By Shane Hilde
In May 2009, a letter written to Jan Paulsen, Don Scheider, and Ricardo Graham by Pr. David Asscherick expressed concern regarding “the teaching of evolution at La Sierra University.” The letter went on to say “[i]t is a matter of incontestable fact that naturalistic evolution is being taught at La Sierra University.” Asscherick said he had “seen the class materials with my own eyes” and personally visited with many students attending La Sierra University in 2003 who were concerned about what was being taught in the science classes.
Asscherick’s letter, while intended to be a private communication to church leaders, was leaked through email where it became viral. The cat was out of the bag, and president Randal Wisbey published a public response on LSU’s website. Wisbey said, “‘Naturalistic evolution’ is a phrase that either in code or direct definition implies a perspective of ‘atheistic evolution.’ We reject this implied atheistic charge. Every one of our science faculty share the goal of students experiencing a vibrant Adventist Christian faith while pursuing their education in the sciences.”
There are two things to note about Wisbey’s response: 1) he did not deny that the theory of evolution was being taught as fact, and 2) he diverts attention away from Asscherick’s original charge by rephrasing it. Asscherick never charged LSU with atheism.
So what has happened since then? Has Wisbey ever denied the charges laid out by Asscherick and others? Has the biology department produced any statement or evidence to negate the charges? Exactly how has the LSU Board of Trustees, president Randal Wisbey, or the biology professors responded to the specific criticism of how the theory of evolution is taught at LSU?
It wasn’t till September that we heard from one of the biology professors in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. In the interview he admitted that he did believe in the biblical creation. He said, “Itâ€™s very, very clear that what Iâ€™m skeptical of is the absolute necessity of believing that the only way a creator God could do things is by speaking them into existence a few thousand years ago. Thatâ€™s where my skepticism lies.” He also seemed to imply that he was not a practicing Seventh-day Adventist either. When asked if he was, he said, “On record, yes. You can read into that whatever you want.â€ Bradley is semi-retired and not tenured. These statements coupled with the course material from his classes only confirm the original charges.
Nov. 6, 2009, LSU Faculty Senate voted a resolution affirming their support of the biology department. The document did not deny the charges against the biology department. It accused “persons” of attempting to “dictate to the University–including its administrations, trustees, and faculty–the content of aspects of the bioscience curriculum.” This document did not become public though till Feb. 2010.
A week later, the LSU Board of Trustees released two resolutions. The first resolution affirmed the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s belief in the biblical creation. It said, “The Board of Trustees is fully mindful of La Sierra Universityâ€™s responsibilities and commitments as a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education. This includes whole-hearted support for the doctrines and teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as defined by the 28 Statements of Fundamental Beliefs, specifically fundamental belief #6.”
The Board also acknowledged the “the concern that Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and teachings have not been given appropriate priority in biology curriculum and instruction.” They assured the church the Board was committed “to assuring that the teaching of the theory of evolution takes place within the context of the Adventist belief regarding creation.” The Board of Trustees also did not deny the original charges against LSU.
In April 2010, LSU responded to an article from Adventist Review that covered the LSU conflict. This response did not deny the original charges against LSU. In May LSU reported on its constituency meeting. At the end of May Wisbey responded to the Michigan Conference action. Neither of these responses denied the original charges against LSU.
It wasn’t till during the GC Session in Atlanta, GA, that LSU, at their booth, handed out a statement regarding their biology department. It said, “It should be pointed out that the theory of evolution is discussed, but not promoted, at La Sierra University.” A review of the course material from some of the biology classes presents no evidence that evidence for a recent biblical creation is promoted at all. In fact, if anything, it is relegated to a status far below the theory of evolution. This has been evidenced by at least two professors, Lee Greer and Bradley, in their comments made in publications and to students at LSU in class or at campus worships. When the theory of evolution is the only world view being presented as the most unifying theory of all life, then it is being promoted. LSU administration, so far, has refused to acknowledge there is a problem in how the theory of evolution is being taught, yet they are quite willing to lie about it.
In conclusion, Wisbey has never denied the original charges made by Asscherick and Educate Truth. The biology department has never produced any statement or evidence to negate the charges. The only statement we received from the biology department was from the chair, James Wilson, “The La Sierra biology faculty have faith that God is their Creator and Sustainer.” Not one professor from the biology department has expressed belief in the church’s position on creation as expressed in Affirmation of Creation and fundamental belief #6. There is a good reason for this–many of them believe and promote the theory of evolution over the biblical creation. Here is something you can take to the bank: La Sierra University promotes the theory of evolution fact.