By Educate Truth Staff
Christopher Olmo, Nayeli Lemus, and Carlos Cerna, former students of La Sierra University, spoke recently with Educate Truth about their experiences with LSU biology professors. During their talk with Educate Truth they related one experience that occurred after a Breakout Worship on LSU campus in 2009.
“Sean Pitman came to school a week before breakout, showing evidence for creation. The biology department was always saying there’s no evidence for creation. Lee Greer would say things like, ‘There’s more evidence coming out everyday to support evolution’ or ‘there’s no evidence for creation,'” Olmo said.
Feb. 26, 2009, LSU students Louie Bishop, Cerna, Olmo, and Lemus attended one of these Breakout Worships led by Lee Greer, a self-professed evolutionary biologist.
Olmo said the talk was specifically focused on “debunking” Sean Pitman’s presentation, which had just occurred the previous Friday. According to Olmo, Greer and some other biology professors were present at Pitman’s presentation, but waited until the following week to rebut Pitman’s arguments, when he wasn’t there to defend his position.
Within the first half of Greer’s talk, Cerna remembered him saying, “[Sean Pitman] and people like him try to tell you, you can’t believe in the Bible and evolution. How dare they, how dare they, how dare they tell you that!”
There was supposed to be time for students to question Greer, but Olmo said Greer went over his time by about five minutes, so students were leaving and the next class coming in when they were finally able to ask questions.
Cerna said he was the first to ask a question, “Basically, my question was ‘if scientists have been wrong so many times throughout the past, could it be possible that scientists are wrong about evolution?’ I gave two or three examples of things that have changed over time. This is when Lee Grismer jumped into the conversation. You could tell he was already upset with what I was saying. He said, ‘Ya, ya, that is true! We could be wrong, but we’re going off of what we know now. All the evidence is pointing to billions of years.'”
Grismer’s tone escalated into what Olmo and Lemus described as yelling. According to Cerna, it was Bishop that really got Grismer riled up. Bishop quoted Matthew 19:4 to Greer, asking how he reconciled what the Bible said about human origins with evolution. According to Olmo and Lemus, Grismer said, “You’re stupid and ignorant. You don’t know enough to say anything. Your kind of thinking drives planes into buildings.”
Olmo said, “I should feel comfortable at an SDA school using Scripture to support science. But they were making it seem like we couldn’t use the Bible. I felt betrayed, because I couldn’t even ask a question without being called ignorant.”
According to Lemus and Olmo, they felt the professors were attempting to paint them as anti-science. They even received questions after the incident from other students asking why they were against science. Olmo told the students he does believe in science, just not evolution.
“How are you supposed to learn in that kind of environment?” Olmo said.
According to these creationist students, the professors separate religion and science. Olmo said one professor said, “If you have a problem with the science, go to the religion department and they’ll straighten you out.” Olmo said the religion and science department are in agreement, and that if the science department is bad, the religion department is worse. Lemus said professor Wonil Kim in the religion department teaches that God is female and the Bible is not God’s Word. As a new convert to Adventism from Catholicism, Lemus said this type of theology at an Adventist university really disturbed her.
Lemus and Olmo said they did find a couple professors who gave them hope. They would often talk to these professors, trying to work through the problems they were encountering with the biology professors. Olmo and Lemus said these two professors said, “There is nothing we can do about it. We’ll just have to play their game.”
When asked why more students were not speaking up about this, Olmo said, “Because the professors make them look stupid. The students aren’t grounded in their faith. Favoritism. You look better if you agree with the professor. Professors are considered to be an authority. They went to school all these years, so I’m sure they know more than you.”
Cerna said there is a fear amongst some students they won’t be able to get good letters of recommendation from these professors. While the professors have not made any such threats, the fear is very real for some students. No one knows better about LSU’s scare tactics than Bishop, who has been put on student probation and has been pressured socially and academically by administration for making public what LSU professors have been promoting.
When asked to write about her experience at LSU, one former student told Educate Truth in August 2009 that she didn’t want her name published. “I might have to write it anonymously though as I worked for most of the professors for the biology department and my boss at —- —-* is really close friends with ———* and friends with most of the biology professors there,” she said.
So students continue to play the game. However, it appears whenever a student decides not to play the game, a letter of censure is issued, registration is held for weeks, and all information that is related to classes in question is sequestered.
To date, La Sierra University has done absolutely nothing to address the concerns with the biology department. Even in public statements they consistently fail to give assurance that anything is being done or that the accusations are false. In a short meeting with Randal Wisbey in Nov. 2009, Shane Hilde offered to make any corrections or retract any false information that had been published. Wisbey did not ask for one correction in regard to what had been said about the biology department. His only complaint was that he felt he had been misquoted in an article Hilde had written.
The biology chair, James Wilson, said in the Recorder, “The La Sierra biology faculty have faith that God is their Creator and Sustainer.” Not once has the biology department or the LSU administration gone on record as endorsing a special creation that occurred in six days in the recent past.
Larry Becker cites the new General Biology Seminar (BIOL 111A) as a wonderful course to help freshman biology students navigate issues between faith and science. What are the facts about this new one-unit course? Here is a list of the professors and guest speakers that participated in the fall class of 2009, which was coordinated by Greer and Wilson: Warren Trenchard, Fritz Guy, Gary Bradley, Lee Grismer, Ben Clausen, John Webster, Warren Johns, and Lee Greer.
Greer, Grismer, and Bradley are all self-professed evolutionary biologists. Trenchard’s beliefs are unknown, though according to a source he never addressed or endorsed the church’s position in his one lecture on Sept. 22, 2009. Guy has rejected the church’s position. Webster, Dean of the School of Religion, does not endorse the church’s position. Johns teaches what is called Temple Theology. He believes the six-day creation is literal, but vast amounts of time transpired on earth before “creation” week. This leaves Clausen, who works for the Geoscience Research Institute. According to sources who are familiar with his beliefs, he does endorse the church’s position, but feels he cannot reconcile it with science. In other words, he is a weak advocate for creationism, if he doesn’t believe science and the Bible can be reconciled. In short, there is virtually no representation for creationism in that one-unit class.
There appears to be no support for creationist students at LSU, although there are a couple sympathetic professors, who are hushed into silence by “the game.” Creationist classes aren’t offered by the biology department. Any support a student might get from the religion department will depend on what professor they talk to, because not all believe the Bible is God’s Word, much less endorse Biblical creation. Creationist students have resorted to creating a creationist club, so they can invite outside speakers.
How ironic a Seventh-day Adventist university has failed to create an academic environment that is supportive of creationist students. Shame on the La Sierra administration for letting this happen to even one student.
*The student has not given permission to use the institution’s name, or the professor her boss knows.