Adventists Still Battling Over Creationism

OUR last report about this was here: Adventist University Battles Over Evolution, when we learned that La Sierra University of Riverside, California, part of the Seventh-day Adventist system of higher education, is having a struggle over teaching evolution and creationism.

A faction led by Shane Hilde wants to require Adventist teaching on creation (God created the Earth in six literal days) in La Sierra’s biology classes, with the likely dismissal of the three La Sierra biology professors. Alternatives were being discussed, such as teaching both evolution and creation in biology class, teaching them both but in separate classes, or teaching creationism only. A trustees meeting was scheduled for 12 November.

In the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California we read La Sierra University debate over creationism continues. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

La Sierra’s board of trustees last week unanimously voted to endorse Adventist beliefs that the world was created in six 24-hour days and said the teaching of evolution must be “within the context of the Adventist belief regarding creation.”

What does that mean, specifically, regarding science classes? Let’s read on:

The board also proposed that all 15 North American Adventist universities develop a curriculum that includes a “scientifically rigorous affirmation” of Adventist creation beliefs.

A difficult task. We continue:

The presidents of the universities plan to discuss the proposal when they meet in February, said Fred Kinsey, spokesman for the North American division of the Adventist Church.

At least they have a few months to work it out. Here’s more:

Shane Hilde, the Beaumont man spearheading the petition drive, said he will be satisfied only when Adventist creation beliefs are presented as the preferred world view in classes in which evolution is discussed.

“To me, this is a positive statement, but that’s what it is, just a statement,” Hilde said of the board resolutions. “They didn’t do anything about how to hold employees accountable for representing the church’s position.”

[…]

Hilde and others say Adventist beliefs must be integrated into all classes in which evolution is discussed. He said faculty statements that God created everything in the world are insufficient, because they don’t specifically endorse Adventist beliefs.

Hilde is clearly a man of faith, with no interest in compromise. He probably doesn’t even want to “teach the controversy.” He ought to move to Texas where he’d fit right in on the Board of Education. Moving along:

The Catholic Church and other Christian denominations teach that evolution — which has been the overwhelming scientific consensus for decades — is not incompatible with Biblical teachings.

The Seventh-day Adventist church is among the denominations that specifically state that creation occurred in six literal days, and that the world was created several thousand years ago, not billions of years ago.

Seems simple enough. If you don’t like the science you’re being taught, then change churches and you can learn a whole new reality. No worries!

Here’s another excerpt:

The chairman of the La Sierra biology department, professor James Wilson, declined to comment, referring questions on the matter to Wisbey [president of La Sierra]. The three biology professors at the center of the controversy have also declined to comment.

Those are the professors who have been teaching evolution. They have a lot riding on this, but they’ll have to wait until the 15 university presidents meet in February. And so will we.

Update: Adventists and Evolution: No Solution Yet.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Adventists Still Battling Over Creationism

  1. “(S)cientifically rigorous affirmation” of Adventist creation beliefs. Oh dear, they do have their work cut out for them. Best of luck in putting together a working biology class without even a foundation to put it on. Might as well have a chemistry class without the Periodic Table. Geology might get pretty iffy too. Astronomy will have to teach that god’s a liar and only apparently put galaxies and such so far away. Just imagine a new slogan for Adventist Colleges. “The best Science you can get from the Dark Ages.”

  2. Albanaeon says: “Oh dear, they do have their work cut out for them.”

    Not really. Genesis pretty much covers the subject. They’ll also need a few extra chapters telling how horrible Charles Darwin was. No problem.

  3. Well, they are a private institution so, as long as they don’t accept any state or Federal funds, they can pretty much teach whatever they want no matter how misguided. Though, if they decide to go down this road, I would hope they’d lose their accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  4. RogerE says,
    “Though, if they decide to go down this road, I would hope they’d lose their accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.”

    I would hope that just considering teaching creationist biology, creationist geology, creationist astronomy, etc. would cause them to lose accreditation.

  5. Those are the professors who have been teaching evolution. They have a lot riding on this, but they’ll have to wait until the 15 university presidents meet in February. And so will we.

    To put it succinctly, those profs are screwed.

  6. RBH says: “To put it succinctly, those profs are screwed.”

    They don’t have much time to get their resumés out before they’re “expelled.”

  7. Curdge, notice that I said a working biology class. Even if you can get past two different creation stories, talking snakes, and death (prolonged) by apple, things tend to fall apart around the Noah’s Ark time frame. Eight people build a wooden boat about the size of the Titanic (How? answer, They were Super People!), get two of each “kind” of animal (How did the animal get there? answer, Ummm, God! What are “kinds”? We’ll tell you when we find out!), proceed orderly onto said boat (What did they eat, particularly the carnivores? answer, Ummm….) and survive, depending on who you’re listening to, a global flood produced by steam vents or comets or our magically suspended ice ring (WTF’s! answer Really, this makes sense) while several billion years of plate tectonics (and radioactive decay!) occurs in the space of a few months (How did the earth survive approx. a years worth of the ENTIRE sun’s output of engery, let alone a wooden boat? answer, Quit asking questions, this is science.). Afterwords, said people and animal leave the boat (Again, what did they eat? answer The plants were floating on rafts with the insects!) and in the space of a few decades repopulate the earth with entire new species specially adapted to their environments (HOW?!?! answer, SUPER evolution! (within their own kinds of course)). And somehow all this comes together to form a comprehensible explanation for biology? I’ll say it again, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

  8. Albanaeon asks: “And somehow all this comes together to form a comprehensible explanation for biology?”

    Yes, it does. If you don’t like it, teach somewhere else, heretic!

  9. A point that this blog and other commentaries on the La Sierra University debacle seems unaware of is the deep irony of the board’s statement.

    La Sierra’s science faculty teaches science. Only.

    For La Sierra’s detractors, this was a problem. Hilde and others want to see religion taught as science in science classes.

    The Board of Trustees, in affirming the church’s own affirmation statement on creation (literal, recent, six-day, etc.) simply deferred to an official policy statement. They punted.

    When the Board of Trustees proposed that all 15 North American Adventist universities develop a curriculum that includes a “scientifically rigorous affirmation” of Adventist creation beliefs, they called the church’s bluff.

    The Adventist Church established a Geoscience Research Institute 50 years ago in part to create a scientifically rigorous model that would reconcile scientific data and Adventist beliefs on creation. No such model has ever been produced, nor will it be.

    The board said in essence, “You come up with a scientifically viable model of a literal six-day creation for us to follow, and we’ll follow it.”

    The irony is that such a model is impossible. The board must have realized this.

  10. LSU Grad Student says:

    A point that this blog and other commentaries on the La Sierra University debacle seems unaware of is the deep irony of the board’s statement.

    The board said in essence, “You come up with a scientifically viable model of a literal six-day creation for us to follow, and we’ll follow it.”

    The irony is that such a model is impossible. The board must have realized this.

    I suspect that most of our readers understood the situation. But it never hurts to be explicit.

  11. Yeah, I think I pointed out how absurd a biblical biology (geology, astronomy, etc) class could get. I more worry that not quite convinced people would get the impression that there is some scientific basis for creationism in colleges debating this nonsense.

  12. Nice post LSU Grad Student! I would like to think that the Board of Trustees “called the church’s bluff” but, only time will tell. I agree, “They punted.” It is really not their place to decide for the entire church. The REAL question is whether this is a religious-institution or an educational-institution. The former is allowed to teach religion as science, the latter isn’t.

  13. What readers may not have picked up on (and I don’t want to assume too much since I don’t know the readers) is that the board was not caving to pressure from outside as much as some commentators (not necessarily here…) have suggested.

    It *seems* as though they were deliberately giving the church a challenge that they knew the church could not, and therefore would never, fulfill.

    The next step for La Sierra is certainly not teaching religion in its science classes. Far from it! Having talked with the majority of the professors in the biology department, I can aver that nobody is interested in teaching religion as science. However, that is precisely what the critics are complaining about.

    (At risk of being way too explicit)

  14. LSU Grad Student says: “(At risk of being way too explicit)”

    The blogosphere ain’t for the timid. Seriously now, who is this guy with the petition? Why is anyone paying attention to him? Is he a big benefactor, financially? Does he have some other kind of influence?

  15. Adventists are a wary bunch, highly suspicious of things that seem to challenge their religious convictions. Shane Hilde has exploited what he is depicting as an affront on the Adventist teaching of a recent, literal, six day creation (namely, evolutionary biology at LSU) and the twitchy rank and file are eating it up.

    While Hilde probably is not wealthy (he is a high school English teacher in a rural town east of Los Angeles), he doesn’t need much money to run his smallish website. He and Sean Pitman (an Adventist MD with a website “Detecting Design”) are cohorts who are seeking to turn public opinion against La Sierra.

    Hilde might be compared with Matt Drudge in that he is an aggregator of articles with a strong rightward slant or he might be compared to Glenn Beck as an agitator/instigator of a movement of angry (and ill-informed) partisans attacking a purported “liberal agenda.”

  16. He and Sean Pitman (an Adventist MD with a website “Detecting Design”) are cohorts who are seeking to turn public opinion against La Sierra.

    Aw, man, Pitman is a creationist crank from waaaaaay back. Ugh.

    Dontcha just love it when blood flows in the aisles and under the pews?

  17. LSU Grad Student said:

    “The Board of Trustees, in affirming the church’s own affirmation statement on creation (literal, recent, six-day, etc.) simply deferred to an official policy statement. They punted.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong. I have personally talked with board members about this very thing because there were many people who had the same impression you did. However, the resolution that you are referring to was voted on the second day of the meeting, which was after their affirmation of the church’s position in a recent, six-day creation.

    LSU Board will most definitely be dealing with the issue. They are well aware of what is going on, and not just because of the efforts of the petition. I know for a fact that Board members have sat in on the biology classes and it was very apparent to them the professors were teaching the theory of evolution exclusively.

    Keep in mind the issue is not whether or not the theory is taught, but with what bias it is taught.

    A statement from the Board will be posted on EducateTruth.com by tomorrow to clarify this point.

    Also, this matter is far from over for the Board. I can promise you that you will hear more from them in the very near future. I don’t expect there to be total resolution this year, but quite a few things are being put in place that will hopefully bring resolution to this issue within a year or so.

    The position of the SDA church is not up for debate at this time, and contrary to what you and others have said at Spectrum the view of Educate Truth, at least in regard to creation, is not representative of a small ultra-conservative group. In relation to the world church, we have the backing of the majority (92%).

    If this was put to raw vote of those who supported what LSU is doing in their biology department verses those who do not. Those who do not would out vote those who do support LSU professors.

    We’ve had leaders at all levels of the church thanking us for the work that we’re doing. In other words, we have the support of the church.

    The church has been extremely strong in communicating that it does not endorse evolution does not want it treated preferentially in the classroom.

    The Curmudgeon:

    People paid attention to the petition not because of who I am, but because they believe church employees should uphold the church’s position on a recent, six-day creation. I’m a nobody. The success that was experienced had little to do with me, and everything to do with the thousands of church members that are concerned.

  18. Shane Hilde, thank you for your well-expressed comment.