Comment on Changing the Wording of Adventist Fundamental Belief #6 on Creation by Professor Kent.
Professor Kent: Would you kindly summarize the published findings [genetic ancestry of North American indians relative to Mormonism’s claims] for me? Include the references so I can look them up. I’d like to better understand how you assess apparent fact.
Here is the heart of the problem with your position that one false claim by Mormonism refutes all of it: an issue anticipated decades ago by a prophet in the church that allows one to sidestep the supposed claim. In 1929, President Anthony W. Ivins of the LDS church’s First Presidency cautioned church members:
“We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon teaches the history of three distinct peoples … who came from the old world to this continent. It does not tell us that there was no one here before them. It does not tell us that people did not come after. And so if discoveries are made which suggest differences in race origins, it can very easily be accounted for, and reasonably, for we do believe that other people came to this continent. A thousand years had elapsed from the time the Book of Mormon closed until the discovery of America, and we know that other people came to America during that period.”
Just as for the claims of Mormonism, it’s very easy for anyone to shore up support for the scriptural claims of YLC using ad hoc arguments. When confronted with falsifiable evidence on the enigmatic distribution of fossil birds, for example, you’re quick to tell us that fossil birds occur in the Triassic–as if that helps (why can’t you simply acknowledge they are absent from all those lower layers, which fails the prediction of the flood model?). When confronted with falsifiable evidence on the enigmatic distribution of fossil angiosperms, including mangroves, you’re quick to tell us that fossil material occurs in the precambrian–the evidence for which only creationists take seriously, as if it helps (why can’t you concede that angiosperm parts and pollen are abundant only in the higher levels, yet absent from all the lower layers [with your possible exception], which contradicts the prediction of the flood model?). When confronted with falsifiable evidence that both ancient and modern biogeography refute the claim that all major terrestrial life forms dispersed from a single location, Mt. Ararat, you simply shrug your shoulders as if this failure means nothing.
The evidence in support of a literal, recent creation week is irrelevant; you believe because God said it was so. Just as I do. Admit it.
Professor Kent Also Commented
Sean Pitman: What we’re talking about here, Professor, is the very detailed claims of both the Bible and Mrs. White when it comes to the recent origin of all life on this planet, created within just six literal days, and the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood, that this Flood destroyed all land animal life save the lives of those on the ark, and that it is responsible for much if not all of the geologic column/fossil records we have today…
When you start attacking these primary affirmations of both the Bible and Ellen White, you are in fact striving to undermine their basic credibility with regard to those metaphysical claims that cannot be directly investigated and tested…
Wait a minute. Let’s get a few things straight. I have not attacked the claims of scripture regarding the “the recent origin of all life on this planet, created within just six literal days, and the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood.” All I did was point out that the physical evidence supporting flood geology has serious problems. And you were the one, not me, who has asserted that the flood did not create all of the layers of the geological column.
I’m not striving to undermine the inspired sources. I’m trying to point out that you are able to take essentially all evidence on any given topic and turn it into support for your beliefs. You have constructed a highly elaborate, supposedly intellectual approach with which you are able to boast of your reason as a basis for judging God and His word. I think your basic approach is reckless, dangerous, and decidedly anti-SDA.
Changing the Wording of Adventist Fundamental Belief #6 on Creation
Many are those who were taught, as I was, that overwhelming scientific evidence favors the Young Life Creationist (and SDA) position. Nothing saddens me more than the droves who leave the Church when they learn that many of their cherished beliefs regarding this evidence don’t hold up so well to scrutiny.
I believe these individuals have just one hope of holding on to Jesus–and that is a personal relationship with him. I’m astounded that there are Adventists who insist that these individuals must embrace the scientific evidence if they are to believe in God and have any hope for a bright future.
Even though we disagree on the relationship between science and faith, I share the hope of all that our young people will continue to abide in Jesus.
I do understand your desire to portray me as evil. You are deeply upset that I can readily point out major weaknesses in the evidence for Young Earth Creationism and your understanding of it, so you (and others) frequently allude that I’m not a trustworthy believer. You desperately want to believe the evidence is all there to support your beliefs, and that your beliefs are, therefore, rational and intelligent. But there is nothing wrong or shameful in acknowledging your limited understanding and your reliance on faith. Faith is something to celebrate.
My own understanding certainly fails me. I humbly proclaim to all that I, Professor Jeffrey Kent, do not understand why the evidence available to date does not provide stronger support for God’s remarkable creative event. I find it all very difficult to understand.
In all frankness, I would love nothing more than to learn one day that most or all of Sean Pitman’s assertions here and at his website prove to be correct. But I sincerely believe that the available evidence today contradicts much of what he claims. Still, this does not change my largely faith-based persuasion that God is indeed real, and that His Word can be trusted.
And even though I disagree with you and Sean Pitman on the evidence, and on the way you harshly treat fellow believers, I would never encourage you guys to leave the Church.
Recent Comments by Professor Kent
Sean Pitman: Science isn’t about “cold hard facts.” Science is about interpreting the “facts” as best as one can given limited background experiences and information. Such interpretations can be wrong and when shown to be wrong, the honest will in fact change to follow where the “weight of evidence” seems to be leading.
Much of science is based on highly technical data that few other than those who generate it can understand. For most questions, science yields data insufficient to support a single interpretation. And much of science leads to contradictory interpretations. Honest individuals will admit that they have a limited understanding of the science, and base their opinions on an extremely limited subset of information which they happen to find compelling whether or not the overall body of science backs it up.
Sean Pitman: The process of detecting artefacts as true artefacts is a real science based on prior experience, experimentation, and testing with the potential of future falsification. Oh, and I do happen to own a bona fide polished granite cube.
Not from Mars. Finding the cube on Mars is the basis of your cubical caricature of science, not some artefact under your roof.
Professor Kent: If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.
The question is not if one will catch a fish, but if one will recognize a fish as a fish if one ever did catch a fish. That’s the scientific question here. And, yet again, the clear answer to this question is – Yes.
I think I’m going to spend the afternoon with my favorite scientist–my 8-year-old nephew. We’re going to go fishing at Lake Elsinore. He wants to know if we might catch a shark there. Brilliant scientist, that lad. He already grasps the importance of potentially falsifiable empirical evidence. I’m doubtful we’ll catch a fish, but I think he’ll recognize a fish if we do catch one.
While fishing, we’ll be scanning the skies to catch a glimpse of archaeopteryx flying by. He believes they might exist, and why not? Like the SETI scientist, he’s doing science to find the elusive evidence.
He scratched himself with a fish hook the other day and asked whether he was going to bleed. A few moments later, some blood emerged from the scratched. Talk about potentilly falsifiable data derived from a brilliant experiment. I’m telling you, the kid’s a brilliant scientist.
What’s really cool about science is that he doesn’t have to publish his observations (or lack thereof) to be doing very meaningful science. He doesn’t even need formal training or a brilliant mind. Did I mention he’s the only autistic scientist I’ve ever met?
As most everyone here knows, I have a poor understanding of science. But I’m pretty sure this nephew of mine will never lecture me or Pauluc on what constitutes science. He’s the most humble, polite, and soft-spoken scientist I’ve ever met.
Sean Pitman: I don’t think you understand the science or rational arguments behind the detection of an artefact as a true artefact. In fact, I don’t think you understand the basis of science in general.
I’m amused by this response. I don’t think you understand the limits of a philosophical argument based on a hypothetical situation, which is all that your convoluted cube story comprises, and nothing more. Whether the artefact is an artefact is immaterial to an argument that is philosophical and does not even consider an actual, bona fide artefact.
Sean Pitman: You argue that such conclusions aren’t “scientific”. If true, you’ve just removed forensic science, anthropology, history in general, and even SETI science from the realm of true fields of scientific study and investigation.
Forensic science, anthropology, and history in general all assume that humans exist and are responsible for the phenomenon examined. Authorities in these disciplines can devise hypotheses to explain the phenomenon they observe and can test them.
SETI assumes there might be non-human life elsewhere in the universe and is nothing more than an expensive fishing expedition. If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.
The search for a granite cube on Mars is nothing more than an exercise in hypotheticals. Call it science if you insist; I don’t see how it is different than a child waiting breathlessly all night beside the fireplace hoping to find Santa coming down the chimney.
I guess the number of science colleagues I acknowledge needs to grow exponentially. I apologize to those I have failed to recognize before as scientists.
Sean Pitman: The observation alone, of the granite cube on an alien planet, informs us that the creator of the cube was intelligent on at least the human level of intelligence – that’s it. You are correct that this observation, alone, would not inform us as to the identity or anything else about the creator beyond the fact that the creator of this particular granite cube was intelligent and deliberate in the creation of the cube.
Your frank admission concedes that the creator of the cube could itself be an evolved being, and therefore you’re back to square one. Thus, your hypothetical argument offers no support for either evolutionism or creationism, and cannot distinguish between them.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
I have taken much abuse by pointing out the simple fact that SDAs have specific interpretations of origins that originate from scripture and cannot be supported by science (if science is “potentially falsifiable empirical evidence”). The beliefs include:
o fiat creation by voice command from a supernatural being
o all major life forms created in a 6-day period
o original creation of major life forms approximately 6,000 years ago
None of these can be falsified by experimental evidence, and therefore are accepted on faith.
Sean Pitman’s responses to this are predictably all over the place. They include:
“[This] is a request for absolute demonstration. That’s not what science does.” [totally agreed; science can’t examine these beliefs]
“The Biblical account of origins can in fact be supported by strong empirical evidence.” [not any of these three major interpretations of Genesis 1]
“Does real science require leaps of faith? Absolutely!”
I think it’s fair to say from Pitman’s perspective that faith derived from science is laudable, whereas faith derived from scripture–God’s word–is useless.
Don’t fret, Dr. Pitman. I won’t lure you into further pointless discussion. While I am greatly amused by all of this nonsense and deliberation (hardly angry, as you often suggest) for a small handful of largely disinterested readers, I am finished. I won’t be responding to any further remarks or questions.