By Educate Truth StaffThe Criterion is the student quarterly of La Sierra University. In the fall 2009 edition, an article titled “The Evolution of a controversy” by Nick Smith was published. Educate Truth spoke with Criterion editor, Israel Carreon Mar. 9, 2010, to request permission to re-publish Smith’s article. The request was denied, according to Smith, on grounds that Carreon wanted to protect “[Smith] and [his] reputation, given the sensitivity of the article and the nature of Educate Truth.” Carreon and Smith concluded that the overall demographic of visitors to Educate Truth were “of a certain bias against LSU already.”
Since we can’t re-publish it for you, we have summed up the rather lengthy article, highlighting what we thought was interesting.
Smith begins his article with a summation of LSU Board of Trustees’ statement, affirming the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s fundamental belief in creation. He states that despite LSU’s “profound support for these basic truths, questions have still been raised regarding the school’s commitment to Seventh-day Adventist idealsâ€¦.”
After which, he begins rehashing a small history of how this controversy became viral on the web. Smith intimates Asscherick and Ptiman’s letters to the General Conference “very well could have made the situation worse.”
He quotes a segment of Paulsen’s letter to Pitman, which has since been pulled from Pitman’s website DetectingDesign.com at Paulsen’s request.
One student interviewed by Smith, a senior Charles Schoeplfin, double majoring in Biophysics and Psychology said, “If we want an education, we need to be open to all possibilities and confront them with our own set of beliefs and values.”
Educate Truth is called the “leading offensive outlet for initiates such as Asscherick and Pitman.”
Smith covers Louie Bishop’s attempt to inform alumni of what was going on in the biology classrooms. “I felt [the alumni] has a right to know what La Sierra’s classroom stance is regarding the origin of life. After all, that is what they are investing their money in,” Bishop said.The chronology of LaSierraUniversity.net’s demise is out of order. Smith states that the owner’s of the website “ran into some trouble regarding its domain name.” What actually happened, and Smith does record this part correctly, was Adventist Review had attempted to contact the owners of the website, but were unable to do so because they were anonymous. The server hosting the site then shut down the entire site. It wasn’t until a week later that La Sierra lawyers served the owners with legal papers, telling them to hand over the domain name.
The article goes on to talk about the petition initiated by Educate Truth and its eventual presentation to the Board of Trustees November 12, 2009. A copy of the petition was given to each board member. Randal Wisbey is quoted, “One of the things that I most want as the President of La Sierra University is to make sure that all voices are heard, and that we are respectful in sharing our opinions, as well.”
Bishop is cited as “one of the most audible voices in the demand for change in certain Biology professors’ curriculum.”
Smith asked the question, “How exactly should science be presented in the classroom?” He said there are those “who have held that the idea of a literal, recent, six-day creation is a faith-based concept, not a science.” Smith concludes, “There is definitely merit in this argument.”
The idea that there is a division between faith and science is echoed frequently from LSU professors both in the religion and biology department, according to Educate Truth’s research. Smith said that a “good number” of the students who have weighed in on this issue “haven’t taken issue with the methods in which the biology professors have presented the material.”
Senior biology major, Samuel Limbong, is quoted as saying, “I’ve heard what has been said about the biology professors, and honestly, I do not see that. I mean, when you study things up close on the cell molecular level, you really gain a deeper appreciation for God’s creation. The more I studied it, the more I appreciated it.”
Smith then goes on to talk about those who “defend the presentation of evolution,” trying to “explain why some students might misunderstand the objectives of the teachers in conjunction with the school’s mission concerning this issue, which is stated as such:
We, along with Seventh-day Adventist parents, expect students to receive a thorough, balanced, and scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation, even as they are educated to understand and assess competing philosophies or origins that dominate scientific discussion in the contemporary world.
According to Smith, there still remains the question: “How can we ‘understand and assess’ mainstream scientific perspectives if the merits of such perspectives are not presented in class?” Smith continued, asking how students who have been “over exposed” to a “limited creationist perspective” learn to think for themselves in regards to the origins of life.
Wisbey said, “All of our biology classes in the North American Division expect our students not only to be introduced to the theory of evolution, but to interact with it.” Wisbey doesn’t elaborate on what he means by “interact with it” in the interview.
Smith is of the opinion that “a balance should exist between time and energy spent teaching both creation and evolution.”
He admitted if LSU were to give in to the accusations and “terminate the professors in question” they would be admitting to a “corrupted faculty.”
Smith said “small” changes have been made to the science curriculum “that will allow for greater focus on the Adventist belief in a six-day creation” while still maintaining “adequate exposure to other theories of scientific thought.”
Smith went on to talk about the “study group” LSU sanctioned. To our knowledge this “study group” has not yet materialized. It will be interesting to see if LSU ever comes through with this.
Wisbey is described as having met with the biology professors “numerous” times and was “pleased with the results.”
“It has been a very enriching experience getting to know these men and women and their incredible commitment to Adventist education and their incredible commitment to teaching these biology students,” Wisbey said.
Executive Director of University Relations at LSU, Larry Becker, chimed in on the effects the negative publicity has had on LSU. Becker said, “Most of what we have heard is anecdotal up to this point. Our freshman class is up by 12% this year.” According to Becker, this is the “highest number of biology majors in 20 years.” Apparently the effects of the negative publicity has been limited to some of their recruiters getting “questions from prospective students regarding this issue.” Smith said the PR department has been working with the recruiters and Wisbey “on proper ways of addressing these sensitive questions.”
The article concluded with a classic quotation from Ellen White on education, “It is the work of true education to â€¦ train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought” (Education 17). Interesting quotation to use when the LSU biology professors are so intent on promoting evolution in the classroom. The next sentence seems to be more applicable to LSU’s situation, “Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation.” Students aren’t being directed to sources of truth in regard to the biblical creation by most of the biology department.
Smith finally suggested that our “overarching goal” should be to “allow truth to educate us” and “not to educate truth.”