Comment on Summary of 60th General Conference Session (2015) by Sean Pitman.
I’m confused. On the one hand you seem to be willing to allow for at least some “heathen” who’ve never heard of the story of Jesus to be saved while on the other hand you seem to be arguing against this concept? You do realize that all those untold millions throughout history who have never heard the story of Jesus will either be practicing some form of “alien spirituality” or be atheistic in their thinking? There simply is no other option for those who are honestly ignorant of the Bible and the story of Jesus. Yet, Paul specifically says, in no uncertain terms, that the Law (the Royal Law in particular) has been written on their hearts and that some of these honest heathen will strive to follow this Divine light and will be saved accordingly… regardless of their other misconceptions about the actual identity of God and other aspects of His true nature.
In short, there will only be one question asked in the judgement: Did you love your neighbor or not? Did you strive to follow the Royal Law that was written on your heart?
Jesus specifically says that He personally identifies with the “least of these” and that how you loved and treated the “least of these” within your own sphere of influence is how you loved and treated Him. On this, therefore, hangs your eternal destiny, and mine, and the destiny of everyone who has ever lived – regardless of any knowledge of the story of Jesus. The most humble neighbors stands in the place of Jesus in this world. And, upon one’s love toward these most humble of neighbors weighs one’s eternal destiny – heathen or otherwise (Matthew 25:40).
You quoted John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is precisely the point. Atheists refuse to confess their sins. They do not see themselves as being sinful. Furthermore, they do not believe in a Creator God, let alone a Redeemer in Jesus. If they did confess their sins to Jesus, the promise of God’s redemption is every ready to wipe their sins clean. Thus, their sins will be judged after the 2nd resurrection.
First off, you are quoting 1 John 1:9 here while I was quoting John 1:9 which reads, “For That One was The Light of Truth, which enlightens every person that comes into the world.” In other words, God has given every single person a measure of light by which each one will be judged. Those who love the light that they’ve received and strive to live accordingly, will be saved. Those who reject the light received, will be lost.
As far as atheists are concerned, some atheists have been taught false ideas about God that are hateful – such as the idea that God will torture people for eternity in Hell fire. I would also reject such a God if this was the picture I was given. However, some of these same people still hear the call of the Holy Spirit to selflessly love their neighbors as themselves – according to the Royal Law (James 2:8). Paul goes on to clarify this point arguing that, “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). If this is true, then how can those who truly love their neighbors as themselves, selflessly, be unsavable? – if they are honestly ignorant of the true identity of God? If they love what God loves, are they not following His Spirit’s leading? – and therefore in line with the voice of God speaking to their hearts? If one is following the voice of God to the best of his/her ability, what more can be asked of anyone as far as fitness for heaven?
As far as the claims of Ellen White to have been Divinely inspired on occasion, it is quite clear to me now that you don’t believe that Ellen White was actually Divinely inspired at all – because not everything she did or said was inspired. You do understand, however, that this is true of every prophet? – to include every single one of the Biblical prophets? All were erring humans like the rest of us. They all made mistakes and had limited knowledge about many things. Yet, God did talk to these erring humans to give them privileged information on occasion. That doesn’t mean that He made them error free in everything else they did or said or believed. You have to be able to separate the Divine from the human when reading the Bible and/or Ellen White.
Beyond this, Ellen White specifically spoke against phrenology and mesmerism as being “seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls” (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 296). And, regarding “witching for water”, Ellen White never recommended it. What she did do is recommend a well digger, Salem Hamilton, to dig the well on the property close to San Diego that she was shown (by God according to her) to purchase for the church. The idea of using a “wizard water stick” to find the best place to dig the well was not her idea or recommendation at all, but was actually thought to be an empirical “scientific” practice by many in her day and throughout much of history even into modern times (not necessarily considered to be a spiritualistic practice at the time; Link). I myself grew up working for various contractors who swore by the practice as an empirical scientific way of detecting water lines – and they were by no means spiritualistic in their thinking. They were Godly men.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Yes, a careful reading of Paul clearly shows that Jesus replaced the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law). Galatians 2:16 says: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
That’s always been true… even during Old Testament times (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). This was understood, at least by some, in the time of Christ (Luke 10:26-28). The Mosaic Laws (outside of the Ten Commandments which are eternal in nature) dealt with laws pointing forward to the coming of Christ as a “shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:17 and Hebrews 10:1) and were therefore fulfilled, not done away with, by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 5:17). To suggest that something was wrong with these laws and that is why God had to come up with something else is to suggest that God made an error and is subject to making mistakes. This simply isn’t true. God made no mistake in proving the Israelites with laws that pointed forward to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. However, these laws, while prophetic and hopeful in nature didn’t justify anyone – which is what Paul is trying to explain to those who might be tempted to think that they could earn their salvation through these laws. Of course, the same thing is also true even of the Ten Commandments. None of these laws are able, in and of themselves, to save anyone.
The Royal Law “has always existed”? “Is not something ‘new’ created after the cross”?
Jesus, however, described it in John 13:34 as a new commandment–“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” This is confirmed by Jesus’ message on the Mount of Blessings in Matthew 5, better known as the Beatitudes. He repeatedly said, “You have previously heard thus, but I am now telling you this.” “Moses said such and such, but now I am telling you this.” As the Son of God, He had authority to change the Mosaic Law.
Jesus wasn’t saying anything new at all. It is just that people had forgotten the basis of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Laws. They had forgotten that everything is based on the Royal Law of selfless love. They had forgotten that upon the Royal Law hangs all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40). This wasn’t something new. This had always been true throughout all of history back before the creation of our world. Jesus was simply reemphasizing a concept that had been lost.
While I would very much like to believe that my atheist friend will be “saved” as per your comment, “If he honestly lives according to the Royal Law, he will not die without a Savior”, this assurance does not reconcile with the words of Jesus:
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he taht believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
All these texts are true – given that one has had the opportunity to both hear and understand the truth of them and has consciously and deliberately rejected known truth. When a person has not had such an opportunity, you must deal with the words of Paul on the topic where Paul specifically argues that love fulfills the whole Law (Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14) and that even the heathen who have never had the written Law and who have never heard the name of Jesus can be saved by following the Royal Law that God has written on their hearts through the call and power of the Holy Spirit speaking to them (Romans 2:14-15).
As far as your friend is concerned, you simply do not know what he really does or does not honestly understand. That is why you cannot stand in judgment regarding his eternal salvation. Only God knows the heart and moral judgment or savability is based on the state of the heart. Therefore, leave such a judgment up to God who is able to save all those who do not refuse to love the little truth that they have been given to know and understand and have shown love and mercy to others in this life. Such will receive mercy for mercy triumphs over judgement (2 Thessalonians 2:10 and James 2:13).
So, if evolutionists “atheists” are assured of salvation and will not “die without a Savior”, are you not wasting your time in trying to convince people to teach Creationism? Did not my parents waste their whole life as missionaries and church officials in trying to convert people to a belief in Jesus? Why, if all those atheists and evolutionists are going to be saved anyway, why waste your time with futile efforts. Why then, did Jesus command His disciples in Matthew 28 to carry the gospel to the whole world, if indeed everybody was going to be saved anyway?
Where did I ever even suggest that everyone would be saved? That’s not remotely true! Not everyone is going to be saved – for narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14). Come on now, you know very well that I never said that all heathen or all atheists will be saved. What I said is that all those who are striving to live according to the light that they already have are savable – which is, unfortunately, a distinct minority of those who have ever lived.
Beyond this, the Gospel message is a message of hope to those struggling in this life. It has the power to make people’s lives better here in this world and to aid them in the struggles of this life. In this way it also has the power to help people to hang on to the truth and be saved accordingly. Now, I’m not saying here that the Gospel is able to save in and of itself. Salvation is always a gift of God’s Grace. However, the Gospel message of hope makes it easier for one to accept the gift of grace by living according to the Truth that God has given one to know. And, remember, spreading the Gospel message of hope and joy also helps the messenger. Those who hide the light that they have been given and do not share it with others will see their own light dim and eventually go out altogether.
Why then, did Jesus have to die such a cruel death on the cross if there was another pathway to heaven? If everybody could be saved anyway, why did He have to come to this wicked world to be tortured and killed in a very agonizing way? Did not He pray in the Garden prior to His death, that if it be possible, this agony be spared Him?
I never said that there was another pathway to heaven. Jesus is the one and only pathway to heaven for all who enter there. It is just that one need not know the actual name of the pathway that he/she is actual walking upon before heaven itself is reached. Those who live according to the Royal Law in this life, even if they do not know the actual name of Jesus, are in fact listening to His Spirit and following in His Footsteps – even though they do not consciously realize it. They will one day be told, to their own surprise, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) – and will then be given the crown of life by Jesus Himself.
Now that’s Amazing Grace…
While your teaching of eternal life for evolutionists is incongruent with the words of Jesus, it likewise cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Ellen White, who taught that even the saints cannot be assured of salvation.
That’s just not true – as I’ve mentioned to you several times now. You would know this if you read her writings in a bit more detail for yourself. Here are just a few of the comments she wrote regarding how one can have, right now, the assurance of salvation:
It is essential to believe you are saved (RH, Nov. 1, 1892).
The perishing sinner may say: “I am a lost sinner; but Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. He says, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ (Mark 2:17). I am a sinner, and He died upon Calvary’s cross to save me. I need not remain a moment longer unsaved. He died and rose again for my justification, and He will save me now. I accept the forgiveness He has promised.”—“Justified by Faith” (a pamphlet published in 1893), p. 7. Reprinted in Selected Messages 1:392.
Immense interests are here involved. We are made partakers of Christ’s sacrifice here in this life, and then we are assured that we shall be partakers of all its benefits in the future immortal life, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.—Letter 9a, 1891, pp. 1, 2. (To Sister D. S. Gilbert, June 3, 1891.)
Christ saw the helpless condition of the race, and he came to redeem them by living the life of obedience the law requires, and by paying in his death the penalty of disobedience. He came to bring us the message and means of deliverance, an assurance of salvation, not through the abrogation of the law, but through obedience made possible by his merits. – R&H, April 29, 1902
We are not to doubt his mercy, and say, ‘I do not know whether I shall be saved or not.’ By living faith we must lay hold of his promise, for he has said, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ (ST, April 4, 1892, par. 3).
[emphasis added] See also: Link
Now, the quotes from Ellen White that you cite are simply not in conflict with these statements if read in their proper context (particularly regarding the quotes you cite where Mrs. White is arguing against the heretical concept of “once saved always saved”).
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, page 198. “The saints, in that fearful time, after the close of Jesus’ mediation, were living in the sight of a holy God, without an intercessor.”
Where does this passage say that they have no assurance of salvation? It isn’t that they have no savior at this time, it is that there is no further need for mediation or intercession because they are in fact living completely upon the saving power of Jesus and are, during this time, perfectly in line with the Royal Law – which is a perfect fulfillment of the whole Law (Galatians 5:14).
Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, pp. 314, 315. “Every soul that has named the name of Jesus Christ has a case pending in the heavenly tribunal. It is court week with us, and the decision passed upon each case will be final.”
Again, where does this passage suggest a lack of assurance of salvation on a day-by-day basis? The trial may be pending, but one can rest assured of its outcome as long as one remains in a saving relationship with Jesus day-by-day.
In Matthew 22, Jesus taught the parable of the King who prepared a marriage feast for His Son, and the invited guests were invited to come, as the feast was ready. They refused, however, and even killed the King’s servants. The message then went forth to anybody BOTH GOOD AND BAD on the highways and byways to come to the feast. All they had to do was wear the wedding garment. However, one chap got in wearing his own garment and was speechless when asked why he wasn’t wearing his wedding garment. He was then bound and cast out into utter darkness, where there was “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
Again, all this is saying is that no one will get into heaven based on their own righteousness. Everyone is dependent upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for salvation. This is standard Christian teaching…
For me, the interpretation is self-evident. The invited guests were the Jews, the Children of the Promise, They rejected the feast (eternal life through Jesus). Then, the invitation was extended to everybody else, BOTH GOOD AND BAD. All they had to do was wear a wedding garment to cover their own filthy garment. The wedding garment was free, and available only from the King and His Son. However, those who pretended to merit attending the feast without the wedding garment and on the basis of their own “good works” were cast out into utter darkness. Those evolutionists who disdained the King obviously did not even want a wedding garment and got nowhere near the feast, as they did not want nor accept the wedding garment.
Again, this is only true for those who have a conscious understanding of what they’re doing. For those who don’t honestly know or who have never heard, their savability is judged based on what little truth they did know and understand and how they responded to this truth in their lives here on Earth.
Beyond this, you do realize that those who would refuse to take on the covering of Jesus’ righteousness are not truly “good”. They may have the outward appearance of “goodness”. However, on the inside they are nothing but filthy rags. Jesus compared these self-righteousness people to whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). It is only through the power of God that anyone, even the heathen who have never heard the name of Jesus, can be or do anything truly “good” (Mark 10:18).
I will pray that you will see the the words of Jesus as being free to all, yet exclusive to only those who accept the invitation and their wedding garments.
And I will pray that you will one day understand that those who have never even heard the name of Jesus, but have lived according to the light that they were given, will gladly accept the invitation and wear the wedding garments before walking into the wedding feast when Jesus comes again to receive all (even your confused but otherwise honest and loving atheist friend) who are pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).
Jesus replaced the Old Covenant Mosaic Law with the Royal Law, also known as the Law of Liberty.
Not quite. Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Laws, but did not do away with them or replace them with something truly new as if there was something wrong the laws that God Himself originally set in place (Matthew 5:17). God made no mistake in setting up the Mosaic Laws. Also, the “Royal Law” or “Law of Liberty” has always existed and has always been the fundamental basis of the Ten Commandments. The Royal Law brings liberty to all when it is kept – and can in this way be “The Law of Liberty”. Bondage, on the other hand, comes when we do not keep it. To walk in the “Law of Liberty” and fulfill all the Law is to walk in love – for love fulfills the whole Law (Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14). Love as the fulfillment of the entire Law is not something “new” created after the cross. The Royal Law of Love is and has always been the basis of all morality for all time – even in Heaven. It is for this reason that no moral code can be kept by fallen humans without the help of God – not the Ten Commandments; not the Mosaic Laws; not the Royal Law itself (Matthew 22:37-40). The problem is that we are inherently selfish creatures who cannot, in and of ourselves alone, be selfless and truly loving toward our neighbors. It takes a miraculous act of God to implant the Royal Law within our hearts and another miraculous act of God to give us the moral power to actually live by this Law. We may resist God’s power in our lives, or we may accept it. That’s our part to play in our own salvation. And, in this way, even the heathen who have never heard the name of Jesus may be saved – according to Paul who argues that “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.” It goes against the Bible to say otherwise.
In short, everyone knows, as an internal truth, that the “Golden Rule” is good. Those who do not resist the call of the Holy Spirit to strive to live according to this Law will be credited, by God and through his Grace alone, with righteousness. Even your atheist friend, if honestly confused, can therefore be saved through the blood of Jesus if he is honestly listening to the call of the Holy Spirit regarding the Royal Law and is therefore striving to live according to all the light that he understands. If he honestly lives according to the Royal Law, he will not “die without a Savior”. God’s grace will be extended to Him through Jesus because he chose to follow the call of the Spirit. There simply is no additional requirement that the name and life of Jesus be known or understood before a person becomes savable (James 2:8). So, leave the destiny of your friend in the hands of a God who loves him much much more than you do and will do everything in His power to save him. God will save him if he would be safe in heaven once he knows the Truth and is able to recognize all of the lies of Satan that have blinded him all these years (Luke 23:34). No honest person is going to be tricked out of heaven. The lost will be lost because they love the lies that they know to be lies… i.e., they hate the Truth that they’ve been given to know and understand (Psalm 52:3). They perish because they refused to love the truth that they were given to know, be it ever so small, and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Pellagius was a contemporary of Augustine, and argued that Jesus did not come to die a substitutionary death, but rather, to show us how to live a perfect life. Augustine opposed this teaching, which has subsequently been labeled the Pellagian Heresy. Sadly, you and I were taught a heretical salvation doctrine which was based on the writings of Ellen White, who taught that we could never be certain of our salvation, and that even those living at the end of time will be uncertain of their eternal destiny, as they would have to live sinless lives for a period when their Intercessor was unavailable to them.
None of this is true regarding Mrs. White. Again, many times Mrs. White wrote that we can indeed have an assurance of salvation on a day-by-day basis. What she argued against was the concept of “once saved always saved” (as I’ve already explained above). Mrs. White never promoted the Pelagian Heresies such as the notion that we humans can in any way earn our way to heaven or that salvation is based on anything other than God’s grace alone. Beyond this, it was Graham Maxwell, not Ellen White, who fairy recently argued within the Adventist Church that Jesus did not die a substitutionary death. Mrs. White did not promote this notion either, but strongly argued in favor of substitutionary atonement.
Beyond this, I think we are going around in circles at this point…
Summary of 60th General Conference Session (2015)
Again, you fail to deal with those Biblical passages that deal specifically with those who have never had opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. You say you have no idea why the fate of the honest heathen might be a source of concern for anyone? – which is very strange coming from a Christian. The fate of the honest heathen reflects upon the character of God and the very basis for your own salvation – the reason why you are savable. And no, salvation is not based on mere lip service that Jesus is our savior. Not everyone who says “Lord Lord” will be saved (Matthew 7:21). It is based on a love of the truth, all truth, that is given to us to understand – however little it may be. In a word, salvation is based on motive – the motive of selfless love.
Also, even though I believe that it is indeed possible for the honest evolutionist to be saved by living according to the Royal Law, I also believe that a correct understanding of doctrinal knowledge provides hope in this life and is able to help one better deal with the struggles in this world and makes it easier for one to be saved through the hope that these doctrines provide. That is why I strive so hard to spread the good news of the Gospel message of hope (which includes the good news of God’s creative power).
Regarding more of your arguments against Ellen White:
Ellen White, on the other hand, taught in the 1890 Review and Herald that no sanctified tongue will ever say, “I am saved”, prior to the 2nd coming of Christ. She also taught that no man can say, “I am saved,” until he has endured test and trial, until he has shown that he can overcome tempation.” The Kress Collection, p. 120.
You evidently haven’t read the context of these statements. While Ellen White often talked about having the “assurance of salvation”, in these particular passages Ellen White is speaking against the concept of “once saved always saved”. She is speaking against the idea that one can say “I am saved and therefore I don’t have to worry about trying to keep God commands or laws.” Here is what she said in context:
We are never to rest in a satisfied condition, and cease to make advancement, saying, “I am saved.” When this idea is entertained, the motives for watchfulness, for prayer, for earnest endeavor to press onward to higher attainments, cease to exist. No sanctified tongue will be found uttering these words till Christ shall come, and we enter in through the gates into the city of God. Then, with the utmost propriety, we may give glory to God and to the Lamb for eternal deliverance. As long as man is full of weakness,—for of himself he cannot save his soul,—he should never dare to say, “I am saved.” It is not he that putteth on the armor that can boast of the victory; for he has the battle to fight and the victory to win. It is he that endureth unto the end that shall be saved. The Lord says, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” If we do not go forward from victory to victory, the soul will draw back to perdition. We should raise no human standard whereby to measure character. We have seen enough of what men call perfection here below. God’s holy law is the only thing by which we can determine whether we are keeping his way or not. If we are disobedient, our characters are out of harmony with God’s moral rule of government, and it is stating a falsehood to say, “I am saved.” No one is saved who is a transgressor of the law of God, which is the foundation of his government in heaven and in earth. – EGW, RH June 17, 1890, par. 8
See also: Link
As far as “departing from clear instruction”, not everything that seems “clear” to you today was just as clear to someone else in some other time and place – not even to a prophet of God. Another example of this same sort of thing is the fact that Ellen White continued to eat meat for a while after writing against it. It seems like it was hard for her to change some of her own habits to bring them in line with what God had told her to write – a very human shortcoming which actually lends credibility to the claim that she wasn’t making up the “revaluations” she was given out of her own head. Again, prophets of God remain human, subject to error and mistakes of various kinds – even open rebellion on occasion. Yet, it is still clear that God still speaks through them. Consider the stories of Jonah and Balaam as particularly clear examples of this. Therefore, your arguments that God clearly did not speak through Ellen White because of various errors she made is not a reasonable argument or else you’d have to throw out the entire Bible. You have to look specifically at what she claimed God actually said to her.
As far as your claim that God would never deliberately allow for His people to make mistakes or reveal truth in stages in order to test the hearts of His people, you haven’t read the Bible very carefully. Remember how Nathan the prophet told David a story about a rich man taking a poor man’s sheep to feed his guests? – and how this story was deliberately calculated to trick David into judging himself? (2 Samuel 12:6-7). Only in this way would God be able to bring David into a clear realization of his own guilt and cause him to repent. The fact is that God does indeed use such tactics on occasion…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
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.