@pauluc: My point in quoting Davies’ review of Polkinghorne was …

Comment on Adventist Education–at the crossroads? by Sean Pitman.


My point in quoting Davies’ review of Polkinghorne was to show that they base their ideas on God’s existence on evidence, on certain features within the universe, which they think can only be explained by deliberate intelligent design on the level of God-like intelligence. That is an intelligent design hypothesis on at least some level.

Just because those who appeal to intelligent design theories on at least some level may also believe in various aspects of the modern theory of evolution doesn’t mean that an ID theory hasn’t been invoked on at least some level. It has.

After all, even I believe in evolution via RM/NS as being responsible for many features of living things. Many features of living things are very well explained by neutral evolution or by low-level functional evolution. This doesn’t mean that all features of living things can be therefore be explained by RM/NS. It is this leap of logic or extrapolation of low-level evolution to much higher levels of evolution, within mainstream science, which isn’t scientific. Many features of living things go well beyond the creative potential of any known mindless mechanism while being well within the realm of ID. This is the very same argument used by Davies to support his belief in a God as the designer behind certain features of the anthropic universe.

By the way, I do know Norman McNulty. I’m just not familiar with his views on perfectionism – which is, in any case, irrelevant to this purposes of this particular website. Also, my transitional internship was completed at Eisenhower Army Medical Center (not an SDA institution) and my hemepath fellowship was completed at the City of Hope under the world-renown Lawrence Weiss (not SDA either).

I remain as perplexed as ever how you can hold views on the the nature of intelligent design as a natural phenomena and the requirement for faith to be subservient to reason and evidence but deny anyone in church employ any leeway to explore or articulate anything beyond what you consider truth.

It isn’t what I consider truth. It is what the Church as an organization considers to be fundamental “present truth”. All are free to join or to leave the Church at will. This is a free civil society in which we live – thank God. However, the Church, as with any viable organization, must maintain a certain degree of order and discipline within its own organizational structure if it is to survive. The Church simply cannot afford to hire those who are ardently opposed to the basic fundamental goals and ideals of the Church as an organization and who go around teaching and preaching against the fundamental positions of the organized Church.

You may not consider the organization of the Church to be all that important. I think that without organization, and the order and control that goes along with maintaining any organization, that the Church would quickly fragment into a meaningless hodgepodge of isolated groups with widely divergent ideas. The organizational aspect of the Church is what gives it its power to spread a unified Gospel message more effectively.

I appreciate your responses to my questions and the glimpses I have gained into the mind of a person who seems to discern truth and sees the justice in imposing it on others.

What employer doesn’t impose various rules and restrictions on its paid employees? – rules that are known upfront before the employee agrees to take the job? You very well know that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t be paid by an organization for doing whatever you want. You are paid to do what the organization wants you to do. If you don’t like what the organization wants you to do, you don’t have to take the job. Again, it’s as simple as that. This isn’t some deep philosophical mystery here.

It is self-evident, is it not, that when one takes on employment in an organization of one’s own free will, one is obliged to take on the restriction, the rules, of that organization. Is it wrong of Reebok to require its own employees to only promote and even wear Reebok shoes? Would it be wrong of Reebok to fire and employee for publicly promoting Nike as making a superior product?

Come now. If you really believe that Nike makes the better shoe, and you are bound and determined to be honest to yourself and tell everyone about the superiority of Nike, why on Earth would you expect to be paid by Reebok to promote Nike? You’re simply making no sense here. You’re basically an anarchist who thinks you deserve to be paid simply for your honesty. I’m sorry, but no viable organization works that way. An honest Catholic should work for the Catholic organization. An honest Baptist should work for the Baptist organization. And an honest evolutionary scientist should work for those numerous organizations who would be more than glad to pay such an individual for their efforts. Why should the SDA Church pay anyone who doesn’t actually want to promote what the SDA Church, as an organization, wishes to promote?

God bless and give you as much insight into his Grace.

Likewise. God is a God of order and disciplined government – not anarchy. All are free to come and enjoy the gifts of God as given through the inspired organization of the SDA Church. However, not all are free to expect payment from the SDA Church for their services since not all are well suited to be official representatives of the Church as an organization.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

I’m a partner in an independent pathology practice. We do some contract work for a Catholic hospital, but I have not been hired by the Catholic Church to be a representative of the Catholic Church or to promote Catholic doctrinal positions.

Teachers in our SDA schools, on the other hand, are specifically hired by the SDA Church to actively promote SDA goals and ideals within the classroom – specifically with regard to the topic of origins. This has been made very clear, in no uncertain terms, by the General Conference Executive Committee:

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.


Science teachers, in particular, are not hired to actively undermine the SDA position on origins in our classrooms. Clearly, such activity is counterproductive to the stated goals and ideals of the Church. Why would the Church wish to hire anyone to go around and tell people that the Church’s position is irrational and part of the “lunatic fringe”? – as so eloquently put by LSU science professor Gary Bradley? – in an interview with a secular journal?

Sean Pitman

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

J H Kellogg’s ideas were pantheistic – i.e., God actually within everything. This is not quite like suggesting that various features of the universe in which we live can only be rationally explained by invoking intelligent design on at least the human level of intelligence or beyond. Quite a number of old world and even modern physicists have come to this same conclusion as well. My position is more along the lines of Sir Isaac Newton or of the well-known Australian astrophysicist, Paul Davies, who writes:

The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is “something behind it all” is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…

The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.

* Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],”The Christian perspective of a scientist,” Review of “The way the world is,” by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638

* http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1572643.htm

You don’t seem to grasp my argument that the term “natural” is a relative term. What seems “natural” to you may seem supernatural to someone else with less knowledge than you have. If God does in fact exist, his own intelligence and power would seem perfectly “natural” to him.

In short, the term “natural” is meaningless without a much more specific definition as to what you’re talking about when you use this word. Simply saying that science is restricted to examining “natural” phenomena does not mean that science cannot therefore detect an intelligent origin behind certain types of phenomena… even if that intelligent origin just so happens to be God. While a God could certainly hide himself from us quite easily. It is most certainly within God’s power to reveal himself to us in a manner that we can in fact detect as requiring a very high level of deliberate intelligence. Certainly you can recognize this as at least a possibility given the hypothesis of God’s actual existence – can you not?

You seem to be able to do this, on at least some level, for you write:

I do agree with you that nature is not enough and is an insufficient explanation of the universe. There is an intelligibility to the Universe and that things like Love, suffering and beauty call out for higher level explanations. But in this I agree with theologians such as Haught, McGrath and Polkinghorne who see the intelligibility of the universe and the anthropic principle as well as those higher functions as supporting a notion of the divine but do not simplistically restrict the divine to [plugs] for the holes in our knowledge or immediate explanations for origins.

Scientific theories are the plugs for the holes in our knowledge. We have limited knowledge. If we had perfect or absolute knowledge, science would no longer be needed. It is because we have limited knowledge that scientific methodologies become helpful to bridge the gaps or “holes” in our knowledge. The ID hypothesis is often a valid scientific bridge for certain types of holes in our knowledge. The notion that intelligent design cannot be invoked by science is simply mistaken.

Did you leave the armed forces when the government became Democrat rather than Republican? (I am of course assuming you are republican in political persuasion but given the statistics I have a high probability of being right). Do you agree in every point with your current employer? Will you resign when they express for example a view on abortion with which you disagree? Like the pharisees of old you are placing on church employees a burden much more than I suspect you would be prepared to bear.

If I felt I had to publicly counter my employer on some issue considered “fundamental” by my employer, and I was originally hired to promote this particular position of my employer, I would most certainly resign. If an employer hires me to do a particular job, and that job is made quite clear when I am hired, it would be morally wrong of me to undermine the clearly stated fundamental purpose of the job for which I was hired. That would be, in effect, stealing money and time from my employer. I would have misrepresented myself to my employer to get paid for something I never intended to deliver to my employer. Such activity is very deceptive and underhanded. It is a lie calculated to rob the employer of what the employer hired me to do – no bones about it. And that, I’m afraid, is a moral problem in anyone’s book.

If you think the SDA Church was somehow unclear about what it expects from its science professors regarding the topic of origins, think again. The following statement of the SDA General Conference Executive Committee is very clear in this regard:

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.


Regarding Brinsmead’s teachings, and their dramatic evolution over time, I’m sure I’m not aware of all of the subtleties of his numerous theological positions as they changed over time, but I think I’m well enough informed.

Also, Des Ford (since you brought him up) was not simply let go from Church employment for some minor issue. He was attacking clearly stated fundamental pillars of the SDA Church – to include the Church’s position on origins. Ford believes in and strongly supports theistic evolutionary ideas where life has existed and evolved on this planet over hundreds of millions of years of time. Ford does believe in the Divine inspiration of Genesis, but not based on the straight forward reading of the text so much as on a hidden mathematical code similar to the “Bible Code” of Michael Drosnin – on the same level as astrology if you ask me.

It is for such reasons that the likes of Ford and Brinsmead cannot represent the SDA Church in any sort of official capacity.

Really though, I do not want to get off on a debate on perfectionism. I do not agree with Brinsmead, and am not familiar with the views of Normal McNulty on this issue, but that isn’t the purpose of this particular website.

The purpose of this website is to inform members of the SDA Church as to what is really being taught in some of our schools on the issue of origins… a fundamental issue for the SDA Church.

Sean Pitman

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

I have assumed all along that when you were talking of intellegent design you were lifting the code from DI in its commonly accepted sense and were talking of divine intervention. That you were using the code in the DI sense of direct divine intervention as an acceptable explanation for origins that must be introduced into science. I now find that you are implying in your model of origins there is no divine intervention and no miracles. Intelligent design is natural.

The origin of intelligence, or high levels of functional information, cannot be explained by science using mindless mechanisms. Yet, we know that intelligence and functional information exist – at various levels and degrees. The real question in Origins, then, is how to explain the origin of various levels of functional complexity? If that can be done using mindless mechanisms of any kind, then the solution to everything, ultimately, is “Turtles all the way down.” In other words, if higher and higher levels of functional information can actually be explained via mindless mechanism of nature, then everything can reasonably be explained via mindless mechanisms. The detection of a requirement for an ultimate intelligent origin of anything would be impossible.

However, if it can be shown that functional information only comes from higher levels of functional information, then the coin is flipped. It’s now “Turtles all the way up.” – not down. In short, if it is really Turtles all the way up, then, ultimately, one must rationally conclude that everything came from a pre-existing intelligence that is effectively indistinguishable by us from a God or God-like intelligence.

This does not mean, however, that all that we see that demands an intelligent origin in nature demands a God-like intelligence. It doesn’t. Some stuff in nature can easily be explained by a far lower level of intelligence. And much in nature can easily be explained by various mindless mechanisms.

There is a range, you see. Just because many things in nature can easily be explained by mindless mechanisms doesn’t mean that everything can be so easily explained by mindless mechanisms.

It is the common extrapolation by mainstream scientists that just because many things have an apparently mindless origin that therefore everything in nature is likely to have an ultimately mindless origin. That leap of logic simply isn’t logical since there are basic laws of informational complexity that defy this logic.

You seem to have missed my point. The point that I was trying to make albeit badly was that I doubt that in your medical practice you use the word “miracles”, that you rarely say that “divine being unkown” were responsible for some observed action and instead would use the term “persons unkown”. I doubt that you use angels, demons, satan or God frequently as diagnostic terms or would treat psychosis with cloves of garlic around the neck or that you would use prayer and fasting as the primary or only treatment for epilepsy or that you have written in your medical notes demon possession as a diagnosis with any explanatory value. But I may be mistaken.

The same is true for crop circles in England. When they first started to appear in the 80’s many people thought that extraterrestrial alien’s were visiting our planet and sending us messages in these intricate geometric crop circles. While such thinking seems humerus to us today (myself included), what is even more humerus to me is that fact that several scientist actually proposed various mindless mechanisms (like unusual weather patterns or magnetic fluxes within the Earth’s crust) to explain these intricate crop circles. While alien visitors were quite an unlikely source for this intricate geometric crop circles, it is even more unlikely that any non-deliberate force of nature would have been responsible. At least those who proposed alien visitors were closer to the truth – i.e., that some intelligence was involved. Of course they eventually found the human culprits via hidden camera, but you get my point.

Now, let me post another scenario to you. Let’s say that one of our Mars rovers came across a highly symmetrical polished granite cube measuring 1.1242 meters on each side on the surface of Mars. Clearly such a phenomenon would have been of non-human or “alien” origin. And, just as clearly, such a find would bespeak the need for a fairly high level of intelligence or functional informational complexity.

In this same line, I think all would agree, that the origin of life was clearly of a non-human origin. There was an alien intelligence of some kind involved with the origin of life and its diversity beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

In contrast on questions of origins you say the likelihood that the current diversity of life on this planet is statistically so improbable and shows feature of design in the genetic code, the complexity of the biochemistry of life and the phenomena of human intelligence and self awareness that it could not arise by mechanisms that exist on this planet without intellegent design by which I have always assumed you meant forces from outside this world. What most people would consider divine or miraculous.

Just because the intelligence was not of human origin or seemed to come from outside of this world doesn’t mean that intelligence was somehow magical or supernatural. It may be at such a high level that it may appear to us feeble minded humans as being God-like. However, from the perspective of the owner of such a high level of intelligence, his/her/its activities would seem perfectly “natural” – as your own activities seem perfectly natural to you yet may seem quite “magical” from the perspective of a worm or cockroach…

It seems you have a much more creative and expansive view of intelligent design that would make it natural and therefore clearly scientific

That is a fascinating take but I am not sure it is what Ted Wilson had in mind when he asked for the church to move forward.

I think it is very much in line with what Ted Wilson had in mind (and I know this through a very reliable source). While we humans cannot prove the supernatural nature of God (only someone on an equal level with God could prove that), we can demonstrate that certain phenomena in nature require such a high level of creative intelligence as to be indistinguishable by us as originating from a God or a God-like source of intelligence.

2] No I dont and have never and will never actually teach in an SDA school. I have the utmost respect for those who sacrifice themselves and would do so. They subject themselves to the whims of theological fashion, the vagaries of lobby groups and concerned brethren. I have lived on research grants for most of my working life but the uncertainty of research grant funding is nothing compared to the political landscape of church employment where you risk not only unemployment but the shunning and stripping of self worth, and of social structure associated with accusations of heresy.

That’s great. I much more admire a person who cannot honestly represent a Church, or any other organization for that matter, who goes and works for an organization that he/she can in fact honestly represent.

It is OK your children are safe. I know that this is always a parental concern that their children understand the truth as their parents do and avoid the pitfalls parents see. I certainly do not try to make anyone least of all my children a clone of me. I do have a daughter who has been educated in an adventist institution, teaches at an Adventist school and whose current ambition is to attend the next GYC. As a parent I can only hope and pray that she continues to see the Grace of God as the central theme of the Gospel and negotiates the path of faith through the destructive forces of recycled Brinsmead perfectionsism that is last generation theology. We lived through the 1980s and have seen a purge up close.

I remember the Brinsmead ordeal very well myself – as my father is a pastor. I also don’t think the issue of origins is salvational. The motive of love, as you point out, is the basis of salvation and all goodness. However, doctrinal positions, like the doctrine on origins, is the basis of the Gospel message of hope in a bright literal future. One can be saved without a current hope in the future, but how much better it would be to have the Gospel hope here and now…

In any case, we all wish the best for our children. And, at the very least, we deserve to known what we are paying for and have at least some choice and transparency, when it comes to their education.

Sean Pitman

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Thank you Colin. Just trying to save lives any way I can. Not everything that the government does or leaders do is “evil” BTW…

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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.