Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Doing honest science at an Adventist School

 Yesterday I attended the PACIFIC NORTHWEST ADVENTIST FORUM meeting which featured the guest speaker Benjamin Clausen, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist Geoscience Research Institute at Loma Linda California.

Here is a portion from the Announcement:

Title: Doing Honest Science at an Adventist School?

 "As I teach and do research in geology, I am continually confronted with
questions of how to be honest with the science, yet faithful to the
Seventh-day Adventist church. What do I say to my students and science
colleagues that fairly represents the geology data, while being supportive
of the Bible and an encouragement to faith? This lecture will present some
anecdotal experiences and ideas that have been developing, rather than a
final answer. It will suggest: (1) teaching the standard scientific paradigm
along with the merits and problems of various alternatives, all within the
bigger perspective of the philosophical issues; (2) developing an attitude
that values modern science while recognizing its limits, rather than an
attitude that attacks modern science and sets up some parallel scientific
paradigm; (3) some areas of Scriptural certainty, along with many areas that
may be beyond finite human understanding.”
This was probably the best attended Forum meeting I have attended, about 120 people. It was also practically worthless. That announcement excerpt probably said more than the lecture. Fortunately the question and answer period was a little better. Most of his lecture was citing the process of meetings that the Adventist church has held in the last couple of  decades. Process is his big issue, it seems to be what he has placed his hopes in though if one looks at the process and what the church leadership has determined to be the results such as the organizing committee's statement for the Faith and Science conferences which appear to only restate the Adventist churches leadership desires rather than represent what the conference actually did, one is hard pressed to see much hope for the process.

The lecture presented no anecdotes about how to teach science in the Adventist classroom, how to be true to scientific principles while holding to the Adventist leadership's endorsement of young earth beliefs. He did note that in his area of Plate Tectonics it does not work within the young earth perspective. Basically I found his presentation to be so worthless because not only did it not fulfill its stated objectives but it was almost entirely politically shrouded as to not upset the Adventist Leadership in their campaign to say that the Adventist church must believe in a literal six contiguous days of 24 hour of creation in the recent past. How that works with the science or how we can explain in our Adventist schools was entirely ignored. Because it appears it cannot be done so let's just ignore that and hope it goes away.

Obviously it will not go away. Actually what I hoped was that the Adventist scientific community would stand up to the Adventist leadership and tell them that Adventist leadership's insistence upon six literal days of creation does not work with the science and that we cannot pretend it does and produce scientifically successful students and professionals. But ignoring the issues to let the folks over at have their way they insure that the Adventist church will simply lose their Science professionals and youth because the reality does not match well with the churches beliefs.

As with most issues in the Adventist church we are limited because we have to act as though the 19th century views of Adventism must rule us forever. It is these "Whiteites" that will not allow science to be taught because it disagrees with their prophet Ellen G. White. The same prophet who said that volcanoes* were caused by burning coal and limestone is given the credibility as the messenger of God even on scientific issues. Most of them will resort when questioned on this that she was so right on health reform that she is correct on science. Ignoring that her teachings on health reform were the common knowledge of the health reformers that proceeded her.

Hopefully the educated portion of Adventism will stand up before it is too late. But the fear of losing the denominational employment  is most likely muting their voices. Which if that continues will lead to the complete regression of Adventism into a fringe group which will severely limit our Adventist health care system and professionals.

*Ellen White on Volcanoes in Patriarch and Prophets page 108-9:
"At this time immense forests were buried. These have since been changed to coal, forming the extensive coal beds that now exist, and also yielding large quantities of oil. The coal and oil frequently ignite and burn beneath the surface of the earth. Thus rocks are heated, limestone is burned, and iron ore melted. The action of the water upon the lime adds fury to the intense heat, and causes earthquakes, volcanoes, and fiery issues. As the fire and water come in contact with ledges of rock and ore, there are heavy explosions underground, which sound like muffled thunder. The air is hot and suffocating. Volcanic eruptions follow; and these often failing to give sufficient vent to the heated elements, the earth itself is convulsed, the ground heaves and swells like the waves of the sea, great fissures appear, and sometimes cities, villages, and burning mountains are swallowed up. These wonderful manifestations will be more and more frequent and terrible just before the second coming of Christ and the end of the world, as signs of its speedy destruction.

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