March 16, 2009
Elder Jan Paulsen, President
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Dear Elder Paulsen,
I recently gave a lecture at La Sierra University (LSU) on the topic ofÂ Evolution vs. Creation at the invitation of the student body (2/20/09). It is no secret that the teachers of the upper division science courses at La Sierra are teaching the Theory of Evolution as “more than a theory”, the gospel truth in essence, to the science students at LSU – – to the active exclusion of any discussion of either creationists concepts or intelligent design theory; not to mention the unique SDA take on the origin of life on this planet specifically stated in the clarified fundamental positions of the SDA Church (Belief #6; as of 2004).
I know this issue has been brought to the attention of Elder Mostert back when Dr. Geraty was president of LSU (before his retirement in 2008 when the current president, Randal Wisbey took over).Â I am also aware of the standard line given when the powers that be at La Sierra are/where questioned regarding this matter – that “We all believe in God and Creation here at La Sierra”.Â While this may be true in the most general sense, it certainly is not true when it comes to the unique SDA take on this issue.
I have extensive syllabus materials which are being presented to the science students at LSU.Â I’d like to briefly quote some relevant passages from these syllabus materials to illustrate my point:
From the Syllabus intro:Â â€œIt is vitally important for you to realize that this courseâ€”as aÂ science courseâ€”is describing evidence from mainstream science, and isÂ not dealing withÂ beliefs. Some will decide they cannot ‘believe’ the scientific evidence, and your right to decide that is encouraged and supported. If you expect to be competitive in any modern science-based profession, and hope to perform well on standardized or pre-professional qualifying exams, you simply must know what the scientific evidence is, whether or not you â€˜believeâ€™ it.â€
From elsewhere in the Syllabus:Â â€œEvolution is supported by an overwhelming and constantly growing amount of scientific evidence. New discoveries continue to fill the gaps identified by Darwin inÂ The Origin of Species. The evidence is in the form of direct, measurable, empirical observation.
Is it informed to dismiss Darwin’s ideas as â€˜just a theoryâ€™? In science, the word theory means something that accounts for many observations and explains & integrates a great variety of phenomena. The colloquial use of the word theory comes close to what scientists mean by a hypothesis. There is nothing â€˜theoreticalâ€™ about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin’s original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea.Â Â It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory.
The reason this unifying theory has become so widely accepted in the scientific world is that it has stood up to intense, thorough, continual observation and criticism. The way to become rich & famous in science would be to show a fundamental error in the theory. The built-in skepticism of science prevents these ideas from becoming dogma.â€
Aside from such statements in the syllabus, no countering statements, creationist views or interpretations, or any uniquely SDA position on origins is mentioned in the entire syllabus or lecture notes. The students themselves tell me that only the Darwinian-style evolutionary view of origins is being taught in the science classes at LSU and that the teachers openly claim that Darwinian-style evolution is in fact true while the historical view of the SDA Church is clearly outdated and, well, obviously wrong.Â Â It seems to me that the teachers at LSU are actively undermining what the Church, as an organized body, has stated very clearly to be fundamentally important and that these same teachers are simply thumbing their noses at the GC’s guidelines on this issue:
â€œChurch leaders at all levels are encouraged to assess and monitor the effectiveness with which denominational systems and programs succeed in preparing young people, including those attending non-Adventist schools, with a biblical understanding of origins and an awareness of the challenges they may face in respect to this understanding.â€
Such statements seem to carry no weight at LSU and are simply disregarded – quite openly. It seems that at the very least an employee of an organization should respect the goals that the employer feels are fundamentally important for the organization.Â Yet, such respect is lacking at La Sierra.Â I fear that unless steps are taken to correct this issue that irreparable damage is being done and will continue to be done to our young people – the future life blood of the SDA Church.Â It seems to me that this issue is becoming a more and more prominent problem in our Church – especially in our universities and even undergraduate level schools.Â Â Sooner or later I think this particular issue has the potential to split the Church.Â Â As painful as it may be steps need to be taken now to limit the severity of this split.Â I therefore solicit your help in this matter.
If you are interested, the three-part video of my lecture at LSU (along with a developing debate on this issue started by Ervin Taylor, the executive editor of the journalÂ Adventists Today) can be viewed at:
I can also forward you the syllabus materials directly if you are interested and send you contact information for some of the students who have and are currently bringing this issue to my attention.Â I also have numerous other letters and E-mails from concerned parents, pastors, scientists, and other educators across the country if you are interested in these as well.
Thank you again for your time and consideration of this matter.
Sean Pitman, MD