Record Live Podcast

Over the years, scientific findings have both agreed with and contradicted the Adventist Health message. So where should we stand on science? Do we need science to be vindicated? These and other thought provoking questions were asked by one of our authors Daniel Livingston recently. We speak to him to find out more. #REcordLive Wednesdays 4pm AEST, Podcast Fridays.

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Record Live is a conversation about life, spirituality and following Jesus in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Hi there, everyone. I'm Jared. And I'm Zenita. We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well. We believe as followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice. Let's go live.

 Welcome back to Record Live. It's great to have you with us today. Daniel Livingston is our guest today. Now, Daniel, you and I used to work together in this building, Adventist Media. It seems like a very long time ago, , that you used to work here. And I suppose, I think I'm sitting roughly where the It Is Written section used to be.

They've remodeled the office a little bit. So I may even be sort of, roughly where your office used to be.

If it's like a dead

possum, you're in the right spot.

There have been a few possums. There have been a few possums expire in the roof of this building over the years. , but we won't dwell too much on that. Now, Daniel, before we get onto today's topic, , which is based on your article, it was called about authority. Does science vindicate the Adventist health message?

So we'll talk about that topic a little bit today. We'll explore that and unpack that with you, but just tell us briefly what you've been doing since your time at Adventist media. Tell us a little bit about your family, your hobbies. Who is Daniel Livingston?

Yeah. So, Good question. I ask myself that question sometimes.

I'm not going through a midlife crisis though, so don't worry. We currently live in the Hunter Valley, in Coorabalong, , in the foothills of the Watagans, , on the other side of, the Watagans to, Martinsville, that might be more familiar to a lot of Adventists. , there are still a lot of Adventists living on our side, the northern side of the Watagans as well.

, we've lived there for the whole time of COVID. We moved just before the first lockdown. And,, I work at Hunter Water,, the local water authority , for the region, , and,, yeah, so I've been working there for, since I left, it is written Oceania back in 2011. , it's the longest I've ever done any one thing in my life.

We have moved around a little bit within Newcastle in that time. And the last move was out of Newcastle. So, we're country. We're country dwellers now, which is great. So yeah, two young kids and, and a wife and, , loving it.

Awesome. It sounds like you live in a beautiful place. Now I really enjoyed your article for anyone who doesn't know where to find it.

It was in this issue, which was a few issues back, but it is still also available online. But I think it raised some really important questions that at some stage we as people of faith find ourselves asking and grappling with, in today's day and age people get really overwhelmed. I thought I'm one of those people I would say who I look at faith and I look at studies or science and I listen to podcasts that have no religious affiliation and often get overwhelmed because it seems like both have very valid things to say.

And so I guess my starting question at the beginning was how should we as humans. Navigate the crossroads of all of this stuff and determine what is, true about the world we're in.

Yeah, so I think, I think science has been given a slightly overprivileged status in modern society,

and I'm certainly not talking on behalf of my employer. So , this is me just talking on behalf of myself. But, where I work, we try to make the best decisions, on behalf of our customers and so forth. And often there is a view that a science based decision is going to be the best decision.

, But in reality, the way that we make decisions, we being society, the world, humans, is not entirely based on science. And if we were to make decisions just based on science, then our decision making would fall short in a lot of areas because we as humans naturally make decisions based on our values, our preferences, and a lot of those things do not have scientific answers.

, you can't ask a scientific question, let alone give a scientific answer. Answer as to what is better out of two options. All you can do is science can quantify things that can it can measure something, but it can't explain why and it can't adjudicate on value., so science is a limited perspective on the world, and it's not the only way at arriving at truth it, it can't answer questions of why, for instance, so it can answer questions of mechanism that can't answer questions of agency and it can't answer questions of value either.

so I think it's important from the outset, and, this, you know what I'm saying now, doesn't apply just in, the faith and science realm. It applies to an atheist as well. Science is a limited sub subset. It's a very useful subset,, of epistemology, like the way we find knowledge and truth.

, but yeah, it's certainly not the only one and it's not, it's not sufficient if we want to live a fulfilled life.

I guess, what I'm thinking about as you're speaking is,, even the concepts of compassion and the value of human life. Like, when we often will watch a documentary, a nature documentary, and they'll say, oh, the animal kingdom is, is ferocious,, there's death and there's, survival of the fittest and those sort of concepts that can be, you know, seen as if, if we're doing things just on the numbers, we see that the ramifications of that can be things like eugenics, where it's like, well, genetically this person isn't, you know, so I guess that's the most dangerous part , of what you're suggesting is that the ramifications of taking science is The be all and the end all to the nth degree.

It's quite a dangerous thing to do.

Yeah, definitely., yeah. So what I just said before, my article didn't really go into, into that dimension of the question of the place of science. , the fact that, you know, it, it's limited, in terms of what types of questions it can answer. What I really, pursued more.

In more detail in my article was the fact that science is done by,, done by people that have a limited, , limited perspective, limited, awareness of the, of all of the relevant facts. And, inevitably bring bias to the, to the questions and to the answers, which evidence we look at, we're all, we're all subject to that, confirmation bias, or, there's several biases that human humans bring, and that's why there's processes within the scientific endeavor, , to limit that, such as peer review, but even those processes are also subject to, , the frailty of humanity.

And, and there's plenty of well-documented evidence of, of where science, where and how science has fallen short in, in, many areas.

You've done a good job. Obviously there's a lot more to expand on in this article, but you have a pretty short, word limit., so yeah, there's a lot more that can be said, but I guess one of the conflicts in the Adventist Church is that people always talk about like science verse scripture and what do we do when these two, truth finding, methods don't agree.

, because I guess what we're saying with, as Adventists, is that we have like a divinely inspired prophetess, we have a divinely inspired book, our hearts and minds can be divinely inspired, but simultaneously we are also, a church who has a deep respect and appreciation for education and science, like we're probably one of the denominations that have, the most higher education juries, for example.

And so we do see that we have these cases where we look at these two different truth finding tools, science and scripture, and sometimes they don't agree, which is a challenge. So what do we do? I suppose. When we see those things that don't align, like, how do we grapple with that?

Yeah, it's a good question, and look, it comes up in any Christian's experience, we are bound to come across, a popular viewpoint that is at odds , with the Bible.

And that popular viewpoint will often have a scientific, basis of sorts., so for instance, in the area of health sciences, there's plenty of scientific arguments, for let's say, a keto, a keto diet. a ketogenic diet or a paleo diet or whatever. I think there's plenty more scientific evidence that a plant based diet is, is at least good, if not better than, than those alternatives.

But yeah, you know, if you're, if you're just looking at a particular narrow subset of the science, then yeah, we can come unstuck on in any area of our beliefs because there's,, there's such a wealth of published science. And there's bound to be something, that will challenge most areas of our belief, whether it's to do with age of the earth, health, gender, and sexuality, like, there's such a plethora of avenues of scientific inquiry.

And, and look, that's, A feature as well as a limitation of, peer reviewed science and the scientific endeavor, a feature in that, , you can have, , , the popular narrative,, and challenges to that, and, , divergent views and opinions , and, , science should follow with it wherever the evidence leads, but,, there is always going to be evidence that is difficult to fit in with, A particular view, and, I think as Christians, we, I don't think we should be trying to evaluate every question.

That comes up to get to the bottom of it and square away, science agrees with the Bible, and if we can't square it away, then we question the Bible. I think there's always going to be areas of disagreement, over time, those areas tend to, tend to resolve. Some of them, are still hanging for, centuries later.

But, , in the area of archaeology, for instance, we found a lot of the evidence that was missing, to back up the biblical narrative, for instance. And in the area of health science as well, , there's been so much evidence that's accumulated to, to support the, the Adventist health message and so forth.

But, so I think what we need to do as Adventists and as Christians is. Remember that the way we treat the particular class of knowledge that we get from Inspiration and Revelation, we treat that as though it is correct by definition, like it's revealed, it's, it's inspired. Science is not, does not qualify for that sort of treatment.

It is not by definition correct. It's by definition,, part of the scientific endeavor and, that usually is useful, but it's often incorrect and,, in, in medicine, as the article stated, like, doctors are taught, doctors in training are taught that half of what they learn at university is going to be proven to be wrong.

And so, if we take that with the things, the findings of science, , as peer reviewed literature, then we don't have to get particularly anxious when there's a, an area of conflict between. Inspiration, revelation and science. Because, you know, the jury's out in the, in the science area as to where the scientific evidence will eventually lead in the area of revelation and inspiration.

If it truly is,, inspired by God, then it's going to, it's always correct. It's always reliable. Now we do need to, and God does ask us to evaluate,, testable things, you know, provable things. , so, it's not like everyone that claims to be a prophet, gets that instant tick of approval of everything that they say is going to be right.

, but , I think the approach we need to take with Inspiration and Revelation is if there's been consistent demonstration that this is, there is reliability in the things that it's in the claims that makes, and there's power in what it says, then you don't have to get 100 percent confirmation of every question by peer reviewed science.

for it to get that tick of, yes,, this fits, the inspiration, , category.

We seem to have a tendency as Adventists to, promote, skite about, , if you will,, blast from the rooftops, any science that backs up our, for example, the health message., let's say that cause that's a big core. In fact, in recent years, the health message, , we've seen programs like chip , and they're recording.

Stats and results from those programs, which is science, it is showing and demonstrating that those things are effective. They're working. Is there a danger, though, in promoting the science that does back up or vindicate is the word you used in your article? , Too, too much or , too heavily relying on that science.

What are the dangers that we might run into by doing that? Yeah, look, it.

It's difficult to say that we shouldn't do that because there there is certainly positives to be gained by comparing our health message with science and, seeing , the, , the alignment there, , that, that's faith affirming, , it encourages the scientific endeavor and it encourages, promotion of health, in general, it's a good thing, but I think there's a subconscious, , And I think that's what you're alluding to, Jared.

And I think , it's also what I've tried to bring out in the article. And that is if in our minds, we place science in the role of judge and jury and allow it to, , in our minds, vindicate our health message. Then by implication, that's also saying that. Where there's disagreement, science, peer reviewed science has the role of being able to, , condemn, our health message as well.

So, , I think it's, I think vindicate is too strong a word. I think, , I think when we find science that, that agrees and aligns, we can see that as supporting and providing, corroborating evidence. , but we're always going to, we know that we're always going to find. peer reviewed scientific literature that comes to alternative conclusions.

That's the way science tends to work. You know,, you have motivated,, industries such as the food industry, , there's a number of industries That have motivation to publish only that science, which will support the sales of their product and they, make those acknowledgements at the end of their paper that this was sponsored by the, , the, the food industry or whatever industry it was.

And, , and, that's it. a clear,, inherent bias to, to publish things that, , , will support that particular industry. And it may not always be consistent with either truth,, the administrative self message or good science. Sometimes it can still be consistent with good science, but not consistent with the administrative self message.

And that's when it's, a specific narrow question is being answered with ignoring the truth. other relevant questions. And,, that still qualifies as science, but, it can suggest conclusions that,, that don't always work for what we believe and want to practice.

Yeah, you talk about, on this question that Jared asked, you talk about this idea of I guess people like writers, like myself and Jared, looking at these things and being like, oh, look, it aligns with our faith. we were right, you were wrong kind of thing., and I've definitely been guilty of using said claims in my work to strengthen a point and ignoring kind of what that, or not even thinking about what else that says.

So I guess in thinking about people like writers, but also pastors and health professionals and speakers and so on, maybe not, is it such a bad thing to use those? Cause you kind of just answered that, but like. Have you noticed people doing that in a way that, I don't know, is cringy, or maybe that suggests something, and like, how can they actually, like, should we be more open about the things that we don't agree with?

Yeah, look, , I don't think there's a strong criticism of the way that,, You know, pastors , or,, writers , have used appeals to science to, to support or, , or vindicate, , our beliefs or, , our health message or whatever. , and to be honest, it's not something that I was even aware of, until relatively recently.

, And , it's a minor quibble. It's not a major quibble. , And actually what prompted me to write this article was seeing. A present on YouTube, actually, that said something along the lines of,, science from the Adventist health message or something, whatever it said. I can't remember, but, , and,, I actually watched it and I really enjoyed it.

I thought it was a fantastic presentation, but I thought that title kind of made me think is vindicate the right word. , And, you know, I think I wouldn't say that it's a bad title, but I think it can be improved.

Do you have some,, tips for us or, or some things to think about that you've found helpful in your own journey with science and with just, finding, making good decisions in terms of using science responsibly. Like, I find not everyone understands the scientific method, in the same way that not everyone, , ,uses scripture responsibly or, in that sense.

So how do we, or the media even, how do we interact with the media? We don't always do it responsibly because not everyone has the same level of. Media literacy or understanding of what the companies are trying to do or how they're pushing. So Are there some ideas that we can understand about the scientific method that help us to approach science in a more balanced way?

Yeah. Look, you're prompting me in my mind to go down a particular rabbit hole., that's very, , that's very technical.

, and I'm not even the best, person to speak to this. It's the area of statistics and uncertainty. , and, and, Often the way that science is used and misused is a misunderstanding of the inherent uncertainty in, scientific data and conclusions. And, and I think that's something that, we don't all need to become, stats experts, statistics experts or uncertainty experts.

I think it, you know, it's useful to be aware that there is uncertainty. There is inherent uncertainty in nearly all, scientific measurement and, , projections and, and so forth. there are some things that are, that are absolute, but there, there are some things that, , have a significant range , of uncertainty.

And, and we being society and humanity, the media, it's, I don't think it's peculiar to Adventists at all, but, , or Christians at all. Yeah, we struggle with the inherent uncertainty in, in scientific, conclusions , and data and measurement, and predictions. Yeah, having some awareness that there's a certain, a certainty and an uncertainty range associated with a measurement and a prediction.

there's some percentage that you're likely to be, it's likely to be within this range. And, if it's outside of that range it doesn't mean it's wrong. It just means that there's inherent uncertainty, which, you know, and that, Extrapolating that conceptually means that, that there's always room to improve the understanding of something, or the measurement of something.

I'm going to say something that sounds a little trite because this can be used in both directions for, making it whatever argument you want to make. But the use of the phrase, the science settled on something Can be, can be misused. I mean, it is a valid thing to say at times, but it's also , it kind of tries to wrap up this whole uncertainty conversation that I'm talking about in a way that's unhelpful.

, and I think that awareness. , can be useful for conversations of all things in science, whether it's health sciences, whether it's climate change, whether it's origins, , there's a bunch of areas of science where,, Yeah, the area of climate change probably doesn't challenge Adventists in terms of our belief systems, but health sciences certainly does, and origins even more so, and gender and sexuality as well, there's a bunch of things where, you know, the awareness that there's uncertainty, and then, of course, there's biases and, there's corruption, like, you know, there's a bunch of things that, , are going to, to you.

mean that, science and scientific results need to be, , well filtered , if you're going to make, , reliably make life decisions based on, on, , on your particular understanding of a scientific question. But yeah, in terms of communicating science, I think I'm just an awareness of that, of the fact that there is uncertainty.

and, um, if you're going to make decisions based on, on scientific. data and evidence, then you'll want to, you'll want to have somebody involved that understands that in a quantitative way.

I like what you said earlier in the conversation, that you don't have to get like 100 percent confirmation for everything as well, like there's Yeah, that's always settled on everything.

I suppose. you are a dedicated Adventist Christian. , and you've also spent a lot of time understanding and using science. I understand. So you've got good credibility and understanding in both fields. I'd be interested to know how you approach situations in your own life where there is a conflict.

Between, say, peer reviewed literature and the Bible or prophecy or so on.

Yeah, look, so what I'm about to say might sound a bit overly, dismissive to some people, but in my mind there is, there is no conflict. I just, I follow the Bible and, Revelation and Inspiration. , yeah. You know, 100%. Like, for me, when there's, when there is apparent contradiction, there's always, always a question of do I understand the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy accurately or not?

But, , there's no issues in interpretation, then, you know, then I will, I'll always just believe. Put my faith down, put my anger down where, where the, the Bible and spirit prophecy, , and, and let science sort itself out, which it usually does. I mean, there's some questions that, you know, still there's not a lot of perfect alignment there, but, science, science is fallible.

The word of God isn't.

Yeah. And that might be, that might sound a bit too dismissive for,, you know, for people that are really struggling in a particular area. And,,, you know, asking the question will. Is God reliable? Can I put my faith in his word?, and the reason I've got to that point is because over many years of experience of trusting God, tasting and seeing that God really is good and that his word is reliable, , and seeing how many times science and ends up aligning with, , inspiration revelation after all, I'm quite confident that every subsequent, , discrepancy can also be similarly resolved.,

what about, the common saying, and I'll play a little bit of the devil's advocate here that the Bible, the Bible isn't a scientific textbook. Like it comes from a certain culture, context, place., I've heard people say that, and they might have questions about this conversation today, , we've talked a lot about the science and how we understand and interpret the science.

Well, but how do we, , Make sure we're responsible with the Bible as well in in the flip side of that so that we Because you've said and I agree we should you know, put the Bible higher than science But how do we understand things that perhaps the Bible hasn't said anything about? , when science is, when science might be involved.

Yeah, well, if the Bible hasn't said anything about something, then, then if the science says something conclusive about something, then the Bible is silent., then, and I would say that my, my approach to climate change probably fits that category. , I don't think that the Bible has anything conclusive to say about, about climate change.

I mean,, there's things that it says like bookends around the whole question of climate change, but the question, it doesn't provide any, as far as I'm aware, it doesn't provide any answers to the question of, are humans, currently, or are they going to, , from the perspective of the Bible writers, going to influence, , global climates in a, in a noticeable, significant way.

And so, you know, I don't think it, I don't think that's a matter that needs to have. a biblical defense or argument around, from my point of view, the Bible is, is silent on that. And, if someone wants to argue for anthropogenic climate change, knock yourself out. If someone wants to argue against it, knock yourself out.

I've worked in the field and, ,

I'm not aware of any fundamental flaws in the science that, that international organizations such as IPCC use. in their scientific, projections for, or scientific, analyses for climate change. I'm not aware of any fundamental flaws in that. And so, I tend to, ,accept, I wouldn't say believe the science because you know, you just accept it and use it.

, and,


Science is always subject to being questioned anyway. , but then there are other areas where the Bible appears to say something in figures of speech, the four corners of the world or something like that. and, some people make the case that therefore the world is flat. I think that's a bit of a stretch.

I think there's room for the Bible, using figures of speech. and, you know, we say the four corners of of the compass in our modern lingo, in any case. So I think it's, it's a bit of a stretch to say that the Bible is making a comment as to the, the structure of the planet that we live on.

in, when it uses language such as that, I mean, it also uses , language that's consistent with a spherical globe as well. So, I understand that there are areas where, , some people will try to hang their hat on particular use of language in the Bible that, seems to indicate something that's far outside of what our scientific understanding of the world would say.

And, that's a dangerous territory, but I don't think there's any hard and fast rules in doing that. I think we need, , we need to allow language to be what language is. and in, , language is not, should not be approached in a deterministic way. , it's a descriptive tool, not a deterministic tool.

Hmm. There are many more questions we could ask you on this topic. I feel like I've only got through half of what I want to ask, but


are running out of time, but we'd like to end things on a practical note on record live. And so for people who are overwhelmed with all the conflicting information and Finding truth, finding really difficult.

do you have any advice or resources or anything that you can suggest or leave with those people?

Yeah, good question. Look, the Bible is a fantastic resource. I also think that science is a fantastic tool. so, modern education in, in science. insight has, achieved a lot through the last couple of hundred years.

So I, and, and further than that, but, the scientific endeavour has largely been, you know, most publications have, well, probably within the last 10 years, to be honest, but, we're exponentially expanding our scientific knowledge. Not all science , is, is good and not all science, is faith affirming, but by, a large chunk of it is.

and I think for, for Christians who want to, who want to engage in the, in the scientific, in scientific endeavors, yeah, by all means, go for it. . It can be a, a faith affirming endeavor. It can also, be a, a faith. Shocking endeavor,, if not done in a supportive environment, but yeah, so if, if you're interested , in exploring science further, you know, places like Avondale, will be a supportive environment to do that. , you can do it through a public university as well and, and just make sure, that you're keeping in, , connection with God and do that through the Bible. So tools that you are, you're asking for. The Bible is, the best tool. It's the best tool for truth and knowledge. It has scientific wisdom as well.

It's beyond the, more advanced than the era in which it was written. , and the same for the writings of Ellen White, like her, her health insights are so far advanced of the times in which she wrote them. , so, yeah, I would just encourage people to dive into, to Inspiration and Revelation.

You've caught me a bit off hand in terms of, Are there other particular resources that I would point to to say, you know, this is a, this is a particular author that really tackles the subject well, and there are plenty, , and, you know, I'm sure if people reach out , to the team at Record, , or myself, that we'd be, we'd be happy to put, point you , in good directions.

But look, the Bible and,, all inspired writings, , and as a church, we put the writings of Ellen White in that category, uh, a fantastic place to, to build our faith, and yeah, and they encourage scientific endeavour.. So, all of the avenues of epistemology, that's a difficult word to leave you with, , finding knowledge and finding truth are good and helpful, but the best ones are clearly the word of God.

Inspiration from God is our greatest tool is what I think the message of our conversation today and the message of your article is really reinforcing for us. And I think that's an important thing to take with us from this conversation. Hey, Daniel, thanks so much for joining us today., it's been a pleasure to chat with you and to bandy about some of these ideas.

But, we'll see you again soon for record live and God bless.