Comment on Why Orthodox Darwinism Demands Atheism by Sean Pitman.
I was a speaker at the Yes, Creation series at the GC (and manned the Geoscience Booth a few days), and have known Ben Clausen (casually) over the years. I think Ben has been affected by various creationist statements over the years that are weak scientifically, in his mind. He is rather rigorous in this, even combative on the idea that Genesis can be supported with a scientific model. I think he does believe Genesis, wishing to place it in a separate mental box, so to speak. Not science, but more personal faith. This is a common practice among some.
This is also my understanding of Clausen’s position. The problem I see with such a position is that it makes the SDA position on origins appear to have no more scientific or even rational validity than those who subscribe to the flat-Earth society. The notion that the SDA position on origins is only a matter of personal faith, despite all evidence to the contrary, is simply not a helpful position in my opinion. One might as well leave the SDA Church given this perspective. I certainly would if I thought the same way.
As for me, I prefer stating the obvious weaknesses scientifically of the evolutionary model for origins. They are numerous, easy to explain. And the idea that design is clear should also be easy. Good science is an ally here. But to go so far as to say we can build a â€œscientific modelâ€ for a six-day creationâ€¦well, Ben is correct on that. We canâ€™t! And here we do enter into the neighborhood of the brain called â€œreligious faith.â€ And FYI, that puts it next door to â€œscientific faith.â€
We might not be able to build a scientific model to specifically support a literal 6-day creation week, but we can build one to support a recent arrival of life on this planet as well as a recent and sudden catastrophic model to explain much of the geologic column and fossil record. While not all questions can be answered, of course, the weight of evidence in this regard appears to me to be overwhelmingly on the side of the Genesis account of origins. This adds weight to those aspects of the Genesis account that cannot be directly tested or evaluated in a scientific manner.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Mark Houston was right in pointing out that the amazing camel is exceptionally well designed for life AFTER the flood, and not before it.
I actually agree with this point…
Clausen sees the Sabbath as symbolizing what Anselm said about â€œfaith seeking understanding.â€ In conclusion he urged us to place our faith in the Bible because there is not enough support from science.
I disagree with Ben Clausen. The clear weight of evidence, as far as I’ve been able to tell, is strongly supportive of the SDA position on origins. The genetic, geologic, and fossil evidence all speak to a recent formation of life on this planet and to a sudden worldwide watery catastrophe that produced much of both the geologic and fossil records in very short order.
Because of this weight of evidence, I think that Ben Clausen has done and is doing the Church a disservice in his employment with GRI. GRI isn’t supposed to be a place where one argues that the only thing we have is blind faith in the biblical statements. GRI is supposed to be a place where scientific evidence is used to back up the biblical statements. If Ben cannot recognize this evidence, then he should be asked to move on and get his paycheck from some organization that is more in line with his personal views and blind faith.
Ronny Nalin, who does sedimentological research in Italy, chose to address a similar theme: â€œDealing with Uncertainty.â€ He answered four key questions:
1. Have I found the synthesis between the Bible and geology? No, just more unresolved issues.
2. Should we downplay geology? No, the rocks have a story to tell.
3. Should we give up our faith when there is conflict? No, faith is not based on empirical evidence (Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7).
4. Why is there a conflict? Incomplete understanding is part of the human condition; our God is bigger than we are. The answer lies in knowledge we do not see. Jacobâ€™s struggle and conflict is a good illustration. Genesis 32:31 (NIV) says: â€œThe sun rose above himâ€ even though he was limping. It was a sign of symbolic life after struggle.
Such arguments are like saying, “Well, there is overwhelming evidence that the Earth is spherical, but because our sacred text tells us that the Earth is flat, we believe that the Earth is flat in spite of all the overwhelming evidence that is against us.”
To suggest, therefore, that faith is not based on empirical evidence of any kind is to suggest that the Christian gospel is no more reasonable than believing in a flat Earth or Dawkins’ Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Santa Claus or garden fairies. This notion is completely ridiculous in my opinion – not at all helpful as a solid rational basis for actually believing in the reality of the Gospel’s message of hope.
If I actually believed like this, I’d have the intellectual honesty to leave the SDA Church and even Christianity behind and to admit that the Bible is really not any more reliable or useful than a collection of moral fables…
In response to the question, â€œPlease explain dating,â€ he said, â€œRadiometric dating is our only method; there is no alternative.â€ The follow up question was â€œThen explain six literal days.â€ His response, â€I feel comfortable because I have a larger world view though it cannot be reconciled with science. There is no shame in having problems.â€ Another question: â€œIs there room for believers who think differently in the church?â€ Response: â€œYes, how would you deal with someone who had a mythical experience? No, forget the word â€˜mythicalâ€™! The main point to realize is that you canâ€™t use Genesis to form a scientific model. If youâ€™re an advocate for other views, be humble, accept the fact that you may not have followers.â€ Last question: â€œAre there presuppositions in geology?â€ Answer: â€œYes, the assumptions are reasonable and intrinsically connected with the laws of nature. When it comes to things that are supernatural, you canâ€™t fully understand them, you can just speculate.â€
Radiometric dating methods are not all we have to estimate elapsed time. There are all kinds of other methods to evaluate the passage of time – to include erosion rates, molecular decay rates, sedimentation rates, real time mutation rates, bioturbation rates, etc.
Beyond this, if the overwhelming weight of evidence is against you, why on Earth do you believe like you do? What is your basis for belief beyond some emotional need for a particular story to be true? And, where is the confidence to be found in a blind-faith emotion-driven belief system?
The presentation by Jim Gibson, Director of GRI, responded to the question, â€œDo Millions of Years Solve the Problem?â€ In a nutshell, his answer was â€œno,â€ but he carefully spelled out the reasons as follows…
Faith has to be the key because â€œthere is not enough evidence to resolve the tension between science and the Bible; one has to believe the Bible without the support of science.â€ â€œScience works well when tests can be repeated; history is not testable in that way.â€ â€œScience is a closed system governed by physical laws so tension [with the Bible] has to be expected.â€
Gibson is mistaken to think that various views of history are not in any way testable in a falsifiable manner and are therefore not empirically based. There is plenty of physical empirical evidence to support the biblical model of origins which is both testable and potentially falsifiable and is therefore scientific.
The statement, yet again, that “faith” is all that we have is nonsense. Blind faith, devoid of any backing by empirical evidence, is completely worthless as a basis for a real solid hope in the future. Richard Dawkins, William Provine, and others like them, are correct to note that such appeals to “faith” are no more useful to the believer than is essential atheism when it comes to a rational understanding of reality.
As far as the details of why I belief that the significant weight of evidence found in geology, fossils and genetic clearly supports the SDA perspective on origins, please refer to my website and the many extensive comments I’ve made along these lines in this forum and in many others…
Get a grip and stop this insane witch hunt. Instead of focusing on that which is devisive, why not focus on what brings unity? There are plenty of theologians who think evolution is compatable with creation, and there are plenty of scientists who believe evolution is compatible with faith in God. Why donâ€™t you focus on them?
I dare say that there are very very few, if any, theologians or scientists who believe in evolution or naturalism in general who can point to any particular feature of nature and say, “This required the finger of God or a God-like intelligence”.
This is the whole point of those like Dawkins and Provine and others who note that Darwinism is only consistent with religion or various beliefs in God if such beliefs are effectively indistinguishable from atheism as far as their ability to produce any solid evidence or predictive value in their behalf. In other words, as Dawkins so eloquently put it, if your belief in God cannot be readily distinguished from a belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Santa Claus, or garden fairies, what good is your belief in God?
This is what is important about the SDA position on origins. The SDA position on a literal creation week and evidence for the literal interpretation of Genesis demands the existence of a God whose handiwork or Signature can be clearly seen in nature as requiring very high level deliberate intelligence.
Those who disagree are welcome to their opinions. However, they are not welcome to expect, much less demand, a paycheck from the SDA Church to promote their opinions on the Church’s dime. Such a position is not a “witch hunt”, as you put it. It is simply a matter of practicality for any viable organization. No organization can long afford to pay those who go about publicly undermining the primary goals and ideals of the organization…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“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.