It has just come to my attention that La Sierra University has taken on a new evolutionary biologist. As of this month LSU signed on Raul Diaz as an assistant biology professor. Loma Linda University has also taken on Diaz as an adjunct assistant professor in their department for perinatal biology.
Diaz is currently working on finishing up his PhD in anatomy and cell biology from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. His special interests include evolutionary developmental biology (especially of reptiles and amphibians) as well as molecular biology and morphology (Link, Link).
Originally, I received notice from a source close to Diaz, who wishes to remain anonymous, as follows:
“Raul Diaz grew up in an Adventist home, went to La Sierra and later on to Berkeley, then on to Kansas to finish a Ph.D., and lost his faith. I believe that he is a self-declared atheist, a hardcore evolutionist, and is antagonist against Adventism and Christianity.”
However an article has since been published (1/23/13) by Shane Hilde at Advindicate.com that contradicts some of these claims regarding Diaz. Dr. Diaz wrote to Hilde noting that, while he does accept the title of “evolutionary biologist”, he rejects the title of “atheist” as well as the notion that he is antagonistic toward any religious group or organization.
“I am a humanitarian and conservationist above everything, and people and nature come first, not silly debates.”
Now, I do apologize for originally posting the conclusion of my anonymous, though seemingly well-informed, source that Diaz is an open atheist when Diaz himself claims that he isn’t an atheist and to have nothing against faith traditions in general. However, I remain concerned. Forget about his heavy-metal and punk-rock interests (not exactly something the church wants to promote either), Dr. Diaz is fundamentally and actively opposed to the church’s position on origins – which I believe undermines the rational basis for Adventism as well as Christianity at large.
For example, a friend and associate of Dr. Diaz, an evolutionary biologist from Harvard University, Dr. Gabriel Gartner, wrote the following affirmation of his friend in the comment section of this article:
“Are you a church or are you a University? If the latter, then you have hired an up and coming academic rockstar and outstanding educator who will elevate the stature of LSU in academic circles. If you are the former, than you shouldn’t have wasted your time in hiring Professor Diaz whose only claim is to promote the advancement of science and to educate young people in these critically important fields.” – Dr. Gabriel Gartner
Of course, this shouldn’t be his only claim if he wishes to be working in an Adventist school. A science professor in one of our Adventist schools should also be active in promoting the primary goals and ideals of the church – not undermining them from within.
In any case, Professor Diaz and Professor Lee Grismer, the “Reptile King” and department chair at LSU who has long been openly antagonistic toward the Adventist position on origins, should get along great.
I have yet to hear if the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA) has actually finished its review and given LSU back its full denominational accreditation or not. The AAA had suspended LSU’s full accreditation on April 4, 2011 with an extension till December 31, 2012, due to problems with several of LSU’s science and even religion professors promoting mainstream evolutionary theories as the true story of origins in their classrooms, undermining the Adventist position on origins. After an investigation into this issue, AAA concluded:
“Although La Sierra University has deviated from the philosophy and objectives of Seventh-day Adventist education,” the voted action reads, “it is moved that the university be granted an extension of accreditation to December 31, 2012 in order for the university to act upon its commitments and implement changes and enhancements” involving the teaching of origins at the school. The action extending the university’s current term of accreditation, but did not address the prospect of a new term, up to five years in length (Link).
So, there was supposed to be an “on-site review by a AAA panel in the second quarter of 2012, and AAA board action in October 2012,” to this effect. However, it seems as if both the AAA and LSU have kept this all under the rug – very hush hush.
As of today (1/23/13), Hilde noted in his article that, “According to Vice President of Education for the North American Division Larry Blackmer, a visit to La Sierra is planned for March 2013.” However, according to a recent Spetrum article, is seems like WASC is visiting LSU in March and AAA afterward in April to review the WASC recommendations.
It doesn’t seem to me, however, with current leaders in LSU’s biology department having long undermined and openly derided the Adventist position on origins and the hiring of a new ardent evolutionary biologist, that LSU is taking any of the original AAA concerns, or the concerns of the church membership at large, seriously. At this point, I do not see why anyone who actually believes in and supports the Adventist fundamental position on origins would think to send their children to or otherwise support LSU. It simply isn’t an Adventist school since it does not consider the support of certain key doctrinal positions of the church, in all of its departments, of any real importance or long term significance. Therefore, calling itself an Adventist school is misleading – effectively false advertising.
If you’re going to promote the Darwinian position on origins over and above the Adventist position on origins, fine. Just be open and honest about it. Why pretend to be something you’re not? outside of monetary reasons that is?