@Sean Pitman: Sean I am beginning to think you …

Comment on What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist? by pauluc.

@Sean Pitman:


I am beginning to think you are all hat and no cattle. You say of science and hypotheses testing;

“Well, one would have to propose a hypothesis that could be tested and potentially falsified where only the entity in question, or something indistinguishable from such, could actually produce the phenomenon in question. You could call it the God-only hypothesis or the Santa-only hypothesis, etc. In other words, what would it take to convince you that God or Santa or the Flying Spaghetti Monster really does exist? – outside of wishful thinking that is?”

So now you seem to be wanting to test some overarching hypothesis in some scientific Toure de force.
Lets start with something a little more modest and tractable. It is now 2013 and we discussed on this site in 2010 a need to subject your ideas on preloading of genetics and 1000 fsaar limits to experimental testing. You have not done so in any way so proposals to test more expansive hypotheses completely lacks credibility and are just so narratives.

Similarly coming from a soldiers mouth the words
“saved through their obedience of the Royal Law of Love” have a very hollow ring and for me at least conjure up images of a holy warrior dressed in fatigues with an M16 in one hand and a scalpel in the other triaging justice and mercy by the sword of God; healing to our friends and a bullet to the head of the infidel.

I am assuming that an armed forces scholarship and rank of Major are not available to a conscientious objector. But maybe that image is restricted to people like me and Leo Tolstoy who takes Matthew 5 far too literally. Or maybe it is just melancholy that the Swiss are going the way of any country where everyone has a weapon and peace and safety is assured by the knowledge that the good will always shoot first.

pauluc Also Commented

What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist?
@Sean Pitman:
I find it ironic that Australia one of the most secular societies on earth and one established as a home for criminals should have in 1996, after a massacre of 35 people by a lonely simpleton with a cache of automatic weapons, stopped any further massacres by the simple expediency of banning automatic weapons and giving a substantial cash-back to get large numbers of weapons out of the population and into furnaces. And the consequence; No massacres in the last 20 years. I don’t have to worry that my children or grand children will be massacred at school because the churches as Gods people of peace at a time of crisis did act as the salt of the earth and articulated even for a very brief time what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Meanwhile the most Christian country in the world continues to naively accept as inevitable regular massacre of children and adults as the inevitable by product of freedom and continues to export to the rest of the world its Hollywood myth that violence is the solution to any and every problem. Individually and corporately the US and you included, articulate the anti-christian message “Send in the troops”.

I am a rational person; why should I not be disdainful of your patriotic nonsense and passion for power and violence and ask hows it working out for you?

Read the book. “what would you do?” I am sanguine enough to think that you are an intillegent man who may actually change his mind. After all I think you as a MD may have had some modicum of training in conflict resolution that I am sure even in the US falls short of shooting the patient.

What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist?
@Sean Pitman:


I agree with Jeff Kent

It is commendable that you see yourself as a crusading iconoclast that has no truck with consensus or acceptance that others may have better insight and understanding than yourself. However I would make a couple of points

1] You can speculate as much as you want about hypotheses and science but until you do the experiment and publish the result you are not a scientist.

2] If proposing an hypothesis makes you a scientist then everyone is a scientist. There is no end of “I thinks” about the place.

3] What makes a scientist is the testing of an hypothesis by experimental comparison to reality and publishing the resulting data

4] You keep saying someone else can test your hypotheses. No, a real scientist proposes his own hypothesis and tests it himself. No real scientist is interested in testing your hypothesis particularly when you are not at all engaging in the process of science.

5] And no, having a publication does not necessarily make you a scientist. As I have said before your publications are stamp collecting not hypothesis driven and you have not even tried to pursue the only publication you have that may be construed as hypothesis driven. Why is that?

6] You paint yourself as a rugged individualist and iconoclast but in really the evidence suggests that you are simply a hired gun for a highly conservative agenda.

a] You are a militarist who cannot see that there is anything beyond lethal force or the threat thereof to bring about a peaceful society. Do you really see the Kingdom of Heaven as based on the threat of lethal force? By your words you make the royal law of love nothing but a meaningless platitude and you certainly would have nothing to do with kenosis.

b] You criticize science but only extremely selectively; only the science that would conflict with your preconceived religious views.

c] When it comes to an iconoclastic approach to religion or the supernatural you certainly do not offer any except for a critique of those who would actually think a little more deeply about their religion.

d] Like others accepting a fundamentalist view of EG White and the canonical writings as inerrant you construct a robust critique of science manifesting extreme confirmation bias that is really predicated on an unwillingness to confront the reality of the scientific data found in the canonical source for science the peer-reviewed literature.

e] There is a flip side to your certainty and your naive assumption that you can understand and evaluate all of science. You imagine that you have won an argument when your opponent no longer replies but seem to dismiss the possibility that they are simply fatigued and stunned. I would suggest anyone who wants to see the trajectory of such a discussion google Pitman and Morton, Pitman and Pharyngula, Pitman and talkorigins

“The defining characteristic of all arguments with creationists is how damned ignorant they are. I’m sure many scientists have been stupefied into stunned silence when they first encounter these people; these advocated of creationism are typically loud and certain and have invested much time and effort into apologetics, but when you sit down and try to have a serious discussion with them, you quickly discover that their knowledge of basic biology is nonexistent.” PZ Myers

Anyway I welcome you expression of your views and hope you will eventually appreciate that Grace and love can overcome evil and that you do not need to use evil to overcome evil.

What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist?
Im sorry Sean but you are acting like a 4 year old child.

We have played long enough and have to go home now…. Why
Its late and its getting dark…. Why
Because the sun is setting so it will get dark…. Why
Because the earth rotates and orbits the sun… Why
Because it is moving, gravity and the conservation of angular momentum… why

You are not at all interested in the response. You want a sound bite not an answer.
You are being completely disingenious. You claim you as an MD are highly educated in genetics and “…looking for an adequate mechanism for so long, and not finding one …”

I assumed that you understood that science moves in small steps and would be prepared to actually read some part of the canonical literature that addresses these questions since you claim only to accept what makes sense to you personally and are happy to declare with authority the scientific consensus wrong on many points. As is my want I made too many assumptions based on what a conventional scientist or well educated MD would do. I indicated there was no simple sound bite answer that there was huge amount of unanswered questions and pointed you to how these questions are being tackled by scientists publishing in the canonical literature. I suggest that in 2012 there are over 6000 papers containing primary data addressing the question of evolution, mutation and the genome.

Your response.

“As I’ve mentioned to you before, don’t just list off a bunch of irrelevant references and links. Present one paper, just one, which deals specifically with evolution beyond very low levels of functional complexity”
“… and show me where, in that paper (a specific quote) any novel system of function, requiring more than 1000 specifically arranged residues, has been shown to either 1) evolve in real time or 2) could have evolved in a reasonable amount of time based on relevant statistical calculations and extrapolations based on a real understanding of the odds involved of moving around in the vastness of sequence space via random mutations.”

This illustrates your approach to science and its canonical literature. You want a proof text answer to a very complex problem. The superficial and infantile repetitive why.

Sorry Sean but I have to conclude that for you the primary literature is like a planned holiday destination. You know it is there and but you dont actually go there. You only go to the places vetted and flagged by some ID or creation science body. Just as the content of your latest entry on this site on science and faith hand in hand is familiar to anyone who has frequented this site, read your book, or visited your website you are great at self plagarizing and recycling. Since you do not actually have anything new to say, do not want to actually consult the primary literature for new ideas and want nothing beyond a proof text or two I must wish you the best and yet again depart. I was expecting and hoping for something more.

Grace to you.

Recent Comments by pauluc

LSU memorandum confirms Educate Truth’s allegations
@Sean Pitman:

To summarize the issues in your long response.

1] NHP as you have articulated do not offer any possibility of deciding between relatedness by descent and “God made it that way”

2] ID only hypothesis; Has never been formulated in any rigorous way that has been subject to testing. I do not even know what you mean by “ID-only”. Most scientists would understand ID as code for “We dont understand this except God did it”.

3] Hypothesis testing you say

“Real science demands that models be at least theoretically falsifiable. That means that a particular model can be shown to be false even if there is no other model with which to replace the current model. A false model is a false model. It’s as simple as that.”

Unfortunately it is nowhere near as simple as that as you would know if if you had bothered to try to understand science beyond your sectarian base. Although the poperian model of science as hypothesis testing and a requirement for falsifiability is still the dominant understanding it is much more complicated than that. The discussion by Alistair McGrath in “A scientific theology vol 3 theory” pg 192-214 of the Durham – Quine theory and the nature of hypothesis testing would be a useful start to understand hypothesis testing and falsifiability. In summary however the theory suggests that a thesis such as quantum mechansisms, origin of life by evolution by common descent is surrounded by a group of agregated interrelated hypotheses. These might include Darwinian natural selection. In reality as Jerry Fodor has suggested in his book “What Dawin Got Wrong”, the Darwinian hypothesis can be rejected based on evidence without at all rejecting the core evolutionary hypothesis. As he says in his eassy “Fodor against Darwinism” found on his website

“None of this should, however, lighten the heart of anybody in Kansas; not even a little. In particular, I’ve provided not the slightest reason to doubt the central Darwinist theses of the common origin and mutability of species. Nor have I offered the slightest reason to doubt
that we and chimpanzees had (relatively) recent common ancestors. Nor I do suppose that the intentions of a designer, intelligent or otherwise, are among the causally sufficient conditions that good historical narratives would appeal to in order to explain why a certain kind of creature has the phenotypic traits it does (saving, of course, cases like Granny and her zinnias.) It is, in short, one thing to wonder
whether evolution happens; it’s quite another thing to wonder whether adaptation is the mechanism by which evolution happens. Well, evolution happens; the evidence that it does is overwhelming. I blush to have to say that so late in the day; but these are bitter times.”

The response to data that would falsify one of the hyptheses is to change that hypothesis to better account for the new fact without at all changing the original thesis.

A recent review on evolution of cellular complexity by ratchet like mechansisms rather than selection also critiques Darwinian selection as the mechanism of generating complexity but does not question the well established rubric of evolution of cellular complexity. (Gray MW, Lukeš J, Archibald JM, Keeling PJ, Doolittle WF. Irremediable Complexity? Science 2010 Nov;330(6006):920 -921). This is the model of scientific advance you are confonting. Science could completely reject all darwinian mechanisms but the thesis of evolution would remain because of the absence of a better theory.

Your approach of pointing out the problems you see with some aspect of the evolutionary model completely misses this point. You are approaching science and knowledge from the approach to truth you hear from the pulpit and from fundamentalists like Bob Ryan. You cannot be a christian unless you believe in the literal creation. You cannot have a sabbath unless the literal creation is correct. There can be no second coming unless the creation is literally true. This is not the mindset outside the inclaves of fundamentalism. The pillar talk of people like this engender the idea that failure at a single point destroys the whole edifice. This does not pass the test of realism.

You cannot hope to change the scientific paradigm that is the thesis of evolution by pointing out even a multitude of errors or inconsistencies in the surrounding interrelated hypotheses without a compelling alternative core model. You have to provide both an overarching alternative to evolution as a thesis and to each of the surrounding interrelated hypotheses each of which provide support for the overall hypothesis.

I know you have taken the view that you can and must personally understand everything related to origins and have published critiques in all conceivably related fields. This is all well and good but these have to be both credible and well informed in each field.
for Eg do you seriously want us to believe that geo biodiversity can be accounted for by a model of plate tectonics that suggests that in 6000 years south america moved >11000 km from Gwondanaland. This is incredible; minimal rate of nearly 2 Km per year! The constraints imposed on the model, a 6000 year earth history makes your task of credibility virtually impossible. But if you move away from the “about 6000” of divine relevation you are on your own and well away from the mothership of the church.

You have a problem in that your core thesis that God created everything 6000 years ago was the dominant model some 150 years ago but this has been tested and progressively rejected as untenable because of accumulating evidence for the alternative model over the last 150 years. It is extremely unlikely that this will ever be a scientific thesis although it will always remain as a faith statement which is outside the magesteria of science and hypothesis testing. People like Prof Kent seem to recognize this.

4] The organization of the genome;

“Beyond this, your notion that the genome is a hodge-podge poorly planned jumbled mess is a view that is at odds with the currently emerging view of the genome”

I think it interesting that you would take a journalists view, albeit published in science, as the best evidence for “currently emerginf view of the genome”. Even given this caveat I do not read this review as supporting your contention of design on which it is completely silent. Unless of course you see in a Mandelbrot and all complexity the finger of God.

If you had read the chicken defensin gene paper you would have an example of what I mean by messy. Within this gene family
a] Why are the introns of different length ie different ?random intronic lengths
b] why are the intergenic distances variable?
c] why does the gal13 have partial repeat sequences
d] why is the orientation of the gene seemingly at random?

This does not to me seem the carefully ordered regular precise structure I would expect of intelligent design. If you suggest that we do not yet know but that all of this nonetheless reflect careful thought or that it reflects interference and corruption from the devil as David Read woudl suggest I would have to conclude that your ID concept is vaccuous has not explanatory value and is far from scientific.

In contrast the evolutionary model of common origin and ancestory has extraordinary explanatory and predictive value. It predicts that changes between species will reflect this history of origin by descent from common ancestors.

I ask you to take any published analysis of a multigene family and ask the same questions. Do they objectively support order and design or are they best accounted for by contingency and chance with a mere modicum of selection.

5] I have dealt with “real science” and new models above but your statement

” … but on the functional aspects associated with the NHP that cannot be explained by any known mindless mechanism while being within the realm of the powers of intelligent design at a very high level.”

is a faith statement, a non-sequitur that does not get to the point of this dialogue which was why the genome is as it is and can you honestly say it is best accounted for by “design”.


The End of “Junk DNA”?
@Sean Pitman:
“I’m a very strong supporter of the freedoms of religion, speech, and general expression within the confines of civil law and government………………church employment is an entirely different matter. Church employment is a privilege, not a basic human right. No one should expect payment from any particular organization, to include a church organization, just because one claims the name of that organization”.

Does your rhetoric and claimed principle really just come down to concerns about administrative process and control of thought by economic leverage? Do you have no respect for education as a process that involves academic freedom?
Your approach seems to be blind to the progressive history of Adventism. Adventist have no creed and what you believe about origins is not precisely what early adventists would believe. Adventism has had a doctrine of creation like all christians. Most have adopted a YEC view but that YEC in general has not always believed that the earth was old or that a big bang occurred. The idea that there has been a single standard of belief over the last 150 years is naive. Are you advocating that what you believe now in 2012 including your belief on natural mechanisms of macroevolution (as it is usually defined) and the age of the earth is the gold standard manifests to me a huge amount of hubris and lack of perspective. Have you not read the statement of fundamental beliefs and its preamble? What do you want to do. Sack people every time there is new perspective on mechanisms of creation? Do you have a purge your educational faculties with every change in administration? Doesnt seem to have worked very well for ADRA. Do you think you are the one who can determine the “truth” to which we must educate. How about a little academic freedom and acknowledgment of the true standard. Recognition of a doctrine of creation rather than judging people by the nuances of some theory of creation.

I do not really know the people who teach science at La Sierra but as Prof Kent has suggested it seems to me they may well have projected a lack of respect for traditional Adventist positions and heritage in the past but I suspect you are now beating a dead horse and the University has done what it can to be responsibly responsive to the expressed concern.

“The freedom of expression and the ability to hire only those who will most accurately reflect one’s views is also extended to the “ignorant”.”

Yes we are all ignorant it is a question of whether we are able to admit it and concede expertise to those who manifest it. I have never claimed to be brilliant, I simply try to practice my craft as honestly and consistently as I can and that means accepting the tradition and process of science as a window to understand the natural world and accepting the value and insight of both the Adventist tradition and the Christian faith as it has been practised by our spiritual fathers for 2000 years. I ask only that we practice charity rather than condemnation toward those who are trying to educate in science and in knowledge of God.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
@Sean Pitman:

Thanks for that. Wise choice, that I knew given your intelligence you would make despite you vigorous defence of your near perfect pair model of origins. We will pass over the assumption that there are no deleterious mutations and that you discriminate against animals with variant expression of FGF4 and consider it deleterious. Why the prejudice against short legs?
Lets recap what we do agree on

1] A genetically bottle-necked population such as 2 Daschunds lacks the genetic diversity to allow rapid selection of phenotypic novelty by selection among allelic variants. imposing a bottleneck on a non-bottle-necked population of wolves is also suspect so you choose 100 pairs.

2] In this you seem to be accepting the conventional scientific view that a bottle-necked population is undesirable as it has dramatically decreased repertoire in their gene pool and high levels of homozygosity. Lack of variation rather than deleterious mutation is the issue.

3] You accept that wolves and their subfamily dogs, foxes, jackal and coyotes are all derived from 2 animals living 4000 years ago. This by definition is a genetic bottleneck

4] These animals had 2 genomes and maximum of 4 haplotypes and alleles for every gene. Any additional alleles has arisen subsequently as random or non-random mutations.

5] The vast majority of the SNP (>2.5million) arose in the progeny of this pair by mutations over a period of 4000 years.

5] The multiple DLA alleles at the class II arose denovo since these 2 animals provided the 4 original alleles.

6] Similarly in man [assuming 8 people on the ark and that Noahs sons were the progeny of he and his wife, and that his daughter in laws were unrelated to each other and to Noah and his wife and were heterzygous] there were a total of 10 alleles at HLA B. this means that 1590 of the HLA-B alleles currently recognized by genotype in man have arisen denovo over the last 4000 years.

7] In this case if we accept Seans value of 1600 HLA-B allels then 99.3% of the variation seen today has arisen by chance mutations and selection.

8] If we conservatively estimate the HLA-B serological specificities associated with amino acid changes and differences in peptide binding are 60 and all of the 10 HLA-B alleles in the 8 people on the boat were associated with serological specificity then we can assume that at least 83% of the variation in the highly functional amino acid changes in HLA-B seen the current population were derived by chance mutations.

9] There seems little reason to argue that the same process that must occur in highly polymorphic systems such as the MHC do not occur in other gene systems.

9] If between 83% and 99% of the variation in the progeny of 2 animals and 8 humans arose rapidly over 4000 years and in the case of canines this acquired variation was able to generate at least the species wolves, coyote, foxes and Jackals, it is hard to then mount a consistent criticism that species can never arise by acquired mutations.

10] You can of course invoke miracles. Indeed I think it is the only logically consistent conclusion given your premises.
1] All species variation arose over 4000 years from an extremely bottle-necked population
2] Mutations account for any variation not present in the original near perfect pair.
3] These mutations cannot generate anything useful or novel that can contribute to the phenotypic development of breeds or species.

I have great faith in your ability to reconcile these but I do not have the intellectual horsepower to do so except by invoking miracles.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
@Sean Pitman:

You suggest

“Don’t sell yourself short! You think you’re just as right in your opinions and that I’m clearly mistaken. You’re certainly no less “gifted” in this regard than I am.”

No Sean this is really the core of the differences between you and me. It is not a matter of opinion but a matter of statistical probability. In almost all of what I have posted on this site I have reflected the evidence for the consensus view rather than my opinion.

Dismiss me as kowtowing to authority if you will. I have faith in the process of hypothesis driven science and the community of scientists that seeks to arrive at objective truth by free and open communication of ideas by publication and peer review. In this process I continue to participate for I do think it is one of the most noble human endeavours.

As a outsider to this process and as one who has never had formal training in science you uncritically accept the paranoid meme that says you must be somehow blessed by some scientific inner circle to have your papers accepted. You feel excluded but have you actually tried to participate?

I accept in good faith the work of scientists and the derivative consensus view in most areas of science but like all good scientist understand it is always a tentative synthesis. I maintain a cynical attitude which unfortunately taints the way I view your claims. I nonetheless can appreciate the elegance of a solution to a conundrum and an hypothesis that has huge explanatory value while still accepting its tentative nature. I understand my limitations and have some inkling of the extent of the biomedical literature. I recognise expertise and am therefore happy to defer to the expertise of others with an appropriate track record.

In contrast because of your religious views you do not accept the consensus view of scientists in a vast number of areas including geology, climatology and paleoclimatology, volcanology, oceanography, genetics, paleontology, cladistics, and molecular biology. In all these areas you imagine that you have more expertise and insight than the people who have dedicated their lives to the study of the content of these areas.

In spite of the way you construct it I am not suggesting I am more righter than you and I have only ever suggested that you have some respect for the history of the current consensus view in science and a little more realism in your perception of mastery of these areas. You may view this as a contest and that you easily best some fool from the antipodes but in rejecting my appeals to the evidence and the orthodox consensus view in areas in which I have some expertise you are essentially claiming you know it all.

[to save time I will acknowledge this space as containing some castigation from you or Bob Ryan such as “Gotta love the appeal to authority!!!”]

Which brings me to the question of probabilities. Statistically who do you think is more likely to be right? 1] An MD from Southern California whose ambition in life seems to be to extinguish any open discussion of views that do not align with his own views and interpretation of most all of science. 2] The consensus view of many scientists who in good faith attempt to understand the world through a process of hypothesis testing and experimentation and open communication of that information and interpretation.

A “Christian Agnostic”?

Concerning your fixation with the numerology I can use R and bioconductor probably better than the average biologist but like lawyer jokes the adage about “lies, damn lies and statistics” resonates because it has some basis in reality. Biologists use statistics to decide what is the likely among the possible processes and hypotheses. Statistics and mathematics are tool in biology not the reality. Particularly annoying I find the abuse of post hoc probabilities which are largely meaningless and depend on the rigor of your definition of the dependent variables proposed as precedent to the outcome. Bayes and the savy gambler understood the real purpose of statistics.