and the capacity to be in the Image of God. And that’s not done via DNA. So it is not surprising that this won’t show up in the DNA.

I suppose this view of things could be called “God-assisted evolution” as much as “Creationism” but there it is, that’s what I see in the text, though I imagine some of you are wondering how. It explains why the DNA 'looks like" evolution- because in a perfect universe it would have been evolution. But the universe is not perfect- defining perfection as responding to God’s word perfectly and immediately.


George, I challenge presuppositions in yours as I do in Joshua’s. The assumption is that (in this case) progressive creation is “mimicking” common descent. But the argument is that common descent is a human construction designed to mimic the reality of progressive creation. Modern science does not get to establish fundamental reality by diktat.

The charge of “divine deception” is easily countered with the explanation of “divine undeception.” God made man upright, but he has gone in search of many schemes… and in the light of history, most scientific theories turn out to be such schemes in the end, and they’re replaced.

To Linnaeus, to discover in heaven that God actually caused evolution would have him muttering that God ought not to deceive folks into believing in plenitude. To Owen or Agassiz (great biologists both) the same discovery would have them accusing God of deceiving them about divine archetypes. What makes this generation of scientists the only one God is beholden to support?



I think you over-state the requirement of preparatory text to explain Serial Punctuated Special Creation of the major species.

What is needed is a compelling explanation for why God would intentionally leave a pattern of fossils for creatures that are not only specially created long before the arrival of humanity… but are also (apparently with God’s full intention) of only temporarily populating their part of the Earth, and becoming extinct a few million years later … again, long before there are any human witnesses.


I don’t know why a “compelling explanation” is needed for that. To the extent that it may be, the thread on SPORE spells it out enough. God likes to create and watch it all play out. We who are according to His likeness are a reflection of that, as evidence by the hours of wasted time playing that video game. But He has all the time in the world.

Its just not all about us.


Oh @jongarvey you are misreading me. I think I see which words are triggering you. I’m gonna try to rephrase this.

I’m not saying common descent is the reality here. No. I’m saying that in this model special creation is the reality, but it just looks like common descent from science because science is limited. In this conception, common descent is false. Science is wrong. God is not deceptive.

Though I personally affirm common descent, Im trying to legitimize rejecting common descent in a sensible theological and scientifically coherent way.

You misreading me as arguing against this position. Why?


Because I lack comprehension, evidently…:grinning:

My posts above, though, ought to critique well enough the passages that made the position look to me other than you intend it to be. Or perhaps it appears to be presented more like the way its opponents would present it than the way its best proponents would.

That’s why I invoked scientists from the past, for whom the same evidence (obviously in far less thorough form) was never “evidence for common descent” at all, but evidence for at least two more meta-theories, both of which preceded evolution and were closer to the progressive creation model suggested


Mark is right - any question here applies equally well to theistic evolution, and if the answer is, “but evolution takes time by its nature”, the critic simply replies, “Then why did God use evolution?”

The progressive suites of species (minus evolution) would still exist in their own right and for their own various goods, as well as being appreciated by angels and God alike. There’s no reason why everything should exist directly for man.

But we also know that some of those suites prepared the way for us, for example by oxygenating the world, vegetating the land, and so on. Because it’s not something that is studied, or even amenable to study, for all we know you need mucho reptiles to prepare the world for mammals and birds, and the latter to prepare the world for man. And that would work equally well under prog creation or evolution.



And I would counter by saying that God more completely and convincingly “sees how it plays out” by using the millions of years of an Old Earth in which to use Natural Selection and Descent from Common Populations.


I will add that I missed church this morning but took a walk in the woods. My region is built on limestone. Ages upon ages of shelled sea creatures piled up and compacted. And the ground they form makes excellent aquifers. It is also used to make cement and gravel for roads. And of course, our vast deposits of coal and probably oil are a result of those prior “senseless” ages of living things. So I don’t know that the creatures had to be alive during our reign in order to be useful to us. Hugh Ross makes this point quite well.

PS- for the record I think the question that creation is answering for Adam in Gen. 1 is how the things HE SEES came to be. The rest it leaves out.



Yes, good observations. These observations seem a little less clear or applicable when it comes to alpha predators and relatively small populations of large herbivores.

Of course, modern scientists are learning how predators can actually have a dramatic effect on the ecosystem of a region.

This doesn’t really answer the question as to whether makes a series of soon extinct special creations vs. a constant stream of evolutionary populations, descending from common populations.


I don’t see it as either/or. He makes a new generalized “kind”. Maybe that’s a phyla, or a new class, or even a new Order. From there, nature radiates it out into a plethora of creatures. Some of them live, some die. Before they do maybe a few of them become the basis for the next leap forward in the process, the next “kind”.



I have already allowed for that in my discussions of your position; I frequently use phrases that limit the number of “specially created” types or species, rather than all of them.

This will have to be something you share with other RTB-like schools of thought. The science accepts and supports speciation and natural selection without interruption or skips.


8 posts were split to a new topic: Is Evolution a Sub-Category of Progressive Creation?