A big reason why so many people are leaving the church

By Sean Pitman

Some may wonder why Shane, David and I, and many others in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, are so concerned over the fact that mainstream evolutionary theories are creeping into our schools?  Why is it a problem that the theory of evolution is being promoted as the true story of origins, in our schools, in direct conflict with the Church’s position on a literal 6-day creation week?   What’s the big deal?  Who really cares?  After all, isn’t it enough to know Jesus?  Why is the Church’s stand on origins so critical?  After all, as Eddie asks below, who has ever been converted from atheism to Christianity through apologetic arguments for creationism? – especially young-life creationism?

Eddie wrote:

“Many Christians have lost their faith because of the empirical evidence for long ages of life on Earth. Do you know of any atheist who became a Christian because of the empirical evidence for life on Earth being less than 10,000 years old?”

First off, there aren’t that many true atheists. Only about 1.6% of Americans describe themselves as atheists and 2.4% as agnostics (we won’t even talk about ‘atheists in foxholes’). And, when people do end up referring to themselves as atheistic, in a public manner, they’re usually pretty set in their ways, having passionately made up their minds against the idea of God. Because of this, it is pretty hard to convert a self-proclaimed atheist.

Yet, I know of a number of former agnostics or atheists who became Christians due in no small part to the evidence for creation – to include the evidence for a recent arrival of life on Earth: Walter Veith, Clifford Goldstein, Rick Lanser, Jerry Bergman, and John Sanford to name a few.

Really though, such examples are meaningless when it comes to my own basis of faith and a solid hope in the future… and the faith of many who remain Christians because of the evidence in support of the Biblical account of origins.

More to the point, as you point out, many many people do in fact leave the Church because the Church is not offering them good apologetic arguments to counter the prevailing opinions of mainstream science.

Various studies, to include one reported in the book, Already Gone (by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer) and the following report, by an evolutionist, on a pole taken by the Montana Origins Research Effort (M.O.R.E.) in 2011, support your argument:

“But let’s talk about a fact that we could both agree on: People are leaving the church because of the creation vs. evolution issue. It was stated several times during the conference that 66 percent of the young people in their church were not returning after college. When polled, the number one reason for leaving was because of their religion’s stance on evolution.” (Read More…)

Obviously then, hiring scientists who promote the mainstream perspective, or offer nothing but blind faith to counter it, only exacerbates the problem. Flipping your argument around, if the Church were able to provide better empirical arguments for its position on origins, I think even you would agree that such evidence would play a big part in keeping people in the Church. After all, if they’re leaving in droves because of the empirical evidence against the Church, if this evidence is effectively countered, such an effort would obviously play a key role in keeping a great many people in the Church.

Sure, a few like you may stay in the Church in spite of the perceived weight of evidence against it or because of empirically blind faith alone. But, for many many people, blind faith arguments just aren’t good enough. They aren’t appealing to many rational people who will follow where they think the empirical evidence leads. The Church should be urgently trying to help such people, people like me, who actually need to see the weight of empirical evidence favoring the Church’s perspective as a basis for rational faith. The Church would only be contributing to the vast exodus from its own doors, especially among the youth of the Church, by failing to substantively address the arguments of mainstream scientists that are being brought against it – according to your own argument.

“Let me be transparent about my personal position: I believe in a young age of life on Earth, but not because of the empirical evidence. I see through a glass darkly and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Whatever happened in the past happened. Other matters are more important.”

Again, empirically blind faith must be a wonderful thing for you and others who share your view. The problem is that many like me don’t understand a faith that is not backed by empirical evidence as rational or personally meaningful. Simply choosing to believe contrary to what I understand to be the weight of empirical evidence would be, for me, a form of irrationality – kind of like living a lie.

I therefore remain in the Church because I actually see the weight of evidence as strongly favoring the Church’s fundamental goals and ideals – to include its position on origins (a position which I consider to be one of the most fundamental aspects of Adventism and Christianity at large).

This is why, if I ever became convinced of Darwinism or long-ages for life on Earth, I would leave the SDA Church and probably Christianity as well. I might still believe in a God of some kind, but certainly not the Christian-style God described in the pages of the Bible.

Obviously many people feel the same way. They simply cannot see themselves clear to be a member of any organization that is so fundamentally opposed to what they perceive to be rationally true. I, for one, strongly sympathize with this mentality and see a great need to meet the needs of this very large community – many of whom are our neighbors and close friends.

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780 thoughts on “A big reason why so many people are leaving the church

  1. I’m enjoying Phil Brantley’s responses to Sean Pitman’s assertion that we must validate scripture through external evidence, an assertion I continue to contend is anti-SDA. He is articulating my own position far better than I could. The latest:

    Phil Brantley – Sat, 05/07/2011 – 14:24

    Dr. Pitman, you keep mischaracterizing my views. I have never claimed that the Bible is true and must be accepted as true without resort to any evidence. Indeed, I listed 16 lines of evidence that arise out of Scripture that are probative in establishing the truthfulness of Scripture. What I have said is that once one adopts the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, then one is not at liberty to subject the Bible to criticism by reference to external data.

    You challenged me to provide evidence arising out of Scripture that provides a rational basis for faith in the truthfulness of Scripture. Your position has been that there is no such evidence and that the Bible’s truthfulness can only be verified by external data. I gave you a list of 16 lines of evidence, all of which arise out of Scripture itself. You quarrel only with No. 2–The internal consistency of doctrine and teaching over the course of hundreds of years, as reflected in the writings of numerous authors. You suggest that the Bible is no more internally consistent than the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, or any well-written fairy tale.

    Given that you have no quarrel with the other fifteen evidentiary items I list, you should concede the point: It is not “blind faith” for one to believe that the Bible is the Word of God based solely on evidence arising out of Scripture itself.

    You should understand that the evidence arising out of Scripture is often more probative and powerful than external data. For example, Seventh-day Adventists believe in the truthfulness of the biblical claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. There is no external data that corroborates that claim. But the evidence arising out of Scripture consisting of Old Testament prophecies, miraculous births of Old Testament leaders, etc., provides some rationality to one’s faith that such an event occurred.

    Unless you are prepared to prove every fact and claim in Scripture by reference solely to external data–a Sisyphean endeavor if there ever was one–then you are constrained to concede the point.

    Will a modern, rational, candid, and intelligent mind necessarily be persuaded that the Bible is the Word of God? If that person lacks faith, the answer is no. Your effort to eliminate faith as a requisite for belief is puzzling, given the strong importance attached to faith by the biblical writers.

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    • @Professor Kent:

      Phil Brantley,

      You wrote:

      “You challenged me to provide evidence arising out of Scripture that provides a rational basis for faith in the truthfulness of Scripture. Your position has been that there is no such evidence and that the Bible’s truthfulness can only be verified by external data. I gave you a list of 16 lines of evidence, all of which arise out of Scripture itself. You quarrel only with No. 2–The internal consistency of doctrine and teaching over the course of hundreds of years, as reflected in the writings of numerous authors. You suggest that the Bible is no more internally consistent than the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, or any well-written fairy tale. Given that you have no quarrel with the other fifteen evidentiary items I list, you should concede the point: It is not “blind faith” for one to believe that the Bible is the Word of God based solely on evidence arising out of Scripture itself.

      My challenge was for you to present a rational argument for the Bible as the Word of God without any appeal to external empirical evidence. You did in fact appeal to external empirical evidences in your reference to biblical prophecy as your first, sixth, and eleventh points. Beyond this, none of your other points could stand by themselves as a rational basis for the Divine origin of the Bible over any other text making the same claim because all of your other points could be presented in a completely made up novel… as is the case for the Book of Mormon.

      Let’s go through your main points:

      1. Prophecy (points 1, 6, and 11)

      You claim that you’re not really referring to the empirical fulfillment of prophecy in real history, but only to the fulfillment of prophecy within the text itself. You have to know that a completely made up story can include internally consistent prophecies and their fulfillment within the novel – having nothing to do with actual reality.

      2. Internal consistency (point 2)

      Novels can be and usually are internally consistent without having any basis in actual reality.

      3. A sanctuary system connecting Old and New Testaments (points 3 and 10)

      Could easily have been part of a cleaver novel – a completely made up story not based in reality.

      4. The courage and zeal of the disciples after the crucifixion (point 4)

      Again, this sort of thing is a very common element in novels.

      5. The candor and self-effacement of the characters in the Bible (point 5)

      Novels often paint their heroes as flawed and human in order to make the reader more sympathetic to the characters in the novel. This need have nothing to do with reality.

      6. The confirmation of the statements of others by various characters within the Bible (point 7).

      Again, this could easily be done as part of a novel with one character confirming the “truth” of the statements of other characters in the novel – all having nothing to do with reality. That is why this argument is “circular”. A text cannot confirm itself. Such an argument is the very definition of a circular argument: “Why is the Bible true?” “Because one author in the Bible supports other authors.” “But how do you know that this internal testimony is valid?” “Because the Bible is the Word of God.” “But how do you know that the Bible is the Word of God.” Because one author in the Bible supports other authors.”… etc. on and on in a never ending circle.

      7. Scriptures easily differentiated from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (point 8).

      And novels, or series of novels from the same author or group of authors, can be easily differentiated from each other as well. This is not in itself evidence of the Divine. Humans can produce this effect quite easily.

      8. The absence of material mistakes and contradictions of facts (point 12).

      While I agree that the mistakes and contradictions in the Bible are not “material”, there is no need for this feature of the Bible to indicate a Divine origin. Human-produced novels often lack significant material mistakes or contradictions of internally-described facts.

      9. The extraordinarily high quality and depth of the material (point 13);

      And humans can write very high quality novels with great depth as well – without any basis in real historical events and without the need to invoke Divine inspiration.

      10. The self-testimony of Scripture (point 14).

      Novels and lots of other religious texts, like the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an, also testify about themselves without any basis in reality or convincing evidence of a Divine origin. Again, an appeal to self-testimony alone is an appeal to circular reasoning. As a lawyer, you should know this.

      11. All major questions of life addressed by Scripture (point 15).

      A human production could also do this. How about a collection of How-to books? – or a long novel dealing with various human needs and experiences having nothing to do with actual historical events?

      12. The ethics of Scripture (point 16).

      I actually agree with this point since the ethics of Scripture are consistent with that still small voice that speaks directly to each one of our hearts. In other words, the ethics of Scripture resonate within us, confirming their truth as they compare with what we internally have been given to know as truth regarding our ethical responsibility toward our fellow man. While these same ethics can be and have been modeled in novels as well, their Divine origin is always clear wherever such ethics are reflected because such ethics are so far above the evilness that is so often expressed in this world.

      In short, the ethics of the Bible do in fact have an external basis of reference in order for us to derive their truth and their Divine or extra-worldly origin.

      So, again, your evidences for the Divine origin of the Bible are either based on external realities or are simply not valid as a basis for determining the Divine origin of the Book or its reliability as a basis for a solid hope in our own individual futures – empirically real futures.

      Yet, you write:

      “Unless you are prepared to prove every fact and claim in Scripture by reference solely to external data–a Sisyphean endeavor if there ever was one–then you are constrained to concede the point.”

      As you should know, the credibility of a witness is not based on the court’s ability to prove every factual statement of the witness against known empirical reality. If this were the case, the witness would not be needed by the court since the court would already know everything the witness knows. Rather, the credibility of the witness is based on those elements of the witness’ testimony and background that can be evaluated against empirical reality. This demonstration of credibility forms the basis upon which the court can rationally trust those elements of the witness’ testimony that cannot be directly confirmed or “proven”.

      The same is true for the Bible. The metaphysical claims of the Bible or those claims that cannot be directly tested or evaluated, can be trusted based on the reliability of the Bible regarding those empirical claims of the Bible that can actually be tested and evaluated.

      It is for this reason that the Book of Mormon fails to be credible. How can the Book of Mormon be trusted in those claims that cannot be directly evaluated when its claims regarding elements that can be tested and evaluated are demonstrably false? For example, the Book of Mormon claims that the American Indians are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel – that they are in fact of Jewish background. DNA evidence shows that the American Indians are actually of Asian descent; that they are not related to Abraham at all. This contradiction between claimed reality and actual reality undermines the credibility of the text and its internal claims to be of Divine origin.

      If the same were true of the Bible, the Bible’s credibility as the Word of God would be rationally undermined in the same manner…

      You go on to write:

      “Will a modern, rational, candid, and intelligent mind necessarily be persuaded that the Bible is the Word of God? If that person lacks faith, the answer is no. Your effort to eliminate faith as a requisite for belief is puzzling, given the strong importance attached to faith by the biblical writers.”

      No one can avoid making leaps of faith – not even secular atheistic scientists. We humans are subjective creatures, subject to what the world around us is telling us about itself through the element of our senses and reasoning powers. We cannot be more than what we are and therefore we cannot determine truth directly outside of the inherent limitations and weaknesses of our subjective state. We have limited knowledge and reasoning powers. That means that we are subject and even prone to error. Nothing we believe about the world in which we live, to include our beliefs about the Bible, is absolutely knowable without the potential for error.

      Therefore, your assertions that you know the truth “by definition” suggests that you do not realize your own subjective nature or potential for error. Your form of faith is a rather arrogant faith that is true “by definition” – suggesting, therefore, that all other faiths are “false by definition” – – no questions asked.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  2. Re Phil’s Quote

    “Will a modern, rational, candid, and intelligent mind necessarily be persuaded that the Bible is the Word of God? If that person lacks faith, the answer is no.”

    Dear Phil

    I think that is quite accurate. So what does that mean for the objective observation of empirical evidence?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  3. Re Sean’s Quote

    “In short, the ethics of the Bible do in fact have an external basis of reference in order for us to derive their truth and their Divine or extra-worldly origin.”

    Hi Sean

    What about comparative human ethical systems? Do other faiths, and secularists also not have good ethical systems? Is a good man, or woman -good – independent of belief in the bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, secular humanism, or because of it?

    If goodness, and humane ethics, have universality, irrespective of belief, do the exhibition of same really act as an external proof of the Bible? Is so shouldn’t such qualities only selectively be exhibited by Christians?

    Interesting stuff.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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    • @ken:

      Hi Ken,

      You ask if someone can be “good” or live a good and moral life, according to his/her conscience, irrespective of belief in or knowledge of the Bible as the Word of God, the answer is yes. Even the Bible affirms this concept.

      Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. – Romans 2:14-16 NIV

      We are not saved by empirical knowledge, but by following the ethical knowledge, given to us all, of the rightness of treating our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, as we would like to be treated. One doesn’t need to know anything about the Bible to understand the rightness of this “Royal Law” – written on the hearts of all mankind.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  4. This came as quite the surprise. David Read, at Spectrum (Sat, 05/07/2011 – 19:29), wrote:

    Discussions about the “weight of the evidence” are absurdly out of place. First, anyone who imagines he can even be familiar with all of the evidence is unrealistically ambitious, if not actually delusional. Second, the exact same evidence means one thing to a Darwinist and the opposite thing to a creationist. The Darwinist looks at the fossil record and sees older forms being slowly succeeded by newer forms over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The creationist looks at the fossil record and sees evidence of how the Genesis Flood buried those forms that then existed. The pertinent question is not the “weight” of the evidence but the philosophical rules and hypothetical models pursuant to which the evidence will be interpreted. If the evidence is interpreted according to Darwinian presuppositions, its “weight” will support Darwinism; if interpreted according to creationist presuppositions, its “weight” will support creationism.

    The function of apologetics is to show people who are willing to believe that their faith is not unreasonable. But it is impossible to argue an unbeliever into faith with a “2 + 2 = 4” type of logical argument; if it were possible, everyone would be a believer. Sean Pitman too often writes as if he believes it is possible, and too often denigrates the crucial role of faith.

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  5. Phil Brantley, at Spectrum (Sun, 05/08/2011 – 12:13), wrote

    @Sean Pitman: You argue that the Bible is indistinguishable from a well-written novel if its “empirical claims” are not validated by external data. (I thank you for tacitly conceding the point that there is no external data that evidences the virgin birth). But rather than believe the virgin birth based on evidence arising out of Scripture and on faith, you now suggest, “The metaphysical claims of the Bible or those claims that cannot be directly tested or evaluated, can be trusted based on the reliability of the Bible regarding those empirical claims of the Bible that can actually be tested and evaluated.”

    Historical novels contain a lot of historical data that can be verified by external data. But no one imagines that the fictional material is true and accurate merely because the historical data has been verified. Similarly, no rationalist will feel compelled to believe the Bible’s metaphysical claims merely because some empirical claims have been verified by external data. The rationalist may develop high respect for the literary and historical quality of the Bible. But for the rationalist, this exercise only suggests that the Bible is an interesting historical novel.

    Again, external data is no substitute for faith.

    Well stated.

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    • @Professor Kent:

      Phil Brantley wrote:

      “You argue that the Bible is indistinguishable from a well-written novel if its “empirical claims” are not validated by external data. (I thank you for tacitly conceding the point that there is no external data that evidences the virgin birth). But rather than believe the virgin birth based on evidence arising out of Scripture and on faith, you now suggest, ‘The metaphysical claims of the Bible or those claims that cannot be directly tested or evaluated, can be trusted based on the reliability of the Bible regarding those empirical claims of the Bible that can actually be tested and evaluated.'”

      Exactly. If all the information in the Bible could be known by other means, the Bible, as with any other witness in a court of law, would not be needed.

      “Historical novels contain a lot of historical data that can be verified by external data. But no one imagines that the fictional material is true and accurate merely because the historical data has been verified. Similarly, no rationalist will feel compelled to believe the Bible’s metaphysical claims merely because some empirical claims have been verified by external data. The rationalist may develop high respect for the literary and historical quality of the Bible. But for the rationalist, this exercise only suggests that the Bible is an interesting historical novel.

      Indeed. But what is interesting about the Bible is that the Bible not only demonstrates its credibility with regard to the accuracy of its historical claims, it demonstrates that its predictions of those real historical events, actually happened as predicted in history. This is the power of Biblical prophecy to convert the intelligent candid mind regarding the Divine origin of the Book. The honest seeker for truth is able to compare historically known Biblical predictions before the fulfillment of those predictions in real history.

      In short, real empirical evidence supports the reality of Biblical prophecy, the reality of Biblical foreknowledge of real historical events, and asks the reader to judge for him or herself to see if anyone other than a God could really know and predict the future in such a strikingly accurate manner as that presented in the pages of the Bible. Thus, empirical evidence that is external to the Bible rationally supports the credibility of the Bible’s claim to having a Divine, rather than just a human, origin.

      And you wonder why evangelists and others trying to convert honest seekers for truth to a biblical understanding of the world dwell so long on Biblical prophecy?

      “Again, external data is no substitute for faith.”

      Let me ask you yet again, did the disciples of Jesus have more or less faith in Him, as the Son of God, before or after the empirical demonstration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?

      You see, faith without any empirical basis is emotion-driven and blind to empirical reality. Such faith is not solid enough to support a strong hope in a bright literal future that can take us through difficult times and the very real risk of torture and death. It was the solid empirical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, undeniable to the disciples who saw it with their own eyes, that gave them the strength to speak the gospel of Christ fearlessly and even with gladness and gratitude in the face of torture and death. Such is not the power of empirically-blind faith for those who are actually rational, intelligent and naturally timid and fearful of torture and death.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  6. BobRyan: An atheist can use the H-G model of hermeneutics to pinpoint the position of the Bible saying that all life on planet earth was created in a real 7 day week less than 10,000 year ago.

    Then he can use his own slant on epistemology (how we know that something is true), hammering away at the Bible position thus objectively defined. He simply uses the standard set of evolutionism’s many-storied puzzles (still waiting to be solved) to bash the clearly defined (by the H-G method) Bible postion.

    (A point both Phil and Kent have tried time after time to dodge on Spectrum and elsewhere)

    Here is the achillies heel Brantley and Kent have been so anxious to avoid when they try to conflate H-G hermeneutics with Epistemology.

    And of course the “reason” that they need to conflate those two concepts as one – is that the argument from “internal evidence” in hermeneutics can then be used to obliterate epistemology in circular argument after circular argument.

    Observations in nature that confirm the Bible as a trusted and accurate source – (as must be employed in epistemology), are negated in Brantley’s conflation of epitemology with hermeneutics.

    When this is pointed out to him on Spectrum – he seems to argue that we should not remind him of the point.

    And it is just then that Spectrum would kindly request that I not respond to Brantley’s position on Spectrum.

    How “unnexpected”.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  7. Sean Pitman: Phil Brantley wrote:
    “You argue that the Bible is indistinguishable from a well-written novel if its “empirical claims” are not validated by external data. (I thank you for tacitly conceding the point that there is no external data that evidences the virgin birth). But rather than believe the virgin birth based on evidence arising out of Scripture and on faith…

    The “Bible claim” is not only that the virgin birth happened – but also that it was a miracle of God. That God alone caused it to happen.

    IF our “observations in nature” showed us that “virgin birth is the norm” for humans — we WOULD have a huge problem with the text.

    So in essence EVEN in the case of the virgin birth , observations in nature are applicable when it comes to epistemological arguments that either confirm or disconfirm the reliability of the text as true knowledge.

    The point remains.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  8. Professor Kent: This came as quite the surprise. David Read, at Spectrum (Sat, 05/07/2011 – 19:29), wrote:
    Discussions about the “weight of the evidence” are absurdly out of place. First, anyone who imagines he can even be familiar with all of the evidence is unrealistically ambitious, if not actually delusional. Second, the exact same evidence means one thing to a Darwinist and the opposite thing to a creationist. The Darwinist looks at the fossil record and sees older forms being slowly succeeded by newer forms over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The creationist looks at the fossil record and sees evidence of how the Genesis Flood buried those forms that then existed. The pertinent question is not the “weight” of the evidence but the philosophical rules and hypothetical models pursuant to which the evidence will be interpreted. If the evidence is interpreted according to Darwinian presuppositions, its “weight” will support Darwinism; if interpreted according to creationist presuppositions, its “weight” will support creationism.

    It is true that bias and world view will tend to drive the observer to one conclusion or another.

    1. This again is an argument about epistemology – not about the H-G hermeneutic.

    2. God Himself addresses the point of the world view – when in Romans 1 HE says that the world view of ungodly barbarians (Paul’s words) is not sufficient to delete the conviction from their minds regarding God – when it comes to their observations of “the things that have been made” revealing the “invisible attributes of God”.

    Thus it is not true at all that the Barbarian will never see in “the things that have been made” the “invisible attributes of God” as some have supposed.

    In fact God says that these non-Bible aware, non-Christians are “without excuse” when they make the claim that they do not see the invisible attributes of God in the “things that have been made”.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  9. Professor Kent: Phil Brantley – Sat, 05/07/2011 – 14:24
    Dr. Pitman, you keep mischaracterizing my views. I have never claimed that the Bible is true and must be accepted as true without resort to any evidence. Indeed, I listed 16 lines of evidence that arise out of Scripture that are probative in establishing the truthfulness of Scripture. What I have said is that once one adopts the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, then one is not at liberty to subject the Bible to criticism by reference to external data.

    You are making a circular argument.

    You argue that epistemological methods using references to external confirming or disconfirming evidence (observations in nature for example) may be used to determine that the Bible is to be trusted (accepted as the Word of God ), but once accepted it must be divorced from all external observations and conclusions. (Presumably a ploy to facilitate a mechanism that reconciles self-conflicted beliefs — i.e. belief in evolutionism with belief in the Bible).

    Not only does 3SG90-91 flatly refute that claim — but so also does Romans 1 as it insists that we continue to see the invisible attributes of God “clearly seen in the things that have been made”.

    And the Psalms are loaded with references to God’s people observing God’s hand in nature and then finding in those observations a cause for affirming faith in His Word.

    “Test me now and SEE if I will not open up for you the windows of heaven” is a reference to “taste and see” experimentation with God.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  10. David Read, recognizing the limits to evidence, wisely wrote on the last page of his 600 page book, “Dinosaurs–An Adventist View”:

    “It is not possible to approach the facts of nature in a neutral and unbiased manner, and allow the facts to inform us whether we were created or evolved. There are too many facts, far too much data, to ever sort out in a hundred lifetimes. One chooses one’s model—creation or evolution—before approaching the data. That choice is a religious choice. It is made with the heart, not the intellect. ‘If someone seriously did doubt the design of a modern airliner, that person could be convinced by taking him into an aircraft factory and introducing him to the teams of design engineers. In the same way, man’s prejudice against design in creation can only really be answered by a radical change of heart and by personally meeting the Author of all.’ Doubts about creation can only be removed by getting to know, love, and trust the Creator God.”

    I say “amen” to this.

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  11. Re Sean’s Quote

    “We are not saved by empirical knowledge, but by following the ethical knowledge, given to us all, of the rightness of treating our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, as we would like to be treated. One doesn’t need to know anything about the Bible to understand the rightness of this “Royal Law” – written on the hearts of all mankind.”

    Dear Sean

    I hear ya brother.

    And well I’m not sure who does the writing, in my case I think it was a wonderful mother who taught me unselfish love, your espoused Royal Law trumps doctrinal dispute.

    Your grateful agnostic friend
    Ken

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  12. Re Prof Kent quoting David Read

    “It is not possible to approach the facts of nature in a neutral and unbiased manner, and allow the facts to inform us whether we were created or evolved.”

    Hello Prof Kent

    I respectfully disagree.

    Science and the application thereof can be neutral and rational if we choose them to be. Where facts point in a number of directions the question is probability versus certainty. As Sean has often said one can never know anything with absolute certainty. Even Stephen Hawkings talks about model dependent reality. But observation and testing have an empirical way of firming up models and laws of nature. Does anyone doubt laws of gravity anymore?

    If we choose we can approach issues with an open mind of discovery instead of presupposition. Ask any child who has not yet been taught religion or evolution.

    I’ve been exposed to both and approach both rationally and analytically. My intellectual jury remains out on many topics including intelligent design which just may end up rocking the boat of mindless evolution.

    Cheers
    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  13. This item from Phil Brantley was insightful, as it matched the views of David Read:

    Dr. Davidson states that there are three conversion experiences. The first conversion experience is the “born-again” experience–accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. The second conversion experience is belief in the doctrines and teachings of Scripture. The third conversion experience is a hermeneutical total surrender to the Word of God. For those milk-drinking Christians who are ready for solid food, his essays are instructive.

    And then Sean Pitman, persistent with his heterodox theology, had this to say about David Read’s position:

    I strongly disagree with you here, as well as with Phil Brantley and Professor Kent (and even Shane Hilde). The reason I personally have such a high view of Scripture is because the claims of the Bible make rational sense to me given the empirical evidence that I personally know and comprehend. The Bible appeals first to my intellect then to my heart. It is the Bible’s rational basis for its own claimed credibility as the Word of God that converted my own mind and soul. In my opinion, the mind should lead one’s emotions, not the other way around.

    I think the problem with Sean’s and Bob’s theology is a lack of appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit, which they demote to little more than a “blind,” “circular” appeal to “emotion.” I do admire their conviction, but I detest their deriding the faith of others (which, ahem, reminds me of certain faculty at LSU).

    Perhaps we should all read once again STEPS TO CHRIST. What does Sister White have to say about how we come to know Jesus?

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    • @Professor Kent:

      An Intelligent Faith:

      It is hardly heterodox to suggest that the mind should lead the heart in matters of faith. Even Mrs. White noted that God desires an “intelligent faith” or trust in His Word.

      Jesus did not first reveal Himself in His true character to them [on the road to Emmaus], and then open the Scriptures to their minds; for He knew that they would be so overjoyed to see Him again, risen from the dead, that their souls would be satisfied. They would not hunger for the sacred truths which He wished to impress indelibly upon their minds, that they might impart them to others, who should in their turn spread the precious knowledge, until thousands of people should receive the light given that day to the despairing disciples as they journeyed to Emmaus.

      He maintained His disguise till He had interpreted the Scriptures, and had led them to an intelligent faith in His life, His character, His mission to earth, and His death and resurrection. He wished the truth to take firm root in their minds, not because it was supported by His personal testimony, but because the typical law, and the prophets of the Old Testament, agreeing with the facts of His life and death, presented unquestionable evidence of that truth. When the object of His labors with the two disciples was gained, He revealed Himself to them, that their joy might be full, and then vanished from their sight (The Signs of the Times, October 6, 1909).

      Here we have Jesus pointing to the empirical evidence of his own life and its match to the prophecies of the Bible as a basis for a solid faith and confidence in the written Word as the true Word of God.

      The same is true today. God points us to the Bible through the medium of our God-given reasoning abilities to reason from cause to effect as a basis for determining the Divine origin and authority of His written Word.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  14. Certainly we can agree that belief in evolutionism is a religious POV and also acceptance of the 7 day creation week of Genesis 1 is a religious point of view.

    What is “instructive” in Romans 1 is the fact that opposing I.D. is a disinctively atheist POV and divides T.E from Atheist Evolutionism.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  15. Re Bob’s Quote

    “In fact God says that these non-Bible aware, non-Christians are “without excuse” when they make the claim that they do not see the invisible attributes of God in the “things that have been made”.”

    Or evolved?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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    • @Ken:
      Now you’re getting exegetical! Me, when I look at that particular text, rereading it again and again, my eyes always see “made.” Right there, in B&W, regardless of version, in Times New Roman or some totally legible sans serif font, on paper or Kindle, wherever you want to look. He that hath eyes… (need I?) You’re seeing “evolved”? How’d you do that! Better yet, why? Better yet, sigh…

      Meanwhile back to faith vs. evidence, Bible vs. mind — my eyes always see BOTH, not one or the other. Like love & marriage, efferent & afferent, autonomic and voluntary nervous systems. Sympathetic and parasympathetic. Eccrine & apocrine. Like male and female at the altar (not…need I?). He made them (no, not evolved them) both, separate but equal, equally crucial.

      Mercifully, people seem quick enough to see the difference as well as the connection between male & female than faith & evidence, or used to. But nowadays … (need I?). Well, that’s what it’s come to, in this cheery, whimsical, channel-gender-switching postmodern age. Have a good agnoevolution!

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  16. Ken –

    Could point. If you find that the correct exegesis of Romans 1:18-22 is that mankind should see the “invisible attributes of God in the things that have evolved” – then that goes a long way to making the case that the Bible can be married to belief in evolutionism.

    Let me know how that goes.

    In the mean time – Dawkins’ argument is pretty good when he states that adding any kind of “god” to evolutionism so as to explain or claim “creation” for the existence of all complex life on earth — is pointless.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  17. Professor Kent: This item from Phil Brantley was insightful, as it matched the views of

    David Read:
    Dr. Davidson states that there are three conversion experiences. The first conversion experience is the “born-again” experience–accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. The second conversion experience is belief in the doctrines and teachings of Scripture. The third conversion experience is a hermeneutical total surrender to the Word of God. For those milk-drinking Christians who are ready for solid food, his essays are instructive.

    I prefer the quote we find in Romans 11 –

    “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”.

    You have to first know what is(epistemology) the Word of God — and accept what it says (hermeutics). Rom 10:8-11.

    Notice that in Rom 10:16-18 it is our observations in nature that is declared as the Word of God going forth and being heard.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  18. Sean Pitman: Here [The Signs of the Times, October 6, 1909] we have Jesus pointing to the empirical evidence of his own life and its match to the prophecies of the Bible as a basis for a solid faith and confidence in the written Word as the true Word of God.

    Yes, Sean, nice quote from Ellen White. Ironically, Jesus did exactly what you chastized Phil Brantley, myself, David Read, Shane Hilde, and the official denomination for proposing: using scripture itself to validate God’s word. In Ms. White’s own words: “He wished the truth to take firm root in their minds, not because it was supported by His personal testimony, but because the typical law, and the prophets of the Old Testament, agreeing with the facts of His life and death, presented unquestionable evidence of that truth.

    And today, you belittle us all for accepting scriptural truths on the very same basis Jesus himself taught from. Are you going to now declare Jesus guilty of circular reasoning?

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    • @Professor Kent:

      You’re forgetting the part where Jesus referred to the empirical evidence of real events as the fulfillment of prophecy, thereby providing the rational basis for the credibility of the prophets… i.e., what the prophets predicted really did come true in real life. If the predictions had not matched empirical reality, the prophets would have lost all credibility.

      So, you see, the basis of a rational belief in the credibility of the Scriptures is based on the fidelity of their match to the actual reality that they describe. Their credibility, according to Jesus himself, is not entirely self-referencing or internally derived as you and Phil and others claim…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  19. Re Wes’s and Bob’s quotes

    (Wes)”Now you’re getting exigetical! Me, when I look at that particular text, rereading it again and again, my eyes always see “made.”

    (Bob) “If you find that the correct exegesis of Romans 1:18-22 is that mankind should see the “invisible attributes of God in the things that have evolved”

    Dear Wes and Bob

    Gentleman, I must confess when it comes to exegesis I have no education or training whatsoever. But if you would kindly indulge an ignorant agnostic perhaps I can still make a case.

    Let us start with the conjugation of the verb make:

    “Conjugations of the English verb make can be found below.

    Past Pluperfect
    I made
    you made
    he made
    we made
    they made”

    Gentleman, as you can see “made” is the past pluperfect tense of make.

    Now let us look at synonyms for evolve, from freethesaurus.net:

    “Main Entry: evolve
    Synonyms:
    advance, alter into, amplify, assemble, avulse, be converted into, bear fruit, beautify, become, beget, bloom, blossom, breed, bring forth, bring into being, build, call into being, cast, change into, coin, come round to, compose, compound, conceive, concoct, construct, contrive, cook up, create, cultivate, cut out, deracinate, descant, design, detail, develop, devise, dig out, dig up, dilate, discover, disentangle, draw, draw out, dream up, dredge, dredge up, educe, elaborate, embellish, engender, enlarge, enlarge upon, eradicate, erect, evolute, evolve into, evulse, excavate, excise, excogitate, expand, expatiate, explicate, exsect, extract, extricate, extrude, fabricate, fall into, fashion, finish, flower, form, formulate, frame, fudge together, generate, get at, get out, get up, give being to, give rise to, gouge out, grow, grub up, hatch, improvise, indite, invent, lapse into, make, make do with, make up, manufacture, maturate, mature, mellow, melt into, mine, mint, mold, obtain, open into, open up, originate, particularize, pass into, patch together, perfect, pick out, piece together, plan, pluck out, pluck up, polish, prefabricate, prepare, procreate, produce, progress, pull, pull out, pull up, put together, put up, quarry, raise, rake out, rear, refine, rehearse in extenso, relate at large, remove, rip out, ripen, ripen into, root out, root up, run into, run up, season, set up, settle into, shape, shift into, spawn, strike out, take out, tear out, think out, think up, turn into, turn to, unearth, unfold, unravel, uproot, wax, weed out, whomp up, withdraw, work out, wrest out, write”

    As you can see: ‘make’ is a synonym for ‘evolve’.

    Evolved is of course the past tense of evolve.

    Gentleman, I trust it is not too much a s grammatical stretch to conclude that ‘evolved’ is a synonym for ‘made’.

    What is interesting of course is that Adventists sometimes interpret the Bible literally and sometimes figuratively. (i.e. 6 days vs. 2300 days.) Perhaps you can extend me the latitude to interpret ‘made’ synonymically as ‘evolved'(at the risk of ‘creating’ a new adverb!).

    I rest my agnostic, exegetic case.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  20. Sean, the reality is that the corporate Church rejects your reliance on external evidence to validate scripture, and most SDAs take deep offense in your position that scripture is subservient to science.

    If you truly wish to change the Church’s views, you need to publish an article in the Church’s foremost journal. Until that happens, you’ll continue to convince a subset of your disciples that you have it all figured out, and you’ll also completely turn off another subset of your followers, who are dumbfounded by your unrelenting attacks on faith.

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    • @Professor Kent:

      Contrary to your claims, most intelligent people, to include most SDA’s, and even the SDA Church as an organization, recognize the effect that empirical evidence, or the lack thereof, has on faith.

      It is for this reason that the SDA Church, as an organization, considers the presentation of empirical evidence, in line with the SDA position on origins in particular, to be an important part of the education that is offered by the Church to its youth.

      This is in direct conflict with Phil Brantley’s argument that the promotion of mainstream Darwinism in SDA classrooms is no big deal since real biblical faith should not be at all affected by empirical evidence whatsoever. It is for this reason that Phil has been so supportive of the rights of LSU’s science professors to teach whatever they want on the theory of evolution, on the Church’s dime, since empirical science should have no effect on “faith” in SDA doctrines.

      That is in fact Phil’s position you know – – and yours as well if you are honest with the implications of your basic argument.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  21. There is an evidence that is open to all,–the most highly educated, and the most illiterate,–the evidence of experience. God invites us to prove for ourselves the reality of His word, the truth of His promises. He bids us “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8. Instead of depending upon the word of another, we are to taste for ourselves. – Steps to Christ, p. 111-112

    Sorry, Sean, but Ellen White’s words (which you posted) speak to the evidence of personal experience and conviction that come only from a close walk with Jesus–a personal, dynamic relationship nurtured by the Holy Spirit. This evidence she speaks of effectively diminishes the word of another that you insist we rely on–the empirical evidence brought to us by scientists, historians, Sean Pitmans, and others. You just don’t get it. While you are busy trying to convince others of what scientific evidence has to offer, you are denying the single most important source of evidence: a prayerful communion with God. And you are furious that we choose God’s word over yours.

    Note that this “evidence” to which Ellen White speaks of and highly commends is available to “the most illiterate,” and contrasts sharply with Sean Pitman’s demand that we prioritize empirical evidence and human reason. Call it “blind,” call it “circular,” call it “irrational,” call it “useless,” but no evidence is more powerful than knowing God.

    Prove me wrong.

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    • @Professor Kent:

      You can’t “know God” through His written Word unless you have some rational basis by which you are able to determine that the words you’re reading are actually God’s Words and not some “cunningly devised fable”. The only rational way to do that is to test the Words to see if what they’re claiming about reality is actually true. If the claims prove false when tested against empirical reality, how can they rationally be trusted as the Words of God?

      Testing the Bible against personal experience is an empirical test that is open to all who have rational intelligent candid minds… regardless of the level of formal education. This is the reason why the Bible can have an attractive appeal to anyone of at least human-level intelligence.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  22. Ken: Re Wes’s and Bob’s quotes
    (Wes)”Now you’re getting exigetical! Me, when I look at that particular text, rereading it again and again, my eyes always see “made.”
    (Bob) “If you find that the correct exegesis of Romans 1:18-22 is that mankind should see the “invisible attributes of God in the things that have evolved”
    Dear Wes and Bob

    Gentleman, I must confess when it comes to exegesis I have no education or training whatsoever.

    But if you would kindly indulge an ignorant agnostic perhaps I can still make a case.
    Let us start with the conjugation of the verb make:

    Ken thank you for that post. As you can probably imagine the text of the Bible was not written in english but in Hebrew and Greek thus it is not simply a case of taking english words and finding alternate words to insert in their place.

    The “reason” that we even look at the concept of exegesis in pursuing reliable hermeneutics is that an objective model for Bible interpretation is needed rather than “spin the text any way you like”.

    The whole point is to find a more objective “less plastic” methodology for rendering the text. Hence all the debating you see on this board about the H-G hermeneutic.

    In the dark ages a great many people lost their lives over the issue of “What does the Bible actually say”. This is more than just a trivial topic.

    So while you make a good case for the idea that without using exegesis we can always come up with some kind of story for bending the text one way or the other… (And I fully agree with you on that point), the entire reason we keep talking about more objective methods such as the Historical-Grammatical method of hermeneutics is to avoid the “every man bent the text to his own liking” problem.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  23. Ken: As you can see: ‘make’ is a synonym for ‘evolve’.
    Evolved is of course the past tense of evolve

    A simple test.

    Let’s go to Richard Dawkins and suggest that we no longer use the term evolve or evolution – but from now on just use the term “God made” because we think if that as a good reliable synonym.

    Then lets take the text of Ex 20:10-11 and “For in in Six days” and suggest that all life on earth “Evolve” in six days by “God making it” which as you point out is another way to say evolved in six days by God supernaturally causing it to happen (making it happen) in such a short period of time.

    I am doubtful that this will resolve the gap.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  24. Re Bob’s Quote

    “So while you make a good case for the idea that without using exegesis we can always come up with some kind of story for bending the text one way or the other… (And I fully agree with you on that point), the entire reason we keep talking about more objective methods such as the Historical-Grammatical method of hermeneutics is to avoid the “every man bent the text to his own liking” problem.”

    Dear Bob

    As always I am indebted to you for your biblical scholarship and knowledge. I acknowledge that I am an intellectual pauper in this regard. But my learning is evolving with help from my Adventist friends as time goes on!

    I agree with the general thrust of your quote but it does make the issue problematic doesn’t it? If all Christians interpreted the Bible the same way, objectively, then no Christian faction could bend the text to meet its own doctrinal needs, correct? And what about non – Christians interpretation? Are they barred from objectivity because they don’t agree to a particular method of interpretation? Does this make the Word of God truly imponderable or subject only to consensus? And who determines consensus for Christians? Is consensus in the eye of the biblical beholder?

    Perhaps that is why Science and empirical evidence to verify any particular interpretation of the Bible becomes so important. I think that is what our good Dr. Pitman is trying to advocate.

    I hope my outside view can provide a bit of perspective to the great Adventist debate.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  25. Sean Pitman: Testing the Bible against personal experience is an empirical test that is open to all who have rational intelligent candid minds… regardless of the level of formal education.

    Elucidate, please.

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  26. Apparently, I’ve been wrong all along. SDAs need to be encouraged to read books and articles written by evolutionists (the heroes of Sean Pitman and Bob Ryan) because they need to learn for their rational selves where the evidence is and the choices they need to make. The more time devoted to secular reading, the better. Our young people need to learn all they can about the evidence for both an old earth and a young earth so that they can make a rational, informed decision based on their own thinking rather than the distillation of others (apologeticists); otherwise, they are prone to walk away from the Church.

    Reading the Bible alone would be an irrational mistake, as useless as reading novels and fairy tales. Our young people must not invest too much time in the study of scripture, as it would preclude learning the evidence required to judge whether it is true. As Sean Pitman points out incessantly, faith based on God’s word alone is blind, circular, insufficient, and irrational. Whatever we do, we cannot allow our young people to make such a mistake, and we must not allow our teachers to instill such a practice, which clearly undermines our fundamental beliefs.

    And everyone said, “Amen.”

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    • @Professor Kent:

      Are you suggesting that SDA schools shouldn’t use any other textbook besides the Bible? – that the study of anything outside of the Bible, such as the scientific investigation of nature, should actually be discouraged in our schools? – that any effort to support the Bible’s credibility by appeals to empirical evidence in its support is too risky since there is the possibility of falsifying empirical evidence?

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  27. Isn’t empiricism (that all knowledge must be obtained by experience), self refuting? How can empiricism be proven empirically?

    Also, perhaps it would be helpful to differientate between rationalism and reason.

    Reason – the faculty or process of drawing logical inferences

    Rationalism – the philosophical view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge.

    One refers to a tool we use to make decisions, the other references to that tool as the primary source and test of knowledge.

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  28. Sean PitmanAre you suggesting that SDA schools shouldn’t use any other textbook besides the Bible? – that the study of anything outside of the Bible, such as the scientific investigation of nature, should actually be discouraged in our schools? – that any effort to support the Bible’s credibility by appeals to empirical evidence in its support is too risky since there is the possibility of falsifying empirical evidence?

    No. I’m agreeing with you, at long last, that the Bible doesn’t have the answers we need after all. We clearly need to tell our students to spend their time elsewhere. They need to steep themselves in Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Richard Lewontin, Stephen Jay Gould, Colin Patterson, and others who can inform them better about the truthfulness of scripture and help them develop a faith based on empirical evidence that is as strong as yours and Bob Ryan. They need to learn the evidence for themselves; the Bible just isn’t going to get the job done (much to my disappointment).

    I wish I had the benefit of your advice years ago when I was lad. I always thought that reading the scientific evidence for long ages of the earth might push me the wrong direction, when in fact I should have commmitted myself to going where the evidence leads, regardless of what scripture says. You’re an inspiration, Sean.

    What do you suggest I do now with my useless faith? Seriously.

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  29. Bob’s Quote
    “So while you make a good case for the idea that without using exegesis we can always come up with some kind of story for bending the text one way or the other… (And I fully agree with you on that point), the entire reason we keep talking about more objective methods such as the Historical-Grammatical method of hermeneutics is to avoid the “every man bent the text to his own liking” problem.”

    ken:
    Dear Bob

    I agree with the general thrust of your quote but it does make the issue problematic doesn’t it? If all Christians interpreted the Bible the same way, objectively, then no Christian faction could bend the text to meet its own doctrinal needs, correct? And what about non – Christians interpretation? Are they barred from objectivity because they don’t agree to a particular method of interpretation?

    1. Not all Christians agree to use the H-G (Historical-Grammatical) method and that results in a lot of differences between denominations.

    But those that DO use the H-G model all agree that Gen 1 is not advocating evolution.

    2. Very often our Catholic friends observe the same issue as you have described it above and claim that the only solution is for all Christians to defer to their magesterium. (Pope if you are Catholic).

    But that does not solve anything because each group has its own magesterium. (Church leadership).

    Better to use the H-G model and be objective about it. 😉

    3. Even atheists like Dawkins easily master the use of the H-G model and conclude that the bible demands a seven day creation week – the same 7 day sequence we see mentioned in Ex 20:11 that is equated to the 7 day week at Sinai in Ex 20:8-9.

    Pretty hard to miss if you are not coming to the text with an agenda to try and “get it to say” something that fits evolution.

    Ken said:
    Perhaps that is why Science and empirical evidence to verify any particular interpretation of the Bible becomes so important.

    The issue is less about our observations in nature validating the Bible and more about our observations in nature not being in direct contradition to scripture.

    Before viewing the detailed evidence in micro biology ( “Life of the Cell” for an easy reference) – one may suppose that Intelligent Design is valid and that God is the designer. After viewing the evidence in a single cell we have that much more evidence to highlight in that regard.

    However go back 500 years – we would still have no argument for saying that God is not the Creator, or that I.D. is not valid simply because we did not yet have the evidence of microbiology.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  30. Professor Kent: Apparently, I’ve been wrong all along. SDAs need to be encouraged to read books and articles written by evolutionists (the heroes of Sean Pitman and Bob Ryan) because they need to learn for their rational selves where the evidence is and the choices they need to make

    As has been stated many times in the past —

    1. If the Bible was the “tiny Bible” that some of our T.E friends have imagined for us, then it would only say “Love God” and “Love your neighbor” leaving the evolutoinist free to marry the tiny-bible to belief in evolutionism — conflict-free.

    2. But as soon as one reads enough of the bible to discover “For in SIX days the Lord MADE the heavens and the earth” Ex 20:11 – there is a problem trying to marry evolutionism to the Bible.

    So the choices are –
    1. “bend the text of scripture” to meet the demands of the god of evolutionism.

    2. “ignore the offending text of scripture” and embrace evolutionism at all costs.

    3. Become atheist.

    4. “resist the temptation to uncritically accept wild tales about birds coming from reptiles”. Use enough critical thinking when reviewing the storytelling behind evolutionism to see it for the junk-science and bad-religion that it is.

    I prefer option 4.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  31. Evidence is never decisive because you always need a worldview to tell you what to make of that evidence.

    Somehow we (Christians) need to show that our standard (Bible) is the correct standard. So how are we going to get anywhere–secular person has their presuppositions and the Christian has his presuppositions.

    The temptation for many Christians is to meet the evolutionist on “neutral” ground. It’s argued that there must be some presuppositions that can can be agreed upon. They both agree science is useful, so they agree to talk in terms of science.

    However, the Bible says there is no such thing as neutral, the claim of neutrality is unbiblical (Matthew 12:30; Romans 8:7; James 4:4).

    You can’t defend biblical authority by abandoning it. By accepting the terms of the evolutionist, you’ve agreed to start the debate by doubting the Bible’s authority. You’ve already lost the argument.

    No one can approach the evidence without presuppositions and if they think they can, that’s a presupposition.

    We’re to stand on the Word while defending it (Titus 1:9).

    There are those (including Christians) who will object to this because it’s circular reasoning; however, this isn’t necessarily a logical fallacy.

    For example, when someone tells me they had a dream, and I ask them for proof, is it logical for them to respond, “Because I said so”? That would be circular reasoning, right?

    Why then does God use this same method for proving that Scripture is, in fact, His Word? The reason this isn’t a logical fallacy is because the person who had the dream is the authority on the subject of his own dream—not some other arbitrarily chosen person (then it would be a viscous circular argument, which is a fallacy).

    An ultimate standard is necessary in order to interpret the evidence properly. Evidence alone does nothing to change a persons worldview.

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  32. Arguments that are of the form “be a loon or else reject the authority of the Bible” are exactly the kind of argument that atheists, like Dawkins, falsely accuse Christians of making.

    The “be a loon” form is the part that says “well yes based on our observations in nature birds actually do come from reptiles over 100’s of millions of years of time – and that is fact. But I like the Bible so I believe God exists no matter the fact that the Bible is so factually wrong when it comes to what actually happened in nature”.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  33. Here is a good example of the “tiny bible” argument Pauluc offerred recently –

    Pauluc said:
    Your equivocation is clearly evident within this one statement. How could you ever reach the position of being convinced if you reject any contrary data based on you current understanding? Frankly I do not find your brittle faith at all intellectually compelling or attractive. This last sentence is the precisely why I think you operate in the same mode as the new Atheists. You obviously imagine that the evidence on which they base their conclusions does not exist but you are like 2 adversaries fighting a war with the same premises and on the same field. If you accept the science you must be an atheist and reject all faith. You do not seem to appreciate that Christian faith can operate beyond this narrow view. Christianity is an oral tradition going back to the first century that calls us to accept the revelation of God in Jesus and commit to Kingdom ethics as disciples.

    It is a revelation that transcends this petty simplistic all or nothing view that says to propose a naturalistic mechanism of creation means that you must claim that nature is all there is and there can be no basis for faith. If there is no affinity with the new atheists as you claim why does BobRyan incessantly cite from new atheists to support his contention that to accept natural mechanism of creation mean as you say above that there can be “no rational reason to trust anything” and you must lose your faith?

    Even a child can still believe in Christmas when they finally recognize there is no Santa Claus.

    In Pauluc’s argument the “tiny bible” includes no statements (accurate or otherwise) on the subject of complex life coming into existence on planet earth apart from some kind of much-to-be-discarded “Santa Clause” story.

    1. In that view all the Bible has to offer of substance is “Love your neighbor” and “Love God” – so that it can now be married to blind-faith-belief in evolutionism.

    2. The reason that BobRyan keeps arguing the same point as Darwin, Dawkins, Provine and Meyers when it comes to the glaringly obvious fact that the Bible account cannot be married to evolutionism and that denying the Bible is in fact to embrace atheism can best be defined here – 3SG 90-91. And also in Rom 1:18-20. As we see in Rom 1:20 they are only without excuse to the extent that nature reveals “things that have been made” – and the Bible delcares that even for non-Christian pagans it is incredibly obvious.

    To sink below that level is to unwittingly make a distinctively atheist argument.

    The fact that Pauluc is not coming here to ask me that question – is more than a little interesting. There perhaps a sense that on Spectrum an anti-Bible anti-Creation argument will get more background applause.

    But surely an argument worth its salt is worth making – with or without the background applause. (At least that was my thinking when I was posting on Spectrum’s so-called “big tent”).

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  34. Tim Clement (a Catholic poster who should not be held accountable to SDA doctrine) said this –

    can you accept part of the bible as parable, and part as history?

    No one is saying that parts of the bible are true and parts are not. It is a question of what we take literally and what we take figuratively, not what we choose to think is true or false.

    We all choose to take different section of the bible as our “clear teachings which explain the rest”. As a catholic I choose to believe Jesus literally when he siad “This is my Body” at the last supper. You choose to take his words figuratively. The same decision is made when it comes to Genesis.

    I personally am agnostic as to the actual mechanism of creation by God (as a professional academic scientist, I see the great power of the theory of evolution, but I am also aware that it does not answer all our questions about origins – neither does it it attempt to!) However this is beside the point.

    We are not faced with a black or white choice here. It is not either the literally reading of Genesis is true or the whole bible is false, rather, the choice is over what truths God wishes to impart to us as we read Genesis. Are they historical and scientific truths, or are they spiritual and theological truths, or is it both?

    Clement is not using the H-G model to interpret scripture but rather the “pick-and-choose” model.

    He “chooses” Genesis as fiction since it does not fit with by-faith-alone belief in evolutionism.

    He “chooses” parts of the gospel as “real” since they do fit his beliefs.

    Certainly this method allows for us to “choose” anything we like when tossing out this or that part of the Bible. I wonder if he would accept the idea that we choose that a God-Man incarntion via “the virgin birth” is fiction or parable since it is not “observed today in nature”. He is opening a flood gate for apostacy when he endorses the “every man just pick and choose what you wish” model of objectivity.

    Hence our focus on exegesis and the H-G hermeneutic, rather than just arbitrarily selecting this or that portion as “parable” when ever belief in evolutionism dictates that we eisegete the text of the Bible in just that way.

    Since Tim has suggested more direct dialogue – I welcome his comments here.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  35. Kent proposes this gross misrepresentation in his supposedly “open letter” to EducateTruth –

    I appreciate the way Dr. Richard Davidson, J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation of Andrews University and a member of the SDA Biblical Research Institute Committee, cautioned against your heterodox theology. “Humankind’s mental and emotional faculties have also become depraved since the Fall; but even before the Fall, neither human reason nor experience could safely be trusted apart from or superior to God’s Word. This was the very point upon which Eve fell–trusting her own reason and emotions over the Word of God (Gen 3:1-6). The wisest man in history (who ultimately failed to heed his own warning) perceptively observed: ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’ (Prov 14:12).” You can read more about the contrast between your historical-critical hermeneutic and the Church’s historical-grammatical hermeneutic in Dr. Davidson’s outstanding article. I would like to see you articulate specifically why the SDA Church, in your opinion, has mistakenly rejected the historical-critical hermeneutic that you so forcefully espouse.

    In that twist Sean is accused of taking the H-C position simply because he argues in favor of the 3SG 90-91 point stating that faith in evolutionism destroys faith in God and acceptance of the Bible.

    It is interesting to see how many Kents readers on that specific forum accept that accusation uncritically.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  36. @Shane Hilde:

    Evidence is never decisive because you always need a worldview to tell you what to make of that evidence.

    Evidence, for the honest candid mind, is what creates one’s worldview to begin with. One is not simply born with a “worldview”. A worldview is developed and learned. Also, a woldview does not help you overcome the problem of subjectivity, of being potentially wrong in your beliefs.

    Your argument for choosing a “correct” worldview outside of the weight of empirical evidence that appeals to the honest rationally-candid mind, is arbitrary, circular and unfair.

    Somehow we (Christians) need to show that our standard (Bible) is the correct standard. So how are we going to get anywhere–secular person has their presuppositions and the Christian has his presuppositions.

    According to your arguments, such a feat would truly be impossible. How are the “presuppositions” of an honest person changed without appealing to some God-given ability that is shared between you outside of your own “presuppositions”?

    The temptation for many Christians is to meet the evolutionist on “neutral” ground. It’s argued that there must be some presuppositions that can can be agreed upon. They both agree science is useful, so they agree to talk in terms of science.

    Rational thought based on generally available empirical evidence must have general appeal between honest intelligent candid minds or there really is no hope of changing the “worldview” of those who have not already accepted Christianity and the authority of the Bible.

    However, the Bible says there is no such thing as neutral, the claim of neutrality is unbiblical (Matthew 12:30; Romans 8:7; James 4:4).

    You mean there is no such neutrality for minds that are not open to truth – who are in deliberate rebellion against what they already know to be true; against God. This is not the case when you’re talking about honest seekers for truth.

    You can’t defend biblical authority by abandoning it. By accepting the terms of the evolutionist, you’ve agreed to start the debate by doubting the Bible’s authority. You’ve already lost the argument.

    Not if the person you’re talking to is an honest seeker for truth. You’ve won the argument if you can actually present something that will appeal to the honest intelligent mind in front of you in favor of the Bible’s credibility as the Word of God. I’ve seen it happen many times.

    No one can approach the evidence without presuppositions and if they think they can, that’s a presupposition.

    No one can approach the evidence without using their God-given intelligence and perceptive powers. Now, one can reject convictions of truth that are brought to the mind by these powers once the evidence is considered. But, such a rejection of what one’s mind has grasped as “true” is dishonest, a form of rebellion against God, against His gift of intelligence and rational thought.

    This is the mystery of sin. Sin is irrational by definition. There is no rational reason for sin, for the rejection of what one knows to be true.

    We’re to stand on the Word while defending it (Titus 1:9).

    That’s circular reasoning my friend. We are to stand on our God-given powers of reasoning to move away from the logical inconsistency of circular reasoning to evidence-based reasoning to establish faith in the Word of God among those who have yet to grasp the reality of the Bible, and the SDA interpretation of it in particular, as the Word of God.

    There are those (including Christians) who will object to this because it’s circular reasoning; however, this isn’t necessarily a logical fallacy.

    Circular reasoning is always a logical fallacy. No one who understands the rules of logic, of presenting a logical argument, will be convinced by an argument that is so obviously circular.

    For example, when someone tells me they had a dream, and I ask them for proof, is it logical for them to respond, “Because I said so”? That would be circular reasoning, right?

    There’s a difference between internally derived truths and externally derived truths. I like vanilla ice-cream. That’s an internally derived fact. No one can argue with me about the “truth” of this statement. The same is true about your description of your own internal world. The only thing someone else would have to go on to believe you when you’re talking about your internal world is based on how they percieve your overall character – i.e., are you generally trustworthy?

    Beyond this, the “truth” of your internal world need have nothing to do with external reality that affects those beyond yourself. The Bible talks about general reality, not just your own internal world. Therefore, in order to defend the Bible’s “truth” regarding general reality, you must support this notion by appealing to generally-available experiential/empirical evidence.

    Why then does God use this same method for proving that Scripture is, in fact, His Word? The reason this isn’t a logical fallacy is because the person who had the dream is the authority on the subject of his own dream—not some other arbitrarily chosen person (then it would be a viscous circular argument, which is a fallacy).

    God isn’t simply talking about His own internal reality. He’s talking about a generally shared reality. Therefore, in order to convince someone else that the reality he’s talking about really affects them as well, he must present evidence that is available to them as well in support of his argument. So, that is exactly what He does. God never expects anyone to believe Him based only on His Word without any appeal to generally-available evidence.

    An ultimate standard is necessary in order to interpret the evidence properly. Evidence alone does nothing to change a persons worldview.

    The ultimate standard must be a commonly shared standard if it is to appeal to anyone beyond yourself. That common standard is generally-shared empirical reality and generally-shared intelligence and reasoning capabilities…

    Step out of the trap of circular reasoning my friend. The enemies of faith having nothing to fear from obviously circular arguments. Those who are the most ardent enemies of our Church, who are the most viscious in attacking God and anything to do with God, are very happy to point to Christians who make such circular arguments and say, “You see, religion and science are rationally different. Religion is based on faith alone with science is based on reason and rational thought. You may have your religion, just don’t call it rational – don’t call it ‘science'”. These individuals are most upset when someone dares to suggest that a religion, like the SDA form of Christianity, can be both rational and scientific… that it can actually appeal to rational intelligent minds outside of circular arguments…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  37. At Spectrum, David Read wrote, in reply to Sean Pitman:

    [from Sean Pitman]You may have arrived at the correct conclusion, but by means which do not appeal to the rational intelligent honestly-candid mind.

    But most people arrive at the correct conclusion about origins exactly as I did: They believe Scripture to be the word of God, and they allow Scripture to guide their interpretation of the data from nature and science. For about 30 years of Gallup polling, about 40% of the U.S. population has stated that they believe God created the human race pretty much in its present form within the last 10,000 years. Do you really think those 120 million people sat down and objectively weighed the scientific evidence in an unbiased manner, and concluded that the evidence leaned toward God specially creating humanity? Of course not. Even to pose the question is show how ridiculous is the idea. The 120 million creationists believe what they do because they believe the Bible. Typically, they belong to conservative churches, like the SDA Church, that have a high view of Scripture. And the 120 million or so that say God guided the process of evolution, do you think they examined the evidence and found that theistic evolution was the most empirically valid construct? Of course not. Typically, they belong to liberal churches that have made peace with Darwinism and developed a blended (or compromised) theology.

    I suspect that your ivory tower, reason uber alles idea of faith formation is actually quite rare in practice.

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  38. Re Sean’s Quote

    “Step out of the trap of circular reasoning my friend. The enemies of faith having nothing to fear from obviously circular arguments. Those who are the most ardent enemies of our Church, who are the most viscious in attacking God and anything to do with God, are very happy to point to Christians who make such circular arguments and say, “You see, religion and science are rationally different. Religion is based on faith alone with science is based on reason and rational thought. You may have your religion, just don’t call it rational – don’t call it ‘science’”. These individuals are most upset when someone dares to suggest that a religion, like the SDA form of Christianity, can be both rational and scientific… that it can actually appeal to rational intelligent minds outside of circular arguments…”

    Dear Adventist friends

    Here lies reason, the kind of reason that has always advanced the knowledge of mankind out of the realm of myth.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  39. The origins debate is a worldview conflict. Creationists and evolutionists have been throwing evidence at each other for a long time now. The answer is not necessarily more evidence, but which worldview (way of interpreting) is the correct way to understand the evidence. I suggest is the biblical worldview alone that makes science and reasoning possible.

    I think a bit presumptuous to think the critics of the Bible just need more evidence. According to Romans 1:18-20, everyone has an innate knowledge of the God of creation. The problem is not the lack of evidence, but that some people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Evidence can be used to help them understand this, but it should not be relied on as the sole source of knowledge. Otherwise this is rationalism, which is clearly anti-biblical. Not to be confused with using reason.

    Appealing to someone’s reason is not the same as relying on empirical evidence to prove something. Assuming your reasoning is reliable is a presupposition, one which only can be explained through the biblical worldview. Thus you would use the Bible to show how their worldview is self-refuting and ultimately not consistent.

    You can rationally come to false interpretations of the evidence. There are many examples of creationists and evolutionists looking at the same bit of evidence but drawing different conclusions based on their worldview (their collection of presuppositions).

    There is no such thing as neutrality for anyone. To suggest there is, is unbiblical.

    Keep in mind I’m not boo-pooing the use of empirical evidence. Use empirical evidence to confirm the Bible, but not to prove it. When you use it to prove it, you’ve elevated empiricism above God’s Word.

    If our God given powers of reason are not submitted to His Word, then there is no way for us to properly interpret the natural world.

    Any appeal to an ultimate standard is circular reasoning. You make an appeal to empirical evidence, but has that been shown to be empirically true? What’s the empirical evidence that it works and is even applicable to all truth claims? I would agree that there are some truth claims that can be verified through empirical methods, but not all, and is limited when it comes to the Bible.

    It should also be noted that there are certain special cases where circular reasoning is unavoidable and not necessarily fallacious. Remember that begging the question is not invalid; it is considered fallacious because it is arbitrary. But what if it were not arbitrary? There are some situations where the conclusion of an argument must be assumed at the outset, but is not arbitrary. Here is an example:

    1. Without laws of logic, we could not make an argument.
    2. We can make an argument.
    3. Therefore, there must be laws of logic.

    Most of the examples of circular reasoning used by evolutionists are of the fallacious begging-the-question variety—they are arbitrary. Consider the evolutionist who argues:

    The Bible cannot be correct because it says that stars were created in a single day; but we now know that it takes millions of years for stars to form.

    By assuming that stars form over millions of years, the critic has taken for granted that they were not supernaturally created. He has assumed the Bible is wrong in his attempt to argue that the Bible is wrong; he has begged the question.

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  40. Re Prof Kent’s quote

    (From David Read)

    “Do you really think those 120 million people sat down and objectively weighed the scientific evidence in an unbiased manner, and concluded that the evidence leaned toward God specially creating humanity? ”

    Dear Prof Kent and David

    They should.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  41. can be both rational and scientific… that it can actually appeal to rational intelligent minds

    I agree. The Bible does and can appeal to a persons reason and that many scientific findsing confirm the Bible; however, approaching the validity of the Bible solely human terms elavates man to a position he is not meant to be or capable of handling.

    Faith is not created by man, it is a gift of God and grows as a result of it being exercised.

    I’m not against the use of science to confirm the Bible. It’s just not what the authority of the Bible rests on.

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  42. Shane,

    You wrote:

    The origins debate is a worldview conflict. Creationists and evolutionists have been throwing evidence at each other for a long time now. The answer is not necessarily more evidence, but which worldview (way of interpreting) is the correct way to understand the evidence. I suggest is the biblical worldview alone that makes science and reasoning possible.

    The answer is more evidence when you’re talking about people who are honest seekers for truth. Simply telling someone, who is an honest seeker, that they have the wrong world view “by definition” is not a rational argument.

    I think a bit presumptuous to think the critics of the Bible just need more evidence. According to Romans 1:18-20, everyone has an innate knowledge of the God of creation.

    This passage is not talking about an “innate” knowledge of God at all. It is talking about knowledge that is based on empirical evidence – “being understood from what has been made.”

    The problem is not the lack of evidence, but that some people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

    There is no “unrighteousness” or “sin” is honest error. If one is not deliberately suppressing known truth, there is no unrighteousness. There is simply error without sin.

    If one is deliberately suppressing known truth, the evidence itself isn’t the problem. The evidence may be plentiful and its meaning clear, but if the individual doesn’t like what the evidence is saying, God can’t remedy that situation with more evidence…

    Evidence can be used to help them understand this, but it should not be relied on as the sole source of knowledge. Otherwise this is rationalism, which is clearly anti-biblical. Not to be confused with using reason.

    Using one’s God-given reasoning abilties to discover God is not anti-biblical. It is about as biblical as you can get. Nowhere does the Bible even suggest that God expects belief without a basis in the weight of empirical evidence that is first understood by the God-given mind.

    Appealing to someone’s reason is not the same as relying on empirical evidence to prove something.

    Yes, it is. Because, without an appeal to empirical evidence, what you have left is circular reasoning which is not reasonable by definition.

    Assuming your reasoning is reliable is a presupposition, one which only can be explained through the biblical worldview. Thus you would use the Bible to show how their worldview is self-refuting and ultimately not consistent.

    Come on now. What did people do before there was a Bible? Or, what do people do who don’t have the Bible now? Is it impossible for such people to rationally consider the natural world, detect the Signature of a God or God-like intelligence, and come to a rational appreciation of God in this manner? – and then use the same rational God-given mind to determine that the Bible is also raationally credible in its claims to be The Word of God?

    You can rationally come to false interpretations of the evidence.

    That’s right. That’s why there is always a risk of being wrong from a rational perspective. The only way you can avoid all risk of being wrong is to define your position as “true by definition”. That’s the attraction of empirically-blind faith. There is no risk to being wrong and no possibility of change.

    This is the very reason why my LDS friends, who use the very same arguments you use, will not change their minds regarding the Book of Mormon – since their faith in the Book of Mormon is “true by definition”.

    There are many examples of creationists and evolutionists looking at the same bit of evidence but drawing different conclusions based on their worldview (their collection of presuppositions).

    Right – and there are many examples of Christians looking at the same passage of Scripture and coming to different conclusions on what it’s saying. Honest errors cannot be avoided when you’re a subjective human being. It doesn’t help to simply declare your position true by definition.

    There is no such thing as neutrality for anyone. To suggest there is, is unbiblical.

    There is such a thing as shared reality and a common origin and basis for rational thought – which is very biblical.

    Keep in mind I’m not boo-pooing the use of empirical evidence. Use empirical evidence to confirm the Bible, but not to prove it. When you use it to prove it, you’ve elevated empiricism above God’s Word.

    There is no such thing as absolute “proof” in science or in any form of a rational defense of any view of the empirical world that exists outside of the mind. One can use rational thought and tests of theories regarding the meaning of the empirical evidence to approach truth, but never to fully realize truth.

    If our God given powers of reason are not submitted to His Word, then there is no way for us to properly interpret the natural world.

    Not true. The Bible is simply not needed to properly interpret the natural world to a very useful degree. Again, what do people do who do not have access to the Bible? According to your argument, it would be impossible for them to recognize anything about God from the study of the empirical evidence available to them. This is not a biblical concept.

    Any appeal to an ultimate standard is circular reasoning.

    Not if that standard is a shared standard between all parties involved in a discussion. If certain of the parties involved have not grown up automatically appreciating authority of the Bible, the Bible cannot be used as your default source of authority to prove itself. That’s circular reasoning that doesn’t appeal to anyone but those who already subscribe to this position. In order to attract honest seekers for truth toward a new position, you must appeal to a common sourse of authority – i.e., the generally-available empirical evidence and reasoning capabilities of rational intelligent God-given minds.

    You make an appeal to empirical evidence, but has that been shown to be empirically true?

    With a very useful degree of predictive value, yes, it has.

    Without any appeal to empirical evidence, your form of reasoning has no predictive value that will appeal to any mind other than those who have already accepted your same point of reference.

    What’s the empirical evidence that it works and is even applicable to all truth claims? I would agree that there are some truth claims that can be verified through empirical methods, but not all, and is limited when it comes to the Bible.

    Empirical evidence and rational thought is always limited. It is never perfect short of access to all information and all knowledge. Yet, just because the empirical evidence is incomplete and our reasoning ablities subject to the potential for error, doesn’t mean that they are not useful or that we have access to any better means of identifying truth from error…

    It should also be noted that there are certain special cases where circular reasoning is unavoidable and not necessarily fallacious. Remember that begging the question is not invalid; it is considered fallacious because it is arbitrary. But what if it were not arbitrary? There are some situations where the conclusion of an argument must be assumed at the outset, but is not arbitrary. Here is an example:

    1. Without laws of logic, we could not make an argument.
    2. We can make an argument.
    3. Therefore, there must be laws of logic.

    Most of the examples of circular reasoning used by evolutionists are of the fallacious begging-the-question variety—they are arbitrary. Consider the evolutionist who argues:

    The Bible cannot be correct because it says that stars were created in a single day; but we now know that it takes millions of years for stars to form.

    By assuming that stars form over millions of years, the critic has taken for granted that they were not supernaturally created. He has assumed the Bible is wrong in his attempt to argue that the Bible is wrong; he has begged the question.

    By this argument one would be unable to detect if any particular biblical interpretation were right or wrong. What if the Bible said that the American Indians were decendants of the lost tribes of Isreal? – while DNA evidence showed them to be from an Asian background? You’d argue, in a ciruclar manner, that the DNA evidence must be wrong since the Bible, and your interpretation of it, is true by definition.

    While we must assume, without absolute proof, that we are rational before we can have a rational discussion, this assumption is based on a shared reality within which this assumption produces a useful level of predictive value when applied to empirical evidence within that shared reality…

    If your views about that shared reality are “true by definition” you are making a non-testable non-falsifiable claim about that shared reality which is irrational from that particular perspective. In other words, there is no predictive power to your argument because your argument is not subject to testing or the outcome of any test…

    The Bible does and can appeal to a persons reason and that many scientific findings confirm the Bible; however, approaching the validity of the Bible solely human terms elevates man to a position he is not meant to be or capable of handling.

    We cannot approach the Bible as more than we are – i.e., human. We must investigate and interpret the claims of the Bible from the human perspective using our God-given human abilities. Again, we cannot be more than we have been given.

    Faith is not created by man, it is a gift of God and grows as a result of it being exercised.

    Intelligence is not created by man either. None of our inherent abilities were created by us. This does not mean, therefore, that we can be more than what we are and what we have been given. Faith is not some magical method by which we can obtain useful information about the world in which we live beyond what our God-given abilities to think and reason from the empirical evidence are telling us. Faith is simply a process of accepting as true what are minds tell us is most likely true without obtaining absolute proof.

    I’m not against the use of science to confirm the Bible. It’s just not what the authority of the Bible rests on.

    If one uses science to “confirm” the Bible, one is indeed affecting one’s faith via such confirmation. If there is no such support or “confirmation”, what then is left as a rational basis to support the authority of the Bible? Faith that is entirely devoid of empirical support is not useful to even the honest seeker for truth. God does not expect us to blindly believe in anything about the world in which we live for which there is no real empirical support.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  43. Re Shane’s Quote

    “Faith is not created by man, it is a gift of God and grows as a result of it being exercised.”

    Hi Shane

    Let’s test your proposition. Think of humans that had or have faith in polytheistic gods. Did or does that faith come from God or themselves?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  44. Sean Pitman: What did people do before there was a Bible? Or, what do people do who don’t have the Bible now?

    If not for the Bible, what external empirical evidence would lead an impartial person to conclude that life was created in 6 literal days, that life was only 6000 years old, and that every piece of land was covered by water about 4000 years ago?

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  45. David said:
    But most people arrive at the correct conclusion about origins exactly as I did: They believe Scripture to be the word of God, and they allow Scripture to guide their interpretation of the data from nature and science. For about 30 years of Gallup polling, about 40% of the U.S. population has stated that they believe God created the human race pretty much in its present form within the last 10,000 years. Do you really think those 120 million people sat down and objectively weighed the scientific evidence in an unbiased manner, and concluded that the evidence leaned toward God specially creating humanity?

    The Romans 1 and Romans 10 argument is missing from the statement above.

    We are not in a situation where people living in a dark cave – simply “dream up creation” all on their own without any evidence being observed in nature.

    Prior to Darwin’s success in popularizing the evolutionism’s storytelling, our atheist friends were subject to a great deal of the “giggle factor” each time they suggested that life just managed to “show up” all on its own no matter the fact that you don’t see such things happen in real life.

    Most atheists today will gladly agree that the stories found in evolutionism allow them to finally live as intellectually fulfilled atheists supposing that “there is no god”.

    An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.”

    I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
    — Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1986), page 6

    Thus the atheist’s solution is actually “not” apparent when viewing nature – one must carefully craft a Darwin-esk story line to get to such conclusions.

    The bottom line is that WITHOUT all that evolutionist storytelling clanging in their ears – those 120 million people likely observed that “bird come from birds – not reptiles or plants”.

    Having said that – I will admit that most of them were probably raised in or near Christian homes and had some idea about the Bible view of origins even before they were old enough to notice confirming or disconfirming evidence in nature.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  46. Sean seems to be at war with the idea of faith, which is believing something that one cannot possibly know or prove. By faith we believe that there is an unseen world, a hidden reality that is even more important than empirical reality. Admittedly, faith is a very frustrating thing; we’d all prefer to know, and not to have to exercise faith. But God asks us to exercise faith, and Jesus calls us “blessed” if we can have faith that is not based upon empirical proof. John 20:29

    Faith is the essence of Christianity (and every other religion). Believers do not like to see faith belittled simply because it is faith, not provable fact. So it doesn’t surprise me that Sean now finds himself virtually alone in insisting upon the illegitimacy of faith.

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  47. David Read,

    You wrote:

    Sean seems to be at war with the idea of faith, which is believing something that one cannot possibly know or prove.

    What I’m against is not the idea of taking a leap of faith beyond that which can be absolutely known or proven. After all, this is what science itself is all about. What I’m against is taking a leap of faith with regard to any particular view of the world in which we live, without any basis, whatsoever, in empirical evidence.

    By faith we believe that there is an unseen world, a hidden reality that is even more important than empirical reality.

    I too believe in an unseen world, a hidden reality, but not without empirical evidence for this belief or faith. Just as physicists believe in many things that can’t be directly seen, empirical reality itself points to the existence of underlying realities that cannot be directly seen.

    For example, Jesus himself explained how one could determine the existence of the Holy Spirit, who cannot be directly seen, by noting the empirical effects of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit works in the empirical world – as the wind moves the leaves of the trees. – John 3:8 NIV

    Admittedly, faith is a very frustrating thing; we’d all prefer to know, and not to have to exercise faith. But God asks us to exercise faith, and Jesus calls us “blessed” if we can have faith that is not based upon empirical proof. John 20:29

    Faith is even more frustrating when it is completely devoid of empirical evidence of any kind. We’re not talking about absolute “proof” here. I’ve made this point so clear so many times that I’m mystified as to why you keep suggesting that I’m asking for absolute empirical proof when I’m only asking for at least some basis in empirical evidence – the weight of evidence from the individual perspective with at least the potential for falsification.

    Faith is the essence of Christianity (and every other religion). Believers do not like to see faith belittled simply because it is faith, not provable fact. So it doesn’t surprise me that Sean now finds himself virtually alone in insisting upon the illegitimacy of faith.

    Not even science can be performed without making leaps of “faith”, or “logic” if you prefer, into areas of understanding that cannot be perfectly known and are not perfectly knowable. Yet, these leaps are not uneducated or without useful predictive value which can be used to gauge the likelihood of success. While never reaching 100% perfection, educated leaps of faith or logic need not be completely blind to empirical reality if they are to be useful in what they are saying about empirical reality.

    The same thing is true, or at least can be true, of religious faith. There is no need for one’s science to be independent of one’s religion. They can be, and I think should be, one in the same thing.

    And, as surprising as it may sound to you, I’m not alone in my views on the science of faith – a very important and relevant topic…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  48. David Reed,

    You wrote:

    “I’m not saying that the natural world does not speak to the power and attributes of God; certainly it does. God’s two books complement each other. But nature doesn’t prove creation, the existence of God, or the divine origin of Scripture in a logically rigorous, compulsive way. It is still necessary to have faith in God, his Word, and its teaching that God created the world in 6 days in the not too distant past. Faith is still crucial and indispensable to the enterprise.”

    Again, while nothing is absolutely provable, nature, or empirical evidence, suggests, quite strongly in a logically rigorous if not a “compulsive” way, that there is a God and that the Bible is in fact the written Word of God.

    Anything that is believed about the nature of the world that exists outside of the mind, to include the notion that the Bible is the Word of God, requires a leap into that which is not absolutely known or knowable. If such leaps are taken without any empirical basis in physical reality, they are blind and their likely success or failure cannot be judged to any rational degree. If, however, such leaps are taken based on at least some empirical evidence and rules of rational thought, the predictive value of such leaps can be determined, ahead of time, to some useful degree of confidence. While perfect confidence can never be reached, a useful faith, regarding external realities, is always based on at least some empirical evidence and rational thought.

    This suggestion is in direct opposition to the claims of Phil Brantley who is arguing that even if the Bible claimed that 2+2=5 or that the Earth was flat that he would believe the Bible despite what his senses were actually telling him about the world. It is for this reason that his faith in the Bible is entirely blind to empirical reality – entirely immune from even the potential of falsification since he has defined the Bible, and his own interpretations of the Bible in particular, as true “by definition” – immune from any form of critical investigation, testing, or even the potential of falsification.

    From my own perspective, I don’t find faith that is completely blind and independent of empirical realities to be useful or helpful when it comes to establishing a solid hope in a bright literal future. However, if one assumes Brantley’s position on empirically-blind faith, the rest of his conclusions are logical – to include his suggestion that it really doesn’t matter what the LSU science professors are teaching their students about the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence in favor of Darwinian evolution. It doesn’t matter because faith, according to him, is entirely independent of empirical evidence. It is only because the poor students are ignorant of this fact that so many of them mistakenly let empirical evidence actually affect their faith. How ignorant is that?

    “But I wonder how it doesn’t occur to you, when you use phrases like “honest, open and sincere heart”, that this is not the language of science, but of faith. If something can really be proved, it doesn’t matter how sincere anyone’s heart is. When we speak of a sincere heart, we’re talking about the qualities of faith, not of reason and logic.”

    Such statements suggest a degree of naivete regarding how science really works. There are many examples were scientists have been less than forthright with what they knew the evidence was actually saying. Yet, true science that actually produces the highest predictive power for hypotheses regarding the external world must be done with the highest degree of honesty that one can muster.

    Also, your oft-repeated suggestion that science/empiricism, or my position in faith, is about absolute proof is mistaken. There is no such thing as absolute proof when your talking about the nature of the world that exists outside of the mind. It is for this reason that all notions of the reality that exists outside the mind are open to the potential for falsification.

    This is contrary to Brantley’s position on faith since his faith is not open to even the potential for falsification, for being wrong. His faith is true and right “by definition”.

    I suggest to you that it is actually a more humble position to at least admit the possibility of error when it comes to faith in anything – even the Bible and the various interpretations of the Bible that one may entertain as being potentially true.

    “As to the Ravi Zacharis story, I’ve never argued that apologetics is not needed when we have the Bible. To the contrary, I strongly believe in apologetics and believe we need to do a much better job of it in the Adventist Church. The creation/evolution controversy is within the domain of apologetics, as are many other areas. Creationism is basically Christian apologetics and Darwinism is basically atheist apologetics. My problem with those who want to teach Darwinism in Adventist schools is that they are essentially engaging in atheistic apologetics when the church is paying them to promote the Adventist faith, an opposite philosophy and worldview.”

    Yet, if the SDA faith is not, or at least need not be, based on any form of empirical reality and rational thought or apologetics, then there really is no problem with theistic or atheistic apologetics being presented in SDA classrooms. If apologetic arguments really have nothing to do with one’s faith, if one’s faith can truly exist independent of the significant weight of empirical evidence and the rational interpretation of that evidence, then who cares what scientists say about that evidence? After all, given Brantley’s position, science and faith are completely separate enterprises where one is not at all involved with or dependent upon the other.

    For most people, especially well-educated young people, this clearly isn’t the case. Science and faith are very closely tied together. Science dramatically affects the faith of a great many of our youth – and rightly so. For the honest intelligent mind, a mind that is honestly seeking to know and follow truth, it is irrational, not at all attractive, to suggest that a useful or correct faith is actually so opposed to what otherwise seems like an overwhelming weight of empirical evidence.

    In short, the philosophy of the virtues of empirically-blind faith, a faith that is not truly dependent upon the weight of empirical evidence, will end up killing the Church. The youth of the Church simply aren’t going to buy into this notion to any significant degree… and I, for one, don’t blame them.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  49. @Eddie:

    If not for the Bible, what external empirical evidence would lead an impartial person to conclude that life was created in 6 literal days, that life was only 6000 years old, and that every piece of land was covered by water about 4000 years ago?

    If the Bible didn’t present information that we couldn’t get from nature alone, the Bible would be irrelevant. This does not mean, however, that the credibility of the Bible is not dependent upon empirical evidence. Without the support of empirical evidence, there would be no useful predictive value behind anything that the Bible says – about either the physical or metaphysical worlds.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  50. Re Sean’s Quote

    “I too believe in an unseen world, a hidden reality, but not without empirical evidence for this belief or faith. Just as physicists believe in many things that can’t be directly seen, empirical reality itself points to the existence of underlying realities that cannot be directly seen.”

    Precisely. Hence the need for an objective, empirical method to test it-science. Neither biblical creation or evolution over billions of years has been ‘seen’ by man. But science can try its best to explore origins. What science cannot do, and still be objective, is be the biased tool of faith or non faith.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  51. David Read: Sean seems to be at war with the idea of faith, which is believing something that one cannot possibly know or prove. By faith we believe that there is an unseen world, a hidden reality that is even more important than empirical reality. Admittedly, faith is a very frustrating thing; we’d all prefer to know, and not to have to exercise faith. But God asks us to exercise faith, and Jesus calls us “blessed” if we can have faith that is not based upon empirical proof. John 20:29
    Faith is the essence of Christianity (and every other religion). Believers do not like to see faith belittled simply because it is faith, not provable fact. So it doesn’t surprise me that Sean now finds himself virtually alone in insisting upon the illegitimacy of faith.

    I would refer to you my May 11 statement

    The Romans 1 and Romans 10 argument is missing from the statement above.

    We are not in a situation where people living in a dark cave – simply “dream up creation” all on their own without any evidence being observed in nature.

    Prior to Darwin’s success in popularizing the evolutionism’s storytelling, our atheist friends were subject to a great deal of the “giggle factor” each time they suggested that life just managed to “show up” all on its own no matter the fact that you don’t see such things happen in real life.

    Most atheists today will gladly agree that the stories found in evolutionism allow them to finally live as intellectually fulfilled atheists supposing that “there is no god”.

    The issue is not “faith OR evidence in nature”. The issue is that evidence in nature is being seen by all – even non-Christians — because we do not all live in a dark cave prior to coming to the Bible. There is no such thing as the context where we know nothing about nature “and then” are introduced to the Bible in a kind of faith + nothing scenario.

    As Romans 1 points out – prior to even coming to the Bible we are all exposed to the evidence in nature that reveals to each of us what Paul calls the invisible attributes of God.

    Observations:

    1. The “I never knew about nature before I accepted the Bible as God’s Word” scenario — does not exist.

    2. We are not saying that you must choose to accept observations in nature and reject the Bible to have true faith.

    3. The Bible clearly defines a much finer granularity in detail about the origins of all complex life than you can observe by staring at a field of plants and animals today. However faith in largely un-verifiable details is based on confirmed faith in much more mundane foundational facts that dictate a supernatural creation by an Intelligent Allpowerful God.

    Take for example the war in heaven. We do not observe in nature – Angels at war. But we do observe good vs evil on earth and then when we read about Satan in Rev 12 or in 1Pet 5:8 or James 4 we have a way to relate to it.

    By contrast – Adam and Eve saw in nature a perfectly peaceful environment nothing like the story about war in heaven. For them belief would have to have been made based on observations about God “in person” and the angels that were relating the account.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  52. I think that Beth, at Spectrum, has summarized well the rationalizing of Sean’s and Bob’s rational candid inquiring minds:

    http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2011/04/26/open-letter-educate-truth?page=1

    There is no theory that YEC/YLC scientists can use that explains the data we have – except for resorting to either denial or continuous appeals to the miraculous.

    – It was a miracle that the fossils were arranged in such a pattern – or fossils aren’t really in much of a pattern (denial).
    – It was a miracle that the heat of continents zooming around didn’t melt the earth.
    – It was a miracle that the laws of physics worked in vastly different ways before than they do now, and a miracle that life was sustained during that time when the laws acted in ways incompatible with life. (Even though the way those same laws work now is touted as evidence for the universe being primed for life.)
    – It was a miracle that we have nests and footprints and tracks from generations of creatures all being constructed in the middle of a raging flood.
    – It was a miracle that flowering plants were able to run to higher ground during the flood thus ending up higher in the geological column along with more recent mammals and humans.
    – It was a miracle that humans were able to grab all their houses and artifacts and all the previous dead bodies when they ran to higher ground, thus leaving no trace of their existence except in the highest geologic level.
    – It was a miracle that pollen from certain species is found only at certain geologic levels even though raging flood waters deposited them.
    – And one could keep going for a very, very long time.

    It would certainly be possible for non-believing scientists to support a theory that said the earth is young, life appeared suddenly on it, and there was a recent world-wide flood if the evidence was there. One does not have to be a believer to see a pattern of data showing this, even minus the supernatural stuff. But there really aren’t any that see that pattern, and even almost all believers who are scientists don’t see it.

    There are those of us who care enough about science to insist that the process be understood for what it is. Apologetics is another animal and confusing the two makes for unhappy theologians and unhappy scientists.

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  53. Professor Kent: I think that Beth, at Spectrum, has summarized well the rationalizing of Sean’s and Bob’s rational candid inquiring minds:
    http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2011/04/26/open-letter-educate-truth?page=1
    There is no theory that YEC/YLC scientists can use that explains the data we have – except for resorting to either denial or continuous appeals to the miraculous.
    – It was a miracle that the fossils were arranged in such a pattern –

    The evolutionist argues that the precambrian explosion was “a miracle”.

    The evolutionist argues that the first living cell was “a miracle”.

    The evolutionist argues that the lack of a complete geologic column with all layers present out to the 100+ miles or so that a 3 billion years-of-life theory must account for – is a “miracle”.

    The informed atheist evolutionist Colin Patterson argues that you cannot simply “make up stories from the fossil record” about how one thing came from another — because such stories are not science – though they are easy enough to tell.

    The evolutionist argues for a miracle when asked to give an example of new genetic information added to a genome — something that can actually be seen in real life. (See Dawkins 11 seconds of flummoxed silence in answer to that evolution 101 softball question).

    By contrast – the Christian argues for things like sorting during a flood where slow moving animals are at the bottom and fast moving competitors are at the top as well as the argument that turbidity currents will sort into layers.

    All in all – the evolutionist has a lot of “don’t expect to see what I am talking about in real nature” to “explain”.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  54. Kent quotes Beth as saying –

    – It was a miracle that humans were able to grab all their houses and artifacts and all the previous dead bodies when they ran to higher ground, thus leaving no trace of their existence except in the highest geologic level.

    Can’t remember if Beth claimed to be SDA. From the quote above – the answer is apparently “no”. Because that is not what SDAs claim.

    Oh well…

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  55. Professor Kent: It would certainly be possible for non-believing scientists to support a theory that said the earth is young, life appeared suddenly on it, and there was a recent world-wide flood if the evidence was there. One does not have to be a believer to see a pattern of data showing this, even minus the supernatural stuff. But there really aren’t any that see that pattern, and even almost all believers who are scientists don’t see it.

    Clearly the – “glass is always half-empty” crowd of naysayers is turning a blind eye to the young earth young life geochronometers seen “in nature” to make such sweeping false claims above.

    Oh well…what else was expected?

    The obvious I.D seen in all stages of life right down to a single living cell is as usuall “ignored” by our evolutionist friends.

    The sedimentation rates, erosion rates, C14 equillibrium problem, Helium levels in the upper atmosphere, lack of geologic column mass as predicted by deep time earth age groups etc don’t seem to be “noticed” by our atheist friends and apparently not by a few of our non-atheist friends as well.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  56. However I do appreciate the fact that Kent is willing to tell Educate Truth about some of the arguments being offerred to EducateTruth over at Spectrum.

    One wonders if any of the other Spectrum posters are as bold and direct so as to actually “post” here without all the Spectrum applause and clapping to accompany each post in favor of belief in evolution.

    Inquiring minds would like to know.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  57. Kent, I just want to remind you not to take too much aid and comfort from the little intramural dispute we’ve been having. I still agree completely with Clifford Goldstein that one cannot be a Darwinist and an Adventist at the same time. If you say you’re an an Adventist and really believe in Darwinism, you’re kidding yourself.

    Based upon our dialog on one of the Spectrum threads, I’m aware that you subscribe to sociobiology, which, unlike the controversy over origins, does not involve hypothetical events of the very distant past but rather human behavior in the present. Sociobiology is actually demonstrable nonsense, and completely contrary to a Christian worldview, yet you seem to believe in it because of your commitment to mainstream science. I don’t think belief in sociobiology is consistent with being an Adventist believer (as opposed to a cultural Adventist).

    It also ought to be of concern to you that you quote Beth approvingly. Your true colors are showing. It is as I suspected: you have exposed Sean’s faulty apologetic not because you’re a man of faith, but because you’re not really a man of the Adventist faith.

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  58. David Read: I don’t think belief in sociobiology is consistent with being an Adventist believer (as opposed to a cultural Adventist).

    David, it’s very easy to demonstrate that genes regulate the behaviors, including social behaviors, of animals, and that the frequencies of genes change over time. It’s just as easy to demonstrate that genes regulate the behaviors of humans, and that the frequencies of these genes change as well. There is thousands-fold more evidence to support this very basic tenet of sociobiology than a flood that covered every single scrap of land. You can disagree with me, but I can show you tons of papers to prove your ignorance on the matter. Tons. At Spectrum, you defended your position on sociobiology by citing decades-old material, and conceded that you have no desire to engage the contemporary literature.

    There is NOTHING anti-SDA in acknowledging the basic tenets of Sociobiology.

    I’m continually amused by your smug judgments regarding my beliefs. You have declared repeatedly that I am a liar about my faith and views; that I am a Darwinist (which is as vague a term as any that exists); that I’m not a man of the Adventist faith; and God only knows what is coming next. Who do you seriously think you are to know my heart, David? I am astonished at your self-proclaimed ability to judge me. Does this ability on your part demonstrate that you are a faithful and exemplary Adventist?

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  59. Re: Prof Kent’s quote:

    “Who do you seriously think you are to know my heart, David? I am astonished at your self-proclaimed ability to judge me. Does this ability on your part demonstrate that you are a faithful and exemplary Adventist?”

    Dear Prof. Kent

    Or Sean for that matter?

    As the worst apostate on this forum, I am constantly amazed at the vehement attacks that are propagated by Adventists upon Adventists. Bring them down on my head instead of each other, I likely deserve it!

    Whose doctrinally right? I don’t know but is it really justification for such kind of invective?

    I, of all people am the least informed as to how any God would judge such behaviour. But even at a cyber distance it causes me distress and physical pain.

    Gentleman, can we work for a better loving future together no matter what we believe?

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  60. THE EVILS OF SOCIOBIOLOGY?

    Brother David,

    After my angry kneejerk response to your post last night, I spent some time in prayerful contemplation of how best to respond to you. I don’t know whether I am capable of eliciting from you a more conciliatory tone.

    I believe that your attitude toward Sociobiology stems from a complete lack of understanding of what sociobiology is all about. Sociobiology is a very simple, straightforward discipline: the study of the biological basis of social behavior. To take the position that such study is illegimate or anti-Adventist presupposes that there is something wrong for us to study social behavior. Is this the position you really want to take?

    There have been many stereotypes about sociobiology, and I suspect you have fallen into accepting these without taking the time to learn what the discipline actually examines. Sociobiology, through the testing of alternative hypotheses, offers very elegant explanations for the following:

    – When and why male primates, lions, and mice kill the infants of others and not their own
    – Why vampire bats share blood meals with cooperating individuals, but not those who defect (take from others and never give)
    – Why the haplo-diploid genetic system and high levels of inbreeding predispose the worker caste of eusocial insects to give up their own personal reproduction
    – Why tit-for-tat is a superior strategy for iteractive interactions that involve a decision to either cooperate or defect
    – Why some reef fishes change sex from female to male as they grow, and others change from male to female (the reverse sequence), and how local population density of fishes can influence the production of “supermales”
    – Why the live-and-let-live system of World War I trench warfar emerged in some situations and not others
    – Why females of many animal species enter “false” estrous to protect their existing offspring
    – Why some sea lions on a beach acquire virtually all of the matings and others are left with essentially none
    – Why children are at statistically far greater risk of suffering violence from step-parents compared to biological parents
    – Why female toads prefer to mate with the largest males, who give the lowest-pitched calls
    – Why male peacocks and widowbirds have exceptionally lengthy tails despite the fact such tails predispose them to higher rates of predation
    – Why expropriative crime can increase the number of offspring an animal (non-human or human) leaves in the next generation
    – Why forced copulation is directed primarily toward the most fertile females
    – Why some bird flock sizes are more stable and optimal than other bird flock sizes
    – Why your Uncle Ted should be willing to give his life for a minimum of 2 brothers or 8 cousins
    – Why a small “runt” deer is more likely to produce a female fawn, whereas a female deer in good condition is more likely to produce a male fawn
    – Why male dolphins and male primates form coalitions to accompany, defend, and allow just one individual to mate with a selected female

    To state the obvious, David, you simply cannot produce a single statement from the Bible, from Ellen White, or from official Church writings that informs us that any such explanations are incorrect, or that God or the SDA Church disapproves of studying social behavior in animals and humans. I suspect that you object to some of the evolutionary explanations that have been reached regarding human behavior (a narrower discipline within Sociobiology known as Evolutionary Psychology). I personally do not accept all of those explanations as well, because, like you, I think many attributes of human behavior are created rather than evolved (an exception being why someone would repeatedly make a spectacle of himself by declaring that I am lying about my beliefs). Nevertheless, to concede that human skin color has changed in different populations over time (surely you accept this), while denying that human behavior has similarly changed over time (is this really what you think?), reflects nothing but uninformed prejudice against the straightforward attempt of sociobiology to understand why animals, including humans, behave as they do.

    Please do not make prejudicial accusations toward others based on an inadequate understanding of what sociobiology is all about. It’s a BIG discipline with PLENTY of legitimate questions that can be answered using elegant experimental and comparative studies. If you don’t believe I am characterizing sociobiology fairly, then you need to pick up a few books on the discipline and get yourself informed. I just happen to teach a class on the topic at a private Christian institution that condones and appreciates my approach to the discipline. Through the course, I am able to point out to students how we have inherent sinful tendencies that starkly reveal our utter dependence on Jesus–because in and of ourselves, we cannot escape the downfall of human nature since Adam and the disease of sin. Is it inconceivable, David, that I could be a brother in Christ who provides a credible Christian witness to the younger generation?

    But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.” – Job 12:7-8

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  61. Ken, I am so sorry you are seeing this side of Adventism–and from those who sincerely believe they best represent it. I don’t understand either the level of animosity or the justification of these attacks.

    I believe the anonymity of the internet is the major contributor. If we were all sitting in one big room together where we could talk face to face, the dynamics would be very different. I would like to believe that someday we will have this opportunity, though not on this present planet.

    Hang in there with us, my friend. Excuse us for our lack of Godliness and charity; we’ve all fallen terribly short of the yardstick–and I may be the one who measures smallest against it.

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  62. Professor Kent: I believe that your attitude toward Sociobiology stems from a complete lack of understanding of what sociobiology is all about. Sociobiology is a very simple, straightforward discipline: the study of the biological basis of social behavior. To take the position that such study is illegimate or anti-Adventist presupposes that there is something wrong for us to study social behavior.

    Dr Provine states in an on camera interview that once he was convinced that evolutionism’s fairytales were the right ones to believe in – he instantly realized that this means there is absolutely no free will.

    Here is a facinating description of Sociobiology that might explain how Provine came to his conclusion.

    Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, population genetics, and other disciplines. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is very closely allied to the fields of human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology.

    Sociobiology investigates social behaviors, such as mating patterns, territorial fights, pack hunting, and the hive society of social insects. It argues that just as selection pressure led to animals evolving useful ways of interacting with the natural environment, it led to the genetic evolution of advantageous social behavior.

    Question – without belief in evolutionism – what is left in sociobiology?

    Question – how many people know that the SDA doctrinal position is on the side of free will?

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  63. BobRyan: Question – without belief in evolutionism – what is left in sociobiology?

    Question – how many people know that the SDA doctrinal position is on the side of free will?

    Sociobiology does not address origins of life; does not address “birds to reptiles;” and does not address processes of phylogenetic change. The vast majority of sociobiological research engages microevolution and tests hypotheses at the microevolutionary level–within species. To suggest anything differently is a gross distortion based on ignorance. I could easily prove my point by surveying the tables of contents of the many journals on behavioral ecology and sociobiology. The null hypothesis for sociobiological studies is generally: behavioral traits A and B exhibited by species X have similar net benefits. The alternative hypothesis is generallly: behavioral traits A and B have different net benefits. This is no different than testing why one strain of bacteria succumbs to an antibiotic, and another strain survives. What’s so difficult to accept about this type of hypothesis testing? What’s so unGodly or non-SDA about it?

    So what’s left in sociobiology, Bob asks? I supplied a representative list of 17 examples from many thousands of behaviors that sociobiology can inform us about. If Bob or David can explain all of those behaviors without any kind of empirical study–thereby avoiding doing actual sociobiology themselves–I would be very impressed. Neither the Bible nor Ellen White offer an explanation for this list of behaviors.

    If Adventists embrace the study of genetics, microbiology, parasitology, physiology, anatomy, immunology, and ecology, all of which rely on evolutionary inferences to some extent and are taught in our SDA universities (I just looked up several university catalogues to confirm this), why would it be inappropriate to study and learn about sociobiology? Is there no course on sociobiology anywhere within the SDA system (I didn’t find anything with a cursory look)?

    Okay, let’s talk about “free will.” Sociobiology does NOT dismiss “free will.” Never has, never will. To suggest that it does is ludicrous and a gross mischaracterization. If anything, sociobiology champions free will: it shows that sentient animals, including humans, are FREE to make decisions unless coercion, illness, or other conditions interfere with their cognitive abilities. The vast majority of studies and inferences are predicated on the simple fact that behavioral decisions differ among individuals and can be readily measured. Of course, there are despots widely distributed in the animal kingdom–including human populations–that suppress free will. And this brings me to several questions.

    Question – Who suppresses free will more: a group of sociobiologists studying baboons in an African forest, or a group of religious devotees in Iraq?

    Question – Which has greater potential to suppress free will: a discipline that seeks to understand why humans behave as they do, or a religion that seeks to understand God’s (Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, whomever’s) plan for humans to behave?

    Personally, I don’t reject religion for all the harm that certain despots, fueled by religious ideology, have inflicted on society in the past and present. By comparison, sociobiology is as benign as mayonaisse.

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  64. Will Provine has his issues with “free will,” as did Darwin in his time, but many scientists disagree with Provine’s view and nobody regards him as the appointed spokesman for the discipline of sociobiology.

    In a questionnaire returned by 149 prominent scientists, the majority of which reported themselves as pure naturalists devoid of theism, 79% expressed belief that humans still possess free will (with 14 percent choosing no free will, and 7 percent not answering the question). This report, which Provine himself coauthored, acknowledged the biggest problem with “free will:” the lack of consensus on what it means. To many, “free will” means the capacity to make choices, but for some, it means there are underlying constraints to our ability to make decisions. One example of a constraint would be sexual preference: do genes exist that predispose the majority of men to choose heterosexual behavior? The obvious answer is “yes”–testosterone exerts well-established effects on the brain (and one does not have to be an evolutionist to acknowledge this). Whether one wishes to take a stand on such a constraint constituting “free will” is little more than semantics.

    As Alfre Mele wrote in the book, MORAL PSYCHOLOGY: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY READINGS (published 2010): “I believe that scientists embarking on free will ought to ask themselves why they think “free will” means whatever it means. Once they find an answer (or find themselves stumped), they should ask another question: Why do people with a different conception of free will conceive of it as they do? The next step would be to reflect on the relative merits of one’s own conception of free will and the various alternative conceptions one encounters.

    Any discussion of “free will” at this thread lacks merit, far as I’m concerned, because of semantics surrounding the term. I’m not going to engage it further. To each his/her own; believe as you wish.

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  65. Some four decades ago, sociobiologists were shocked to discover pseudohermaphrodites in an isolated Dominican Republic village who were born “female,” raised and socialized as female, and then mysteriously grew a penis and acquired most secondary sexual characteristics of men when puberty set in. Approximately 2% of live births in the village were these guevedoces (“penis at 12”), who were genetically normal males (46 chromosomes, XY karyotype). Researchers eventually learned that they had defective genes for the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme, which failed to convert testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Thus, the latter enzyme failed to masculinize the fetus during embryonic development, but the testosterone kicked in at puberty.

    So what became of the poor lads believed to be female and thoroughly socialized as female throughout their childhood? If ever there was a case for boys to made into homosexuals, this would be it. Remarkably, all but a small percentage transitioned to a male role as adults. Which was decisive in determining sex role in this case: genes or the environment? Something to think about.

    Ironically, the chief legacy of the guevedoces is a class of drugs known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5ARIs), the first of the “prostate pills.” With the approval of Finasteride in 1992, and other drugs that followed, the treatment approach to prostatic obstruction dramatically changed. We can thank sociobiology for giving David Read and Bob Ryan hope for the relief of future prostate problems, if they have not developed problems already.

    Praise God for what we can learn from investigating the social behaviors of humans!

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  66. I think there are two reasons why many Christians are suspicious if not hostile toward sociobiology.

    First, sociobiology assumes that human behaviors evolve because they maximize fitness and are thus adaptive, and that our behaviors can be traced back to our animal ancestors.

    Second, sociobiology has been used by some to justify human behavior as an excuse for immorality and for maintaining social injustice and inequality. For example, male dominance, sexual infidelity, homosexuality, and xenophobia toward other groups occur naturally in other animal species, therefore it is okay in humans.

    The first objection is understandably offensive to Christians who view humans as being created in the image of God, separate and above the rest of the animal kingdom, rather than evolving from more primitive animals. The second objection is simply an abusive misapplication of sociobiology, which is intended to EXPLAIN rather than justify both animal and human behavior.

    As for the first objection, the question arises from either an evolutionist or creationist perspective whether (1) human behavior is purely a cultural artifact, which some claim, or if (2) human behavior has a biological basis subjected to natural selection, as sociobiology claims.

    Humans clearly engage in certain behaviors that no YEC would consider to be created, such as thievery, dishonesty, adultery, sodomy, rape, and murder. If these behaviors were not created, could they have “evolved” (if I’m allowed to use the term)? I realize some object to the term “evolution,” but the “evolution” of a behavior does not necessarily require the evolution of morphological structures; in the case of created humans, we’re talking about micro-microevolution.

    Rather than stating my own opinion, consider for yourself whether the following human behaviors can be explained by (1) a biological basis subject to natural selection, or (2) arbitrary cultural artifacts with no underlying biological basis:

    1. Most humans are attracted to the opposite sex.

    2. Most human cultures are polygynous.

    3. Women prefer older and wealthier men in all societies.

    4. Men prefer younger and attractive women in all societies.

    5. Men compete more with each other for women than women compete among each other for men.

    6. Women are more choosy in selecting a mate than men.

    7. Men are more willing to engage in extramarital sex than women.

    8. Parents guard their daughters more than their sons.

    9. Adultery is punished more severely for women than for men.

    10. Rape victims are almost always female and tend to be younger, poorer and more attractive than the average female population.

    11. Single women are more likely to have an abortion than married women.

    12. Humans favor their own biological children over stepchildren.

    13. Bridewealth payments to a bride’s family are more common in polygynous socities.

    14. Dowry payments are more likely to occur in a socially stratified, monogamous society than in a non-stratified, polygynous society.

    15. Inheritance decisions favor sons more than daughters in most societies, especially those which are polygynous.

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  67. David&#032Read wrote Either genes determine behaviors in humans, in which case there is no free will, or genes do not determine behaviors in humans, in which case sociobiology is a crock of nonsense.

    I did not realize that anyone would subscribe to the view that all humans are born with the exact same IQ, the exact same oral communication skills, the exact same athletic skills, the exact same disposition, the exact same speech patterns and body language, and the exact same interests. I don’t think you actually believe this yourself. Moreover, I don’t think that many SDAs embrace such a strange view. And if humans are born with differences in behavior, I don’t see why it would require that I could never learn to do trigonometry, speak without stuttering, overcome my Asperger’s syndrome, look at someone in the eyes when speaking, or enjoy cooking. I don’t understand the assumption of genetic determinism.

    I’m also surprised that you persist in judging all of sociobiology on one single issue involving one single species–humans. I couldn’t even guess where you got such an idea.

    If you want to reject all of sociobiology, that’s fine; I’m not going to belittle you or declare your beliefs useless, anti-science, anti-SDA, or anything of the sort. I don’t understand why you and certain other folks here can’t extend a little “free will” to disagree without piling on the ridicule and judgment. Have some charity.

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  68. Hi David [Read],

    You wrote:

    “Sean, I’ve already said, several times, that faith need not be “without any basis, whatsoever, in empirical evidence.” I believe in the value of providing evidence and argument to support faith, as I’ve said over and over and over and over and over again. But you go further than is reasonable in this regard, by insisting that no one should believe without first attempting to weigh the evidence in a neutral and unbiased manner (as if that were possible), and if they do they’re just wannabe acolytes of the flying spaghetti monster. That’s where we part company.

    I fully understand that everyone is biased by background experiences. No one is immune from the problem of bias. However, as much as is possible, I do believe that one should try to interpret the evidence that is available with as little bias as is humanly possible – or with at least the awareness of one’s own bias and how that bias may cause one to overlook or miss the true meaning of the evidence in front of one’s own eyes. It doesn’t seem reasonable to suggest that it is essentially impossible for empirical evidence to overcome previous concepts that may have once biased a person in a different direction.

    For example, the disciples of Jesus were heavily biased by their past experience and cultural beliefs to look for a Messiah who would create an Earthly Kingdom. It was very difficult to get them to overcome this bias, but given enough empirical evidence that their thinking was wrong, they were in fact capable of changing their minds and leaving their old biases behind. Thus is the power of empirical evidence to change the path, even the heavily biased path, of someone who is otherwise an honest seeker for truth and who is ready to go where the evidence leads – even if it leads one contrary to pre-conceived or erroneously biased notions of reality.

    “I’m reminded of our dialog a couple of years ago, right after my book was reviewed at Adventist Today’s website. At that time, I realized that you view everything, including both what is popularly known as “faith” and what is known as “science,” as science. You’re a scientist by training and you approach everything as science. But I find the traditional distinction between faith and science to be useful and practical, as I imagine most other people do.”

    I would suggest to you that the basic process behind “science” really is rather mundane. It is nothing more than a mechanism that is based on generally-available logical reasoning (such as induction, deduction, abduction, etc.) from currently available empirical evidence to help one determine what the evidence likely means. Whenever religion talks about the empirical world in which we find ourselves, these empirical claims move into the realm of scientific investigation – or at least they become subject to a form of scientific or rational empirical investigation which includes testing and the potential for effective falsification or at least a reduction or gain in predictive value. If none of the claims of a religion regarding empirical reality can be investigated at all, then that religion is beyond the realm of empirical testing, beyond “science”. It cannot be put to any test that could, even in theory, falsify it.

    Such a religion, in my opinion, isn’t very useful when it comes to establishing a solid hope in a literal empirical future.

    “Sean, these statements [comparing leaps of faith in science and religion] are ample confirmation that you view religion and science as being essentially the same enterprise. I don’t think they are the same. You seem to believe that the “leaps of faith” a scientist makes are the same as the leaps of faith a religious believer is asked to make, but they aren’t. No scientist makes a leap of faith with the intention of having his hypothesis remain forever unconfirmed. It is true that a scientist will hypothesize something that he doesn’t know but believes to be true (which in a sense is a “leap of faith”), but he immediately sets out to construct experiments that will confirm or falsify his hypothesis. If his hypothesis can’t be tested, it isn’t of much use to science. (Which, by the way, is the problem with Darwinism: it is simply storytelling about the past, based upon untestable assumptions that remain forever unproven and unprovable.)”

    You seem to have this notion that science is able to absolutely “confirm” the truth of a hypothesis/theory. This simply isn’t so. A scientific theory may gain or loose predictive power, but it is never absolutely confirmed or proven this side of eternity – regardless of how many tests it passes. There’s a difference between empirical observations or “facts” and the theories that take these observations and use them to make testable predictions.

    Now, if your religiously-derived notions of empirical realities that exist outside of your own mind are not based on anything that can be tested or potentially falsified, even in theory, then what good is your religion? Where is its practical value as a basis of hope in a literal empirical future?

    “But the religious believer is asked to believe things that cannot be proven or falsified (at least not in this life).

    While this is true, the very same thing is true of science. Scientists are asked to believe in theories that cannot be absolutely proven or even absolutely falsified this side of eternity. Predictive power may increase or decrease as additional evidence comes to light, but there are no absolute proofs in science.

    Again, if you’re asking someone to believe in anything with regard to the nature of the world that exists outside of the mind, and you have no empirical basis for your assertions which can be tested and potentially falsified (or at least challenged with regard to the degree of its predictive power) why should anyone believe what you’re saying?

    People have been trying to prove the existence of God for thousands of years, so far without success. Those who have tried to prove that there is no God have similarly failed. There are arguments for faith (and for unbelief) but faith remains faith.”

    Again, you’re talking about absolutes here. If it truly is impossible for an honest seeker for truth to consider the evidence and rationally conclude that the best explanation for it must be a God or a God-like intelligence, upon what basis should one believe in the existence of a God? Your say-so alone? Do they simply have to randomly pick the right universal paradigm in order to make this leap of logic that is otherwise without rational basis in empirical evidence?

    You do realize that many physicists, to include a few well-known modern physicists, have come to the conclusion that a God of some kind must exist to explain various features of the universe? You realize that these scientists have often been forced to this conclusion against their preferred bias against such conclusions? – by the empirical evidence in its favor which they simply could not deny any longer despite their ardent efforts to do so?

    “You say that “all notions of the reality that exists outside the mind are open to the potential for falsification.” No, they aren’t. Many beliefs are not falsifiable. The belief that God exists, and that there is an unseen world with angels and demons and powers and principalities, is not falsifiable. Beliefs that are essentially religious in character–e.g., belief in an unseen spiritual reality–are not falsifiable.

    You’re talking about a type of God equivalent to Flying Spaghetti Monsters, garden fairies, and the Celestial Teapot here. I’m talking about the theory that a God has acted, and continues to act, in a detectable manner in nature. I call this theory the God-only hypothesis. Such an assertion about empirical reality is in fact testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All one has to do to falsify the God-only hypothesis is to present any other known force which can affect the universe to produce the phenomenon in question. Such a demonstration would effectively falsify the God-only hypothesis.

    Christianity isn’t about a God that is doesn’t interact with the empirical world. Such a God would indeed be non-testable and non-falsifiable… outside of the realm of scientific investigation. Belief in such a God would also be as worthless as a belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster… as Richard Dawkins intuitively points out.

    Lucky for us that Christianity describes a testable God that is in fact active in the empirical world in which we live in a manner that is actually subject to a form of rational investigation and detectability… i.e., a form of science. There is in fact, or at least can be, a form of science behind one’s faith.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  69. Eddie, I’m impressed by your understanding of the questions sociobiology adresses. You’ve hit the nail on the head for why many object to it. Do you, per chance, teach a course on the topic?

    The list of human behaviors you provided can readily be explored by sociobiology–and have been to a considerable extent. You and I would probably both agree that the evidence is going to be mixed for a number of these behaviors, with support for both cultural and genetic bases. The reality is that there will be a continuum of “nature” and “nurture” (genetic and environmental) for most social behaviors, rather than a strict all-one-or-the-other dichotomy.

    What the reader should recognize is that sociobiology embraces both explanations (nature and nurture). Moreover, both nature (with its underlying genetic basis) and nurture (often with an underlying cultural, or memetic, basis) can lead to changes in social behavior through the exact same mechanism–natural selection–that leads to changes in antibiotic resistance of bacteria. Sure, some take the “big picture” view much farther than you and I might be comfortable with, but many do the same with changes in bacteria. This, of course, no more invalidates (or renders anti-SDA) sociobiology than microbiology.

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  70. BobRyan: you could also argue that men prefer young healthy women because their primary driver is physical so they are motivated less by fear and more by the desire for more toys and to satisfy physical desires.

    I have no quibble with human free choice and I agree with much of what you wrote. However, there is no doubt in my mind that our behavior is influenced by our biology whether we like it or not. Is it coincidence that younger women are considered more attractive and also happen to be more fertile? Who is more likely to be favored by natural selection: men who are attracted to women 10 years older or women who are attracted to me 10 years older? Is it possible that women are more choosy than men and less likely to engage in extramarital sex because they have more to lose if they become pregnant, and could that explain why parents are more protective of their daughters? And do people favor their own offspring over stepchildren because their offspring share more of their genes? Or are all of these behaviors purely cultural? Just asking…

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  71. Sean Pitman: I’m talking about the theory that a God has acted, and continues to act, in a detectable manner in nature. I call this theory the God-only hypothesis. Such an assertion about empirical reality is in fact testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All one has to do to falsify the God-only hypothesis is to present any other known force which can affect the universe to produce the phenomenon in question. Such a demonstration would effectively falsify the God-only hypothesis.

    Hmmm…so do you attribute all the evil and ugly phenomenon on this planet to God-only? Surely you accept that attributes of this planet have been shaped by Satan and his agencies, or by random processes. The deeper you get into your science-is-much-bigger-than-scripture-and-God’s-word theology, the more dumbfounding your statements become.

    I think you’re stuck in a potentially empirically testable falsifiable rationally candid fsaar side reality called Sean’s gray matter. Like a broken record player, you’re stuck in a groove, strepeating the same things over and over, only they are becoming increasingly more jumbled and incoherent. I think it’s time to nudge the needle so that it jumps into another sulcus of your gray matter.

    Maybe you can tell us why you think Jesus spoke in parables, or why he sweated blood in the garden, or why he chose to plead with his father to forgive those who were about to pierce his side. Surely you have more positive vibes to share with the Church. Obviously, your “faith is useless” diatribes are convincing to no one (other than Bob, perhaps).

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  72. Says Professor Kent: “it’s very easy to demonstrate that genes regulate the behaviors, including social behaviors, of animals, … It’s just as easy to demonstrate that genes regulate the behaviors of humans,…”

    Then Professor Kent says: “Sociobiology does NOT dismiss ‘free will.’ Never has, never will. To suggest that it does is ludicrous and a gross mischaracterization.”

    Either genes determine behaviors in humans, in which case there is no free will, or genes do not determine behaviors in humans, in which case sociobiology is a crock of nonsense.

    Then Professor Kent, hiding in obscurantism, says, “well, scientists don’t really know what free will means.” Yes, I’ve noticed that.

    Then Professor Kent, realizing that he’s losing an argument with himself, says: “Any discussion of ‘free will’ at this thread lacks merit, far as I’m concerned, because of semantics surrounding the term. I’m not going to engage it further. To each his/her own; believe as you wish.”

    Prof. Kent, I see that I’ve provoked you into thinking through some of the issues, which is good. But I don’t think you can just brush aside the unpleasant implications of sociobiology by saying, “we don’t know what words mean, so everyone believe as you wish.”

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  73. Wow, David; I thought you’d come up with something more profound, like what you declared at Spectrum: “Professor Kent wants to teach Sadism as science, as the only well supported scientific model, to Adventist students in Adventist colleges.” That was quite imaginative.

    You’re certainly welcome to believe that ants, frogs, and hippopotamuses have no genes that regulate their behavior whatsoever, and that you lack any such genes as well. If you can back up your conviction with facts rather than rhetoric, all the more power to you. I have no quarrel. And if you want to try and impose your own definition of “free will” on all free-thinking minds, be my guest. I really don’t care.

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  74. David Read: But I don’t think you can just brush aside the unpleasant implications of sociobiology by saying, “we don’t know what words mean, so everyone believe as you wish.”

    And I’m supposed to believe, like you, that 100% of the findings of sociobiology are complete rubbish because some people draw conclusions–“unpleasant implications”–that I disagree with? If I took this approach, I’d reject everything in every discipline that exists.

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  75. Many of the posts have dealt with defending various positions, some supported by statistics. The sociobiology debate has been vigorous(to be kind). Yet, we seemed to have overlooked asking “how do we get those who’ve left the church to come back?” In my opinion the church is competing with an overwhelming abundance of non Adventist options that just doesn’t make the church desirable and that is very sad. In addition,the worship format,type of music, the dress code, the diet commitment,the racial divide in the form of(some)conferences as to who will have leadership opportunities are also some inputs that are disheartening many. I wish I was smart enough to offer a viable solution. As for the theme of debate on this post I humbly ask that if you have not already had the oportunity,when you have the chance pick-up Samuel Koranteng-Pipim’s “Here We Stand.” It may provide additonal insight on the pros and cons of creationalism vs evolutionism. GOD’s blessings to all.

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  76. David Read: Either genes determine behaviors in humans, in which case there is no free will, or genes do not determine behaviors in humans, in which case sociobiology is a crock of nonsense.

    I seriously doubt any psychologists or behaviorists believe in such an all-or-none dichotomy (reminiscent of the false evidence-vs-faith dichotomy that nobody will admit they believe in). Most behaviors are influenced by both heredity and the environment. Your genes, not your free will, program your body to begin producing testosterone at a certain age and to continue producing testosterone throughout adulthood (unless it’s turned off by other factors). Do you seriously think that testosterone has NO EFFECT on your behavior? Of course it does, but you still can FREELY CHOOSE to ignore or respond to stimuli. You’re not biologically determined to respond to any stimuli.

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  77. Professor Kent: Eddie, I’m impressed by your understanding of the questions sociobiology adresses. You’ve hit the nail on the head for why many object to it. Do you, per chance, teach a course on the topic?

    Sociobiology is covered to a limited extent in courses in animal behavior and in psychology, which are offered by most SDA institutions. I might be wrong but I’m quite certain that Walla Walla University is the only SDA institution offering an undergraduate course in sociobiology. As for me, I may or may not teach the subject.

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  78. Professor Kent: Wow, David; I thought you’d come up with something more profound, like what you declared at Spectrum: “Professor Kent wants to teach Sadism as science, as the only well supported scientific model, to Adventist students in Adventist colleges.”

    Ouch!

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  79. Hmm, it appears that “human sociobiology” is covered in a course at Southern Adventist University. I wonder what they have to say about the subject and whether they would agree with David Read that it’s “a crock of nonsense”? Here is the catalog description:

    BIOL 387. Animal Behavior 3 hours. This course is cross-listed with PSYC 387. A student may receive credit for this course from only one program. Prerequisites: BIOL 161-162 or PSYC 122 and 128. The behavior of animals is studied with a focus on both proximate causes (mechanisms) and ultimate causes (survival strategies) of behavior. Special importance is placed on understanding techniques of experimental study and hypothesis testing. Topics covered include: genetic, developmental, and physiological bases of behavior; instinct and learning; communication; habitat selection; feeding, antipredatory, reproductive, and parenting strategies; mating systems, social behavior and human sociobiology. Three lectures each week.

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  80. David Read wrote Either genes determine behaviors in humans, in which case there is no free will, or genes do not determine behaviors in humans, in which case sociobiology is a crock of nonsense.

    I did not realize that anyone would subscribe to the view that all humans are born with the exact same IQ, the exact same oral communication skills, the exact same athletic skills, the exact same disposition, the exact same speech patterns and body language, and the exact same interests. I don’t think you actually believe this yourself. Moreover, I don’t think that many SDAs embrace such a strange view. And if humans are born with differences in behavior, I don’t see why it would require that I could never learn to do trigonometry, speak without stuttering, overcome my Asperger’s syndrome, look at someone in the eyes when speaking, or enjoy cooking. I don’t understand the assumption of genetic determinism.

    I’m also surprised that you persist in judging all of sociobiology on one single issue involving one single species–humans. I couldn’t even guess where you got such an idea.

    If you want to reject all of sociobiology, that’s fine; I’m not going to belittle you or declare your beliefs useless, anti-science, anti-SDA, or anything of the sort. I don’t understand why you and certain other folks here can’t extend a little “free will” to disagree without piling on the ridicule and judgment. Have some charity.

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  81. Eddie says, “I don’t understand the assumption of genetic determinism.” That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology. That why it is called sociobiology. Obviously, biological determinism is completely incompatible with Christianity, morality, free will, or a morally ordered society.

    And I don’t just reject sociobiology because it is a terrible slander of our species; it is nonsense as a general explanation. Take kin selection or “inclusive fitness”, for example, which is thought to be an explanation for parental altruism. In every sexually reproducing species, a parent donates half of the DNA to each of its offspring, yet parental altruism varies in sexually reproducing species as widely as it can possibly vary, from zero in plants and many animals, to a very high degree in humans. The species that don’t display parental altruism are as “successful”, in terms of reproductive success, as that those that do. The fact that offspring share DNA with a parent does not determine how a parent treats an offspring, nor does nature select species that display parental altruism for success and those that don’t display it for oblivion.

    If you went into a maternity ward and switched every couple’s baby for a genetically unrelated child, the parents would still treat the child exactly as they would have treated their own biological offspring. This shows that parents are altruistic to their children not because their children share the parents’ DNA but because their are expectations in every human culture about how parents should treat their children. (Plus the darn things are just so lovable anyway.) If you told the parents that the child was not their biological offspring, and they didn’t treat the child as well, that just shows that the cultural expectations are lessened for “other people’s” children as opposed to one’s own. But many people make extraordinary sacrifices for children that they KNOW are not theirs, so their altruistic behavior is not driven by genes or by cultural expectations, but by their own higher standards of altruism, which are most often the result of a strong religious commitment. Free will is a repeatedly observed phenomenon of the human condition.

    Our current knowledge of genetics is nowhere near adequate to support the sort of theorizing that is part and parcel of sociobiology. Maybe someday we will be able to determine what behaviors are genetically driven, if any. But right now, we don’t have that kind of genetic knowledge.

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  82. Eddie, what a shocker. Southern Adventist University…of all places! I hope Bob Ryan does not read your post.

    Whoever wrote that description for the Animal Behavior course at SAU should be fired immediately, along with anyone who currently teaches such heresy. From this point forward, we must agree that Southern’s biology program clearly is no longer SDA.

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  83. Eddie: I think there are two reasons why many Christians are suspicious if not hostile toward sociobiology.

    First, sociobiology assumes that human behaviors evolve because they maximize fitness and are thus adaptive, and that our behaviors can be traced back to our animal ancestors.

    Second, sociobiology has been used by some to justify human behavior as an excuse for immorality and for maintaining social injustice and inequality. For example, male dominance, sexual infidelity, homosexuality, and xenophobia toward other groups occur naturally in other animal species, therefore it is okay in humans.

    The first objection is understandably offensive to Christians who view humans as being created in the image of God, separate and above the rest of the animal kingdom, rather than evolving from more primitive animals.

    …intended to EXPLAIN rather than justify both animal and human behavior.

    As for the first objection, the question arises from either an evolutionist or creationist perspective whether (1) human behavior is purely a cultural artifact, which some claim, or if (2) human behavior has a biological basis subjected to natural selection, as sociobiology claims.

    Humans clearly engage in certain behaviors that no YEC would consider to be created, such as thievery, dishonesty, adultery, sodomy, rape, and murder. If these behaviors were not created, could they have “evolved” (if I’m allowed to use the term)?

    Yep – that would be a problem for Seventh-day Adventists.

    We believe that our behavior is a factor of supernatural establishment of a Free-Will based model for mankind (and all intelligent life in the universe) combined with the depravity of our sinful nature that is held somewhat in check by the John 12:32 drawing of all mankind, and the John 16 convicting by the Holy Spirit where all the world is convicted of sin and righteousness and judgment.

    Notice that leaves no room at all for “descended from lower life forms and still holding on to some of our old patterns first established as some other species”.

    It leaves no room for “people steal because they evolved that idea over time”.

    Rather – people steal because of greed, because of the sinful nature placing self above consideration for others.

    While one could argue that women prefer older men who have wealth, power or influence because their primary driver is security and stability (possibly fear and seeking a protective environment)… you could also argue that men prefer young healthy women because their primary driver is physical so they are motivated less by fear and more by the desire for more toys and to satisfy physical desires.

    But regardless of the natural or lower-passions as some texts describe them – what about the higher moral calling for each person to “choose”?

    The first choice is “choose you this day whom you will serve” — we must choose whether or not we will accpet eternal life and the new Birth – the new creation where “old things are passed away and all things are become new”.

    In the New birth, New Covenant – the Law of God is written on the tablets of the human heart.

    in Christ,

    Bob

    in Chgri

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  84. BobRyan: you could also argue that men prefer young healthy women because their primary driver is physical so they are motivated less by fear and more by the desire for more toys and to satisfy physical desires.

    I have no quibble with human free choice and I agree with much of what you wrote. However, there is no doubt in my mind that our behavior is influenced by our biology whether we like it or not. Is it coincidence that younger women are considered more attractive and also happen to be more fertile? Who is more likely to be favored by natural selection: men who are attracted to women 10 years older or women who are attracted to me 10 years older? Is it possible that women are more choosy than men and less likely to engage in extramarital sex because they have more to lose if they become pregnant, and could that explain why parents are more protective of their daughters? And do people favor their own offspring over stepchildren because their offspring share more of their genes? Or are all of these behaviors purely cultural? Just asking…

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  85. Human brains are exquisitely responsive to the chemicals that brain cells and other cells in the body produce. These chemicals in the brain are all the products of genes. Gene regulation helps to ensure a proper balance of these chemicals, but some individuals have better regulation of the gene products than others, and the regulation of these genes can vary within an individual over time, depending on circumstances. Stress, depression, fear, aggression, psychoses, and other behaviors can be readily attributed to changes in the levels of these chemicals. Parkinson’s disorder is one of the best examples of how behavior changes dramatically with reduction in dopamine production by the substantia nigra cells of the brain. Fortunately, we have psychiatrists with an amazing arsenal of drugs that can supplement our genes when necessary, and better modulate these chemicals and, consequently, our behavior.

    How could an educated person seriously believe that our behavior is 100% independent of our genes? I would bet my eyeteeth, my left kidney, and my right big toe that no Loma Linda medical school graduate would walk away from the place believing in such nonsense. Sean Pitman, who undoubtedly has expertise in sociobiology, could testify to this.

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  86. David Read,

    You wrote:

    “That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology. That why it is called sociobiology. Obviously, biological determinism is completely incompatible with Christianity, morality, free will, or a morally ordered society.”

    But biology clearly has a strong effect on social tendencies – a theory that is as strongly supported as anything in science. To deny the social influence of biology isn’t going to get you anywhere with those who are familiar with biology’s very clear effects on social tendencies.

    Of course, you are correct in noting that the game isn’t over at this point. While genetics and even epigenetic inheritance certainly affects our social tendencies and natural inclinations, God has also provided us with access to supernatural powers that can be called upon to elevate us above these inherited tendencies. We still have a freewill to exercise to call upon God when we need help to overcome our naturally inherited traits that tend to drag us down…

    This is the only reason why social behavior is not absolutely tied to biology. This is why we still have access to freewill – because of a supernatural gift of God that goes beyond biology. In fact, this is a strong evidence that God exists that can be experienced outside of empirical science via an internal revelation of His power. When one asks God for power to overcome this or that natural or cultivated tendency, and that prayer is dramatically answered, the power that is provided to resist what once was an overpowering urge to act in a detrimental way is strong evidence of the existence of a Power that is outside of and greater than one’s self.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  87. Ellen White on the heredity of human behavior

    As Pastor Kevin Paulson, an ardent Educate Truth supporter, described eloquently (http://bit.ly/lGXi22):

    We see this same principle further illustrated in the more than 200 statements where Ellen White speaks of hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil (23). These are Ellen White’s terms for what we hear today regarding the difference between nature and nurture in human development. Ellen White is clear that Jesus took our fallen hereditary tendencies, since she writes that “He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life” (24). In other words, His heredity would be a source of temptation to Himself, as it is to us. But very clearly, Jesus didn’t take our fallen cultivated tendencies to evil, since to do this would have required Him to sin.

    Indeed, Ellen White assures us:

    “Those who put their trust in Christ are not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated habit or tendency. Instead of being held in bondage to the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart.” (Amazing Grace, p. 246)

    Let there be no mistake about it: Ellen White acknowledged the genetic basis of our tendencies toward sinful behavior.

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  88. Eddie says, “I don’t understand the assumption of genetic determinism.” That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology. That why it is called sociobiology. Obviously, biological determinism is completely incompatible with Christianity, morality, free will, or a morally ordered society.

    And I don’t just reject sociobiology because it is a terrible slander of our species; it is nonsense as a general explanation. Take kin selection or “inclusive fitness”, for example, which is thought to be an explanation for parental altruism. In every sexually reproducing species, a parent donates half of the DNA to each of its offspring, yet parental altruism varies in sexually reproducing species as widely as it can possibly vary, from zero in plants and many animals, to a very high degree in humans. The species that don’t display parental altruism are as “successful”, in terms of reproductive success, as that those that do. The fact that offspring share DNA with a parent does not determine how a parent treats an offspring, nor does nature select species that display parental altruism for success and those that don’t display it for oblivion.

    If you went into a maternity ward and switched every couple’s baby for a genetically unrelated child, the parents would still treat the child exactly as they would have treated their own biological offspring. This shows that parents are altruistic to their children not because their children share the parents’ DNA but because their are expectations in every human culture about how parents should treat their children. (Plus the darn things are just so lovable anyway.) If you told the parents that the child was not their biological offspring, and they didn’t treat the child as well, that just shows that the cultural expectations are lessened for “other people’s” children as opposed to one’s own. But many people make extraordinary sacrifices for children that they KNOW are not theirs, so their altruistic behavior is not driven by genes or by cultural expectations, but by their own higher standards of altruism, which are most often the result of a strong religious commitment. Free will is a repeatedly observed phenomenon of the human condition.

    Our current knowledge of genetics is nowhere near adequate to support the sort of theorizing that is part and parcel of sociobiology. Maybe someday we will be able to determine what behaviors are genetically driven, if any. But right now, we don’t have that kind of genetic knowledge.

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  89. David Read,

    You wrote:

    “That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology. That why it is called sociobiology. Obviously, biological determinism is completely incompatible with Christianity, morality, free will, or a morally ordered society.”

    But biology clearly has a strong effect on social tendencies – a theory that is as strongly supported as anything in science. To deny the social influence of biology isn’t going to get you anywhere with those who are familiar with biology’s very clear effects on social tendencies.

    Of course, you are correct in noting that the game isn’t over at this point. While genetics and even epigenetic inheritance certainly affects our social tendencies and natural inclinations, God has also provided us with access to supernatural powers that can be called upon to elevate us above these inherited tendencies. We still have a freewill to exercise to call upon God when we need help to overcome our naturally inherited traits that tend to drag us down…

    This is the only reason why social behavior is not absolutely tied to biology. This is why we still have access to freewill – because of a supernatural gift of God that goes beyond biology. In fact, this is a strong evidence that God exists that can be experienced outside of empirical science via an internal revelation of His power. When one asks God for power to overcome this or that natural or cultivated tendency, and that prayer is dramatically answered, the power that is provided to resist what once was an overpowering urge to act in a detrimental way is strong evidence of the existence of a Power that is outside of and greater than one’s self.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

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  90. David Read: That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology. That why it is called sociobiology.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sociobiology is called sociobiology because it seeks to learn the biological basis of behavior; it does not seek to demonstrate genetic determinism. You need to get over this. The biological bases of behavior encompass both genetics (nature) and environment (nurture). Sociobiologists have always acknowledged this, and much of their evidence shows that your false dichotomy–it’s all one or the other–is completely bogus.

    David Read: In every sexually reproducing species, a parent donates half of the DNA to each of its offspring…

    Wrong again. David, you simply don’t know what you are talking about. Period. This is a problem when a lawyer–a “controversialist,” as you have described yourself–claims to be ideally suited to teach biology and origins because a lawyer is better trained than a scientist to sort out the evidence. The problem is that a lawyer lacks depth of knowledge in science to understand the evidence to begin with. There’s a world of variation in the sexual reproduction of plants and animals that you are clueless about, and that’s why you simply can’t make appropriate inferences about sociobiology. If you were familiar, for example, with the term “ploidy,” you would understand that insects with a haplo-diploid genetic system don’t meet your supposed “fact” of paternal contribution to offspring. And…sorry to inform…this is just the tip of the iceberg for exceptions to your supposed “fact.”

    David Read: But many people make extraordinary sacrifices for children that they KNOW are not theirs, so their altruistic behavior is not driven by genes or by cultural expectations, but by their own higher standards of altruism, which are most often the result of a strong religious commitment. Free will is a repeatedly observed phenomenon of the human condition.

    No kidding. Most sociobiologists would agree with you 100%. They’ve actually written MUCH on this very topic (you have admitted that you refuse to read sociobiological literature, so you unfamiliarity is to be expecterd). Again, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but your objections to sociobiology are based more on prejudicial bias and ignorance of the discipline than anything else.

    David Read: Maybe someday we will be able to determine what behaviors are genetically driven, if any.

    Apparently, you acknowledge the legitimacy of a major thrust of sociobiology: studying the genetic basis of behavior. But you should not overlook the fact that sociobiologists consider equally important the environmental (including cultural) influences on behavior, and study them just as fervently.

    BTW, I’m glad you didn’t tell us Ellen White was not a woman of Adventist faith because she acknowledged the hereditary influences on human behavior.

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  91. Sean, I agree with you that free will is a strong argument for the existence of God. If Darwinism is true, there isn’t any reason why there should be free will. In fact our actions should be biologically determined. The obvious fact of free will–which one doesn’t have to be a religious believer to see and acknowledge–is a powerful argument for a Creator God.

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  92. Sean, I agree with you that free will is a strong argument for the existence of God. If Darwinism is true, there isn’t any reason why there should be free will. In fact our actions should be biologically determined. The obvious fact of free will–which one doesn’t have to be a religious believer to see and acknowledge–is a powerful argument for a Creator God.

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  93. David Read: Sean, I agree with you that free will is a strong argument for the existence of God. If Darwinism is true, there isn’t any reason why there should be free will.

    Agreed. Provine argues that the entire issue of choice reduces to biochem and environment.

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  94. Re David’s quote

    “Sean, I agree with you that free will is a strong argument for the existence of God.”

    Hi David

    Thanks for your comments.

    Is a better argument that humans can conceive, write and speak about God? 🙂

    Of course, when it comes to abstraction, elephants can paint and parrots can talk.

    Your agnostic friend
    Ken

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  95. David Read: That’s the assumption that sociobiology is based upon: that your social behavior is determined by your biology.

    I have a copy of Edward O. Wilson’s 1975 book “Sociobiology.” On page 550, in his chapter titled “Man: From Sociobiology to Sociology,” he wrote “Although the genes have given away MOST of their sovereignty, they maintain a CERTAIN AMOUNT OF INFLUENCE in at least the behavioral qualities that underlie variations between cultures [emphasis supplied].” That doesn’t sound like biological determinism to me.

    In the Wikipedia account of “sociobiology,” several statements specifically degree with your interpretation of sociobiology:

    “Sociobiology is based on the premise that SOME behaviors (both social and individual) are AT LEAST PARTLY inherited and can be affected by natural selection [emphases supplied].”

    “Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be PARTLY explained as the outcome of natural selection [emphases supplied].”

    Biological determinism is an extreme view often wielded as a weapon by critics of sociobiology, such as you. But as the Wikipedia account for “biological determinism” states, “Biologists sometimes regard a charge of biological determinism as a straw man, as there is currently no support for strict biological determinism in the field of genetics or development, and virtually no support among geneticists for the strong thesis of biological determinism.” Maybe there are a few scientists who promote it, but it isn’t widely accepted.

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  96. Mark Finley on Human Reason versus God’s Word

    Select quotes from his recent article in the REVIEW (http://bit.ly/mvz9W9)

    One of the great theological problems with theistic evolution is that it limits God’s power. It exalts natural law above the Creator of natural law. Theistic evolution doesn’t allow for an all-powerful God to miraculously shape our world. It reduces God to the scale of human imagination, and exalts reason above revelation. <This was precisely why humanity fell in the beginning. Eve listened to the voice of the serpent in the garden and trusted what her eyes could see rather than what God said. Her mind became the final arbiter of truth.

    Reason is certainly a gift of God, but left alone and unaided, it is an insufficient guide. Our first parents turned from the authority of God’s word to the folly of their own wisdom. The danger of this habit is readily apparent: our first parents’ decisions were disastrous. … To exalt God’s gift of reason above God’s Word is catastrophic.

    I agree completely with Mark Finley that we cannot trust the evidence that our eyes behold, and our own reason ahead of God’s word. I have no doubt whatsoever that the leadership of the SDA Church flat out rejects Sean Pitman’s, Bob Ryan’s, and Educate Truth’s views on the relationship between faith in God’s word versus empirical evidence, science, and human reason. I can guarantee we’ll see more comments in the future directed toward this heterodox theology. And I won’t be squirming.

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  97. Mark Finley on Human Reason versus God’s Word

    Select quotes from his recent article in the REVIEW (http://bit.ly/mvz9W9)

    One of the great theological problems with theistic evolution is that it limits God’s power. It exalts natural law above the Creator of natural law. Theistic evolution doesn’t allow for an all-powerful God to miraculously shape our world. It reduces God to the scale of human imagination, and exalts reason above revelation. <This was precisely why humanity fell in the beginning. Eve listened to the voice of the serpent in the garden and trusted what her eyes could see rather than what God said. Her mind became the final arbiter of truth.

    Reason is certainly a gift of God, but left alone and unaided, it is an insufficient guide. Our first parents turned from the authority of God’s word to the folly of their own wisdom. The danger of this habit is readily apparent: our first parents’ decisions were disastrous. … To exalt God’s gift of reason above God’s Word is catastrophic.

    I agree completely with Mark Finley that we cannot trust the evidence that our eyes behold, and our own reason ahead of God’s word. I have no doubt whatsoever that the leadership of the SDA Church flat out rejects Sean Pitman’s, Bob Ryan’s, and Educate Truth’s views on the relationship between faith in God’s word versus empirical evidence, science, and human reason. I can guarantee we’ll see more comments in the future directed toward this heterodox theology. And I won’t be squirming.

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  98. David Read: If Darwinism is true, there isn’t any reason why there should be free will.

    MUCH of “Darwinism” has absolutely nothing to do with how humans make decisions or exercise their “free will.” Statements like these are meaningless.

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