Saturday, January 30, 2016

nephesh chayyah

According to young-earth creationism, there was no animal death before the fall. No predation or carnivory. In order to deny prelapsarian animal mortality, YECs restrict the definition of nephesh chayyah to vertebrates rather than invertebrates. 

In addition, they distinguish between aquatic and terrestrial species, based on the flood account. That was designed to destroy "all flesh," and only terrestrial animals were taken abroad the ark. But there are problems with this argument:

i) To my knowledge, no Hebraist would define nephesh chayyah as a synonym for vertebrate. That invests nephesh chayyah with a more specialized meaning that the term can bear.

ii) It would be arbitrary to posit that terrestrial vertebrates are nephesh chayyah ("living creature," animal), but aquatic vertebrates are not. For instance, it wold be arbitrary to posit that land snakes are nephesh chayyah, but sea snakes are not.

iii) If you deny that invertebrates are nephesh chayyah, then that would be consistent with invertebrate predation and carnivory. 

iv) The classification results in hairsplitting distinctions, where a frog or lamprey is a living creature or animal but an octopus, colossal squid, giant squid, or giant centipede (Scolopendra) is not. What's the principled distinction?

For instance, an octopus is a very impressive piece of bioengineering. Is it less advanced, less sophisticated, than a lamprey or frog?

v) In evolutionary theory, as I understand it, the basic distinction is that invertebrates are more primitive than vertebrates. 

But isn't there are more obvious reason for the distinction? Isn't the distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates related to gravity? Because water supports body weight, there's less need for aquatic species to have a backbone. There are, of course, aquatic vertebrates, but my point is that their natural element allows for design plans that would be infeasible for land animals. 

To take another example, due to their small size and light weight, insects don't need a backbone. By the same token, I don't think an ant the size of a horse would be feasible. 

Likewise, it's not coincidental that the largest animals are aquatic animals (e.g. whales). It's not coincidental that the largest snakes are aquatic snakes (Anaconda). 

It's not that vertebrates are more advanced than invertebrates. Rather, their respective natural element places an upper limit on size and structure.

vi) There are, of course, bony fish and marine mammals. However, an octopus can go places a vertebrate cannot. Likewise, the exoskeleton of a crab enables it to function both in and out of water. So vertebrate and invertebrate designs have respective advantages and disadvantages. 

vii) Finally, there's the principle of plenitude. God rings the changes on different possibilities and combinations. Different design strategies. 


  1. Two things I am becoming certain of are one, "death" was planned before the foundation of the earth and two, Gen 1:11 And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. Sprouting vegetation, plants yielding seed, fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed and all others of this kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species were meant to die leaving their seeds to come alive and live then die off leaving their seeds to come alive and live then die, then live as a Godly natural cycle, for a purpose, to sustain the life of the life of fifth and sixth day creatures. The death that followed the fall is the unnatural death that will cease to continue and cease in a way vegetation was not to cease and reappear. Gen 1:12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

  2. You may find this post and the article it links to interesting:

    Seventh Day Adventism and the Denial of Pre-Fall Animal Death