@Sean Pitman: Evolution is a fact. It is not a theory. …

Comment on WASC Reviews LSU’s Accreditation by LSU Alumnus 1996.

@Sean Pitman:

Evolution is a fact. It is not a theory. Evolution, like gravity, is a natural force that we can try to describe and test and form a theory about.

The “theory of evolution,” however, is a theory. The theory of evolution is an attempt to describe the origins of life (or at least the origins of life as we know it), using the natural process of evolution as sort of “framework” upon which we try to extrapolate a history we cannot directly observe.

I’m glad you understand that WASC’s requirements simply require the professors to “inform their students of the mainstream concensus (sic) on the theories of evolution.” This is my point exactly. It is not trying to “meddle” or require “independence” from the church. It is simply requiring that the fact of evolution (i.e., that evolution can and does occur) be taught as just that – fact. Any attempts to extrapolate the facts to derive a cosmology, however – be it the theory of evolution or the theory of creation – is not WASC’s concern. In fact, Professor Bradley was doing precisely this – teaching creation and evolution concurrently—and meeting the requirements for WASC certification. It is a shame that he has lost his job simply for doing it properly.

LSU Alumnus 1996 Also Commented

WASC Reviews LSU’s Accreditation
@Sean Pitman:

Is it only coincidence that your claim that humanity, as a species, is on a genetic decline echoes so closely that posed by EGW herself? From Testimonies:

“The present enfeebled condition of the human family was presented before me. Every generation has been growing weaker, and disease of every form afflicts the race. Thousands of poor mortals with deformed, sickly bodies, shattered nerves, and gloomy minds are dragging out a miserable existence. Satan’s power upon the human family increases. If the Lord should not soon come and destroy his power, the earth would erelong be depopulated.”

Contrary to your offhanded and unsupported insult to myself and Professor Kent, I understand well the point you are making – you were proposing a straw man argument (“prove to me that you understand how the detrimental mutations are removed in slowly-reproducing species”) without conclusively proving that the detrimental mutations occur in slowly-reproducing species at a rate that requires compensation, or that understanding of the mechanism by which those mutations are eliminated is a prerequisite to acceptance of the overarching theory. As countless studies (not to mention the anecdotal research in which you specialize) demonstrate, we slowly-reproducing mammals demonstrate observable mutations of functional value without any evidence of genetic decline. It wasn’t true when EGW said it, and it’s not true today.

Of course, you have shifted the goal posts yet again, since your original thesis was disproven handily. Namely, your focus is now on “near-neutral mutations.” Your claim is that we are amassing genetic mutations that don’t result in quantifiable (or at least fatal) expression until they reach some threshold, or mix in some genetically toxic cocktail that will spell the end of the species. It is your turn to reference some respectable, refereed academic journals that have conducted scientific studies to support this hypothesis. You propose a genetic time bomb ticking in each of God’s creations – and the existence of this time bomb nullifies the theory of evolution as currently and generally understood. Sadly for you, you are in a no-win situation here: if you can “prove” this hypothesis, science will not be offended and will instead take this knowledge to further refine the theory – but you will have failed to prove the theory wrong. If you cannot “prove” this hypothesis, you will be forced to find another “smoking gun” on which to hang the entirety of your argument against evolution. Pushing the boulder up that hill is really a tireless, unrewarding job, isn’t it?

WASC Reviews LSU’s Accreditation
Sean is clearly well-versed in using the language of a scientist to speak the thoughts of a layman. He can use the proper terminology, but his conclusions are flawed, his grasp of the research is tenuous, and his obsession with proving his theory in complete ignorance of any scientific search for truth renders him unqualified to discourse on this topic. Yet, discourse he does, and with his pablum he seeks to bring down an entire university (and, potentially, the entire denomination, were he and his friends truly successful in their stated mission) because of his self-centered, egotistical crusade.

Simply put, Sean et al. believe that creation, as per the Bible and reiterated by EGW and our official church position, is the only possible explanation, and any deviation from the literal account is false. In the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, all he can do is manufacture, misquote, or wrench from context “scientific” evidence not to support his position, but rather to destroy the opposing view. His defensive position is, rhetorically, an easy one, given the phalanx of similarly-ignorant foot soldiers he has arrayed around him. Logically and scientifically, however, his chrome-plated babbling is no more scientifically sound than Faith’s emotional aspersions. (And don’t me started on Bob’s unsupported “junk science” claims and personal attacks – we could be here for hours. I don’t claim to be a stellar example of what LSU can provide, but if my intellect and spirituality were to be judged against that of those here who claim superior SDA-ness, I would not fear for the conclusion).

The significantly better educated (and equally well-spoken) contributors to this thread have provided reams of evidence to counter Sean’s laughably narrow and woefully insufficient evidence, yet the rabble continue to be roused. Evidence does NOT support the view that genetic mutation is necessarily degenerative, regardless of population size or generational frequency. While you quibble over contemporary research that fails to conclusively uncover evolution’s “smoking gun,” you ignore the gestalt of a century of research and millions of studies that all point in the same general direction. According to both history (and consistent with evolutionary theory), humanity has frequently faced extinction, and many other species of similar complexity have succumbed. Variants of “humanity” have, in fact, become extinct. As we have also observed scientifically, the term “detrimental mutation” can be falsely proscriptive, as it may take generations for a mortality-increasing mutation to demonstrate a species-saving purpose. There are, too, somewhat unique qualities demonstrated by homo sapiens and other long-gestation, long-generation, low-offspring species that counteract some of these potentially terminal genetic mutations (advanced and abstract concepts of socialization and division of labor, for instance), and some of the genes we carry today would have likely been the end of our species in another organism or at a different point in our own evolution. Is this an argument for God’s hand in observable evolution, or simply blind chance? There within lies an opportunity for theological discussion. Against the argument that evolution has shaped each and every organisms on this planet, however, there is no theological counter that should be given the weight of science in our curriculum.

It’s as if we have a 1000-piece puzzle, and on its cover we can see a beautiful scene of nature. Some maintain that we should never open the box, simply believing that the pieces are there, and be content to enjoy the cover alone (given my personal facility with puzzle-making, perhaps I should consider this approach). Others believe we should put a few of the pieces in place, but if we find something we cannot understand, we take scissors and cut apart the box lid, and try to fit those clippings into the empty spaces to see something approximating the full picture and consider our job finished. Some of us, however, upon putting 800 or so of the pieces in place, come to see a pattern, and continue to search for the remaining pieces-all the while referring to the cover for guidance. The picture on the cover, however, which is smaller and is partially obscured by labels and cropping and a price tag, is not a literal account of what the puzzle will look like when it is complete.

The 800 pieces we’ve found say “evolution.” We might occasionally put a piece in the wrong spot, and we will probably never find all of the pieces – but we know enough to know we’re on the right track, and most of the pieces don’t go together any other way. Are we not supposed to show this puzzle to our students? Are we supposed to feel guilty for understanding this much? Are we supposed to disregard the evidence in front of our own eyes simply because it doesn’t look like the cover? (“but the wildebeast is SUPPOSED to say “$12.99″ on it because that’s what it looks like on the cover!”)

The Bible does not even possess logical internal consistency; it is only through dedicated effort that we can reconcile the entire work in a consistent document. Must we also be forced to jump through these hoops to bring it our current interpretation of the Bible into alignment with our observable world, and if so, must we grant this particular interpretation of the Bible inviolable primacy? EGW never required this – why should we today?
Sean seems to think we need to work on the puzzle, but he seems to feel that we need to trim the pieces to make them fit, instead of accepting we’ve got them wrong. Sometimes, though, we simply need to accept that we are wrong – that is the nature of science, and should also be the hallmark of any valuable religious community.

WASC Reviews LSU’s Accreditation
One more thing to point out – WASC neither requested nor implied that LSU must operate “independent” of the church. In fact, WASC is stating that the decisions to fire professors must be handled according to the institutional processes (i.e., by the board, which includes representatives of the church), as opposed to simply being dictated by the church alone. Graham has admitted that he violated this separation (likely in fear for his own job), and WASC is rightfully concerned.

WASC’s guidelines are very clear: you may teach whatever unscientific mumbo jumbo you want, as long as you ensure students understand that current scientific understanding supports evolution. You don’t have to tell the students that evolution is TRUE, but rather, that evolution is FACT – and in that subtle difference lies our ability, as a religious institution, to teach science while also teaching our own creation myth. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to teach our students that all science – evolution included – is subject to revision given evidence to the contrary – which is precisely what our professors were doing when someone threw a childish, selfish temper tantrum that may very well destroy the economic and spiritual lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of good, loyal SDAs.

Recent Comments by LSU Alumnus 1996

At La Sierra, Biology Faculty Affirms Importance of Teaching About Creation in Curriculum
I can only speak for myself, Sean – but you’ve sure got me wrong.

Our church should (and has) evolved to accommodate scientific, social and theological advancements. The number of drugs dispensed at LLUMC in a single day undoubtedly has EGW spinning in her grave. Our “church fathers” would be aghast that our institutions allow (let alone encourage) the establishment of retirement accounts (could there be a more genuine repudiation of our deepest, core-est belief than to consider even momentarily that the world might be here for 30 more years?). Why, I’ve even heard of our good SDA students not just watching movies, but MAKING THEM!

I’m consistent with the name of our organization. I worship on the seventh day, and I believe Jesus is coming back to take us home. I also realize that the 27FB are a snapshot in time, a necessary formalization of what it means to be an SDA – but the preamble to the 27FB specifically indicates that the 27FB are NOT God’s (nor even EGW’s) “law”—that they are indeed subject to change. So, by all rational measures, I’m comfortably within the nominal confines of our shared denomination.

HOWEVER – and here is the salient point – I just don’t happen to be within the confines YOU want to artificially establish. That’s ok, your bigotry will fade, or you’ll establish some splinter group – either way, my prayers have been that this celebration of reactionary hypocrisy will be short-lived. Events seem to indicate an answer to my prayers, though I know better than to let my guard down just yet.

The truth is, an SDA institution finding its own way to include both the myth of Creation and the facts of science in the curriculum does not in any way impair your ability to enjoy the particular pre-industrial revolution form of SDAism you prefer. The world is over-populated with people who share your ability to side-step logic and reason in search of blissful cognitive accord. I’m sure there’s a compound in Texas with a “for sale” sign up right now waiting for new occupants, and I reckon you could make quite a deal in this slow economy.

Anyway, I’ll disappear again. I just wanted to poke this thing with a stick again. Looks like there’s still a bit of life in it (sadly), but I’ll check again in a few weeks.

At La Sierra, Biology Faculty Affirms Importance of Teaching About Creation in Curriculum
Why would anybody bother Randy Roberts with their bizarre and inflammatory questions? Don’t we think he has something better to do than politely smile at the voluntarily ignorant while listening to their drivel?

At La Sierra, Biology Faculty Affirms Importance of Teaching About Creation in Curriculum
Oh, and really? There are people in 2011 who are actually able to write the words “I am totally against homosexuality and abhor their agenda”? Maybe we should save our vitrol for something that:

a) people have a choice about,
b) actually matters, and
c) is any of our business?

At La Sierra, Biology Faculty Affirms Importance of Teaching About Creation in Curriculum
It looks as though this destructive hurricane of misinformation and closed-minded bigotry might finally be passing. I am heartened to see so much hand-wringing by the EducateTruthers over the fact that this door—which the NAD foolishly kicked open at the frothing insistence of pseudo-scientific radicals with hurt feelings and no substantive evidence—might be closed before the lunatic fringe was able to turn LSU into a useless backwater Bible college. Rational SDAs the world over are preparing to breathe a tentative sigh of relief. We can just hope that the Big Bus of Common Sense can run over this little pet project on its way back into the Garage of Reason, hopefully backing up and running it over a few extra times to ensure it doesn’t rise up, Friday-the-13th-style, to terrify us again. Until the paint on the tombstone dries, though, we’ll just keep a level eye, walk softly in the sanctuary and be on the lookout for EducateTruthers who seek to destroy our church.

God bless!

LSU, Pacific Union Conference and North American Division Sued

Isn’t there a saying about not throwing out the baby with the bathwater? The SDA church (of which I am a member of good standing, considering our church does not excommunicate simply because a member is uncomfortable with a belief or two), generally, believes as I do – especially if you further limit the pool to the educated and intellectually honest church community. If the SDA church refuses to advance, then I may be forced to leave it – but it is my duty to try and help my church to grow before abandoning it. Should those who agitated for equal pay (and equal status) for women have simply “left to find a church that believed the same way” they did? Fortunately for us all, not all of them did, and we have a stronger, more moral church because of it. [edit] Creation vs. evolution? I my crystal ball’s a bit murky on that one, but I can hope that this debacle can shove us into the 21st century soon. I propose that those who do not see a need for an evolving church (you know, the type of church EGW started) should in fact leave to stagnate without dragging the rest of us down with them.


The faculty at LSU (including those in the religion department) taught me that thinking for myself was not heretical, and for that, they deserve every accolade I can bestow. If you believe the job of an SDA university – even only the religion department — is simply to enforce SDA dogma, you are more dangerous than I first imagined. Again, condemnations and shame from those who feel as Faith do only support my point that LSU is doing a spectacular job of educating our young SDAs and preparing them for a world where they will be attacked not only from the outside world, but from those inside the church as well. I rest assured – and advise those with attitudes similar to mine – that the bigoted, narrow-minded ignorance spewed at them comes only from the a few loud and generally impotent parties. I intend to do all in my power to push those parties back into the obscurity they crawled out of, and allow the rest of us a church that we can be proud of.