Comment on LSU Board news release and actions by Sean Pitman M.D..
You have a great deal of information that raises questions about the accuracy of dating methods. But, how big are the uncertainties? If all of the dating methods are as wrong as you suggest, how long is the history of life? You still have very old trees on top of very old mountains. You still have ice ages, the Bretz floods, very old fossils, very old lava flows and very old islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The uncertainties are much greater for radiometric dating methods that you might imagine – especially compared to the overwhelming evidence in favor of a catastrophic model for the formation of much of the geologic column and fossil record in rapid succession – with little time for erosion, bioturbation, or the establishment of the diversity of life that would be expected if these gaps between the layers really did represent many millions of years of time.
The Bretz floods are a classic example of this mindset. J Harlen Bretz argued for most his life, in the face of extreme criticism from his peers in the geological community, that the Scablands of Washington State were the result of massive shortly-space catastrophic flooding; that they did not develop over many millions of years as was the prevailing theory for most of his life. Only when the origin of the massive amounts of water need to support Bretz hypothesis was discovered to have been a local lake, rather than a Noachian flood, was his hypothesis generally accepted by mainstream science. For further information on this very interesting story see:
As far as your argument for “very old trees on top of very old mountains”, that’s simply not true on both counts. The oldest living tree is no more than 5,000 years old and the science of placing dead wood in an ancient sequence (i.e., the science of dendrochronology) is fraught with numerous serious statistical problems (see link).
The age of the mountains themselves is problematic given that erosion rates are so high on mountain ranges that one wonders how on Earth they can still be covered by sedimentary layers? – when these layers should have been washed off many times over by now? (see link)
As far as your argument for “old lava flows”, many lava flows that were once thought to be ancient are now thought to be much younger (see links).
And, Arthur Chadwick’s discovery of world-wide paleocurrents, flowing in the same direction over vast areas, strikes at the rook of long-age notions for life on Earth.
The same thing is true of the discovery of radiocarbon in coal, oil, and fossils – and for the discovery of preserved soft tissues within many different fossils (to include sequencable proteins and even fragments of DNA). All of this argues for a very recent origin of life on this planet (see links).
My conclusion is that no matter how you challenge dating methods, you canâ€™t fit the evidence into any time spane reasonably close to Ussherâ€™s chronology. I canâ€™t find any way to get past that point, so I conclude that the Genesis text was written not to teach literal history, but rather to teach a spiritual truth. To me, that makes Genesis more credible, not less.
You are quite mistaken regarding the idea that Genesis was intended to be taken as allegorical or only as describing “spiritual truth”. Most if not all serious Hebrew scholars understand that the author(s) of the Genesis account intended for it to be taken as a description of real literal history.
Consider the following comments from James Barr, Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford:
â€œProbably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1â€“11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noahâ€™s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the â€œdaysâ€ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.â€
Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984.
And, this is from someone who didn’t believe in the accuracy of Genesis. Prof. Barr just believed that the author(s) of this account intended to write a literal historical narrative, but that these author(s) got it wrong.
You do see that this is an entirely different argument from the one you’re trying to make?
Given that it is quite obvious that the authors intended to be taken literally, upon what can you base your argument that the Genesis account says anything whatsoever that is “more credible”? How can one place any credibility in the metaphysical claims of anyone who clearly cannot be trusted in those claims that are actually physically testable and falsifiable?
For example, this is one reason why I don’t find the Book of Mormon to be credible – because its testable historical claims have been clearly falsified beyond any shadow of a doubt – in my opinion. If I felt the same way about the biblical record, I could not be a Christian. I might believe in a God of some kind, but certainly not Jesus or the Christian-style God. It is because of the historically consistent and verifiable nature of the biblical record that I am a Christian, and a Seventh-day Adventist, today.
I pray that one day you will also come to this realization and appreciation of the basis of biblical faith…
Sean Pitman M.D. Also Commented
Carl: 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 isnâ€™t one simply because we havenâ€™t had the courage to face the facts that exist all around us. The result is that most Adventists canâ€™t have an informed discussion of the earth sciences because we have been biased to believe that the Devil, in the form of â€œinfidel scientists,â€ 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 canâ€™t have a rational discussion of the problem because it isnâ€™t safe to do so. As soon as anyone challenges our traditional beliefs, a cry goes up to get them dismissed. Thatâ€™s the purpose of this Website, and, as long as itâ€™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.
You can get a BS in geology at SAU. Arthur Chadwick is there and does a lot of good field research in geology – and is a fundamentalist SDA (in that he actually believes that life on Earth is young).
There is in fact a lot of evidence in support of the author of Genesis and his intent to write a literal narriative about real historical events. However, if you don’t recognize this evidence, why not simply leave the SDA Church and join another organization that is more in line with what you think is so obvious? Why try to be something you’re obviously not?
Then do you also agree with Dr. Lawrence McCloskey that the earth must necessarily be at least 12,000 years old? You see, the sea corals are his specialty, and they add a layer each year, dating back 12,000 years. They have done core drillings on the corals to determine this. If God did not create a mature coral colony, what did God create? or do you agree with Dr. McCloskey that life on earth must be at least 12,000 years old?
I don’t agree with McCloskey’s assumption regarding the age of living coral reefs – to include his notion that corals can only add one growth layer each year. This notion simply isn’t true.
Beyond this, living coral reefs did not survive the flood. Corals reefs are very delicate and would not have survived the world-wide flood intact. While fossil corals do also exist, the fossil “reefs” that supposedly took hundreds of thousands of years to form, really aren’t reefs at all…
For further information on this topic see:
Was God â€œdeceptiveâ€ because He created a full-grown Adam and Eve, who had the appearance of age, while not being more than a day old? Should God have created just a sperm and an egg for each of them instead, in order to avoid charges of being â€œdeceptive?â€
Hi Erik. I have to agree with Carl here that you can take this argument too far. It can basically be used to argue that anything that clearly appears to be one way could actually be completely different “because God made it that way”. That basically removes any logical basis for belief in God or in the Bible beyond the pretty useless concept of blind faith.
However, Carl is also mistaken in his suggestion that no credible, well-trained scientists have any sort of viable model or basis for interpreting the data as supporting the theory of young-life on Earth and a rapid catastrophic model for the formation of the geologic and fossil records. There are many such scientists – both within and without the SDA Church. It is just that much of Carl’s thinking and understanding of the relevant data is outdated or simply mistaken…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman M.D.
After the Flood
Thank you Ariel. Hope you are doing well these days. Miss seeing you down at Loma Linda. Hope you had a Great Thanksgiving!
Thank you Colin. Just trying to save lives any way I can. Not everything that the government does or leaders do is “evil” BTW…
Only someone who knows the future can make such decisions without being a monster…
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Where did I “gloss over it”?
Review of “The Naked Emperor” by Pastor Conrad Vine
I fail to see where you have convincingly supported your claim that the GC leadership contributed to the harm of anyone’s personal religious liberties? – given that the GC leadership does not and could not override personal religious liberties in this country, nor substantively change the outcome of those who lost their jobs over various vaccine mandates. That’s just not how it works here in this country. Religious liberties are personally derived. Again, they simply are not based on a corporate or church position, but rely solely upon individual convictions – regardless of what the church may or may not say or do.
Yet, you say, “Who cares if it is written into law”? You should care. Everyone should care. It’s a very important law in this country. The idea that the organized church could have changed vaccine mandates simply isn’t true – particularly given the nature of certain types of jobs dealing with the most vulnerable in society (such as health care workers for example).
Beyond this, the GC Leadership did, in fact, write in support of personal religious convictions on this topic – and there are GC lawyers who have and continue to write personal letters in support of personal religious convictions (even if these personal convictions are at odds with the position of the church on a given topic). Just because the GC leadership also supports the advances of modern medicine doesn’t mean that the GC leadership cannot support individual convictions at the same time. Both are possible. This is not an inconsistency.