How does anyone draw the line between sentient and non-sentient …

Comment on GC Delegates Vote to Tighten Language of Fundamental #6 on Creation by Rhonda Dinwiddie.

How does anyone draw the line between sentient and non-sentient living organisms? Nervous “systems” span the continuous and very gradual range of non-existent in single-celled creatures all the way up to that of Homo sapiens. There is no clear demarcation for this question.

It is very clear, if one desires to take the Book of Genesis quite literally, that death was present in the world BEFORE the Fall of Man. Far too often, SDA’s, including theology professors, have taken the precise and literal wording of Ellen G White’s writings as always reflecting the intended precise and literal meaning of the writers of Scripture. This is a prostitution of priorities. The purpose of her writings was to lead us to the Holy Scriptures — not to be used as a club or as an infallible interpretation of them.

Although EGW’s writings were not specifically mentioned until my above replies, it is fairly obvious from where much of the interpretive wording of the above original article originates — Spiritual Gifts and Patriarchs and Prophets. I love Ms. White’s writings, and that is why I am very much against their misuse and abuse.

Rhonda Dinwiddie Also Commented

GC Delegates Vote to Tighten Language of Fundamental #6 on Creation
The Bible makes no distinction between “sentient” and “non-sentient” creatures or any type of similar comparison in Genesis 1 and 2, and likely most of the rest of the Bible. And you speak to me of being un-Biblical? It is you, not the Bible, making this distinction. It does not use these words or anything in Hebrew in the first chapters of Genesis that could be translated into these English words. The distinction is a human one and is of recent origin; the derivation is from a Latin word first used in 1632, and its meaning is not related to anything in these two chapters. But, GENESIS CHAPTER 1 does, in fact, distinguish between “domestic” and “wild” animals which God is related to have created as such. God CREATED wild animals in Genesis 1:24-25 (see multiple versions). Does the Hebrew word translated as “wild” mean docile or tame or herbivorous? No. Genesis 16:12, in multiple translations, in speaking of Ishmael, well describes “wild” as “against,” “fighter,” and “being at odds with.” I have no question about what Isaiah and other Bible writers indicate about the new earth. But, they ARE talking about the NEW EARTH, not the original. Besides, much of such wording appears to be more prophetic poetry, just as much of Genesis 1 appears to be more historical poetry, rather than literal events. Snakes do not literally eat dust for nourishment now, and they won’t then either. Genesis paints a picture of a powerful, intelligent and loving Creator. How God loves and creates may be far different than we are capable of imagining and is likely far different than we DO imagine. God is capable of creating creatures that cannot experience pain as “suffering,” no matter what they experience, even though pain, to a degree, is actually needed by “sentient” animals as you refer to them. I do not look at God as a torturer as you imply that I do. That is not the nature of God, and it is not mine. But, you seem to limit the power of God in asserting what He must or must not have done. Besides, EGW says very plainly that it is not the words of the Bible that were inspired. She says only that it was the writers who were inspired just as the Bible says for itself. God’s words are not represented in Scripture. They are ALL men’s words and modes of expression that are used. Hebrew poetry is, indeed, descriptive, but it is often not literal or intended to be literal at all. Nevertheless, to me, these words of men paint a “very good” BIG PICTURE of the WORD of God. God is Love!

GC Delegates Vote to Tighten Language of Fundamental #6 on Creation
@Sean Pitman: I am not suggesting anything of the kind. But, you seem to suggest that I feel no empathy for the suffering and death of sentient animals. I am a vegetarian, and at least half of the reason I am is because I AM empathetic. Why are we getting personal and insinuating such things all of a sudden? Have you no empathy for the feelings of other humans? Nevertheless, if it were a “big deal” with God, don’t you think that He would know that animals that would never die would eventually reproduce and populate every square foot of the earth leaving no breathing room for themselves let alone humans? I think that would be a bit uncomfortable, don’t you? Additionally, Genesis 1:24 mentions that God created both domestic and “wild” animals. See translations other than just the KJV. I think it might be telling to do a statistical study on the meaning of the Hebrew phrase, “chayetho ‘eres” translated “wild animal” as it is used in the OT, and it clearly is referring to “wild animals” as admitted in the SDA Bible Commentary. Now just what do you think a “wild animal” is according to Moses? Was it the lion or wolf or asp that is going to be so docile in the world made new? Aren’t “wild animals” those that fear other animals and/or man or predators seeking other animals for food? Just asking! I am looking for an amicable discussion, not a battle or a war.

GC Delegates Vote to Tighten Language of Fundamental #6 on Creation
Whether animals are or are not “sentient” is a human description/definition, not God’s. God allowed massive multitudes of innocent animals to die in “The Worldwide Flood” that He brought upon the earth mentioned in the article, if we are to take all of Genesis quite literally. God allowed many innocent animals to be destroyed when Israel was ordered by God to kill all of their enemies . . . men, women, innocent children/infants and innocent animals. God allowed and expected innocent animals to be killed for thousands of years in sacrifice to Him. Knowing all of this, I still do not look at God as a monster as you seem to think He should be so considered by anyone who believes that the death of sentient creatures could have occurred before the Fall of Man. God knows what He is doing in how he creates matter, space, energy, time, galactic clusters, galaxies, supernovae, stars, planets and living things. We are arrogant creatures if we think we know all that there is to know about how He did and continues to do it.

Recent Comments by Rhonda Dinwiddie

La Sierra University gets 3-year AAA Accreditation
To say that we all “know” what is taught at LSU is not really saying very much unless you, yourself, have actually sat in the classrooms, listened, took notes, asked questions, participated in group learning activities and dug deep into assigned readings. I have not, and I am not thoroughly convinced of the accuracy, sincerity and honesty of the reports of those who have. Evolution, as a theory, should be taught in all of our educational institutions, and so should creationism or the “scientific theory of intelligent design” be taught in all of our schools . . . as a theory. As a denomination we have for far too long been overly concerned about “indoctrination.” Doctrines are important, but not so important that we feel compelled to shove them down the throats of others. We compile, enunciate and codify doctrines of what we believe the Bible and/or EGW teach us about God, life, spirituality, history and many other things. But, our understanding of the Bible and EGW are in a constant state of flux. Is not one of our greatest doctrines that our Christian religious experience is to be just that, experiential and experimental, not static but dynamic? Yes, I know, we have many “old landmarks” that are the “pillars” of the church. But, it is important to remember to be continuously open to new and fresh understandings of every one of them. This is the doctrinal truth of “Present Truth.” Without it, spiritual progress wanes and we get stuck in the proverbial conservative “rut.” Conservatism and liberalism must be balanced in the Christian experience.

Louie Bishop Testifies, Again, about His Experience at La Sierra University
Origins is an extremely complex and difficult academic subject area. Too often it is fraught with excessive emotion. I was a junior high biology teacher for many years and always found my students stimulating, refreshing and helpful to my understanding of the human spirit as we delved deeply into it. They taught me much about teaching. I learned that this is an area where teachers can not afford to be dogmatically conservative or extremely liberal. “Evidence” for evolution and for intelligent design should be presented in as fair and objective a way as possible without showing any bent for absolute conviction in favor of either ideology. This practice should be observed by teachers in every academic discipline and all subject matter, not just that of origins. What used to be considered “facts” have often proved to be falacies after additional observations and analysis. This is just as true of the study of the Bible and the writings of EGW as the study of nature. Teachers who “brainwash” their students with any theory at all are doing them an extreme injustice, wasting their tuition money and indoctrinating them with dogma. The tentativeness of science and all other academic disciplines are not being appropriately valued or taught. EGW valued “present truth” . . . deeply digging into the Word of God for fresh understandings of His/Her wisdom, workings and providence. The attitude of “El maestro dixit” (the master has spoken) should have no place in our institutions of learning.

Bringing the Real World to Genesis: Why Evolution is an Idea that Won’t Die—IV [A Review]
I, for one, would like to know what kind of bias is displayed by mean-spirited sarcasm. Can one who resorts to it be free from it? Truth can afford to be fair AND kind at the same time.

Bringing the Real World to Genesis: Why Evolution is an Idea that Won’t Die—IV [A Review]
Unfortunately, the lack of the ability to procreate between species, subspecies or varieties is no proof at all that they did not have a biological common ancestor. Artificial selection (by humans) of specific traits or characteristics in animals or plants can create offspring separated by many generations that are so very different from their ancestry and from one another that they can become genetically isolated and incapable of again interbreeding and producing hybrid offspring that are viable. Truth can afford to be fair.

Bringing the Real World to Genesis: Why Evolution is an Idea that Won’t Die—IV [A Review]
Excellent refutation, Sean. In a somewhat different but related discussion of such matters, I would appreciate your views on the probability of only levorotatory (left-handed) stereo enantiomers of almost all of the amino acids found in living systems developing purely by chance. I’ve never heard of any neo-Darwinist taking on this one as far as origins goes. Have you? And of course, how can DNA develop independently of proteins or proteins develop independently of DNA? Don’t they both have to be in existence concurrently? Not to mention, what is the probability of correctly functioning proteins, which are generally many hundreds or thousands of amino acid building blocks long, if only a single amino acid is out of place? All biologists, ID or Darwinists (neo- or otherwise), also need to be honest staticticians!