Comment on The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop by Sean Pitman.
1] Do you think there should be a particular standard for a University in terms of its curriculum?
Sure, but a university should not be limited to presenting only this minimum standard. A university should be free to go above and beyond this minimum standard. Adventist universities, in particular, should present the minimum standard and then go on to present the unique Adventist perspective on the various topics in question . . . to include rational reasons why one should consider the Adventist perspective on origins.
2] Do you think a University should educate students in what is most likely not false?
An Adventist university should educate students as to what various opinions of “truth” one might expect to see within popular cultures – to include the popular opinions of the majority of the scientific community. However, an Adventist university need not support or promote popular opinions as “most likely true”. An Adventist university should be free to challenge the popular opinions of the day with its own unique perspective and interpretation of the available evidence at hand.
Why try to shield students from the Adventist perspective or arguments in favor of it? If it is so obviously “false”, why not let the students be the judge? Why only present them with arguments from popular culture? Why not at least let them compare arguments from different perspectives presented by those who actually believe in and subscribe to the Adventist perspective?
3] For science what is your criteria for determining content based on your assumptions and the way you practice medicine? Is there a Christian science and a secular science?
Science is based on a very simple logical argument or set of arguments which attempt to predict the future with the use of testable potentially falsifiable hypotheses. If a proposed hypothesis resists falsification upon testing, it gains predictive value. If not, it loses predictive value. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if a scientific hypothesis happens to suggest the activity of a God or God-like entity that matches the Christian paradigm. Such is not an automatic exclusion of scientific investigations (outside of Ia priori philosophical assumptions that are not based on science). All that matters is if the hypothesis is able to establish a useful degree of predictive value. That’s it.
4] Should traditional and historically accepted ideas like Phrenology, Animal Magnetism, Dianetics, Homeopathy, Astrology and Alchemy be taught within the science curriculum?
These are falsified theories from the mainstream scientific perspective and are also outside of the Adventist perspective. So no, I see no need to present these theories outside of historical interest. However, your implication that the Adventist perspective on origins is in the same boat as phrenology or astrology is nonsense. There is a great deal of very good evidence favoring the Adventist perspective on origins as well as a great deal of very good evidence calling into question the fundamental claims of neo-Darwinism – evidence which you yourself admittedly cannot dispute (nor can anyone else from the neo-Darwinian perspective). This evidence should be presented in our own schools.
5] Should methodical naturalism be assumed as the biological basis of medicine?
Only as far as it can be supported by scientific methodologies. The problem with the notion that only mindless natural mechanisms must be proposed to explain any and all observations is that this notion isn’t scientific. Scientific methodologies are not limited to only proposing mindless mechanisms to explain observations. All that limits a scientific hypothesis is that it be testable in a potentially falsifiable manner and that it have the ability to gain predictive power upon testing. That’s it. Anything beyond this isn’t science, but philosophy or a form of blind-faith religion that cannot be tested or falsified.
6] Should methodical naturalism be the basis of science.
This is a repeat of the same question asked above. Useful medicine is based on science… as are all forms of useful endeavors – to include useful religions. Again, for all of these science and faith must walk hand-in-hand if one wishes to go beyond mere wishful thinking or just-so story telling.
7] Do you agree that under the assumptions of science ie methodological naturalism; the origin of species by natural process is not the most likely explanation for the diversity we see around us?
Based on the empirical evidence in hand, the theory of the origin and diversity of species via mindless naturalistic mechanisms alone is not rationally tenable. The most rational scientific conclusion for the origin and diversity of life, beyond very very low levels of functional complexity, must include the input of a very high level of intelligence and creative power that is not readily distinguishable from a God or God-like intelligence. In my opinion, that is the most rational scientific conclusion that the empirical evidence supports.
8] You have already previously conceded that the vast majority of the genetic diversity that differentiates species within kinds has arisen by natural process albeit on a time frame which has negligible observational support.
Again, it’s not quantity, but quality that is important here. And, there is overwhelming observational support to explain rapid diversity at low levels of functional complexity. The problem is that there is no observational support to explain diversity beyond low levels of functional complexity without appealing to high level intelligent design.
I have never been to LSU and know little about it but I have heard people from there speak and preach and I do not think what they say would be at all confused with the ethos of a secular institution. I suspect that Fundamentalism and a University are ideas that cannot mesh and I think Bishops experience illustrates this well. I think LSU are doing the best they can in delivering a Christian education that is at University standard. Your contention that LSU is a waste of time and you would be better off at a secular institution is indeed consistent with your stated position
“…if I ever honestly became convinced that the weight of empirical evidence was on the side of life existing on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, I would leave not only the SDA Church, but Christianity as well”
Which I interpret as a very brittle faith with which I as a committed follower of Christ personally could never live.
You’re only a limited follower of Christ. You don’t believe everything that Jesus said or taught. You claim that His teachings were altered over time regarding various doctrinal claims and concepts. You don’t believe what Jesus (and the prophets) said regarding the Genesis account of origins or even life after death. You don’t believe in carbon-based life without the existence of a cycle of life and death for sentient creatures. You claim that death really isn’t so bad for sentient creatures – to include human beings. In short, you seem to be a very limited believer in what Jesus is quoted as teaching. You take that which you want and discard the rest at your own whim. No wonder your faith is so robust. It can withstand whatever comes along because it seems to be entirely internal to yourself – i.e., a self-generated faith where you worship an image of your own creation.
Now, I do think you take on certain Christian ethical principles and I’m sure your motives are pure and that, if so, you are in a saving relationship with God. However, this is not enough to qualify one as an Adventist. Adventism goes beyond the promotion of Christian ethics and social interactions. Adventism also promotes certain doctrinal concepts regarding the reality of the “Good News” of the Gospel message – which includes doctrines such as the literal creation week and the physical resurrection of the dead, etc.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
When I talk about the concept of science, I’m talking about how any new information is learned in a useful manner that is superior to wishful thinking (aka blind faith). One’s understanding of the Bible as the Word of God can be and I believe should be based on the weight of evidence that is currently in hand. Coming to the conclusion that the Bible is God’s Word requires work. It is not inherent knowledge, but must be learned based on evidence, not direct revelation.
“God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. We are thus led to adore the Creator and to have an intelligent trust in His word.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115
“In the days of Noah, men, animals, and trees, many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but men, with their vain reasoning, fall into the same error as did the people before the Flood–the things which God gave them as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115
“God never asks us to believe without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith . . .” Steps to Christ, p. 105;
Consider also that, “perfect assurance . . . is not compatible with faith. Faith rests not on certainty, but upon evidence.” Letter 19d, 1892, cited in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1029, 1030.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 NIV
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalms 19:1 NIV
God does not desire blind faith or blind obedience without the input of rational thought and understanding (which is also God-given by the way). Our faith in the Bible should be based on something more than some kind of internal warm fuzzy feeling or personal desire. Our faith in the Bible as the Word of God should be a rational faith that is based on the weight of evidence and its established predictive power – i.e., a form of scientific reasoning and understanding which forms the basis for a logical, rational leap of faith. It is in this manner that faith and science can, and I think must, walk hand-in-hand.
The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
God (and Truth) never changes. However, our understanding of Truth does change over time.
We learn and grow in our understanding of truth – to include our understanding of Biblical truth. One is not automatically born with the knowledge that the Bible is the real Word of God or how, exactly, to interpret it and all of its statements and passages. On the contrary, this requires effort and careful investigation and rational thought on our part.
Again, there’s nothing to fear from subjecting the Bible to careful investigation against the weight of evidence. God is the author of the Bible and true science…
I appreciate your desire to uphold the Bible regardless of what the external evidence might say about it. However, I think this is a mistake. The Bible has nothing to fear from true science (vs. “science falsely so called”) or from a truly rational investigation into its claims. The Biblical authors always provide empirical evidence and rational arguments as a basis for faith (as does Mrs. White). We should not be like my LDS friends who believe in the Book of Mormon regardless of the weight of evidence against it. The Bible is to be believed because of the weight of evidence in its favor – because it is the most rational choice that the intelligent candid mind can conclude. Our faith need not be blind to the weight of evidence. Rather, faith and evidence can and should walk hand-in-hand.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
As far as the current article is concerned, I know of no “outdated” information. The information is current as far as I’m aware. The detrimental mutation rate is far too high for complex organisms to avoid an inevitable downhill devolutionary path. There is simply no way to rationally avoid this conclusion as far as I’m aware.
So, perhaps your friend could be more specific regarding his particular objections to the information presented?
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?
I have checked with the director of the lab which was supposed to have dated a “soft tissue” extract and he wrote back almost immediately that what they had been given was a whole bone, not a “soft tissue” extract and the bone was badly degraded from the point of view of any organic carbon. The date they obtained was obviously contamination and they reported that fact to the submitter.
That’s hard to believe given that many dates on many different specimens where reported by The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, and others, without any mention of contamination – using the same procedures that they would for a portion of mammoth or mastodon bone (and no one claimed here to have submitted a “soft tissue extract”). After all, the youngest radiocarbon date for a mammoth fossil (3685 ± 60 yr BP) comes from the remains of one discovered on Wrangel Island off the north-eastern Siberian coast (Vartanyan et al. 2008). Yet, no one cites “contamination” when discussing such dates for mammoths. Also, great care was taken to prevent contamination when obtaining the dinosaur bone specimens that were dated. It’s hard to imagine, then, how these dinosaur bones could have been contaminated to the degree that you suggest – which would have had to be between from 1% (40kyr BP) to up to 10% (20kyr BP) of the total carbon within the bone (Plaisted, 2017).
AMS labs know this. You see, it wasn’t until the AMS lab at the University of Georgia discovered that the bone specimens they were analyzing were actually dinosaur bones that they recanted their own results and refused to do any additional 14C testing. Up until this point, they never suspected such a degree of contamination… a mechanism for which is quite difficult to imagine.
Note that both the whole bone and bioapatite in the dinosaur bone was dated. The bioapatite was C14 dated at 41,010 ± 220 years BP, having 0.61 ± 0.02 pMC (percent modern carbon). No mention of “contamination” is listed here. The very fact that they separated out the whole bone date from the bioapatite date is what makes me think they really thought they had original bioapatite from the bone sample.
A couple years later this was followed by:
Consider also that the triceratops horn was well preserved and had well preserved soft tissue within it, to include blood vessels and cellular structures (Link). The fossil’s bioapatite was dated (not the well-preserved soft tissue, which is interesting). According to a 2009 report in the journal Radiocarbon, bioapatite is actually preferable to soft tissue in many cases. Yet, it was also 14C dated by AMS at 33,570 ± 120 years. How is that explained?
Then, there is this report from John Fischer (2014):
Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered in Glendive Montana, and our group received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for Carbon-14 testing. Both bones were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen. The best process (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) was used to date them. Total organic carbon and dinosaur bioapatite was extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants, and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained. They were similar to radiocarbon dates for ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers of the Los Angeles LaBrea Tarpits, sloth dung, and giant bison. (Link)
Notice here that both the bioapatite and the collagen within the bone was 14C dated by AMS with resulting “concordant radiocarbon dates” – which is usually used to support the argument that the dates obtained where not the result of contamination.
Now, is this conclusive evidence that dinosaur remains are not millions of years old? I wouldn’t say that this data is conclusive in and of itself – taken one test at a time. After all, a particular lab might not have been able to completely isolate a particular fossil’s original bioapatite – so a particular result may have contamination in it as you suggest. However, I do think that after a certain point of consistent results from multiple tests by multiple labs the weight of evidence starts to add up – adding credibility to the idea that perhaps dinosaurs are not millions of years old after all. When you also consider the fact that pretty much all dinosaur bones with residual organic material in them (and other things that are supposed to be millions of years old – like coal and oil and other “ancient” organic remains) have been consistently dated as only being 15k-40k years old, you have to at least conclude that there is something wrong somewhere. Either the 14C dating system is not as robust as some want to believe, or the fossils are not as old as some want to believe. This is particularly relevant given the existence of very finely preserved original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments that simply shouldn’t be there according to all known data on the decay rates of such things.
Here’s an interesting presentation 15-minute presentation (Link) that was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. Of course, one possible explanation for these results is, yet again, contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. However, Dr. Seiler presents several arguments that tend to cast doubt on the contamination explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, how did it become incorporated into the original collagen? Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.
Here’s another interesting article on this topic written by Dr. Jay Wile (2012): Link
So anyway, again I ask you, why not run your own tests? Or why doesn’t Jack Horner or Mary Schweitzer do it with pure finely-preserved dinosaur soft tissues?
As far as breeding vs. natural selection, what’s the real difference if both select based on phenotype alone? You wrote:
It was clear to Alfred Russell Wallace, who, with Darwin, first came up with the idea of natural selection, that you could not use animal breeding experiments to simulate natural evolution.
Please do explain this to me. After all, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about the selective breeding of animals in this regard. Even a human breeder could never get one “kind” of animal to evolve into another “kind” of animal (where novel functional genetic options are produced within the gene pool) using breeding techniques with very high selection pressures alone. Why not? Because, selective animal breeding produces no novel information within the gene pool of the animal population in question. Breeding is based on a simple selection of pre-existing information as it is expressed in the various phenotypes of the offspring over time. Exactly the same thing is true of natural selection – which can also produce very rapid phenotypic changes, in the wild, in response to rapidly changing environments or the sudden realization of entirely new environments based on the very same underlying static gene pool of options (no genetic mutations required).
By the way, it was Darwin himself who coined the term ‘selective breeding’; he was interested in the process as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Charles Darwin discussed how selective breeding had been successful in producing change over time in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Its first chapter he actually discusses selective breeding and domestication of such animals as pigeons, cats, cattle, and dogs. (Link)
Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the development of the human mind and some bodily attributes were guided by spiritual beings rather than natural selection… (Link)
But please, do explain my mistake here regarding the fundamental differences between the selective breeding of animals vs. natural selection. I’d be most interested, because this concept is fundamental to my own understanding of the clear limits of Darwinian-style evolution via random mutations and natural selection.