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
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.”
– Ellen White, Testimonies Ibid., vol 3, p. 255; Ibid., vol. 5, p. 675., vol. 4, pp. 232, 233; Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 675, 676.
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)
<a href="@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 Sean’s claims to the statement of Ellen White:
“BY 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.” 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) – 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 Greenland’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 God’s word, or would you tell him to use his reason and all available empirical evidence to recognize the sheer absurdity of God’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 Noah’s urging to join him and his family in the ark? Would you have listened to Noah (God’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.
I would not criticize a student seeking an education at La Sierra who disagreed with its Adventist or even Christian teachings. I don’t understand why you are so eager to find fault in institutions, people, and the choices people make.
It’s fine with me if someone wants to attend one of our schools for whatever reason. My point is that our schools should not give up on the primary reason why they were set up to begin with – i.e., to be truly SDA schools that actively promote SDA ideals in all of their classrooms.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…