4 May 2018  |  The conference tomorrow (May 5) organized by the Adventist student group on the campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz has stirred opposition from some faculty members, but a refusal to debate. The topic is origins, creation vs evolution, and the speaker is Dr. Major G. Coleman, chairman of the Black Studies Department at the university and faculty sponsor of the Adventist student group. The event will be live-streamed on the Internet at Powerstation.org. 

Coleman would like to have “a publishable, scientific debate on the question of origins” and has invited his academic colleagues to participate. “Let me emphasize that religious matters will not be allowed in this debate,” he wrote in a letter to interested fellow faculty members.“Only scientific evidence and the logical inferences from that evidence,” he stated and he offered $20,000 to any qualified evolutionist willing to participate in the debate.

“To my knowledge there has never been a thorough, written debate on this foundational subject,” Coleman wrote. “A wealth of new evidence has been discovered since Darwin—published in the most prestigious, peer-reviewed, science journals in the world. … Universities, of all places, should welcome such a debate.”

Seven faculty members at SUNY New Paltz have responded to Coleman in a letter which has also been circulated among colleagues. “We believe it is important to articulate exactly why such a debate is both unnecessary and unproductive,” the letter states. “There is no debating that life evolves. From the fact that we can observe the evolution of flu viruses from one year to the next, to the existence of fossil hominins in our family tree that date back millions of years, we can observe the impact, and reality, of evolution at many different scales and contexts.”

The letter continues, “science is based on observable facts and religion is based on faith, [so] there can be no true scientific ‘debate’ on the existence of evolution. Fundamentally, science and religion attempt to explain different aspects of our existence and this dichotomy is why scientists stopped engaging in evolution vs. creation debate decades ago.”

“We acknowledge the basic freedom of any individual or department to host an event that expresses their particular perspective on a topic,” the letter concluded “those faculty whose research and teaching are grounded in evolutionary theory do not engage in these types of ‘debates’ because ultimately, there is no debate.”

The letter was signed by Dr. Daniel Freedman, dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY New Paltz and six of his colleagues. Coleman has had exchanges with the group in prior years on the same topic.

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