by AToday News Team
A group of biology professors and trustees at La Sierra University have issued a statement dealing with the teaching of creation. The North American Division has issued a response to this statement. Both statements are reproduced below.
The Adventist Review has also posted a story about the release of these two documents. This can be accessed at http: //www.adventistreview.org/article.php?id=4769
Joint Proposal of individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees
The controversy over the teaching of origins at La Sierra University (LSU) has led us, through informal dialogue, to propose an approach-in-principle to resolving these issues.1 Notably, our dialogue has been consistent with the suggestions of members of the WASC visiting team (April 2011) that Faculty and Trustees talk directly and collegially with each other about these important matters in light of the unique faith-based mission of our University.
Our Joint Proposal is the result of our dialogues, which by deliberate design were conducted across a wide spectrum of views, with the conceptual input of various scholars and individuals.2 From these discussions, we as individual Faculty and Trustees have generated and here propose an approach-in-principle to the teaching of Creation at LSU, which maintains the Seventh-day Adventist faith of our University and the integrity of our science programs.
In our dialogue, we found a solution to be the teaching of Creation as a faith conviction, rather than as science. Creation is not a scientific construct. It is a faith construct. The conviction of Divine Creation lies beyond the purview of the methods of empirical science, and cannot be subjected to them. Nevertheless, faith and science can and should constructively interact.
This approach is based on two core principles:
In accordance with the principles of academic freedom, as appropriate to a faith-based institution, the incorporation of these core values into the curriculum is the responsibility of the faculty of the Department of Biology in their science classes, and of the University Studies faculty in interdisciplinary classes and seminars.
In addition, we suggest the following:
La Sierra University hosts a North American Division (NAD) Office of Education Summit3 of scientists, biblical scholars, and theologians, who are actively publishing in the peer-reviewed literature on issues relevant to origins within their respective academic disciplines of the earth sciences, the biological sciences, biblical studies, and the theology of creation — in order to freely discuss together the difficult issues. A NAD Summit would not replace the important role provided for Adventist educators at all levels by the biannual GRI Council (GRICO) meetings, which are so ably run by the Geoscience Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. We see the proposed NAD Summit meetings as fulfilling a different and complementary role to GRICO.
Promotion of an ongoing culture at La Sierra University of open and transparent dialogue on these important issues among Faculty, Trustees, and Administration on campus.
Continued dialogue with other thought-leaders and fellow Adventist educators beyond our University, and with members of AAA and the NAD, has been and will continue to be advantageous.
We believe that the ongoing comments and suggestions of our fellow individual colleagues, among Faculty, Trustees, and Administration, especially while the University takes steps regarding the recommendations from WASC and AAA, will be invaluable. This Joint Proposal is the result of us working together as individuals. As members of this faith-based, academic community which we love and serve, we do not presume to speak on behalf of our University, or the Board of Trustees.
Undersigned individual LSU Faculty:
James Wilson, Ph.D.
Lee F. Greer, Ph.D.
Molecular Systematics, Genomics
Lloyd Trueblood, Ph.D.
L. Lee Grismer, Ph.D.
Natasha Dean, Ph.D.
Eugene Joseph, Ph.D.
Bone Cell Biology
Undersigned individual LSU Trustees who support this Faculty-initiated Proposal:
Former US Ambassador to Malta
Carla Lidner Baum
1 Our informal dialogues were indirectly initiated by the formal invitation of President Randal Wisbey to the Biology Faculty to make a presentation to and dialogue with the LSU Board in September of 2011.
2 Including the North American Division (NAD) Vice President for Education, Larry Blackmer, who is also a member of the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA).
3 We are grateful to NAD Vice President for Education Larry Blackmer for proposing the Summit as an NADS-sponsored event where these scholars can gather by themselves to freely engage. He also directly provided documents which helped clarify various salient issues. Vice President Blackmer was especially helpful in communications to resolve some misapprehensions which prevailed between AAA and the LSU Biology Department earlier in the spring.
The North American Division has received and reviewed the “Joint Proposal of Individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees.” The officers of the division are very supportive of the dialog that has taken place with the LSU biology faculty and several trustees and we would encourage a stronger commencement of discussion regarding the concepts contained in the Joint Proposal. We are in general agreement with your core principles:
II. Continued teaching and research in the various disciplines of the modern Biological sciences according to the most-up-to-date rigorous standards of the published science, to which we contribute as practicing scientists and active faculty, including the data which highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various models.
It is understood that in an academic setting modern science and faith-based creationism are both frameworks that need thorough exploration and definition to ensure that our conversations are based on mutual understanding of those terms and the implications surrounding them. Also, although the two frameworks are different, they are not individual silos in which we are able to work, without relating to the other framework.
It has always been the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America that we want all of our institutions of higher learning to uphold the highest levels of academics including rigorous science, as defined in section II above. At the same time we support your affirmation of the Seventh-day Adventist position on creation, which is a literal six-day, short-term creation. While we understand the tensions that exist between these positions, the most important values that we hold together are the student’s faith and its expression as they leave our institutions.
The NAD is committed to hosting a summit of participating scientists, theologians, and biblical scholars in Adventist higher education to further the dialog and to clarify how to strengthen the faith maturity of our students while providing comprehensive science education. This summit should not be a time of debate over the wording of a position or statement, but should be held in a protected environment to openly discuss how to best move forward within the context of the natural tension between science and a faith-based creation position. We believe this is not only an issue at LSU, but is a broader issue that needs to be considered by the highest levels of the Adventist Church, involving all institutions in NAD.
We commend the individuals who have drafted and signed this important proposal. Open dialog and conversation is the only method to resolve controversy and to move forward as an organization. The proposal is a major step forward in that conversation and with prayer and continued diligence is the basis for more direct resolution of the ongoing controversy surrounding LSU. Thank you for your willingness to open a channel of communication and to work together on behalf of all students in Adventist schools in NAD.