Sean Pitman, M.D., was requested to speak at the school by a concerned student.
This article is taken from â€œAdventist Today,” a publication which questions creationism.
Posted March 9th, 2009 by Ervin Taylor
La Sierra University (LSU) is a liberal arts institution of higher education located in Riverside, California, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.Â In interviews recently conducted byÂ Adventist Today, it is apparent that many LSU administrators and faculty are deeply interested in maintaining a learning environment where LSU students can develop a mature, informed understanding of important issues relating to the Adventist Christian faith tradition.Â It is also noteworthy that the LSU student body currently contains students not only of the Adventist Christian faith, but also Christians of other Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, and adherents of the Hindu and Muslim traditions. It is expected that all students would be exposed to a wide range of opinion and perspective that makes up the contemporary â€œmarket place of scientific, social, and cultural ideas.â€
As an institution functioning within the Christian tradition, as expected, most students approach their understanding of the contemporary world from a theistic perspective and thus hold the view that God is responsible for the ultimate origin of the natural world.Â In this sense, all Christians are â€œcreationistsâ€ and thus, also in this sense, it would be expected that Adventist Christians would adhere to that view as well.
In popular contemporary discussions, the word â€œcreationismâ€ has acquired a connotation that has severely narrowed its meaning to describe a belief that the world and/or all of its life forms were created in the relatively recent past (less than 6000-10,000 years) in seven literal, 24-hour days and that there has been a even more recently, a world-wide Flood.Â This more restrictive understanding of creationism has been adopted by some fundamentalist-oriented Protestant denominations and the fundamentalist wings of others.
A presentation on Friday, February 20, 2009 at LSU byÂ Sean Pitman, M.D. sought to advance a fundamentalist understanding of the Genesis creation narratives.Â In his presentation, which was attended at the beginning by what was estimated to be between 50 and 70 students dwindling down to less than 10 at the end, he particularly singled out for criticism the teaching of evolutionary biology in LSU science classes, and selectively quoted from a class syllabus.
A handful of students were supportive, including the one who initiated the speaking invitation. Among them, a non-Biology major who appreciatively told the speaker: â€œThank you so much for coming here. Having grown up in the public school system, I only heard the evolution side.â€
By contrast, a lot of the students present afterward disagreed, and many students on campus expressed surprise and were clearly incensed about what had taken place. One biology major who remained through the meeting, commented that there was â€œsupposed to be this informative talk, presenting a different perspective, that science may not have all the answers, followed by a Q & A, and that should have been it.â€ Instead â€œit became this ugly thing at the end – completely inappropriate and way out of line, because of politics being injected with members of the outside community in the audience!â€ She indicated that as the speakerâ€™s agenda became clearer, she began to question his apparent objectivity, adding, â€œthis type of dishonesty I do not appreciate.â€ Another, a biology pre-med expressed discomfort that the presenter would â€œbring dated ID argumentsâ€¦. and then makes a call to action on it. That is so offensive.â€
Over a three year period from 2002-2005, the Adventist Church conducted a series of conferences which focused attention on how, as an institutional church, it would approach the relation of science and religious faith. Although some highly conservative elements made a concerted attempt to add fundamentalist language to the official fundamental Adventist statement of belief, these efforts were not successful and the official summary of belief continues only to quote the Biblical expression used in Genesis to describe the origin of the world.