An apology to PUC

The following letter was sent to PUC president, Dr. Heather Knight, Nov. 9, 2010.

Dear Dr. Knight,

We apologize for allowing Dr. Ness’s lecture to be posted on EducateTruth.com without apparent warning. When we approached the issue at La Sierra, it was after a great deal of behind-the-scenes effort. The same was not true for PUC, and for that we are sorry. The decision to post the lecture without first contacting PUC was, perhaps, a bit hasty, but not without valid concern. If the posting of the video of Dr. Ness’s lecture has led to misconceptions about Dr. Ness and/or PUC please let us know what you perceive these misconceptions to be, and what you think Educate Truth can do to help resolve these issues.

Until then, we remain deeply concerned with the way in which the lecture presented existing theories in science that conflict with our beliefs as Adventists. According to PUC’s statement, Myron Widmer provided the context for the lecture, which was “to specifically present existing theories in science that conflict with our beliefs as Adventists, such as the age of the earth, the nature of the flood, and fossil records.” If the goal of the course is “to prepare future pastors for dilemmas they may face in ministry while strengthening the students’ faith in the Adventist Church and its core beliefs,” we would think that there would be evidence within the lecture to demonstrate this was actually happening. Evidence was also absent from the PUC statement that Dr. Ness or any other biology professor would be presenting a future lecture that presented affirming evidence that would reasonably counter the existing theories in the mainstream scientific community. While it is reasonable to present students with theories in science that conflict with our beliefs, how reasonable is it to just leave it at that–a string of conflicts with little, if any, resolution?

We would like to give PUC the opportunity to provide greater context for the lecture in question. We appreciate that you include the following in “Learning Outcomes”: “Recognize the historical and current issues relating to special creation and evolution models of origins. Understand the theological and scientific implications of each model.”

In particular, we note that you offer a course that, presumably, all biology students must take: Three quarters of BIOL 111-112-113 Biological Foundations, which we would expect to contribute to the particular learning outcome we highlighted, and a course that appears to be a senior course, BIOL 450 Philosophy of Origins, which we would expect to be particularly focused on the intersection of evolution and special creation.

We would like to give you the opportunity to provide Educate Truth with course outlines/syllabi which you would normally give to students, which generally include required reading and required papers. We request permission to publicize these at Educate Truth. If you have a sampling of lectures in video format, so much the better. We would appreciate receiving them as well.

Sincerely,

Educate Truth Staff

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522 thoughts on “An apology to PUC

  1. Re Sean’s Quote

    “I have actually written and self-published a little book this year, “Turtles All the Way Down – Questions on Origins”. It can be ordered from my website using PayPal or from Amazon (a bit cheaper from my website). And, by all means, you are welcome to review it if you so wish…

    Turtles All the Way Down”

    Dear Sean

    Good stuff. Now who can be enlisted from the Adventist community to get your book accredited and into the Adventist learning institutions?

    Cheers
    Ken




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  2. If you would like a copy of those informational papers, I would be happy to give you a copy – shame on the rest of you professors or otherwise that would rather defend an unadvertised school, straying from the pack; it is our duty as Adventist to defend the faith, not the actions of a rouge school [edit]. Alexander Carpenter [edit] you of all people should know and recognize the value that educate truth is providing, to long have you stood on the fringe of the Adventist faith giving rise and supporting things like the dramatic play, “this Adventists life”, which, for a lack of better reason, effectively mocks the Adventist traditions – in the name of good fun. [edit]




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  3. While history cannot be undone, I do believe that this is a good move.

    Since Bryan Ness’s lecture/discussion has already been given exposure, it cannot really be recalled. Even if every scrap of it were pulled from the web site, the context in which it was given makes a whole lot of difference.

    For instance, if everyone knew Dr Ness to be a strong believer in the Bible account, even when he did not have all the empirical evidence, the lecture would have a decidedly different impact than it does in isolation. (I have reason to believe that this is actually the case.)

    It may even be, as I suggested earlier, that he gave more emphasis to the arguments against creation science because he was confident that the students in the discussion were sufficiently grounded in the creation approach but needed a bit of challenge to understand the ideas they would meet in the world.

    Since the original lecture cannot be effectively recalled, the best thing, at this time, is to provide more context. And I’m hoping that the PUC administration will see fit to do that.

    This site receives a fair bit of traffic, and word of mouth travels quickly too. So any information released by PUC will actually give them free publicity and may persuade more students to attend there.

    In the meantime, I would hope that those commenting on the entries regarding Dr Ness would take their focus off his person (especially when they don’t know him) and his teaching (for which the one video is an inadequate example) and continue to discuss how to approach the issues surrounding the interaction of science and faith.

    I may have mentioned it before, but I believe that Leonard Brand’s book, Beginnings: Are Science and Scripture Partners in the Search for Origins? (Pacific Press, 2006) provides some real guidance and food for thought in this direction. It’s a small, readable book and should be available in all our college & university libraries.




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  4. @Mary A. Jane: No, we’re not stating that at all. What gave you that impression? Did you read this statement, “While it is reasonable to present students with theories in science that conflict with our beliefs, how reasonable is it to just leave it at that–a string of conflicts with little, if any, resolution?”

    Evolution should most definitely be taught in our schools, but within the context of what we believe to be true and the current evidence that supports those beliefs.




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  5. Shane, it takes a big man to stand up publicly and own that he made an error. Especially as public as this has become. Congratulations Shane for showing us what an honorable man you are!

    I call those at La Sierra (and all of our other Colleges and Universities for that matter)- all those professors who have deceived the members of the church, those who pay their salaries, to do the same. It is time for the biology and religion professors to apologize to the church publicly for teaching contrary to our church’s beliefs. You can all point your fingers at Shane, but are you big enough to stand up and do as he did.

    It is preposterous to say that church members don’t have a right to know what is being taught in our schools and that we should have to register for the class to get that information. ARE YOU NUTS! We ARE the parents, the grandparents, the ones who pay to keep these schools afloat financially. We give our offerings and tithes, and pay the tuition. THE SECRET NATURE THAT YOU USE TO KEEP PEOPLE FROM KNOWING WHAT YOU ARE DOING CONVICTS YOU. If you are doing nothing wrong, then there is no reason that all of your materials cannot see the light of day and prove that you are the honorable people that you claim to be.




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  6. @Educate Truth Staff: I appreciate your candor with admitting a fault in judgment for posting the video prematurely. Whereas the church at large has every right to know what their youth are being taught, it’s best to attempt to go through proper channels to avoid the appearance of evil.

    I understand that Adventist education is going through a crisis, and that there’s much frustration with church leadership for allowing things to get so out of hand.

    What is the laity to do when most of the church leadership and church members appear to be asleep at their posts? Shout at them to wake up, of course. But perhaps a tap on the shoulder would have been a loud enough call to arms for PUC and Adventist education in general? I doubt it, in light of past resistance and rationalization of anti-biblical concepts by
    certain elements within the church.

    I strongly suspect that the problem so clearly illustrated from Dr. Ness’s lecture is just the tip of the iceberg concerning the crisis in our educational institutions. The fruits of Adventist education on most of these kids who’ve commented on here is indeed disturbing, and bodes ill for the future of the church. It’s unfortunate that it takes a video to wake people up to the realization that there’s a crisis. But even then there are those who still find excuses to dismiss the evidence.

    Thank you Sean and Shane for having the courage to sound the trumpet. I hope our leaders and church members will answer the call to defend the walls, because it sure is exhausting being all alone. I want to go home soon.




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  7. @Mary A. Jane: The lecture on origins was the first of a series within the class dealing with the issue, or the lecture on origins was just one class in the series of classes of different topics? As far as I’ve been told by PUC’s statement and from a student in the class, there was no mention that there would be a follow up course. This is not to say that one will not occur, but if PUC was really concerned about context I’m really surprised it failed to mention any follow up course that would have brought some context to the lecture given in isolation.

    By the way, the contention has nothing to do with Dr. Ness’s faith. This is just a red herring issue. His faith, Christianity, belief in God, etc, are not on the table despite what many here may think.

    I may not know as much as you about the class, so please inform me what the next lecture in the series will be in regard to origins. When did they announce in the class there would be a follow up? Why wasn’t this information made public in PUC’s statement? Strange they would leave out such important information.




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  8. @Scott Brizendine: Does PUC have something to hide? The church has a right to know what it’s getting for its money. I really doubt the church is happy with the product, especially after reading most of the posts from students.

    @Anon: Dr. Ness’s lecture is just the tip of the iceberg concerning Adventist education. Take a few minutes to really consider the comments by professors in the class and the questions posed by students. You’ll realize that THAT is not the product of only a 50 minute lecture. This one lecture is wake up call to all. Or perhaps our schools should start recording more lectures in order to prove to you that these aren’t isolated incidents?

    Like Sean said, Ellen White publicly warned parents to not send their children to the college in Battle Creek…not because kids are dumb, but because the kind of education and mentors they are exposed to is a big deal. Educators and pastors are held to a higher standard because of their influence over not just the youth, but everyone. It matters.




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  9. This was a good move on the part of Educate Truth. Their posting of the video was wrong, but it also takes courage to admit to doing wrong, and I commend them for that.




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  10. I highly doubt that Heather Knight is going to agree to send out the teachers’ syllabi, learning objectives, or lecture videos. And in fact, I hope she does not. Neither the teachers nor the administration of PUC have anything to prove. They have no obligation to settle the unfounded fears and rantings presented on the website and in the above “apology”. And I am well aware of what will be said if/when they refuse: “If there is nothing to hide, why should they not provide the information?” It will be used as “proof”, or at least “evidence”, that they are in the wrong and know it. It proves nothing of the kind. All it proves is that they are mature in their thinking and feel no need to disclose information to an unofficial group that has no business asking for it in the first place. Perhaps if EducateTruth were run by the church, or the board of education, or anyone who mattered at all, they would see fit to provide them with such documents. As it stands, EducateTruth is not run by any of these people. The administration will recognize this, and simply ignore the complaints until the plaintiffs move on to the next witch-hunt. They will understand by now that there is no point in trying to console, placate, or even respond.

    I apologize for my rudeness in the above paragraph. When I posted my comment on the video thread, it was with a great deal of courtesy and civility. The same was not true in this case, and for that, I am sorry. The decision to post this comment without censoring myself was, perhaps, a bit hasty, but not without valid cause. If posting this comment has led to misconceptions about EducateTruth, please let me know what you perceive these misconceptions to be, and what you think I can do to help resolve these issues.

    Until then, I remain deeply concerned with the way in which the entirety of this campaign conflicts with our beliefs as Adventists. If the goal of this project is to “be fully supportive of all Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist church,” and, “encourage expression of the fundamental teachings of the Word of God”, I would think there would be evidence within the website to demonstrate this was actually happening. Evidence is also absent from the ET comments made on these pages that any member of the staff will be posting future comments or articles that would reasonably demonstrate the concepts of love and acceptance taught by Jesus. While it is reasonable to present the community with perceived conflicts in our schools, how reasonable is it to just leave it at that–a string of conflicts with little, if any, resolution?

    I would like to give EducateTruth the opportunity to provide greater context for the project in question. I appreciate that you include the following in “What We Believe”: “To be like Christ means, among other things, to love one another as we love Him and to foster peace, not conflict, within our community. Understand the spiritual and ethical implications of this.”

    In particular, I note that you offer a section that, presumably, all new members to your site should read: The History (containing the “most relevant documents” related to the LSU conflict), which I would expect to conform with the particular belief I highlighted, and another section that appears to be a discussion or explanatory section, THEOLOGY, which I would expect to be particularly focused on bringing about a greater understanding of the love of Christ.

    I would like to give you the opportunity to provide those who have commented here with mission outlines/plans which are normally kept to yourselves, which generally include upcoming posts potential targets. I request permission to publicize these on Facebook. If you have a sampling of brainstorm sessions in video format, so much the better. I would appreciate receiving them as well.

    Sincerely,

    Spencer Johnson

    p.s. This is my final statement. I will no longer comment on these mockeries, and I encourage others to do the same. This campaign is like an oil fire: The more water is poured on it, the further it spreads. The best solution, therefore, is not to keep pouring on water, but to stop adding fuel and simply let it burn itself out.




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  11. It is indeed a nice gesture that educate truth can apology to a school after an incredibly embarrassing ordeal. However, the apology should close the matter, not suggest giving syllabi. However it seems that educate truth would still like to suggest how a campus manages it’s affairs.

    “We would like to give you the opportunity to provide Educate Truth with course outlines/syllabi which you would normally give to students, which generally include required reading and required papers. We request permission to publicize these at Educate Truth. If you have a sampling of lectures in video format, so much the better. We would appreciate receiving them as well.”-

    Doesn’t it seem odd, and rather rude/distasteful that after educate truth can be accounted for attempting to ruin a man’s reputation as an adventist teacher, that they request PUC to show syllabi of classes? Educate truth has no business in the slightest to be involved in such matters. It does seem odd to me as well that the founders of educate truth can’t even post their own names on an apology, when the reality is, that the entire matter flustered an entire student body and staff. Perhaps the founders of educate truth did apologize in private to Dr. Ness, but what does it say about one’s intentions when blaming someone can be so public, yet apology must remain private?

    Here is what PUC would appreciate, if this matter is closed, and never happens again, yet with educate truth’s unstable and rather destructive history, this seems only somewhat plausible. Pacific Union College is a diverse college both in students and teachers, yet are we subject to believe that we must be attacked when our ideals do not coincide with others? Educate truth misunderstood context and took the opportunity to exploit a professor.

    What I have learned from all of this, is that while some may say they are Adventist, their actions can easily say are not Adventist like in nature, there was nothing close to a Christ-like manner in educate truth’s recent actions.




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  12. “We apologize for allowing Dr. Ness’s lecture to be posted on EducateTruth.com without apparent warning.”

    I would like to draw notice to the fact that EducateTruth has not apologized for the posting of the video. They have only apologized for posting it without first contacting PUC.

    -Scott Brizendine




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  13. @Spencer Johnson:
    re.: You seem to be trying to make a point! One cannot simply scroll on by; one drops everything and runs to Wikipedia to find out who you are. You couldn’t be the Spencer Johnson of “Who Moved My Cheese?” fame, “one of the world’s most respected thinkers and beloved authors,” could you?




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  14. We need to remember some context:

    1. The “context” in this case is a religion department seminar not a biology department seminar. There is no way that the PUC religion department will requiring that their students must master some kind of science solution for all of the questions, puzzles and rabbit trails that an evolutionist can imagine – as part of their basic training.

    2. Nothing in the LSU discussion to this date suggests that they suddently woke up one day and discovered that their religion and biology departments were all in the tank for evolutionism. It appears that things took time to develop. Compromise seems to have progressed slowly over time while the administration simply circled the wagons and resisted the opportunity to make changes early. Eventually that kind of leadership results in a 3-alarm blaze.

    (To use Battle Creek terminology).

    3. PUC represents an “early”(?) stage problem different from LSUs current problem or from the conclusion of the Battle Creek problem. So it likely has a different solution – but LSU stands as a testimony to what happens if you don’t figure something out at one of those earlier stages.

    It is this third item above that keeps me looking into the possibiliy that PUC might do something insightful given the example they have just down the road of what goes wrong when you simply choose to look the other way.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  15. OTNT_Believer, Eddie, and others

    Give it up. You cannot have a cogent discussion with Dr. Pitman because he does not speak your language. He uses definitions for things like “macroevolution” that you will not find anywhere else in the world. ANYWHERE. You can’t argue against that. It doesn’t matter what your PhD is in–he is sure to know more. Period. And if need be, he will make up facts as he goes along (like erosion is happening faster on the summit of Mt. Everest than on lower slopes or beneath moving glaciers).

    The instruction from the Bible and Ellen White are very clear that we are to avoid excessive argument. Dr. Pitman thrives on debate, as he cannot and never will heed this council. But we can and really should end this debate.




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  16. @Bob

    Johnny – the idea was to try to “put words in her mouth” so that even though she said nothing at all about “Jupiter” — make it appear that God in fact told her that He was showing Jupiter to Ellen White in a vision — (and of course the description that follows in her vision does not match Jupiter at all) — and then claim that totally discounting whatever God says to a prophet — is still a good way to believe in the prophetic gift.
    Once you redefine “believe God” as “totally discount what He said” be cooking up the idea that God showed Ellen White the planet Jupiter – then you on to the Bible and discount what it says in just the same way.

    Excuse me Bob, but the quotes that I shared concerning the vision of EGW where she saw Jupiter and Saturn, or at least what those who knew astronomy beieved she saw was from a book by J. N. Loughborough. Whatever EGW saw, she did not contradict the interpretation that others like Joseph Bates made of it. Why didn’t God correct the problem right then if Joseph Bates was wrong? Why did EGW make no complaint about the interpretation? Precisely because there as no need to. The vision bolstered the faith of those that were present, and maybe others as well. What if God had shown her Jupiter and Saturn as we kno them to be today? It would hardly have been faith affirming at the time, although it might have helped more for us today. I think God expects us to use our minds and judgments and realize that messages for one time may not be as useful at other times. EGW often reminded people of just that when people missaplied some of her testimonies.

    EGW also makes numerous references to 6,000 years in reference to the timing of creation, a time span that was well accepted in her day. Since then, with more Biblical manuscripts available and a more careful assessment of the genologies we now know the figure is more appropiately 8-10,000 years. So, was EGW wrong when she used the 6,000 year figure. Yes, of course. Is tat relevant, no. What number would you expect someone of her day to use. Unless, of course, you think God should have set hr straight before her time. And besides, who really cares wether its 6,000 or 10,000 anyway.

    I don’t see the Jupeter/Saturn vision incident as troublesome in the least. It is instructive. Sometimes as science progresses we discover that previously held beliefs are wrong. Could the same be true about the worldwide flood? Well, I hope not, but shouldn’t we at least be willing to consider the possibility?

    Anyway, for those who want to see what Loughborough himself wrote on this event, the book The great second advent movement: its rise and progress by John Norton Loughborough is online and can be downloaded for free. Here are a few places where you can get it:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=X0FGAAAAYAAJ
    http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cr60074191




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  17. So far the only substantive responses by PUC defenders have been empty sarcasm and ridicule. Unfortunately, 18-year-old students eat that sort of thing up and follow anyone who has mastered tactics that mirror their favorite media characters. Educate Truth isn’t going after anyone. It is simply laying out the evidence and presentations for all to see and assess for themselves. Educate Truth doesn’t have to point out the dishonesty and the underlying problem that balanced views in science are not being respectfully presented on Adventist college campuses.




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  18. @Mary A. Jane: Despite how the information may be presented in other courses does not change the way in which this particular lecture. At this point the professor and PUC do not want to divulge the information on their other classes, so we’re left with the bad egg class.




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  19. Dear Sean and Shane

    Why has the SDA Church not published a scientific text on origins, compliant with FB# 6, to be taught at all Adventist Institutions? Can you really blame the institutions if such texts are not available? Or if they are why are you not promoting them as standardized texts.

    Sean, as a leading advocate for overwhelming evidence supporting six day day recent creation, why don’t you simply write and publish a textbook and submit it to the GC for approval? After all you constantly refer to your website as containing such source material.

    Just a thought.

    Cheers
    Ken




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  20. @Shane Hilde:

    I mean what other answers do you need? A series course, taught in conjunction with other Adventist theologies is bad how? You got your panties all in a bundle that the class wasn’t a series, here is proof that it is. You were super concerned that this was a solely evolutionary teaching, which it is not, because it is part of a SERIES. I still fail to see what you are so peeved about.




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  21. @Anon MD:

    I am disturbed by much of what I read here. According to Educate Truth’s new policies, professors can no longer teach faith; they can only teach what the “evidence” allows. Professors can no longer teach both sides and allow the student to form their own opinion; they must believe and teach that the weight of evidence supports their views. Professors can no longer teach their conscience; fear of being subjected to public humiliation will hereafter dictate what they teach. Surely Ellen White would roll over in her grave if she learned of the new fear-based pedagogical approach that is slowly taking over our institutions. Good work, Educate Truth!

    Have you not read about the time when Mrs. White publicly addressed the Church body telling everyone to avoid sending their children to Battle Creek College because of their promotion of ideas which were not in harmony with the goal and mission of the Church? “In God’s word alone,” she wrote, “we find an authentic account of creation” (5 Test., 25). She displayed a willingness to both publicly rebuke the leadership of the college and to warn church members of the problems at the College. “We can give,” she memorably warned, “no encouragement to parents to send their children to Battle Creek College” (5 Test., 21). She proposed that if the College was not returned to the Biblical-centered model, that the church should “sell it out to worldlings” and “establish another school” upon the “plan which God has specified” (5 Test., 25-26). – Link

    Also, have you not read the GC’s request of educators when it comes to what the Church, as an organization, expects its teachers to actually teach? The following is from the 2004 Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists:

    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

    This sentiment and request was backed up at the most recent GC session in Atlanta. And, the Church has also decided to make more specific the wording of FB#6 on its creation doctrine – in order to make it very clear that the Church, as an organization, believes in a literal 6-day creation week and worldwide Noachian Flood.

    Now, you can call such a position “extreme” all you want, but the Church seems to know that hiring teachers to tell our young people that the weight of scientific evidence is against us is quite counterproductive to the Church’s goals and ideals…

    Regardless, at the very least, people have a right to know and to choose if such an education is in fact what they want for their own children…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  22. @Shane Hilde:

    You failed to mention that this lecture was a part of a SERIES. Maybe you don’t understand the meaning of that word. Allow me to define it for you.

    Series: a number of things, events, or people of a similar kind or related nature coming one after another.

    Therefore this lecture DID have resolution. It did provide students with a forum to THINK. Something I feel you might not be so familiar with…

    As a student of Dr. Ness’s I have heard his theories on evolution, as well as those on creation. There is not a biology professor more certain in his faith, and sharing it with others than Dr. Ness. I would encourage you to perhaps attend a few of his classes before you get all self-righteous that you know what you’re talking about. And if you would like course syllabi you will need to enroll as a student at PUC, and attend class. We pay for our course access, you should too.




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