by Monte Sahlin

By AT News Team, August 19, 2014
Corrected August 23 and 28

This week about 300 faculty from Adventist colleges and universities, along with church administrators and pastors, are participating in an International Conference on the Bible and Science convened by the General Conference (GC) of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah. The meeting includes presentations by Adventist and other Christian scholars, as well as field trips to look at various examples of geology.

Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the GC, gave the keynote sermon last Friday morning (August 15) and made it clear that science teachers in Adventist schools are expected to believe in creation, not evolution. “As teachers on the campuses of Seventh-day Adventist academies, colleges and universities, and leaders in God’s church … hold firmly to a literal recent creation and absolutely reject theistic and general evolutionary theory,” Wilson said. “I call on you to be champions of creation based on the Biblical account and reinforced so explicitly by the Spirit of Prophecy,” he said referring to the writings of Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White.

Wilson pointed to Bible passages such as Genesis 1, 2 and Psalm 33:6, 9 and the writings of White to reject the Bible interpretation that each day in creation week might have lasted a long period of time, making the world older than a few thousand years. This is an interpretation widely accepted among Christians, even conservative Protestants. According to the Adventist Review, it "has crept into some Adventist schools in recent years and prompted, in part, a decision … to start organizing Bible and science conferences in 2002." The event this week is another in the series of such meetings.

Field trips during the meeting include a half day viewing the geological column in the Virgin River Gorge, most of Sabbath (August 16) touring Zion National Park and an entire day on Wednesday (August 20) on a geology tour of the Grand Canyon. More than 70 presentations will be made over the 10 days, including at least 30 of a scientific nature and nearly 40 on theology, Biblical studies and related philosophical topics (including devotionals).

Most of the presentations will be made by Adventist scholars and scientists from the Geoscience Research Institute, the research center funded by the GC, and several Adventist universities. At least four of the speakers are Christians from other denominations. Dr. Kurt Wise is a Baptist who directs the Creation Research Center at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia. He earned a PhD in geology from Harvard University and is well known for his writing on the topic of creationism.

Dr. John Baumgardner was a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory with a PhD in geophysics and space physics from the University of California at Los Angeles. In 2005 he became a staff member at the Institute for Creation Research. In 1997, US News & World Report  labeled him "the world's pre-eminent expert in the design of computer models for geophysical convection." In 2005 he also began the development of a computer program to model the accumulation of mutations in a genome so that the validity of neo-Darwinian theory can be tested.

Dr. Marcus Ross is an associate professor of geology at Liberty University in Virginia. He earned a PhD in geosciences from the University of Rhode Island and was featured in a New York Times  article in February 2007 about his doctoral dissertation which involved animals generally understood to have been extinct for millions of years. He is also assistant director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University.

Dr. John Whitmore is a geology professor at Cedarville University in Ohio. It is a Baptist institution fully accredited by the regional accrediting body with about 3,200 students, most in undergraduate programs. Whitmore earned his PhD at Loma Linda University.

The meeting also included a presentation on academic freedom by Dr. Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, the education director for the GC, and several opportunities for the participating science teachers to declare their position on the controversial topics under consideration. Some observers have called the meeting an exercise in "laying down the law" to Adventist scientists.

It is also important to note that on the last day of the meeting (Sunday, August 24) there will be a cluster of presentations on environmental issues. This is a new development in the long-standing Adventist interest in issues related to origins, but not out of line with the Adventist history of concern for natural living and conservation.

Adventist Today regrets misinformation that was published earlier and that has been corrected in this story.