Baraminological Analysis of the Picidae (Vertebrata: Aves: Piciformes) and Implications for Creationist Design Arguments

P A Garner


The Picidae (woodpeckers, wrynecks and piculets) comprise a family within the near passerine order Piciformes. Creationists have often appealed to the unique anatomical and behavioural specializations found in woodpeckers as evidence of divine design. However, until now no baraminological studies of the group have been undertaken. This paper reports a baraminic distance correlation analysis of 50 morphological characters (mostly related to hind limb musculature) and 20 taxa (12 picids and eight outgroup taxa). The results show that the woodpeckers, wrynecks and piculets form a well-defined group united by significant positive correlation and separated from seven of the eight outgroup taxa (barbets, toucans and toucanets) by significant negative correlation. The eighth outgroup taxon, the honeyguide Indicator, was neither positively nor negatively correlated with the other taxa in the dataset. The results suggest that all members of the Picidae constitute a single holobaramin. This conclusion is consistent with hybridization data indicating the monobaraminic status of at least eleven genera in six of the nine tribes within the Picidae. Since the picids are holobaraminic, and since not all members of the group possess the full range of “typical” woodpecker characters, this suggests that at least some of these morphological and behavioural traits arose by mediated design during intrabaraminic diversification. This has implications for our understanding of the origin of natural evil (in this case, insectivory) and suggests that standard creationist design arguments concerning woodpecker anatomy and behaviour need to be modified.

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