May 20

Fish Or Whale?

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

(Jonah 1:17) KJV

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,

(Matthew 12:40) KJV

Was Jonah in the belly of a fish or a whale? Is this a contradiction in scripture? Unbelievers hoot with delight at contradictions in scripture because a whale isn’t a fish. Or is it?

In spherogenetic systematics Fish is a higher rank than Whale. The fish of the sea is everything created in the hydrosphere. Whale is a subcategory. The thing that swallowed Jonah was both a fish and a whale.

Phylogenetic Systematics

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

(Romans 1:22-23) KJV

The development and use of cladistic phylogenetic analysis (CPA) is something that we have personal experience with. We learned CPA using parsimony at Duke in 1991. We’ve posted a link to our term paper where we attempted to apply the technique to the fossil taxa Archaeopteris. We learned a lot which we didn’t fully understand until recently.

Archaeopteris (Dawson): A case study in the applicability of phylogenetic analysis to fossil taxa. Cladistic phylogenetic analysis is circular reasoning based on personal bias.

We can say that a whale isn’t a fish if we use a phylogenetic system of classification. However, we’ve pointed out that God’s process of creating, though systematic, wasn’t phylogenetic. Phylogenetic is based on changes at the genetic level which are passed from generation to generation. The taxa being analyzed must be related through ancestry and descent. However, there were no successive generations of offspring in the creative process. God created sequentially more complex iterations of beings.

What we learned is a version of the old computer programming adage: garbage in = garbage out. A computer, no matter how sophisticated, only knows what you tell it. If we want to use a computer to analyze specimens of some kind then the specimen has to be described to the computer in a way that it can understand. For simplicity this is a binary matrix. The idea is that we can identify groups of organisms based on their shared derived characteristics and then code these as a binary matrix from which the computer plots a tree. It’s surprisingly simple, but it immediately butts up against this reality: we’re going to code the matrix according to what we already believe about the organisms.

Here are some direct quotes from our paper in 1991:

  • … representing this variation as a series of species concepts is highly misleading.
  • … a barrier to phylogenetic analysis is the poignant lack of character data.
  • … this has become a case of using parsimony to do phenetic (not phylogenetic) analysis.

Our conclusion was that a computer can only give you a restatement of the hypothesis that you used to code your character state matrix. That means that if you assume that the taxa in the study are the product of evolution, the computer will show you how they evolved.

Spherogenetic Systematics

So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.

(Ezekiel 38:20) KJV

In the case of Jonah’s fish/whale the resolution is very simple. It was both a fish and a whale. The broad divisions of the spherogenetic classification system are stated above by Ezekiel. Three major groupings are mentioned here which correspond to the three terrestrial spheres, and they’re in the correct sequence of creation:

  1. Hydrosphere
    • fishes of the sea (everything in the sea).
  2. Atmosphere
    • fowls of heaven (everything that flies).
  3. Biosphere
    • beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth.

Can we construct a character state matrix based on spherogenetic criterion? This would generate a tree of relationships of the living organisms that’s not based on genetics, but is based on the plan of creation. What could we possibly learn from doing it? We won’t know until we try it.


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