The term “species” is surprisingly difficult to define. When asked, most people offer a reproductive test; that is, creatures that can reproduce naturally together and have fertile offspring are the same species. Of course, this definition is not without a myriad of exceptions. Wolves and dogs, for example, can mate and have fertile offspring yet they are considered different species. So can bison and cows, polar and grizzly bears, and dozens of other mammals. Hybridization is ridiculously common in plants. All of these are examples of different species mating so the ability to reproduce is not a rigorous definition of a species. Neither can a reproductive test be used to identify species of asexual organisms like bacteria.
Species is an invented term, I understand that. And, in spite of the many problems of defining it, I usually don't have a problem with the word. However, in some cases, an exact meaning of the term is necessary. I came across just such an instance the other day. On FaceBook, someone posted an article titled, Scientists watch as a new species evolves before their eyes. From the article:
Speciation, the formation of new species through evolution, is not usually an event you can directly observe. Organisms typically take many generations to accumulate enough changes to diverge into new species; it's a slow process. In fact, the difficulty of directly observing speciation is a reason cited by skeptics of evolution for why they have doubts. ¶But biologists working at the University of California, San Diego, and at Michigan State University, may have just put a rest to all of those naysayers. They report to having witnessed the evolution of a new species happen right before their eyes, in a simple laboratory flask
You can see from this paragraph, the author of the article is suggesting that the emergence of a new species (in the article, it's a new species of a virus) is somehow evidence of evolution. If the rise of a new species is to be used as an example of evolution, then yes, I'm going to ask what criteria are the scientists using to define a species? In this case, a reproductive test is not sufficient since viruses are also asexual and cannot “mate” with the parent population in any manner.
Did you notice, too, how the author seems characterize critics of evolution as people who deny speciation happens? He was very careful not to use the word, “creationists,” but we all know that's who he means. It's typical of evolutionists to make this straw man argument. The reality is that most creationists don't deny speciation. In fact, it's a critical part of young earth creationism. God created animals according to “kinds.” Noah took terrestrial animals on the ark in pairs of “kinds.” All modern species are descended from these narrow groups. The 30+ species of modern cats are all descended from the 2 felines on the ark, for example.
When told that creationists accept speciation, evolutionists respond in one of two ways. One way is to ridicule the creation model as a type of “hyper-evolution” because the amount of diversification that has occurred during the time since the Flood is much faster than the slow, gradual process theorized by evolutionists. In a previous post, I've discussed the claim that creationism is a belief in hyper-evolution. It's also somewhat hypocritical of them to criticize creationists for believing in rapid speciation when they post articles like the one above talking about speciation happening before their eyes – but never mind that now.
The other way they respond is to throw out a red herring and ask the creationist to define the term, “kind.” It's a red herring because, whether or not a creationist can define the word, “kind,” it doesn't excuse the evolution from having to define a species when it's being used in the example above.
When I was discussing the article above on FaceBook, one critic actually said he couldn't respond to any of my points until I gave a precise definition of “kind.” Really? I doubt that. I mean, there may not be an iron clad definition of the word species but I understand the term well enough to discuss it. I use the term frequently myself and only ask for a rigorous definition when evolutionists try to leverage “speciation” as evidence for their theory. Am I supposed to believe that evolutionists can't understand the concept of “kind” well enough to discuss it unless we give them an iron clad definition first? Like I said, it's a red herring.
I've discussed species and kinds on my blog before. I might not be able to give a rigorous definition of either but here are some practical definitions. A species is a population of organisms that have enough traits in common that they can be identified as belonging to the same group. I admit, my definition may have a few difficulties but at least it's rid of the need of a reproductive boundary. A kind is a group of organisms originally created by God that would reproduce organisms similar to themselves and includes all the varied species descended from the original group. Maybe I could come up with a better definition but, I daresay, this one is more precise than nearly any definition of species that I've heard from evolutionists.
Think about examples of species and kinds. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes can breed together and have fertile offspring yet they are considered different species. Because of their very different anatomies, Great Danes can no longer reproduce with chihuahuas yet they are still considered the same species. Evolutionists and creationists both agree that all canine have descended from a common ancestor yet if creationists call the members of the canine group a “kind,” evolutionists act like they can't understand the term at all. //RKBentley scratches his head//
Evolutionists play word games. They constantly conflate natural selection and evolution. I talked in my last post about how they casually use the word theory but harp on creationists for calling evolution a theory. They claim macroevolution is evolution above the species level but they can't even define what a species is. When pressed for a definition of species, they attempt to derail the conversation by asking creationists to define a kind instead. I agree you can't have a conversation with someone if there isn't a clear understand of the terms being discussed. In the evolution/creation debate, evolutionists aren't interested in discussion. I know they're not stupid – they're just playing dumb. Conflate, equivocate, obfuscate. That's the tactic of evolutionists.