to distinguish similarities due to relatedness from ‘
convergent’ similarities or homoplasies, i.e. those in which creatures
happened to ‘converge’ on the same design, but without any
possible common ancestry (evolution) explanation. 4
From theistic evolution to creation
Despite espousing evolution at the time, he says he was not
I was a ‘theistic evolutionist’. I thought I could simply
place the DNA evidence on a secular time scale. You
could reasonably accuse me of ‘fence sitting’ and
But, he says, he did not think deeply about the ramifications of theistic evolution:
Once it was pointed out to me that it meant the existence of evil and death before Adam and Eve, and was
therefore biblically impossible, I felt quite stupid.
He was also challenged on the science by an astute Bible
teacher. This man pointed out to Jon that the problem was
not with the data, it was the interpretation forced upon it. For
example, he said that the evolutionary ‘family trees’ Jon was
producing for birds proved nothing, since they were generated
by an algorithm (formula) that “is instructed to make a tree. It
will produce a tree out of any numbers you give it.”
Jon was immediately convicted and says:
He was right. How did he figure it out? Part of the
answer was that he studied at Grace Seminary while
Dr John Whitcomb (co-author of the creationist classic
The Genesis Flood) was on the faculty.
Once I got it into my thick skull that Darwinism
is just one more humanistic philosophy from the
Enlightenment, designed to write God out of everything, the battle was over. It’s not even science, it’s
political ideology and demagoguery—end of story. The
Holy Spirit had forced me off the fence. I realized that
young-earth creation (YEC) was the only truth.
Today my view is that old-earth ‘creation’ of any sort
distorts the first 11 chapters of Genesis and, if taken to
the logical conclusion, makes God a liar.
Jon thinks that with the world much more polarized than
when he retired some 20 years ago, life in academia now, as a
biblical creationist, would be much more difficult for him than
when he was an evolutionist. He says, “I wouldn’t last a week
in that environment now.”
DNA and bird kinds
Jon is collaborating with creationist bioresearcher (and
Creation magazine interviewee5) Dr Jean Lightner in seeking
to outline the avian Ark kinds, combining the data from DNA
Fig 3: Charles Sibley (left) and Jon Ahlquist (centre) receiving
the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the US’s National Academy
of Sciences in 1988.
Fig. 2: Airbrush painting by Jon of a silvery-cheeked hornbill
(Bycanistes brevis) after a photo he took at the Berlin Zoo.
Hornbills are renowned for their unique nesting habits, and
live in forests of northeastern and coastal eastern Africa.