Comment on Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’ by Sean Pitman.
You cannot expect me to stand in front of students and tell them that weight of evidence from the fossil record favors the creation of humans and other complex organisms within a few days of the most primitive organisms. If you believe it does I am happy for you. But I am not going to lie on your behalf in the classroom.
No one is asking you to lie professor. If you don’t believe in what the SDA Church is asking you to support (i.e., “a scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation”), then you shouldn’t be working for the SDA Church as a professor of science. You should go and work for an organization that is willing to pay you to teach what is in line with your conscience.
Of course, I personally think you’re overlooking key aspects of the fossil record and geologic column (and even radiometric dating – especially radiocarbon dating), the total weight of which overcome the opposing arguments and strongly favor the SDA position on origins.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’
One more thing Erv. I’d also be interested in your response to the following comments from Dr. John Baumgardner regarding your 2007 paper:
Finally, Bertsche seeks to dismiss the 14C we measured in diamonds also as contamination. He cites a 2007 paper by Taylor and Southon. The paper describes the techniques the authors recently applied to measure 14C levels in natural diamond. As part of the background of their paper, Taylor and Southon list six potential sources of contamination for samples analyzed in AMS laboratories. At the very top of their list is â€œ1 Pseudo 14C-free sample: 14C is present in carboniferous material that should not contain 14C because of its geological age.â€ By placing this item first, they acknowledge what has long been known by AMS radiocarbon specialists: namely, that the vast majority of samples that ought to be completely 14C-free because of their geological context display 14C levels far beyond what can be accounted for by sources attributable to laboratory procedures or equipment design.
Indeed, they implicitly acknowledge this in the first paragraph of their introduction by mentioning 14C ages of 47.9 ka for a marble sample and 52.1 ka for a Pliocene wood sample, both far beyond the AMS 100,000-year detection limit they mention in their first sentence. It is astonishing that these authors never attribute this discrepancy to any one of the six possible explanations they list later in the article. In fact, they are completely silent as to just what the correct explanation might be. This silence is all the more noteworthy since the 14C level in the marble sample is 546 times the detection limit of their AMS system.
The main point of their paper is that by using diamonds and mounting them directly in the sample holder, they are able to exclude items 2 through 5 in their list of six potential sources of contamination. These items are 2 Combustion/acidification background, 3 Graphitization background, 4 Transfer (to the sample holder) background, and 5 Storage background. The last item in their list, 6 Instrument background, involves a â€œ14C signal registering in the detector circuitry when 14C-ion [is] not present.â€ This item is routinely and reliably tested by running the system with no sample in the aluminum sample holder. This test is the basis for the value of the ultimate AMS detection limit, about 0.0005 pMC, corresponding to about 100,000 14C years. Therefore, by process of elimination, what these authors are measuring and reporting is their item (1), namely, 14C intrinsic to the diamonds! This is precisely what we claim for diamond samples we measured using the same technique.
Taylor and Southon report results from eight individual natural diamonds and from six separate fragments cut from a single diamond. The 14C values ranged from 0.005 to 0.021 pMC for the eight individual diamonds and 0.015 to 0.018 pMC for the six fragments, with typical uncertainties of Â±0.001-0.002 pMC. Note that a value of 0.015 exceeds the AMS system background value by a factor of 30.
I certainly grant that one needs almost to be an AMS insider to be aware how routine it is to measure the sixth item in Taylor and Southonâ€™s list, instrument background, and hence to realize that the 14C values they report represent intrinsic 14C in the diamonds themselves and not instrument background. It is therefore understandable why Bertsche comes away with an incorrect conclusion after reading their paper. This illustrates again, however, that he is not the expert in 14C dating that he makes himself out to be.
What about the RATE diamond measurements? Bertsche alludes to the fact that the RATE team also tested diamond by placing diamonds directly into the AMS sample holder. Our tests were done in 2006 after the RATE book was published in 2005. We obtained results quite similar to those reported by Taylor and Southon in 2007. Our ten diamond samples displayed 14C values between 0.008 and 0.022 pMC, with a mean value of 0.014 pMC. Certainly these 14C levels are much smaller than what we obtained for our coal samples; so, caution is obviously advisable in their interpretation. Nevertheless, unless one has a philosophical bias against such a possibility, the most plausible explanation, astonishing as it may be to some, is that natural diamond contains measurable and reproducible levels of intrinsic 14C.
Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’
Dr. Ervin Taylor on Radiocarbon and AMS Technology
I really don’t know why you’re getting all excited about my comments regarding radiocarbon dating and AMS technology? I understand that AMS technology has various problems of contamination. I also understand that these problems can be understood and even controlled to a reasonable degree using careful techniques. Given these techniques, it seems to me like my original points and observations still stand – i.e., that most samples of coal, oil, and non-fossilized remains of fossils contain levels of 14C that are in fact above the level of that can reasonably be attributed to the AMS technology itself. In other words, there is real 14C in most of these particular types of specimens – even if it is given that there is no 14C in diamonds (I never personally understood, even from a creationist position, why there should be much 14C in diamonds to begin with).
As an aside, did you not find it curious that your analysis (using your own AMS machine) of multiple cuts of a single diamond produced a very narrow range of apparent ages? apparent 14C ages ranging between 69-70 kyrs? Yet, the range you measured, in the very same machine, between different diamonds was 68-80 kyrs? Why the significant difference in apparent age between different diamonds if all the 14C was the result of “contamination” due to “instrument background” and other such sources of potential contamination associated with the AMS machine and methodology? – i.e., not the result of any intrinsic 14C? One would think that if there was no intrinsic 14C at all in any of the diamonds analyzed that all should have essentially the same apparent age within the same range of error according to the background produced by the machine itself… or am I way off base here?
After all, didn’t you and Dr. Southon actually addressed this phenomenon in your 2007 paper – on the Use of natural diamonds to monitor 14C AMS instrument backgrounds ?
“Our measurements have confirmed our hypothesis that diamonds represent a much “cleaner” surface with respect to adhesion of carbon-containing molecules from the ion source that contribute to trace memory or sample “cross talk” effect. At this time, it is not clear to us what factors might be involved in the greater variability in the apparent 14C concentrations exhibited in individual diamonds as opposed to splits from a single natural diamond. Possible factors suggested to us are greater variability in the orientation of the crystal facies and microfractures in individual diamonds.”
Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance here, but I’m not sure what variability in the orientation of crystal facies or microfractures would have to do with producing an increased variability in apparent 14C age of the diamond? – given that the diamond did not in fact have any 14C to begin with? But, at least you and Southon admit to the reality of this curious observation given your hypothesis of a complete lack of 14C in all diamonds analyzed.
In any case, regardless of if diamonds do or do not have trace amounts of 14C, the issue remains on how to explain the presence of real 14C in most samples of coal and oil and other organic remains of fossils? It seems like we are back to square one with the usual counter argument being “in situ contamination”…
As noted by Dr. Paul Giem in his 2001 Origins paper, Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon, the common argument of 14C production by Uranium within or near the coal sample releasing neutrons over time is not reasonable given the degree of 14C “contamination”. The amount of original radioactive material would have been prohibitive. And, perhaps the most striking problem, as noted by Dr. Giem, is:
“If neutron capture is a significant source of carbon-14 in a given sample [given that nitrogen-14 captures neutrons 110,000 times more effectively than does carbon-13], radiocarbon dates should vary wildly with the nitrogen content of the sample. I know of no such data.”
Therefore, the levels of 14C “contamination” that are generally observed could not reasonably be explained by in situ production of 14C – right? So, where does this leave us? with your argument for in situ contamination by modern 14C of course…
There seems to be at least some validity to this argument, but how does one explain the nearly universal nature of this in situ contamination? As Dr. Giem notes, “It is difficult to imagine a natural process contaminating wood, whale bone, petroleum and coal, all roughly to the same extent. It is especially difficult to imagine all parts of a coal seam being contaminated equally.”
Of course, there are still a few mysteries for the creationist side of this particular line of evidence as well. For example, why do some forms of anthracite exist with no measurable intrinsic radiocarbon above the background level of the AMS technology?
So, there remain questions on this particular issue for both sides. Yet, it seems to me, at least for now, that the weight of evidence seems to favor the creationist position when it comes to radiocarbon dating – to include the use of AMS technology. However, any further comments and education from someone of your expertise in this area would be most welcome.
More from Richard M. Davidson, Interpreting Scripture According to the Scriptures: Toward an Understanding of Seventh-day Adventist Hermeneutics
The sufficiency of Scripture is not just in the sense of material sufficiency, i.e., that Scripture contains all the truths necessary for salvation. Adventists also believe in the formal sufficiency of Scripture, i.e., that the Bible alone is sufficient in clarity so that no external source is required to rightly interpret it.
Does anyone here disagree with one of the leading SDA theologians, representing the Adventist Biblical Research Institute, on these points? You can read more here: http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/documents/interp%20scripture%20davidson.pdf
There is a difference between being able to interpret what the Scriptures are saying vs. being able to determine if the Bible is or is not really the “Word of God”. Coming up with a correct interpretation of a text, of what the authors were trying to say, is not the same thing as a demonstration of the Divine origin fo the text. Such a demonstration needs additional evidence beyond the text itself in order to be able to rationally pick the Bible over all other competing texts/options as the true Word of God.
Please, for Christâ€™s sake, do NOT base your beliefs in God and His word based on what the fossils say!
Or on any other empirical evidence for that matter- right? Why take on the potential for possibly being wrong? Why take on any risk?
Well, upon what then do you base your choice of the Bible over other self-proclaimed mouthpieces for God?
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.