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About Us: Historical Context of Views

The intellectual heritage of baraminology stretches back to Aristotle. Aristotle believed that for knowledge and science to be possible, the subjects of science (the things that are known) must be immutable, for if change was possible, then what you "know" today would be invalid tomorrow. This idea, along with many others, was married to Christian theology through the efforts of Aquinas and other medieval theologians. At the time of Linnaeus, scientists applied this theological thinking to the study of living organisms and developed the idea that biological species must be immutable. Linnaeus accepted species fixity not because a careful reading of the Bible revealed it to him. Rather, Linnaeus advocated species fixity because of the Aristotelian bias of his intellectual heritage. Essentialist species fixity is an Aristotelian concept. It is important to note here that as Linnaeus neared the end of his life, he began to doubt species fixity. As he struggled with interspecific hybridization in particular, he began to suspect that genera rather than species were fixed in the strict Aristotelian sense.

The late 18th and early 19th centuries were contentious times for biosystematics as transformism became more and more popular. Cuvier followed Linnaeus in believing in species fixity, and he argued against transformism using the Aristotelian idea of the impossibility of biology if species could transform. Transformists such as Lamarck and Geoffroy tried to demonstrate that species could bring forth new species, but they did not provide a convincing mechanism. Lamarck relied on a vitalist force that responded to the organism's need, and Geoffroy tried to demonstrate the existence of morphological laws that govern the emergence of new species. A transformist mechanism that would capture the imagination of nearly every scientist was finally provided by Darwin and Wallace. Very quickly after Darwin's Origin, natural historians shifted from belief in the immutability of separately created species to the universal relatedness of all species.

As even Christian biologists conceded to the intellectual force of Darwin, resistance to evolution fell to a handful of theologians and laypeople until the 1940's. In 1941, Frank Lewis Marsh published a small book titled Fundamental Biology. In it, Marsh did something quite unique. He freely admitted the reality of speciation and transformism, but he also rejected the universal evolutionary tree. Instead, Marsh theorized that God had created a number of "kinds" in the beginning, and from those original "kinds" our modern species have descended. To Marsh, the transformation of one species into another is possible, but only within divinely-mandated limits. Marsh coined the word baramin to describe his "created kinds." Baramin comes from two Hebrew words, bara meaning "create" and min meaning "kind." We may think of Marsh's baramin concept as a set of species descended from an originally-created ancestral population.

Marsh spent most of his life promoting the baramin concept among his fellow creationists. In the 1970's and early 1980's, Siegler and Jones produced a short series of papers in the Creation Research Society Quarterly that built on Marsh's ideas. In 1990, modern baraminology was begun by Walter ReMine and Kurt Wise. Their aim was to develop methods and criteria to identify phylogenetic discontinuities among groups of species. While ReMine proposed only criteria that he hoped would be acceptable to evolutionary biologists, Wise focused baraminology as a young-earth biosystematics method. Both these authors conceived the baramin in a phylogenetic context.

The Baraminology Study Group (BSG) was begun in 1996 as an email discussion group consisting of graduate students, college professors, and interested specialists. Topics of those early discussions ranged from the history of creationist systematics, to the methods of baraminology, to the Biblical meaning of min, to the theoretical definition of a baramin. Because of the phylogenetic history of any and all groups can never be known, the BSG (2003) developed a refined baramin concept based on multidimensional character space. The BSG held its first meeting at Bryan College in 1997 with six in attendance (Kurt Wise, Todd Wood, Ashley Robinson, David Cavanaugh, Neal Doran, and Dave Fouts). The meeting consisted largely of presentations of research and general discussion on both baraminology methodology and education. In 1999, the BSG held its first conference at Liberty University with 25 in attendance. Presentations included theory and methodology. Subsequent conferences have focused on a variety of topics relevant to creationist biology.