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Kiwi Migration & Biblical Perspicuity
On the evening of April 20, 1996, nearly 2000 people gathered on the campus of the University of Maine (Orono) for a public debate on the scientific evidence for creation vs. evolution. The debate, featuring Dr. John Anderson of the College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor ME) and Dr. Gary Parker of Answers in Genesis (Florence KY), was co-sponsored by AIIA and CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). During the course of the evening many different issues were raised — among them the matter of how the kiwi bird ever got to New Zealand. Since the ramifications of this question go well beyond the issue itself, in this edition of the Proclamation, we’re offering three excerpts from the actual debate, a novel response from a science instructor in Colorado, and some closing commentary of our own.
Dr. Anderson: “[Noah’s ark] floated around on the waters of the flood and eventually ran aground on Ararat. So at that point all of the creation was gathered together in a single spot on Ararat. Now pray tell me, how do you explain, if all of the plants and animals and birds and fish and mammals all gathered together on a high mountain in Turkey — how is it that some of them reached my homeland of New Zealand, many thousands of miles of desert and mountain and sea between Ararat and New Zealand? And yet those of you who know of New Zealand will know that our national symbol is the kiwi — a small, shy forest bird that is unable to fly and yet is endemic to these islands of New Zealand. From a Biblical perspective this is a rather hard thing to recognize — there’s no mention in the Bible of Noah wandering around dropping things off conveniently on these isolated islands. From an evolutionary standpoint, though, it makes a great deal of sense. Imagine an early proto-kiwi, capable of flight, gradually moving through the islands of Oceania, winding up in New Zealand. And there selection, rather than favoring flight, would tend to select against it. Evolution by natural selection predicts that we will find flightless birds on islands. The story of creation, I think, has a somewhat harder time to reconcile these facts.”
No further reference to this question was made until the very end of the debate. Then, in the final question of the evening, a young lady stood up and asked for Dr. Parker’s response to Dr. Anderson’s earlier charge. His response, along with Anderson’s quick rebuttal, ended the debate.
Dr. Parker: “Strangely enough, I might be willing to agree with Dr. Anderson that the kiwi had another mode of reaching the island, although Thor Heyerdal pointed out that many of the islands were colonized by people carrying things with them on boats and so on. But that that [sic] flightless nature, that kind of loss of information that was there to begin with, is something that can happen. It’s the opposite of evolution, but it can explain some of those kinds of traits.”
Dr. Anderson: “It’s true that humans have colonized the outermost islands, but we know . . . that the Maori, whenever they could find the kiwi ate the kiwi. So the thought of kiwi stowaways on Polynesian canoes boggles the mind. And if you genuinely believe that a flightless kiwi would be able to migrate over any amount of searise and seafall from Mt. Ararat to New Zealand, I’m afraid you will believe anything.”
With that the debate ended, and as the crowd filed out into the night, it seemed that the net result of Dr. Anderson’s final comments was to cast real doubt on a literal interpretation of Genesis 8:15-19 in particular, and on a literal interpretation on the Biblical account of creation in general.
But was it really that simple? What was the real truth about kiwi migration? And what implications does this question have on how we interpret the Bible regarding matters of life and earth origins? We decided to ask Dave Nutting of the Alpha Omega Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado, for an opinion. The simplicity with which Dave unraveled this apparent conundrum was stunning.
Dave Nutting: “Even though I wasn’t there, I suspect that animal migration . . . coupled with land bridges would do it. Also, even though (the kiwis) wouldn’t have been brought as pets, they might have been carried by those who traveled to New Zealand as a food source. This would be like the settlers coming out West with chickens . . . Pheasants originate in China but . . . are all over the USA today.”
There you have it. Just like that. The kiwi migration puzzle is solved. But far more importantly, Scriptural perspicuity survives intact — that is, the case for contending that the Bible can usually be read in a straightforward manner — that it means what it says and says what it means. Even aside from what you may think about how and when life originated, here is an example of the sort of solutions that exist to so many other evolutionary postulates, but that are just not always so readily apparent. It also provides a powerful counterpoint to the charge that people ought not take the Bible so literally when it comes to matters of science.