Valuing God's Variety
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
God likes variety—more variety than we can fully appreciate, even if we had multiple lifetimes to investigate His creation! Here are two proofs: 1) Scripture shows that variety matches God’s divine nature and how He made mankind in His own image, and 2) God’s physical non-human creation shows that God supernaturally selected and favors variety.
Nature displays differences in details of diverse animals, plants, microorganisms, earth’s geophysical environment, and even the innumerable galaxies of outer space.
Being Made in God’s Image Includes Appreciating Variety
Our first clue that God values variety is the Bible’s first verse: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
As noted in previous articles, the Hebrew subject noun translated “God” (Elohîm) is plural, yet its action verb, “created” (bara’), is singular1—our first indication that the Creator-God of the Bible is a plural-yet-one Being. Thus, variety is actually part of God’s plural-yet-one essence! No wonder God appreciates variety—it is part of His divine nature!
Unsurprisingly, God designed variety into humanity when God chose to make Adam and Eve in His own image. The first diversity among humans was the dichotomy of male and female:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)
But the diversity God designed for humanity goes far beyond gender. People belong to different tribes, nations, and genetic-ethnic groups. These varied backgrounds are defined and recognized by myriads of details, including language and appearance, setting the stage for a choir of redeemed humans, selected from multifarious people-groups:
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
God did not limit His provision of diversity to Adam and Eve’s extended family. God programmed variety into animals (platypuses and plesiosaurs), plants (pansies and pines), and tiny microorganisms (Paramecium protozoa and Pseudomonas bacteria). Also, non-living components of God’s creation display geophysical diversity (glaciers and granite, fjords and felsenmeer, snowflakes and sand dunes) and even astrophysical diversity (planets and pulsars, supernovas and spiral galaxies). God’s vast display of diversity in creation demonstrates how much He prizes variety.
Biodiversity: From Eden’s Garden, to Noah’s Ark, to the Earth of Today
“Biodiversity” is the scientific word used to summarize the variety of life forms on earth. Noah’s Ark, which God used to caringly preserve the genetic potential for post-Flood biodiversity, is proof that God loves biodiversity.
In fact, the countless variations that God designed and built into plants, animals, and microorganisms utterly exhausts the imaginations and observation capabilities of even the most learned empirical scientists.
How does God showcase variety in the animal kingdom? Think alphabetically: aardvarks, bears, coyotes, dinosaurs, echinoderms, frogs, geese, hyenas, ice worms, jellyfish, kangaroos, lions…and zebras!
Different animal types are recognized by morphological (body structure) distinctives.2 Some are quadrupeds (minks, marmots, muskrats, and mice). Others have two feet and two wings (roosters, ratites, and red-winged blackbirds). Others have fins or flippers (seals, sharks, salmon, and swordfish). Others have prehensile trunks or tentacles (elephants and octopi). Others live in shells (snails, shrimp, and snapping turtles). Still others have tube-shaped bodies (cutworms, caterpillars, and copperheads).
Different reproductive habits exhibit variety in animals. Some lay eggs, while others do not. Gestation times and litter sizes vary.
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus—reindeer) usually mate in summer or fall, producing one baby the following spring or summer.3 Yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) usually mate in spring, producing a litter of two to five babies about a month later.3 Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) usually mate in summer, with a million-plus fertilized eggs hatching about four months later.4
The contrasting reproductivity of codfish and chickens has been observed and humorously heralded in this poem:
The codfish lays a thousand eggs
the homely hen but one.
The codfish never cackles
to tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish
while the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you
that it pays to advertise.5
Consider these different instinctive or learned behaviors: arctic terns migrate from the arctic to the antarctic and back; octopi use on-and-off camouflage; schools of fish swim in choreographed harmony; parrots mimic human speech and other sounds; bears hibernate in winter; marmots whistle to one another; sleeping hummingbirds slow their metabolic rates; prairie dogs tunnel; pregnant lobsters become aggressive; loggerhead shrikes impale their prey; and eagles wait for rising thermal air currents (as if they were elevators).
Different habitats constitute year-round or seasonal domiciles for God’s animal creatures: jungle, glacier, desert, bog, swamp, juniper-pinyon “pygmy” forest, prairie, tundra, taiga, ocean, pond, canyon, river, estuary, saltmarsh, island, and more.
Likewise, a survey of the plant kingdom illustrates God’s appreciation for variety: evergreen and deciduous trees, cacti, shrubs, flowers, grasses, legumes, root vegetables, herbs, and mosses. Flowers alone provide more than a lifetime of opportunities to investigate and appreciate variety.
Even humble microorganisms—unseen by unaided human eyes—exhibit God’s creative provision of innovative details and uncountable differences. Careful microscopy is required just to glimpse these little wonders—bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Miniature galaxies of eukaryotic cell organelles and infrastructure details become visible with light microscopes, transmission electron microscopes, and scanning electron microscopes.
Who Did the “Selection” in Nature?
But the biodiversity we see today does not match evolutionary predictions. Evolutionary assumptions imagine a scenario in which all life forms, gradually branching off from common ancestors, somehow end up as a biotic community that amounts to one big family reunion with everything and everyone being interlinked “cousins.” But reality is different—sharp biodiversity boundary lines between created kinds exist, and the “missing links” between intra-breedable kinds are still missing. If Darwin-presumed “missing links” ever really existed, why are they still missing?6
Canines (dogs, coyotes, wolves, and foxes) are genetically compatible—they can all interbreed. Likewise, bears (black bears, grizzlies, and even polar bears) can interbreed. But canines and bears cannot—there’s no common ancestor “link” here!
If evolution were really true, as evolutionists imagine, the earth should be inundated with common-ancestry “transitional forms,” evidenced by both fossils and living life forms with no sharp biodiversity boundaries between the inter-breedable kinds.6
However, the real world of nature (as shown by fossils and by today’s biotic communities) corroborates the Bible’s account of biodiversity—including the historic fact that the greatest biodiversity conservation project ever was the preservation of “kinds” aboard the good ship Ark.7
God’s appreciation for variety is “clearly seen” in His creation. So when it comes to earth’s biodiversity, vivent les differences—because God loves variety!
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Biblical Truth in High Definition. Acts & Facts. 41 (8): 9-10.
- Taxonomy is the empirical science of observing, analyzing, and categorizing living things, but these categorizations are vulnerable to limitations of human arbitrariness and subjective preferences (e.g., “lumpers” versus “splitters”), sometimes to the skewed extreme of evidencing political biases. Lepidopterist Harry Zirlin observes: “In the spring of 2005, two taxonomists…named three newly described slime-mold beetles after President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Although the two taxonomists insisted that they intended it as an honor for these men to have their names attached to posterity to three species of slime-feeding beetles in the genus Agathidium (A. bushi; A. cheneyi; and A. rumsfeldi) there was nevertheless some snickering in the press.” Zirlin, H. 2007. Taxonomists Just Wanna Have Fun: When Good Taxonomists Go Bad. American Butterflies. 15 (1/2): 58.
- Hayssen, V., A. van Tienhoven, and A. van Tienhoven. 1993. Asdell’s Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 390-415 (caribou), 463-489 (marmot).
- Bliss, D. 1990. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs: Their Fascinating Life Story. New York: Columbia University Press, 134-135.
- Kurlansky, M. 1998. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. London: Penguin Books, 29.
- Morris, J. 2006. What’s a Missing Link? Acts & Facts. 35 (4); Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. The Evidence of Nothing: The Silent Witness of Evolution’s Missing Links. Acts & Facts. 37 (4): 4-5.
- Genesis 6-9.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Valuing God’s Variety. Acts & Facts. 41 (9): 8-9.