Dog Variation

Answer Diane Eager and John Mackay

Some variations in dog size, head shape, coat colour are just normal ranges of variation that occurs in any living thing, including humans.  None of these are evolution.  But what about the extreme and unusual differences that have come about through breeding, such as giant Great Dane vs micro chihuahuas, or flat faces vs normal snouts?  Are such differences the result of evolution?

Let’s be blunt.  We have known for a long time that short snouted dogs such as pugs, Pekinese, bulldogs find it hard to breathe, and therefore have low exercise tolerance and low heat tolerance.  Short legged dogs are prone to joint and spine problems because of their relatively long low-slung body.  Chihuahuas have a hole in their skull and are prone to dislocated kneecaps.  Dalmatians suffer from high uric acid levels, and are prone to bladder stones.  (Humans also suffer from high uric acid levels, which cause gout and kidney stones.)  Even large, apparently robust dogs, like boxers and St Bernards, are prone to bone, joint, heart and thyroid problems. All these are degeneration – the opposite of evolution.

Modern genome studies are finding the genetic basis for some of these problems, and they all involve degenerate changes to individual genes, or muddling of the genome.  For example, short legged dogs have an extra copy of growth factor gene named fgf4.  This disturbs the growth and development of bones, and results in a deformity called chondrodysplasia.  In fact, the presence of chondrodysplasia is one of the breed specifications for many short-legged dogs, including dachshunds, corgis and basset hounds. 

Mutations are considered to be the driving force of evolution, but the many health problems seen in dog breeds serve as a sad reminder that mutations only cause degeneration and loss – the opposite of evolution.  At best, mutations may result in harmless variations, e.g. fur colour; at worst they cause chronic pain and suffering, and susceptibility to deadly diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  The fact that many extreme dog breeds are the result of disease-causing mutations has led to criticism of dog shows, so much so that one vet described them as a “parade of mutants”. 

Those who claim the changes in size and shape of dogs, ranging from Great Danes to chihuahuas, are evolution are using the same tactics as Darwin and colleagues used to convince people that all change is evolution, and therefore all living things evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago.  Darwin bred pigeons, and used the variation in pigeons and domestic animals to promote his theory.  He claimed that if small changes, such those between different breeds of domestic animals and birds, can be observed within a human lifespan, large changes, such as the difference between apes and people, can occur over vast ages.  Darwin’s mentor Charles Lyell had convinced him that long ages really existed, and therefore the demonstration of changes in pigeon breeds appeared to affirm Darwin’s theory that one type of creature had evolved into totally different descendants. 

But Darwin and Lyell had an agenda – to undermine the authority of God’s word.  Lyell stated his aim was to “free the science from Moses”.  (Letter to George Scope, 1830)  Darwin was less forthright in his early years, but later in life commended Lyell for having undermined people’s belief in the early chapters of Genesis, and stated that he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God or that Jesus was the Son of God.  For more details on Darwin’s descent into agnosticism see the article Descent of a Man, PDF here.

Modern day academics are following Darwin’s deception by simplistically defining evolution as “change over time”.  Degeneration is also change over time but it is the opposite of evolution, and the key reason such atheists as Dawkins hate even the word “devolution”.

Defining evolution as “change over time” is an attempt to apply the term ‘evolution’ to any biological process that involves change.  As we have described above, some quite profound changes in body form and function do occur in living things, but they are not evolution.  The only reason to apply the word ‘evolution’ to all biological change is to get people to be open to the idea of evolution from one kind of creature to another, as promoted by Darwin, Dawkins and David Attenborough.  Like it or not, the term ‘evolution’ is firmly fixed in people’s mind to mean living things emerging from non-life, starting with single cells, which then gave rise to all the different animals and plants and involved changing from one kind to another, e.g. dinosaurs to birds, apes to people. 

Sadly, some Christian academics and pastors have taken up this simplistic definition and are persuading their students and congregations to accept the use of the word ‘evolution’ for the types of changes observed in dog breeds over the centuries.  This is both bad science teaching and more importantly bad pastoral teaching.Modern day academics and pastors who claim to believe the Bible but who claim variation and change within species, such as occurs in dogs, to be evolution in action are doing the same damage that Darwin and Lyell started, and Dawkins and Attenborough are continuing. Sadly, they will lead many astray, and undermine the faith of young Christians who are seeking to learn from God’s Word.

Dogged History?

The standard evolutionary story is that domestic dogs evolved when ancestral wolves began hanging around human hunter-gatherer encampments. Then when humans settled down to become farmers the ‘dog’ ancestors stayed with them, and evolved into the all breeds of domestic dogs.  But, let’s put dogs into the Biblical history of the world.

Genesis tells us that everything God created, including dogs, was very good. (Genesis 1:31)  Dogs were created along with all the other land-dwelling animals on the sixth creation day.  They were fully formed dogs, created as a separate kind.  There would have been some variation in size and body form, but no disease or potentially harmful features such as squashed faces or holes in the head. 

Like all animals, dogs were designed to eat plants.  Their tough sharp teeth are observably good for ripping up fruit, nuts and vegetables.  Recent research has confirmed what dog owners have known for a long time – dogs can eat and digest plant matter.  A study of domestic dog genes and wolf genes found domestic dogs have three genes needed to digest starch, which enables them to gain nourishment from a plant diet.  Wolves have fewer copies of one of these genes and less efficient variants of the others, which means it is harder for them to live on a plant diet.  Evolutionists who believe domestic dogs evolved from wolves explained these results as “an adaptations that allowed the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch”.  (Nature 23 January 2013, doi:10.1038/nature11837.)  However, the same genetic findings are better explained by domestic dogs having kept the original genes, and wolves losing some and therefore needing to eat a meat-based diet.

This brings us back to the Biblical history of the world.  The original very good world become corrupt and degenerate following human sin and God’s judgement, initially after Adam sinned, and further after Noah’s Flood.  After the Flood the environment rapidly degenerated, and many of the originally vegetarian animals became predators and scavengers as nutritious plants became scarcer.  Dog who kept their starch digesting enzymes stayed around human settlements and ate a mixed diet.  (Human had been given permission to eat meat as well as plants.)  Dogs with lost or mutated starch digesting genes sought after more meat, and became the scavenging predatory ancestors of wolves.

Domestic dogs were also subject to mutations, and these led to variations in size, body form, coat colour and texture and behaviour.  Some of these, such as small size, floppy ears, long hair, short faces etc. appealed to humans, who deliberately bred them for these features and cared for them.  Thus, the great changes seen in the more extreme dog breeds are the result of mutations and selection, but this is not evolution.  The degenerate features seen in many domestic dogs means they have survived due to ‘unnatural  or artificial selection’ by human beings, who were originally given dominion over the other living things (Genesis 1:28.  Sadly, degenerate human beings have not always used this authority wisely, and have deliberately bred domestic dogs with degenerate features to satisfy their own desires. 

Again, lets be blunt.  The degenerate features of most dogs prevent them living in any evolutionary ‘natural selection’ world.  When “survival of the fittest” rules they would soon be eliminated.

Conclusion 1: There are many differences between dog breeds, and some dogs seem so different from one another it is hard to group them together, yet history and modern genetics proves that they are all actually the one species including the broader list such as wolves jackals, coyotes, and other “wild dogs”.  Certainly, a lot of change has happened over the time dogs and people have been associated, from the time of creation and more so after the flood, but none of it was or is evolution. 

Conclusion 2: There is no need to call difference between dog breeds ‘evolution’ because they can all be explained better by taking the Genesis history seriously. The good to bad to worse degeneration theme is the real descent of man and everything else on planet earth since Adam’s sin, and especially after Noahs flood. So, steer clear of confusing people by using the word ‘evolution’ for what is really variation within kind along with degenerative changes. 

Conclusion 3: Overall, when we look at dog breeds, we can see that change is real, but it is not evolution.  All the changes observed in dogs, including the modern genetic findings, can be explained by taking Genesis seriously.  Those who want to mix evolution with Biblical truth should heed the warning not to add to the word of God, or “He will rebuke you and prove you a liar”.  (Proverbs 30:5-6)

For more information dogs and evolution see the questions:

COYWOLF: The coywolf has appeared within the last century. Has a new species evolved?  Answer here.

DEW CLAWS ON DOGS? Are they evidence of evolution?  Answer here.

Also search for ‘dogs’ on the Creation Research Fact File.

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