Sean has insisted that I answer the questions he has …

Comment on LSU student: ‘Apostates or Apostles’? by Professor Kent.

Sean has insisted that I answer the questions he has posed. I believe I’ve answered these already and on multiple occasions the past year, but will do so again [sigh].

“How do you know that the Latter-day Saints are mistaken in their assertion the Book of Mormon is superior to the Bible as a source of God’s Word? – that they are mistaken that the Book of Mormon is the true “Scripture”? After all, the Book of Mormon makes no uncertain claims to its own superiority – as does the Bible.”

Much of the Book of Mormon strikes me, personally, as happy fiction (as Bob Ryan would call it). It claims to build upon the Bible, which predates it, but having read it extensively I see nothing but inconsistency. Therefore, its internal claims fail. Externally, there are no historical data to back up its claims. And reading it never gave me a warm feeling in my gut, although my neck was very stiff a day later and the following week I succombed to a severe cold that included vomiting.

“Given that you now withdraw your arguments for superior Biblical credibility based on empirical historical evaluation, you seem to now be defending “faith” without explaining how one reasonably determines which faith, among a great many options, is most likely the true faith?”

If internal consistency fails, it’s dead in the water far as I’m concerned. I have written repeatedly that the lives of the apostles, successful prophecy, changes in personal lives, the impact on my life–all of these lead me to continue to accept God and his word as revealed in the Bible. My faith builds upon my acceptance. It’s not something that I chose. It’s not like I went on a shopping trip to see how much faith I could get from reading different religious books.

“Upon what basis does one determine the true faith? How can one know? Obviously most faiths are mistaken in their choice of their “Scriptures” or sources of “Divine Authority”. So, what basis is there for one to pick among so many false options? Must one blindly pick among the vast array of competing options and hope against hope to get lucky? Or, is there something more than random luck involved in making the right choice?”

You’re good at asking the same questions in different terms. If you don’t think I already answered this, I don’t know what to tell you.

“At least the LDS Church points to the “burning in the bosom” when they hear or see the truth as their evidence for “knowing” that the Book of Mormon is true and that the LDS religion is superior to all others. What basis are you suggesting to know that they are wrong and that you are right regarding the superiority of the Bible’s claim to Divine Authory? – hopefully something better than a warm fuzzy feeling inside…”

We’re back to this again? I already answered it. But I will add one thing: I like Mormons and respect their faith, and I think we need to emulate their devotion to family programming.

I think the bigger problem, Sean, is that once I accept God and that he actually communicated with us via Scripture, I don’t need to look elsewhere to decide whether I can believe what God says is true. If external evidence appears to contradict God’s word, I need to choose God’s word and assume that the evidence, or my reason regarding it, are wrong. This is where you and I depart.

I find it inconsistent that you would fault anyone for rejecting an SDA doctrine when you actually tell them they must reject it if that’s where they see the evidence leads them.

Professor Kent Also Commented

LSU student: ‘Apostates or Apostles’?
@ Sean Pitman

Noah had abundant very direct empirical evidence of God’s existence and power – much more direct empirical evidence than we have today. His was not an empirically-blind faith by any means in the word of some stranger claiming to be God.

Oh really? How was the empirical evidence available to Noah any different than what we have today? Did he have a Bible to guide him? Did he have a large body of science to draw from like we have today? Did he have to guide him in his interpretation of empirical evidence? I’d like to know exactly what this empirical evidence was that you speak of. Or did he have–I dare ask–little more than God’s word? You have conceded that Noah “talked directly with God.”

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

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?

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.

LSU student: ‘Apostates or Apostles’?
Thank you for your clarification. You wrote:

However, I do know that God does in fact desire us to make an intelligent decision in favor of His Word based on the weight of evidence – the weight of empirical evidence. He does not desire empirically-blind faith in His Word.

If I realized this deep down, I would take Noah for a fool when God instructed him to build a massive boat to escape a rain and a flood the proportions of which reason would dictate to be impossible. Why did Noah obey? Was it simple trust in God’s word, or use of his emotion-free reason?

LSU student: ‘Apostates or Apostles’?
@ Sean Pitman,

Okay, having answered your questions, perhaps you’ll answer mine. I ask, once again:

1) Do you agree wholeheartedly with Sola Scriptura and the historical-grammatical hermeneutic elucidated by the GC “Rio” document and the SDA Biblical Research Institute scholars?

2) If so, do you continue to believe that those who accept a simple “Thus saith the Lord” are as duped as believers in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Recent Comments by Professor Kent

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: Science isn’t about “cold hard facts.” Science is about interpreting the “facts” as best as one can given limited background experiences and information. Such interpretations can be wrong and when shown to be wrong, the honest will in fact change to follow where the “weight of evidence” seems to be leading.

Much of science is based on highly technical data that few other than those who generate it can understand. For most questions, science yields data insufficient to support a single interpretation. And much of science leads to contradictory interpretations. Honest individuals will admit that they have a limited understanding of the science, and base their opinions on an extremely limited subset of information which they happen to find compelling whether or not the overall body of science backs it up.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: The process of detecting artefacts as true artefacts is a real science based on prior experience, experimentation, and testing with the potential of future falsification. Oh, and I do happen to own a bona fide polished granite cube.

Not from Mars. Finding the cube on Mars is the basis of your cubical caricature of science, not some artefact under your roof.

Sean Pitman:
Professor Kent: If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.

The question is not if one will catch a fish, but if one will recognize a fish as a fish if one ever did catch a fish. That’s the scientific question here. And, yet again, the clear answer to this question is – Yes.

I think I’m going to spend the afternoon with my favorite scientist–my 8-year-old nephew. We’re going to go fishing at Lake Elsinore. He wants to know if we might catch a shark there. Brilliant scientist, that lad. He already grasps the importance of potentially falsifiable empirical evidence. I’m doubtful we’ll catch a fish, but I think he’ll recognize a fish if we do catch one.

While fishing, we’ll be scanning the skies to catch a glimpse of archaeopteryx flying by. He believes they might exist, and why not? Like the SETI scientist, he’s doing science to find the elusive evidence.

He scratched himself with a fish hook the other day and asked whether he was going to bleed. A few moments later, some blood emerged from the scratched. Talk about potentilly falsifiable data derived from a brilliant experiment. I’m telling you, the kid’s a brilliant scientist.

What’s really cool about science is that he doesn’t have to publish his observations (or lack thereof) to be doing very meaningful science. He doesn’t even need formal training or a brilliant mind. Did I mention he’s the only autistic scientist I’ve ever met?

As most everyone here knows, I have a poor understanding of science. But I’m pretty sure this nephew of mine will never lecture me or Pauluc on what constitutes science. He’s the most humble, polite, and soft-spoken scientist I’ve ever met.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: I don’t think you understand the science or rational arguments behind the detection of an artefact as a true artefact. In fact, I don’t think you understand the basis of science in general.

I’m amused by this response. I don’t think you understand the limits of a philosophical argument based on a hypothetical situation, which is all that your convoluted cube story comprises, and nothing more. Whether the artefact is an artefact is immaterial to an argument that is philosophical and does not even consider an actual, bona fide artefact.

Sean Pitman: You argue that such conclusions aren’t “scientific”. If true, you’ve just removed forensic science, anthropology, history in general, and even SETI science from the realm of true fields of scientific study and investigation.

Forensic science, anthropology, and history in general all assume that humans exist and are responsible for the phenomenon examined. Authorities in these disciplines can devise hypotheses to explain the phenomenon they observe and can test them.

SETI assumes there might be non-human life elsewhere in the universe and is nothing more than an expensive fishing expedition. If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.

The search for a granite cube on Mars is nothing more than an exercise in hypotheticals. Call it science if you insist; I don’t see how it is different than a child waiting breathlessly all night beside the fireplace hoping to find Santa coming down the chimney.

I guess the number of science colleagues I acknowledge needs to grow exponentially. I apologize to those I have failed to recognize before as scientists.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: The observation alone, of the granite cube on an alien planet, informs us that the creator of the cube was intelligent on at least the human level of intelligence – that’s it. You are correct that this observation, alone, would not inform us as to the identity or anything else about the creator beyond the fact that the creator of this particular granite cube was intelligent and deliberate in the creation of the cube.

Your frank admission concedes that the creator of the cube could itself be an evolved being, and therefore you’re back to square one. Thus, your hypothetical argument offers no support for either evolutionism or creationism, and cannot distinguish between them.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
I have taken much abuse by pointing out the simple fact that SDAs have specific interpretations of origins that originate from scripture and cannot be supported by science (if science is “potentially falsifiable empirical evidence”). The beliefs include:

o fiat creation by voice command from a supernatural being
o all major life forms created in a 6-day period
o original creation of major life forms approximately 6,000 years ago

None of these can be falsified by experimental evidence, and therefore are accepted on faith.

Sean Pitman’s responses to this are predictably all over the place. They include:

[This] is a request for absolute demonstration. That’s not what science does.” [totally agreed; science can’t examine these beliefs]

The Biblical account of origins can in fact be supported by strong empirical evidence.” [not any of these three major interpretations of Genesis 1]

Does real science require leaps of faith? Absolutely!

I think it’s fair to say from Pitman’s perspective that faith derived from science is laudable, whereas faith derived from scripture–God’s word–is useless.

Don’t fret, Dr. Pitman. I won’t lure you into further pointless discussion. While I am greatly amused by all of this nonsense and deliberation (hardly angry, as you often suggest) for a small handful of largely disinterested readers, I am finished. I won’t be responding to any further remarks or questions.