I’ve been writing about human origins for more than 20 years. My first formal creationist publication was a letter to the editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly about the “Mitochondrial Eve.” Later, I commented on the human genome for ICR [PDF], and the chimp genome for the Creation Biology Society. My most significant work on human origins didn’t begin until around 2009, after all the descriptive papers of the weird fossil Ardipithecus were published.
By that point, I felt my work on baraminology had reached a point where I could start applying those ideas to humans. A baramin is another term for “created kind,” and it comes from the Hebrew terms for create (bara) and kind (min). I’m told by Hebrew scholars that the term really should be minbara or minbaru, but such is the way of neologisms. Baramin as a term was originally proposed in the 1940s, and it’s part of the creationist language now.
I was interested in created kinds because I wanted to expand our ability to recognize them. The basic idea of the kind is that multiple “species” in the modern world could be descended from an original created population. Critics contend that this is a concession to Darwin, but versions of the created kind concept are found in books well before Darwin came on the scene (see my paper on Species Variability and Creationism [PDF]). Traditionally, creationists have followed Frank Marsh’s idea and used hybridization to recognize which species belong to a common baramin. Since the lion and tiger can mate and produce ligers, creationists like me believe that those two cat species belong to a common created kind, descended from the Flood surviviors that came off Noah’s Ark.
The problem with that approach is that you can’t do hybridization with fossils, and those are really some of the most contentious (and interesting) stuff anyway. For example, what do we do with Archaeopteryx and the bird/dinosaur connection? For a really good answer, creationists would want to know how many dinosaur and bird baramins there are, but if you can’t figure out the dinosaur baramins, you would have to try a different approach altogether. So I wanted to figure out how to apply baramin-thinking to the fossil record.
By 2009, I felt I had a good system worked out, and I had written software to automate it. That led to other creationists trying out the process on the critters they were interested in, which was quite gratifying. When the Ardipithecus papers appeared, I began to think again that it was time to revisit human origins, particularly by looking at the fossil record. About the same time, the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, published a set of articles that largely advocated abandoning the historical view of Adam and Eve and instead adopt a sort of theistic evolution perspective (one paper argued for keeping a sort of “historical Adam” without keeping the details of the Genesis narratives about him). Those papers set off a firestorm of controversy, with a Christianity Today cover story, an NPR feature, and a lots of accusations at Calvin College. The “historical Adam” controversy continues to this day.
So the time was ripe, and I put out my first paper in Answers Research Journal on human origins. To my relief and excitement, I found that baraminology did indeed work on humans: I could categorize fossils as human or nonhuman, even though there was supposed to be a nice series of fossils showing the gradual evolution of humans from nonhuman ancestors. My work revealed instead that they grouped in clusters, one of which included modern humans (Homo sapiens). To my surprise, the human kind included things that other creationists didn’t think were human, including the newly-discovered Australopithecus sediba. That result annoyed me, but I figured if that’s what the methods and data are showing, then that’s it.
That paper set off its own little firestorm among other creationists. I quickly discovered that I could say just about anything about beetles or flowers or armadillos, and no one cared. But every creationist has an opinion about human origins, and everyone is ready and willing to share their opinions, whether or not they’re well-informed.
With all the misinterpretations and heated accusations flying around my paper, I began to long for a clearinghouse for reliable, informed perspectives on human origins. I wanted something that would address research on fossils and genomes and the Bible, and something that could cut through the cacophony of less helpful claims. I also wanted something that people could actually understand, unlike most of my technical work.
I hope that’s what this website will become: Reliable, informed, and understandable. Most importantly, Human Genesis should be a guide for the confused. If you’re not quite sure what to think about creationist claims about hominins or human genetics, I hope Human Genesis will help. I also want Human Genesis to be a synthesis of all the disparate facets of human origins. How does the human genome relate to Noah’s Ark? What does Homo naledi have to do the Garden of Eden? How do all these different puzzle pieces fit together? Human Genesis should be a place where we can put together the grand story of the human history.
Human Genesis will be part blog and part website. On the blog, we’ll try to cover the most recent updates and headlines, but the webpages will be updated less regularly as new research is synthesized into the creationist understanding of human origins. The blog will be more “shoot from the hip,” while the webpages will take careful aim at a subject.
The most important message I want you to understand is that exploring human origins is an ongoing quest. Even though creationists recognize “In the beginning God created,” that doesn’t translate to a perfect understanding of genetics or the fossil record or even of the biblical revelation. That’s why Human Genesis is a website and not a book. The content here will change as we make progress in our quest to understand our own origins. I hope you’ll be as captivated by the thrill of discovery as I am.
Todd Charles Wood