Originally Posted on June 20, 2012 by admin
Though it is true that calling a thing by a different name doesn’t change its characteristics, it may alter our ability to communicate about it. Our language ability is the most noticeable characteristic of humanity. In Genesis, 2:19, we read , “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what Adam would name them.—-” Sadly, though, mankind’s pride brought about God’s decision to confuse their language so that they could not communicate easily and would therefore be forced to spread across the land as they had been told to do.
Today a single plant or animal may have many common names, making it difficult to know exactly what we are discussing. As an example of problems this can create, I offer the experience I had in my first attempt at raising spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. I had obtained two tiny caterpillars, content that I had sufficient food to raise them. I had bought what I was told was a “spicebush”, and it had grown large. Unfortunately, it was not the species of “spicebush” required for this kind of caterpillar. As a result, I had to watch the caterpillars slowly starve rather than eat this unacceptable plant. Only afterward did I learn that it was not only the wrong species, but not even the same genus !
Which brings us right to the question of what we mean by “species” and “genus”. In the 18th century, a man named Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) developed a system for the naming (nomenclature) of living things – both plant and animal. Animals, or plants, which share chacteristics to the greatest degree are considered to be of the same species. Those which are very similar, but not enough so as to be of the same species, are classed as the same genus. Farther back is “family”, then “order” , then “class”, then “phylum”, then “kingdom”. In actual practice, the “scientific” name of a plant or animal is usually written as genus, then species and sometimes subspecies. For example, our beautiful luna moth is “Actias luna”. Note that the genus is capitalized, while the species name is in lower case letters. There are other moths of the genus Actias all around the world, and all have roughly similar shapes and most share characteristic wing markings.
While we don’t have to memorize all the different levels of classification in order to describe plants and animals, we should know a few terms beyond species and genus for any biological entity in order to communicate anything about it. For example, the word “lepidoptera” refers to the big group (the order) to which both butterflies and moths belong . Then the lepidoptera are part of the class called “insecta” (the insects), all of which have six jointed legs, three body parts, and an exoskeleton. The insects belong to a bigger group, the “phylum” called “arthropoda”, which just means “jointed legs”. This group contains spiders,and other creatures with jointed legs that are not insects. We also speak of “invertebrates” which just means all animals that have no backbone.
All these words, of course, were just devised to help mankind in his attempt to make order out of what seems, at first glance, to be a chaotic overabundance of life. The only problem with this attempt is that, at its foundation, is the assumption that all life began as a simple chemical reaction which evolved into a living cell, which continued evolving into more and more complex life forms. So the classification of living things becomes an end in itself for many scientists, as their study tends to focus on what they choose to believe each life form evolved from, and why it evolved. The result can be ever increasing confusion, as species, and even genus, names, are constantly being changed based on minute differences in structure. This frustrated me as a child, trying to make my butterfly collection look “scientific” , and finding names being constantly changed. However, the use of these names provides a sort of common language to use in discussing living things, and I will follow the usual practice of giving genus and species names in my posts, as well as common names. For some interesting comments on the general subject of creation and species, you might want to explore the following link http://www.answersingenesis.org/ This site has a number of interesting articles. One which I found to be particularly thought provoking was “God Created Plant Pollinator Partners”.