@Jan Long: Sean, we have no guarantee that science has …

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

@Jan Long:

Sean, we have no guarantee that science has correctly interpreted all data. In fact we can assume that as Thomas Kuhn has shown, it is likely that there will be future paradigm shifts. Because of this reality, some, such as yourself apparent dismiss or diminish the scientific enterprise.

I’m not sure how what I actually wrote in response to your article suggested to you that I’m trying to diminish the scientific enterprise? That’s hardly my position since I’m a very strong believer in scientific methodologies and basic rules of logic and empirical testing, with at least the potential for falsification, to help us humans approach truth in all aspects of our lives.

I’m also a fan of many of the ideas of Thomas Kuhn, believing that all of our efforts, scientific or otherwise, are influences by our various biases since we are inherently subjective creatures.

The problem with your suggestion that the literal 6-day creation week is “anti-science” is that it isn’t inherently anti-science. It is only opposed to what is currently popular within the scientific community. The minority position in science is not necessary wrong, however. Time and again the majority opinion in science has been replaced by what was once a distinctly minority perspective.

The fact remains that the historic SDA perspective on origins is supported by a great deal of evidence – I personally believe that it is supported by the significant weight of evidence. Scientific reasoning strongly suggests to me that current popular theories of origins are painfully mistaken. As just one example, the Darwinian mechanism of evolution (RM/NS) is clearly untenable beyond very low levels of functional complexity. There are no examples of evolution in action beyond very very low levels of functional complexity and, if you actually sit down and do a bit of statistical analysis, you will find that higher and higher levels of functional complexity are exponentially harder and harder to achieve in a given span of time. Well before the level of 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues is reached, the evolutionary mechanism completely stalls out this side of trillions upon trillions of years of time.

The only reason the scientific community doesn’t come out and openly admit such failures to the public is because they know they have nothing else to go on. And, they know the implications of this – i.e., it clearly allows the Divine Foot in the door. That thought scares most mainstream scientists to death.

But fleeing to the refuge of revelation may not be the complete answer either. We know, for example, that Jesus introduced his own paradigm shift. It was a radical departure from business as usual. I must ask, what theological paradigms shifts await us—or do we have all the truth? At the very least we know that with the proliferation of theological interpretations in just about every area of thought, we should use extreme caution in arriving at categorical conclusions on most theological matters.

As already noted above, the SDA Church stands on the concept of “Present Truth”. By no means does this suggest that the Church has discovered all Truth. Quite the contrary. The Church, since its inception, has recognized the limited and progressive nature of the human understanding of Truth and progress toward Truth.

Special or privileged revelation of Truth, as is found in the Scriptures, is quite helpful, but is not independent of empirical evidence. The Divine origin of the Scriptures is confirmed by the natural world, by the currently available empirical evidence. If God exists, He is the Source of both the written Word as well as Nature herself. He is also the Source of science, of the ability to think and reason scientifically about the world in which we live. If all of these share a single Author, they should all agree with each other. Inspiration should not be in conflict with empirical evidence or rational thought. As Mrs. White so eloquently put it:

God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. – Ellen White, PP, p. 115

So, you see, true science is not in conflict, or at least should not be in conflict, with a clear reading of Scripture – if in fact Scripture truly has a Divine origin…

The point of my article was to articulate that there is a current scientific paradigm in place and any educational system that wishes to remain credible must educate students in that paradigm irrespective of those forces within the Church that may oppose that scientific paradigm.

There are several issues in play here. For one, credibility is in the eye of the beholder. Why would the Church necessarily want to be seen as credible by those who are fundamentally opposed to God and his revealed will? Was Jesus seen or promoted as “credible” by the powers that be in his own day? Should he have altered his teaching to be more in line with what would be seen as credible? See what I’m driving at here?

Beyond this, I most certainly agree that students in our SDA schools should be very very well informed with regard to the theory of evolution. However, our SDA educational system should go beyond this to also inform our students of the serious weaknesses that are abundant in this theory as well as the weight of evidence that clearly favors the SDA position on origins. You see, our students should know everything that the best of secular education has to offer – and more…

Furthermore, I don’t believe a university can remain credible if it teaches the reigning scientific paradigm, but pledges allegiance to a hypothetical anti-scientific position. That is the reason for the wisdom of maintaining the current FB #6—what ever its shortcomings, at least it is not anti-scientific.

You mean you want a statement and official Church position that is not clearly opposed to mainstream evolutionary science – i.e., you want room in the Church for our schools to promote the mainstream idea that life has existed and evolved on this planet, in a Darwinian manner, over the course of hundreds of millions of years.

You clearly do not understand the fundamental challenge that mainstream evolutionary scientists pose, not only to the SDA faith, but to the rational acceptance of the Christian faith at large. Mainstream evolutionary theory, if true, paints a God who would use such an overtly evil process to create, a process that requires the death and suffering of untold billions and trillions of sentient beings, in a very bad light indeed. Who would want to serve such a God? I certainly wouldn’t.

I much prefer the God of the Bible – a God who never intended for there to be “Survival of the Fittest”; a God who is actually grieved when a sparrow falls wounded to the ground; a God who is so upset by the current order of things that He came to die to have the right to change it all to how it was originally intended to be – a place where there is no sorry or pain or death for any of his sentient creatures.

This is the God I believe in and this is the God I still see reflected in His works of nature – even though they have been marred by sin over the course of several thousand years…

Thanks again for your thoughts, but suggest to you that the SDA Church cannot follow your advice if it wishes to remain viable for more than a couple more generations…

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

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

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

As already noted, challenging fundamental aspects of Darwinian evolution is not like challenging most other aspects of science. It is like challenging some fundamental religious aspect of most mainstream scientists.

It’s not like there aren’t very good scientific reasons for challenging the mainstream paradigm in many respects. A similar case, as already noted, is the fairly recent E-mail scandal over global warming: where scientists in charge of journals deliberately falsified data and blocked the publication of minority opinions from scientists with which they disagreed. The very same thing happened to Stephen Meyer when he tried to publish in mainstream literature. And, the one time he was successful, Richard Sternberg, the editor who was brave enough to publish a paper from an scientist supportive of intelligent design behind any aspect of our universe, was demoted and lost his job at the Smithsonian.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think you comprehend the strong emotion and even religious zeal that mainstream scientists share for the defense of Darwinism against any fundamental counter within the journals that they control.

Sean Pitman

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

You wrote:

Every reference you give [regarding the Sternberg case] is filtered through a creationist source.

And all of the references you listed were filtered through evolutionist sources. The fact is that the original references in this case are clearly listed and are readily available. There is no cover-up of the actual facts involved in this case – to include Sternberg’s exoneration by the OSC and the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources. Those are the facts.

Yet, you write:

You must understand that we all start from certain assumptions. On origins you start from a certain reading of an inerrant canon and the writings of EG White. If you at all understand science it is based on the assumption that nature can be explained by natural law. To then inject miracles into that understanding is to subvert the core process.

Wait just a minute here! Since when does the detection of the need for intelligence to explain a given phenomenon violate scientific methodology? Since when is the detection of the need for intelligence to explain certain phenomena excluded from science by definition? Since when does the invocation of “natural law” mean that only “mindless natural laws” can be invoked in all situations?

Do you not realize that many fields of modern science are based on the ability of scientific methodologies to detect the activity of deliberate intelligence in play within our universe? – to include forensic science, anthropology, and even SETI science? Don’t tell me that when an anthropologist picks up a rock and declares that it has the features of a deliberately carved arrowhead that real science isn’t in play. Don’t tell me that when a man walks into his house and sees a freshly baked chocolate cake sitting on his kitchen table that rational, even scientific, thought isn’t involved in determining an intelligent origin for the cake. Don’t tell me that if one of our rovers were to find a highly symmetrical polished granite cube, measuring one meter on each side, on the surface of Mars, that such a discovery would not be hailed as evidence for the existed of non-human intelligent life by mainstream science.

You know as well as I do that these things are all true – that the detection of the “miracle” of intelligence in play within our universe is by no means beyond the powers of scientific investigation. Just because intelligence itself most certainly is a “miracle” from certain perspectives does not mean that it’s detection is beyond science. It isn’t.

The irony is as I have pointed out repeatedly you as a practioner of evidence based medicine (Admittedly I am making an assumption here as you have been LLU trained) do adopt a naturalistic approach to medicine. In this there is a clear disparity with your writings on origins.

I am board certified in anatomic, clinical and hematopathology (with a hemepath fellowship from the City of Hope under Dr. Weiss). I’ve also worked for several years as an urgent care doc back when I was in the Army and have been involved in a number of forensic investigations. You are ignorant to think that a “naturalistic approach” to medicine means that only mindless natural causes can be invoked to explain all situations that doctors encounter. If this were true, the crimes scenes I helped to investigate would never have been detectable as crime scenes. No one would have ever been charged with a deliberate crime of any kind if your notions and concepts of the “miraculous” and of “naturalism” were correct.

I hate to break this to you, but intelligence is “natural”.

I’m just hoping that you don’t actually teach this stuff in one of our SDA schools… but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Sean Pitman

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.

The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.

God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.

The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.

For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”

That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
@Bill Sorensen:

Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.

God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28

Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.

Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.

This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…

Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.

Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.

Sean Pitman

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…

Sean Pitman