Comment on UNST/UHNR 404B Syllabus (LSU) by Sean Pitman M.D..
Frank L.: Bob, your comments are too often judgmental, rude, ignorant, and slanderous. Ben Clausen of GRI, Kevin Nick of LLU, and Paul Bucheim of LLU all accept the Biblical account on origins; I know these people personally and can vouch for that. How instructive to the unbiased observer your term â€œunbalancedâ€ is and should be applied.
Kevin Nick, from my own personal conversations with him, seems to strongly support the idea that life has existed and evolved on this planet over the course of hundreds of millions of years of time.
Ben Clausen is sometimes difficult to interpret since he is often very apologetic in how he presents his lectures, sometimes seeming to favor evolutionary thinking, even though he is personally a young-life creationist.
I do not personally know Paul Bucheim, but his published work seems to strongly argue for a non-catastrophic long-age origin for much of the geologic and fossil records.
As far as the rest on the list of lecturers, all are very strongly in support of ancient and evolving life on Earth – perhaps guided by God along the way (i.e., theistic evolutionists at best, with some being essentially agnostic in their thinking). I’m simply amazed that this list of lecturers is the “best” that an “SDA” institution, like LSU, could come up with to present these topics…
Sean Pitman M.D. Also Commented
UNST/UHNR 404B Syllabus (LSU)
Dear Pastor Gary McCary,
You’ve written a very interesting blog regarding the evolution/creation controversy surrounding LSU ( http://tsdachurch.org/rant.htm ). Since I’m pretty closely associated with this particular controversy, I hope you don’t mind if I respond to a few of your thoughts on this issue:
Does our faith depend on biblical literalism? There are many in Adventism who want to see our universities purged of evolutionary biologists. These conservatives donâ€™t want evolution taught in any way, shape or form in Adventist institutions. Are you worried that your child might learn of Darwin and his theories?
This is a sensationalized mischaracterization of conservative Adventism. I personally don’t know any conservative SDAs who don’t want our schools to teach about the theory of evolution (ToE) in all of its strengths. Clearly our students should indeed be taught about the opinions of mainstream science. However, SDA education should not end here. It should go beyond the teachings of mainstream science to explain the pitfalls with the modern synthesis view of the ToE. SDA science education should also present the significant weight of evidence that currently favors a recent a catastrophic formation of much of the geologic and fossil records as well as the genetic evidence that strongly indicates the necessity for high-level intelligent input in fairly recent history (by those teachers who actually believe in and support the stated SDA perspective on origins by the organized church).
So, to answer your question, conservative Adventists, like myself, are not worried that our children might learn of Darwin and his theories. We want them to learn of Darwin and his theories and why they are limited; why the popular extrapolation of certain features goes way beyond what can truly be called “science” (entering into the realm of philosophy and even blind faith religion); and why hypotheses and theories of intelligent design and catastrophism do in fact have the support of the significant weight of available evidence.
Our children should also be taught that unless the Bible is based on some sort of determinable historical reality, it really isn’t anything other than another good moral fable. The reason why we can see the Supernatural within the pages of the Bible is because the Bible is demonstrably reliable – to include its statements about physical and historical reality. This is the reason why the Bible is so clearly superior as a revelation of Divine will vs. the statements of other religious texts which do not accurately reflect physical reality – such as the Book of Mormon for example.
I have a suggestion. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s been considered before. Why canâ€™t evolutionary biology be taught in biology classes for what it isâ€”the current â€œscienceâ€ on the whole issue of existence? And why canâ€™t 6-day creationism be taught in religion classes for what IT isâ€”the historic â€œfaithâ€ of the biblical literalist. Each viewpoint is â€œtrueâ€ based on each sidesâ€™ presuppositions. I want my children to learn what the science is on the subject, AND what the faith-position is. Does this not seem reasonable? Certainly our institutions of higher-learning shouldnâ€™t be considered institutions of lower-learning! Or are we afraid that our young people will leave the church if they learn the current science?
It is a very common, but misguided suggestion that science and faith are completely different enterprises or paths to truth. Both cannot be true if they say opposing things about the same physical feature or historical event. As the well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias once pointed out, “Even in India people look both ways before they cross the street.” – in other words you can be hit and not hit by a bus at the same time.
The notion that evolutionism is “science” while “creationism” is religion is nonsense. If evolutionism is true, it most certainly has religious implications. And, if creationism is true, it most certainly has scientific implications. Useful religion cannot be as schizophrenic as you are suggesting here and remain viable beyond mere lip service. Pretty soon, no one would belong or support the church outside of thinking of church as a nice social club – but certainly not anything worth putting one’s life or fortune on the line for when it comes to doctrinal issues or the basis for a solid hope in a bright literal future.
Also, the notion that science isn’t reliant upon leaps of faith is a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. Science is based on taking a very limited data set and predicting the future based on this limited set of information. Such a prediction, while carrying a certain degree of predictive value, is a leap of faith that can never be known with perfection. The very same thing is true of religious faith. While a certain degree of predictive value can be established to support even a religious faith in a future reality, the future cannot be known with absolute perfection – even with the use of religious faith. Because of this, science uses leaps of faith and religion can have a scientific basis for faith (at least if one’s faith isn’t completely blind – i.e., is based on something more than wishful thinking or a strong feeling or desire).
Itâ€™s HOT here at the epicenter. There are rumors of possible â€œloyalty oathsâ€ and â€œwitch-huntsâ€ in the future. Some feel that the purity of the church is at stake. I say â€œhumbugâ€ to all the hysteria. And Iâ€™m reminded of a couple of startling Ellen White statements: â€œThere is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error.â€ â€œIf the pillars of our faith will not stand the test of investigation, it is time that we knew it!â€ (Counsels to Writers & Editors, pages 35 & 44).
Although Mrs. White does indeed use the phrase “unity in diversity”, and stated that, “Instructors in our schools should never be bound by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto”, she also maintained that the landmarks and pillars of the Adventist message were to ever remain. Concepts that impact the science of geology which she “was shown” to be identified as permanent include six literal, empirical, historical 24-hour days of creation, culminating with a literal 24-hour Sabbath day rest, and human life on Earth non-existent before the literal creation week described in Genesis. – Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3. pp 90-93.
She also referred to theories of evolution prevalent in her own day as “science so called” and had some of the strongest language against accepting long age notions for the creation and/or evolution of life on this planet in a Darwinian manner. In one of her primary works, Patriarchs and Prophets, she even wrote a chapter entitled, “The Literal Week” ( Link ). The very name Seventh-day Adventist speaks to the SDA stand on a literal creation week as the basis for key doctrinal beliefs of our church.
Given such clear statements from Ellen White on this topic in particular, I’m simply amazed at those who actually try to invoke her in support the efforts of those who are trying to undermine the most important doctrinal ideals she stood for and wrote about…
So yes, in a very real sense the unique contribution of the SDA Church to the understanding of the Scriptures does in fact stand or fall based on a literal reading and understanding of the very first chapters of these Scriptures. Without this understanding, their really is no basis for the SDA Church to exist as a unique entity – other than, perhaps, a nice social club…
Sean Pitman, M.D.
UNST/UHNR 404B Syllabus (LSU)
The History of Evolutionism in the Adventist Church:
Also interesting in this regard is a story of the support of “progressive Adventism” to include a belief in the evolution of life on this planet over hundreds of millions of years of time, by prior LSU president Lawrence Geraty. Geraty was in full support of retired GC vice president Richard Hammill in his conversion to an evolutionary understanding of origins over vast periods of time. His published comments are most interesting in this regard (and explain a great deal as to why LSU has hired professors who actively support Darwinian thinking as they do), as is the overall story of Evolutionism with the Adventist Church:
UNST/UHNR 404B Syllabus (LSU)
Dr. Buchheim may have been a young-life creationist and may still consider himself to be a young life creationist in some sense of the word. However, it is difficult for me to imagine why a young life creationist would make the arguments that Dr. Buchheim has made in published literature favoring an ancient origin of life on this planet to the tune of many millions of years? – without any counter argument or explanation? If someone could explain this to me, I’d be most grateful…
Here are a couple of abstracts from papers or presentations given by Dr. Buchheim for consideration:
H. Paul Buchheim. Loma Linda University:
The Meentheena Carbonate Member of the Tumbiana Formation (Fortescue Group; Late Archean) with its abundant and diverse stromatolites and rare microfossils represents an important unit with significant exobiological implications for understanding ancient life in lakes. The Meentheena was deposited some 2715 Ma [million years] ago within an intracratonic basin, either as one large lake over 350 km across or in a series of smaller lakes.
The Interplay of Tectonic and Climatic Forcing Factors in the Deposition of a Hydrologically-Closed Basin Fill Sequence: Copper Canyon â€œFormationâ€, Death Valley National Park
Nyborg, Torrey, Paul Buchheim; Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
The evolution of the Copper Canyon â€œformationâ€ (CCF) basin fill sequence represents an excellent example of a hydrologically-closed basin controlled by tectonic (uplift rate, duration and spatial distribution) and climatic (precipitation/ evaporation ratios-P/E) factors. The CCF is a transtensional fault-bounded Tertiary basin associated with right steps within a low angle normal fault system that extended Death Valley and uplifted the Black Mountains and portions of the Funeral Mountains. Three basalt flows occur within the CCF constraining the age between ~5 and 3Ma [million years]. The CCF is divided into the fanglomerate, fluvial-lacustrine, and basalt â€œunitsâ€. Initial CCF deposits represent active uplift recorded by numerous fanglomerates deposited as debris flows fining upward into mud-drapes. The fanglomerate provenance suggests a local source and rapid episodic deposition. Fanglomerates become less dominant up section and interfinger with trangressive-regressive playa-lake deposits. Cyclicity of lacustrine sequences is interpreted as humid-wet and arid-dry climate cycles consisting of: evaporite facies (reflecting a hypersaline lake); alternating beds of calcimicrite and dolomicrite (representing alternating fresh and saline conditions); and bioclastic carbonate and limestone beds containing tufa mounds (reflecting active spring deposition). The CCF deposits end abruptly ~3Ma reflecting basin in-filling (loss of accommodation space), probably due to a decline in tectonic activity in Death Valley. The CCF is an excellent example of the interplay between tectonic and climate driven deposition within a hydrologically-closed basin.
Paul Buchheim also acknowledges birds nested throughout Green River time in Fossil Lake likely represent in situ formation. Buchheim studied three different Presbyornis nesting sites and found that they spanned 160 meters of vertical rock. They also commented that such nesting sites are quite common in the shore facies of the Green River Formation. His team writes (Legitt, Buchheim and Biaggi, 1998):
“Autochthonous Presbyornis sp. (Aves: Anseriformes) eggshell from three Eocene Fossil Lake sites is strong evidence for multiple avian nesting sites within Fossil Basin. Two of these nesting sites (the Bear Divide and Warfield Creek sites) occur near the base of the lower unit of the Fossil Butte Member of the Green River Formation. The third nesting site (the Powerline site) occurs near the top of the upper unit of the Fossil Butte Member. The Presbyornis nesting sites span Green River Formation time in Fossil Basin.”
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman M.D.
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.