Some comments suggest that the problem will be solved by …

Comment on LSU Board news release and actions by Carl.

Some comments suggest that the problem will be solved by eliminating 1) teachers who accept a long history of life and 2) administrators who permit them to teach. I don’t believe this is the case. The heliocentric theory of the universe did not disappear because the Pope exercised his power to put people in jail. It survived because it was the best theory.

It seems to me that many of the comments miss the real nature of the problem. The people who accept the long history of life have not set out to undermine SDA beliefs. In fact, there are some SDA scientists who very deliberately set out to show that the prevailing theories were wrong but were forced to change their minds because they could not do so. (I don’t know specifically about the LSU group.) One example is Peter Edgar Hare, a devoted Adventist who died in 2006. He developed amino acid dating in a effort to show the other dating methods were wrong.

“Ed Hare is widely regarded as the father of amino acid geochronology.”

“Before joining that laboratory [Carnegie Institution Geophysical Laboratory] , Ed had been an early member of the then newly organized General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist’s Geoscience Research Institute (GRI). When it was decided by church authorities that the primary purpose of GRI would be apologetic and not scientific, Ed realized that his intellectual honesty prevented him from remaining a GRI staff member.” (See p. 17, .)

So, you take an honest and dedicated Adventist man and send him away to a laboratory where he becomes world famous. And, here we are 50 years later with the same problem. There is now more evidence for a long history of life than before.

Sean Pitman has given links above to his excellent collection of information about many of the prevailing dating methods. He has presented many reasons why we might doubt existing chronologies, but I can find no way to make the evidence fit with a literal interpretation of Genesis. You’ve got to do more than poke a few holes in existing theories.

Historically, Adventists have interpreted Genesis as literal history. However, our founders were people who sought the truth no matter where it led them. So, which do you want, teachers who uphold our traditional beliefs by authority without reason or teachers whose honesty cannot be shaken?

Carl Also Commented

LSU Board news release and actions

We seem to be arguing about two different things. I realize that the issue at LSU has been painted almost entirely as question about teaching evolution, but I am not talking directly about evolution. What I am talking about is using a literal historical interpretation of Genesis to claim that life was created roughly as it now exists not more than about ten thousand years ago. That interpretation of Genesis leads to so many contradictions of the evidence that it leaves one no better off than believing that God does whatever He pleases whenever He pleases and then provides evidence to make everything look very old. It forces you to believe that there is no rational way to understand the earth and its life.

For many years, Adventists have been avoiding a clear examination of the evidence. For example, where in the Adventist system would a student go to get a BS in geology? There isn’t one simply because we haven’t had the courage to face the facts that exist all around us. The result is that most Adventists can’t have an informed discussion of the earth sciences because we have been biased to believe that the Devil, in the form of “infidel scientists,” is waiting to deceive us. Our fear of being deceived has sometimes left us behaving like a superstitious cult.

To me, the tragedy of Adventism is that we can’t have a rational discussion of the problem because it isn’t safe to do so. As soon as anyone challenges our traditional beliefs, a cry goes up to get them dismissed. That’s the purpose of this Website, and, as long as it’s effective, we will stay locked in our established traditions no matter how irrational our position becomes. By doing so we become completely irrelevant to the educated world, nothing more than another tourist attraction in the history of religions.

LSU Board news release and actions

What I mean by “figure out” is, I think, essentially the common-language meaning: to make sense of something in a logical way. The appeal to common sense and logic is a major difference between Yahweh and the pagan gods. The pagan gods were capricious; you followed a ritual to please them whether or not it made sense. Yahweh presents himself as the God that is reasonable; He expects us to follow His law, but not to do it without understanding the underlying reasons. “…these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” In this example, the “other” can be described as the issues underlying the particular rules.

You said,

Nobody else actually has that “as a need”. So for the rest of us “detecting design” will have to do. Agreed?

No, I don’t agree. Because Yahweh presents Himself as the God who makes sense, I expect that it will not be impossible to do so. There is no easy way out. Of course we will never comprehend as God comprehends; but, that’s not an excuse expecting me to believe what is not reasonable. My power to “figure things out” is one of the gifts that gives meaning to being created in the image of God.

LSU Board news release and actions

Sean Pitman M.D.:There are two ways to be dishonest here. One way is to teach something you don’t actually believe. That would be morally wrong on a personal level. The other way is to teach something you do honestly believe to be true, but which goes directly against what your employer hired you to teach. This is also being dishonest, not against your own beliefs, but against your employer.


You’ve made the above point several times. If I were employed by a secular enterprise and found myself at odds with its declared values and purpose, I would leave. However, Adventism claims a special quality that I value highly, a value that secular organizations do not espouse. That is, traditional beliefs are not to be accepted without close examination. Searching for truth must involve reexamination of fundamental beliefs. Therefore, I believe that science must be taught with complete honesty whether or not it supports SDA traditional beliefs. This is not being dishonest against ones employer because the employer has claimed that integrity with the scientific data is vitally important.

So, the complete scientific picture should be taught including the fact that there is no plausible explanation for life within a short history and including the fact that dating methods are possibly not very accurate.

You could provide an important service if you got together with the science staff at Geoscience Research Institute to develop a short-history model with enough credibility to be taught in a science curriculum. This will be a challenge since I have read their statements admitting that no such thing exists. Until you can do that, I find that you have very little to offer. There is no way to explain many features of the earth in anything less than many millions of years even if all of the dating methods are wildly wrong. You are misleading many people by suggesting that difficulties with the dating methods somehow makes it reasonable to think that life was created within the last ten thousand years.

So, come up with a short-history model and you will solve a great many problems for the LSU Board. If you can’t do that, you should stop making it appear that your objections to mainstream science somehow imply that life was created a short time ago.

Recent Comments by Carl

Panda’s Thumb: ‘SDAs are split over evolution’

These layers should have been washed away many times over by now. That’s the problem.

Well — maybe. I’d say the real problem for your position is that no one has proposed a comprehensive model that can explain the evidence of geology within about 10,000 years. That is such a huge problem that I don’t know why we are talking about anything else. The evidence for life beyond 10,000 years is massive as compared to the few objections that Sean has collected.

Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’

I understand better how you have reached your conclusions. You have a powerful bias that the Bible must be literal history, and that predisposition has driven much of your scientific thinking. What still mystifies me is that you attempt to take the open issues of science and use them as an argument that a short history is equally as believable (I think you claim more believable) as a long history. That is one huge leap.

I’ve read parts of your personal Web site, and it seems to me that you have failed to establish your points. In what you have written, I have found no compelling evidence to believe a short history. You do well in raising doubts about the standard model, but doubts on one side are not a convincing argument on the other side.

You do not have any detectable theory of how the earth could possibly come to be as it is within about 10,000 years. Your discussion above again misses the major issue. The evidence that is at odds with a short history is much greater than the evidence that is at odds with a long history. You have come nowhere close to showing otherwise. Ten thousand years is a very short period of time.

Report on LSU constituency meeting
Here’s a link for Hammill’s interesting report:

Report on LSU constituency meeting

Not found in Adventist literature.
Not found in Quiquinium voted documents.
So “general” as in you and a few of your closes friends?
How is that “general”?

The Consultant Committee on Geoscience Research was terminated and a new emphasis was instituted for staff activities. Research tended to concentrate on selected areas where the data were most supportive of the 6,000-year biblical chronology of Bishop Ussher. Before long, the tacit policy arrived at in the 1950s during the General Conference presidency of W. H. Branson (to the effect that the 6,000-year chronology need not be emphasized in Seventh-day Adventist publications) was abandoned. (Richard Hammill, AAF Spectrum, Vol 15, No. 2 p 41)

I did not know Dr Hammill personally, so, no, this wasn’t cooked up among my closest friends.

Report on LSU constituency meeting
@Art Chadwick:

The theology department has preceded the sciences by some year in losing confidence in the Scriptures and in promoting belief in naturalism.

Here again is the suggestion that we must interpret Scripture literally or else we are “losing confidence” in them. I think it often works the other way around. By insisting on literal details, we can miss the most important point and make it more difficult to believe.

The tragedy of this Web site is that it thwarts the creative thinking that we need for dealing with modern science issues. It’s not an easy problem, and the success of this site will drive many thinking people into seclusion. That’s where we’ve been for decades.

In the 1950s, there was a general understanding that Adventist literature would not emphasize a 6000 year history. President Robert Pierson brought that to an end and set us on a path to avoid any science that we did not like. The result is that many Adventists are very suspicious of science and scientists.

If truth has nothing to fear from examination, which sometimes seems to be a Adventist assumption, I say it’s time to stop trying to fix LSU. Students are pretty good at figuring out who to believe. So, if you’re afraid to think out of the box, go where you’ll be told what to think. If you want think it out for yourself, go where the box has been opened.

I have little doubt that Geanna, Adventist Student, and many others will figure things out with or without the “help” of the reformers sponsoring and speaking on this site.