@pauluc: You wrote: Every reference you give [regarding the Sternberg case] …

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


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

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?
@Jan Long:

The basic points presented have not substantively changed as far as I am aware. They certainly didn’t change by the time of the publication of the Two Mile Time Machine – your own recommended authority on ice core dating published in 2000 (eleven years ago).

Tell me, what additional factors have come into play that make volcanic signatures so much more reliable as markers in ice cores during this time?

Here’s a comment from another paper, published in 1995, discussing the problems with volcanic markers in ice cores since just the 1850s:

It is not possible to identify any individual ice core that would be representative of hemispheric-average volcanism. Even cores drilled 2 m apart, opposite sides of the same core, and measurements from the same side of the same core before and after longitudinal cutting exhibit a substantial amount of high frequency disagreements.

Alan Robock and Melissa P. Free, Ice cores as an index of global volcanism from 1850 to the present, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 100, No. D6, Pages 11,549-11,567, June 20, 1995


Have things really improved that much for volcanic markers? If so, I’d be most interested in your references. It seems the best that can be said is that volcanic chemical signals can be detected for some 10,000 layers or so. But, matching them up to a specific known volcanic event for calibration purposes becomes quite problematic beyond a few hundred years. Cases like the misidentification of the Thera eruption signal (as recently as 2003) illustrate this point.

Also, you’ve not yet even addressed the problem of the relatively recent mid-Holocene hypsithermal warm period… a situation of long-standing global warming with temperatures significantly warmer than today all around Greenland (while today the Greenland ice sheets are melting quite rapidly). This is one of the most puzzling problems that I can see for modern ice core dating assumptions…

According to mainstream science, there existed, for millennia, after the end of the last ice age (approximately 11,000 years ago) around 5000 years of warm weather all around Greenland. Strong evidence indicates that the Eurasian arctic averaged nearly 13°F warmer in July than it is now.

This evidence includes forests of large trees, even fruit bearing trees, that are now buried and preserved in the acidic Siberian tundra – and they can be carbon dated. Where there is no forest today, because it’s too cold in summer, there were all these forests of large trees, all the way to the Arctic Ocean and even on some of the remote Arctic islands that are bare today. There were also large numbers of animals living within the Arctic Circle that no longer live in these regions. And, back then, thanks to the remnants of continental ice, the Arctic Ocean was smaller and the North American and Eurasian landmasses extended further north.

Some of this evidence is based on the work of Glen MacDonald, from UCLA’s Geography Department. In his landmark 2000 paper in Quaternary Research, he noted that the only way that the Arctic could become so warm is for there to be a massive incursion of warm water from the Atlantic Ocean. The only “gate” through which that can flow is the Greenland Strait, between Greenland and Scandinavia.

MacDonald, G. M., et al., 2000. Holocene treeline history and climatic change across Northern Eurasia. Quaternary Research 53, 302-311.

So, Greenland had to have been warmer for several millennia, too – right?

Yet, what you are basically suggesting is that the ice core dating evidence is so strong for at least the past 100,000 years or so that it effectively falsifies the Genesis story of origins – to include the literal 6-day creation week and a worldwide Noachian Flood within the last 10,000 years. You are effectively claiming that it is rationally impossible for ice to have layered out much more rapidly than today on Greenland in the recent past. You are saying this despite indisputable evidence that the layering of ice toward the margins of the Greenland ice sheet results in dozens of layers being deposited per year (refer to the burial of WWII planes several hundred layers of ice in less than 50 years). It couldn’t be that many more layers were deposited per year when ice first started to form on Greenland just a few hundred years after the Flood? – During a time of increased moisture, intra-annual warm and cold spells, and numerous seasonal storms over Greenland?

Given new discoveries, such as those of Robin Bell that came out just this month (March, 2011), suggesting that long accepted models of ice sheet development are not correct, how confident are you in your ice core falsification hypothesis? After all, Bell’s work suggests that up to half the thickness of the ice sheets in certain places of Antarctica formed from the bottom up, not the top down as previously assumed.

To put it in non-scientific terms, lead scientist Robin Bell told msnbc.com, the study redefines “how squishy” the base of ice sheets can be. “This matters to how fast ice will flow and how fast ice sheets will change.”

“It also means that ice sheet models are not correct,” she said, comparing it to “trying to figure out how a car will drive but forgetting to add the tires. The performance will be very different if you are driving on the rims.”


When it comes to claims for calibration of ice-core dates for many tens of thousands of years, consider the following comments published by Skinner in 2008:

All palaeoenvironmental inference hinges on chronostratigraphy. Without a way to accurately link and order our observations spatially and temporally, they remain at best of ambiguous, and at worst of dubious, significance. Nevertheless, a given chronostratigraphy is best viewed as an hypothesis. Much like any proxy, a chronostratigraphy must be employed in a manner that explicitly allows it to be tested. The Greenland and Antarctic ice-core stratigraphies, together with North Atlantic marine archives, low-latitude speleothem and coral records, and the radiometric dates that these latter archives contain, comprise an integrated chronostratigraphic system that is eminently amenable to consistency testing. The integration of these “chronostratigraphic elements” results in a system that remains underdetermined, in that it’s chronology cannot be resolved unequivocally. However, this is only true to the extent that proposed stratigraphic links and absolute ages can be questioned, and that radiometric ages are subject to uncertain “calibrations” (i.e. we cannot account for the movement of all radio-isotopes in the system).

Based on the assumed accuracy of coral and speleothem U-Th ages, Northeast Atlantic surface reservoir ages should be revised upward by _350 years, while the NGRIP age-scale appears to be “missing” time. These findings illustrate the utility of integrated stratigraphy as a test for our chronologies, which are rarely truly “absolute”.

Skinner, L. C.: Revisiting the absolute calibration of the Greenland ice-core age-scales*, Clim. Past, 4, 295-302, doi:10.5194/cp-4-295-2008

You see how interdependent ice-core dating is on the reliability of other dating methods? Ice core dating is not a truly independent dating technique with fail-safe calibration markers for a hundred thousand years or more. Its accuracy is entirely dependent upon the assumed accuracy of other dating methods which are in turn calibrated against each other. And, I’m not the only one to see logical circularity here. Such circularity in reasoning is inherent with the dating of ice cores and ocean sediment cores.

The task of dating these strata [ocean sediment cores] is difficult because sediments may accumulate more quickly during some eras and more slowly in others. To tell the age of layers between known benchmarks, researchers often use the Milankovitch orbital cycles to tune the sediment record: They assume that ice volume should vary with the orbital cycles, then line up the wiggles in the sediment record with ups and downs in the astronomical record.

“This whole tuning procedure, which is used extensively, has elements of circular reasoning in it,” says Muller. He argues that tuning can artificially make the sediment record support the Milankovitch theory.

Richard Monastersky, The Big Chill, Science News, vol 152, October 4, 1997, pages 220-221.

Such tuning can artificially make various patterns support just about any pre-conceived theory one wants to support. That’s the problem with these patterns from various dating techniques being set up to calibrate each other. They are all “tuned” to each other…

See also: http://www.detectingdesign.com/milankovitch.html

You really think such things have significantly changed since 1997 when I graduated from medical school?

I just hate to see someone leave their faith in the credibility of the Bible behind over a “science” as new and problematic and demonstrably at odds with well established facts as is ice core dating…

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