Species split and Christian interpretation

I’m a youth leader at a church and this is a question written down from a youth member. I myself am a biologist but a recently converted Christian from agnosticism and still seeking answers. Here is the question.

"Is it possible that there used to be less variety of animals and that they evolved (in the sense of change over time and not the theory) from other species split into more diverse and larger variety of species? Would this explain the fossil evidence, and comparative anatomy scientist use to prove evolution (in theory)? If not, is there a Christian interpretation of this evidence?

Hi, William; welcome to the forum!

You’re in the right place to get answers to these questions. Meanwhile - where your student wrote:

…perhaps you should clarify what you think is meant by “(in the sense of change over time and not the theory)”. Maybe I’m just dense and not seeing something, but what distinction is there between “change over time” and “the theory”? If that is referring to evolutionary theory, then maybe you could help us tease apart where the student thinks these are two different things.

I think most here would say that truth is what Christians should and do pursue. Of course others can and do pursue such truths as well, so such pursuit isn’t uniquely Christian. What would make an interpretation uniquely Christian is that we see all reality and its operating mechanisms as ultimately being underneath the Lordship of Christ.

Others will probably chime in with more and different thoughts. Hopefully you will find helpful thoughts to address your questions. We look forward to hearing more from you.

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Welcome @RighteousMan. William, it is tough to know what your student is getting at. The fossil record shows many species that are extinct, and it is thought there are many more extinct species than current species. The idea of fewer species to more diverse species makes me think that your student has been influenced by AIGs imaginative idea of a few species leaving the ark and rapidly differentiating into the species we have today. If that is the case, I think we can state with confidence that there is no fossil evidence that that occurred, and no genetic method known that could accommodate such a rapid evolution of species. For example, there are many more horse species in the fossil record than there are horse species today. With DNA sequencing and analysis, we are learning more about relationships between species and when they diverged, and can state that also does not support many species arising from a few in the recent past, if I am understanding the question.
It is a confusing landscape for youth, particularly if they have both limited understanding of the science and have been taught things that are not accurate. I applaud you in your ministry, and also your student who appears to be seeking honest answers from a difficult place. For many of us, helping develop and maintain a vibrant faith while integrating the wonders science finds in creation is the primary reason we are here.

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It sounds like the student has been exposed to the hyper-speciation ideas put out by creationist groups, and the short answer is no, it’s not possible. @Joel_Duff has some great blog posts on this topic at Naturalis Historia. Here is one, for example:

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