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New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving

Classification of Living Things

Here is an abbreviated classification or taxonomy of all the organisms presented in this website, as well as a few others of interest. This is not meant to be a complete listing of all living things, nor even a completely correct one, since these classifications change as new theories come into favor. One should realize that every one of the groupings presented below is a judgment call representing collective scientific opinion, rather than a hard fact.

The classification of living things into groups depends not only on their differences and similarities, but also on the degree to which they are studied and understood. For example, lesser-studied types such as mollusks tend to be lumped together into broad classifications, while popular and easily-studied types tend to be divided into fine distinctions. For a prime example of this, pick up any field guide on birds, and see how many Warblers there are in it. Birds are widely considered to be "over-split" - divided into many different species and families that are really not different. Coincidentally, bird-watching is an extremely popular pastime among scientists and laymen alike. Conversely, mollusks are probably "under-split", but then mollusk-watching is no fun at all.

As you move to the right in this outline, the groupings become progressively more specific. In addition, there is a great deal more detail in some areas than others. It would be incorrect to infer from this that one group, say fishes, is much more diverse than another, say insects. Insects are the most numerous creatures on earth in terms of species, but here they occupy only 8 lines, because they are of little interest to scuba divers in the North Atlantic, while fish, on the other hand, occupy fully half of the listing. See below for further explanations of the system of taxonomic classification.

- nonliving material - coast, bottom, water, weather, pollution

- there is no general agreement as to whether or not viruses qualify as living

Kingdom Monera - bacteria - single-celled / colonial, no cell nuclei
Eubacteria - "new" or modern bacteria
Cyanobacteria - Blue-Green Algae - photosynthetic

Kingdom Protista - single- and multi- cellular organisms, cells with nuclei
Phylum Rhizopoda - amoebas - animal-like, mobile
Phylum Ciliophora - parameciums - animal-like, mobile
Phylum Dinoflagellata - dinoflagellates - both animal and plant-like, mobile
Phylum Euglenophyta - euglenoids - both animal and plant-like, photosynthetic, mobile
Phylum Chrysophyta - yellow algea & diatoms - plant-like, photosynthetic
Phylum Phaetophyta - Brown Algea, kelps, Sargassum - plant-like, photosynthetic
Phylum Chlorophyta - Green Algea - plant-like, photosynthetic
Phylum Rhodophyta - Red Algea - plant-like, photosynthetic
Phylum Myxomycota - slime molds - fungus-like

Kingdom Plantae - true plants - multicellular, distinct roots, stems & leaves, photosynthetic
Division Bryophyta - mosses - very simple seedless plants
Division Pterophyta - ferns - higher seedless plants
Division Coniferphyta - conifers - non-flowering seed plants ( pines, etc )
Division Spermatophyta - flowering plants
Class Monocotyledones - Grasses, Water-Weeds, and most non-woody plants
Class Dicotyledones - most trees and woody plants

Kingdom Fungi - mushrooms, molds, etc, multicellular, non-photosynthetic

Kingdom Animalia ( Metazoa ) - multicellular, mobile, non-photosynthetic

Phylum Porifera - Sponges - no true organs or tissues, digestive system, sexes

Phylum Cnidaria - radially symmetric, stingers, simple nerve net, separate sexes
Class Hydrozoa - Hydroids, Hydromedusae, Man'O'War
Class Scyphozoa - Jellyfishes - mobile medusa stage predominant
Class Anthozoa - sessile polyp stage predominant, medusa almost absent
-- Sub-Class Actineria - Sea Anemones - soft-bodied polyps
-- Sub-Class Octocorallia - soft corals - Sea Pens, Sea Whips
- -Sub-Class Schleractinia - hard corals - mainly tropical

Phylum Ctenophora - Comb Jellies - bilaterally symmetric, biolumenescent, cilia

Phylum Bryozoa - "Moss Animals" - very common, no clear relationship to other groups

Phylum Rotifera - rotifers - microscopic freshwater "wheel animals"

Phylum Platyhelminthes - flatworms, tapeworms, flukes - no circulatory system

Phylum Nematoda - roundworms - no circulatory system

Phylum Nemertina - proboscis worms - heartless circulatory system

Phylum Annelida - segmented worms - fully developed body cavity & heart
Class Oligochaeta - earthworms - mostly terrestrial, some aquatic and/or marine
Class Polychaeta - Clam Worms, Fan Worms - marine
Class Hirudinea - leeches - parasitic / predatory, freshwater only

Phylum Mollusca - mollusks - hard calcareous external shells
Class Polyplacophora - chitons - primitive 8-segment shell
Class Gastropoda - single conical or coiled shell or shell-less
-- Sub-Class Prosobranchia - marine snails, Slipper Shells, limpets - no operculum
-- Sub-Class Pulmonata - freshwater & land snails - operculum, lungs
-- Sub-Class Opisthobranchia - sea slugs, nudibranchs, sea butterflies
Class Bivalvia - 2-part shell, filter-feeders
-- Sub-Class Pteriomorpha - Mussels, Oysters, Scallops
-- Sub-Class Heterodonta - Clams, Teredos, Zebra Mussels
Class Cephalopoda - Squids, octopus - reduced shell, intelligent, carnivorous

Phylum Chelicerata - no antennae or jaws
Class Arachnida - spiders, ticks, scorpions - book lungs
Class Merostomata - Horseshoe Crab - book gills

Phylum Arthropoda - hard calcareous exoskeleton, jointed legs

Class Insecta - insects - no true lungs, gills, claws, single pair of antennae, terrestrial
Order Coleoptera - beetles - fore-wings hardened into wing covers, grub-like larvae
Order Diptera - true flies, mosquitos - two wings, grub-like larvae
Order Hemiptera - true bugs, larvae resemble adults, generally soft-bodied
Order Odonata - dragonflies & damselflies - four wings beat in opposite pairs
Order Plecoptera - stoneflies - aquatic larvae
Order Trichoptera - caddisflies - aquatic larvae
There are 29 Orders of insects. Only those that are aquatic are listed here.

Class Crustacea - clawed appendages, two pairs of antennae, gills
  Sub-Class Branchiopoda - Water Fleas, Tadpole Shrimps
  Sub-Class Cirripedia - Barnacles, Goose Barnacles
  Sub-Class Copepoda - copepods, fish lice, Ribbon Lice
  Sub-Class Amphipoda  - Gammarus, Skeleton Shrimp
  Sub-Class Malacostraca - higher crustaceans
Order Isopoda - Isopods - flattened
Order Decapoda - "10 leggers"
- -Infra-Order Palinura - spiny lobsters - no claws at all, antennae used as pokers
-Infra-Order Caridea - Shrimps - no large claws
  Infra-Order Astacidea - Lobsters, Crayfish - 3 sets of claws, first set large
-Infra-Order Anomura - Hermit Crabs, Mole Crabs - intermediate types
- -Infra-Order Brachyura - true crabs - 1 set of claws, greatly reduced tail
Order Stromatopoda - Mantis Shrimps - 8 pairs of legs

Phylum Echinodermata - 5-way body symmetry, water vascular system, tube feet
Class Asteroidea - Sea Stars ( Starfish ) - 5 or more arms
Class Ophiuroidea - Brittle Stars - more delicate in appearance and construction
Class Echinoidea - Sea Urchins & Sand Dollars - hard external skeleton, no arms
Class Crinoidea - sea lilies - sessile upsidedown starfish, declining as a group
Class Holothuridea - Sea Cucumbers - wormlike, leathery skins

Phylum Chordata - hollow dorsal nerve cord (notochord), post-anal tail

Sub-Phylum Urochordata - Sea Squirts & tunicates - notochord only in mobile larvae

Sub-Phylum Vertebrata - flexible internal skeleton, brain encased in cranium

Class Agnatha - lampreys & hagfishes - cartaliginous skeleton, no paired fins or jaws

Class Chondrichthyes - cartaliginous fishes - true jaws & teeth, cartaliginous skeleton
--Sub-Class Holocephalii - Rabbitfishes, Chimeras - fixed upper jaw
--Sub-Class Elasmobranchii - both jaws moveable, ~800 species
Super-Order Squatinomorphi - 6-gill sharks - primitive deepwater sharks
Super-Order Galeomorphi - 5-gill sharks - dominant group - 75% of all sharks
--Order Lamniformes - typical sharks
Family Alopidae - Thresher Sharks
Family Lamnidae - "Mackerel Sharks" - Great White, Mako, Basking, Porbeagle
Family Carcharhinidae - "Requiem Sharks" - Tiger, Bull, Blue, Smooth Dogfish
Family Odontaspididae - Sand Tiger
Family Orectolobidae - Nurse Sharks
Family Rhincodontidae - Whale Shark
Family Scyliorhinidae - "Cat Sharks" - Chain Dogfish
Family Sphyrnidae - Hammerhead Sharks
--Order Sqaliformes - Spiny Dogfishes, Angel Sharks
Super-Order Batoidea - skates, rays, sawfishes, guitarfish
--Order Rajiformes - bottom-dwelling shellfish eaters
Family Dasyatidae - Stringrays
Family Myliobatidae - Rays
Family Rajidae - Skates
Family Torpedinidae - Electric Rays
Family Mobulidae - manta rays - filter-feeders

Class Osteichthyes - bony fishes - true jaws & teeth, skeleton, swim bladder
-- Sub-Class Sarcopterygii - lungfishes, coelocanth
-- Sub-Class Actinopterygii - ray fins
Infra-Class Chondrostei - sturgeons & paddlefishes - ~25 species
Infra-Class Neopterygii - "modern" fishes
--Division Holostei - gars, bowfin - short grasping jaws, lungs, ~25species
--Division Teleostei - extensible mouths, flexible fins, ctenoid scales, ~17k species
Cohort Taenipaedia - leptocephalous ( "leaf-like" ) larva
Order Anguilliformes - eels
Family Anguillidae - freshwater eels - American Eel - paired pectoral fins
Family Congridae - saltwater eels - Conger Eel - paired pectoral fins
Family Muraenidae - moray eels - no paired fins
Order Elopiformes - tarpons & bonefishes ( classification debatable )
Cohort Clupeocephala - swim bladder connected to skull to improve hearing
Order Clupeiformes - salt and fresh-water plankton feeders
Family Clupeidae - Herrings, Shad, Sardines - short protruding lower jaw
Family Engraulidae - Anchovies - long overhanging snout
Cohort Euteleostei - "true teleosts"
--Super-Order Protoacanthopterygii - not-quite-modern fishes
--- Order Esociformes - Pikes, Mudminnows
--- Order Salmoniformes - Trouts, Salmons, Smelts
--Super-Order Ostariophysi - dominant freshwater group
--- Order Cypriniformes - toothless jaws, teeth in throat, ~2500 species
Family Catostomidae - Suckers
Family Cyprinidae - Minnows, Carps, Goldfish
--- Order Characiformes - "tetras" - popular aqurium fishes
--- Order Siluriformes - catfishes
--Super-Order Paracanthopterygii - spineless fins
--- Order Batrachoidiformes - Toadfishes
--- Order Gadiformes - Cods, Hakes, Cusks, Burbot
--- Order Ophidiformes - Cusk Eels
--- Order Lophiiformes - Goosefish, Sargassumfish
--Super-Order Scopelomorpha
--- Order Aulopiformes - Inshore Lizardfish, deep-sea gulpers
--Super-Order Acanthopterygii - spiny rayed fishes, ~10,000species
Order Atheriniformes -Silversides
Order Cyprinodontiformes - Killyfish, Needlefish, livebearers, flying fishes
Order Gasterostiformes
Family Gasterostidae - Sticklebacks
Family Syngnathidae - Pipefishes, Seahorses - pipe-like suctioning mouths
Order Pleuronectiformes - flatfish
Family Bothidae - lefteye flounders
Family Pleuronectidae - righteye flounders
Family Soleidae - Soles
Order Scorpaeniformes - ~1, 100species
Family Cottidae - Sculpins - mostly freshwater
Family Scorpaenidae - Sea Ravens, Lionfish, Rockfishes, Scorpionfishes
Family Triglidae - Sea Robins, Gurnards
Order Tetraodontiformes - teeth fused into bony chisels, tough leathery skin
Family Diodontidae - Burrfishes - large spines, "2-teeth"
Family Tetraodontidae - Puffers - small spines, "4-teeth"
Family Balistidae - Triggerfishes, Filefishes
Family Ostraciidae - Trunkfishes
Family Molidae - Molas ( Ocean Sunfish )
Order Perciformes - perch-like fishes, "ruling perches", ~ 7000 species
Family Ammodytidae - Sand Lances
Family Blenniidae - Blennies
Family Carangidae - Jacks, Scads, Rudderfish
Family Centrarchidae - freshwater Sunfish & Basses ( N. America only )
Family Chaetodontidae - Butterflyfishes
Family Cichlidae - cichlids - popular aquarium fishes
Family Ephippidae - Spadefish
Family Gobiidae - Gobies
Family Holocentridae - Squirrelfishes
Family Labridae - wrasses - Blackfish, Cunner, tropical parrotfishes
Family Malacanthidae - Tilefish
Family Mugiloidae - Mullets, Barracudas
Family Percicthyidae - Striped Bass, WhitePerch - temperate basses
Family Percidae - Darters, Walleye, "true perches" - freshwater
Family Pomatomidae - Bluefish
Family Scianidae - Drums, Kingfishes, Spot
Family Scombbroidei - Mackerels, Tunas, billfishes
Family Serranidae - Black Sea Bass, Scamp - sea basses
Family Sparidae - Porgies, Scup, Sheepshead
Family Uranoscopidae - Stargazers
Family Xiphiidae - Swordfish
Family Zoarcidae - Eelpouts, Gunnels
There are many, many more families in this order.

Class Amphibia - cold-blooded tetrapods, egg-laying, partially terrestrial
Order Anura - frogs, toads - tailless
Order Caudata - salamanders, newts, sirens

Class Reptilia - cold-blooded tetrapods, egg-laying, fully terrestrial
Order Crocodylia - crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc
Order Squamata - lizards, snakes
Order Testudines - turtles, sea turtles

Class Aves - birds - warm-blooded egg-laying flight-adapted tetrapods with feathers
Order Anseriformes - waterfowl - ducks, geese
Order Apodeformes - swifts, hummingbirds
Order Charadriiformes - gulls, terns, sandpipers, plovers
Order Ciconiiformes - herons, bitterns
Order Falconiformes - hawks, eagles, vultures, osprey
Order Pelecaniformes - pelicans, cormorants, gannets, boobies

Class Mammalia - mammals - warm-blooded tetrapods with hair and mammary glands
Order Carnivora - carnivores - canines, felines, bears, raccoons, weasels, seals
Order Cetacea - whales, dolphins, porpoises
Order Primates - monkeys, apes, humans
Order Rodentia - rodents - rats, mice, muskrat, beaver
Order Sirenia - manatees, dugongs
- - - -   --



This is the largest unit of classification. Initially it was thought that there were only two kingdoms, plants and animals. Eventually microscope and other tools helped clarify the existence of other types of organisms. Now, there are a total of 5 Kingdoms:

Phylum / Division

Phylum is the next most specific unit of classification. This further divides each Kingdom into 20 or so divisions based on very distinct and defining characteristics. For example, within the Animal Kingdom, a major phylum is Chordata - animals with notochords. This includes humans, fish, mammals, etc.

For historical reasons, the Plant Kingdom is separated at this level into Divisions, while all other Kingdoms are separated into Phylums. The two levels are equivalent.


This further classifies the organism, separating them into categories that make them very similar in terms of certain basic features. For example, within Phylum Chordata, the class Mammalia includes all animals that breast-feed, which includes humans, cows, dolphins, etc. Another class would be Reptilia, which includes cold-blooded and scaled animals.


Organisms of the same Order are more similar that that of the same Class. A lot of obvious evolutionary connections can be drawn from looking at the Order; only a few features separate the organisms as a breaking in the evolutionary chain. One example is that within the class Mammalia, carnivores are separated into the order Carnivora while Insect-eaters are separated into the order Insectivora.


Even more specific, the animals within this share a very close similarity between each other. Most will probably have the same behavior patterns, feeding habits, and general functions. An example is within the Order Carnivora the Cat Family ( Felidaes ) which all have whiskers, sharp claws, and include animals such as Lions and House Cats.

Genus / Species

Genus is the part that makes up the first word of the binomial nomenclature of an organism. All the organisms within their genus may look very similar to each other. And although it is at most times not healthy, organisms of the same genus may breed with each other.

The most specific unit of classification is the species. The species makes up all the organisms and their apparent ancestors and descendants. Members of the species are much similar to their parents and can freely breed with other members of the same species without much complication.


History of Classification

Originally, when Linnaus founded taxonomy, organisms were divided based on solely visible physical characteristics. Now they're separated based on any unique and defining features, mainly external physical features and secondarily based on other features such as feeding habits.

Each organism's scientific name is based on a binomial nomenclature in which an organism has two words to it's name. The first word is the genus and the second word is the species. For example, humans are scientifically called Homo sapiens - genus Homo, species sapiens. The words that make up the names for the individual groups of taxonomy are based on the Greek or Latin language. This makes for a universal language throughout the world. Otherwise an English scientist mentioning a "cat" to a Chinese person would be misunderstood because of language differences.

There are international commissions that help filter and record an updated listing of the classifications. Some names are based on the equivalent characteristics of the organism in Latin, or they could have no meaning at all and are just named after their founder.

Underlying Mechanisms

No discussion of classification would be complete without some discussion of the underlying theories of how species arise, and what makes them related. These fall into two camps: evolution, and creation. In the interest of fairness, both are presented here, along with a few other ideas. No endorsement of any particular view should be assumed in this listing.


Evolution is the concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution. Inorganic evolution, on the other hand, is concerned with the development of the physical universe from unorganized matter. Organic evolution, as opposed to belief in the special creation of each individual species as an immutable form, conceives of life as having had its beginnings in a simple primordial protoplasmic mass ( probably originating in the sea ) from which, through the long eras of time, arose all subsequent living forms.

Early theories

Evolutionary concepts appeared in some early Greek writings, e.g., in the works of Thales, Empedocles, Anaximander, and Aristotle. Under the restraining influence of the Church, no evolutionary theories developed during some 15 centuries of the Christian era to challenge the belief in special creation and the literal interpretation of the first part of Genesis; however, much data was accumulated that was to be utilized by later theorists. With the growth of scientific observation and experimentation, there began to appear from about the middle of the 16th century glimpses of the theory of evolution that emerged in the mid 19th century. The invention of the microscope, making possible the study of reproductive cells and the growth of the science of embryology, was a factor in overthrowing hampering theories founded in false ideas of the reproductive process; studies in classification ( taxonomy or systematics ) and anatomy, based on dissection, were also influential.

Linnaeus, in his later years, showed an inclination toward belief in the mutability of species as a result of his observations of the many variations among species. Buffon, on the basis of his work in comparative anatomy, suggested the influence of use and disuse in molding the organs of vertebrate animals. Lamarck was the first to present a clearly stated evolutionary theory, but because it included the inheritance of acquired characteristics as the operative force of evolution, his whole theory was ridiculed and discredited for many years.


Although special creation of each species was the prevalent belief even among scientists in the first half of the 19th century, the evidence in favor of evolution had by that time been uncovered. It remained for someone to assemble and interpret the evidence and to formulate a scientifically credible theory. This was accomplished simultaneously by A. R. Wallace and Charles Robert Darwin, who set forth the concepts that came to be known as Darwinism. In 1859 appeared the first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species. The influence of this evolutionary theory upon scientific thought and experimentation cannot be overestimated. In the years following the promulgation of Darwin's theory of evolution, many accepted and many denied its validity.

The theory found an opposing force in some religious creeds that declared it incompatible with their basic tenets. For a time evolution, sometimes falsely interpreted as meaning human descent from monkeys rather than descent from an ancient and extinct ancestor, became a target for attack by both church and educational authorities. Feeling ran high even as late as the time of the Scopes trial. Nevertheless, the theory of evolution became firmly entrenched as a scientific principle, and in most creeds it has been reconciled with religious teachings. Some Christian fundamentalists, however, do not accept the theory and have striven to have biblical creationism taught in the schools as an alternative theory.

Modern Evolutionary theory

Evolutionary theory has undergone modification in the light of later scientific developments. As more and more information has accumulated, the facts from a number of fields of investigation have provided corroboration and mutual support. Evidence that evolution has occurred still rests substantially on the same grounds that Darwin emphasized; comparative anatomy, embryology, geographical distribution, and paleontology. But additional recent evidence has come from biochemistry and molecular biology, which reveals fundamental similarities and relations in metabolism and hereditary mechanisms among disparate types of organisms. In general, both at the visible level and at the biochemical, one can detect the kinds of gradations of relatedness among organisms expected from evolution.

The chief weakness of Darwinian evolution lay in gaps in its explanations of the mechanism of evolution and of the origin of species. The Darwinian concept of natural selection is that inheritable variations among the individuals of given types of organisms continually arise in nature and that some variations prove advantageous under prevailing conditions in that they enable the organism to leave relatively more surviving offspring. But how these variations initially arise or are transmitted to offspring, and hence to subsequent generations, was not understood by Darwin. The science of genetics, originating at the beginning of the 20thcentury with the recognition of the importance of the earlier work of Mendel, provided a satisfactory explanation for the origin and transmission of variation. In 1901, DeVries presented his theory that mutation, or suddenly appearing and well-defined inheritable variation ( as opposed to the slight, cumulative changes stressed by Darwin ), is a force in the origin and evolution of species. Mutation in genes is now accepted by most biologists as a fundamental concept in evolutionary theory. The gene is the carrier of heredity and determines the attributes of the individual; thus changes in the genes can be transmitted to the offspring and produce new or altered attributes in the new individual.

Still-prevalent misunderstandings of evolution are the beliefs that an animal or plant changes in order to better adapt to its environment - for example, that it develops an eye for the purpose of seeing - and that actual physical competition among individuals is required. Since mutation is a random process, changes can be either useful, unfavorable, or neutral to the individual's or species' survival. However, a new characteristic that is not detrimental may sometimes better enable the organism to survive or leave offspring in its environment, especially if that environment is changing, or to penetrate a new environment - such as the development of a lung-like structure that enables an aquatic animal to survive on land, where there may be more food and fewer predators.


Creationism or creation science is the belief in the biblical account of the creation of the world as described in Genesis, a characteristic especially of fundamentalist Protestantism. Advocates of creationism have campaigned to have it taught in U.S. public schools along with the theory of evolution, which they dispute. In 1981, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law requiring the teaching of creationism, holding it to be religious in nature; a similar Louisiana law was overturned in 1982. In 1999, supporters of creationism in Kansas succeeded in removing the requirement that evolution be taught as part of the state's high school biology curriculum, but after several supporters of the measure were not reelected to the state school board that decision was reversed in 2001. Fundamentalist Christians have also opposed the teaching of scientific theories concerning the formation of the universe.

Michelangelo - "The Creation of Adam"
Fresco Detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

-- from the Bible

Nearly all denominations of Christianity assert that God is the origin, the first cause. The Roman Catholic Church holds as an unchangeable tenet of Christian faith, that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". Here, creation is described as an absolute beginning, which includes the assertion that the very existence of the universe is contingent upon a necessary higher being, a God who is not himself created. Therefore the doctrine of biblical creation places the knowledge of God central in the pursuit of the knowledge of anything, for everything comes from God. Nevertheless, this view does not mandate the concept of special creation; it says nothing about the mechanism by which any thing was created.

Judaism has a continuum of views about creation, the origin of life and the role of evolution in the formation of species. The major Jewish denominations, including many Orthodox Jewish groups, accept evolutionary creationism or theistic evolution. The contemporary general approach of Judaism, excepting Orthodox traditions, is to not take the Torah as a literal text, but rather as a symbolic or open-ended work. As far as Orthodox Jews, who seek to reconcile discrepancies between science and the Bible, go, the notion that science and the Bible should even be reconciled through traditional scientific means is questioned. To these groups, science is as true as the Torah and if there seems to be a problem, our own epistemological limits are to blame for any apparent irreconcilable point.

Although phrased differently, this doctrine of creation is common in many branches of other religions. The strictness to which adherents are required to accept these views, and the sense in which these definitions are official, vary widely.

The Hindu religion has an especially interesting creation story:

This is not the first world, nor is it the first universe. There have been and will be many more worlds and universes than there are drops of water in the holy river Ganges. The universes are made by Lord Brahma the Creator, maintained by Lord Vishnu the Preserver and destroyed by Lord Shiva. Since the universes must be destroyed before they can be recreated, Lord Shiva is called the Destroyer and Re-creator. These three gods are all forms of Supreme One and part of the Supreme One. The Supreme One is behind and beyond all.

After each old universe is destroyed nothing is left but a vast ocean. Floating on this ocean, resting on the great snake Ananta, is Lord Vishnu. Some say that a lotus flower springs from his navel and from this comes Lord Brahma. And it is from Lord Brahma that all creation comes.

How does Lord Brahma create? Some tell of how he grows lonely and splits himself in two to create male and female. Then he becomes one again and human beings are created. In the same way he creates all the other living things, from the great animals to the tiniest insects.

Others say that everything comes from different parts of Lord Brahma's body. All the different animals and all the people come from his mouth, arms, thighs and feet. Everything comes from one - Lord Brahma, who is part of the Supreme One - so everything is part of the Supreme One. For this universe, this world and this Lord Brahma, like all those before and all those to come, will be destroyed by Lord Shiva.

How long is the life of a universe? Its length is beyond imagination. One day to Lord Brahma is longer than four thousand million of the years that we know. Every night when Lord Brahma sleeps the world is destroyed. Every morning when he awakes it is created again. When the Lord Brahma of this universe has lived a lifetime of such days the universe is completely destroyed by Lord Shiva. Then everything disappears into the Supreme One. For an unimaginable period of time chaos and water alone exist. Then once again Lord Vishnu appears, floating on the vast ocean. From Lord Vishnu comes forth Lord Brahma of the new universe and the cycle continues for ever.

[ So we are all parts of God -- editor ]

Other Ideas

Intelligent Design is the concept that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." Its leading proponents, all of whom are affiliated with the Discovery Institute, say that intelligent design is a scientific theory that stands on equal footing with, or is superior to, current scientific theories regarding the origin of life.

Intelligent Design is little more than an attempt to recast the religious belief of divine creation as a scientific theory that should be taught in school science classes on the same footing as evolution. By making no specific mention of God, Intelligent Design also seeks to sidestep objections to the teaching of religion in public schools.

An overwhelming majority of the scientific community views intelligent design not as a valid scientific theory but as pseudo-science or junk science. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that intelligent design "and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are not science because they cannot be tested by experiment, do not generate any predictions and propose no new hypotheses of their own.

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is the belief in a supernatural Creator entity that resembles spaghetti and meatballs, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) call themselves Pastafarians, and expect that FSM be taught alongside evolution and Intelligent Design. These are the canonical beliefs set forth by FSM:

A depiction of the creation of the universe with the
Monster, a tree-covered mountain, and a "midgit."

Global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct consequence of the decline in numbers of pirates since the 19th Century.

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism was devised as a tongue-in-cheek answer to Intelligent Design. FSM is actually a parody of a real philosophy known as Omphalos:

The Omphalos hypothesis was named after the title of an 1857 book, Creation (Omphalos) by Philip Henry Gosse, in which Gosse argued that in order for the world to be "functional", God must have created the Earth with mountains and canyons, trees with growth rings, Adam and Eve with hair, fingernails, and navels (omphalos is Greek for "navel"), and that therefore no evidence that we can see of the presumed age of the earth and universe can be taken as reliable. The idea has seen revival in the twentieth century by some modern creationists, who have extended the argument to light that appears to originate in far-off stars and galaxies, although many other creationists reject this explanation (and also believe that Adam and Eve had no navels).

This view is not popular with either the scientific or religious communities: It is unverifiable and unrefutable through any conceivable scientific method, and in fact has serious negative implications for science as a whole. From the religious perspective, it can be interpreted as God having 'created a fake', which does not sit well with most benevolent theologies. So, ironically, this seeming reconciliation between science and faith is rejected by both sides.

The Omphalos hypothesis contains a powerful philosophic problem, one that troubles even those who have applied it in recent times. Since the hypothesis is based on the idea that apparent age is an illusion, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the world was created mere minutes ago. Any memories you have of times before this were created in situ, in exactly the same fashion that the fossils were.

In fact, you could go so far as to deny the very existence of time - nothing exists but the present moment, and we simply imagine the rest. The next step is to deny reality itself - are we all just computer programs running in a big simulation? Now we are verging on science fiction.

The religious and philosophical overtones are what made
"The Matrix" such a huge success.

Last Thursdayism is the idea that the universe was created last Thursday, but with the appearance of age: people's memories, history books, fossils, light already on the way from distant stars, and so forth. Oh, and it will end next Thursday. That explains a lot about Thursdays, if nothing else.

What do you want to believe? Take your pick, or make up your own theory.

Compiled from various sources



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since 2016-09-11