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

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    $\begingroup$ Linnaeus started taxonomy way before Charles Darwin proposed his theories. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
  • $\begingroup$ Oopsie. Should I edit that in? $\endgroup$
    – mkmcnxnx
  • $\begingroup$ 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). $\endgroup$ yesterday
  • $\begingroup$ The question is quite unclear. For an omnipotent God it's perfectly possible to create the world just as we see it today, without us being all the wiser, with all the fossils and everything placed as we see it. And even so, the question doesn't specify young-earth or old-earth creationism, merely implying the former. According to old-earth creationism (which is accepted by all mainstream monotheistic religions) life did evolve on its own, it's only the laws of physics and the universe itself which was created, including a "spark" to create life which then evolved from there, guided or not. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    8 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ "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. $\endgroup$ 7 hours ago

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.


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.

  • 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
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure, they were invented before we understood evolution; but it works because of evolution. $\endgroup$ yesterday
  • $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$ 14 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$ 13 hours ago

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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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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

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).


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