Comment on The hinge of our faith by Sean Pitman M.D..
Bravus: It is an attempt to use the â€˜unthinkability defenseâ€™ â€“ itâ€™s unthinkable that all of SDAism is wrong, therefore, since it is all tied to creationism, creationism must be right. But it can backfire horribly: if someone is forced by the evidence to consider that perhaps God chose to create the earth and life by mechanisms other than speaking it into existence in 6 days 6000 years ago, they are then also forced â€“ by this rhetorical strategy where creationism is described as being the single leg on which the edifice of SDA doctrine stands â€“ to feel constrained to throw it all away.
Basically you seem to be saying that the SDA Church is taking a big risk by making definitive statements about what it does and does not believe to be “true” – right? How scientific! Don’t you see that this very thing, being risky, is the very root of scientific thinking?
If you stand for nothing that is risky, that can at least potentially be proved wrong, what good are you? What good is your “faith”?
Also, if your faith does not go beyond basic ethical principles, upon what do you base your hope in the reality of a bright physical future? Where is the evidence for the rational validity of the “hope that is within you”?
In short, if the SDA position on a literal 6-day creation is indeed shown to be false, the unique message of the SDA Church, a message which is uniquely different from any other denomination, also goes away.
This uniqueness and reason for independent existence is indeed based on a risky position, subject to potential falsification – as is any good scientific position. Many religious groups believe in some form of God and good moral ethics. However, the SDA Church is unique and has a reason for unique independent existence because it goes beyond these basic truths to include additional truths which are also important to share with the world. If these additional truths are shown to be false, then what is the point for continued independent existence of the SDA Church?
â€œThe Church has one foundation â€“ â€™tis Jesus Christ our Lordâ€. If weâ€™re going to balance the whole church on one foundation, thereâ€™s no competition: Jesus is it. A particular view on origins is not.
Without evidence in support of who Jesus actually was, the simple argument that “Jesus is it” is distinctly unhelpful. It was Jesus who referred to the Genesis narrative in very literal terms. It was Jesus who demonstrated the creative power of God without the need for vast ages of evolutionary time. It was Jesus who instantly turned water into wine. It was Jesus who showed sympathy for the weak and those who weren’t the “fittest” for survival – to include animals. It was Jesus, in his life and testimony, who argued very strongly against the basis of modern evolutionary thinking.
So, if you accept modern evolutionary thinking, you really have no basis to rationally accept Jesus as anything other than a good, but very ordinary, man – not God.
It was C.S. Lewis who pointed out the fallacy of this thinking:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. â€“ Mere Christianity, pages 40-41.
The fact is that the SDA Church goes beyond the promotion of the virtues of basic morality. The SDA Church is also about presenting a solid hope in a very real and very bright physical future for those who love God – i.e., the Gospel of Hope. It is possible to be a good morally upright person and not have a solid conscious hope in the future you know. Such a person will end up being saved, but how much better to have known the Good News here and now?
This is what makes the SDA Church more than just a promoter of good ethics. This is also what requires the SDA Church to be at least someone scientific in its thinking and apologetic arguments in support of the Gospel message…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman M.D.
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
As far as the current article is concerned, I know of no “outdated” information. The information is current as far as I’m aware. The detrimental mutation rate is far too high for complex organisms to avoid an inevitable downhill devolutionary path. There is simply no way to rationally avoid this conclusion as far as I’m aware.
So, perhaps your friend could be more specific regarding his particular objections to the information presented?
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?
I have checked with the director of the lab which was supposed to have dated a “soft tissue” extract and he wrote back almost immediately that what they had been given was a whole bone, not a “soft tissue” extract and the bone was badly degraded from the point of view of any organic carbon. The date they obtained was obviously contamination and they reported that fact to the submitter.
That’s hard to believe given that many dates on many different specimens where reported by The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, and others, without any mention of contamination – using the same procedures that they would for a portion of mammoth or mastodon bone (and no one claimed here to have submitted a “soft tissue extract”). After all, the youngest radiocarbon date for a mammoth fossil (3685 ± 60 yr BP) comes from the remains of one discovered on Wrangel Island off the north-eastern Siberian coast (Vartanyan et al. 2008). Yet, no one cites “contamination” when discussing such dates for mammoths. Also, great care was taken to prevent contamination when obtaining the dinosaur bone specimens that were dated. It’s hard to imagine, then, how these dinosaur bones could have been contaminated to the degree that you suggest – which would have had to be between from 1% (40kyr BP) to up to 10% (20kyr BP) of the total carbon within the bone (Plaisted, 2017).
AMS labs know this. You see, it wasn’t until the AMS lab at the University of Georgia discovered that the bone specimens they were analyzing were actually dinosaur bones that they recanted their own results and refused to do any additional 14C testing. Up until this point, they never suspected such a degree of contamination… a mechanism for which is quite difficult to imagine.
Note that both the whole bone and bioapatite in the dinosaur bone was dated. The bioapatite was C14 dated at 41,010 ± 220 years BP, having 0.61 ± 0.02 pMC (percent modern carbon). No mention of “contamination” is listed here. The very fact that they separated out the whole bone date from the bioapatite date is what makes me think they really thought they had original bioapatite from the bone sample.
A couple years later this was followed by:
Consider also that the triceratops horn was well preserved and had well preserved soft tissue within it, to include blood vessels and cellular structures (Link). The fossil’s bioapatite was dated (not the well-preserved soft tissue, which is interesting). According to a 2009 report in the journal Radiocarbon, bioapatite is actually preferable to soft tissue in many cases. Yet, it was also 14C dated by AMS at 33,570 ± 120 years. How is that explained?
Then, there is this report from John Fischer (2014):
Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered in Glendive Montana, and our group received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for Carbon-14 testing. Both bones were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen. The best process (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) was used to date them. Total organic carbon and dinosaur bioapatite was extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants, and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained. They were similar to radiocarbon dates for ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers of the Los Angeles LaBrea Tarpits, sloth dung, and giant bison. (Link)
Notice here that both the bioapatite and the collagen within the bone was 14C dated by AMS with resulting “concordant radiocarbon dates” – which is usually used to support the argument that the dates obtained where not the result of contamination.
Now, is this conclusive evidence that dinosaur remains are not millions of years old? I wouldn’t say that this data is conclusive in and of itself – taken one test at a time. After all, a particular lab might not have been able to completely isolate a particular fossil’s original bioapatite – so a particular result may have contamination in it as you suggest. However, I do think that after a certain point of consistent results from multiple tests by multiple labs the weight of evidence starts to add up – adding credibility to the idea that perhaps dinosaurs are not millions of years old after all. When you also consider the fact that pretty much all dinosaur bones with residual organic material in them (and other things that are supposed to be millions of years old – like coal and oil and other “ancient” organic remains) have been consistently dated as only being 15k-40k years old, you have to at least conclude that there is something wrong somewhere. Either the 14C dating system is not as robust as some want to believe, or the fossils are not as old as some want to believe. This is particularly relevant given the existence of very finely preserved original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments that simply shouldn’t be there according to all known data on the decay rates of such things.
Here’s an interesting presentation 15-minute presentation (Link) that was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. Of course, one possible explanation for these results is, yet again, contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. However, Dr. Seiler presents several arguments that tend to cast doubt on the contamination explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, how did it become incorporated into the original collagen? Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.
Here’s another interesting article on this topic written by Dr. Jay Wile (2012): Link
So anyway, again I ask you, why not run your own tests? Or why doesn’t Jack Horner or Mary Schweitzer do it with pure finely-preserved dinosaur soft tissues?
As far as breeding vs. natural selection, what’s the real difference if both select based on phenotype alone? You wrote:
It was clear to Alfred Russell Wallace, who, with Darwin, first came up with the idea of natural selection, that you could not use animal breeding experiments to simulate natural evolution.
Please do explain this to me. After all, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about the selective breeding of animals in this regard. Even a human breeder could never get one “kind” of animal to evolve into another “kind” of animal (where novel functional genetic options are produced within the gene pool) using breeding techniques with very high selection pressures alone. Why not? Because, selective animal breeding produces no novel information within the gene pool of the animal population in question. Breeding is based on a simple selection of pre-existing information as it is expressed in the various phenotypes of the offspring over time. Exactly the same thing is true of natural selection – which can also produce very rapid phenotypic changes, in the wild, in response to rapidly changing environments or the sudden realization of entirely new environments based on the very same underlying static gene pool of options (no genetic mutations required).
By the way, it was Darwin himself who coined the term ‘selective breeding’; he was interested in the process as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Charles Darwin discussed how selective breeding had been successful in producing change over time in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Its first chapter he actually discusses selective breeding and domestication of such animals as pigeons, cats, cattle, and dogs. (Link)
Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the development of the human mind and some bodily attributes were guided by spiritual beings rather than natural selection… (Link)
But please, do explain my mistake here regarding the fundamental differences between the selective breeding of animals vs. natural selection. I’d be most interested, because this concept is fundamental to my own understanding of the clear limits of Darwinian-style evolution via random mutations and natural selection.