6
$\begingroup$

Imagine a world like Earth (same size, distance from a sun-like star, gravity, atmosphere, that went through similar geological periods) but which was truly created by a creator (aka a God).

Due to fossils being discovered very early - the people of this world believed strongly in evolution and the idea of a creator was seen as ludicrous.

That was, until, the Charles Darwin equivalent of this world decided to classify all the species into a taxonomical tree - Because if evolution was a thing, that would mean all animals would share a common ancestor.

Due to the animals of this world being created by a Creator and not by evolution - what he got wasn't a tree, but more or less of a collection of created kinds.

Now the question is:

What is be the best scientific way to create taxonomical ranks for "collections" of living things rather than a " branching tree" of living things?

Example: We use a branching tree of taxonomical hierarchy - Life - Domain - Kingdom - Phylum - Class - Order - Family - Genus - Species

But that sort of taxonomy doesn't seem to work when things don't share common ancestors, because branches would come out from "nowhere".

Here are a couple of rules of the world that might be useful:

  1. Species can evolve from a created kind (aka their DNA can mutate) - So there can be both Created and Evolved snakes

  2. A new Created species simply "appear" and the first generation has non-existing genetic "ancestry" (aka a genetic material of a created species will only lead you as far back as the first generation of that species - you won't be able to trace it any further because there is nowhere to go to)

  3. A collection is not like a genus (aka, two species in it will not always produce viable offspring, a collection is more like a " divine cookie batch" of (not always, but often) similar lifeforms. Like fish - In this world sharks wouldn't be "a fish" per se - they would likely share no links which fish and would be all classed in their own "shark collection" -

Note: To be clear, this question asks what form of Taxonomy hierarchy system would better suit a world in which life is created, not evolved - Because a branching tree wouldn't be suitable if A) complex life can "spring" at any moment.

B) Almost no life form shares "genetic relatives" since they were created uniquely

$\endgroup$
6
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Linnaeus started taxonomy way before Charles Darwin proposed his theories. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 15 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ Oopsie. Should I edit that in? $\endgroup$
    – mkmcnxnx
    Jan 15 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ Even Linnaeus didn't invent taxonomy, he just created the formalised system that we continue to use (more or less) for plants and animals but not minerals (which he included). $\endgroup$ Jan 15 at 18:43
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Kinds" is how Young Earth Creationists explain Noah's ark -- current species evolved normally from what Noah saved. You might get some fun ideas for terms from them. For example, they call taxonomy the "orchard" of life. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 17:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The system you're describing is what creationists in our real world already believe. It's called baraminology. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 20:01

6 Answers 6

2
$\begingroup$

In general, we classify things according to how we perceive them being similar or different. Fish, sharks, and whales, for example, are quite similar. They're cylindrical swimming things that live in the water and use fins for propulsion.

Fish and trees, on the other hand, are quite different. One swims in the water, the other is practically dormant on the land.

Just Use Standard Taxonomies (Mostly)

Genetic taxonomies on Earth would actually suit your world pretty well, if your world basically has a bunch of Earth-like life on it. Things in one taxonomic group, because of the genetic similarity, tend to be suited to similar behaviors in similar environments, and therefore tend to survive that way. You don't see very many mammals flying or swimming because that's quite an evolution to get from walking on land to those places.

Of course, bats and dolphins put a kink in such classifications, but it's not hard to just call bats "birds with teats" and dolphins "weird fish".

Aliens Have Categories

When you start getting into stuff that's very alien, you'll have to use your imagination. But it often becomes easier to create overlapping groups than hierarchies once you start getting too much weirdness.

A bat might be a mammal-bird, while a snake is a land-eel-fish. You go can hog-wild if you want, or just create a couple dozen primary classifications based on Earth life that you shoehorn all your alien things into.

Just Extend Our Taxonomies

Since your world still has evolution with all its charms, the obvious taxonomy is actually the one we already use with one extra at the head:

Variant, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

This "variant" rank categorizes according to which creation event the given species originates in. You might label them by date, location, or both.

If creation events happen a lot, it probably makes sense to trim several ranks off, because most things end up being unnecessary:

Taxonomy with one species in each of two phylums with a lot of unnecessary intermediate steps.

So you end up with a lot of variants that each have two or three ranks.

On the other hand, if only a handful of creation events have ever occurred over millions to billions of years, evolution will be the driving force behind speciation, so you'll end up with a few variants that otherwise have normal-looking taxonomies.

Re-Use of Rank Names

Your scientists will likely be split about whether to re-use common ranks (do multiple variants have an "animal" kingdom) or to use different terms for all of them.

It's more convenient to call all animal-like entities "animals", but less precise. The debate may have inadvertently caused a fire in the opposing group's printing press. I mean, it was clearly caused by magicoso->aldfey->pixies.

However, maybe the creation events spit out a lot of lifeforms, but it actually re-uses a lot of them. The hound from Psinog147 is compatible with the coyote from Barple39 and the fox from Crenatia952. In this case, you'll start getting a lot of creatures that basically are in the same family, so you'd see the classification take that into account.

Your Variants Aren't Genetically Compatible

You mentioned that each creation event has non-compatible species. If you just meant the species can't naturally produce viable offspring (like a wolf and an ostrich), I wouldn't change too much.

If different species can be entirely different forms of life, so even the genetic code is made of different proteins (or even different base elements), you'd probably want more classification ranks. Anything that's got the same base proteins is in a group together and anything with the same base elements is in a group together.

So you could potentially have Variant -> Elemental Group -> Base Proteins -> Kingdom -> Etc. At this point, the "variant" group might more academic than practically significant, and might get dropped as a taxonomy rank, instead being a category of some kind.

As Spitemaster points out in another answer, your creatures with different proteins or base elements might have some weird interactions you can use for flavor or plot points.

For example, silicon-based lifeforms could be toxic to hydro-carbon lifeforms, so non-adapted HC "predators" could end up eating an SI "prey" that ends up digesting the HC dude from the inside out.

Closing Notes

You can mix and match all of these methods as you see fit. You can also use different methods for different kinds of life, or for different cultures in your world.

The biggest thing is to come up with a set of rules on how you want to classify things then stick to them as best you can. When it gets weird, improvise, and don't be afraid to make things that seem wonky. Real life is sometimes wonky too.

$\endgroup$
13
$\begingroup$

Taxonomy was started by Linnaeus way before any concept of evolution was developed by humans, actually in a time where a creating god making the world was the firm belief.

Taxonomy doesn't require evolution to work: it just classifies organisms based on similarities.

It can get help from genetics to assign elements, but it can work fine also without it. At the end it is just a labeling system which poses no constraints on nature.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And the taxonomies were have now are fluid. They change by popular consensus, taking new information into account, and even some branches are "contested" by competing opinions. Taxonomy is a convenience for science more than a science itself. $\endgroup$
    – frеdsbend
    Jan 15 at 18:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure, they were invented before we understood evolution; but it works because of evolution. $\endgroup$ Jan 15 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ @JackAidley: Evolution is certainly the actual reason, because (as we now know for many reasons) evolution is real. But there are many other possible reasons for a basically similar taxonomic structure. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine: Certainly there are other possible reasons, but it won't happen by mere chance. It is not the case that it is "just a labelling system" as L.Dutch claims. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 11:41
13
$\begingroup$

enter image description here

Its Called The Great Chain of Being

In Scholastic Philosophy, all creation was taxonomically organized on a hierarchal framework with God at the very top and descending from Angels to Humans and from Humans to more complex animals all the way down to inert matter. In other words people already did this in the past.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ But that was based on belief of importance, not scientific observations. The question seems to be asking what observationally derived taxonomies support a creation theory. $\endgroup$
    – frеdsbend
    Jan 15 at 18:27
5
$\begingroup$

A bit of a frame challenge:

Why do living organisms need to be different than in the real world? All you need to do is interpret the data differently, as many people do today.

As there's no reason why creatures with similar-looking skeletons need to be from related creatures, the problem ultimately comes down to what a world created recently would look like. Your creator could have buried hydrocarbons (oil) for the use of his creations. Radioactive materials could be found in steadyish-state concentrations to help people learn about physics, if that aligns with your god's purpose.

You can essentially always come up with explanations as to how the world got to be the way it is, and in many cases it requires advanced science to determine that getting from state A to state B is impossible without active intervention. This includes biologically.

To have a "forest" of life rather than a tree, the changes would be subtle. Having irreducible complexity is perhaps the big one - but again, people are very good at coming up with possible ways things could happen, and there'd be doubt as to whether there actually is irreducible complexity.


For a more direct and obvious forest, you can have them biologically incompatible. Have some creatures DNA left-chiral and others right-chiral. Maybe some are silicon-based rather than carbon. Maybe chirality of amino acids is also in play (you could have some creatures be left-DNA and left-protein, others right-DNA and left-protein, etc).

There'd be big consequences of that - a left-protein creature eating a right-protein creature might not get any usable protein, and it would thus be less nutritious. Silicon-based lifeforms might have significantly different characteristics than carbon-based ones (but maybe that's a separate question).

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

According to plenty of people, you're describing the real world. The "tree" works because some animals are similar, because thermodynamics means that originally created kinds tend to separate into species, and... because God just made animals in a way that's conducive to being classified according to "levels" of similarity. (Possibly for reasons of physics, like how there's a size limit on critters without lungs.)

Assuming you want the tree model to not work, what you'd do is have the categories be less well-defined. Large, endothermic invertebrates with lungs. Furry, placental exotherms with avian respiratory systems. Fish with lungs and gills. Mammals that lay eggs. Basically, instead of being able to classify animals according to a hierarchy of features, you have a set of features that are mixed and matched at random. At best, you get something that's still vaguely "tree-like", but rather than staying separate, the branches split and recombine all over the place.

In short, you don't just have one platypus, you have lots of them.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Life is named by Properties, not hierarchy

Since there is nothing in this world keeping a bird from having a turtle shell or a dog from having gills, there is no point in classifying animals in a hierarchal way at all. In our world, taxonomic names are breadcrumbs of that animals linage, but where intelligent design is at play, the closest thing to taxonomic naming that would serve any purpose would be about identifying the organisms properties. Think about how we use words like Producer, Decomposer, Herbivore, or Omnivore to describe an organism's diet. Or Solitary, Pack, or Hive to describe its social structure. Since a lifeform could have any number of properties, we would not have taxonomical names, just fact sheets for tracking things like size, speed, habitate, diet, etc.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing... except for practicality; I don't think a bird with a turtle shell would be able to fly. Turtle with an avian respiratory system, though? Maybe. Personally, I think it's hubris to assume we can design better animals than exist, but OTOH, if your setting isn't entirely serious (which can make for a more interesting and enjoyable setting), that's not a problem. Anyway, this is essentially what I was aiming for with my answer; +1. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Jan 17 at 21:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Matthew Who said it has to be a better design? The whole point of intelligent design is that animals don't have to be 100% practical. Maybe those clumsy flying turtles would not last more than 3 generations on Earth , but if they make God smile, he will make sure sure they have what they need to thrive. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jan 17 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ Fair. My initial thought was an ecosystem designed for optimal function. I guess you're thinking more toward my "not entirely serious / scientifically rigorous" notion. (That said... elephants? Platypuses? 😉) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Jan 18 at 15:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .