PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?

By Educate Truth

Prof. Bryan Ness

On October 28, 2010, Dr. Bryan Ness, a biology professor at Pacific Union College since 1989, gave a lecture to a class of theology majors during a colloquium.  Throughout his lecture Dr. Ness presents numerous challenges from mainstream science for the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood (seeming to favor a local flood). He references evidence for a local Black Sea Flood around 4,500 years ago along with a complete lack of scientific evidence for a worldwide deluge as Seventh-day Adventists have historically believed and taught. He also presents questions regarding the importance of the literal 6-day creation week to Adventist theology.

[The video has been pulled until we are confident it complies with copyright laws.]

Dr. Ness has research interests in plant systematics and genetics and an advisory role at PUC in the areas of biology, natural science, veterinary medicine, medical radiography and occupational therapy.

Per report, Dr. Ranzolin, head of the theology department, and Dr. Jean Sheldon were also present in the room during this lecture.

Note that PUC has recently responded to this video clip arguing that Dr. Ness was simply role playing or playing Devil’s advocate; not actually promoting the definite bias he seemed to be supporting in his lecture against the position of the SDA Church on origins (Link).  Many others have commented below that Dr. Ness is a rather outspoken advocate of the SDA stand on a literal 6-day creation week – which is encouraging.

However, as Dr. Ness himself notes in the comments below regarding a worldwide Noachian Flood, “As it stands now I have an open mind on the subject (and I would hope you and others could respect me for that). I would love to find more credible evidence to support the traditional view on the flood, unfortunately, at the moment, such evidence is difficult to find.”

While admirably honest, we find that statement rather disheartening coming from a well-respected and much-loved SDA professor in one of our schools of higher learning.  We wish Dr. Ness and all other professors teaching our youth would be able to present evidence for why the SDA position on origins, to include a worldwide Noachian Flood, is a very rational position from an empirical perspective that goes beyond blind faith.  Our students need reasons to believe – not just a long list of tough questions without any answers provided by those who are in the best position to know at least a few good answers and competing evidences to give to our youth.  Our youth are earnestly searching for good reasons to view the Bible as credible and the basis of the Gospel Message as rational.

After all, the SDA Church has officially asked (at the most recent GC session and prior) for all of its educators to promote the Church’s position on origins. Consider the following request from the General Conference Executive Committee of 2004:

We reaffirm the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the historicity of Genesis 1-11: that the seven days of the Creation account were literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we now experience as a week; and that the Flood was global in nature.

“We call on all boards and educators at Seventh-day Adventist institutions at all levels to continue upholding and advocating the church’s position on origins. 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 of origins that dominate scientific discussion in the contemporary world.

http://adventist.org/beliefs/statements/main-stat55.html

Now, we take the word “all” to actually mean “all”. Of course, Dr. Ness did in fact educate his students in his lecture regarding the competing philosophies of origins that dominate contemporary science. However, Dr. Ness did not offer anything to counter or even buffer these interpretations of the evidence. In this particular lecture, he did not even hint at “a thorough, balanced, and scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation” or the “global nature” of the Flood.

We certainly welcome him to do this if this is in fact his true goal in the education of our youth. We’d gladly post any video clip or personal statement along these lines that he is willing to submit (in addition to those already posted). Such a statement would go a very long way to clearly putting the video clip presented above into much clearer context. However, the students leaving this one particular lecture would have had to leave with serious doubts in their minds as to the solid credibility of the Biblical accounts as well as the SDA position on origins. That, in our mind, is not the goal of Adventist education.

UPDATE 11/5/2010: Ness’s reference to the formerly lax language of FB#6 (courtesy of Fritz Guy and Lawrence Geraty) in his lecture is no longer valid and should never have been a valid argument for professors in our own schools to see themselves free to undermine the credibility and fundamental importance of the historical SDA position on a literal creation week and worldwide Noachian Flood. But, since many of our professors have in fact been hiding behind the claimed ambiguity in the wording of FB#6, this language has now been more clearly defined, as of this latest GC session (and even as far back as the GC’s executive committee statement of 2004), to include the word “literal” when referencing the creation week.

Now, there may indeed be many who consider our posting of Dr. Ness’s lecture, to be uncalled for; but the word should be out by now to SDA professors at large that they are not free to teach whatever they want in our own schools without any question or general knowledge as to what they are really teaching our youth by the Church membership at large. We all have a right to know what and how our own young people are being taught in our own schools – and to have a say in this process.

UPDATE 11/6/2010: In fact, the following is an audioclip from a talk he gave for a colloquy at PUC on October 22, 2009 (see: link to PUC website), in which he seems to strongly support the literal creation week:

UPDATE 11/7/2010: Below is a short clip of relevant excerpts from Dr. Ness’s discussion with PUC’s theology majors (originally over 42 minutes long):

UPDATE 11/8/2010: From a comment posted by a former PUC student @Benjamin Burkhardt regarding what Dr. Ness taught him when he was at PUC between 2004 to 2006, regarding a local vs. a global Noachian Flood:

In REGARDS TO NOAH’S FLOOD some minor issues came up for me. I did not quite understand what Dr. Ness was trying to say about it, but I didn’t like a point that was made. So, I asked him about the matter after class and he explained to me that perhaps the flood could have been a more local event, and the authors of the Bible were reporting it merely as they had perceived it.

This is not some minor point. The local Flood idea opens the door, and essentially requires, the intelligent mind to interpret the geologic column and fossil records as being the records of vast periods of time of Earth’s history. It is an argument that is directly in support of the idea that life has existed and evolved on this planet far longer than the SDA belief that all life on Earth is very young and that death did not exist here, for any sentient form of life, until the Fall of man.

Dr. Ness may not consciously realize it, but his teaching on this particular topic of a local vs. a worldwide Flood is a big problem for an SDA institution like PUC.

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418 thoughts on “PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?

  1. Just a quick note on the professor’s argument that there are no hummingbirds in Africa while there are in N. and S. America (about 4:50 into the clip) – suggesting that such a phenomenon cannot easily be explained by hummingbird migration over the ~4,500 years since the Flood.

    While it is interesting that there are currently no native hummingbirds in Europe, Asia, or Africa, it is also interesting to note that hummingbirds did in fact once live in these areas (since the time of the Flood). Fossil remains of hummingbirds (within Oligocene/Tertiary post-Flood layers) have been found in Europe and Asia. The latest example is a find of what are thought to be the oldest hummingbird remains located in Germany. Dr Gerald Mayr claims the fossils show many striking resemblances to modern hummingbird groups (what a surprise!).

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3691169.stm

    It seems then, from the creationist perspective that holds to a literal worldwide Noachian Flood, that hummingbirds did once inhabit many areas on the planet, after the Flood (since most creationists consider Tertiary layers to be post-Flood sedimentary deposits), from which they have since died out. “Their long lost cousins could have helped determine the shape of some Asian and African flowers existing today,” Mayr said.

    The same argument is true for post-Flood fossils of marsupials…

    This also segways into the topic of all the land and bird species that Dr. Ness claimed could never have fit on the Ark. How did all of these species come about in such a short time since modern scientists assert that speciation takes vast periods of time?

    Well, besides the fact that the species concept is highly subjective, speciation can and does occur very rapidly due to front-loaded information within the parental gene pool of genetic options. This information does not have to be evolved from scratch since it is already there. It is for this very same reason that most modern breeds of dogs have existed for less than 400 years. In other words, their unique physical features were isolated from the ancestral gene pool of potential options very very rapidly due to the front-loading of the genetic information within the parental gene pool for all of the varieties of doggy options that exist today…

    This very same process has been used to produce variations in many different animal types that have been classified, by modern scientists, as different “species” – even though they are clearly still part of the same informational gene pool since many of these “different species” can interbreed with each other to produce viable and often fertile offspring…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  2. I’m surprised and heartbroken to see Dr. Ness undermining the Bible. I’ve heard two of his presentations before defending the Biblical account of Creation. As nice of a man that he is, the Bible must never take a back seat to the speculations of man. This will unleash a firestorm and anger many. But if this is the “progressive” definition of present truth, then I’d find it VERY odd that anyone would get angry about it being made public, for the nature of truth is to enlighten others of its existence.

    Luckily PUC has a good president, and with the Lord’s guidance will direct its steps back to the Bible. I hope this will wake up the sleeping sentinels who are supposed to be guarding the walls of Jerusalem, and that it will empower our godly administrators to do what they have to do.

    I pray that the students be protected from the backlash that comes for standing for truth. I pray that these professors and deceived students would listen to the Lord’s call. True change will only come when the people of God unite in prayer to defend the walls of Jerusalem with the word of God and in the spirit of Christ. There’s no other way. The Lord is waiting for us.




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  3. This is exactly what is going on at LSU. This is as blatant as it gets. He clearly undermines the Bible and the Adventist faith. His presentation was incredibly biased with little reference to opposing evidence. This is the well rounded education that our kids are getting at our universities at PUC and LSU.




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  4. A choice quote from Dr. Ness:

    “What happens when you start challenging some of these things and that’s the issue happening now, because it turns out science is getting better and better at determining the age of things. That’s certainly true. Better and better at understanding genetics which bears on things like evolution, natural selection, and all those issues. So, as science gets better at explaining things, then I guess one of the ways of looking at things is to say the gaps that used to be there in the evolutionary theory start shrinking. So what do we do as that begins to happen and the evidence seems to suggest some of these things [that the SDA Church believes] aren’t true? So how do we approach that?” (3:50)

    What about the evidence that suggests evolution is false?




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  5. As much as I agree with the mission and purpose of this website, I also want to remind those commenting here to not focus solely on Bryan Ness. Let us not vilify this man, but instead seek to solve the problem as a whole. He is part of a larger network of people at PUC that believe in their own intellectual ability over the Bible. These beliefs are rampant throughout the Honors Program at PUC (of which Ness is also a part). Let’s remember that our goal is to eradicate error while, whenever possible, seeking redemption for those that have both pushed the error and been deceived by it. With a prayerful spirit, let us seek to bring about change in the system itself.




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  6. Dr. Ness is to be congratulated for his intellectual honesty in explaining to students that while what the Adventist Church teaches should be respected and they should become aware of the theological, historical, and sociological reasons why the institutional Adventist Church teaches what it does, this does not mean that the scientific evidence supports the traditional Adventist position on earth history.

    The vast majority of faculty at La Sierra University, Pacific Union College, and Loma Linda University are intellectually honest, appreciate the overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence about earth history, and understand the problems in classical Adventist theology concerning this topic. I hope the courage of Dr. Ness at PUC will inspire more and more to speak out publicly and expose the agenda of those such as the supporters of “EducateTruth (sic)” whose principal purpose seems to be to return Adventism to the “Dark Ages” of the 1930s.




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  7. @Ervin Taylor:

    The vast majority of faculty at La Sierra University, Pacific Union College, and Loma Linda University are intellectually honest, appreciate the overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence about earth history, and understand the problems in classical Adventist theology concerning this topic. I hope the courage of Dr. Ness at PUC will inspire more and more to speak out publicly and expose the agenda of those such as the supporters of “EducateTruth (sic)” whose principal purpose seems to be to return Adventism to the “Dark Ages” of the 1930s.

    I couldn’t agree more. It is much better for pastors and teachers to at least be open and honest about what they personally believe and teach on the Church’s dime. At least then people will have a better idea as to what they are paying for with their tithes, offerings, tuition and other forms of support of “our” schools… i.e., especially regarding at least some of our schools where the “vast majority” of professors do not believe in and are actively undermining the Church’s “Dark Ages” goals and ideals in their classrooms on the Church’s dime…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  8. @Ervin: In my experience the half dozen professors that promote these things at PUC are far from intellectually honest. They dogmatically push their views on 18-year-old minds and ignore all other evidence, far more forcefully than Ness is even doing here.




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  9. As an alumnus of Pacific Union College, I am sorely grieved and appalled at these statements by Dr. Ness. And please, this is not about villifying any one person or group of persons. It is about integrity, pure and simple. This man lives off the tuition funds and sacrificial offerings paid to my alma mater by Seventh-day Adventists. By declaring the Genesis stories of creation and the Flood to be untrue, he has utterly disqualified himself for employment anywhere in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. He should be subjected to the processes of church discipline, which means the administration of the College should lovingly but firmly call him to account for his views. If he refuses to relinquish them, he should be terminated from his position.

    Our new General Conference leadership has rightly called the great Advent movement to a spirit of revival and reformation. But as in times of old, such a restorative process is impossible without accountability for wrongs taught and wrongs done. There can be no true revival, no true reformation, while such errors as the Darwinian model of origins are tolerated in our schools. As in the days of Moses, Josiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah, unfaithful personnel must be removed if purity of faith and practice are to be restored to the covenant community.

    May the Lord give courage to the president of Pacific Union College, and to all of our leaders, is my prayer.

    God bless!

    Pastor Kevin Paulson




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  10. Dear Ervin and Sean

    Gentleman, I think you are both absolutely right. Transparency is a must.

    Is the tail of faith going to wave the dog of science? Or is the tail going fall off and attach itself to a thinner, older dog?

    Time will tell.

    Regards
    Ken




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  11. So much for being able to have an honest discussion. I have been concerned already about Educate Truth’s approach to these things. Ask anyione who nows me and they will say I am a strong supporter of Adventism. This “lecture” was an attempt to bring out the issues facing the church, and I in no way have ever criticized anyone for believing as they choose to believe. I respect those who believe in a literal Genesis flood, but I also have to be honest about the scientific difficulties with such a belief. I guess what Educate Truth wants is rigid doctinal adherance rather than a frank discussion of what the real issues are. I am deeply, deeply disappointed and I apologize to all lay people who may believe what Edcuate Truth seems to imply about my attitude toward the laity in our church. I strongly support the views of the lay members of our church and feel no need to shake their faith. I am an educator and must at the very least state where the issues lie.




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  12. @Bryan Ness:

    I respect those who believe in a literal Genesis flood, but I also have to be honest about the scientific difficulties with such a belief.

    There is a big difference between “respecting” the beliefs of the SDA Church, as an organization, and holding and promoting those beliefs yourself on the Church’s dime. There’s also a big difference between being honest with one’s own beliefs and being honest toward one’s employer. After all, there are a lot of very honest Catholics, Buddhists, mainstream scientists, agnostics and even atheists. Yet, the SDA Church doesn’t hire these people to teach or preach in our institutions? Why not? Because honesty alone doesn’t make a person an adequate representative of the SDA Church; its goals and ideals.

    For example, you don’t seem to personally hold to the belief that Noah’s Flood literal covered the entire planet and produced much of the geologic column and fossil record. You clearly seem to favor a local or regional Flood over the Church’s position on a world-wide Flood and are not above promoting your own personal views as more rationally valid, and in line with the scientific concensus, than the Church’s views – which you present as very problematic.

    This is quite interesting because you, in the same lecture, feel perfectly confident to counter the mainstream scientific consensus when it comes to abiogenesis – citing problems with the origin of informational complexity within biosystems. Why not when it comes to the origin of the geologic/fossil records? You didn’t present any questions or problems with the mainstream model or any evidence in support of the creationist model of origins. Why not?

    Now, it is fine if you personally doubt the SDA position on origins, the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood in particular, but potential parents and students and the Church membership at large have a right to know what you and other professors are presenting in our classrooms as the weight of rational evidence to our young people regarding origins and the credibility of the Genesis narriative as interpreted by the SDA Church.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  13. I’ve learned more about the bible and what it means to have a loving relationship with God at PUC than at any other time during my life. The teachers here don’t teach you to just suck up what people teach but instead to think about every side of the issue and really find the meaning. I have a class with Dr. Ness right now. Every class period he starts off with a worship thought relating to science. His lecture during the religion colloquium was limited to 50 minutes. He used that time to bring up a side of an argument that most religion majors would never have thought of on their own. If you would take the time to talk to Dr. Ness yourselves then you would see he is a God fearing man. In our world you have to know both sides of any debate. How else can you really understand what you believe in?




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  14. Sean,

    I wish it were all as simple as you present. I do not have my package of beliefs neatly packaged . . . O that I could. As for my beliefs on the Noachian flood: 1) What I personally believe is really none of your business or the business of church leaders, 2) I gave no indication in my “lecture” as to what my personal beliefs on the subject are, and 3) for someone to openly “slander” me (which you come close to doing) is hardly Christian, Christ-like or even decent.

    Just to set the record straight on the flood issue. I view truth as progressive, as does EGW, last time I checked. Although I may favor a wordld-wide flood model, I must recognize that past interpretations of the Bible are not the last word. As it stands now I have an open mind on the subject (and I would hope you and others could respect me for that). I would love to find more credible evidence to support the traditional view on the flood, unfortunately, at the moment, such evidence is difficult to find. I do not advocate putting human reason above God’s Word, but neither am I willing to simply assume that all past Biblical interpretations are correct beyond all revision. Surely such a way of looking at the Bible is valid, or are you saying that on certain beliefs our dogma is sealed and any suggestion of alternatives is heresy?




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  15. @Bryan Ness:

    I wish it were all as simple as you present. I do not have my package of beliefs neatly packaged . . . O that I could. As for my beliefs on the Noachian flood: 1) What I personally believe is really none of your business or the business of church leaders,

    That’s true. But, what you publicly teach and promote in class is my business and the business of parents, students and the Church at large. Is it wrong of me to wish something more in support of the SDA position on these issues to be presented, in our own school system, to our own students (to include my own son someday)? – in support of those who still believe the SDA doctrinal positions are more rational and even, I dare say, more scientific than the mainstream perspective on origins?

    2) I gave no indication in my “lecture” as to what my personal beliefs on the subject are,

    You just presented the mainstream scientific opinion as unanswerable and essentially undebatable from the SDA perspective is all…

    and 3) for someone to openly “slander” me (which you come close to doing) is hardly Christian, Christ-like or even decent.

    All I’ve done is present what you said in your own words and commented that your presentation, regarding the evidence you actually presented, was heavily weighted against the SDA position on the worldwide Noachian Flood. It can hardly be called “slander” to present what a person actually did or said in public forum and then discuss one’s own personal disagreement with what was said or done.

    I suggest to you that if you did not wish your statements to be presented in an even more public forum like this one, you should have presented something that you would glady wish to have had widely advertised. You should say or do nothing in your classroom which you would not say or do before the entire Church body…

    Just to set the record straight on the flood issue. I view truth as progressive, as does EGW, last time I checked. Although I may favor a world-wide flood model, I must recognize that past interpretations of the Bible are not the last word. As it stands now I have an open mind on the subject (and I would hope you and others could respect me for that).

    I do respect any and all who are honest with themselves – as I’m sure you are. However, I point out again that the SDA Church cannot base paid representation on honesty alone. Also, the Church (as Mrs. White did as well) holds to the concept of “present truth” as defined by the Church as an organization. If you, as an individual, have “progressed” beyond the Church as an organization, that’s fine. It just means that you may no longer reflect the Church’s current ideals and goals on all topics that the Church, as an organization, considers to be fundamentally important.

    I would love to find more credible evidence to support the traditional view on the flood, unfortunately, at the moment, such evidence is difficult to find.

    You are certainly in good company here as the vast majority of mainstream scientists feel the same way. The problem is that the SDA Church does not feel this way. There are also a number of well-educated scientists who do not feel as you feel about the meaning of the available evidence…

    I do not advocate putting human reason above God’s Word, but neither am I willing to simply assume that all past Biblical interpretations are correct beyond all revision. Surely such a way of looking at the Bible is valid, or are you saying that on certain beliefs our dogma is sealed and any suggestion of alternatives is heresy?

    It is fine to personally consider alternatives – even to the point of leaving the Church. That’s perfectly fine and often quite reasonable and honest from a given perspective. However, it is not fine to strike out on your own in the public promotion of your doubts and new ideas, independent of the clearly stated position and goals of your employer, while still on the employer’s dime. That’s being dishonest toward what your employer is paying you to promote… the unique SDA perspective on origins and other issues which are not always popular.

    If you cannot do this in good conscience, then how can you continue to accept money from an organization that you cannot honestly support in all areas that are considered fundamentally important by your employer?

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  16. Just to be clear on a few points. I have no problem at all presenting the kind of information presented in that discussion to any group of church members, and have done much the same kind of thing on many occasions. The audience in the case of this presentation was a group of religion and theology majors. I was invited to simply share with them the current issues around origins facing the church today, which I did. I do modify the content somewhat in different venues, and most of the time, because I am not taking such a broad sweep at the whole area of origins, do not delve into some of the individual topics. The point is that I have no problem with others seeing the video, I have nothing to hide, it’s just that some discussions are more appropriate for one group than another. I also consider it unethical to post such a video without my permission.




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  17. Educate Truth is not responsible for posting the video to the web. We were referred to it by a third party.

    I very much appreciate your openness and forthrightness. If only more professors in our schools of your persuasion were as open and honest, then people could make better decisions.




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  18. Sean, are you implying that no SDA science professor should ever ask any questions or discuss any evidence whatsoever in the classroom that appears to contradict the traditional SDA interpretations in the Bible? Are you implying that any SDA scientist who believes in a worldwide flood and a literal 6-day creation week but also happens to disagree with your view that the weight of scientific evidence favors traditional SDA interpretations should NOT be teaching in a SDA institution?

    By the way, in case you didn’t know, Dr. Ness is a devout SDA as well as a lifelong defender of creationism. I’m keenly disappointed that you have taken it upon yourself to judge him so quickly as a heretic and then reveal your judgement to the whole wide world.




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  19. As a recent PUC grad that has taken science courses from Bryan Ness, I’m shocked to find that even this esteemed site has found anything controversial in his teaching. I and every one of my classmates can assure you that while Dr. Ness will freely and openly acknowledge that conflicts exist between mainstream science and Adventist theology, he will just as freely and openly proclaim his personal reliance on the Bible and promote the fact that evolutionary science does not have all the answers that it claims.

    I myself was an ardent evolutionist for a time, and Bryan Ness was one educator who was able to shake the dogmatism in me that is so prevalent in many evolutionists. He, like no one I’ve ever learned from, showed in a clear and earnest way that creationism does have something to offer on a scientific basis. I want to thank him for opening my mind—not toward the “error” of believing in evolution, as the managers of this site claim, but toward the merits of a creator God and a biblical interpretation of our planet’s and our species’ history.

    There are only two real apostasies here: First that people who claim to be defending the faith have so little faith themselves that they will try to censor anyone who will even acknowledge alternate views in the classroom. They passionately ignore Christ’s call to be sheep among wolves, so afraid of the power of the world that they will try to silence or destroy anyone in the church that opens the doors of the safe Adventist fortress they have built.

    Second, the eagerness with which these accusers will tear down fellow believers and undermine the impact of the church. Have they run out of victims down in Riverside, so that now they must hunt out intelligent, honest, and GOD-FEARING educators on other campuses, to the detriment of the community of faith? Congratulations, EducateTruth, you’re doing your best to ensure that the final generation of Adventists (not an eschatological reference) is a pure race, free from contaminating influences: honest dialogue about faith and science, intellectual vigor, and especially possible infection by new converts.

    I pray that this stone-throwing spirit that is making Adventism sick will die out before it’s too late for the church. Thank you, Dr. Ness, for providing an intellectually stimulating AND spiritually resonant educational experience.




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  20. One more question. Sean, are you implying that the current biogeographical distribution of plants and animals actually provides MORE EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD that covered every speck of dust on every continent than a local flood or a flood that was worldwide but didn’t completely cover every continent?




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  21. We as students have the right to know both sides of the facts here. Evolution should be shown to us and the evidence that supports that along with how facts fit in for the creationist point of view. In taking Dr. Ness’s General Biology 112 class we go over some evolutionary topics, but they were not taught as absolute fact, just as what other scientists have been found to have been observed. I don’t find any fault in this because it is part of the learning process and something that we would be able to refute if we want to and have scientific reasoning for it, or in fact agree with and have reasoning for that also. It is better to be educated about a topic than to be ignorant about it and just argue it with the fact that the bible says so and be one sided about the whole thing, if you can see both sides of the problem, then you make a better argument. So i support Dr. Ness in his reasoning for giving a speech on possibly a local flood vs. a world wide flood. We have the evidence for it and it should be presented so people can make a judgement call by comparing and contrasting what they think for themselves, for it takes just as much faith to believe in evolution as it does in creationism.




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  22. @Eddie:

    Sean, are you implying that no SDA science professor should ever ask any questions or discuss any evidence whatsoever in the classroom that appears to contradict the traditional SDA interpretations in the Bible? Are you implying that any SDA scientist who believes in a worldwide flood and a literal 6-day creation week but also happens to disagree with your view that the weight of scientific evidence favors traditional SDA interpretations should NOT be teaching in a SDA institution?

    I present the mainstream perspective all the time in my own lectures on the creation/evolution debate. However, I also present the evidence for the SDA model of origins to include evidence for the worldwide Noachian Flood as being responsible for much of the geologic column and fossil record that we see today. I leave no doubt where I personally stand on the topic of origins or the worldwide nature of the Flood or its implication for Adventism or my disagreement with the conclusions of mainstream scientists on this topic when I present it. I dare say that the same thing should be true of all of our educators who are paid to educate our youth in our own SDA schools on this topic…

    By the way, in case you didn’t know, Dr. Ness is a devout SDA as well as a lifelong defender of creationism. I’m keenly disappointed that you have taken it upon yourself to judge him so quickly as a heretic and then reveal your judgment to the whole wide world.

    I’m sure Dr. Ness is a very fine and honest Christian man indeed. However, there are many who think of themselves as devout SDAs who do not support all of the clearly stated SDA doctrinal positions and think themselves free, because of their honesty and academic freedom, to challenge these fundamental pillars of the SDA faith in class – which is essential what Dr. Ness did in this video clip. He presented evidence in a manner which cast serious doubt on the reasonableness of the SDA position on a global flood and a literal creation week without providing any supporting evidence for the SDA position. He obviously does believe in at least some form of Divine Creation, but there are many different levels of creationism. The SDA Church, in particular, has taken a rather specific stand on creation; the particulars of which do not seem to be entirely endorsed by Dr. Ness in public forum.

    Now, I’m Ok with someone having personal questions or concerns. However, I’m not Ok with a paid Church representative presenting these contrary concerns in public forum on the Church’s dime as if there were no reasonable responses from the SDA perspective…

    In short, I don’t think one should be able to challenge the pillars of the SDA faith in public forum on the Church’s dime – regardless of the honesty of the one doing it. And, at the very least, I think we all have a right to know what is in fact being taught to our young people in our own schools…

    One more question. Sean, are you implying that the current biogeographical distribution of plants and animals actually provides MORE EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD that covered every speck of dust on every continent than a local flood or a flood that was worldwide but didn’t completely cover every continent?

    I think there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the entire planet was in fact completely covered by a watery catastrophe within recent history. The distribution of plants and animals is not at all inconsistent with this conclusion – as briefly explained above and in more detail on my website.

    However, the very fact that you ask this question as a serious challenge to the SDA perspective suggests that serious doubts have been brought to your mind by Dr. Ness’s argument for which Dr. Ness has offered no ready counter argument or rational solution. He has left his students with the feeling that the significant weight of evidence and the rational scientific understanding of that evidence is strongly opposed to the SDA view on the record of the history of life on this planet. That, in my opinion, is a problem…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  23. As some others have already said, this makes me extremely upset that these professors are being attacked for presenting all sides of the issue. The best thing about learning in an institution like PUC is that for the most part, the professors aren’t going to force you to believe anything, they are going to show you all sides of the issue and then you decide what you want to believe (which is what college is for, after all, becoming educated enough to have a discussion to discover what you believe and know). I am taking a class from Dr. Ness as well this quarter, and it is refreshing to hear all sides of the issue, and honestly, I doubt any of us will know what actually happened in the past until Jesus comes. So many people take the Bible so literally, when even with its inspiration, it was still written by humans, translated by humans, and has been passed down through many, many years, and there is no way that some error or misunderstanding, however minute, may have come into it. I’m not saying that the Bible is unreliable, but it’s important to remember that, instead of going face-forward into “the Bible is always right!” without examining all the facts that we know now.

    Finally, it is a personal choice to believe what you believe. No matter how the Adventist Church looks at it, there are different sections of people who believe different things, whether they like it or not. And it is better to make an informed choice on what you believe rather than blindly choosing something just because your church tells you to. And the professors at PUC, including Dr. Ness, give you the information.




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  24. I am not going to get into an argument about what I do or do not believe, but shouldn’t Adventist students be presented with differing world views so that they may be able to make their own decisions on what they believe? If we have a church with no diversity, we have nothing to discuss. I encourage this sort of thing, because it encourages debate.




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  25. @Nathan Miller:

    I am not going to get into an argument about what I do or do not believe, but shouldn’t Adventist students be presented with differing world views so that they may be able to make their own decisions on what they believe? If we have a church with no diversity, we have nothing to discuss. I encourage this sort of thing, because it encourages debate.

    An SDA school is not set up simply to present all sides of an issue without any bias in favor of the SDA perspective. After all, what’s the point in having an SDA school if the SDA position on the topic at hand is not favored by the professors who are presenting the topic?

    Certainly the opposing sides of a topic should be presented in our schools. However, this shouldn’t be the end of it. The SDA professor should be able to explain why he/she personally feels like the weight of evidence ultimately favors the SDA perspective on the particular topic at hand. If he/she cannot do that in good conscience, perhaps that professor is working for the wrong employer?

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  26. Okay, so you actually admit that “The distribution of plants and animals is not at all consistent with this conclusion” that “the entire planet was in fact completely covered by a watery catastrohe.” Isn’t your conclusion the same that Dr. Ness was pointing out in the classroom? Or did you mean “inconsistent”? I recall Professor Kent and Geanna Dane providing a number of examples here of why the distribution of plants and animals is not consistent with post-flood dispersal from Mt. Ararat.

    I personally believe in a worldwide flood and I see evidence for it (even geologists believe most of the continents were covered by water during the Paleozoic and again during the Cenozoic), but having spent a lot of time studying biogeography I have reluctantly concluded that the weight of the biogeographical evidence does NOT support the conclusion that the ENTIRE planet was covered by a water catastrophe. Does that mean that I am a heretic? Does that mean I should never stand in front of an audience of SDAs in a church or school and admit that the evidence is difficult to harmonize with the traditional SDA interpretation?




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  27. Sean, since writing my response a few moments ago I see that you edited your original “consistent” to “inconsistent.” I really wish I could agree with you about the biogeographical evidence being consistent with post-flood dispersal from Mt. Ararat.




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  28. I don’t believe his statements should be regarded as a jab against the Adventist faith, but rather an assessment of current scientific data. I went to a Seventh-Day Adventist institution for k-12 and when I went to a public university for college, I felt completely behind everyone else in biology class because I had no awareness of the fundamentals of evolution that were being taught at my university.

    Seventh-Day Adventists do not live in a bubble. Consequently, our educational institutions should not be so biased against evolution studies. If creationism and the flood are going to be studied, they should be studied alongside more secular theories so that the SDA student isn’t disadvantaged in the wider academic world.

    Bryan Ness’s students, and the administrators at PUC should be thankful they have professors who are willing to expose their students to the diversity of the academic field they are studying. Questions are an integral part of further learning. A religious doctrine should not be a crutch in the way of intellectual advancement.




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  29. I’ve personally taken at least one class from Dr. Ness and if anything, I too can say that he seemed shy away from labels and easy answers. He was one of the only science professors I’ve ever had that wasn’t afraid to look at an issue from both sides as objectively as possible, especially considering the vast majority of his students come from a young earth upbringing. The last thing we needed as students was another Adventist ‘scientist’ that was not introducing science. The truth is that TRUTH is elusive.

    I don’t think young Adventist students could be in better hands than those of Dr. Ness.

    Shane, your attitude and those of many of your supporters makes me sick.




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  30. Hello all PUC students. I have read all of your remarks about Ness having the right to teach both sides of the issues. Many of you reference classes you have taken with him. But the fact is, we are all watching this video and are addressing what he presents here. Please refocus your comments on the video above. Honestly determine whether or not he is being balanced. Does he unbiasedly HINT at the scores of evidence that support creationism, or if you prefer, the evidence that creation scientists claim exists? Be careful not to defend his lecture because you genuinely like him as a person, or because of what he has said in the past. I too like the man; but that does not mean that I believe what and HOW he teaches above is appropriate. Thanks. –a fellow PUCite




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  31. Here’s my 2 cents: First, I’ve been following this site quite extensively since its inception and do not find Sean and Shane criticizing haphazardly but use good argumentation and logic, method, and biblical hermeneutics to defend the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. They are watchmen who are pointing out beliefs, positions, and details that are contrary to Adventist theology and seek to educate truth about what our children and our students are being taught. We are to watch philosophies and philosophers that seek to penetrate through our walls and seek to cover up cracks with untempered mortar, are we not? Luke 17:2, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Was Jesus not serious about causing our youth not to stumble? Which issue in our education system seems to lead people to not only stumble but totally wipe away their foundation of existence/origins? Alas, even though this website may be too late in its mission to thwart subversive ideas of the church at large based on prophecy, at least it is revealing the plethora of deceptions, peccadilloes, and defects for those who may or may not know what they are doing to further the cause of the enemy. After all, Satan does use subtlety to get us way off the right path, right?




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  32. As some others have already said, this makes me extremely upset that these professors are being attacked for presenting all sides of the issue.

    Presenting all sides? I can’t speak for PUC because I have never taken a class there, but at LSU I don’t know of one biology class that presents all sides.

    I didn’t even see “all” or “both” sides being presented in the lecture that Ness gave. The spiritual truths taught in the Bible are intricately connected to the physical truths-the history. Keep in mind we’re not talking about whether God is the creator of life, but did he create life within six-day in the recent past (roughly 6,000 years ago).

    I see some here using the term “believe in creation” a loosely. Just because someone says he/she believes in creation doesn’t mean she/he believes that God created all the original animals and us within six-days.

    The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes the biblical account of a worldwide flood and a recent, six-day creation as actual historical events (and for good reasons).

    What Ness, Greer, Grismer, and Bradley present (without reference to competing evidence) obviously contradicts the biblical record.

    The SDA church did not start schools to create doubt in the historicity of the Bible.

    If you reject the historicity of the creation account in Genesis, then there is no biblical rationale for just about every Adventist belief. Does this mean you can’t be a Christian? No. It just means the Adventist faith is no longer tenable.

    While it would be nice if our professors believed what our church believes, it would be nice if they at least taught what we believe along with the known evidence that affirms our beliefs.

    What Ness believes is almost irrelevant in the case of this lecture; it’s how he presented the information that is most disturbing to me. For an Adventist professor it was extremely biased toward the opposing view to the Adventist belief in a worldwide flood and recent, six-day creation.




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  33. Sean, isn’t science a non-biased thing? So how can you have true science like what you talk about with any sort of bias? Like i had said in my previous post i think that it would be best to present both sides of the situation and then let people decide for themselves what they want to believe in. Dr. Ness in his biology classes does not just present evolution as fact and that is it, but also does talk about creation and the pros and cons of it in the scientific observations.




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  34. @Lisa: I agree. It does present an odd situation when we have a video lecture saying one thing (something we can judge for ourselves) and the testimony of students who say otherwise (something we can’t judge for ourselves). Of course I don’t think people are lying, but one does have to wonder what’s going on.

    Despite Ness’ personal beliefs, the least he could do is present both sides as best as possible. I don’t know how well someone who is sympathetic to evolution can present biblical creation though.




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  35. @Sean Pitman: “After all, what’s the point in having an SDA school if the SDA position on the topic at hand is not favored by the professors who are presenting the topic?”

    There are Adventist institutions of higher education like Weimar where the obvious mission is to churn out future SDAs to be Bible workers or missionaries. Our accredited colleges and universities do not hold the same mission.

    PUC’s mission is as follows:
    Pacific Union College is a Seventh-day Adventist learning community offering an excellent Christ-centered education that prepares its students for productive lives of useful human service and uncompromising personal integrity.

    As an alum of PUC, every part of that statement is important, but the most important part about it is that the COMMUNITY is SDA, but the EDUCATION is Christ-centered, not necessarily SDA-centered. The point of having colleges where not every professor is neck-deep in the kind of fundamentalistic and dogmatic Adventism you seem to be demanding is that it allows students to have a space where they can LEARN, not be INDOCTRINATED. The professors are there to offer their perspective and encourage students to adopt it, but their ultimate goal is to EDUCATE, which necessitates viewing the issues from ALL SIDES. Even if that perspective is sometimes more progressive than you would like, it is still very Adventist and the fact that many of these professors have given up promising careers in the “secular” world to be at places like PUC should be a reminder of that. Without academic diversity (that Alice mentioned), we are at best presenting a one-sided view of reality, or at worst preventing our youth from making their own decisions and assessments of the community they live in. If you do not think there is room for diversity within our church, perhaps it is you that needs to leave, not Dr. Ness.




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  36. @Eddie:

    I have reluctantly concluded that the weight of the biogeographical evidence does NOT support the conclusion that the ENTIRE planet was covered by a water catastrophe. Does that mean that I am a heretic? Does that mean I should never stand in front of an audience of SDAs in a church or school and admit that the evidence is difficult to harmonize with the traditional SDA interpretation?

    It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if that’s what you mean. However, it does mean that your conclusion is in opposition to the SDA Church’s position, as an organized body, on this topic. It also means that you should not teach your views in class on the Church’s dime as such activity would directly undermine your employer’s stated goals and ideals…

    After all, a lot of very honest and sincere people have concluded that there is eternally burning hell fire and that we should worship the Virgin Mary. That’s what they really think the evidence supports. However honest and sincere they may be in their thinking, their conclusions simply do not reflect the conclusions of the Church as an organization and therefore they cannot effectively represent the SDA Church on such topics.

    The same thing is true for you on the topic of origins…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  37. It is amazing that, under the pretense of following the fundamental beliefs, Dr. Bryan Ness is getting flak. We need to change the system at PUC? We need to change the beliefs that are in the honors program?

    Sure. Change free and open discussion. Change examination of all sources and texts. Change it all to follow, what seems now to be, pure Adventist dogmatism, as portrayed in this post and some comments.

    The very act of singling out this professor and putting up a passively aggressive post, in itself, seems to be “un-Christian.” You care about maintaining the integrity of the Church? Look into yourself before going out, worrying about the ethics of how the Church pays its employees. It’s this policing and pointing fingers that lead students away from belief. You say you want to educate truth? Educate without generalizing from specific examples.




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  38. @Zachary Benton:

    As an alum of PUC, every part of that statement is important, but the most important part about it is that the COMMUNITY is SDA, but the EDUCATION is Christ-centered, not necessarily SDA-centered.

    I think that the SDA Church leadership and membership at large would strongly disagree with this conclusion of yours. If our schools are not clearly supportive of the unique SDA goals and ideals, there really is no point in having our schools vs. sending our young people to a non-denominational Christian school or even a public university in some cases…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  39. I’d like to point out that this website is biased.

    I would also like to say that scientific inquiry can’t be ignored.

    And then I would like to point out that education isn’t about creating blind faith, and that if PUC were telling students not to ask the difficult questions I wouldn’t send my kids there.

    And now I would like to share a few quotes that illustrate the fact that faith and doubt go together like a wink and a smile:

    Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. ~Kahlil Gibran

    Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right. ~John Donne

    Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

    A faith of convenience is a hollow faith. ~Father Mulcahy, M*A*S*H, “A Holy Mess,” 1982

    Faith… must be enforced by reason…. When faith becomes blind it dies. ~Mahatma Gandhi

    Faith and doubt both are needed – not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve. ~Lillian Smith

    I’m glad that Professor Ness is challenging the establishment, it needs challenging. He’s not telling students to abandon their faith, he’s asking them to examine tough questions. And that is what education is all about.




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  40. @Zachary Benton: I think if you were to look at Weimar’s mission you’d see it’s not just about churning out Bible workers.

    Weimar College exists to help our students gain one thing. That one thing is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. It is the only real safeguard against temptation. It is the only thing that can make us like God in character. It is A Knowledge of God. *

    Weimar College was founded to impart a knowledge of God to its students. In order to do this, we embrace the principle that God offers the best, most effective methods of education, and that only by following these methods can we be sure of imparting true education to our students. We have synthesized our understanding of the principles of true education into what we call The Core of Four.

    The core four are: Excellent Academics, Evangelistic Emphasis, Health Education, and Practical Training.

    Now there is no denying that PUC, LSU are serving different functions than schools like Weimar.

    The point of having colleges where not every professor is neck-deep in the kind of fundamentalistic and dogmatic Adventism you seem to be demanding is that it allows students to have a space where they can LEARN, not be INDOCTRINATED.

    Learn what though? You see when I see a professor only presenting one side of the data and then coming down in favor of mainstream views without addressing evidence to the contrary, I get concerned. That’s definitely not the type of fundamentalism that agrees with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. What you call dogmatic Adventism is just plain Seventh-day Adventism. It’s what we’ve always believed as a church. Sure you’ll find some dissenters, but they do not represent the church’s beliefs, nor would I necessarily call them Adventist.

    The professors are there to offer their perspective and encourage students to adopt it, but their ultimate goal is to EDUCATE, which necessitates viewing the issues from ALL SIDES.

    I don’t see any evidence that all sides are being taught. Saying, This is what Adventists believe, but this is what the evidence says, is not presenting all sides. There is evidence. There are good reasons why we believe what we do.

    Without academic diversity (that Alice mentioned), we are at best presenting a one-sided view of reality, or at worst preventing our youth from making their own decisions and assessments of the community they live in.

    This is funny coming from someone who is defending a class that is as biased as it can get.

    If you do not think there is room for diversity within our church, perhaps it is you that needs to leave, not Dr. Ness.

    Who said anything about Ness leaving? Jumping the gun there. We’re not talking about church membership. While it would be nice if he did agree with his employer, I don’t see any reason why he can’t present and teach the evidence that is out there that affirms a worldwide flood and a recent creation. From what I see on the video, this isn’t happening.




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  41. @PUC Alumn: Of course Educate Truth is biased. What is your point? Scientific inquiry is different than what was going on in the lecture or the classes I’ve been in or seen at LSU. We should encourage scientific inquiry, but not to the exclusion of only presenting the evidence for one view.

    I don’t know of anyone who is promoting education that is based on blind faith. To the contrary Hebrews 11:1 says just the opposite.

    Ness isn’t directly telling them to abandon their faith, but the information he’s presenting and the way in which it is being presented certainly lends itself to causing more doubt in the historicity of the Bible than anything else. Also, what happened to presenting the opposing arguments and evidence?




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  42. So where is the video of Dr. Ness standing in front of the entire college at Colloquy last year, talking about what happened on each of the six days of creation, which he defended as being literally true? Can you name one other SDA science professor who stood up in front of an entire college or university and preached a sermon about the days of creation week? Would any science professor at Southern Adventist University or Southwestern Adventist University be willing to give such a devotional talk in front of the entire university community? I’m just stunned to see him suddenly being demonized here. And shamefully.




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  43. @Dustin Baumbach:

    Sean, isn’t science a non-biased thing? So how can you have true science like what you talk about with any sort of bias?

    Science is always biased by the view and past history and experience of the scientist – always. It is for this reason that different scientists can and do look at the very same set of data and come to completely different interpretations of that data. It happens all the time.

    Like i had said in my previous post i think that it would be best to present both sides of the situation and then let people decide for themselves what they want to believe in.

    Beyond the fact that both sides of an issue cannot be presented without bias by any intelligent person who has any real interest in the topic at hand, the SDA Church is not interested in setting up schools that do not have a bias toward SDA thinking, goals and ideals. After all, that’s the whole reason why we have our own schools instead of just sending our youth to public universities…

    Dr. Ness in his biology classes does not just present evolution as fact and that is it, but also does talk about creation and the pros and cons of it in the scientific observations.

    That’s not what he did in this particular lecture. He only presented the evidence favoring the mainstream perspective on the origin of the geologic column and fossil records. He didn’t present any of the problems for the mainstream conclusions or the numerous evidences favoring a worldwide watery catastrophe within recent history…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  44. @Shane Hilde:
    Is having recently attended the university and taken classes from Dr. Ness and other professors of the biology department and the here-demonized honors program evidence enough that I know both sides are being presented? Students are given both and are asked what to choose, to be scientists who are Christians, not “Christian scientists” who only look for evidence in support of their preconceived, undisprovable, and unchangeable beliefs. Perhaps there are many evolutionists who do this as well, but our Adventist colleges do not encourage such one-sided thinking. To do so would be to close our minds and thereby render them useless.




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  45. Sean, you wrote: “It also means that you should not teach your views in class on the Church’s dime as such activity would directly undermine your employer’s stated goals and ideals…”

    I happen to believe in a literal six-day creation week in the relatively recent past and that the flood was worldwide, based on my faith in what the Bible teaches, but I don’t think the weight of scientific evidence supports what the Bible teaches about the age of the earth or the extent of the flood. You apparently believe I should not be teaching in a SDA institution.

    If you could answer the three questions below as directly as possible I would be most grateful:

    1) Should every SDA science teacher tell students that the weight of scientific evidence supports the creation occuring within six literal days, the age of the Earth as 6000 years old, and Noah’s flood covering all land?

    2) Should every SDA science teacher tell students that their belief in the Bible should be based on scientific evidence instead of faith?

    3) Should a SDA science teacher resign if he or she believes in traditional SDA views of origins despite concluding that the weight of scientific evidence does not support the age of the Earth as 6000 years old or Noah’s flood covering all land?




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  46. As Zachery Benton said PUC is a place where students come to learn not be indoctrinated. As result of this ideal style of teaching I have strengthened my faith more than ever before. Here at PUC students build their own faith which is much stronger than merely carrying on the faith of their parents. At PUC Dr. Ness as well as all the professors strive everyday to be excellent educators and Christians with the goal to send out every student with a mind of his own and a faith stronger than ever before.

    As EGW writes, “It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts. 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. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen.”

    This is exactly what PUC has been doing and what it will continue to do.

    Roy Calderon
    Biology Major: PUC




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  47. @Zachary Benton: I was referring to the lecture in the video presenting both sides. I hope what you say about the other classes is true. Demonize? How has he been demonized? Just because someone disagrees with the way he’s presenting a topic doesn’t mean he’s being demonized.




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  48. @Eddie:

    If you could answer the three questions below as directly as possible I would be most grateful:

    1) Should every SDA science teacher tell students that the weight of scientific evidence supports the creation occuring within six literal days, the age of the Earth as 6000 years old, and Noah’s flood covering all land?

    I believe that only those who believe and can effectively teach along these lines should be hired by SDA schools. I don’t think our teachers should be telling our students that the best we have going for us is blind faith against the otherwise overwhelming weight of empirical evidence and rational scientific thought. That’s not going to impress the rational mind or be at all supportive of the whole reason why the Church spends so much time and money on its own school system to begin with…

    2) Should every SDA science teacher tell students that their belief in the Bible should be based on scientific evidence instead of faith?

    Yes – Blind faith arguments are not helpful to our students. Telling a student that the only reason why you doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence against the Bible is because you have “faith” is not a rational basis for the struggling student to find hope in the reality of the Gospel message or the credibility of the Bible as a basis of authority – moral or otherwise.

    3) Should a SDA science teacher resign if he or she believes in traditional SDA views of origins despite concluding that the weight of scientific evidence does not support the age of the Earth as 6000 years old or Noah’s flood covering all land?

    He/she should resign if he/she cannot promote the SDA perspective on origins with anything better than blind faith that has no empirical backing whatsoever. We don’t send our youth to our schools to be told that all we have to offer them is blind faith in the claims of the Bible and nothing more – in the face of otherwise overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary…

    If that’s really the best we have to offer, I wouldn’t stay in the SDA Church another day… and neither would most thinking people for whom blind faith arguments simply don’t cut it.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  49. I appears that the world of Adventism is plagued by members who feel that they have the authority to “grade” or “judge” the quality and sincerity of another person’s Adventism.

    If you desire that the students pumped out of the Adventist educational system are uninformed of the findings of the scientific community, you are not a supporter of Adventist education, you are in support of a Bible College. Fortunately, although PUC is clear in producing effective clergymen, PUC is also in the business of creating great minds.

    If you desire a scientific discussion on things such as a New Earth vs Old Earth, ask a scientist. If you want to discuss theological implications of the scientific world, ask a theologian. This whole “debate” is based on non-scientific reply to a scientific issue, rather than a scientific reply to a scientific issue.

    The job description of a science professor in the Adventist educational system is certainly not to learn science in his/her own education, than later present only facts that support whatever theological views that they hold– that would be intellectual robbery to students who want to learn! Their job is to learn SCIENCE (whatever university that may be), and equip students into becoming successful- teaching and marveling them on the wonders of creation.

    This discussion, this whole website falls short on the message of the Love of Christ, and frankly, also falls short of the heart of the Adventist Church. Shame on you who take on a self motivated crusade to purge out people who think/teach/have been taught differently than yourself. Great minds learn all views, and ponder them on their own.




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  50. @Shane: I was referring specifically to Honors Program professors being demonized, as in this quote by Lisa: “He is part of a larger network of people at PUC that believe in their own intellectual ability over the Bible. These beliefs are rampant throughout the Honors Program at PUC (of which Ness is also a part).” Sounds pretty demonizing to me given Ellen White’s interpretation of Lucifer going bad because of his pride, the same kind of pride Lisa is accusing them of.




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  51. Larry Pena wrote: “[Bryan Ness], like no one I’ve ever learned from, showed in a clear and earnest way that creationism does have something to offer on a scientific basis.”

    I have no reason to disbelieve Larry. On the other hand, the current position of Bryan Ness is revealed in the video, and it suggests that one can believe in the historicity of Genesis only “by faith,” since the scientific evidence is against it.

    Thus I wonder if Dr. Ness has changed his position since Larry was his student.

    Perhaps Dr. Ness himself can clarify?




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  52. Sean, thank you very much for your thought-provoking response. With due respect, you’re exaggerating about “blind faith.” Please don’t belittle my faith or that of anyone who disagrees with you about the weight of the scientific evidence as having “blind” faith. My faith is NOT blind and I doubt there are any SDA science teachers whose faith could be accurately described as blind and offer only “blind faith in the claims of the Bible and nothing more.” It’s not like the world has only two types of people: those who base their beliefs only on scientific evidence and those who base their beliefs on only blind faith.

    I believe there IS scientific and historical evidence supporting many aspects of my faith in the Bible as being divinely inspired, including evidence for a short-term chronology and a worldwide flood. But not ALL aspects. Is your faith based purely on scientific evidence? If so, what scientific evidence is your belief in the virgin birth of Jesus based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that Johan spent 3 days in a fish based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that the sun stood still based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that life was created in 6 days–and not 50 or 100 days, or years–based upon?




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  53. @Sean Pitman:
    how will then I as a student at PUC go out in the real world and understand why i believe what i believe instead of the other side unless i have an understanding@Sean Pitman:
    have you taking a class from Dr. Ness or have been at PUC, where is your speculation coming from, the 40 minute class period?
    Secondly, A good sum of students at this school has been through SDA schooling for their entire lives, where else would these people learn the opinions of the world so that they can truly have their own, emphasis on own, opinion if not in college. Especially one like this which shows us moderately other ideas and theories that are out there. If one does not want to learn that, they should stay home. They are wasting their money and any degree would be of no use to them if they would just like to regurgitate opinions like a child. It’s like cheating on the test of life, which all the questions are critical thinking and the only way to get it right is by having your own opinion.




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  54. Based on the guidelines of this argument, I support Dr. Ness for his ability to challenge students in academics and history of creation. Although he may pose arguments that challenge SDA fundamental beliefs, in regards to creation, I believe that they’re in the best interest of the students in developing the skills they need to grow spiritually. I wouldn’t dare send my kid to a SDA College without their beliefs being challenged, that’s how they grow strong, and he’ll become a better person because of it.

    This is a La Sierra website? Typical.




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  55. Sean, another question: should SDA science teachers tell students that (1) the physical universe including the Earth is only about 6000 years old, or that (2) the physical universe and the Earth are much older than 6000 years old and that it is only life on Earth that is about 6000 years old?




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  56. “At one point he says, “Question. I often ask my students this, ‘What does it do to us theologically if we were to reassess this particular belief and say, oh maybe this was local [a flood] and not worldwide?’” One student responded it would call into question other things in the Bible, while another suggested that it might mean Noah and his family weren’t the only righteous living on the earth at that time.”

    Is a question really that threatening to our faith? He asks a valid question. Should we rather stick our heads in the sand and not explore? Or should we rather answer in the way that Educate Truth might like us to and picket outside of any institution that seeks to broaden the minds of individuals? Very compelling argument… Let’s just fit into the mold that they see fit. Lets forget that quote that says “thinkers, not mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts.”




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  57. So where is the video of Dr. Ness standing in front of the entire college at Colloquy last year, talking about what happened on each of the six days of creation, which he defended as being literally true?

    I listened to that Colloquy message and the way it was presented conforms to the idea that he states in this video of it being symbolic and just a nice story with meaning. Address the video that was recorded recently. I think there is something seriously wrong because the man is clearly biased in this video, leaving little room for the student’s to decide for themselves.




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  58. I find it refreshing that finally there is an educator that does his job and educates rather than just being the puppet of the Adventist church. So what if some people disagree, at least someone is showing the “other side of the story”. It’s too bad that some insecure individuals are so afraid that one person’s opinion on the flood will devastate the whole Adventist system so much to defame someone’s name and spit on his accomplishments. One must remember that at a college, one must LEARN, not just take in and regurgitate whatever they tell us. Bryan Ness gives another side of an issue and really makes the student THINK for themselves for once.




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  59. We need to change the beliefs that are in the honors program?

    Sure. Change free and open discussion. Change examination of all sources and texts.

    Please understand that if you are in the honors program right now and you think that you are being lead in free and open discussion, forget it. While some of the professors in that program are godly, there are many other very prominent ones that are just as dogmatic as the most fanatical conservatives. Those professors want nothing more than to convince you of their beliefs without you realizing it. Remember, one only realizes that he or she was in the clouds of deception when such deception has passed.




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  60. As I see it, Dr. Ness was asked as a biologist to discuss some challenges for Adventist faith. He chose to discuss scientific evidence regarding the extent of the flood from a biological perspective. Sean Pitman insists that he is betraying the Church by not telling students that the preponderance of evidence FAVORS a global flood that covered every scrap of land.

    The problem here is that the vast preponderance of biological data fail to support the radiation (including speciation) of animal groups from a single continent. Dozens upon dozens of terrestrial animal groups demonstrate distribution patterns that NOT consistent with the notion that all current life forms orginated from a single location, or even a single continent. I believe Sean Pitman recognizes this, and without producing contradictory examples (h-e-l-l-o!!!) that outnumber the discordant examples, he is patently deceitful to suggest that the preponderance of biological data support a worldwide flood.

    Sean will wish to counter with geological data that most thinking scientists recognize to be equivical. Among other problems, demonstrating “worldwide” coverage with water does not confirm simultaneous coverage at every single location. That requires a leap of blind faith, which Sean himself abhors. But Dr. Ness is not a geologist and was presumably not asked to present geological, astronomical, nuclear isotope, or any other such data to support the SDA position. He discussed the biological evidence. And sorry, Sean, but you are lying through your teeth if you insist that biological evidence supports your view. Man up to falsehood of your claims.




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  61. @ Eddie

    [addressed to Sean Pitman] Is your faith based purely on scientific evidence? If so, what scientific evidence is your belief in the virgin birth of Jesus based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that Johan spent 3 days in a fish based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that the sun stood still based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that life was created in 6 days–and not 50 or 100 days, or years–based upon?

    Sean lacks the courage to admit there is NO scientific evidence upon which to base these beliefs. He will answer your question and likely state that he believes in these because other “claims” of the Bible are supported by science, and therefore his faith is not “blind.” But there is no difference in this reasoning for a child who believes in Santa Claus because other “claims” by her parents are supported by science. Nevertheless, Sean will claim that his acceptance by faith of the Biblical claims you mentioned is not “blind”–but any similar expression of faith by others would have to be “blind.”




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  62. Sorry I did such a poor job with my prior post. Dr. Pitman insisted that SDA biologists have no business teaching beliefs that are arrived at by faith rather than evidence. But when direct evidence is lacking (such as the virgin birth), he rationalizes his belief through indirect evidence, which he might call “true faith,” whereas for anyone else he belittles it as “blind faith.” Is this fair?

    And this comes from someone who believes Ellen White was factually wrong when she stated, “the world is now only about six thousand years old.” He doesn’t accept her statement at face value because the evidence does not support it. He believes the physical existence of the earth is much, much longer than 6,000 years. I wonder if he would have objected to Dr. Ness teaching this.




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  63. I am ashamed to read some of these comments and believe that these people hiding behind their computer screens call themselves Adventist. Understand the context of this religion colloquium before you make foolish comments.

    Dr. Ness is lecturing to tenured theology students who have learned the ins and outs of the Bible, but for the most part have not been faced with daunting questions challenging their faith. Why else would a Biology professor be invited to speak at a theology seminar? It is evident he was invited to question, to ask questions, and to make his listeners think all in the realm of Biology. It is already understood what Adventists think about because he is speaking to minimum third year theology majors, he is simply stating the other side of the coin to these students. In no way does his presentation of these facts necessarily mean he believes them. He says himself in these very comments, “This “lecture” was an attempt to bring out the issues facing the church…”

    To then conclude that the honors program and the school has a whole is some sort of evolution supporting institution is misguided. It angers me people on this forum can form an image of the man that Dr. Ness is from a 40 minute clip. Then to continue to question when students and alumni comment to the contrary is what personally makes me mad. People who have never met the man or been scared to go to his office because of the piles of papers everywhere, or loved to go to his labs and be taught by the man with the snakes around his arm. These same people who have never sat in Biology 112 and listened to his devotionals before class from his blackberry are the ones that need to stop – because they are the only ones criticizing. This is not La Sierra, and by no means does Dr. Ness teach evolution as truth.

    If we cant ask questions that challenge our faith, how are we supposed to build and maintain it? Do we go back to Sabbath school and spit out the bible verses we had to memorize for the week and lean on our parents faith and understanding? Or do we go to college and learn to be educated critical thinkers of the world around us? It is not evil or against the Church to ask questions.

    “It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts. 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. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen.”

    -Ellen G. White

    So before you cast judgment, make sure you know the context of the situation and understand the type of man you are criticizing. Dr. Ness is an extremely smart, and as evident by what I have seen in my three years of contact with him, God fearing man. People here like Sean Pitman and Shane Hilde who I assume are in someway affiliated with his website continue to attempt to fan the fire of criticism against Dr. Ness. This was not a Biology class, it was a theology seminar. He was invited to ask questions and present issues of the Church that come in conflict with Biology, not voice his opinion.

    Nicholas Drachenberg
    Environmental Studies Major




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  64. Failure to indoctrinate?

    The introduction to the video demands that Professor Ness’s lecture be biased against evolution, solve the problems raised by the theory of evolution, and present “evidence for the SDA perspective on origins” because he is a denominational employee.

    But what if the lecture was really about “what do you do with evidence that seems to support evolution? How does that impact your faith?”




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  65. It would appear that Sean has finally clearly stated what he wants to do:

    (1) Turn Adventist institutions of higher education back into “Bible Colleges.” The ideal Adventist institution should be run like Weimar and Wildwood. Education is all about teaching students to be reflectors of the thoughts of people who know “The Truth.”

    (2) Demand that Adventist theology be taught totally and completely in a fundamentalist mode as it was in the 1930s. It is totally irrelevant whether some theological tenet is or is not correct. If the church has declared some theological point of view to be correct, then it is. End of discussion. Loyalty is more important than Truth.

    (3) Demand that all teachers in all Adventist colleges and universities teach that Adventist theology is completely true and absolutely correct even in the face of overwhelming scientific and/or historical evidence that calls many of these beliefs into question. There is no room in an Adventist classroom for anyone who can not support traditional 1930s Adventism 100%. Absolute certainty is a Virtue.

    (4) If any Adventist administrator, minister or educator does not agree with this agenda, publicly cast aspersions on his loyalty to the church and God. Tell him that he is stealing from his church if he or she can not support traditional Adventist theology 100%.




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  66. Just to clarify for those who judge me by my statements above.

    I’m a committed Seventh-day Adventist. I’m a biologist with Ph.D., but am not employed by Church (for which I am increasingly grateful). I accept all 28 fundamental beliefs. I believe in a virgin birth, the sinless character and bodily ascension of Christ, and a literal 7-day creation week not long ago. I also believe in a whopping big flood that carried Noah and his family to safety, and that it might have covered the entire planet. I believe there is no direct scientific or physical evidence to support irrefutably any of these beliefs. However, there are many claims in the Bible that do find support, and therefore I am willing, on faith, to accept the metaphysical claims as well.

    My hunch is that Dr. Ness and many other Seventh-day Adventist biologists hold to a faith very similar to mine. It is not “blind” and I am greatly offended that Dr. Pitman belittles our faith continually and calls us unworthy to be employed by the Church. I’m also greatly offended by others of you who believe it is wrong for us to discuss challenges to our faith and insist that we sweep them under the carpet with assurances that “the overwhelming preponderance of evidence supports every single Church position on science.” There is nothing Christ-like, loving, or understanding about these accusations.




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  67. Under California Penal Code 632, it is illegal for a person in the public to record or eavesdrop on any form of confidential conversation without the consent of all parties involved. If one or more of the parties involved is reasonably unaware that the conversation is being recorded, even in a public setting, the recording is considered a crime. Violating the California wiretapping law can result in criminal prosecution as well as a civil lawsuit under Penal Code 637.2.

    Without the knowledge of Dr. Ness’s explicit permission to record said lecture, and in the interest of fair discussion rather than taking a single lecture in which hard questions were asked, out of context.

    Please remove the video to show that law abiding citizens can have open discussion without resorting to smear campaigns that have no goal but to defame good people.

    This is just stated to show the open violation that this kind of video is illegal. I have not talked to Dr. Ness about this, nor do i agree at all with the lecture. But I believe he has the right to ask the questions and then have people repudiate or discuss openly the hard questions. I refer all of these above to the Celebration of Creation at Andrews last weekend. Lets open our minds to talk instead of smearing others without suggesting solutions or dialog other than smears.




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  68. PUC classes are 50 mins long. Where are the first ten mins of the footage? Nicholas got it right–education teaches us not to examine ideas out of context. This lecture served a specific purpose to intro ideas students might not have considered BECAUSE they aren’t the party line. To criticize someone out of context without even knowing them or having learned the purpose for the lecture shows irresponsibility on the part of the posters of this footage. That is despicable to knowingly mislead an audience to denigrate Professor Ness. Was this behavior learned from political campaigns?




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  69. i’m sorry, i think he was just trying to tell us to think for ourselves, to search for the answers ourselves, because there will be times when we are questioned
    … in context




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  70. I have had the absolute pleasure of taking both science and honors classes from Dr. Ness at PUC. As an alum all I can say to Dr. Ness is Thank You! Like it or not these questions about our faith and science will crop up at some point in our lives and Dr. Ness gave us the opportunity to deal with these questions in a safe and Christ-centered environment. To go through life with our hands over our ears pretending that there are no questions or uncertainities is a recipe for disaster. I feel privileged that I had excellent professors like Dr. Ness who were willing to guide me through some of these uncertainties and strengthen my faith in Christianty and Adventism.




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  71. I am torn between shame and pride.
    I am PROUD to be a former student of Dr. Ness. He takes the Socratic method of teaching seriously; possing questions, providing resources and an open forum for discussion and allowing students to form their own conclusions. My beliefs are stronger for having been refined and honed within the confines of a safe environment (i.e. PUC).
    I would be ASHAMED at the close-minded additudes expressed in this forum if I considered myself a SDA.




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  72. I will not attempt to judge Dr. Ness’s beliefs and purposes, but I have always been concerned at how poorly Adventists have presented our beliefs on the natural world.

    Especially when it comes to Creation and the Flood, there are so many crazy ideas I hear that have no basis in the Bible and are just people trying to be creative in explaining things they know nothing about. (An example would be the thick layer of water supposedly sitting on top of the atmosphere before the flood, which when you apply the laws of nature to the theory, you find out that sea level would have had about as much pressure as the bottom of the ocean does now!)

    Sister White states that everything God does is in harmony with the laws of nature because the laws of the universe are based on God’s character. She says that finite minds have misunderstood these laws and thus come up with bad theories.
    We must make sure that anything we teach is in harmony with the laws of nature, and I have found that much “Creationist” teaching can be refuted by simple application of said laws of nature, making us look like so many idiots.

    If we teach the truth in such a way that even small points can be refuted by the other side with applied, repeatable, experimental science, we aren’t teaching the truth!

    Whatever Dr. Ness’s motives (and I think they were probably good), I think he did a good thing in making these theology majors think hard about what they were going to teach, and preparing them for the attacks and questions they were going to face in the real world.

    If we can not face hard questions about our beliefs, then maybe there is something wrong with either our beliefs or with our knowledge of them?

    I am an avid student of nature, from primitive wilderness living skills to edible and medicinal plants and many other “primitive” skills, and as I learn new things from non-religious sources, I come back and study the Bible and Sister White’s writings, and find they agree!

    If we are teaching something that can be destroyed by simple science, then we need to figure out how to either counteract the science or make sure we understand what we believe properly.

    ~




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  73. I would draw everyone’s attention to the first five minutes of this film. Dr. Ness states,”…when the evidence seems to suggest that some of these things [worldwide flood etc.] aren’t true, how do we approach that?” Note the word “seems.” Even while being recorded allegedly without his knowledge/consent and then presented on this blog without proper explanation of the context Dr. Ness comes across as simply presenting the conflicts between religion and mainstream science and encouraging the students to engage in some healthy critical thinking/ discussion.

    Imagine a student who attends an an Adventist institution and majors in Biology. Imagine that the professors teach that all scientific evidence backs Adventist doctrine. Imagine the student graduates and enters the field unaware of controversies between his faith and his chosen career. Now imagine the crisis of faith he will have upon entering his field when he realizes that 1. Many of his co-workers have a dramatically different perspective. 2. They have empirical evidence to back it up.

    In the wake of his disillusionment he is left alone to question not only doctrinal matters but also the integrity/competence of his professors. Gone are the safeguards of being surrounded by like-minded adventist students, immersed in required vespers and week of prayers, and supported by professors willing to pray and study the bible with him during his crisis of faith. Would it not have been better for this hypothetical student to be introduced to these controversies by a teacher such as Dr. Ness during his time at an adventist institution?

    John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NIV

    Lying in an attempt to protect the truth is counter-productive.




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  74. Sean and Shane, seriously is this a huge joke.

    You are acting like this is the only lecture that PUC students are presented with. As if they showed up their first day for class, were presented this lecture, and then 50 minutes later given their diplomas and sent out into the world, full of unanswered questions.

    The Bible says that the church is like a Body, with many different parts all working together toward a common goal, unable to function alone. In order for students to get a proper and well rounded education, PUC must also function in this same way. But yet, in your critism of Dr. Ness, you aren’t allowing for any coordination of parts. For some reason, you aren’t comfortable with one part asking questions, and another part offering answers.

    Thats fine if you want your education to be like that, but thats not how i want mine! Can you handle that Sean? Or is your view of a proper “Adventist” education better then mine, and all the other students who have already written to agree with me? If your answer is “Yes”, then it confirms your dogmatism. If its “No,” then you might want to apologize to Dr. Ness. Either way, understand that its ok to ask questions or provide evidence for an opposing view, and not IMMEDIATELY provide answers! Let all the parts work together, or at the VERY LEAST, let the same part provide some possible solutions in TOMORROW’S LECTURE.

    But oh wait, you don’t have that video…




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  75. I believe we, as PUC students, should be aware of these topics. We should have these tough questions asked by science professors to get us to think deeply into what we believe and why, we should always be challenged to dive deeper into our thinking. It is not for the purpose to make us disbelieve Adventist teaching but to make us figure out what we believe and why, and I believe this was the purpose of both the biology and theology departments. We have to be able to stand up in the real world after we leave PUC and be able to answer those tough questions. It’s a fact that theology students who go on to become pastors will most definitely be asked these kinds of questions in the future and we, myself included, like to have pastors that are able to answer questions when we are puzzled on how and why we believe something. I don’t feel comfortable having the blind lead the blind.




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  76. It is interesting to note that students and alums are providing a much broader perspective of Dr. Ness and the type of teaching that is going on at PUC, but Pitman and Hilde insist on narrowing the discussion back down to the video alone. Is this any way to conduct an honest and Christian discussion?

    When a verse in the Bible provides the reader with some difficulty, what is the first thing Biblical scholars recommend? Read the text around the verse in question to gain some context. I believe that ample context has been provided in this discussion, but context seems to be the enemy here. Context puts this to rest, which is not what Pitman and Hilde appear to want. Rather, they seem to want to fan the flames of controversy by insisting on a narrow view, both in this discussion and within the entire church.

    My daughter is currently a student at PUC, not Wiemar. While Wiemar may have something to offer, I am happy with the Adventist Christian education she is receiving at PUC, and so is she. This attempt to drag a professor she respects and admires, and the school she loves, through the mud has hurt her deeply. Furthermore, it has has not had the effect that Pitman and Hilde seem to want. On the contrary, it is their behavior, not Dr. Ness’s, that causes her to worry about her church and the direction it is going. But it has also strengthened her resolve to get involved and not let divisiveness and mean-spirited behavior gain any more hold in the church she loves.




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  77. Why are we so willing to point a finger at a fellow believer and say, “he is preaching blasphemy!” I grew up in the adventist educational system, and I firmly believe that our teachings are true. However, this is only through questioning them. It is only through questioning the current vein of thought that William Miller studied and learned about the second coming, it is only through questioning and studying that Joseph Bates accepted the Sabbath. They were driven out of their own churches by people like us, pointing a finger at them.
    The truth is that there are some inconsistencies between what we believe with respect to the origin of the world and what the evidence shows. Does this prove that my believe is false?? No! It just means we have to continue searching and the God of nature will eventually show us all the missing pieces. But how will we ever see those pieces if we don’t know they are missing? I worked in a research lab outside of the adventist protected environment, and knowing what the flaws in our theory were, made easier for me to actually witness and not look like a close minded fool who “believes everything the pastor says”. We must, my fellow adventist, study the word, study nature and question what we believe. Not to discard it, but to strengthen it. Its the hard thing to do, but its the right thing.




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  78. I spent four years as a student and PUC but chose to leave the college this year. I am not an SDA though I did grow up with the majority of my family belonging to the church. My mother and I were asked to leave the church when I was two years old because the pastor’s wife overheard my mother commenting to her friend about how she disagreed with an interpretation that the pastor had; the following Tuesday she received a phone call asking her to please not come back because of her conflicting views with the church.

    I tell this backstory because during my 22 years on this earth, I have spent quite a few Saturdays visiting many SDA churches in California. I have never felt really welcome to express my personal views on things and like I was safe to engage in real, honest theoretical discussions… until PUC.

    I have read a lot of comments on here, questioning the right that PUC faculty have to engage in open and frank conversations with students in a classroom capacity, when it comes to “truths” that the church has. I can tell you right now that I would not have stayed at PUC for as long as I did if it had not been for teachers in the honors program (of which I am not even a part of) and a select others who made me feel safe and welcome to make theology a discussion and not a lecture. And I can also tell you that after hearing of the rational and in my view somewhat inspirational way that Dr. Ness (whom I have never attended a class of and think that I met in the caf perhaps once in four years) presented a touchy and highly important matter, I am going to consider coming back to PUC.

    And I would also like to say something specifically to Sean Pitman: I’m not sure that I believe that you really have the best interest of the STUDENTS at heart if you are willing to call into question the motives of a professor who is actually sparking learning, research, prayer, and conversation among young adults. And I would ask you to please meditate on the importance of knowing in your heart that you believe what you proclaim to believe, and not just because it has been what you have been told your entire life in a church and in a classroom.

    Again, I congratulate Dr. Ness — and every other professor at any SDA or religious school for that matter — who compels students to think about all sides of the argument so that they can truly be educated.




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  79. Context. That’s what’s missing in the video.

    When asked to present, to upper-division religion/theology majors, some of the problems that current scientific evidence pose for the belief in the literal 6-day creation, and world-wide flood, one should not expect the presentation to provide a full treatment of both sides of the argument.

    There’s not enough time in the one short presentation to also cover the evidence supporting the traditional SDA view. Think about this carefully. We do not want our theology/religion majors to be ignorant of this evidence. They are already well versed in SDA doctrine…but gaining an understanding of why others believe differently is extremely important.

    I present the mainstream perspective all the time in my own lectures on the creation/evolution debate. However, I also present the evidence for the SDA model of origins to include evidence for the worldwide Noachian Flood as being responsible for much of the geologic column and fossil record that we see today.

    Sean, yes, the evidence on both sides of the argument should be presented (and if you were to have video of more than just this one lecture, based on statements from current students and PUC alumni, I believe that you would certainly see presentation and discussion of the evidence supporting the official SDA stance). However, you do your audience a disservice (at the very least) if you imply in your presentations that current, credible, verifiable evidence tips in favor of the 6-day literal creation, 6000-year-old earth, and worldwide flood.

    From a scientific perspective, you cannot pick and choose the evidence that you find supporting your belief and sweep under the rug those that do not. In addition, individual examples of evidence do not have equal credibility. 100 rocks on one side can certainly be overcome by 20 rocks on the other…it depends on the total mass of each collection of rocks. In other words, ‘evidence’ on both sides must be evaluated for reliability, repeatability, signs of bias, etc.

    I recognize that there is bias on both sides of research in this area, and there are certainly conclusions that some evolutionists draw from the evidence that go beyond what can be determined by careful examination of the data on its own. However, whenever ‘research’ is undertaken to prove your own predetermined beliefs, which is how much of creation science research is conducted, the assumptions that shaped the conclusions of the research cannot be ignored when determining its credibility.

    With that said, at this point in time, my personal beliefs align with SDA theology despite significant evidence against those beliefs. I cannot guarantee that my beliefs will not change in the future, just as ‘official’ SDA doctrine has evolved over time. God is not done revealing truth.

    Finally, on a completely different note, the videotaping and public distribution of this video is clearly a violation of US Copyright law, as courts have found in multiple cases that, unless explicitly relinquished, professors retain copyright ownership over classroom lectures. Public distribution without their express permission is illegal.

    In addition, the owners of this website, by embedding the link to the video (even though not hosted on their own server) are guilty of Contributory Copyright Infringement (the same laws that resulted in the shutdown of the original Napster, the music ‘sharing’ service that facilitated access to copyrighted music stored on other people’s hard drives). This is a civil violation and would require Dr. Ness to file suit, but nonetheless is illegal. I doubt Dr Ness is interested in filing suit…he stated above that he has no problems with the video being seen by others, but that does not give educatetruth.com the right to link to the unauthorized copy. They cannot claim ‘Fair use’ as that only allows for using small portions of a copyrighted work for criticism, review, teaching, etc…but not an entire lecture.
    http://www.elawfacts.com/contributory-copyright-infringment-and-illegal-linking/

    I would hope that in the future, those in control of content on educatetruth.com would refrain from violating the law to make their point.

    Hmmm…looks like the video is no longer available…but it appears to have been removed from the site it was posted to, and the link to where it used to be remains on this site.

    hbear




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  80. I’d like to point out that PUC is a Liberal Arts College with a purpose of creating well rounded students who are able to go out into the world of today and hold their own and defend their beliefs. How are we supposed to stand strong in our beliefs if we haven’t questioned them ourselves? Do we really want our Colleges creating students who blindly believe the doctrines of their parents without knowing why, or without being prepared for the opposition they will face? Do we want Adventists out in the world who are spreading the word without knowing what it means?

    I believe that it is necessary to question what you believe in before you can truly understand and believe that it is truth. The world today is changing rapidly. With the theory of evolution being taught in a higher percentage of school than the the theory of creationism, it is extremely important for us students to see the issue from all sides and to understand other approaches because we will be questioned.

    Brian Ness should not be persecuted because he was asked to share opposing points of views to theology students. This lecture was posted here out of context and used to victimize a wonderful God-fearing man and shame on EducateTruth for doing so.




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  81. I agree with the comments from Roy, Nicholas, Ervin, Dustin, and Professor Kent, I would like to echo their comments but they have been made so wonderfully that I can’t reciprocate.

    However, I would like to leave some food for thought. We are Christians, Adventists,and therefore should be one family, one body, yet as Jesus said that a house is divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3:25)
    WE need to see where the real problem lies, and not execute our neighbor on some forum. WE need to act like Christ, set the example for others, and this is not the example we should be setting, nor should this be our self portrait. And if we have a problem with our neighbor then we know how the Bible says to handle it.

    That is all.
    Merl Martin
    Biophysics Major

    “If you got some beef, then make carne asada!”




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  82. I think anyone who has actually taken a class from Dr. Ness knows this whole issue educate truth is presenting is completely absurd. The class I took from Dr. Ness did present both the traditional SDA position as well as the thinking of secular scientists. He taught with complete and total respect for the SDA institution and answered questions of traditional students with complete understanding and politeness. PUC is fortunate to have him as a professor and whether you are a conservative or ultra-liberal SDA you should be able to recognise that.




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  83. As a graduate of the aforementioned Honors Program, I understand that changing people’s minds about first principles is nigh impossible; as a human who has had some interaction with other humans, I also know that convincing people to change their opinions of other institutions and people is also virtually impossible without at least an unconscious desire not to hold the opinion currently held.

    Therefore, I post only to support Dr. Ness (who, I must add, frequently frustrated me in the class I had from him on his insistence on the validity of Creation (over-against beliefs I formed on my own, to the occasional chagrin of other Honors Program professors, who should not be held at fault for my own opinions)). If the Honors Program and the other fantastic professors at PUC taught me anything, it is that I will always support one who openly explores while holding to his or her beliefs over those who sustain their beliefs through fear.




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  84. What all the other supportive PUC students have said.

    @Sean and Shane
    Have you sat through a Dr. Ness class? Have you sat through a Dr. Ness course? No? Then I propose that you do not have nearly enough source material to question his beliefs and how close they are to the church. You do not have enough source material to judge what he teaches.

    It’s interesting. Like Sacha said I don’t feel that you have the students who pay money to go to PUC in your best interest. I owe a lot of money to the government for my time spent at PUC. I also wouldn’t have it any other way. I made a choice NOT to go to a place like Weimar or *Gulp* Black Hills because I wanted a liberal arts education given to me in a community of like minded individuals. That is what is so great about these SDA schools that you seem intent on slandering. Don’t tell me that it is not slander because it most certainly IS. If PUC had given me an education like what Weimar or Black Hills gives I would want my money back. Both PUC and the honors program prepared me for the life I live now. A life that supports the mission statement that PUC. PUC’s professors adhere to this mission statement in EVERY class I have ever attended. That is the long and short of it.

    You say that this may not be the beliefs of those who run the church. Well maybe you’re right. But who says they are more right than I. I didn’t vote for Wilson at the GC. I wasn’t even allowed to do so. To have a say in the church that I am apart of and that I love.

    And by the by. The NCC Constituency meeting this last year decided not to institute watchdog policies on pastors and on educators. So what you are doing on this site is in DIRECT opposition to the views that the church leaders have taken on this subject. Didn’t Jesus mention something about taking the plank out of your own eye before the speck in your brothers. I think he did.




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  85. WE need to see where the real problem lies, and not execute our neighbor on some forum. WE need to act like Christ, set the example for others, and this is not the example we should be setting, nor should this be our self portrait. And if we have a problem with our neighbor then we know how the Bible says to handle it.

    Question – how would you handle the issue Ness brings up in light of 3SG 90-91 while at LSU?

    What about dealing with the subject at LSU in the light of Acts 20:28-31 or 1Tim 4:1 or Romans 1:14-20, Titus 1:9-11? 2Cor 11:3-4 anyone?

    Our students need to be carefully working through some of these issues instead of just sitting back and blindly accepting whatever abberations are presented.

    I say this as one who also was a Biophysics student at one of our Universities.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  86. I am an alumni of PUC, and I agree with many of the comments posted by other students and alumni. I don’t believe I can make anymore excellent a case for the beliefs and character of Dr. Ness than others have done. What I want to add concerns more of the context of this discussion/lecture.

    It is important to note that the video is both illegally posted and has the characteristics of faulty proof-texting–there is no introduction or class context from which to base any judgments about Dr. Ness or PUC.

    One more detail. I worked in the Religion Department as a reader for all four years of my attendance. There is no question in my mind that, had this been “Debunk the Bible”, one or both Religion professors that were in the room would have immediately challenged what Dr. Ness was saying, bringing in their own knowledge of support of the Biblical record. (And the two professors that are reported to be present in the article are both intelligent and well able to do this.) Debunking the Bible was and is not the intent of Dr. Ness, hence the Religion professors actively participated in the discussion. Instead, the context is about what issues the future pastors and theologians will face in their ministry–what is occurring in the world, including popular belief and the subsequent implications.




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  87. I appreciate the post by Nicholas Drachenburg which emphasizes the context in which Dr Ness gave the lecture. It reminds me of my favorite college prof of many years ago who was vilified for his teaching in a class on Philosophy of Religion. For me, he was an extremely effective teacher because whichever philosophy he taught, he appeared to advocate from within that philosophy. Unfortunately, some students were not astute enough to realize that the prof did not change his personal philosophy from lecture to lecture, and the banded together to complain to the administration. At the time, I saw this as persecution.

    Upon reflection, I now see that this exceptionally brilliant prof lacked insight into the ability of his students. He stimulated thought and made students question their presuppositions, which was good. However, in the process he also created doubt which he did not help them resolve. Some hints in the direction of resolution would have been helpful. (He did provide me, personally, with such hints [not answers] when I needed them.) I am personally eternally grateful to him for preventing me from making ignorant assumptions about opposing viewpoints by assuming that only my personal viewpoint is intellectually tenable.

    The position my prof took in various lectures could be characterized as “devil’s advocate” because he appeared to advocate positions which were not his own — as I know, but many students did not.

    This makes me wonder whether Dr Ness did the same in this lecture. Does he really see science as the final arbiter of truth, or does he not? Does he realize science is a human endeavor and therefore subject to errors? Does he realize that today’s scientific “truth” is tomorrow’s scientific error? In the lecture itself, he seemed to have an undue reverence for science and much less reverence for Scripture, but it is hard to judge by one lecture.

    He mentioned the outworn agnostic objection regarding Cain’s wife and the problem of fitting the animals in the ark. Did he really mean to present these as serious objections, or did he not?

    I question the assumption that third-year theology students are unshakable in their faith and have the scientific sophistication to understand that science is fallible when an Adventist science professor seems to imply that science is now so far advanced that it can demonstrate that the Bible is actually wrong on the matter of origins. To expect students to hold to a “faith” belief in the veracity of the Bible while true science demonstrates that it is false is to expect them to check their intellect at the door of the church. That is not what Adventism has taught me.

    Specifically, Adventist teachers are to teach students to be thinkers and not reflectors of other men’s thoughts. I believe Dr Ness probably has this in mind. However, to teach that science (falsely so-called, as I believe the naturalistic “science” of origins to be) is the key to truth is not teaching students to be thinkers. It is just telling them to accept a different authority on the matter of truth.

    Ideally, a prof would present the problems re origins, as evolutionary scientists see them, and then ask students to do research to understand how a creationist would deal with the same evidence. And, since these are theology students, not biology students, the prof should then critique the research and point them in the right direction. Fundamental to this would be an understanding that there’s a difference between data and the interpretation of the data. It is this recognition that allowed geologist Elaine Kennedy to accept Adventist teachings, not just on the matter of origins, but on all the teachings that follow.

    It would be extremely helpful if other PUC students would tell us that this sort of thing is actually happening in Dr Ness’s classes. Unfortunately the posts so far have been largely full of emotion without a lot of substance to address the issues raised.




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  88. @Tyler Cantrell:

    Under California Penal Code 632, it is illegal for a person in the public to record or eavesdrop on any form of confidential conversation without the consent of all parties involved. If one or more of the parties involved is reasonably unaware that the conversation is being recorded, even in a public setting, the recording is considered a crime. Violating the California wiretapping law can result in criminal prosecution as well as a civil lawsuit under Penal Code 637.2.

    This lecture was a public lecture, not a private or confidential conversation. It was also a “live performance” which is not protected by copyright. Also, we did not post the video. It was independently posted to Viddler by someone else.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  89. I would be much more reassured if there would be another video put up about a follow-up lecture in which Dr Ness pointed his students in the direction of resolving the doubts he suggested in this lecture.

    It’s fair enough to have students wrestle with a problem individually before pointing them in the direction of a resolution. That’s good teaching, and I have done it many times myself. But as a Christian teacher, he does have a responsibility to help students resolve the doubts he raised. There are eternal consequences, and he, as well as other teachers, will have to answer for the effects of his teaching before a higher court than the court of Adventist opinion at EducateTruth.com.

    I wonder how many teachers or teachers-in-training take seriously the warning by the Apostle James: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1)?




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  90. @ Inge Anderson

    Unfortunately the posts so far have been largely full of emotion without a lot of substance to address the issues raised.

    This is quite a slam. The vast majority of posts here have been by outraged PUC students who have stated very clearly from personal experience that Dr. Ness fully supports, defends, and teaches respectfully SDA beliefs regarding creation. You have shown ultimate disrespect toward first-hand witnesses. These students HAVE addressed the issues raised by Educate Truth.Of course they are emotional. False accusations derived from biased testimony are repulsive to anyone, and should be met with a vigorous defense.




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  91. I went Academy, from 1st-12th. My sophomore year in highschool, my biology teacher required a debate between Evolution and Creation. So, in the weeks before the debate, he lectured on both. I can say that I am so thankful I had a teacher that required us to think outside of the bubble we had been in for so long. And all that ‘thinking’ I did, only made me realize how important and unexplainable faith is to me.

    And doesn’t Jesus want us to have faith like a child? I’m pretty sure children have “blind faith”… Anyways, my heart is broken that some can point fingers so quickly, lol I had a vision of the Pharisees and Rabbis at the time of Jesus just pop into my head. I guess what I want to say that most importantly to God is that we treat each other like Christ treat those while here on earth, and how he treats all of us – with Love. Pure, simple, Love for one another. In the grand scheme of things, I feel (my personal belief) is that while Jesus will be proud of the things we have done for him on earth, the most important will be how we treated one another – whether a fellow SDA, Christian, homosexual, murderer, atheist, etc.

    And I know I’m supposed to be commenting on the video, but I’m more astounded by the comments than by the video itself.




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  92. @ Inge Anderson
    This is quite a slam. The vast majority of posts here have been by outraged PUC students who have stated very clearly from personal experience that Dr. Ness fully supports, defends, and teaches respectfully SDA beliefs regarding creation. You have shown ultimate disrespect toward first-hand witnesses. These students HAVE addressed the issues raised by Educate Truth.Of course they are emotional. False accusations derived from biased testimony are repulsive to anyone, and should be met with a vigorous defense.  

    Prof Kent, I have not seen even one post by a student that addresses the specific concerns of this website, and that’s not a slam.

    You must surely know by now that this website addresses the specific concern that some of our science professors not teaching that the Genesis record of a recent (within thousands rather than billions of years) creation of life on this planet by divine fiat within the space of six days is scientifically tenable.

    I wonder if some of the many PUC students who have posted in support of Dr Ness can honestly testify that Dr Ness teaches that the Genesis account of the origin of life on this planet in six literal days is an accurate history of our origin, even if science cannot “prove” it.

    Does he also teach that science cannot “prove” origin by evolution any more than it can “prove” origin by creation?

    Does Dr Ness help his students understand that the “science” of origins is not hard science but, rather, “historical science” which is closer to the realm of philosophy?

    So far, not one of the persons posting in support of Dr Ness has said anything that confirms that Dr Ness actually teaches that Genesis is literally true and that such a belief is reasonable in the face of the scientific evidence.




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  93. @Ervin Taylor:

    It would appear that Sean has finally clearly stated what he wants to do:

    (1) Turn Adventist institutions of higher education back into “Bible Colleges.” The ideal Adventist institution should be run like Weimar and Wildwood. Education is all about teaching students to be reflectors of the thoughts of people who know “The Truth.”

    Amazingly, I actually expect that our own schools will promote the SDA goals and ideals in their classrooms. Shocking as it may seem to some, the SDA Church has in fact taken a stand on what it, as an organization, thinks is and is not “true” as the present time – otherwise known as “present truth”. If a professor cannot in good conscience support the Church’s position on “present truth” then that professor should not expect to be paid by the Church for promoting fundamentally contrary views. This is true of any viable organization – to include the SDA Church.

    (2) Demand that Adventist theology be taught totally and completely in a fundamentalist mode as it was in the 1930s. It is totally irrelevant whether some theological tenet is or is not correct. If the church has declared some theological point of view to be correct, then it is. End of discussion. Loyalty is more important than Truth.

    There are all kinds of opinions as to what is and is not “true”. You are certainly welcome to yours since this is a free civil society in which we live – thank God. However, the SDA Church is also welcome to its own opinion as to what is and is not true. And, just as importantly, it is free to hire only those who accurately represent what it thinks is true – regardless of if you think the Church is completely nuts.

    I don’t care if you agree with your employer or not or even if everyone thinks that he/she/it is obviously mistaken or even crazy. It is still wrong to take money from crazy people to do other than you are being paid to do. That’s still called stealing in my book…

    (3) Demand that all teachers in all Adventist colleges and universities teach that Adventist theology is completely true and absolutely correct even in the face of overwhelming scientific and/or historical evidence that calls many of these beliefs into question. There is no room in an Adventist classroom for anyone who can not support traditional 1930s Adventism 100%. Absolute certainty is a Virtue.

    Hey, if you really believe that the weight of empirical evidence is so clearly in opposition to the SDA Church, you are certainly free to go and work for someone who is willing to pay you for your views. The SDA Church need not shoot itself in the foot by employing those individuals who are fundamentally opposed to its own clearly stated goals and ideals…

    It seems to me like you’re trying to get the tail to wag the dog here. That’s not how viable organizations work…

    (4) If any Adventist administrator, minister or educator does not agree with this agenda, publicly cast aspersions on his loyalty to the church and God. Tell him that he is stealing from his church if he or she can not support traditional Adventist theology 100%.

    Where have I ever questioned anyone’s loyalty to God in this forum or in any other? I have made no such moral judgments – quite the contrary in fact. All I’ve said is that someone who is actively opposing their employer’s clearly stated goals and ideals on the employer’s dime is, in effect, stealing from his/her employer. I see no other way to describe such activity…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  94. EducateTruthers and The Lazarus Dilemma

    I have a few simple questions for those of you who support Educate Truth and believe, like Sean Pitman (a staff member at EducateTruth) does, that SDA professors should teach only beliefs supported by evidence and not faith.

    Consider Lazarus. In the history of science, there is not one documented case of a human being coming back to life after being dead for one day, much less four days. No faithful SDA or other Bible-believing Christian wants to believe the Bible was in error declaring Lazarus dead, and that Jesus “raised to life” a man who was mispronounced dead. So let’s assume the Bible is truthful in that Lazarus, a dead man, was truly raised to life.

    1. Should an SDA professor teach that overwhelming scientific evidence supports the SDA interpretation that Jesus raised a four-day-dead man back to life?

    2. Should an SDA professor teach that overwhelming scientific evidence supports the SDA interpretation that God will one day raise to life many of us?

    3. Is it acceptable to believe, and teach, that God can raise dead humans back to life on the basis of faith, even when there is not a single shred of scientific support for this possibility?

    4. Is it acceptable to believe, and teach, that God created life on this planet 6,000 years ago during a 6-day period, and flooded every inch of real estate during a great deluge on the basis of faith?

    I assume that many of you, in your silence, believe that Sean Pitman’s unorthodox views on faith and science are correct. Only a few of you have had the courage to speak up (Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Marshall come to mind). The remainder of you need to contemplate whether, by your silence, you condone Sean’s continuing abuse of others on the basis of his hostile denigration of faith.




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  95. @Eddie:

    Sean, thank you very much for your thought-provoking response. With due respect, you’re exaggerating about “blind faith.” Please don’t belittle my faith or that of anyone who disagrees with you about the weight of the scientific evidence as having “blind” faith…

    I believe there IS scientific and historical evidence supporting many aspects of my faith in the Bible as being divinely inspired, including evidence for a short-term chronology and a worldwide flood. But not ALL aspects.

    That’s great! While nothing is absolute in science, a rational faith must be based on the weight of available empirical evidence. I’m very glad to hear that you have found such a weight of evidence.

    While not everything can be understood or explained, we should all be prepared to give a rational reason for the hope that is within us – a reason that has general appeal based on generally available evidence beyond the bald declaration that one should just have “faith” despite the otherwise overwhelming weight of contrary evidence.

    If those like you and Dr. Ness actually believe in the SDA position on the topic of origins (and don’t downplay its importance to the SDA faith as Dr. Ness appeared to do in his lecture) such evidence should always be presented in all lectures where one is discussing contrary evidence, interpretations, or theories. I don’t see that Dr. Ness did this. If this is in fact his true position and his usual habbit, I’d love to have him post a video of a lecture of his where he promotes the evidence for a truly global Noachian Flood and his personal reasons, empirically-based reasons, why he believes in a worldwide Noachian Flood. So far, his lecture and additional comments in this particular forum make me doubt that he really believes, much less teaches, that such a Flood really took place or that it is all that important to the rational basis of the SDA faith. But, I’m certainly willing to be proved wrong – and would be very glad to be proved wrong.

    Is your faith based purely on scientific evidence? If so, what scientific evidence is your belief in the virgin birth of Jesus based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that Johan spent 3 days in a fish based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that the sun stood still based upon? What scientific evidence is your belief that life was created in 6 days–and not 50 or 100 days, or years–based upon?

    The credibility of a witness is based on a form of science. Those aspects of the testimony that can be subject to testing and potential falsification must be tested and evaluated. If they hold true, those aspects of the testimony that cannot be directly tested in a scientific manner gain credibility.

    It is for this reason that Jesus, when challenged as to his claimed authority to be able to forgive sins, asked, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” – Luke 5:23 NIV

    Let me ask you, what would have happened to Jesus’ claimed credibility to be able to forgive sins if the paralyzed man had not be healed when Jesus said, “Get up and walk”?

    You see, the credibility of the Bible is based on the reliability of those empirical statements that are in fact subject to a form of scientific investigation. If a Biblical claim, such as the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood, can be shown to be scientifically untenable, what does that do to the credibility of those numerous claims of the Bible (to include those you’ve listed) that cannot be directed tested or scientifically investigated?

    God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith. – Ellen White

    http://www.whiteestate.org/books/sc/sc12.html

    Think about it…

    Sean, another question: should SDA science teachers tell students that (1) the physical universe including the Earth is only about 6000 years old, or that (2) the physical universe and the Earth are much older than 6000 years old and that it is only life on Earth that is about 6000 years old?

    The SDA Church, as an organization, has not taken a particular position on the age of the basic material of the Earth or on the age of the universe. There are reasonable arguments for many different points of view here. This is why the SDA Church, as an organization, has only taken a definitive stand on the literal 6-day creation week (a process of making this planet able to support life and then producing living things to be sustained by it) within recent history (i.e., less than 10,000 years ago) and the subsequent worldwide Noachian Flood which wiped out all land-based animal life on the planet except for that saved on the Ark.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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