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Below are some images from the Adventist Media Production studio in Simi Valley, Calif., during the eleventh annual SONscreen Film Festival this past weekend. Since its debut in 2002, the festival has become the premiere annual gathering for Adventist young adults in North America passionate to use film and video for the purpose of making timely and relevant productions for social awareness, outreach, and uplifting creative entertainment. The theme this year was Chronicles: stories that speak truth and change lives.
Participants discuss a different filmmaking topic at each table during lunch on Friday at the SONscreen Film Festival, April 4-6, 2013.
Rajeev Sigamoney, third from left, Instructor and Program Coordinator of Film & Television at Pacific Union College, Angwin, Calif., accepts the $10,000 pitchfest award for his idea to create ten films exploring the decalogue. Pitchfest judges included, from left, George Johnson, Nathan Nazario, David A. R. White, Paul Kim and Dave Gemmell.
The production team behind the Adventist Women + Equality = Unity short documentary campaign poses for a photo after their film featuring the ordained women pastors of China was screened. From left: Rajmund Dabrowski, Bonnie Dwyer, Alexander Carpenter and Timothy Wolfer.
Raewyn Hankins, Senior Pastor of the Victorville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Victorville, Calif., preaches about the stories of Jesus for Sabbath worship.
Student filmmakers receive Sabbath lunch haystack toppings from the executive producer of the festival, George Johnson, Director of Communication for the North American Division.
Cast and crew of The Record Keeper, a sci-fic TV series based on The Great Controversey, discuss the personal experiences on the set. From left: JuneSoo Ham (actor), Dennis Hill (actor), Rajeev Sigamoney (writer), Michaele Satterlund (script supervisor), Jason Satterlund (director), Garrett Caldwell (writer, producer).
After their production, Hell and Mr. Fudge, was screened, producers answer questions: from left, Pat Arrabito, executive producer; Jeff Wood, producer/director; Edie Hughes, art director; David Brillhart, director of photography; and Donald Davenport, writer.
Southern Adventist University film faculty and students.
La Sierra University film faculty and students.
Pacific Union College film faculty and students.
These are some of the good folks who created and sustain the SONscreen film festival. The message throughout the festival was clear. The Adventist church, particularly in North America, wants to foster the creativity of its members.
All photographs courtesy of Gerry Chudleigh, publisher of the Pacific Union Recorder.
For nearly 40 years, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International has worked worldwide with current and former Seventh-day Adventist lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people and their families, friends, and allies.
Adventist Kinship members today are as diverse as the rest of the Adventist community. What we share is the conviction that God loves all His children equally and unconditionally, no matter our gender identity or sexual orientation.* God created each of us with the healthy desire for companionship (e.g. Gen. 2:18), and He uses our social and intimate relationships to teach us what daily lives of love and self-sacrifice look like (e.g. Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Jn. 4:11-12; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Cor. 13).
From Colin Cook’s Quest Learning Center and Homosexuals Anonymous (1980) to today’s Coming Out Ministries, the Seventh-day Adventist church has subsidized or promoted reparative or change “therapy” and so-called “ex-gay” ministries that target vulnerable LGBTI people, same gender couples, and the congregations they participate in.
Adventist Kinship members who’ve graduated from these ministries know their teachings and accounts of abuse, addiction, and “change” through spirituality or divine intervention. We also know these ministries’ outcomes all too well. We will never confuse destructive patterns of substance abuse, domestic violence, or sex addiction with a person’s underlying gender or sexual orientation, and we’re happy for those who, with therapy, have lessened their distress about who they are. Having picked up the pieces these ministries left behind, however, we also know that “interventions” based on treating non-heterosexual orientations as essentially sinful, deviant, or inferior have devastating psychological, relational, and spiritual impacts on youth and adults alike.
We appreciate the consensus of the American Medical Association (2003), National Association of Social Workers (2000), American Psychiatric Association (1998), American Psychological Association (1997), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (1993): non-heterosexual orientations are not in themselves a problem and so do not merit therapy, suppression, or change. These clinical professionals, medics, and scientists have learned from study what SDA Kinship members have learned from experience.
Because of God’s work in our lives and families, our knowledge of change organizations, and our experiences with thousands of LGBTI and heterosexual people since 1976, we encourage our members to accept their baseline orientation, and we affirm loving, committed same gender or mixed gender relationships for members who choose them. At a recent Kinship conference, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of one same gender couple—not because of their gender or orientation but because they’ve sustained a time-tested relationship of loyalty, mutual care, and healthy affection, and they’ve done this despite persistent demonization from their religious community.
We respect our members enough to honor their consciences about their faith and what they believe God requires of them in this life. Some have chosen committed relationships, some have built families with children, and others are celibate; all must be convinced in their own mind as the Lord leads them. Whatever our members and friends choose, we believe love is worth celebrating, and we support all of them as they grow in grace.
*Gender identity is a person's deeply felt psychological sense of whether or how they fit into cultural gender categories. This identification may or may not correspond to the person's designated sex at birth. (APA. 2011. “Definition of Terms” http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf)
Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of affectional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to men, women, or people of either gender. Heterosexual, gay and lesbian, bisexual orientations are three of the most common. (APA. 2008. “Sexual Orientation” http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx)
Ben Carson, the politically conservative Seventh-day Adventist neurosurgeon, continued his recent run of media appearances during the last week. But of late he seems to be spending a lot of his time apologizing. During one of his recent Fox News softball interviews he said the following: "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition." Slate notes: "Those comments—specifically the decision to lump homosexuality in with bestiality and pedophilia—didn't go over so well, particularly with students at the Johns Hopkins medical school." Then Ben Carson appeared on MSNBC to apologize.
This week a writer at Salon dug into some of Ben Carson's books where he addresses social issues. "After a gay couple brought their child in to be examined at Carson’s clinic, a colleague told him, 'I know you don’t approve of homosexual relationships … but I was impressed with that couple … Think what you want, but it’s just your opinion.'
Carson writes that he replied thusly:
My response wasn’t nearly that politically correct. “Excuse me, but I beg to differ,” I said. “How I feel and what I think isn’t just my opinion. God in his Word says very clearly that he considers homosexual acts to be an ‘abomination.’” Whenever I point out that God calls homosexual behavior a sin, I am usually quick to add that the Bible just as clearly calls a lot of other things wrong — lying, cheating, adultery, murder, gluttony — and I am not going to try to justify any those things in order to be politically correct either.
As the interview with Andrea Mitchell shows, Ben Carson seems to not always think through his analogies. Note his bizarre attempted explanation of apples, oranges, and peaches. Andrea Mitchell tries to help him understand that if he's for legal equality for gay couples than marriage accomplishes his goal. But instead for working through the logic, Carson succumbs to bumper sticker politics and responds by appealing to God. That's fine for a personal morality, but then he probably should tell people that he might run for president of the United States. In the MSNBC interview he seems deflated, especially after making the mistake of wondering when America ever didn't allow the freedom of association.
It is sad that the most famous Adventist in America is spending his time on cable news like this. Even The Daily Show uses his public statements for some laughs. What happened to the good doctor?
This week, Juli Miller in Idaho sets the table for Sabbath at the Spectrum Café. In addition to featuring memorable Sabbath meals, Sabbath at the Spectrum Café will feature guest columnists’ fresh perspectives on food, community, and unique stories surrounding vegetarian cuisine.
After worshipping together with music, prayers, offerings, reading of scripture, and the homily, sharing a potluck tangibly extends the dimensions of the hospitality of the Sabbath and the Kingdom of God for me.
Sitting, standing, and kneeling in the sanctuary, we can appear as two-dimensional brothers and sisters in the family of God to each other. However, during the final slicing of the bread or tossing of the salad in the very small church kitchen and the many conversations that float above the servings of John’s “heavenly eggs,” Cheryl’s baked beans or Yvonne’s lasagne, I have the chance to connect with the other members and visitors in a simple and essential way.
We have many visitors at our church in a mountain resort community. They tell us of their hometowns, church life, families, and slices of their biographies. We discover mutual friends, alma maters, and interests—as well as similar regrets, joys or pet peeves. We exchange recipes or sources for particular foods along with names of favorite books and websites for spiritual development and inspiration; we compare times when we knew God led or protected us. Questions about how God works, the mysteries about creation or sanctification, and aspects of the Sabbath School lessons we didn’t get to are often tossed back and forth, enriching our insights or prompting us to learn more.
Church potluck deepens my connection with regular church members, too. We have the chance to get more background on the prayer request or praise shared during church service. We find out how work, the extended family, and the latest remodel or garden project is doing. The kids can fill us in on their school and after-school activities; we tease, encourage, applaud, and listen. The pastor asks everyone where and when we want to have our next camp-out or church work bee, and his wife describes the kind of dog she is hoping to find at a shelter. We ask each other to pray during the week regarding particular matters of importance to us.
About half of our members come to church alone because they are single or their partner does not share their church affiliation. Potluck extends the interval during the week they are with others of like faith with whom they can share the spiritual journey or just life’s experience in general. Potluck provides a sweet spot for open reflection and supportive companionship. We often send leftovers home with the single folks or those with children, and I always pray they will sense the love of the group for them again when they enjoy some more of the food at home.
When someone new has attended a few church services and potlucks, we are not shy about suggesting that they are welcome to contribute something to the next potluck. They can bring some juice, a watermelon, fresh baby carrots, or an avocado. No need to be familiar with Ina Garten or Martha Stewart recipes—or Special K loaf and quinoa salads. We are also eager to recruit anyone who will do the dishes or wipe down all the tables and take out the trash. Participation opens so many pathways for deeper connections with the church community. It is often while doing last minute preparations or doing the dishes together that we reveal keen concerns or transformational events. Or a silly but memorable happening. And the shared laughter or tears builds a bridge between us.
Church potluck is a spiritual practice that reliably delivers me a bowl of Grace, a slice of Joy, a cup of Compassion, and a generous serving of Gratitude seasoned with Awe.
Juli Miller is a marketing and health care consultant in Sun Valley, Idaho.
*Do you have a story about Sabbath meals, vegetarian/vegan cuisine, or thoughts on one of food's many roles? Please share them in the comments below, or email us here. Thank you for joining us this week at the Spectrum Café.
This week’s recipe for Pesto Pea Salad comes highly recommended by Juli Miller and is adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook (Crown Publishing Group, 2006). In only two steps, this side dish offers the flavors of spring, yet several of its ingredients can quickly be pulled from the freezer.
Pesto Pea Salad
Total time: 15 min.
2 c frozen peas
2 tbsp toasted pignolis (pine nuts), toasted*
2 ½ c baby spinach leaves
1 c arugula (or to taste)
4 tbsp pesto, prepared or homemade**
1. Cook the peas in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Immediately immerse the peas in a bowl of ice-cold water, and drain when fully cooled.
2. To assemble, place the spinach leaves in a salad bowl. Sprinkle the peas and pignolis over the spinach and arugula. Add the pesto and toss.
*To toast pignolis, place them in a dry sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, until evenly browned, tossing frequently.
On Saturday afternoon, March 22, Brian Keener's wife heard an unusual noise coming from across the Brooklyn, New York apartment where she and Brian live. She walked to the window and saw a large multitude gathered in Cadman Plaza. Wearing the same T-shirts over their jackets and escorted by the police, they were preparing to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Intrigued, she sent her husband to find out more about it.
I saw Keener approach the group with a couple of questions. He obtained a fair idea of the situation, and pleased, wishedthem good luck. As he was walking back home,I questioned him. A retired man who described himself as a Christian but not a regular churchgoer, Keener understood that the march, organized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was for compassion. “I think this is a great idea; it may wake up some people. Compassion is something wonderful, and we need more for each other. It is nice to see so many young people out there,” he said.
Indeed, thousands of young Seventh-day Adventists from the U.S. and around the world marched for compassion and against violence. The event was a part of “Compassion Weekend,” which took place from Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24, and mobilized thousands of Adventist youth in New York City. Organized by the Atlantic Union Conference as part of the General Conference's NY13 Revelation of Hope evangelistic effort to reach New Yorkers, Compassion Weekend offered the city of New York 20,000 to 30,000 hours of volunteer service in more than 60 charity projects, and invited New Yorkers to the NY13 series that Ted Wilson will hold later this year.
“New York City is known by many different names, (such as) the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps,” read Pastor José Cortés Jr., Atlantic Union Youth Ministries director and main organizer of the event, during a press conference held in Cadman Plaza prior to the march. James Black, NAD Youth Ministries director, and Donald G. King, president of the Atlantic Union, were present, among other Adventist youth leaders. Cortés continued, “Yet we are here ... because we would like to see New York City become the City of Compassion, the Capital of Compassion in the world.”
Several elected and public officials, such as NYC Public Advocate and NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, had confirmed their presence to salute the marchers and talk to the media. In the end, only 9th Congressional District Congresswoman Yvette Clarke addressed them. “This march is about people understanding that violence is not the answer,” she said, without a script, “that through love, through compassion, all violence can be overcome. And that is at the core of the values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
In the presence of ABC Television Network; Telemundo, a national Spanish-language network; a local TV channel; and reporters from several newspapers, Clarke explained why the march deserved special attention. “It sends a great signal to a city that has a poor record of speaking compassion to its citizenry,” the congresswoman said. “Today's march marks a historic point in the life of this city, led by the Seventh-day Adventist church, that we hope will ripple across this city, and indeed across this nation, as we struggle with the issues of gun control in Washington, and the issues of a more humane federal budget that will give these young people the future and the opportunities they need to spread their compassion far and wide,” she said to the cheering crowd.
Reporters asked the congresswoman about the importance of such an event in light of the national gun-control debate. Clarke pointed out the fact that when it comes to gun violence, we rarely hear from young people, who, she said, are the most affected population. To her, the teenagers that were about to march were asking the adults to step up for a better society and future.
It was also while trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge that the Occupy Wall Street movement caught national media's attention. I asked Keener what he would think about both the Occupy and the Compassion movement.
“This march for compassion can complement the Occupy Wall Street (movement),” he said. “Both are protesting real issues. Both are everyday people. Occupy Wall Street is more political and this compassion march is moral. Compassion is not really political, but compassion is important everywhere for everyone, and of course can help the political process.”
We tend to think of religion and politics as two distinct spheres, but for Marcus Borg, a professor of religion and culture, such distinctions can be misleading when looking at Jesus. In his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (Harper One, 1995), Borg writes that “[t]o put it boldly: compassion for Jesus was political.” By “politics” Borg refers to its broader sense to mean “concern with the shape and shaping of any human community” (63). According to this understanding, Jesus “challenged the dominant sociopolitical paradigm … and advocated instead what might be called a politics of compassion” (49).
In the same chapter, Borg invites us to reflect on the understanding of our Christian identities. “Studies of our culture disclose that it is characterized by a pervasive individualism. Within this framework, compassion has become an individual rather than a political virtue. It is to be enacted by ‘a thousand points of light’ rather than being a paradigm for public policy.”
With Borg's reading of the gospels in mind, I asked Rep. Clarke about the prospects of compassion in the political system.
“Our national politicians can learn a lot from the SDA church. We have not seen a lot of compassion unfortunately over the past couple of years, particularly in the House of Representatives. If there were a tendency towards compassion I think you would see more of a willingness to collaborate with the executive branch, with the Senate, and to really come together with a moral document that speaks to the values of all people in this nation. Unfortunately we are not seeing that today, and so I think the Congress gets a D- in compassion,” she said.
Moved by compassion, thousands of Adventist youth made a difference in the lives of those New Yorkers in need. They prepared and delivered meals on the streets and in shelters. They prayed for people and sang in subway stations. They set up craft, snack and storytelling stations and provided water relief and diapers in areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. They spray-painted the compassion heart with the NYC skyline inside it for a compassion mural project. They gave out health tracts. They visited nursing homes. And they also joined different organizations like the Natural Areas Volunteers and Occupy Sandy in order to accomplish different projects.
In the world's most famous square, the group performed a flash mob. According to Pastor Ricardo Bain, that same Sabbath at 12 p.m., 400 youth entered Times Square in incognito fashion. As they had rehearsed, group members spread out on the square, while the leader ascended the famous red steps under which people buy discounted tickets for Broadway shows. The leader, alone, began to shout the following jingle, “Hey! Holt! I am the hands of Jesus, I share the love of Jesus!” Immediately 20 others joined in. They shouted the jingle again. And then 50 more came in. And then 100 more. And on and on until, Bain explained, “Times Square literally came to a standstill watching this flash mob unfold.” Afterwards, the youth all formed prayer circles and asked God to bless NYC.
“It is our resolve to take this movement across the northeast of our country and have it replicated across the world by other Adventist youth and young adults,” said Cortés at the press conference prior the march. “Today, we would like to call on the leaders, some of which are present here, the families, the schools, and the churches of New York City to begin a movement of compassion.” According to Cortés, the coming confirmed Compassion Weekends will be held in Portland, Maine, in 2014; Hamilton, Bermuda, in 2015; Worcester, Mass., in 2016; and Syracuse, N.Y., and Rochester, N.Y., in 2017. And impressed by the past weekend in NYC, other cities from around the country, such as Los Angeles, have already contacted Cortés to host a Compassion Weekend in their area.
“We are marching for change,” said Greater New York Conference Communication Director Rohan Wellington, to the media present. “This march reflects the need for more compassion in the way we live our lives.”
First lining up two by two to access the bridge, the Adventist youth then flooded it to the point where some were entering the bridge on the Brooklyn side, while others were simultaneously leaving it on the Manhattan side. As they marched, some participants played the drums, others sang, and the majority handed out compassion fliers. Regardless of their task, everyone did their best to stay warm—the temperature was 41 F.
Finally, they all gathered at Foley Square, where NAD President Dan Jackson joined them, and along with other Adventists leaders addressed thousands of Adventists who cheered and celebrated the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As a conclusion, the youth offered several prayers for the city and the nation, then broke up glow sticks and sang “Make Me a Servant.”
Ruben Sanchez is a Fulbright scholar who holds a master’s degree in religious studies and journalism from New York University. He was raised in Spain and moved to New York in 2010. He is currently working as the university chaplain for Seventh-day Adventist students attending colleges and universities in the New York City area.
Compassion was the word heard loud in Times Square on Saturday.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y., 9th District) praises the initiative against violence.
Flash mob in NYC's Times Square.
In Times Square, thousands of young Adventists sang about compassion through Jesus.
Pathfinders marched with drums, banners and flags over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Seventh-day Adventists from 10 states came together in Cadman Plaza Park on Saturday to promote compassion.
Thousands march over Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square.
Thousands of young Seventh-day Adventists rallied against gun violence in Cadman Plaza Park on Saturday.
Pictures by Gisele Oliveira, a Brazilian journalist who specialized in semiotic psychoanalytic at Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Sao Paulo, and in photography through the International Center of Photography in New York.
In the last article I explored contemporary developments in biology that now permit it to proceed in a precise quantitative fashion. This was a very important article that built the foundation for this current article. With this in mind I turn now to one of the most controversial parts of evolutionary science—that having to do with common descent. Since antiquity the Judeo-Christian narrative has held that humans were a specific creation of God on day-6 of creation week—not the product of common descent. Yet science is finding evidence that would seem to fit a different narrative.
Perhaps the best way to start this discussion is to revisit a memorable exchange that occurred between Thomas Huxley, Chair of Natural History at the Royal College (now known as Imperial College of London) and Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of the Church of England at Oxford. It occurred during a meeting of the British Association at Oxford in June 1860, where Huxley presented some formal remarks supportive of Darwin's Origin of Species. In response to these remarks, Wilberforce arose to his feet and in a light scoffing tone, attempted to ridicule Huxley by asking whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley thereafter slowly rose to reply and is reportedly to have muttered, “He has been delivered into my hand,” and then proceeded to say that he would rather have been descended from an ape on both sides of his family than from a bishop who used his talents to obscure the truth. Wilberforce is reported to have retreated in resentment.
The point of my repeating this story is to illustrate the passions this subject can generate; after all it is a very difficult subject and I am not particularly interested in inflaming the passion of readers. So keep in mind that I am looking at scientific findings, and not advocating for one side of this issue or the other. I hope to simply lay out the data in a straightforward, unbiased manner. Intelligent readers can draw their own conclusions.
As a 4th generation Adventist, reared in a family that most would characterize as very conservative, I held very traditional notions of Genesis 1 & 2 well into adulthood. A couple of decades ago—certainly well before genome mapping—I was confident that an increased understanding of genetics would once and for all settle a major issues of evolution—the issue of common descent. I had a religious tradition, of course, that rejected common descent, but it also just seemed to me intuitive that differing biological classifications were sufficiently distinct that common descent was not possible, genetically speaking. It was my personal working hypothesis that as solid data emerged it would become clear that science was headed down the wrong trail. Because of my interest in the outcome of this issue I have followed the developments in the field of genetics through the years with interest. Unfortunately, most of the research findings have been very disappointing to my Adventist sensitivities. Instead of getting compelling proof that common descent was not feasible, the published data over the past few years tantalizingly renders the possibility more than likely. In what follows, then, are some of the significant findings that, at present, lead knowledgeable scientists to infer common descent.
First let me refer back to the last article discussing the quantitative progress that has been made. The ability to read the DNA code has reached a level of refinement that permits (to use an example), the degree of relationship to be seen quite transparently and quite definitively—all the way from identification of a blood relative, such as a sibling, to a comparison of humans to primates and on down the genetic tree. All life can literally be catalogued, with the DNA code quantifying the degree of relatedness. Mammals (and all life for that matter) can be placed metaphorically on a genetic tree, with branching based on degrees and closeness of relationship. In DNA terms, Chimpanzees are the closest of the mammals to humans. The latest assessments have concluded their DNA is 98.8% matched to human DNA.
Other than examining DNA code commonalties, there is a strategy for evaluating and validating the relationship of two species in terms of common descent. It is the use of a forensic method looking for mistakes in the genetic code that are shared across closely related species. We are talking here about a specific mutation(s), or mistake that occur out of the billions of base arrangements in a genome. Such mistakes are passed down to posterity and so can be traced back through the linage. Yes, humans and apes share some of the same genetic mistakes. Those who would dismiss such data will have to face the statistical probabilities of such occurrences in a code the size of the biological genome, where the odds increase against the exact same errors showing up independently. An analogy would be to randomly select the correct code to a combination safe—it may be possible—but not very probable. In the real world we must consider probabilities. Let’s consider, then, some of these mutations.
1. One mutation is found in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein within red blood cells. One of the molecules of human hemoglobin is beta-globin, and is composed of six genes; five are functional, and one right in the middle is broken. It is referred to as a pseudogene. This broken gene contains a series of errors that make it nonfunctional. This error is one that every human carries, and interestingly gorillas and chimpanzees also carry six beta-globin genes, and they are arranged in exactly the same way —five working copies surrounding a pseudogene. 
2. Most mammals have a gene that codes for an enzyme called gulonolactone oxidase, or GLO. This enzyme manufactures vitamin C, allowing mammals with this functional gene to not need any dietary intake of vitamin C. Humans, of course, need vitamin C in order to maintain good health, and interestingly human’s have a remnant of the GLO gene that is broken. It has accumulated so many changes in its base sequence as to become nonfunctional. Assuming the viability of the evolutionary model, this very strongly suggests that every human has descended from a common ancestor that also had this broken gene. Yes, some primates—the ones we are most closely related to in terms of DNA patterns such as chimps and gorillas—also have a broken GLO gene. Other more distantly related primates do have a functioning GLO gene. As noted by Kenneth Miller, in the field of forensics, “this notion of unique, matching errors is widely used to determine when one document has been copied from another.” In the case of the GLO gene, the document we can analogize to would be the DNA code. 
3. Humans have 46 chromosomes—23 inherited from each parent. Apes, however, have 48, raising the significant question as to how humans and apes could possibly be related (particularly closely related) when humans are missing a couple of chromosomes. Well, this is where it gets interesting, because chromosomes have distinctive structural features with telomeres at the tips, and with a centromere at the center of the chromosome (see the graphic below). Quite unexpectedly humans have a fused chromosome #2. It has fused telomeres and two centromeres right where they would be expected to be if a fusion had occurred. Furthermore, genes on these two chromosomes are arranged in a pattern that is almost an exact match for corresponding genes on the two corresponding chimpanzee chromosomes. The match is so close that scientists have changed chimpanzee genes #12 & 13 to 2a and 2b so as to correspond to the human chromosome #2. This, of course, suggests an explanation for the “missing” human chromosome. 
Well, what should we make of findings such as these? Are they all mere coincidences, or do they lead to the conclusion of common descent? The good news for traditional Adventist thinking is that none of these observations result in conclusions that are definitive on questions of common descent—just tantalizing data that seems to point that direction as determined by subject matter experts. For many this will be enough to casually dismiss this discussion and its implications. But this is not the end of the story, for we can be sure that there are many chapters yet to come. Yet, the data we have just discussed should cause us to pause before offering up knee-jerk responses of ridicule.
Those who have a defining narrative that would deny or ignore the data just discussed can easily find creationists who will be dismissive of the substantive points just made. So the problem for all truth-seeking laypersons is in whom to place trust for a study of very complex issues—the actual subject matter experts or the opinions of those who aren’t? The answer should be obvious.
Another point to consider—most credible experts will openly discuss both strengths and weaknesses of the findings they put forward. Those “experts” who misrepresent the known scientific reality by only presenting one-sided arguments as is done on many radio talk shows, where cherry picked data is presented and problematic data is avoided, are by their very approach untrustworthy. Those who openly discuss vulnerabilities are, by this measure, more credible. In the spirit of this latter point, I have provided readers in footnote form, a website sponsored by an Adventist who dismisses the findings we have just discussed. But should you review that material, please consider the general lack of any discussion of vulnerabilities of the arguments being made.
What I have attempted to provide is a general overview of this challenging subject for the average reader. In actual fact, the details of a discussion like this can very quickly become much more complex and technical. But one thing to keep in mind now that biology has moved into the digital age is that the science community now has the ability to progress rapidly beyond mere speculation by providing mathematical levels of confidence in sorting out some of these issues. Until some more of this can be worked out I would suggest that we are best served by moving away from a dogmatic nineteenth-century worldview, and towards a position of neutrality. If science is on the wrong track, given the recent advances in genetics it should soon become apparent to the science community. In the meantime a position of neutrality can be a way of showing respect for tradition while awaiting further data.
Most of us don’t like to live with ambiguity, and for some nothing short of mental certitude is adequate—never mind the reality. However, those who can adopt a position of neutrality should recognize that scientific knowledge of genetics is still in its infancy. This brings with it the possibility that in time a more mature understanding will emerge that perhaps may salvage aspects of traditional Adventist thinking. But there is also another possibility, and that is that the reality is quite different from what many of us have long assumed.
In the next article I will look at one aspect of evolution that Adventists generally find more encouraging—the question of origins. Then in the last article of this sub-series I will attempt to put some of the varied piece of this discussion together and develop a possible philosophical approach that could lead to helpful theological considerations. Perhaps there is a path forward that is respectful to both Adventist traditions and to the message emanating from science. In the end, the truth of the matter will prevail irrespective of our preferred narrative; the only question that remains is whether we will be open to the evidence—whatever direction the evidence may lead.
1. Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, Kenneth R. Miller (Viking, 2008)
2. The Language of God, Francis S. Collins (Free Press, 2006)
—Jan M. Long, J.D., M.H.A., works for the County of Riverside, California. Previous articles in Jan M. Long's curated series "Bringing the Real World to Genesis" can be found here.
Art: Josh Keyes, Howl, 30"x40", acrylic on panel, 2009
 By Mrs Isabella Sidgwick, Macmillan's Magazine, LXXVIII, no. 468, Oct. 1898, `A Grandmother's tales', 433-4. I owe the identification to Mr. Christopher Chessun, of University College, Oxford.
Kenneth R. Miller, Only A Theory (Viking Press: 2008) indicates a 96% DNA match; more recent assessments have upped the correlation. See for example, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100506-science-neanderthals-humans-mated-interbred-dna-gene/
Ibid, p. 101
Ibid, p. 100
Ibid, pp. 97-99; see also Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007), p.71
Ibid as to Miller, pp. 105-107
Regarding the usage of the term “subject matter experts” I am referring specifically to biologists, geneticists, or other specialists in closely related disciplines. To assist your efforts I have footnoted a number of subject matter experts that can assist the reader in doing their own due diligence on the subject.
 Included here would be professionals in other fields of science who pretend to be experts but are not.