The Press-Enterprise reported this week that over 5,600 people have signed on to a petition affiliated with Educate Truth, the web site that has aligned itself against La Sierra University’s biology faculty. Shane Hilde, the creator of the website and petition, revealed on the website’s petition page that he intends to take printed copies of petition’s signatures and comments to La Sierra University’s meetings of the Board of Trustees, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Hilde disclosed his intentions to PE.com:
- "The ultimate goal of the petition drive is to require Adventist teaching on creation in La Sierra biology classes," said Shane Hilde, the Beaumont man and La Sierra graduate spearheading the petition drive. "If that doesn't happen, petition supporters may push La Sierra to disassociate itself from the Seventh-day Adventist Church," he said.
The petition does not single out La Sierra, but Hilde said it is the target. Evolution opponents are looking into allegations of pro-evolution biases at other Adventist universities, he said.
The petition does not call for the dismissal of the three La Sierra biology professors who are at the center of the controversy. But Hilde said "that ultimately is what happens in these situations."
In an attempt to shore up support for the petition, Hilde sent out a flurry of mass emails, inviting recipients to sign the petition and pass the information on to friends. Despite the many appeals for support spread over six months, the petition has fallen well below its goal of 10,000 signatures. At the time of this article's publication, there were 6,250 signatures.
Educate Truth also recently sent a mass email questionnaire to Adventist college professors, which read,
- There is a growing concern amongst parents and students about which Adventist professors teach and believe in the historicity of Genesis 1-11... During this turbulent time, we feel it is vital parents and prospective students know and understand what they will be taught. It is in this spirit of transparency that we ask you to take some time to respond to the following questions:
- Do you believe and teach God created the heaven and earth in six literal 24-hour days a few thousand years ago?
- Do you believe and teach that life has only been on earth for a few thousand years and that God destroyed the earth with a worldwide catastrophic flood?
You may reply in your own words, giving as much detail regarding your subject matter and philosophy as you see fit. In your reply, please include the following: place of employment, name, department. Your response to these questions could potentially appear on Educate Truth. Thank you for your openness and participation.
Results of the survey have not yet appeared on the website.
On November 5, Louie Bishop, a La Sierra University biology student who has vocally criticized the department, sent out a mass email encouraging people to take three actions: 1. Sign the EduTruth petition, 2. Email Ricardo Graham, Pacific Union Conference president and LSU Board of Trustees chair, along with the other members of the board to “encourage them,” and 3. Contact Louie if interested in participating in a prayer vigil on the La Sierra campus during the Wednesday and Thursday board meetings.
The vigil was canceled because, according to the EduTruth website,
- “This morning we received an email from LSU Board Chair Elder Graham, requesting that ‘as a token of respect to La Sierra University … and the work of the trustees that you would arrange no one participating in the prayer vigil actually come to the campus during the Board meeting.’ As requested by Elder Graham, we are canceling the planned prayer vigil for Wednesday”
The planned vigil also coincided with La Sierra University's college visitation day, when several hundred high school students visited campus to learn about the university's programs.
Also this week, the Pacific Union Recorder has published on its website a report of what is actually occurring in La Sierra University’s biology program. The issue, which appears online first, will also be mailed to Adventists in the Pacific Union Conference.
The report notes a 20-year high in enrollment for the biology program, and describes an inter-departmental seminar for freshman biology majors addressing the issues at the faith/science crossroads.
- The seminar series is running concurrently with fall quarter's general biology class and is required before any student planning to continue studying in the first-year biology sequence can enter into the winter quarter session.
- Introducing students to the university culture as a community of ideas
- Acknowledging and building on the faith background of students entering the biology program
- Aiding students' understanding of the nature of knowledge, its sources and acquisition
- Guiding students to a comprehension of the practice of science, and what it can and cannot accomplish
- Supporting students as they constructively relate to science and religion
- Providing helpful tools in the formulation of students' worldview
"Members of the biology department, the School of Religion, and university administration have been meeting for many months to address the need to help entering biology students make an appropriate transition into the post-secondary study of biology in the context of their faith journey," says Warren Trenchard, La Sierra University provost. "This general biology seminar (BIOL 111A) will allow students to explore a variety of topics with scholars from biology, religious studies, and the Geoscience Research Institute, including the role and function of science, the importance of faith, and the relevant doctrinal positions of Seventh-day Adventists."
The seminar was designed to achieve several important goals:
The new seminar builds on the university's long-standing commitment to providing a balanced, rigorous curriculum in the sciences while introducing students to Seventh-day Adventist understandings of creation, centered in the Genesis account, which reveals the Creator as a personal and loving God. Seminar topics include such themes as: the philosophy of science; the Seventh-day Adventist teachings on the biblical doctrine of creation and the faith journey of students; faith and the intellect; and constructing a world view including faith and science.”
The article included a link to a page detailing many reasons that students interested in biology ought to consider La Sierra's program along with statements from current and former LSU biology students: http://www.lasierra.edu/departments/biology/important_reasons.html
[Photo Above: Shane Hilde, from PE.com]