Comment on La Sierra University won’t neglect creation teaching, president, chairman vow by Sean Pitman.
The following observation by the AAA [Adventist Accrediting Agency] is key to the much of the problem that exists at LSU regarding the Evolution/Creation controversy:
A number of faculty in biology appear to make a sharp distinction between science and religion, with Creation not a matter of science but the domain of personal belief and course in the School of Religion. For them, integration of faith and learning within the science classroom and content area seems to be fundamentally incompatible, except for devotional reflections or prayer that might be offered.
See LSU’s “Memorandum” report: Link
This idea that there somehow exists a sharp distinction between science and religion, that there really are two very different paths when it comes to finding the truth about God and his handiwork in nature, has caused a great deal of confusion. If God exists and God is in fact the author of nature, then the study of nature can in fact lead one to a better understanding of the author of nature – i.e., God.
Yet, the LSU board actually references the book The Prism and the Rainbow by Joel W. Martin, Ph.D. where he says:
1. Religion is not science and should never masquerade as such
2. Science is restricted to observing and testing phenomena in the natural world around us and should never be used to argue for or against a particular faith or set of religious beliefs.
By definition, then, these two areas of human endeavor, science and religion, address different issues, each using distinctive methods of inquiry, and there should be no ‘debate.’
And yet there is debate precisely because people intuitively know that if religion has absolutely no basis in empirical reality then it isn’t really worth very much – not much more than believing in Santa Claus or fairytales in general. Again, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the works of nature do in fact say something about the author of nature. Therefore, the study of science is actually the study of the very Mind of God – as Sir Isaac Newton put it.
How then can it be said that science “by definition” says nothing about religion or one’s view of God, his existence, and even his nature? The Bible itself declares that the study of nature reveals important religious truths regarding the existence and character of God.
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
Of relevance for SDAs in particular, Ellen White has also written:
The book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which he works’ (Education, p. 128).
Who is to say then that by “observing and testing phenomena in the natural world around us” that one cannot use the evidences discovered to effectively “argue for or against a particular faith or set of religious beliefs”? – to include very strong arguments for the existence of a God or a God-like intelligence at play in our universe that cannot be distinguished by humans as having all the powers generally attributed to the God of the Bible? Are these not religious arguments? – based on science?
If you think I’m the only one proposing that science has religious implications, you’re mistaken. Some of the most prominent scientists today are saying the same thing. For example, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies makes the following argument along these lines:
The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is “something behind it all” is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…
The force of gravity must be fine-tuned to allow the universe to expand at precisely the right rate. The fact that the force of gravity just happens to be the right number with stunning accuracy is surely one of the great mysteries of cosmology…
The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.
* Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],”The Christian perspective of a scientist,” Review of “The way the world is,” by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638
Charles Hard Townes, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics and a UC Berkeley professor noted:
“This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all….
Some scientists argue that, “Well, there’s an enormousnumber of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.
Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate. It assumes that there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that our was planned, and that is why it has come out so specially.”
This effort of LSU’s board and many others to draw a sharp distinction between science and religion therefore seems just a bit misguided, but does shed some light on why this issue has continued unchecked at LSU for so many years – decades in fact. They didn’t see a problem because they didn’t, and evidently still don’t, see any significant relationship between science and religion. Why then should they be concerned for anything that is said in the science classrooms that may or may not be supportive of the SDA position on origins? After all, the SDA position is just a “religious” position, not a “scientific” position – right? Why then should it matter if they don’t agree since science and religion don’t really overlap in any significant way?
Sean Pitman Also Commented
God has given us the ability to put our emotions under the control of our minds. Emotions are not to govern the mind. Rather, the mind is to govern the emotions. We therefore need not and should not let our higher reasoning abilities be “hijacked” by our emotions.
There was no valid reason for Eve to have been tricked into sin. If there was, she would not have been guilty of sin. She had the clear weight of empirical evidence favoring the reliability of God’s love and His word.
For Eve to then act contrary to this weight of evidence because she personally desired for the words of the serpent to be true was therefore an act of selfishness – an act contrary to the love of what she knew to be true.
That, by definition, is sin – a deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law of Love. No one is really truly tricked into sin. Sin must be a deliberate rebellion against what is known to be true in order for the act to be sinful. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin”? (John 9:41 NIV)
Professor Kent: “>You wrote in another post:
Oh really? How was the empirical evidence available to Noah any different than what we have today?
When was the last time you talked directly with God? When was the last time you went to the Garden of Eden and saw, with your own eyes, an angel with a flashing sword guarding the way? Have you lived several hundred years and experienced innumerable answers to prayer that could only have been the result of the miraculous hand of God? Noah could say yes to all of these questions. This is why Noah, even without the Bible, could rationally believe the Word of God as actually coming from a God who would bring to pass what he had promised – as He had done for Noah so many times before.
God knows that He must provide evidence of who He is before He can be rationally believed and trusted. God does not expect us to blindly follow all voices (or texts) claiming to be from God. He provides actual evidence that appeals to the candid mind. It is only in the rejection of such evidence that we fall into sin for deliberately rejecting what we rationally know to be true.
Let the reader compare Seanâ€™s claims to the statement of Ellen White:
â€œBY FAITH Noah, being warned of God OF THINGS NOT SEEN AS YET [therefore lacking empirical evidence of validity], moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.â€ Hebrews 11:7. While Noah was giving his warning message to the world, his works testified of his sincerity. It was thus that his faith was perfected and made evident. HE GAVE THE WORLD AN EXAMPLE OF BELIEVING JUST WHAT GOD SAYS.(emphasis supplied) â€“ EGW, PP chptr 7
Indeed. But, he believed based on the evidence, the empirical evidence, that he had experienced with God prior to building the Ark. He wasn’t following the direction of some strange voice coming to him out of nowhere. He had extensive experience with God that included abundant empirical evidence that God was someone who could be trusted and who was immensely powerful.
Sean, what would you advise Elder Neil Wilson if he announced that the SDA Church was going to engage in a massive fund-raising campaign and construction program to erect a massive dam around the entirety of Greenlandâ€™s coast, because, he claimed, God had appeared to him personally and instructed him to do this to save the planet from global warming, which the glacier ice melt would facilitate? Would you tell him to stick with trust in Godâ€™s word, or would you tell him to use his reason and all available empirical evidence to recognize the sheer absurdity of Godâ€™s instruction?
I would hope that he had been given a clear sign that what he heard was in fact the voice of God. Again, many voices falsely claim to be the Word of God. You have to be able to tell the true from the false. How is this done? Via the establishment of empirical evidence that appeals to the rational higher mind. Otherwise, you have no real basis for accepting one voice that claims to be the voice of God over any other voice claiming to be the voice of God.
And one more question: what would YOU have done if you were an antedulivian and heard Noahâ€™s urging to join him and his family in the ark? Would you have listened to Noah (Godâ€™s word), or relied on your reason, your knowledge of scientifically based empirical evidence? After all, the world had never seen rain or a flood, much less a massive boat built far from the coast.
The entire world had seen an angel guarding the Garden entrance. Also, the entire world was show the miraculous sign of the animals going into the Ark via an unseen hand that should have been clear evidence of Noah’s connection with the Divine. Also, the entire world was well aware of the evil state of the world and that the words of Noah in this regard were empirically true. Because of this, the citizens of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah will stand up in the final judgment and condemn the antediluvian world who refused to repent at the preaching of Noah…
You seen the Antediluvian people were not destroyed so much because they didn’t get on the Ark. They were destroyed because their thoughts had become evil continually and they refused to repent of what they knew were their evil ways at the preaching of Noah.
Interpreting the meaning of Scripture is not the same thing as determining the credibility or reliability of what Scripture is saying. A novel or a fairytale can be internally consistent and its meaning clearly understood. A very well written internally consistent text claiming to be the Word of God doesn’t mean it actually is the Word of God. Bald claims simply aren’t enough to establish reliability because many falsely make such claims. Therefore, one must be able to make a determination between the false and the true based on some external reference – i.e., some actual external evidence that verifies the claim of a given individual or text.
Your argument that one must simply trust God doesn’t explain how one determines who, among many claimed representatives of God, is actually the true representative (such as the case of Elijah on Mt. Carmel). Upon what basis does one decide to trust one and not another? You have yet to seriously address this question.
Satan’s appeal to Eve was not based on the weight of empirical evidence. The weight of empirical evidence available to Eve was strongly in support of what she had been told by God. It was God, not the serpent, who had given abundant empirical evidence of his love, care, and creative power to both Adam and Eve. Eve wasn’t tricked for a lack of the clear weight of empirical evidence. She was tricked because she let her emotions overcome her higher reasoning capabilities. Satan appealed, not so much to her mind, but to her emotions.
In fact, it would have been wrong for God to punish Eve had He not already provided her with the abundant weight of evidence with regard to his own character and nature. The sin of Eve was in knowing who God was and His love for her, yet rejecting His love in an effort to selfishly try to acquire something that was not hers. In other words, she tried to steal from God in the full light of the empirical knowledge of God. She deliberately broke the Royal Law of Love.
She could not plead innocence due to ignorance or she would have done so. If she had truly been ignorant of the Royal Law, of having acted contrary to love for the One who had demonstrated overwhelming empirical evidence of His love for her, she would not have felt shame nor would she, together with Adam, have tried to hide from the face of God…
This is the danger of empirically-blind faith in anything. Such faith is emotion-driven. It isn’t based on God-given reasoning abilities to discern truth based on the weight of empirical evidence that he has provided to appeal to the candid mind.
“God gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence. God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding, will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith.â€
– Ellen White, Testimonies Ibid., vol 3, p. 255; Ibid., vol. 5, p. 675., vol. 4, pp. 232, 233; Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 675, 676.
I love empirical data myself, and engage in collecting or analyzing it on a regular basis. I think it can illuminate much about scripture. However, it cannot be put on equal footing or higher than Godâ€™s word. If scripture and empirical evidence conflict, the faithful SDA is going to choose Godâ€™s word regardless.
One cannot determine if Scripture is in fact likely to be God’s Word vs. other options without rational thought – rational thought that takes into account the overall weight of available evidence. Emotion-driven religion need not be based on rational thoughts or arguments or evidence of any kind; but emotions are also not a very reliable basis for much of anything.
For example, the founding fathers (and mother) of the SDA Church believed at one point that the Bible clearly said that Jesus would come in 1844. Well, Jesus did not come on 1844. The empirical evidence overwhelmingly falsified their Biblical interpretation.
The only reason why they did not give up on the Bible entirely is because the clear reading and interpretation of the Bible had proved so reliable in so many other instances where it could be tested against empirical reality. If all or even most other Biblical interpretations concerning empirical reality had failed just as miserably, no rational person would long be able to take it at face value as being the Word of God with any kind of reliability or predictive value with regard to any kind of truth whatsoever.
Unfortunately, there are certain SDA university faculty weâ€™ve read much about here, and at least one SDA physician, who prioritize science and empirical data ahead of a simple â€œThus saith the Lord.â€
Anyone can say, “Thus saith the Lord” all day long. That phrase doesn’t mean anything by itself. It isn’t some magical chant. Prophets and all kinds of “Scriptures” claim to be from God. Yet, there are false prophets and false Scriptures and even false interpretations of true Scripture. How does one tell the true from the false? How is the Bible detected as being the one true ultimate revelation of God’s will? by which all other “revelations” can then be tested?
If one wishes to have a rational religion that is based on something more than wishful thinking and warm fuzzy feelings inside, one is forced to use one’s brain at least a little bit – i.e., to actually evaluate and test the Bible to “see if it is good” – to see if it is in fact what it claims to be. The Bible itself invites such empirical tests. It actually challenges its readers to put its own claims to the test and see if they are not true. The Bible bases its own claims on testable empirical realities that are open for all to investigate.
The truth really has nothing to fear from being put to the test. If God is the Truth, then He has nothing to fear from being put to the test either…
God knows and understands our subjective nature. That is why He does not judge us for being confused or making honest mistakes at times. We are only judged for making deliberate decisions against what we know to be true…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Natural vs. Vaccine-derived Immunity
Toby Rogers is a political economist who is also strongly anti-vax. He is not a medical scientist or physician.
In any case, this particular article, by Rogers, distorts the data regarding vaccines and the position of Dr. Peter Aaby – who is a strong supporter of vaccines in general (although, when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, he seems to favor the adenovirus-based vaccines, such as Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca/Oxford or the one produced by China’s CanSino Biologics, over the mRNA-based vaccines – since the adenovirus-based vaccines may have more benefit on reducing “overall mortality – Link). Note, however, that this study found that of the 31 deaths that occured in mRNA-vaccinated individuals, only two were from COVID-19. The rest were due to other causes. For the adenovirus-vaccinated group, two of the 16 deaths were from COVID-19. It’s very difficult, then, to determine a clear relationship here between the different types of vaccines and deaths not related to COVID-19.
“The study isn’t about the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against COVID,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security. “The study is aimed to determine if COVID vaccines have non-specific mortality impacts that extend beyond the incontrovertible mortality benefit they confer with COVID-19. Certain vaccines have effects that extend beyond the target infection and decrease mortality from other causes (e.g. measles vaccine).”
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, also said the question of the paper isn’t about COVID-19, but whether the vaccines had a beneficial effect on other causes of mortality. The research reinforced that both types of vaccines significantly prevented COVID-19 deaths, “which is not surprising as both types of vaccines generate cellular immunity against SARS-CoV-2, protecting us against severe disease.”
“However, to be fair,” Gandhi said, “the number of non-COVID and COVID deaths were rare in all of the pooled analyses and the causes of non-COVID deaths not well adjudicated, so this analysis needs to be taken as preliminary and hypothesis generating at best.”
What’s interesting here is that studies have shown that the “all cause” mortality rate is also reduced for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 – to include those who’ve been vaccinated via the mRNA-based vaccines (Link).
Anyway, here’s a more balanced view of Dr. Aaby’s position on vaccines (Link). Note also that Dr. Aaby supported the vaccines against COVID-19 for adults (Link), but not necessarily for children since children have significantly reduced risk (compared to adults) for COVID-19 infections (Link). Dr. Aaby did publish some interesting results, however, suggesting that the polio vaccine, as well as the BCG and MMR vaccines, may also reduce childhood risk from COVID-19 as well (Link, Link).
“We would not be surprised if MMR could provide some protection against severe COVID-19,” said researcher Peter Aaby, of Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau and Research Centre for Vitamins and Vaccines (CVIVA), Statens Serum Institut, a governmental public health and research institution under the Danish Ministry of Health in Copenhagen, Denmark and a pioneer in the field. “Together with my partner Dr. Christine Stabell Benn, we’ve been reporting on mortality reductions from live-attenuated vaccines such as polio, BCG and measles vaccine/MMR for multiple decades now, and arguing for optimized vaccine schedules. With the COVID-19 crisis adding urgency, it’s good to see the potential of non-specific immune effects being taken seriously.” (Link)
Overall, I do find Dr. Aaby’s main concern to be well-supported that vaccines may produce unforseen beneficial as well as detrimental side effects. In the case of COVID-19, however, it was very clear to me that the potential unknown risks were clearly outweighed when compared to the known risks of getting infected by COVID-19 as well as the very clear known benefits of being vaccinated – particularly for adults over the age of 50 and those with various medical conditions that put them at great risk. Even healthy children seemed to be far more at risk from a live COVID-19 infection than from the vaccines – particularly regarding long-term effects. Of course, this was all before the current less severe Omicron variant took over and the predominant variant worldwide. At this current point in time, vaccines against COVID-19 don’t seem to me to have as significant of an advantage compared to earlier on in the pandemic.
Hope this helps,
Back to Square One…
I’m not sure what “teachings” you have in mind here that need amending?
Mandates vs. Religious Exemptions
I’m just saying is that if you think that what you say on blog sites like this one doesn’t really affect people, especially when you present yourself as an MD, you’re mistaken. I know that people have been influenced against taking the mRNA vaccines by what you’ve said here in this forum. You’re not simply being neutral in what you’ve posted. You do, in fact, come across as being opposed to the mRNA vaccines – also noting that you didn’t get vaccinated yourself and chose to get infected by the live COVID-19 virus without pre-established vaccine-based immunity. You’ve also come across as being strongly against any response by me to the articles that you’ve referenced where I point out how these papers really do not actually undermine the efficacy and/or the relative safety of the mRNA vaccines. Clearly, you don’t come across as being neutral on the topic.
And, such comments have an effect on people – they really do. While that upsets me, again, it’s more important to me to allow for those who disagree with me to also post their comments rather than to only allow what I personally think is true to be posted.
Beyond this, no one is twisting your arm to post our comments here. You can post or not post as you wish. That’s entirely up to you. But, don’t expect that I won’t push back when you post comments that I think will increase the risk of those who read what you have to say…
Mandates vs. Religious Exemptions
The difference between us is that I see people in the ICU, as does my brother-in-law Dr. Roger Seheult (a pulmonologist in S. Cal.). You might see the occasional person die from COVID-19, but those who work ICUs in larger medical centers see far too many people die from COVID-19 – to include young people (not just those in nursing homes). You might offer the vaccine to those whom you see, but if you present arguments to them like the ones you’ve presented here, such advice most certainly does result in increased injuries and even death. For me, that’s a big deal. You might call it “weird and overly dramatic” if you want, but for me the effort to save lives and reduce injuries is neither “weird” nor “overly dramatic”. I mean, that’s why I do what I do…
Now, you say, “The discussions that I have on blogs like this are my personal thoughts and concerns. They don’t reflect the way that I actually practice primary care medicine on a daily basis.”
That would be great if this were a private conversation, but it isn’t. It is a public conversation and your words have an impact on the hundreds who read this blog every day. I mean, in a very real sense, especially given that you include your title “MD” with your name, and often point out that you are a medical doctor when you post to this blog, you are, in fact, practicing medicine when you post public comments like you do. You cannot simply say, “I don’t actually follow my own advice that I post in blogs when I practice primary care medicine on a daily basis.” Your influence simply isn’t limited to what you do face-to-face with patients in your clinic. Your influence also extends to what you say and do in front of people outside of your daily medical practice.
Mandates vs. Religious Exemptions
Well, I’m glad you go at least this far… although I still think that the kinds of arguments you present here really do put people’s lives and health at increased risk. I know you don’t agree, but that’s how I see things from my own perspective.
Now, I’m fine with you, and those who think like you, having the ability to freely share your opinions – despite how mistaken and damaging I personally think these opinions may be. That’s just the nature of living in a free society – which I think is far more important than restricting the freedom of speech.