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Here We Go Again: Goldstein vs. Evolution: Part I
Submitted: Mar 20, 2012
By Ervin Taylor

Just when one might have thought that my good friend, Clifford Goldstein, had decided that it was in his own best interest to write on topics about which he is better informed, he has returned—yet again—to one of his favorite subjects: biological evolution.

He is like a moth attracted to a flame – apparently not realizing that every time he approaches this subject, he gets burned.  Since he is my friend, I really don’t want him to get injured.  But what can I do? He keeps doing it to himself.

The title of his latest literary jihad in the Adventist Review (March 15, 2012) is “Changing the Debate.”  He starts out with an amazing statement: “Those fighting Darwinism as a viable interpretation of Genesis are now deemed as narrow, parochial, and closed-minded.”  I instantly was attracted to the comment about the “narrow, parochial, and closed-minded” part which characterized those Adventists “fighting” Darwinian evolution.  I guess that is my “dark side” coming out.

However, on more serious reflection, it became clear that my good friend has regretfully mixed up several different issues in his statement.  In the tradition of a well-crafted apologetic—of which Cliff is a prolific and effective producer—he has created a “straw-man” type of argument and then proceeds to argue against something which no reasonably informed person would have formulated in the first place. 
As one interested in the culture history of indigenous American religions (e.g., LDS, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Adventism), I attempt to keep current on the debates from the right and left of Adventism over problems with a theological system caused by the scientific concepts of biological evolution and deep geological time.  However, I am not aware of any past or present Adventist scientist or theologian of any ideological camp who argues or has argued that the Darwinian model (actually the Neo-Darwinian model, but let’s not get into the weeds here) of how biological evolution has proceeded over geological time represents “a viable interpretation of Genesis.”

Most educated individuals gave up trying to reconcile Genesis and Geology in the later 19th Century.  The reason was that it was realized that these two ways of talking about “Origins” are addressing two very different kinds of origins—one dealing with the origins and development of the physical world and one dealing with the much more complicated and complex world of the nature of human consciousness and ultimate meaning.

The Neo-Darwinian model of how biological evolution proceeds is a scientifically-inspired narrative widely accepted in the contemporary scientific community because it provides a fully naturalistic explanation of how modern organisms developed from a common ancestor over hundreds of millions of years.  This model has a massive body of physical evidence from a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines supporting the validity of major parts of the model.

Genesis or The Beginnings is an ancient Hebrew document that contains a theologically-inspired narrative that describes the creation of the cosmos, the earth, and all living things, including humans, through the supernatural actions of the Hebrew deity.  It rounds out the narrative by adding a Hebrew version of the ancient Near Eastern “Great Flood” myth. 

Trying to harmonize or reconcile these two incommensurable ways of talking about “beginnings” has been the source of a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding.   Insisting that one is literally “true” and the other is literally “false” presents a completely false dichotomy.  I regret that my good friend has again fallen into doing just that--again.
In Part II, we will further consider some of the misunderstandings contained in “Changing the Debate.”
PS As an entirely side comment, might I say that of all of the creation stories which have been preserved in various ancient Near Eastern textual traditions, my personal favorite is one story which is only found in the Hebrew version. It is the one that has a very intelligent snake having a philosophical and theological conversation with Eve, the Mother of all humans. You will notice that this conversation was not with Adam. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, a narrative much older than the Genesis account, Gilgamesh has his immortality stolen by a snake. Were Adam and Eve created immortal? I suspect that there is much more to the Hebrew “Talking Snake” story than we have typically understood. (I know, I know, later interpretations have the snake being the mouthpiece of Satan. But it would seem that this is clearly not what the original Hebrew story had in mind.)

William Noel
2012-03-20 11:33 AM


You say Cliff is drawn to the topic like a moth to a flame.  That may also be you in the way you respond to something he has written.  

By the way, who publishes or circulates Cliff's writings?  How widely are they circulated?  Are they really worth your time refuting them? 

Horace Butler
2012-03-20 11:55 AM

As he always is on the subject of creation vs. evolution, Goldstein was right on the money.  I even zipped off a letter to the Review in support of Brother Goldstein.  In case Brother Taylor hasn't noticed it, his statement that "Those fighting Darwinism as a viable interpretation of Genesis are now deemed as narrow, parochial, and closed-minded;" is borne out by many comments made here and on the pseudo Adventist website, Spectrum; to mention only a small subset of those opposed to the traditional Christian understanding of Genesis.

If the statement by Goldstein was amazing, I find this statement from brother Taylor even more so:  "The Neo-Darwinian model of how biological evolution proceeds is a scientifically-inspired narrative widely accepted in the contemporary scientific community because it provides a fully naturalistic explanation of how modern organisms developed from a common ancestor over hundreds of millions of years.  This model has a massive body of physical evidence from a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines supporting the validity of major parts of the model."  Come again?  "Massive body of physical evidence?"  Give me a break!  A massive body of physical evidence would include vast numbers of transitional fossils, showing the progression form simple forms to complex ones.  Instead, all that exists (in spite of more than 150 years of searching), are a few "possibles," which are disputed by the experts.  The evidence that does exist suggests that living organisms have not changed much over the millennia.  And if the earth were as old as Taylor, et. al., believe, it is even more damaging to the theory, because with all that time available, it should have been easy to find those fossils.  In fact, most fossils should be in a state of transition.  But, no, what we find is organisms which bear a striking resemblance to their modern relative.  Where's the evolution?  It isn't there.  Time to wake up from the fairy tale nightmare; the greatest hoax on earth.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-20 2:25 PM

I think it is true that people who insist on believing the Genesis story as literal fact "are now deemed as narrow, parochial, and closed-minded." And are also regarded as willingly, deliberately--even enthusiastically--ignorant of the massive body of physical evidence to which Irv refers. Give ME a break, Horace! It is abundantly clear from the false assertions you make that you just simply do not know what you are talking about. You apparently do not even have the vaguest understanding of what you are so deliberate about rejecting. Now, I'm not accusing you of being dishonest. I suspect that you honestly believe what you say. But you also clearly refuse to entertain the possibility that you may not have your facts straight.

Horace Butler
2012-03-20 3:37 PM

What false accusations?  I could accuse you of the same things.  Look, this is a subject I've been studying for decades.  I was a Biology major in college.  You've just proved Goldstein's point by your accusations.  What I've rejected is the nonsense that passes for science.  But all you guys can do is attack the messenger.  Provide the transitional fossils, and I may pay more attention.  Unfortunately, Piltdown Man was about as close as they're ever going to get to a transitional fossil.  What's this "massive body of physical evidence" to which Mr. Taylor refers?  I see the stuff that passes for evolutionary science, and it's all smoke and mirrors. 

Joe Erwin
2012-03-20 4:44 PM

Sorry Horace. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Or look. Erv Taylor is correct in indicating that the physical evidence is massive. When you say you've rejected "the nonsense that passes for science," you apparently define anything you disagree with as nonsense. No one is attacking any messenger. The scientific literature is there for anyone to look at. If you choose deliberately to ignore it, no one is going to force you to do so. But if you refuse to look, or if you define science as nonsense, and if the best you can do is refer to an old hoax that was long ago discredited BY SCIENCE, what is left for you? If objective science is "smoke and mirrors" what is your fantasy about an unseen and unknowable nonphysical spiritual dimension? 

Horace Butler
2012-03-20 5:38 PM

I've looked at the scientific literature.  It's shot full of holes.  It's full of suppositions, as well as unfounded and un-provable assumptions.  That's not science.  Evolution is a much a religion as is Hinduism or Buddhism.  And I don't define science as nonsense.  Objective science is what gave us these computers which we can use to argue amongst ourselves--and put men on the moon.  But most of evolutionary "science" is speculative.  Unproven assumptions must be made about the distant past.  These assumptions will necessarily lead to un-provable theories.  I've read what some of the top evolutionary scientists have said, in their own words.  They have an a priori assumption that evolution is true, and reject anything that appears to go contrary to their religion.  The “cannot allow a divine foot in the door,” as one of them said.  And I believe it was Francis Crick who said we must continually remind ourselves that the universe is the product of random chance—even though it appears to be the result of intelligent design.  Talk about being unwilling to honestly examine the evidence!
But we’re getting nowhere, as usual.  We can argue this ad nauseum (perhaps you think we already have :) ), and neither of us will convince the other.  But don’t assume that because someone rejects the evolutionary theory, they are therefore ignorant.  There are plenty of professional scientists out there who also reject it—for scientific reasons.

2012-03-20 6:26 PM


Lets say for a moment I agree, "scientific literature" is shot full of holes. How do these "holes" validate your beliefs? Not being able to explain something is not a logical criteria for believing in a creation myth. If you would just look at the theological history behind the genesis story I think you would be the one finding out that the story taken literally is "shot full of holes."

Evolutionary theory is backed now by powerful science such as genomics. We now have unequivocal evidence that each species did not need to be created individually by god. Even if a god started it all why would he/she not place in the fabric of life the ability to adapt and for species to change? Your problem as with most fundamentalists is that if science explains something it takes away your god. Actually, you can have them both. Its just that your faith is outside the purview of science.

On the transitional fossils get a good book by Stephen Jay Gould. You pick. You can even find some featherd dinosaurs. Look it up.

Horace Butler
2012-03-20 5:39 PM

And I'm still waiting to see those transitional fossils . . . .

Joe Erwin
2012-03-20 6:15 PM

So, go and look at the abundant literature. Go to a natural history museum. If you are serious, just look.... They problem is that you are not even willing to look.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 8:08 AM

So, if it is not convenient for you to actually examine the voluminous evidence published in the enormous scientific literature, just google "transitional fossils" and have a look at the wikipedia and other sites on the topic. A few will just tell you what you want to hear, but most will provide many examples and cite many sources. Even the most complete ones are very incomplete, but any honest person can quickly see that the notion that there are no "transitional fossils" is very much outdated. That hypothesis has been falsified hundreds of thousands of times. You can, and will, of course, reject all that evidence as bogus or the work of the devil or something. But open minded people who examine the evidence will recognize that your assertions about there being no "transitional fossils" really have no foundation.

2012-03-20 6:29 PM

Be careful there Joe! You and I are interjecting rationality into Horace's faith paradigm! Good to see you here again. I have been away but that is what happens when you have to write real NIH grants and do some science teaching.


Dr. F

2012-03-20 6:40 PM

Horace the massive body of evidence showing the interconnectedness in all life forms is in genomics. Hardly smoke and mirrors. I use genomics to figure out how to make molecular probes to look at gene expression in disparate species. It is interesting to note that our neurons use the same ion channels, pumps etc to maintain the function of excitable cells as that of a fruit fly. The genes coding for these are nearly identical to those found in humans. In addition, fruit flies and humans use similar neuronal growth factors for neuronal differentiation. Imagine that! Hardly smoke and mirrors.

On the accusation side, I re-read Joes entries and I was finding it difficult to find an "accusation" per se. Those who insist genesis is a literal account of creation without acknowledging what even SDA theologians know, that it is a story, seem to me to be the closed minded ones. The "truth" in the story is what it says about humans and their ability to use stories to try to make sense of a complex world.

Horace Butler
2012-03-20 7:55 PM

Nice try, Doc, but the fact that "our neurons use the same ion channels, pumps etc to maintain the function of excitable cells as that of a fruit fly," can also be explained as having originated from a common designer, rather than having evolved from a common ancestor.  Rather than starting from scratch, we used the same principles for building internal combustiona engines for cars as we do for chainsaws, rototillers, and lawn mowers.  God did a similar thing when He created ex nihilo.

The fact that Genesis is an historical narrative (story), does not negate its validity as a history of how life began on planet earth.

And I'm still waiting for those transitional fossils.  Even Dawkins recognizes the problem, as did Gould (hence his face-saving "punctuated equilibrium” hypothesis).

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-20 10:36 PM

The mind of the fundamentalist is like the pupil of the eye:  the more light you pour on it, the more it will contract.

2012-03-22 1:21 PM

Just my point Horace. "Rather than starting from scratch nature conserved" the genes for use in all life forms. That is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts and is buttressed by the data. Your interjection of a "common designer" explains nothing. If all complexity requires a complex designer you now need a designer to design the designer. Your argument is not scientific. Science assumes only natural causes. It cannot investigate supernatural causes.

I am amazed at the wearisome attacks on science. If you propose a common designer it is up to you, not science to produce the evidence. What you are doing is saying the data is not up to your liking therefore there is room for your common designer/god.

Genesis is not a forensic history book on how our world and universe began. It is a recapitulation of the Babylonian creation myth. 

On the probability arguments. In a universe where organized matter is highly improbable there it is right in front of you because the amount of matter is infinite. In a universe with infinite possibilities the rare events are guarnteed to happen. 

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-20 2:12 PM

Ervin has written a great analysis of both Goldstein and his love of writing about a subject in which he has no academic qualifications.  But it doesn't require thorough knowledge of a subject to prevent many Adventist writers to pontificate on any an all matters with apparent confidence.  (Easily confirmed by Review readers.)

Goldstein can only be appreciated by those Adventists who are devoted to the explanations officially given on this subject, most of who have little or no education in these sciences.  Thus, Adventism sinks deeper into the beliefs of those such as JWs or LDS who need no historical evidence to document their beliefs:  they were handed down from above and written in sacred books.

2012-03-21 6:04 AM

Elaine wrote: Goldstein can only be appreciated by those Adventists who are devoted to the explanations officially given on this subject, most of who have little or no education in these sciences. Thus, Adventism sinks deeper into the beliefs of those such as JWs or LDS who need no historical evidence to document their beliefs: they were handed down from above and written in sacred books.

Many of those who do have education in these sciences and believe in evolution don't know what they're talking about. I went to a professional development seminar on drug interactions and one of the presenters told us this nice story about how the cytochrome P450 enzymes evolved. Nice story, but one based entirely on someone's imagination. It has nothing to do with reality and it is not based on any science or data. Most evolutionary explanations are like this - "just so" stories. It just so happened.....

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 8:18 AM


You are confusing discussion and interpretation with evidence (specimens, data). But explanations about how evolution might have occurred, even if they are "just so" stories, are seldom based on nothing. And you don't have to believe those explanations anyway. Look at the data. Look at the evidence. If you don't believe the conclusions are warranted, don't accept them. But don't use that experience to somehow justify believing in something for which no supportive evidence at all exists. We should all be skeptical of anything that is "based entirely on someone's imagination." And where are we most likely to find this?

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 3:13 PM

Many people talk without knowing what they are talking about. Some of those people are scientists. Scientists are merely humans. Just remarkable animals, in my opinion. Scientists and science is fallible. So what? It does not claim to be anything else, really. Most scientific results are examined and stated in terms of probabilities. So the conclusions are usually, such and such is probably true. When there is a preponderance of evidence and probability, and the most likely alternative hypotheses have been falsified, we can have very high confidence that the results and interpretations are accurate.

It is quite common for scientists with expertise on one topic to speak authoritatively about some other topic. It is also common for YEC folks who have expertise on whatever their expertise is in to speak authoritatively about scientific topics about which they have not the faintest clue.

So, there are also lots of people who have accepted evolution on the basis of what they were taught, and really do not understand much about it. Their faith may not be all that different from the faith others have in what they were taught in terms of religion.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-20 2:51 PM

Goldstein is not the only one who lacks knowledge in the subject to write so eloquently because of personal belief.  Sincere belief is NOT EVIDENCE.  Belief is subjective; belief can never be objectively evaluated.  Confusing one's belief with evidence demonstrates one has no rational argument to present.

2012-03-20 6:27 PM

I did smile when I read the premise of Dr. Goldsteins review article. Using Darwinism as an explanation of genesis? Oh good grief. Since when have we been doing that?

2012-03-20 6:56 PM


Well said. Anectdotal stories validate nothing but ones personal experiences.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-20 7:04 PM

If the Review cannot find a recognized SDA science scholar to write on this subject, is it because they cannot find any who are willing to put their name and credentials on the line?  Goldstein has no qualifications to be writing in such subjects which he does not understand.  But what should we expect of the Review?

Stephen Ferguson
2012-03-24 10:35 PM

Agree. Goldstein can write all he likes about theological implications of evolution but he is hardly a scientist; thus, I don't see how he is qualified to write about the scientific fact of evolution.    

Ella M
2012-03-20 7:37 PM

Erv says:  "of all of the creation stories which have been preserved in various ancient Near Eastern textual traditions, my personal favorite is one story which is only found in the Hebrew version"

   Did the Hebrews exist when the Genesis story was written?"  I didn't think so.  I don't believe Noah or those before him were called Hebrew.  Of course, it makes sense that all the stories are similar because they came from ONE source back in time.  This is where faith comes in.  From all the others, Moses (?) chose this story because God inspired him to.  (If we don't believe in biblical inspiration, then there is no debate.)  Wouldn't God want the truest version to live on and protect it from the distortions of the others? 
  Obviously the ancients did not have the same worldview as we do today. They would have believed in a flat earth (land) and water (seas) since they had not traveled far.  With God came light and then all the other days.  We don't know how or when God created the earth time of 24-hour days.  (time  differs all over the cosmos.)  But it could not have included eons of death and violence. The story continues with a couple placed in a garden, and they make a choice.  What it means is more important than all the scientific questions we throw at it.
   I don't think it makes a difference whether the flood was worldwide or not. The "world" to these ancients was their familiar area with its comfort, ease, greed, luxury, and one unwritten language. Had they continued their evil,  all communication with God would have been lost (with Noah's death) They would  have destroyed themselves and/or the earth (the wages of sin is death).
   Since Lucifer was thrown to the earth before man, after sin he could have taken some of the original creatures and distorted them by his own hand.  I recognize this is imaginative speculation; but to me it sounds as logical as some other views.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-20 8:11 PM

There is a mixture of fact and fantasy in your comments, Ella.

There is no evidence of who wrote Genesis:  It is only tradition that gives Moses credit for writing the Torah, even his death.

Many of the early stories recorded in Genesis are a combination of early Sumerian tales but one can decide if the original tales were inspired, or the ones found in the Bible that began with the earlier ones.

Recognizing that the early humans written about in Genesis understood their world very differently, we cannot accept that their belief is somehow sacred and inspired.  How much of those stories are literally true and accurate cannot be determined.

That "Lucifer was thrown to the earth before man" is an Adventist, even Christian belief, but the Creation story does not claim that at all.  It is a later addition.  Also, the  idea that Lucifer was given creative license (from God?) to mess with creation cannot be evidenced by the Bible, but extra-biblical sources.  When the Bible is silent on such subjects, we should be, also.

Lucifer was another name given Satan in the NT and is derived from two Bible texts written nine centures apart that actually have nothing to do with each other:

1.  Luke 10:18 "I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven."
2.  Is. 14:12:  "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning star."

When translating the Bible, Jerome substituted "Lucifer" for the morning star.  In Rev.
God is said to be the bright morning star!

There are many reasons for remembering the context when reading any ancient book, and particularly the Bible which is one of the oldest documents extant.

Ella M
2012-03-22 1:28 AM

    As I have said before, it takes faith and belief in the reality of inspiration.  Again I say that it is more important to know the meanings of these things than whether they happened exactly as described.  To be totally literalistic/legalistic about them causes us to ignore (perhaps intentionally) what they mean and what God is trying to tell us through symbol and story.  We often hide behind so-called facts and intellectualism that can't help but be biased, and thus miss the point of Scripture.  Christ said the scriptures tell of Him.

2012-03-22 1:29 PM


Keep going! You hit the nail righ on the head. The faith argument aside your point about literal interpretation is spot on. You can take a story seriously without taking it literally. The ancients were in as much awe as we are today. We just have better tools that allow us to explain some things about our world and universe which the ancients could not. The ancients used "gods" to explain natural phenomena. We use an evidence based approach and experimentation. Faith is just that, a leap into the unknown. Sometimes religion on the faith premise suggests I check my skeptical intelligence at the door. 

As Cromwell said, put your faith in God and keep your powder dry.

Ella M
2012-03-24 12:59 AM

      Faith also asks you to keep an open mind that Something exists beyond human knowledge and to seek an experience of that Divine Being.

Ervin Taylor
2012-03-20 11:21 PM

Mr. Noel asked who distributes Cliff Goldstein’s writings and how widely are they circulated.  Perhaps I don’t understand the question because the obvious answer is that the Adventist Review, the “Adventist Flagship Publication,” distributes Goldstein’s writings and Adventist publishing houses publish and distribute his books.  Perhaps Mr. Noel does not read the Adventist Review or books published by Adventist publishers. 

I plead guilty to being interested in how people (including me) come to the conclusions or beliefs that they hold about religious topics and my good friend Cliff is an interesting case study.  For example, I happen to be a third generation Adventist and Cliff is a convert to Adventism.  In my view, these simple facts explain a great deal—not all, but at lot.

As for Mr. Butler, I’m glad that he posts on this blog.  How would the rest of us learn about the extreme ends of the spectrum of views which make up the contemporary Adventist Church?   Also, it allows us to get a greater insight about what is called “folk Adventism.” 
I know that Mr. Butler says he like facts.  I have taken some time looking up the backgrounds of scientists—many of whom do indeed have earned Ph.Ds—who have publically stated that they “question evolution.”  I have discovered an interesting fact that I suspect Mr. Butler will not like.  Of the 20 or 30 whose backgrounds I have checked, I found that only one did their graduate studies in a scientific specialty dealing with evolutionary biology, geology, or paleontology at a major research university.  This is Dr. Kirk Wise, a Harvard Ph.D., who is one of the few young earth creationists (YECs) and young life creationists (YLCs) who are intellectually honest about the basis of their beliefs about earth history. 

Dr. Wise is quite open when he states that his beliefs about the history of life on this planet are based on his theology not on science. I find that to be a refreshing contrast after reading so much of the sad writings of almost all YECs/YLCs.  It is too bad that more of the scientists at the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) were as forthcoming.  (To be clear, there is one GRI scientist who has publically admitted that his belief is based more on his theology rather on the weight of the scientific evidence.  His honesty and courage should be honored and celebrated)     

Ervin Taylor
2012-03-20 11:34 PM

Elaine has gone and done it again!  I just noticed her quotation about fundamentalists: “The mind of the fundamentalist is like the pupil of the eye.  The more light you pour on it, the more it will contract.”   First class!  Might I ask Elaine if she came up with that on her own or is there some source of “truth-filled” statements like this which are on the web or in a book?

Stephen Foster
2012-03-21 2:40 AM

Hang in there Brother Butler. Some, though not all, of your detractors—and those of Cliff Goldstein—will, of course, resort to ad hominem argumentation; as they must.
Believing the Bible—and/or what the Bible indicates that Jesus believed—is not ridiculous. 

David Geelan
2012-03-21 7:40 AM

Not so much ad hominem, Stephen, as simply exasperation: there are none so blind as they who refuse to see.

The criticisms that Horace Butler makes have been made - and thoroughly refuted - for decades. Continuing to put them forward is, to be sure, more to be pitied than scorned, but I guess some with less patience do occasionally slide over into scorn.

I look forward to Part II of Ervin Taylor's discussion, because I believe that scorn is the wrong approach, but clear, reasoned, evidence-based critique of the fallacies and misunderstandings put forward is the most effective approach.

2012-03-22 1:35 PM


The posts are not ad hominem attacks. They represent a spectrum of views. The views of Horace and others that follow a YEC/common designer paradigm, if honesty were to speak, get their beliefs from a theological perspective, not scientific one.

David Geelan
2012-03-21 7:37 AM

Something I said earlier today, in a different context, on the same topic:


"Make denying reality a requirement of joining your gang, and soon all you have in your gang are crazy people..."


Maybe it seems harsh, and maybe it is, but really... it kinda sums up the situation.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 7:53 AM

One of the problems people have when they read the scientific literature or read popular books or watch TV interviews is the distinction between EVIDENCE (physical evidence and data, measures reported as results of scientific studies), and the discussions and interpretations of what the data and physical specimens are or mean. The data and specimens are real, regardless of how controversial or flawed the interpretations may be. So, science progresses by examining specimens and data and refining or falsifying previous hypotheses. To point out that one anthropologist has questioned the conclusions of another is no basis at all for rejecting the data or specimens that people are trying to understand. It is probably unrealistic to ask people who are unaccustomed to reading scientific journals to do so. Also, the biological sciences have moved forward so rapidly in recent years that it is not likely that many people who were biology majors more than a few years ago would even be aware of the advances (in genomics, for example) or understand the information available, unless they were really making efforts to maintain contact with the "cutting edges."

In science one must always be open to new evidence and new ideas. What one believes is constantly open to revision. This is uncomfortable for many who wish to always be correct or are committed to never changing their minds. While we may believe that there is such a thing as ultimate truth, we don't expect to ever fully pin it down or be able to define all aspects of its complexity. We "hold truth gently" and tentatively until the next specimen is examined and the data are in. Then we revise and ask the next question. Change is inevitable. Those who are unwilling to change their minds are left in the dust. Need I say that those who seek ultimate truth in ancient documents, and feel that there is nothing else worth learning, condemn themselves to deep ignorance. Literally, even ignoring the wonders of the natural world, while they desperately cling to what they believe to be ultimate and complete truth. 

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 11:13 AM

For a window on the way science works, have a look at the work of my collaborating colleagues, Patrick Hof, John Allman, Chet Sherwood, Bill Seeley, Esther Nimchinsky, and others. The story regarding "von economo neurons" or "spindle cells" is especially interesting, I think. To find the work, just google any of the names or terms, including my name "Erwin JM" or "Joseph Erwin." There is a good Smithsonian Magazine article on line from 2009 that focuses on John Allman's work at CalTech, along with mentions of other team members.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-21 11:48 AM

I would like to challenge the misconception that all qualified scientists reject The Creator and Design as explaination of life on this planet.   There is a controversy in science about this subject and Rick Santorium is correct that a good education does not hide facts from students for the purpose of protecting a orthodox viewpoint.   

High levels of specified complexity and irreducibly complexity are detected in biological systems through theoretical analysis, computer simulations and calculations.   Their is a sea of research in this growing field.  (Behe & Snoke, 2004; Dembski 1998b; Axe et al. 2008; Axe, 2010a; Axe, 2010b; Dembski and Marks 2009a; Dembski and Marks 2009b; Ewert et al. 2009; Ewert et al. 2010; Chiu et al. 2002; Durston et al. 2007; Abel and Trevors, 2006; Voie 2006), "reverse engineering" (e.g. knockout experiments) (Minnich and Meyer, 2004; McIntosh 2009a; McIntosh 2009b) or mutational sensitivity tests (Axe, 2000; Axe, 2004; Gauger et al. 2010).

The digital codes for specific biological mechinery is found in widely separated phyla and kingdoms.  Similar parts are commonly found in widely different organisms.  This is often called convergent evolution and is a huge surprise to Neo-Darwinism.  "Many genes and functional parts not distributed in a manner predicted by ancestry, are often found in clearly unrelated organisms." (Davison, 2005; Nelson & Wells, 2003; Lönnig, 2004; Sherman 2007)

Paleoecologist Simon Conway Morris observes that convergence of the same mechanical mechanism in widely different organs poses a major difficulty for  Evolution. 

"During my time in the libraries I have been particularly struck by the adjectives that accompany descriptions of evolutionary convergence. Words like, 'remarkable', 'striking', 'extraordinary', or even 'astonishing' and 'uncanny' are common place...the frequency of adjectival surprise associated with descriptions of convergence suggests there is almost a feeling of unease in these similarities. Indeed, I strongly suspect that some of these biologists sense the ghost of teleology looking over their shoulders."
(Simon Conway Morris, Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, pp. 127-128 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).)

One case in point is a very interest article in "Molecular phylogenetic evidence for the independent evolutionary origin of an arthropod compound eye," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Vol. 99(3):1426-1430 (Feb. 5, 2002): This article explains that the extremely similar compound arthropod eyes evolved multiple times independently.    Why would these important new discoveries need to be shared only in a socialogy class and not the biology class, as some would have it?

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 12:35 PM

I would not go so far as to say that all qualified scientists reject the creator/design hypothesis outright. Very few qualified scientists, however, entertain that hypothesis as something that can actually be studied scientifically. As modern biology progresses, I suspect that scientists are increasingly LESS astonished to be surprised at what is actually found that was not expected. Not long ago, the generally accepted view was that the enormous proportion of the genome that did not specifically code for production of proteins had no function. Now it is clear that those regions have many functions not previously suspected--including influencing gene action and expression and also promoting replication errors and epigenetic activities.

While I often do not agree with my former senator, I agree with the statement attributed to him above, that a good education does not hide evidence and ideas from students in order to protect them from non-orthodox ideas. 

BTW, "convergent evolution" is one explanation for finding similar traits in distantly related species, but it is not the only possible explanation. There are somewhat less surprising notions about how those characteristics might be based on conserved genetic mechanisms. The thing that is pretty cool is that the technology now exists to distinguish between conserved and convergent derived causes.

That is part of the VEN story I mentioned above. Making sense of evidence is challenging, and I am open to the examination of all explanations, as long as they remain in the tangible real world and are not mere fantasy based on imaginary dimensions. Speculation is fine, just don't accept it as fact until the evidence is in.

2012-03-22 1:45 PM

Nice post Joe. Yes much of that "non coding" DNA is coding for micro-RNA which act at the 5', middle and sometimes 3' end of the mRNA to modulate and in some cases turn off translation of the coding DNA.  We can also "knock down" translation of the genes using SiRNA. All one has to do is know the cDNA sequence of the mRNA and get an SiRNA made to attach to a particular region of the mRNA and translation is inhibited. Little tricky to get the SiRNA into the cells but we can do this. Convergent evolution being used by Darrel to interject a designer is off the mark. Science is constantly moving and altering our understanding of the natural world. I always find it interesting when believers come up with an AHA, science cannot explain this or that. At that point somehow their faith is then validated. It never made sense to me.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-21 12:09 PM

It is much like the score of a musical composition:  to the one who has never learned to "read" the score, it has no meaning--merely like "chicken scratches."  Yet, to the trained eye, and a musical instrument, those apparent meaningless scribbles can instantly become beautiful, harmonious sounds.

To the novice reading scientific journals or visitng exhibits, it is very easy to assume one's own interpretations, based on prior "warning" that such scientific information  is all very biased and the poor souls presenting this are unfamiliar with the Bible which has the true story of origins. The inability to separate subjective belief from objective evidence results in the fundamentalist's position.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-21 5:42 PM

Thank  you Joe.   Would you agree that Intelligent Design is testable?   How would you say it would be falsifiable?   Would the concept be outside the realm of science because of the definition of science being; 'mindless and directionless,'  or has modern science circled the wagons around that definition as a protection against meta-physics?

David Geelan
2012-03-21 9:18 PM

You've put your questions in emotive and prejudicial language, that encodes some inaccurate assumptions, but OK.

Surely it's the task of the advocates of Intelligent Design to show how their theories make novel predictions, and then seek the evidence to test those novel predictions. That's how science proceeds (at least from a Popperian perspective, which your question seems to assume). The task of outlining the theory and its explanations clearly enough that it can be tested for falsification using evidence is a task for the scientist holding the theory. Other scientists can then both test the evidence and the inferential logic to see whether the claim is supported by all of the best available evidence.


The definition of science is not 'mindless and directionless', it is 'natural'. The domain of science is the natural (i.e. non-miraculous) world. Claims outside that domain have value - I don't subscribe to scientism - but they are not scientific claims. Saying that they are not scientific claims is descriptive, not pejorative.

Claims about supernatural involvement, then, are not scientific claims. The evidence required to support such claims is not natural, empirical evidence. Where there are claims for which natural, empirical evidence is the appropriate form of evidence, the claims are scientific - and therefore not supernatural.

2012-03-22 1:49 PM


I think you missed Joe's point. Intelligent design is not testable. It is arguable. Please design a set of experiments, not arguments where you can come up with a data set or sets of data that will argue for the "designer." I am all ears. In truth no one can do such a thing. Science is hypothesis driven and what "hypotheses" are we going to come up with to "test" the intervention of a designer?

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-21 6:17 PM

It seems to me that just as the fossil record has become an even more puzzeling phenomena than Darwin's day--[fossil species most often appearing abruptly without similar precurors  (Meyer, 2004; Lonnig, 2004; McIntosh 2009b and Gould),]   the 'fossil genes'  or junk DNA (over 90% of the genome) that was predicted to be useless left overs from millions of years of development has become one of  Intelligent Design's strongest evidences.
That 'non-coding DNA is 'fossil junk 'in the genome was a logical prediction for evolutionary thinking.   Intelligent Design's prediction was the opposite.  That is that, most of the non-coding (non-coding for protein) DNA would  have functionality.   Fifteen years ago we didn't know who's view on this would be falsified as research came in.   We are now discovering the "junk DNA" is actually part of the epigenetical 'operating system,' of the computors, not just the programs, but the amazingly complex lines of code that conducts the symphony of programs and adaptations to environmental neccessities that make life work.   Examples include recently discovered surprised functionality in some pseudogenes, microRNAs, introns, LINE and ALU elements. (Sternberg, 2002, Sternberg and Shapiro, 2005; McIntosh, 2009a).     I would say that the Intelligent Design has been overwelmingly non-falsified.

David Geelan
2012-03-21 9:22 PM

Probably better not to confuse the fossil record with the DNA record: two quite different things, with different standards of evidence and amounts of evidence available. You started off talking about the fossil record but the body of the post is all about DNA.


"That 'non-coding DNA is 'fossil junk 'in the genome was a logical prediction for evolutionary thinking."

No it wasn't. It was a tentative assumption, not a fundamental condition. Certainly the new knowledge that is being gained is fascinating, but (see my post above) it does not definitively support Intelligent Design (in fact, there are legitimate questions about whether it can), since there are also plausible naturalistic explanations for the observed phenomena.

2012-03-23 12:07 PM


I appreciate your use of the literature to edify your discussion on how the scientific community modifies and corrects its position. Ultimately a gene that is said to be "expressed" is in the form of some functional protein. 20 yrs ago we though that most of gene regulation occurred at the level of the sequence or as you descibed as the "junk" DNA that becomes "intronic" mRNA which is clipped out. Little did we know that this intronic RNA modulated mRNA translation. That discovery lead to the powerful tool SiRNA also known as the "ultimate antagonist."

Where I get lost in your argugment is that you seem to be using these current discoveries which illuminate our former understanding of gene regulation, somehow as evidence of non-falsification of the intelligent designer. Where in these papers or reviews you cite is an "intelligent designer" discussed? How does the body of literature discussing epigenetics argue for an intelligent designer? How is biological and physical complexity "evidence" of a designer? If complexity demands a complex designer then what "designs" the designer? You use the science to "argue" for an intelligent designer but the data itself does not argue for that conclusion. I find it interesting that people use science to justify what is ultimately a faith position.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-21 7:16 PM

These are good questions, Darrel. The real point, I think is to make sure we are all making use of the objective information. One of the things that is being found is that an enormous amount of human genome (and other genomes) consists of DNA from viruses--especially, but not exclusively, retroviruses. It has long been known (long as in more than 30 years, which seems pretty recent) that retroviruses cleave DNA of hosts and insert their own DNA. In the process, they insert, delete, and translocate existing sequences. Of course, this can have consequences, both great and small and both positive and negative with regard to function, and ultimately, survival. I was not aware that there had been predictions one way or the other about what is now being found in terms of intronic factors or mobile elements. If so, that is interesting and perhaps worth pursuing. One would have to go back a ways looking at both plant and animal genomics. I think plant genomics has been far ahead for a long time (including ecognition of mobile elements, so-called "jumping genes" for several decades).  

In answer to your other question, about how one would falsify intelligent design, I'm just not sure how one would do that. There is no question at all (by anyone, as far as I know) that all aspects of genomes contain coded information--in a sense, that is intelligence. And, its seems to me that it is fair and appopriate to refer to all that coded information as both "intelligence" and "design." The difficulty comes in specifying how the design got there. Most ID advocates seem to say that if there is design, there must have been a designer. Some suggest that they know who the designer is/was. That does not seem to me to be a necessary conclusion. I see that there was a process that resulted in intelligent replicating molecules. I do not know how one would prove or disprove details of that process. Let's talk more about this.  

David Geelan
2012-03-21 9:24 PM

Can't edit my post above that starts by talking about the fossil record vs DNA.

What I should have added is 'Do you have a citation (or several) for Intelligent Design advocates predicting that 'junk DNA' was not in fact junk before the fact? I'm not aware of any, but it's not really my field. Retroactive 'predictions' don't count...

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-22 12:04 AM

Thank you David. Well for citations let me quote Ken Miller Speaking this controversy about junk DNA stated: "the critics of evolution like to say that the complexity of the genome makes it clear that it was designed . . . . But there Is a problem with that analysis, and it's a serious one. The problem is the genome itself: it's not perfect. In fact it is riddled with useless information, mistakes, 'gene deserts' reflecting their barren nature. " Dr. Miller stated the two side, himself clearly taking the Evolutionary Prediction here, but it has been falsified. This was only 4 years ago. Only a Theory:Evolution and the Battle For America's Soul, pgs. 37, 96-7 2008 Yes of course I take a Popperian perspective. Dr. William Denbski predicted in 1998, "On an Evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function.". "Intelligent Science and Design" in First Things 86 (1998) pgs. 21-27 and broken genes

Ella M
2012-03-22 2:01 AM

The following is from Aprill, Scientific American, Stuart Firestein:
  An impenetrable mountain of facts can obscure the deeper questions. ... scientists have coped with this by becoming more specialized with limited success; as a result they don't understand papers from other specialities...For the scientist, facts are just the starting place; every study raises 10 new questions. What makes science is ignorance. Ignorance will always grow faster than knowledge for all that we have come to know, there is far more that we don't know.  That science is about the questions more than the answers should be a relief. It makes science less threatening and more friendly.  It becomes a series of puzzles. Questions are more accessible and interesting than answers; answers tend to be the end of the process; whereas questions keep you in the thick of things. No one knows everything.  Emphasizing ignorance is inclusive; it makes everyone feel more equal in the same way the infinity of space pares everyone down to size....
  But if scientists would talk about the questions rather than boring us with jargon, and if the media reported not only on new discoveries but the questions and puzzles they created....then the public might be more interested in this great adventure of science and find it fun. 
  These same insights can be brought to theology as well.  The Bible was written over many centuries yet provides puzzles built upon puzzles that  give up their secrets to those who love them.  But as soon as one questions is answered many more crop up.  In heaven we shall find that we knew very little after all and will all be on an equal basis.  Eternity promises to be all about learning.

David Geelan
2012-03-22 2:31 AM


Joe Erwin
2012-03-22 7:47 AM

Thanks, David and Ella for your comments. First, a point of agreement with Ella's quotation. None of us knows everything, and, unfortunately, many people have difficulty reading scientific papers not in their own specialties. I'd like to encourage them to try. One thing that helped me with this was editing a couple of multidisciplinary scientific journals. Still, in all fields, much less is known than is not known. An eternity that is "all about learning" sounds like an eternity worth living. Much better than sitting around playing harps.... Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Thanks for the site regarding "junk DNA," David. I haven't looked at that one yet, but I will. The "spin doctors" have been at work on this topic, so be aware that there has been some twisting of the information to suit biases. Some of the twists involve serious errors. Perhaps we would all be served well if scientists would state their discussions and speculations more often as questions than as conclusive answers. It would work well with the scientific process, as the formulation of testable hypotheses depends on carefully framing questions. It could remove some of the seemingly dogmatic discourse.

Nathan Schilt
2012-03-22 12:46 PM

Erv, I really appreciate this column. You are absolutely correct to point out how Goldstein has created a straw man argument by unfairly (dishonestly?) framing the arguments of his adversaries. When we do that, it is impossibile to have an intelligent discussion. Unfortunately, it happens way too frequently in all controversies. It is so much easier to attack caricatures and perceived motivations than to seriously listen to and respond to what our opponents are saying. Active listening could really raise the level of discourse on the AToday blogs, without impeding robust dialogue and disagreement. What if, before reframing and attacking what someone has said, we asked ourselves the following: "Is the person with whom I disagree really making the argument I am attributing to him or her?"  

It is fine to vigorously attack what you believe to be an untenable argument. But the argument we attack should be the other person's - not our spin of that argument. What's the point of attacking someone for an argument they aren't making? Clearly, Goldstein did exactly that. He lazily distorted and misrepresented the position of Christian Darwinians. I'm glad you pointed out his fallacy. I hope it will prompt all of us (myself included) to raise our sensitivity level, and resist the temptation to advance our positions with logical fallacies.   

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-22 4:04 PM

On other Adventist blogs, Cliff has been invited to debate this subject.  He does not debate; he only throws out "molotov cocktails" and then retreats.  This is his M.O.  He can continue to raise this issue in the Review because it is always one-sided--the SDA official publication and they control any feedback in letters that may be written.  It's his, and the SDA's bully pulpit.  An excellent debater could take him to lunch.

2012-03-22 4:43 PM

Dr. Goldstein would not debate this topic here at LLU. Our SS group would not allow him to run the table and misrepresent the arguments of his adversaries. He does this in the Review because he is preaching to the choir. He wraps up the arguments of his adversaries in clever language while at the same time misrepresenting their arguments. Indeed this is a Quixotic crusade and only relevant to like minded fundamentalists.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-22 5:00 PM

I'm just wondering, Dr F, if your research interests include bacterial genomics.

2012-03-23 11:42 AM


No, but Dr's. Johnson and Watts, my colleagues study bacterial chemotaxis and they look at common genes for bacterial "motors" that provide motility for bacterium. I am in the world of the ovine and rat models studying the interaction between sympathetic nerves and cerebral blood vessel development and function. Specifically we look at how the nerves not only provide a motor influence to the blood vessels to modulate cerebral blood flow but how the nerves have an "environmental" influence as their function cause the blood vessel smooth muscle cells to develop the "contractile" phenotype. My interest in genomics comes from the tools we employ to look at gene expression. My colleagues and I have an article on nicotine exposure and modulation of the expression of the PKCepsilon gene in the heart. My contribution was all the catecholamine analysis in the heart in that model.

What I have learned from doing PCR technology and looking at cDNA sequences is the tremendous overlap of gene sequences for functional proteins between disparate species and phyla. 

Currently I am working on numerous projects leading to grants. I will place a few papers below to give you some idea of what we do. I have a great career in teaching and research. By the way my name is John Buchholz. The moniker which Sean Pitman (a fundamentalist physician who has posted here) did not appreciate me using as he thought I was doing this to cover up my identity. Hardly.  I use Dr F affectionately because about 7 yrs ago I was up in my office at 0300 working on a paper and a grant and 4 med students banged on my window. I opened up the my office door and one of them said "Dr. B you look very tired." Another then quipped that I looked like Clive Owen, the character in the 1930's Frankenstein movie." I guess the dark circles gave me away! So that is it! The name stuck! 

I really enjoy reading your comments Joe. I gain much insight into how people think, evaluate and defend faith positions. Like you I think that religion and science are non overlapping magesteria. I think this blog is part of "life long learning."

Here are the papers. Selected from over 50. I have others in various stages of revision. Regards, Dr. F i.e. John B

Vanterpool, C.K., Vanterpool, E., Pearce, W.J. and Buchholz J.N. Advancing age selectively alters the expression of the major ryanodine receptor isoforms in adult rat superior cervical ganglia. J. Appl Physiol. 101(2): 392-400, 2006.

Behringer, E.K., Leite, L.D., Buchholz, N.E., Keeney, M.G., Pearce, W.J., Vanterpool, C.K., Wilson, S.M. and Buchholz, J.N. Development and Long-Term Hypoxia Alters Calcium-Induced Calcium Release in Sheep Cerebrovascular Sympathetic Neurons. J. Appl. Physiol. 107: 1223-1234, 2009.

Charles, SM., Zhang L., Cipolla MJ., Buchholz, JN. And Pearce, WJ.: The roles of cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and myofilament Ca2+ sensitization in Age-dependent cerebrovascular myogenic tone. Am. J. Physiol. Heart and Circ Physiol. 299: H1034-H1044, 2010.

Lawrence J., Chen M., Xiao D., Zhang H., Buchholz J.N. and Zhang L.: Fetal Nicotine Exposure Causes PKCe Gene Repression by Promoter Methylation in the Heart. Circ Res. 89: 89-97, 2011.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-22 5:44 PM

"Dr." Goldstein?  He has stated he is pursuing a doctorate, but no information that he has completed requirements.  At any rate, he would be well beyond his competence in debating   at LLU.  Has he ever appeared in debate with anyone?

2012-03-23 11:47 AM


I thought he had a Doctorate in Religion or such. If not I stand corrected. He has come to LLU but I do not know when or if he visited any of the SS discussion groups. Indeed he would not get away with his particular debate style here. I think Erv Taylor has wanted him to come to the Centennial SS to do a presentation but not sure if he would accept such an invitation. I wish he would as I think I would learn a lot from an intelligent fundamentalist. Cliff is a paragon of the "fundamentalist eye" that you so articulately defined for us. I really enjoy your historical perspective on Adventism and theology for that matter. 


Dr. F

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-23 4:20 PM


It is easy to become jaded when one has been too long on the merry-go-round and while it may not be over creation/evolution/ there have been many in our history that were just as volatile, even more so:  Brinsmead, Ford, QOD?  Andreasen?  There will be another one when this one has run its course with no answers acceptable to all.

Isn't that as it should be?  A SEARCH for truth, rather than it has already been found and we own it?  Is "truth seeker" an appropriate name?  Shouldn't it be "Truth Owner"?

2012-03-23 8:41 PM


I remember when I was a graduate student and listening to Dr. Maxwell's comments regarding the bru ha ha of Desmond Fords illumination of the Daniel prophesies. I also listened to Dr. Ford and for the life of me cannot understand why the SDA theological community got is underwear all in a bunch over his proposals. I think the 1844 myth proposed by the early SDA's was a convenient way to explain their way out of the great disappointment. HELLOOOO, Jesus did no show up! 

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-23 11:10 AM

I think many here will find this interesting.  Those who are familiar with computer programming will without doubt.   It seems that The Creator, in order to optimize the use of space and for efficiency created overlapping codes in the genome--codes within codes within codes, and then mechines (splicezomes) to translated and exicute them correctly.   This is referred to as ‘alternative splicing.’   I have read interesting articles about this  by Alex Williams at  http://creation.com/astonishing-dna-complexity-up...  and James Shapiro at (http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/contextgenome.htm...  

One of the first of the complexities to challenge molecular biology's paradigm of a single DNA sequence encoding a single protein was this ‘alternative splicing,’ discovered in viruses in the 1970s.
Exons, which carry the instructions for making proteins, are interspersed with non-coding introns (non-coding for proteins that is), which used to be called 'junk-DNA' are in fact part of the operating system for celluar competors.   In alternative splicing, the cell snips out introns and sews together the exons in various different orders, creating messages that code for different proteins.
It seems correct to think of DNA as a whole as both data and programming. James Shapiro's article espiecially is instructive.   DNA, in combination with cellular structures and processes, are so much more complex than programming we do today. Typically, we separate code from data, and we don't think of code as data, but we're starting to as programming languages advance.  
It appears more and more that the entire cell functions both as a product of DNA code and as a feedback mechanism to modify the DNA as needed.  It’s like a program that contains functions for changing its own logic. How cool is that!!  
The sophistication of this is truly astounding.  The epigenetic revolution is year by year completely undermining natural selection based on  mutations (of all things!) as a creative mechanism.   That would be a prediction!
“Fearfully and wonderfully made,” indeed!

2012-03-23 8:24 PM


 Epigenetics allows some explanation of how humans having no more functional genes than a fruit fly can be yet so phenotypically diverse from the fruit fly.  What epigenetics does is expands the discussion of evolution. It does not trump it. I like your interjection of the "creator" as some sort of presumed fact. You start with God. That is fine from a faith position. Science does not because science only assumes natural causes. Supernatural causes cannot be tested. 

Joe Erwin
2012-03-26 10:41 AM

Darrel,  regardless of one's perspective or assumptions or explanations, the scientific discoveries made in the past 30-40 years, and especially the last 20 or 10 years, about how genomes function are wonderful and revolutionary. As I was beginning to learn about population biology and molecular genetics in the 1960s the weakness I found in those days regarding natural selection as mechanism of change was that it seemed to me to require more variation from which to select that was understood then to occur. Based on then known mechanisms of replication errors ("mutations") it seemed to me that the time scale was too short--that it would have taken much more than six million years for humans and chimpanzees to differentiate from a common ancestor. And this was from a guy (me) who less than ten years before that had believed absolutely that animals had existed for less than 6000 years. So it was clear to me from the fossil and paleontological evidence that the time scale was much longer than I had previously believed--but when compared with the molecular evidence, the time scale seemed too short!

So, among other books I read at that time was Kuo Zing-Yang's Dynamics of Behavioral Development: An Epigenetic View (1967 edition). I was studying behavioral genetics at UC Davis with Robert Murphey, and we were training Drosophila and testing various aspects of behavior. Davis was really at the "cutting-edge" of genetics and genomics in those days. Francisco Ayala and his mentor, Theodozius Dobzhansky, had recently arrived from Rockefeller, and Dobzhansky was especially interested in our work with fruitflies. More about him and Ayala later. But, suffice to say, I was deeply and passionately interested in the possible mechanisms that might better explain some epigenetic phenomena, and in possible mechanisms that might be introducing more variability into genomes and gene expression in individuals. After all, variation is the raw material which natural selection requires.

So, across the years I have been increasingly interested in seeing the discovery of many additional mechanisms that promote variation--including introduction of epigenetic variation in individuals. The explosion of research in virology associated with cancer research and efforts to understand and combat AIDS, has been especially productive. So, now we can see the kind of "arms race" that has long been going on between viruses and their hosts, as each changes and adapts in response to each other, in something one could characterize as a "self-designing" process. As you mentioned, Darrel, "alternative splicing" is one of the processes that introduces variation. And the feedback loop that clearly exists is, indeed, remarkable.

So there is much about genomic sciences that can be productively studied regardless of one's perspective on origins of life. As far as I'm concerned, everyone is free to speculate on causes or to offer explanations. I do see much value in looking at comparative primate and virus genimics and the interplay that exists. For example, the TRIM5alpha story with regard to primates and their lentiviruses (including HIV) is especially interesting and compelling.  

Ervin Taylor
2012-03-23 1:51 PM

My good friend Cliff has a M.A in Hebrew from Johns Hopkins University, a very distinguished university.  I've urged him on several times to do a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins or some other major research university since he is clearly smart enough to do well.  So far, he has not done so.  I think he is having to much fun doing what he is doing to take the time.  He gets to travel around the world on tithe money and warn the people about the evils of evolution and Cultural Adventism.  

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-23 4:23 PM

I think Cliff secretly enjoys throwing grenades over the walls, and then slinks back to his hidey-hole in the Review office, or off to far-away parts where they love what he writes.

2012-03-23 4:36 PM

Apologies for the multiple replies - the website was behaving rather slowly.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 4:34 PM

There is no point in wasting precious money on further study unless it gives you something you wouldn't have had without it, and unless that is really necessary. Cliff knows enough to do his job, both his paid job and his life's calling - to present the truth to a group of people that he in his own style can uniquely reach. Further study would be a diversion from his real purpose.

2012-03-23 8:37 PM


How is it that Cliff has an advanced degree in Hebrew and yet cannot recognize genesis as a metaphorical story? I REALLY would like to hear a presentation by Cliff sometime in his area of expertise. As a scientist I mean that sincerely. I would like to hear of his understanding of how the bible was pieced together.

Truth Seeker
2012-03-23 2:45 PM

"It isn't there.  Time to wake up from the fairy tale nightmare; the greatest hoax on earth."

Good, Horace. We are together with Cliff in his careful analysis. This goes around and around and where it stops we committed SDAS know! I'm glad we have a spokesman like Cliff who tells it like it is.

2012-03-23 4:29 PM

"Here we go again" is an appropriate title for this article. There is a narrow range of subjects that the non-believing liberals like to concentrate on. When criticising the president or the church's beliefs has had its time, when pushing cheap grace with no responsibility and no need for law has been covered, and then when the gay agenda has run its course, it's back to pushing evolution.

Here we go again......part 2693

David Geelan
2012-03-23 5:44 PM

Or, to reframe a little:


"There is a narrow range of subjects that the non-believing liberals like to concentrate on."

Non-believing in what or whom? As far as I know *all* the posters in this thread believe in God. Claiming otherwise is judging or lying or both - and both activities are condemned in Scripture. Or does it mean 'not believing exactly as I do'? Which places yourself in the role of perfect arbiter of orthodoxy. It was a bad idea for Paul to say 'I wish others were like me', and an even worse idea for someone who has already demonstrated judgementalism or dishonesty.

"When criticising the president or the church's beliefs has had its time",

For better or worse, the Seventh-day Adventist church is run along democratic lines. That means that healthy debate about the policies of the president is a sign of a healthy democracy. The system where debate about the policies of the leader is not allowed is totalitarianism, and while I'm sure that has some attractions for the authoritarian mind, it is not how this church operates. The church's beliefs, too, are open to legitimate critique and scrutiny: the SDA church had its genesis in such scrutiny of beliefs of the Protestant churches from which its members separated themselves, and 'new light' has been the cry throughout its history.

"when pushing cheap grace with no responsibility and no need for law has been covered",

When teaching exactly what the Bible teaches on the gospel... We have a responsibility to accept Jesus' sacrifice and then walk within his will. We are not responsible for our own salvation, and cannot be. This is indeed a debate that goes around and around, however it is one in which the two 'sides' are essentially identical except for matters of emphasis. It comes down to whether someone chooses to rejoice in the freedom from sin and condemnation offered by Jesus, or to labor on, working out their own salvation with their own works: a dismal and doomed endeavour.

"and then when the gay agenda has run its course",

Treating all human beings with dignity and acceptance: the same kind that Jesus showed to the drunkards and tax collectors he hung out with, and the various women of loose virtue he befriended and saved. The Woman at the Well, the Woman Caught in Adultery, Zaccheus... all people on the outside of their society, who he reached with genuine love and acceptance. If following His example is wrong... well, it's not wrong. The culture that adjudges it to be wrong is itself wrong. Jesus is the standard for our belief... and he said nothing about homosexuality at all, but showed us the way in his attitude to the other social outcasts he encountered.

"it's back to pushing evolution".

AKA acknowledging the nature of reality. The body of evidence for evolution is immense. Closing your eyes and putting your hands over your ears and going 'Lalalala' will not make that go away. A mature faith must engage with the world, and the Word, as it is, and must read the Book of Nature as well as the Book of Scripture.

Horace Butler
2012-03-23 6:08 PM

pagophilus is thinking along the same lines I've been thinking.  Only he forgot one issue that liberals like to focus on:  women's ordination.

"Unbelieving liberals" describes it pretty well, and you helped illustrate his point, David, when you showed that you do not believe that the apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he did.  It follows, therefore, that you also do not believe what he wrote to Timothy in his second epistle (II Tim. 3:16).

You proved his point again when you said, "We are not responsible for our own salvation."  So, when Paul says to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, apparently he had a gross misunderstanding of the gospel  Apparently Jesus was confused, as well, when He said that only those who endure to the end will be saved.  You sound just like the Baptists.

Everything pagophilus said is correct, but you took his words and twisted them; a favorite tactic of liberals and "progressives."

The "body of evidence for evolution" is miniscule or nonexistent.  The spin doctors have duped you and many others.  I have much more faith in the Bible than I do it pseudo scientists who deny any possibility for origins other than evolution.  That's not science, it's blind faith in an unprovable hypothesis.

2012-03-23 8:33 PM


I enjoyed reading your interjection of your faith as some fact. You have the personal prerogative of rejecting the evidence but that does not help your argument. So I guess I join the ranks of "pseudo scientist"? My publication record says otherwise. It seems to me you lack a fundamental understanding of what science is, what it can and cannot do?

2012-03-23 8:28 PM

David that was a nice summary. I think you have hit on something when you said we may be believers but "not bellieving as I do." The SDA church has set up its fundamental beliefs such as beliving in a literal 6 day creation. Yet, the theologians know that the genesis story is a recapitulation of the Babylonian creation story. Once I accepted genesis as a story the "logic" issues went away.

Truth Seeker
2012-03-23 4:57 PM

Ervin "  I think he is having to(sic) much fun doing what he is doing to take the time."

What would a doctorate do for him? How do you figure he travels on tithe dollars? Of course we know his salary is from tithe but travels? 

2012-03-23 8:29 PM


Good questions. On the travel issue, if he is traveling on church business but receives no compensation he can write off his costs against his tax bill.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-23 10:51 PM

Surely, Cliff is on the regular payroll receiving regular checks.  Travel expenses are additional if they are work-related.  Not long ago he posted from Switzerland, I believe.  Skiing? 

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-23 10:25 PM

Thank you DoctorF, I appreciate your comments. I had missed them before. I will try to respond in this way. I believe scientifically one can't discover the identity of The Creator. But it is not correct to think that we need to know 'identity' in order to know ontology. If we came upon written script on stone on an uninhabited island, we would not need to know who wrote the script in order to know that the language was the product of design and mind. Neither does one need to know where the designer came from to the evidences of existence. These are more properly theological questions. The genetic evidence I believe provides positive evidence of The Creator more than any other line possibly. The completely interdependent systems of code, polymerizes and larger foreword thinking organizing feed back loops--the whole system must be up and running from the get-go before NS can do anything at all. The Scientific evidence is overwhelming. Who created God then? is to fall into the error of infinite regress. The buck stops somewhere, and that would when you hit eternity. Modern cosmology confirms this as well. Whatever caused the universe is more like a mind, eternal, because before the big bang there was no time. Non-physical because matter and space did not exist before the big bang. Intelligent because the fine-tuning of physics is an arbitrary mathematical work of art that had the idea of "life" in mind. Besides these we know nothing of God except what is revealed to us through Jesus Christ - the Word of God!

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 5:34 AM

"A mature faith must engage with the world, and the Word, as it is, and must read the Book of Nature as well as the Book of Scripture." - David Geelan

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;" - Proverbs 3:5

Science is based on nothing more than the understanding of man.  Man is flawed, and our understanding is limited.  People like going on and on about the "mountain of evidence"  that is 100% based on man's understanding and explanation of things. It has always baffled me to hear people say they believe in God and then try to limit God to working within parameters that they can know and understand. The problem with Mr. Geelan's statement above is that it seeks to place the "Book of Nature" on even ground with the Word of God.  People do not want to admit that they have traded in faith in God for faith in man's understaning of the "natural world". Life rule #1...nothing trumps the Word of God! Nothing!  Those who believe in darwinian evolution have declared that it is the best explanation of how we got to this point in human existance.  Whose explanation is it?  Whose understanding is it based on?  Mankind's or God's?  If we look at the "mountain of evidence" and come to the conclussion that God's Word is wrong, whose understanding are we putting our faith in?  As the Proverb above says, God asks us to put our faith and trust in Him.  God's Word says the He created all life on earth, a relatively short time ago, and the only "mountain of evidence" I need to trust Him is Calvary.  


Horace Butler
2012-03-24 6:18 AM

Very well stated, Ron.  That's the real issue; man's theories vs. the Word of God.  The choice is clear.  Only by obfuscation and "words without knowlege" can it become fuzzy.

David Geelan
2012-03-24 6:27 AM

Quantum is a human theory. You would not be able to post on this internet forum without it.

Evolution is a human theory that is as well supported as quantum.

I'll say, with Galileo "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Young earth creationism is a relatively recent innovation in Christian doctrine: just in the past century and a half or so. It is *not* the inevitable and only possible understanding of the Bible, no matter how many times that claim is repeated.


I'll leave it there, I guess, and what on Part II of Erv's discussion, which I'm looking forward to.

Horace Butler
2012-03-24 8:24 AM

Once again you've illustrated my point by changing the nature of the debate.  We're not talking about observational or practical science, the science that put man on the moon and gave us the internet (no, it wasn't Al Gore that did that for us).  The science of origins is different in that most of it can't be tested, and involves speculations and assumptions that must be made before drawing conclusions, but also without being able to verify those assumptions.  That puts it in the realm of hypothesis rather than indisputable fact.  We will have to agree to disagree, but evolution is not, and cannot be as well supported as quantum.  It cannot be tested in the lab.  If it could be, we wouldn't be having this debate.

Stephen Foster
2012-03-24 10:21 AM

Where have you been? Not that I know you (then again, do I?), but your point about being baffled by people who “say they believe in God and then try to limit God to working within parameters that they can know and understand” was basically the point of my fairly recent blog entitled Help Me.
If the Bible is not reliable insofar as what it says about the God it describes, then what is the point? (Besides isn’t it in the Bible where we find the information—about “Nature’s Book”—that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork”?)
Wow! I could not have said it better. If I could, I surely would have by now; that’s for sure.
Thanks for hanging in there brother!

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 3:46 PM


Just went and read your Help Me blog and i don't know how I missed that, but it was very well stated.  When I have some time I will certainly read through the discourse that resulted.  Don't know if we have ever met, but reading through your bio, it is very possible you might have known my father Ron Lindsey, or my grandfather Harold Lindsey, as they both spent time at Oakwood.  

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-24 12:50 PM

Did God create our natural world?  It has been called "God's Book" and has been for millions who have never even heard of the Bible.

What is called the "Word of God" is only man's word and description of God as he perceived Him.  Which is more reliable:  the evidence of God in all of nature, or man's idea of God who he has never seen?  Man's ideas of God has changed over the centuries; nature is a constant reminder of the unchanging seasons, the certainty of continuing life which can always be relied upon:  the sun always rises in the east; summer follows spring; gravity is unchangeable; the speed of light is constant; the moon cycles every 28 days. 

David Geelan
2012-03-24 6:27 AM

'*wait* on Part II...'

Joe Erwin
2012-03-24 10:40 AM

I am perfectly fine with people looking at objective evidence from studies of the natural world and "seeing" there the "hand of God."

Claiming that the objective evidence is PROOF of a designer? Not so much.... But at least the objective evidence can get us all on the same page, if we can be sure to not decide in advance where the evidence leads. Let's keep working and obtaining information and follow the evidence--not the interpretations of the evidence.

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 2:46 PM

Mr. Geelan, can you please show me the scripture that is contradictory to quantum theory?  I did not say that man cannot have any understanding, my point is simply that the Word of God is the highest authority.  Nothing involved in creating this computer I'm using, contradicts scripture.  Man's worldview on our origins does. We can certainly study nature and marvel at the glory of God, but when we started forming ideas and coming to conclusions that contradict God's Word, we should know we are starting down the wrong path. Clearly you have not studied the Word of God enough to understand the bigger picture of the conflict between Christ and Satan.  Sense, reason, and intellect tell me that of the two world views on our origins, YEC and evilution(theistic/atheistic), one of those has been used extensively by Satan to discredit God.  If YEC, is a delusional farce and Chucky D's theory is the truth, then reason, sense and intellect would tell me that the delusional fallacy would lead me further from God and the truth would lead me closer to God.  There are NO YEC atheists.  Those who believe the lie that God does not exist, ALWAYS choose Chuck Darwin's theory as their world view.  Which view requires a stronger faith and reliance in God's Word?  Satan tried for over 1200 years to destroy God's word by keeping it chained to church walls and make sure it remained in a language no one spoke.  But, TRUTH marched on.  It was the Protestant Reformation that gave rise to the freedom of conscience where TRUTH began to spread more rapidly and God's Word was made available to the masses, and just like usual Satan was forced to change his tactics.  He relized he could not destroy the Word of God, so he set out to discredit the Word of God by stoking man's ego and bringing about the "age of reason".  God's Word even foretells of this when it says that one day mankind would deny the Flood.  What is Satan's purpose in YEC, because it is abundantly clear what his purpose is with the delusion that is Darwinian eviluotion.  

In Satan, we are dealing with an adversary that can rape our five senses, till we don't know up from down.  I mean he even appeared to Christ Himself as an angel of light, and what did Christ rely on to overcome this assault on His senses?  The Word of His Father.  Extolling the virtue of man's understanding, above the Word of God, plays right into Satan's hands.  People even do it when relegating the Bible to nothing but man's book on his perception of God.  By saying that the Bible is just as flawed as the men that put pen to paper, you put more faith, in the flaws of men to insert their error into scripture, than you do in God's ability to preserve His truth throughout scripture.  

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-24 3:03 PM

Accusatory personal denigrations:

 " Clearly you have not studied the Word of God enough to understand the bigger picture of the conflict between Christ and Satan"

 have no place in civil discourse.  This is both a personal insult and an indicaion of arrogancy on the part of the writer.  Either present a reasoned argument or refrain from such ad hominem attacks which indicate a paucity of objective responses.

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 3:27 PM

My apologies for the way I phrased that.  Unfortunately, this site does not have an edit button for posts.  

Mr. Geelan, denigration and insult were not my intent. I do apologize.


Elaine Nelson
2012-03-24 7:34 PM

There is a notation at the end of comment to "preview" which allows one to read back his comment and check it for errors or inaccuracies before "add comment."

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 11:19 PM

Thank you Elaine.  I have been aware of that feature of the site however, the problem of editting something after it has been posted still remains.

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 3:33 PM

Elaine, I appreciate you calling me out on the portion of my post you did however, that was merely one sentence in a post that contained many.  Are you saying that none of the points I made were reasoned, to you?

Horace Butler
2012-03-24 5:12 PM

Why didn't Elaine come to my defense when I was accused of being ignorant of how science worked, and unwilling to look at the evidence, etc.? (Actually it was on another thread; maybe even on a different forum.)  Here is exhibit A, from this thread:  "And are also regarded as willingly, deliberately--even enthusiastically--ignorant of the massive body of physical evidence to which Irv refers. Give ME a break, Horace! It is abundantly clear from the false assertions you make that you just simply do not know what you are talking about. You apparently do not even have the vaguest understanding of what you are so deliberate about rejecting."   I see little difference between what Joe said and what Ron said.  But I'm not offended when skeptics make these comments, and I don't care if anyone comes to my defense.  I expect to be ridiculed for taking a stand on this issue.  Because when there is nothing of substance with which to defeat an argument, ridicule is the weapon of choice.

I can see why Ron drew the conclusion that he did, however.  And I don't think it rises (descends?) to the level of an ad hominem attack.  At worst it was an unsubstantiated assumption.

David Geelan
2012-03-24 5:29 PM

Thanks Elaine for your concern, and Ron for your graciousness. I wasn't upset by the assumption, although as it happens it wasn't an accurate one.


David Geelan
2012-03-24 5:34 PM

I chose the Galileo quote both because I think it outlines the issue elegantly, and because its context is instructive.

Galileo was on trial for spreading the heretical notion that the earth orbits the sun. The church based on an erroneous human interpretation of Scripture claimed that Galileo's work contradicted the Word of God.

I assume (and hope) all those now posting accept that the sun is at the centre of our solar system. They were not convinced of that by Scripture, but by the empirical evidence: and corrected their interpretation of Scripture in the light of that evidence.

It is this interpretation layer that is often neglected by or invisible to the proponents of Young Earth Creationism. They say 'the Bible says' when they ought to say 'my interpretation of the Bible says'. And even if the Bible itself is assumed to be inerrant, human interpretations have erred before and will err again.

Ron Lindsey II
2012-03-24 9:13 PM

The main difference between Galileo's assertion and the assertion of Darwinian evolution is that Galileo's assertion did not detract from what the Bible said about who God is.  There was no theology that, that I'm aware of, that depended upon one assertion or the other.  The other very important thing to factor in with regard to Galileo is the fact that Galileo was going against a church that sought to establish itself as a higher authority than scripture.  The Bible was kept in a little known language and chained to church walls.  It could not be studied openly and freely.  Galileo wasn't persecuted because he was going against scripture, he was persecuted because he went against a church that set itself above scripture. Furthermore, the church's view on the universe came more from Aristotle than from scripture.  The church believed that tradition was just as sacred as scripture and the Aristotelian view of the cosmos had become quite the tradition by Galileo's time.   

Science admittedly looks at all evidence from the perspective of "God must be left out of any and all explanations".  How on earth can any person not see the problem with that if in fact God does exist?  Science has no business dealing with the origins of man because science boldly says that any and all explanations must leave God out.  That is fine when designing an internal cumbustion engine, but not when dealing with our origins.  

David, you still have not addressed any of my questions dealing with the greater conflict between Christ and Satan.  Do you believe Satan even exists, and if so do you believe he has an agenda?  If he does, how does YEC fit into that agenda, and how might Darwinian evolution fit?  Do you know of anyone who has ever been lead away from God because of their belief in YEC?  Can you honestly say that a belief in Darwinian Evolution has never lead a person away from God?  Do you seriously not see the spiritual implications between the two world views?  If Darwin's theory is based on science and science stipulates that no explanation can include God then where does that leave us?  Where does that leave God? 

Galileo's position did not require that God be removed from the explanation. Darwin's position does.

Kevin Riley
2012-03-24 10:10 PM

I still believe that God is the creator, and still hope that he did create in 6 days rather than 6 billion years, but the behaviour of so many who support that position has made me walk away from the argument.  When defense of a position leads so many to be less than Christian towards anyone who disagrees, I start to doubt if God is indeed with them.  To remove God as creator negates all our beliefs, but suggesting that the 6 days may not be literal does not.  Many SDA creationists no longer accept that everything was create 6,000 years ago.  So, as long as God is recognised as creator, I see no reason to call anyone an 'evilutionist' or 'apostate' or any of the other names being splashed all over the internet.  The number of SDAs who support atheistic evolution seems to me to be very small.  It seems to me more an attempt to support the inerrancy of our understanding of Scripture than an attempt to defend Scripture itself.

Horace Butler
2012-03-25 6:30 AM

The problem with your position is that it calls into question the ministry of Ellen White.  She was pretty plain that the earth was created in 6 days, about 6000 years ago, and that evolution did not occur.  So, she was either a false prophet, a "product of her times," as many of her detractors claim, or evolutionary scientists are away out in left field, as scientists have been so often in the past.  The available evidence is consistent with our historic understanding of origins.  But, those who "cannot allow a divine foot in the door," will always interpret the evidence in a way that supports evolution, and ignores the many problems with the theor.  And many of the rest, afraid of being ridiculed, will refuse to examine the evidence thoroughly.

Kevin Riley
2012-03-25 7:30 AM

I believe Ellen White was a prophet.  I also believe that, like all prophets, she was inspired, but neither inerrant nor infallible.  And we should always interpret the Bible by what it says, not according to what lines up with Ellen White.  If we start having to interpret the Bible in a certain way because to do otherwise would cause people to question Ellen White, then we have made her writings of more importance than the Bible.  I would rather say that Ellen White is wrong than say that the Bible is to be interpreted contrary to reason or logic.  It is like saying we must accept the Bible by faith rather than seeking to understand it through science, history, etc.  To do that is to concede that the Bible, or a large part of it, is purely myth.  I am not willing to do that.  I still hold to the traditional - and it seems outdated - belief that science and the Bible, when both are correctly understood, are in essential harmony.

I am also not a fan of black and white oppositions.  I have seen all sorts of rubbish written: if you're not a fundamentalist you must be a liberal, if the Bible is not verablly inspired and inerrant then it is full of mistakes, if Ellen White is not an inerrant prophet then she is a false prophet, etc.  Teh fact is that the world is not so simple.  There are far more options than merely the two extremes so many want us to choose between.  The humanness of both the Bible and Ellen White causes many questions to be raised, but I'd rather live with some uncertainty from not being able to all the questions than choose an extreme that cannot be supported by Scripture, reason, nor any other means, and that inevitably results in people losing their faith.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-25 8:21 AM

One problem, that seems often to be misunderstood, is that science is just a set of methods for studying the physical world--a set of methods invented by humans to gather and evaluate and refine evidence and gain knowledge. Science does not pretend to be ABLE to study anything in a nonphysical dimension or anything at all about God.

Scientists do not have the luxury when doing scientific investigations of ascribing causation to God. Science does not say you can't believe in God. It just says, if you move outside the physical dimension, the methods of science no longer work.

True, there are times when what is learned from the scientific process does not conform with what is thought on the basis of what are believed to be nonphysical (e.g., spiritual) sources. There can be no scientific basis for confirming or denying that a spiritual dimension exists. That is a self-defined limitation of the scientific method. It is not a denial of God nor rebellion against God.

Science studies what it can study. Its results are always incomplete and subject to evidence-based revision. This flexibility makes some people very uncomfortable. They want more certainty. Methods in science have been developed to help estimate levels of certainty (actually, levels of "confidence"). BUT, remember, all that is done in science has to be within the tangible, physical world.

It seems to me that when people choose to believe things about the physical world based on nonphysical (e.g., spiritual) information, they begin to encounter difficult problems. In a sense, the burden of proof is on them to show that nonphysical data are superior to physical data. And that is very difficult. Perhaps the solution would be for the spiritual dimension to be put to use to solve spiritual problems, whatever those are, rather than trying to challenge science at its own game.

JP Navarro
2012-03-25 12:22 PM

Joe Edwin wrote: Science does not pretend to be ABLE to study anything in a nonphysical dimension or anything at all about God.

Agreed on the nonphysical, but at all about God?

I believe God does act in the physical world, most of the time in very predictable ways, occasionally in unpredictable ways.  Could the study of the predictable non-changing laws of nature be a study of God?

Would be interesting if science could observe a supenatural post creation God intervention.  There are plenty in the Bible, but unfortunately they aren't reproducible. Should science conclude, or make any statements about, Biblical or extra Biblical purported supernatural interventions just because it can't reproduce them? If God does intervene supernaturally in the physical world, any claims that scientists make that all physical reality has a natural cause are faith claims.

Did Mary have irrefutable proof of God?  The angel visit and her pregnancy.

I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to scientifically discover evidence of supernatural actions in the natural world. The crux of the matter is whether a scientist must rule out the supernatural? I don't see why (s)he should. If God exists and acts supernaturally, then science that denies His existence and His actions will always find many wrong explanations when studying a supernatural intervention (like creation).

Joe Erwin
2012-03-25 12:55 PM

Hi JP, while we can believe that God acts in the physical world, science has no tools to study the nonphysical. Science cannot, and does not, work to exclude the existence or action of God.

Scientists (who are just humans) can and do have opinions about the existence or actions of God in the physical dimension, but those really are only opinions--and they can range from being highly consistent with physical evidence to not at all consistent with that evidence. If a scientist says God does not act on the physical world, this is merely an opinion. He can, of course, honestly say, it is his belief that there is no God--but he cannot scientifically prove that.

The closest we can come with science is to measure that which we can measure physically and see how much of the variance we can account for. We can hardly ever, if ever, account for all the variance. One could claim that some of the unaccounted for variance was accounted for by supernatural factors, but science has no means of measuring non-natural factors.

So, once again, it is not science as a method of knowing or as a body of evidence that denies the existence of God. Individual scientists may, but when they do they are expressing an opinion--not POLICY of science.

When science falsifies conclusions about the physical world that people have reached on the basis of spiritually based information, it has not denied the existence of a spiritual dimension--it has only falsified the conclusion about the physical world. An honest person must then question whether the conclusion about the physical world was accurate, or whether there could be some other explanation for the disagreement.

I do not think people who are spiritually committed need to deny that science could have reached conclusions that are valid and disagree with what they had believed.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-25 1:09 PM

JP Navarro said:

"I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to scientifically discover evidence of supernatural actions in the natural world."

What are you suggestions to how such scientific tests could be performed?  IOW, how can an objective and falsifiable test have undeniable evidence of supernatural action?

"Supernatural" has been in the eye of the beholder.  It was common in past ages to attribute miracles to events that we now can understand.  Were they "supernatural" then but explained today by our ability to more carefully examine actions?  What is the meaning of "supernatural"?  To someone who knows little if anything about the scientific world, many things  appear miraculous; but to the informed expert, the explanations are rather simple.

Edwin A. Schwisow
2012-03-25 7:04 PM

I recall an uncanny experience of what appeared to be an unambiguous supernatural intervention. I had been invited to photograph and interview a group of volunteers who were roofing a beautiful new little church in a resort area of the state. It was Labor Day weekend and a fairly large group of volunteers was on hand. The building supervisor was also a volunteer, and toward the middle of the afternoon, he called the troops down from the roof, pointed to the sky, and said, "We've got weather coming in. I want everyone off the roof and down here. We need to cover up the roofing materials on the ground; we don't have time to cover the work-in-progress, but we'll leave that to the Lord." So the group began covering the roofing materials in stacks on the ground, using plastic, tarps, and so forth and weighting them down with boulders and rocks, preparing for a potential downpour. Meanwhile the wind was picking up speed, and the clouds raged purple above us. "Come," the pastor/building superintendant called. "Let's gather in a circle, and hold hands," and we bowed while the minister literally rebuked the incoming storm, in the name of Jesus, imploring God to preserve the work that had been so diligently invested that day by the volunteers. The group then disbanded to their cars to wait out the storm.

Almost immediately after the prayer, as I watched and photographed the clouds, the incoming storm seemed to veer miraculously to the left, away from the church, and though a few yards from the church property the rain pelted the ground in celestial torrents, the church and it's unfinished roof stood tall on dry land. "Wow!" I thought. "What a miracle." Soon we saw motorists pausing on the roadway, waving at us and honking horns, and word of the miracle raced up and down Main Street. It was an amazing show of Almighty force that evoked comments from the public throughout the week.

Only later did I discover that meandering weather fronts were actually quite well known in that particular area next to the airport, in particular to long-time residents. The population at large was not as invested in the natural phenomenon created by currents of weather coursing through the complicated valleys and alleys of the local mountain range, but the oldtimers new. "Well, you know what they call this area, don't you?" one old-timer challenged me. "Sun Valley. People build their homes here because a lot of the weather seems to bypass us right here. We don't understand it, but it's been going on for as long as anyone's lived here. That's why it's called Sun Valley."

To the newby, the left-veering storm was a clear evidence of divine Providence intervening in an oracular way to honor the faith of that roof-building team and its devout pastor. It may well have been, I don't know, but the miracle occurred within the context of a natural phenomenon known to more experienced residents of the area to have been happening for many decades. There seems to be an anxious thirst among some Christians for "miracle stories" that vindicate trust in an intimate and personal God watching over his children. While as a Christian I recognize that someone up there is watching, and watching to preserve good things and good people on earth, the Adventist Great Controversy theme contains an underlying motif that God CANNOT and WILL NOT work supernaturally to defeat Satan, except in extraordinary circumstances—Jesus himself refused to throw himself from the temple cupola, citing Bible teachings that we are not to "test" the Lord, our God. There is a sense in the Great Controversy theme that some kind of rulebook signed by the parties in the controversy limits God's ability to preserve and protect his children, lest his followers follow him simply for the advantages of protection. It has been my experience that most miralces are "explainable" without appealing to the supernatural. God appears to be bound by the laws of nature, at this time; he can intervene, but most of the time he seems bound to use conventional laws of nature.


Ervin Taylor
2012-03-25 7:26 PM

Ed has provided a classic illustration of the problem of objectively verifiying supernatural events.  If one wants a "miracle" it should not be too difficult to be part of an experience with a low probability of occurring.  Since I have had those experiences, I assume that almost all individuals have.  It is not that supernatural events may occur, the problem is that there is no means of objectively determining their cause. If one wishes to say that a "miracle" occurred, I'm not aware of any reason to question that an individual believes some event to have been a miracle or of supernatural origin.  The problem comes when one is expected to believe that the supernatural event of someone else has any meaning beyond the individual who has expereienced and believes in it.


William Noel
2012-03-27 8:47 AM


The observation about extension of credibility beyond the individual who experiences a miracle is on-point.  Miracles are most meaningful to the direct recipient(s).  While their testimony about that miracle can be powerful to create faith among those who hear it, it does not have the same power.  Oh, how I wish we could hear more of those testimonies so we could catch a greater sight of God's love at work in our lives!

Let me tell you about the miracle I saw just two weeks ago.  We have a young family in our church with three children who were living with the wife's parents.  His business had collapsed and they had lost their home so they were struggling to get back on their fiscal feet and re-establish themselves as a family unit.  The time came that they found an apartment.  They needed help moving.  I got a text message about it on Thursday and that evening put out an e-mail to the church asking for helpers on Sunday.  I never know how many people will show up, what resources we will have, or how long the work will take.  What was more, my back was hurting so I couldn't do any heavy lifting.  Still, we had five pickups, two vans and 11 volunteers.  The work was done in about three hours, including delivery of a washer and dryer that they needed.  To the family it was a great surprise and miracle.  It was a great blessing to those of us who were God's hands that day.  What they shared at church spread the blessing and had multiple impacts that I observed with the faith of others being strengthened and more people wanting to get involved on similar projects in the future so they can be part of delivering miracles. 

Joe Erwin
2012-03-27 8:56 AM

I had to chuckle when I read the remark above about "Chuck Darwin" and the godless scientists. Sounds like a good "Doo Wop" group name, "Chuck Darwin and the Godless Scientists."  There is some humor here, even if not intended.

As I have mentioned before, I am a scientist, I am not an atheist, I am not a "believer," and I am not a disciple of Chuck Darwin. "Darwinists," I think, make a little too much of what the man knew 150 years ago and see a little too much of him in current discoveries. The man simply did not know much about genetics or the mechanisms of evolution. He did recognize the power of "natural selection" when Alfred Russel Wallace pointed it out. We may never know whether Darwin independently thought up that concept. Both of them could see the powerful implications of selection, but both also knew it would not explain everything, because it was also necessary to explain the origins of genetic variation.

I am not an "atheist" because I do not think all the evidence in the world can PROVE the nonexistence of God (or anything else).

I am not a "believer" because I found no concept of God that I can honestly accept.

So, I am left with recognition of science as a means of gaining and evaluating knowledge--knowledge held gently and tentatively while the questions it raises are explored.

This does not diminish my awe and appreciation of nature. It seems wonderful to be part of a dynamic and constructive process that has endogenous self-correcting and self-designing intelligence. And "natural selection" is just a term that describes one part of that process. We can demonstrate that artificial selection occurs. Why do people have such difficulty with the concept of natural selection?

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-27 11:21 AM

Joe, your comments could be mine:

"I am not an "atheist" because I do not think all the evidence in the world can PROVE the nonexistence of God (or anything else).

I am not a "believer" because I found no concept of God that I can honestly accept

Are they not the statements of an agnostic:  One who can neither prove or disprove a god?  If that cannot be done, there is no reason to believe is there?

William Noel
2012-03-28 8:48 AM


Belief can be difficult.  Have you tried asking God to reveal himself to you so that you will truly know what He is like and whether or not you can believe in Him in spite of how others misrepresent Him?  His answers since I made that request have changed my life and replaced dogma with faith.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 9:39 AM

Thank you for the suggestion, William. I know it is well meant. The answer is, yes. That kind of prayer was a constant part of my deeply passionate and sincere struggle as a young man (long ago), at times, it seemed to me as if I was wrestling in the same fashion as Jacob reportedly did--but ultimately, I simply could not sustain what had been an absolute and deep commitment of faith.

To be completely candid, however, I have not tried what you suggest lately, nor do I feel any inclination to do so. It would be easy for a believer to conclude that I have committed "the unpardonable sin," and consequently no longer feel the urgings of the Spirit. That explanation does not seem valid to me. It seems to me like just another part of a system contrived to answer all questions.

Since asking God to reveal himself to you worked for you, I can understand why you suggest that method to others. Why it works for some people and not for others is somewhat of a mystery, isn't it? I would say it might depend on how sincere one was when the request was made, but I cannot imagine being any more sincere about anything than I was about that request during that phase of my life.

I now suspect that prayer changes the one who is praying, rather than summoning external aid. My thirst for knowledge and understanding continues unabated, and I feel quite fulfilled with friends, family, and the awesomeness of nature. I also enjoy my professional colleagues and friends, especially those in a society I incorporated more than 35 years ago, the American Society of Primatologists, which meets every year. I just do not read into reality some of the things I was taught as a child or believed as a young person--although, to be fair, I should also say that learning to value truth and beauty and honesty and nature sunk in pretty deeply and continue to sustain me. I feel fortunate to have a changed perspective on life and its meaning.

William Noel
2012-03-28 2:00 PM


I've been in your shoes.

Are you listening and watching for God's answers?  Or, are you demanding the answers to certain arguments and letting the volume of your complaints drown-out God's gentle answers?  That was me a number of years back until I reached such a point of spiritual desperation and hopelessness that I literally had no more fight left in me and I would never really know Him.  Thankfully, faith truly is a gift from God.  At my point of greatest darkness, when I felt as if I was trapped in a room with no light, He did not suddenly open a window and blind me with His glory.  Instead, He poked a pinhole in my wall of hopelessness to gently remind me that He loved me so much that He was willing to look past what I was and work inside me to make me what He wanted me to become. 

Its time to ask God again.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-27 5:59 PM

A question: If there is not God, is it not curious that we humans spend much of our Life either running toward or running away from the idea?

Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 9:44 AM

The "God concept" is very appealing to humans. Further, it is deliberately taught to children as ultimate truth from the cradle onward. Since the concept cannot be absolutely disproven, it doesn't go away. And, given the constant efforts of some to keep the concept alive for all of us, without regard to reality or evidence, "God" is not going to go away anytime soon--especially on blog sites devoted to Him.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-27 5:59 PM

A question: If there is not God, is it not curious that we humans spend much of our Life either running toward or running away from the idea?

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-27 7:08 PM

It is impossible here in the U.S. where some have declared it a "Christian nation" to escape from God.   It is the essential question for humans since they began questioning "Who is in charge" What is our future" What should we be doing"

For those who grew up with this heritage,  it is imossible to ignore the idea of "God."  One does not have to believe in God to find it one of the most important philosophical questions.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-27 8:34 PM

I agree that this is a most important philosophical but why? What does the fact that it exists tell us? From the naturalistic view this question should not exist.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-27 9:56 PM

The curiosity gene--given at man's creation.  Eve was curious and mankind has been ever since, asking, as she did "Why?"

David Geelan
2012-03-27 10:37 PM

There are many stories of dragons and unicorns, yet none exist: the fact that language exists for a concept does not guarantee that there is a reality that corresponds to that language.


I am not making the argument that God does not exist, I am challenging a poor argument for God's existence. There are better ones.


But this is also off topic: evolutionary theory is not atheism, and atheism is not evolutionary theory. There is correlation but not direct causation. For that reason, discussion of theism or otherwise is a different discussion from whether evolutionary theory is the best available naturalistic explanation for the world we see around us.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 9:52 AM

Help me understand why "From the naturalistic view this question should not exist."

The question "Why" is deeply ingrained in humans, and is evident from early childhood on. When people cannot answer the question adequately, or just get tired of trying, they make up answers. Sometimes these are guesses, but often they are designed to end a sequence of questions. "Because that's the way God made it" is one such answer. But, of course, that just begs the question, "why?"

Of making many questions there is no end. Maybe it is better to just get used to it.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-27 8:48 PM

"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should have never found out that it has No meaning: just as if there were no light In the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes we should never know it was dark. DARK would be a word without meaning." CS Lewis

David Geelan
2012-03-27 10:39 PM

Is anyone claiming that the universe has no meaning? Not as far as I can see. So to some extent this is a straw man. There is a hidden assumption, which is that a universe that was not Specially Created by God in a particular way is therefore meaningless, and I reject that hidden assumption. I do not believe that the universe is meaningless, and I also do not believe that its meaningfulness arises only through Special Creation.

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-27 10:58 PM

"If" introducing a statement indicates doubt, not certainty; a premise, not an accepted fact. 

gerald mcdonald
2012-03-27 11:23 PM

Someone is for getting the most important detail. We are talking about a literal 7 days of creation. Although it may be possible for creation to evolve, the set 24 hr period of each day tells us that God did it in 24 hours. Whether or not we can wrap our minds around the power God has, Should not be the reason for us to limit His power. Either He is God or not. If He can't do it then why call Him God,and for that matter why worship Him at all.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-27 11:30 PM

Thank you David, we can make our own meaning of course. Isn't it interesting that we need to!

Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 8:07 AM

Meaningfulness" seems to me to be a concept that humans have found useful for a long time. By asking why, and seeking to understand why something is as it is, we gain insight, and, at times, greater predictibility and control. By understanding why or when or where something is we can avoid danger and find food and water. That is pretty basic. When someone becomes good at explaining the meaning of things, s/he may become a leader or shaman, with special power over other people. If one can sometimes explain the unexplainable or unprovable, that may even add to his/her power and influence. Telling stories about how we came to exist could have been an especially effective means of reinforcing one's leadership. "Ah, he is so remarkable! He knows things we don't know. And he seems to actually know this all-powerful being who controls everything. Let's follow him!" Explanations do not have to be accurate to be effective. A collection of stories about miracles is the next best thing to having experienced one. And telling people they MUST believe some specific things in order to have "meaning" in their life is a pretty effective story. It is not necessarily a true story, but it is certainly an effective story.

Humans seem to have invented gods or a God as a part of their effort to understand things and gain power over one another. Even the use of Santa Claus and other invented characters to get children to "be good" testifies to the value of using imaginary beings to control others. And the seriousness of the message increases when the imaginary is presented as more real than reality and transcendent beyond our lifetimes into eternity, and the point is drummed in daily and weekly throughout one's young life. How could those of us reared as SDAs not come away from our early experience with some deeply embedded feelings about God, eternal life, life's meaning, etc.? And we are not the the only ones who have been programmed in this fashion. Every child is constantly learning a "style of life" from its family context.

BTW, adding an "ology" onto something does not make it use scientific methods--maybe the meaning is more like "seeking understanding of," which could use scientific methods or not. "Theology" is a bit like "psychology" in that sense. Even though many psychologists define their field as "the scientific study of behavior and cognition," others see it as "the application of methods that foster mental health," or something else. In much of life, we find various shades of meaning and fulfillment.

I'm not saying we should not invent meaning for our lives. I'm not even saying we all need to be aware of when we have invented meaning. But I am not always comfortable living within meanings invented by others, especially if they are presenting something they or others invented as if it is an absolute reality within which I must live and accept their story (and forego paradise and burn in hell, to boot). And if that makes me seem to be a rebel, so be it. At least it is honest.


Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-28 11:27 AM

Thank you very much Joe.  I can't help but think that some anger toward abusive religion has predisposed many of us to naturalism.   I understand!    Naturalism oviates the need to worry about ultimate truth and meaning.   I would simply say, this is the wrong path; it is not leading us to freedom or clear thinking.
 Dr. Richard Rorty, Richard Dawkins, Will Provine, among others have well stated the reductionistic case.   
Reductionism negates any ability to come to any meaning of anything that is actually 'true.'  The very foundations of any epistimology is destroyed.   “The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own  prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass—a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck.” 
 ”Untruth and Consequences,” The New Republic, July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36.

Darwin himself understood these implications of naturalism, “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Darwin,  Letter to William Graham, Down, July 3rd, 1881. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin  Appleton and Co.  1887), vol 1  Pg. 255
Shall we not agree to avoid this "bridge to nowhere."

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-28 11:47 AM

Consider the comments of Richard Lewontin, a well-known geneticist and one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology.   He basically says that naturalism is a useful protection against abusive religion.  And then he makes the further mistake of equating the 'philosophy' of naturalism with "science," itself:

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons (review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 11:59 AM

Thanks Darrel. I appreciate hearing from you. I guess I should reiterate, with all due respect, that I am not a disciple of Darwin, nor do I argue for atheism. While I do think of myself as a "naturalist," I don't see "naturalism" as an "ism" of the sort that can be characterized as if it were a religion--so I'm not sure where that line of reason goes. I do not know that "Naturalism obviates the need to worry about ultimate truth and meaning." Perhaps that is true in the sense of not being forced to agonize over issues for which there are no answers or for which whatever answers there are are unknowable (or knowable to some of us but not others, etc.).

I certainly do not think of myself as a reductionist. It is clear to me that levels of organization and function exists that are more than the sum of their parts. It also seems to me that at any point where functional organization exists, variability exists, and where there is variability, there can be inequality of effectiveness--such that the more effective variants are more likely to be sustained and the less effective variants are likely to be eliminated. This means, among other things, that characterizations of biological function at various levels, along with environmental contexts are informative and worthwhile--regardless of where it leads.

So, I'm not sure that any assertions about the "rightness" or "wrongness" of such an approach holds any weight. Those who do not wish to obtain the values of such approaches need not engage in them. There is some freedom in that. And I do think "clear thinking" requires an open approach that is not constrained by "knowing" in advance what conclusions will be reached.

Anyway, thank you for your reasonableness and your willingness to examine and think about things.

Darrel Lindensmith
2012-03-28 12:38 PM

Thank you Joe.  Please forgive me; i  did not mean to say at all that you were argueing for atheism.
I have discovered that it is easy to miss the mark and be misunderstood in these blogs.  I am figuring them out slowly. 
God bless

Martin Weber
2012-03-28 3:22 PM

I am deeply disappointed with neo-Darwinian advocacy by a board member of Adventist Today. I would hope for better from this Christian organization. I am thankful for Clifford Goldstein's ministry regarding biblical creation and my good friend Darrel Lindensmith's compelling defense of the same in this thread.

"Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth . . . "


Joe Erwin
2012-03-28 5:04 PM

Surely there must be some way for the church to recognize the abundant objective evidence that falsifies the young earth concept, without claiming that unless the story told in Genesis is literally true, nothing else in adventism or Christianity can be true.

Dr. Taylor has objective evidence on his side of this debate. I have appreciated Dr. Lindensmith's interest in examining objective scientific evidence. That is a step forward. While it is clear that some will believe what they have been told and wish to believe without regard for evidence, it is refreshing to see that some SDAs are willing to openly consider evidence on its merit. 

It is clear, however, that traditional brittle dogma is alive and well--even pervasive--among this sample of SDAs. The attitude is prevalent that "it is as it is because I believe it to be so."   

Philip Law
2012-03-30 12:56 AM

Science is a very human endeavor.  It is not devoid of subjectivity, bias and band wagon mentality. The mountain of evidence appeals to one as supportive of evolution while another looks at it as evidence against evolution.  Evolution as science is as scientific as creation as science.  Both of them rely heavily on subjective interpretations.  Much of the controversy is basically conflict of reference frames, premises and presumptions.  The complexity of the biological system makes it less likely that falsification can easily be constructed even less likely to be tested. In physics one can falsify that parity is conserved and it leads to specific outcome under certain experimental set up.  That experiment was carried out and the result demonstrated that parity was not conserved under that circumstance.   A Law of Physics was invalidated.  A Nobel Prize was awarded in record breaking time.  Both Evolution and Creation in regard to the origin of living organisms are interpretive in nature.  To insist that one interpretation is evidential while the other is not is nothing more than a self-assertion of frame of reference. Since they are both interpretive in nature the controversy cannot be resolved by arguments.  

Kevin Riley
2012-03-30 1:03 AM

Theology is also a very human endeavour.  More understandable much of the time, from my POV, but no less human.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-30 8:12 AM

Philip, I am in full agreement with your first sentence. Of course science is a very human endeavor. The emphasis of scientific method on objective evidence, however, works against relying on subjectivity, bias, and being misled. The use of scientific methods provides opportunities for self-correction. All of science is open to criticism and invites skepticism and replication. If something that has been regarded as "a law" is falsified, so be it. Assigning it the status of "a law" clearly was an error, and people have often, in science and elsewhere, jumped to erroneous conclusions.

"Creation science," however, unnecessarily incorporates a bias in its very name. It is out to prove a particular point of view based on assumptions that cannot be proven. It just seeks to prove itself. How? By seeking to falsify all possible alternatives? Is that even possible? Of course, many socalled "creation scientists" have abandoned a "young earth" position because the evidence falsifying the 6000 year old earth is so compelling that even they discard it as not possible.

There are people who call themselves "evolutionary biologists." For the most part, they are not seeking to validate evolution as a process. They are trying to see how biological change has occurred across time. For them, the question is not IF evolution has occurred (many biological changes certainly have happened), but HOW it has occurred in the past and continues to occur in the present. They are not tied to trying to defend what Darwin or Wallace said 150 years ago, because it is not assumed that what they said was true in every detail. In fact, scientific studies continue to reexamine previous data and ideas, and revise, and replace them with more accurate information, which are also open to revision on the basis of new information.  

Your assertions essentially claim that science is mostly invalid regardless of its orientation is, itself, nothing more than an assertion, and a pretty bizarre and erroneous one too, that cannot stand up to examination and argument. The point I keep trying to make, is that one must carefully examine objective EVIDENCE, and recognize that explanations and interpretations are just that. It takes some skill to examine evidence in an appropriate context and to figure out and explain what the evidence means. Not everyone will agree on what evidence means. That's fine. But to claim that physical evidence is not really evidence, and that the methods that have been devised to help us better obtain and evaluate physical evidence are equivalent in epistemological value to ideas people have invented regarding some dimension for which no physical evidence exists, is nothing more than bizarre magical thinking, I mean, "that's crazy talk." And, ultimately, you are correct that discussion is useless (if a party to the discussion seriously believes what you assert).

Philip Law
2012-03-30 11:38 AM

Not all creationists agree on the same interpretation of evidence, neither do all evolutionists agree.  Hence it is a matter of opinion.  What I said was Evolution and Creation in regard to origin is interpretative in nature.  Your accessory tone speaks volumes about lack of scientific discipline. 

Joe Erwin
2012-03-30 6:00 PM

Philip, yes, some things are a matter of opinion--especially when it comes to the interpretation of evidence. Yes, I agree, opinions vary. Even so, not all opinions are of equivalent merit. Opinions based on DENIAL that abundant tangible physical evidence exists are not at all credible by comparison with attempts to understand the actual abundant tangible physical evidence that undeniably exists. Opinions like the one I often heard from adventist YEC that fossils that are millions of years old are actually clever "deceptions perpetrated by Satan to deceive us" have no credibility whatsoever with anyone who considers the evidence on its merits.

What in the world is an "accessory tone?" All I'm saying is that you cannot successfully make the point that opinions based on tangible evidence are equivalent to opinions based on...what? Nothing? Or, at best, idle speculation, or spiritual authority. If you wish to live in the spiritual world, fine, do that. But do not claim that opinions about evidence from the tangible physical world have no more credibility than opinions based on "evidence" from the spiritual dimension. You cannot win such an argument and no sane person should allow you to do so.

Stephen Foster
2012-03-30 8:50 PM

Will you allow, Joe, that if the Biblical record is accurate to the extent that if Jesus’ miracles occurred—any one of them—then all bets are off?
That is to say, if any of Jesus’ reported or recorded miracles actually took place, then reliance on so-called tangible evidence for anything, insofar as anything contradicting the Bible’s account (of anything), is rendered meaningless.
Do you understand my question? If so, do you agree? If not, why not?

Kevin Riley
2012-03-31 5:09 AM

If you make a distinction between what the Bible says and how we interpret it, then I would say that accepting miracles does not invalidate reliance on tangible evidence for those things for which tangible evidence can exist.  If the Israelites conquered Israel, then there must be tangible evidence for that.  It is the work of historians and achaeologists to interpret that.  If Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water, or was resurrected after 3 days, what sort of tangible evidence could there be to validate or invalidate those miracles?  But all data which can be verified must remain subject to verification.  If accurate dating (assuming it exists) dates anything to before 4000 BC, then our understanding of Genesis 1 is incorrect.  But does that say anything about Genesis 1 except that we have misinterpreted it?  Does it contradict the Bible's account, or merely our understanding of it?  Accepting miracles does not change reality, or the fact that real events leave real evidence.  Whether we can interpret the evidence correctly is as much an open question as whether we can interpret the Bible correctly.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-31 10:51 AM

Kevin, thanks for your comment. I should just let go of this, but there is an important point to be made, I think. I'm still not sure what Stephen is asking, but I'll try to restate the point I feel is very important to make.

The quality of evidence varies in terms of objectivity, measurability, documentation, durability, replicability, physical trangibility, etc. The credibility of the source of the information is also a clue.

The extent to which we see something as a "miracle" has to do with whether it conforms with common experience or not. To be a "miracle" an event must be unusual and must apparently contradict what we usually think of as the cause-and-effect relationship we see in the physical world, e.g., turning water to wine, walking on water, etc.  And many so-called "miracles" are transient, so the only "evidence," in many cases, is a report by an individual, or, a little better, of additional witnesses. Eye witness reports, however, are known to be remarkably unreliable, even when the various witnesses are otherwise quite honest and credible people.

So the best we can have with regard to the miracles of Jesus seems to be the reports in scripture of these events. Perhaps the reports are accurate. One can believe they are, or believe they are not, or simply recognize that we cannot know one way or the other. Demonstrating that they COULD have happened, does not provide any tangible evidence that they DID happen, and in a sense, detracts from the claims that they were "supernatural." To believe one must simply rely on "faith."

By contrast, one can evaluate genomic information or fossil specimens repeatedly, and the contexts can be thoroughly evaluated and measured in multiple ways. Estimates and interpretations will vary, but if additional measures are needed to answer questions, these are often possible. If someone doubts the veracity of the chimpanzee genome, it is possible (and advisable) to evaluate aspects of the genomes of other chimpanzees. Individual differences and population differences are more likely to be found in some aspects of the genome than in others. The findings from chimpanzees and gorillas and humans and orangutans and rhesus monkeys and mouse lemurs and dugongs and elephants can all be objectively obtained and compared. The brains and hearts and livers and bones can be compared. These are tangible physical realities. They can be compared with physical specimens from extinct animals that died more than 10,000 years ago, and their morphology can be compared with fossil specimens from hundreds of thousand and many tens of millions of years ago.

So what in the world are you asking of me, Stephen? Are you asking me to compare reports from a couple of thousand years ago regarding events that one can believe might have actually occurred, with tangible physical evidence that any sighted person can see and often even touch, that can be repeatedly measured, etc.? The quality of evidence is hugely different, and the tangible evidence is far more credible to me, than is belief in reports of transient events.

As I've said before, the physical evidence does not falsify the concept of God or of God the creator. What it does falsify is that the story of the creation occurred as described in Genesis when interpreted to mean that the events described occurred about 6000 years ago. I do not think that alone needs to knock down the house of cards that many believers have built for themselves, or have been blindly led to believe. Personally, I think faith should be able to handle accurate and tangible evidence.

Someone should write a book and call it "Speaking truth to faith."   

Joe Erwin
2012-03-30 10:11 PM

Dear Brother Stephen, who am I to allow or disallow such an argument as that? And how would anyone really be able to decide anyway? I'm pretty sure I do not understand your question. I certainly don't imagine any likelihood that I would agree that all tangible evidence of anything would be rendered meaningless. This is way far off into speculation about something far from any prospect of answering. I'm not going to accept "faith" as evidence, and I seriously doubt that there is anything else to go on. Speculative arguments of this kind do not seem to me to be worth our time, as we are unlikely to ever get on the same page about anything. It's supposed to be a trick question, right?

Elaine Nelson
2012-03-31 2:26 PM

If one's faith relies on the absolute veracity of miracles reported thousands of years ago, such faith is fearfully fragile.  Christians should base their faith on Christ's examples and principles that have nothing to do with whether miracles occurred.  Must miracles be "proved"?  That is both irrational and impossible. "Miracles" are in the eyes of the believer and totally unnecessary in living the Christian life.

Joe Erwin
2012-04-01 12:29 PM

Ervin and all, I'm still looking forward to Part 2.

Stephen Foster
2012-04-01 1:00 PM

Why would you suppose this to be a trick question Joe? I thought it was pretty straightforward. I’m not saying that it can be proven that Jesus’ miracles actually occurred; I’m saying that if they did, or if any of them did, then wouldn’t tangible evidence be rendered meaningless?
I suppose it is a hypothetical question, and of course you don’t need to answer it. The point is that if Jesus performed miracles that defied laws of physics or gravity or biology, or whatever; then those laws and any scientific or tangible evidence that contradicts any Biblical claim is irrelevant for practical purposes of belief.
My thinking is that Jesus performed these miracles to provide proof that God can do anything He wants to do; and that there is a reason for faith.
If Jesus hadn’t performed any miracles, or if others had not been scripturally recorded, I would have NO REASON to believe that God can hear and answer prayer.
It is only because I believe that God can and does answer prayer that I’ve experienced and witnessed answers to prayer.

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-01 2:16 PM

How is it possible to evaluate miracles that were reported to have occurred thousands of years ago?  In fact, how is it possible to evaluate a story of a miracle that happened just yesterday in another  city?

If belief in miracles is necessary to be a Christian, the church will lose millions of members overnight.  Silly me, I always thought that a Christian was known by his love and desire to follow Christ's teachings, not his reported miracles.

Stephen Foster
2012-04-01 3:21 PM

I can only tell you what (and how it) works for me. I would not believe that Jesus was the Son of God or that His statements were any more valuable or His life more worthy of emulation or His philosophy of love any more meaningful than anybody else’s if he had not performed the miracles. That may not say much for me, but it is what it is.
If I did not believe that He raised people from death, or made blind people see, or walked on water, or fed a multitude with a one person’s lunch, etc., I would not be a Christian; nor would I believe that God hears and answers prayers in Jesus’ name.
To be even more frank, I probably would not believe that He Himself was raised from the dead, or notice—or recognize—that He provides for and protects me if there weren’t (so many) scripturally recorded miracles; i.e. unexplained or inexplicable stuff. (I am generally quite skeptical—and cynical.)

Horace Butler
2012-04-01 3:59 PM

Elaine, using your standards, nothing from the distant past is verifiable.  Nothing can be proved.  A certain amount in faith is necessary for most past history.  No one doubts the existence of Plato or Aristotle, but there is more documentation for the events of the New Testament then there is for either of them.  One of the greatest bits of evidence for the validity of the gospel record is the fact that 12 uneducated men, along with many other of Jesus disciples turned the world upsided down.  It's one thing for a single person to go crazy and claim that someone rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.  But for 12 people to all hallucinate in the same way and report the same thing is unbelievable.  And if it were not true, why would they all risk their lives to say that it was?  It's one thing for someone to risk their life for something they believe to be true, but I know of no one in their right mind who would be stupid enough to risk their life for something that they knew to be a lie.  So, based on that alone, I believe we can have confidence in the stories presented in the gospels.

I'm with Stephen on this one.

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-01 5:45 PM

Yes, Jesus definitely was a man who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago.  However, the documentation for the events were only from His followers; not that they were insincere, but Herodutus was most sincere in his "Histories" but much could not be verified.  There was no evidence outside the NT to verify the many acts that were attributed to him, as miracles, by there very nature or subjective and cannot be "proved."

Two Jewish contemporary writers, Philo and Josephus, wrote that they had heard of a man named Jesus but neither had seen Him.  Mormons are happy to validate everything about the early Mormon history in America in the first century, but validation?  It's all in the Book of Mormon, just as the record of Jesus is in the Bible, and just as the miracles of Mohamed is recorded in the Koran.  All called "sacred scriptures."

The argument that no one would risk his life for something that is a lie needs to explain why thousands of sincere Muslims have been willing to do that; or that Jim Jones' followers did not sincerely believe him, or that hundreds of Mormons were also willing to go to their deaths for their beliefs.  Is that the way truth is to be evaluated?  How many wars have been fought for religious reasons; each side claiming the "truth"? Millions of Jews gave their lives in the Holocaust, refusing to abdicate their religion and ethnicity.  The Jews and Palestinians have been engaged in a long struggle because they refuse to surrender their religious beliefs that God gave them their land.

The disciples most sincerely believed that miracles proved that Jesus was the Messiah.  Does Christianity rise or fall on believing in miracles?  I hope not.
The principles left us should far outshadow reported miracles.  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."  It did not say "Believe on the miracles Jesus' performed and only then  will you be saved.

Stephen Foster
2012-04-01 7:02 PM

Why would anyone believe another person to be God without some supernatural evidence?
People are very willing to die for a lie. People who are, or have been, willing to die for a lie generally believe it to be true; do they not?
Horace’s point is that people are not willing to die for that which they know to be a lie; and that there were numerous eyewitnesses to Jesus’ miracles who were the earliest Christians.

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-01 7:20 PM


Who said anything about Jesus believed as God when he walked the earth?  That was a later belief written in the Gospels, approximately one generation later which was time for beliefs to be fostered.  Always it should be remembered that the Gospel were not written at the same time of the events but much later.

No, people will die for what is "truth" for them. Nowhere did I say that people would die for a known lie.  Belief does not depend on the truth, but only a subject decision.  "Followers" designate those who believe in the principles of a leader, i.e., Martin Luther, Gandhi, etc.                                                                                   

Kevin Riley
2012-04-01 7:03 PM

Many have risked their lives for lies believing them to be true, but very few are willing to risk their lives for what they know is a lie.  The Disciples act as people who believe what they are saying.  Perhaps they were all deluded, but it seems unlikely.

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-01 7:22 PM

Of course, the disciples believed completely in what was written (that the writers were some of the "Twelve" cannot be verified).  No,  they were not deluded anymore than the Muslims, Mormons, or JWs or deluded (some folks think that SDAs are deluded ;-).

Horace Butler
2012-04-01 8:13 PM

Elaine, do you ever read any other authors than the very liberal skeptics?  You seem to be determined not to believe in the veracity of the Holy Scriptures.  That is your privilege, of course, but you're not going to convince very many committed Christians--fortunately.

David Geelan
2012-04-02 7:14 AM

A parallel question, of course Horace, is what and who are you reading? I suspect by the way you describe them you are not reading (at least with an open mind) the 'very liberal skeptics'. If you confine yourself to an echo chamber of creationist literature it's unsurprising that you incorrectly believe the balance of scientific evidence favours recent creationism.


Not assuming, asking: what do you read?

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-01 8:35 PM


My intention is not to convince Christians but to help them to understand why they have decided to reject all other beliefs and accept Christianity or Adventism. Without comparing other beliefs, how can one be certain this is the only possible truth?

Is truth defined by popularity?  Just as those who have always lived in a small village tucked away in the mountains and have never visited outside are positive their village is the very best in the world.  This is based on their most limited exposure but mostly because they are very comfortable with the known--and are very uncomfortable with change--a good description of Fundamentalism.

2012-04-05 10:09 PM

Elaine, you don't study counterfit money to find out what is not genuine.  You study the genuine bills to be able to oust the fake.... "To the law and to the testimony if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" Isaiah 8:20 

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-05 11:18 PM

If you only read the "law and testimony" how can you be so certain that they alone have all the truth necessary?  Do you not interpret while you read?  Or do you accept others' interpretation? 


These are the same rules that JWs and Mormons apply to their beliefs.  They are true because they have been told not to investigate anything else.  No critical thinking required, simply believe.  How can anyone know for absolute certainty that their beliefs are correct in every detail, compared to what?  Who needs to think when he merely accepts?

Elaine Nelson
2012-04-02 12:19 PM

"The Bible is the szcred scriptures of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other religions are based."

Peter Cieslar
2012-08-10 8:34 AM

Just when one might have thought that my good friend, Clifford Goldstein, had decided that it was in his own best interest to write on topics about which he is better informed, he has returned—yet again—to one of his favorite subjects: biological evolution.

An old saying Erwin - "what goes around comes around".  One would therefore conclude that with your PhD in the field of science it would be in your best interest to write on topics about which you are better informed and not dally in the field of womens ordination as some of your other blogs indicate.

Joe Erwin
2012-08-10 8:50 AM

Peter, I imagine you meant "Ervin" rather than "Erwin." Erv has considerable credibility both in his own academic field and in the ways of the church. He remained in the church, and he has at least as much right as anyone else in the church to comment on issues the church is wrestling with. 

On the other hand, I left the church forty years ago. My training and expertise is in biological psychology and primatology. So, when I comment regarding equity and fairness for women in the church, it is as an outsider, viewing an issue in the church that similar to one that has been pretty successfully addressed in academia. From outside, organizations not committed to gender equity and fairness look out of touch with reality, at least in North America, and surely also in many other places.

Elaine Nelson
2012-08-10 11:45 AM

As a woman, perhaps I am only permitted to comment on topics of women's ordination?  Like Joe, I have more than 80 years association with the SDA church so perhaps have a limited knowledge of its inner workings as a PK.  But then,  maybe only biological scientists should discuss evolution, or geologists, or archeologists, but Goldstein is no more qualified than the average member:  he has no academic degrees in any scientific subjects, and according to him, is currently studying the Hebrew/Greek languages.

Nor, do any of the G.C. president or vice presidents have qualifications that give them expertise in the sciences.  It has never prevent them from pontifcating on all aspects.  Hmmm--could this be why the SDA church is so behind the times, scientifically?

2012-08-10 3:42 PM

I just came back from a two-week vacation in Galapagos.  To my surprise in Main Street by name Charlie Darwin I saw in English as well in Spanish  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” when I got closer it was a nice SDA church.  Later I found out there were two SDA churches and two schools. The SDA members are more than one percent of the population ( in proportion more than in USA or other places). What an irony! the place that inspire “ Charlie “  in his evolution theory is probably one of the places with more people that believe in power of God creating in six literals days

Joe Erwin
2012-08-10 5:36 PM

David, how cool is that? It is obviously an inspiring place! Thanks for sharing that information. Vive la diversite!

Elaine Nelson
2012-08-10 6:58 PM

Maybe that's where the "Darwinian Adventists" live.

2012-08-10 7:27 PM

Yes, and perhaps that is why the sentence "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"... stops where it does: It could nicely go on to read "...and left evolution to fill it up!"


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