Response to Wisbey’s Letter by Sean Pitman, MD

This is in reply to the open letter from Randal Wisbey, President of La Sierra University (LSU), in regard to the fact that science professors at LSU are not only teaching, but promoting the truth of Darwinian-style evolution in their classrooms.

Wisbey presents the standard argument heard over and over again over the years that this shouldn’t matter because all of these professors believe in God as the ultimate Creator and are good Christian men and women who actually “value” Adventism.  Wisbey explains that LSU is all about teaching the “prevailing scientific views within a supportive classroom environment that values the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s contribution to the understanding of biblical creation.”

I’m confused here.  What aspect of the stated fundamental positions of the SDA Church are being valued when a professor explains to his/her students that the Church’s clearly stated position on origins is actually ludicrously mistaken?  – that life on this planet really did evolve over hundreds and thousands of millions of years in a Darwinian manner?  – that humans and apes really do share a common ancestor that gave rise to all hominids over the course of millions of years?  That death and suffering on this planet did not begin with the moral fall of Adam and Eve, but predates Homo sapiens by hundreds of millions of years of untold suffering and carnage?

Wisbey admirably tries to put lipstick on this pig (Palin style), by pointing out all the good things that LSU is doing to make up for what he tries to describe as a this minor discrepancy and a general commitment to openmindedness  -  a “willingness to consider a variety of views.” Wisbey goes on to explain that, “This grows from our church’s commitment to ever be open to new light.” – to include “new light” that challenges the fundamental basis for the very existence of the church?  What happens to the uniqueness of the SDA Church if it actually accepts and starts promoting the validity of Darwinism?

This isn’t about atheistic thinking here.  It is quite possible to believe in God while also believing in Darwinian-style evolution over the course of billions of years.  However, it is very difficult if not logically impossible to reconcile this view with what makes the SDA Church unique among Christian denominations.

At the very least Wisbey and LSU should be open and honest about what is actually being actively promoted at LSU.  It is no secret what many of the science and even religion professors believe and promote as the gospel truth to their students.

For decades Larry McCloskey actively promoted Darwinian evolution occurring over billions of years to his students to the active exclusion of any substantive discussion or presentation of the unique SDA view on origins in his classroom.  In his own syllabus he wrote:

“It is vitally important for you to realize that this course—as a science course—is describing evidence from mainstream science, and is not dealing with beliefs…

Evolution is supported by an overwhelming and constantly growing amount of scientific evidence. New discoveries continue to fill the gaps identified by Darwin in The Origin of Species. The evidence is in the form of direct, measurable, empirical observation. Is it informed to dismiss Darwin’s ideas as ‘just a theory’?…  There is nothing ‘theoretical’ about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin’s original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea.  It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory.

The reason this unifying theory has become so widely accepted in the scientific world is that it has stood up to intense, thorough, continual observation and criticism. The way to become rich & famous in science would be to show a fundamental error in the theory. The built-in skepticism of science prevents these ideas from becoming dogma.”

Lee Grismer has done and is doing the same thing.  His own publications as sole author overwhelmingly clarify his position for anyone who wishes to consider what he is actually teaching his LSU students.  Grismer is an expert on the vertebrate life of Baja California, which he argues, in his papers, has been affected by the “dynamic environmental history . . . over the last 4-5 million years” and that this history “has had a profound effect on the evolution, distribution, and genetic structuring of Baja California’s terrestrial vertebrates.” – L. Lee Grismer, Evolutionary biogeography on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula: A synthesis of molecules and historical geology, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 December 19; 97(26): 14017–14018.

biologyLee Greer, who actually refers to himself as an “evolutionary biologist” is fairly new to LSU’s faculty, but is already very active in promoting the gospel of Darwinian evolution to his students – as I know by conversations with students and personal discussions with Greer and a review of Greer’s published position on origins.  Even in his bimonthly “chapels” at LSU he has actively promoted the idea that the various accounts of creation in Genesis are contradictory and allegorical – i.e., that there was no literal creation week or worldwide Noachian flood just a few thousand years ago. He has been recorded on a panel discussion of this issue at the Loma Linda University Church for a creation/science weekend explaining his views on this issue (see Link).  It is no secret, which is a shame because I personally think a lot of Greer in particular and think he is an honest, sincere, very concerned teacher who really does care about his students and wants with all his heart to lead them in what he considers to be the right direction.

But again, this isn’t about sincerity or nobility of purpose or all of the other wonderful things that LSU has done and is doing.  This is about the willingness of LSU, as an institution, to support one of the most fundamental of all SDA doctrinal positions – beyond mere lip service to their employer.  So far, such support is not only lacking, but is actively scorned in a very public and open manner.  The Church’s position on origins is actually belittled and ridiculed in the science and even religion classrooms at LSU.  It is not only disrespected, it is undermined in a most active and most open way possible by LSU professors – and not without effect.  Many of LSU’s students have lost their faith in the Gospel story as stated by the SDA Church and have either left the Church or become what I like to call “Country Club Adventists” – who only stick around because they appreciate the society, not the fundamental doctrines, of Adventism.  Many of my own family have left the Church over this issue as well.  So, it is actually quite personal for me.

So, I challenge Wisbey, the leadership of LSU, and the SDA Church in general to at least take the lipstick off the pig and present the unvarnished truth of what is being promoted at LSU and let the parents of the students who are paying and often sacrificing a great deal for “Adventist education” to decide what they really want to pay for.  The lipstick looks silly anyway.


Sean Pitman, MD