Unusual Statements Regarding Scientific Issues

Amalgamation of man and beast

Some have charged that Ellen White wrote in 1864 (and republished in 1870) that humans once cohabited with animals and that their offspring produced certain races that exist today. The statement reads: "But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere. God purposed to destroy by a flood that powerful, long-lived race that had corrupted their ways before Him." [1]

No dictionary has ever used "amalgamation" to describe the cohabitation of man with beast. The primary use of the word describes the fusion of metals, the union of different elements such as in making tooth cements. Nineteenth-century usage included the mixing of diverse races.

Granted, her statement could appear ambiguous: Does she mean "amalgamation of man with beast" or "amalgamation of man and of beast"? Often, repetition of the preposition is omitted in similar construction. [2]

On other occasions, when Mrs. White used the word "amalgamation," she used it metaphorically, comparing faithful believers and worldlings. [3] She also used it to describe the origin of poisonous plants and other irregularities in the biological world: "Christ never planted the seeds of death in the system. Satan planted these seeds when he tempted Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge which meant disobedience to God. Not one noxious plant was placed in the Lord's great garden, but after Adam and Eve sinned, poisonous herbs sprang up. . . . All tares are sown by the evil one. Every noxious herb is of his sowing, and by his ingenious methods of amalgamation he has corrupted the earth with tares." [4]

Recognizing that Satan has been an active agent in the corrupting of God's plan for man, beast, plants, etc., we can better understand what Ellen White may have meant when she described the results of amalgamation. That which "defaced the image of God" in man and that which "confused the species [of animals]" has been the handiwork of Satan with the cooperation of humans. Such "amalgamation of man and [of] beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men," becomes understandable.

Mrs. White never hinted of subhuman beings or any kind of hybrid animal-human relationship. She did speak of "species of animals" and "races of men" but not any kind of amalgam of animals with human beings.

We recognize, however, that serious students of Ellen White's writings differ on what she meant by "amalgamation." "The burden of proof rests on those who affirm that Mrs. White gave a new and alien meaning to the term." [5]

For further study of this issue, see "Amalgamation" in the Reference Library.


[1] Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 64. "Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men" (page 75).

[2] "We might speak of the scattering of man and beast over the earth, but we do not therefore mean that previously man and beast were fused in one mass at one geographical spot. We simply mean the scattering of man over the earth and the scattering of beasts over the earth, though the original location of the two groups might have been on opposite sides of the earth. In other words, the scattering of man and of beast" (Francis D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, p. 308).

[3] "Those who profess to be followers of Christ, should be living agencies, cooperating with heavenly intelligences; but by union with the world, the character of God's people becomes tarnished, and through amalgamation with the corrupt, the fine gold becomes dim" (Review and Herald, Aug. 23, 1892; see also The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 144 and The Upward Look, p. 318).

[4] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 288.

[5] Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, p. 308.

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 491, 492.]

Astronomical statements

Attention has been called to statements that seem to show that Ellen White made grievous errors regarding scientific issues. Prophets are not called to update encyclopedias or dictionaries. Nor are prophets (or anyone else) to be made "an offender by a word" (Isa. 29:21). If prophets are to be held to the highest standards of scientific accuracy (every few years these "standards" change, even for the experts), we would have cause to reject Isaiah for referring to "the four corners of the earth" (Isa. 11:12) and John for writing that he saw "four angels standing at the four corners of the earth" (Rev. 7:1).

Some point to the phrase, "As the moon and the stars of our solar system shine by the reflected light of the sun," charging that Ellen White was untrustworthy in scientific matters. [1] But most readers would recognize this use of "stars" for "planets of our solar system" as a non-technical description easily understood by laymen.

Some have declared Ellen White was in error when she allegedly said that she had visited a "world which had seven moons," [2] and that the planets visited were Jupiter and Saturn. In point of fact, she never named the "world which had seven moons." But there is more to the story.

Less than three months after she and James were married in 1846, she had a vision at the Curtis home in Topsham, Maine, in the presence of Joseph Bates. Although Bates had seen Ellen White in vision on several occasions, he still had doubts about her prophetic gift; but through the Topsham vision he was convinced that "the work is of God." [3] James White reported that, in this vision, Mrs. White was "guided to the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and I think one more. After she came out of vision, she could give a clear description of their moons, etc. It is well known, that she knew nothing of astronomy, and could not answer one question in relation to the planets, before she had this vision." [4]

What was it that convinced Bates, the old sea captain and amateur astronomer, that Ellen White was "of God"? After the vision, she described what she had seen. Knowing that she had no background in astronomy, Bates said, "This is of the Lord."

Obviously, what Bates heard corresponded to his knowledge of what telescopes showed in 1846. Almost certainly this vision was given in Bates's presence to give him added confidence in Ellen White's ministry. If she had mentioned the number of moons that modern telescopes reveal, it seems clear that Bates's doubts would have been confirmed. [5] (See "Avoid Making the Counsels 'Prove' Things They Were Never Intended to Prove.")


[1] Education, p. 14 (same statement, The Desire of Ages, p. 465).

[2] Early Writings, p. 40. This vision was first described in the Broadside, To those who are receiving the seal of the living God, first published Jan. 31, 1849.

[3] A Word to the Little Flock, p. 21, cited in F. D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, p. 581.

[4] Ibid., p. 22. Ellen White wrote: "I was wrapped in a vision of God's glory, and for the first time had a view of other planets" (Life Sketches, p. 97; see also Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 83). No evidence exists that this is the same vision described in Early Writings, p. 40. See pages 144, 145.

[5] Further information regarding this 1846 vision is found in Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 257-260. For a discussion of how Loughborough's memory of his conversation with Bates many years earlier fits into this memorable moment for Bates, see Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp. 93-101.

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 490, 491.

Death from cosmetics?

In an article describing unhealthful fashions, Ellen G. White included the following statement in an article regarding dangerous fashionable fads:

"Many are ignorantly injuring their health and endangering their life by using cosmetics. They are robbing the cheeks of the glow of health, and then to supply the deficiency use cosmetics. When they become heated in the dance the poison is absorbed by the pores of the skin, and is thrown into the blood. Many lives have been sacrificed by this means alone" (The Health Reformer, October 1871).

Some have wondered how the use of cosmetics alone could prove fatal. In today's world, with government testing and consumer safety guidelines, adverse reactions to cosmetics are essentially limited to skin irritation and allergies. But this was not the case in the 19th century, as noted in this consumer bulletin issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "The European cosmetic known as ceruse was used faithfully--and fatally, because it was mainly white lead--by wealthy women from the second century until well into the 19th century to make their faces look fashionably pale" (Dori Stehlin, FDA Consumer, November 1991; revised May 1995).

In 1871, when Ellen White prepared the article in question, "enameling" was the latest cosmetic fad, "which is nothing less than painting the face with lead paint, and for this purpose are used the poisonous salts of lead" (Sara Chase, M.D. in The Health Reformer, October 1871, p. 125). Another deadly concoction was vermilion, made from mercuric sulphide. In such an environment, it is not surprising that Ellen White should alert her readers to the real life and health threats posed by such products.

Physical and spiritual dangers of masturbation or "self-abuse"

Few topics have generated more ridicule from critics than Ellen White's statements regarding "self-abuse," "solitary vice," "self-indulgence," "secret vice," "moral pollution," etc. Ellen White never used the term "masturbation."

Her first reference to this subject appeared in a 64-page pamphlet, An Appeal to Mothers, April 1864, nine months after her first comprehensive health vision. Primarily devoted to masturbation, pages 5 to 34 were from her own pen; the remainder consisted of quotations from medical authorities. [1]

Ellen White did not say that all, or even most, of the potentially serious consequences of masturbation would happen to any one individual. Nor did she say that the worst possible degree of a serious consequence would happen to most indulgers.

Modern research indicates that Ellen White's strong statements can be supported when she is properly understood. The general view today, however, is that masturbation is normal and healthy.

Two medical specialists have suggested a link between masturbation and physical abnormalities due to zinc-deficiency. Dr. David Horrobin, an M.D. and Ph.D. from Oxford University, states:

"The amount of zinc in semen is such that one ejaculation may get rid of all the zinc that can be absorbed from the intestines in one day. This has a number of consequences. Unless the amount lost is replaced by an increased dietary intake, repeated ejaculation may lead to a real zinc deficiency with various problems developing, including impotence.

"It is even possible, given the importance of zinc for the brain, that 19th century moralists were correct when they said that repeated masturbation could make one mad!" [2]

More recent research has confirmed the critical role of zinc as a principal protector of the immune system, with a host of physical illnesses attributable to zinc-deficiency.

Two professionals in the area of clinical psychology and family therapy have compared Ellen White's statements on masturbation with current medical knowledge. [3] Dr. Richard Nies defended Ellen White's general counsel on masturbation, making four main points:

(1) Masturbation leads to "mental, moral, and physical deterioration. . . . It is not the stimulation, per se, that is wrong. It's what's going on in . . . [persons] when they're becoming self-referenced and self-centered."

(2) Masturbation "breaks down the finer sensitivities of our nervous system. . . . It is not difficult to see in terms of the electrical mediation of our nervous system, how disease becomes a natural result of individuals who have placed their own gratification at the center of their being. . . . Disease is the natural result of this."

(3) Masturbation is a predisposition that can be "inherited and passed on and transmitted from one generation to another, even leading to degeneration of the race."

(4) In dealing with others, especially children, Ellen White's counsel lies in the direction of dealing with the consequences, of showing them that we should be training for love and eternity, not self-gratification with its terrible consequences. Dr. Nies concluded his paper, "Self-gratification is synonymous with destruction."

Alberta Mazat observed that Ellen White's concern regarding masturbation was primarily on the mental consequences rather than the "purely physical act. She was more concerned with thought processes, attitudes, fantasies, etc." Mazat quoted Ellen White's references to the fact that "the effects are not the same on all minds," that "impure thoughts seize and control the imagination," and that the mind "takes pleasure in contemplating the scenes which awake base passion."

Mazat further noted that some may be embarrassed by Ellen White's strong statements regarding masturbation. However, many of Mrs. White's other statements also seemed "unrealistic and exaggerated before science corroborated them, for example, cancer being caused by a virus, the dangers of smoking, overeating, and the overuse of fats, sugar, and salt, to name a few. . . . It seems worthwhile to remind ourselves that medical knowledge at any point is not perfect." [4]

Looked at from another perspective, God always upholds the ideal for His people through His messengers. However one reacts to Ellen White's specific counsel, clearly masturbation was not what God had in mind when He created man and woman, united them in marriage, and then instructed them to be fruitful and multiply. God's ideal in regard to sexuality is the loving relationship that exists in marriage between husband and wife. Anything else, including masturbation, falls far short of God's ideal.


[1] An Appeal to Mothers was reprinted in 1870 as part of a larger work, A Solemn Appeal Relative to Solitary Vice and Abuses and Excesses of the Marriage Relation. A facsimile reprint appears in the Appendix to A Critique of Prophetess of Health (by the Ellen G. White Estate).

[2] David F. Horrobin, M.D., Ph.D., Zinc (St. Albans, Vt.: Vitabooks, Inc., 1981), p. 8. See also Carl C. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D., Zinc and Other Micro-Nutrients (New Canaan, Conn.: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1978), p. 45.

[3] Richard Nies, Ph.D. (Experimental Psychology, UCLA, 1964; equivalent Ph.D. in clinical psychology, including oral exam, but died during dissertation preparation), Lecture, "Give Glory to God," Glendale, Calif., n.d.; Alberta Mazat, M.S.W. (Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif.), Monograph, "Masturbation" (43 pp.), Biblical Research Institute.

[4] Mazat, Monograph, "Masturbation."

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 493, 494, with additional comments.]


Some charge that Mrs. White's statements regarding the cause of volcanoes reflected the myths and fanciful thinking of age-old theories. Her writings contain eight relevant concepts [1] that have been debated since they first appeared in 1864. [2]

This list includes: (1) Formation of coal beds is linked to the Flood; (2) Coal produces oil; (3) Subterranean fires are fueled by the burning of both coal and oil; (4) Water added to the subterranean fires produces explosions, thus earthquakes; (5) Earthquake and volcanic action are linked together as products of these underground fires; (6) Both limestone and iron ore are connected with the burning coal beds and oil deposits; (7) Air is involved in the super heat; (8) Deposits of coal and oil are found after the subterranean fires have died out. [3]

Many theories abound as to the causes of volcanoes and earthquakes and the formation of oil and coal. Most earth scientists base their ideas on the plate-tectonic theory. Nothing in Ellen White's comments rules out that theory. Further, nothing in her writings states that all volcanoes are the product of burning coal fields or that all earthquakes are caused by subterranean fires. When she links earthquakes and volcanoes together, one immediately thinks of the Pacific Ocean "ring of fire" and its high potential for disasters from both.

However, notable scientists have confirmed Ellen White's observations. Otto Stutzer's Geology of Coal documented that "subterranean fires in coal beds are ignited through spontaneous combustion, resulting in the melting of nearby rocks that are classed as pseudo volcanic deposits." [4] Stutzer listed several examples of such activity, including "a burning mountain," an outcrop that "lasted over 150 years," and "the heat from one burning coal bed [that] was used for heating greenhouses in that area from 1837 to 1868." [5] Modern confirmation exists for the igniting of coal and oil with its sulfur constituent "seen around the eruptions of hot springs, geysers, and volcanic fumaroles." [6]

References to rocks "which overlie the coal [and] have suffered considerable alteration because of the fires, being sintered and partly melted," correlate with Ellen White's statement that "rocks are heated, limestone is burned, and iron ore melted." [7] Further research in the western United States has produced conclusions and language very similar to Mrs. White's writings of a century earlier: "The melted rock resembles common furnace clinker or volcanic lava." [8]

One last charge has been that melted iron ore is not found in connection with burning coal and oil deposits. However, a United States Geological Survey paper records the discovery of hematite (an iron ore) that had been "formed in some way through the agency of the burning coal." [9]

The suggestion that Ellen White was wholly dependent upon existing sources for her scientific information is without merit, because some of this verification only became known many years after her death. Further, "It is much more unlikely that she resorted to the published ideas of contemporary Creationists on the subject, since their views were relics of wild cosmological speculations." [10]


[1] See Warren H. Johns, "Ellen G. White and Subterranean Fires, Part 1," Ministry, August 1977, pp. 9-12.

[2] Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 79-80 (1864); see also The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 82, 83 (1870); Signs of the Times, Mar. 13, 1879; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 108, 109 (1890); Manuscript 21, 1902, cited in Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 946, 947.

[3] Johns, "Ellen G. White and Subterranean Fires, Part 1," Ministry, August, 1977, p. 6.

[4] Otto Stutzer,Geology of Coal, translated by Adolph Noe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), pp. 309, 310, cited in ibid., p. 19.

[5] Johns, "Ellen G. White and Subterranean Fires, Part 2," Ministry, October 1977, p. 20.

[6] Ibid. See also Thomas Gold, Profesor Emeritus of Astromomy at Cornell University, "Earthquakes, Gases,and Earthquake Prediction" (1994), at www.people.cornell.edu/pages/tg21/Earthq.html

[7] Stutzer, Geology of Coal, p. 310; Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 108, cited in Johns, "Ellen G. White and Subterranean Fires, Part 2," p. 20.

[8] E. E. Thurlow, "Western Coal," Mining Engineering, 26 (1974), pp. 30-33, cited in ibid., p. 21.

[9] G. Sherburne Rogers, "Baked Shale and Slag Formed by the Burning of Coal Beds," U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper, 108-A (1918), cited in ibid., p. 21.

[10] Johns, "Ellen G. White and Subterranean Fires, Part 2," p. 22. "The coal mines of Germany have become a veritable gold mine in a study of Ellen White's scientific declarations, indicating the intermingling of the divine and human in a unique way" (ibid.).

[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 492, 493.]

Wasp Waists Inherited?

Ellen G. White often addressed the subject of how practical Christianity relates to fashion. She pointed out the duty of dressing healthfully and not being a slave to the dictates of "style." Like other health reformers of her day, Ellen White protested vigorously against the unhealthful practice of "tight-lacing" associated with the wearing of corsets. She noted:

"The corsets which are again being generally worn to compress the waist is one of the most serious features in woman's dress. Health and life are being sacrificed to carry out a fashion that is devoid of real beauty and comfort. The compression of the waist weakens the muscles of the respiratory organs. It hinders the process of digestion. The heart, liver, lungs, spleen, and stomach, are crowded into a small compass, not allowing room for the healthful action of these organs. . . .

"By lacing, the internal organs of women are crowded out of their positions. There is scarcely a woman that is thoroughly healthy. The majority of women have numerous ailments. Many are troubled with weaknesses of most distressing nature. These fashionably dressed women cannot transmit good constitutions to their children. Some women have naturally small waists. But rather than regard such forms as beautiful, they should be viewed as defective. These wasp waists may have been transmitted to them from their mothers, as the result of their indulgence in the sinful practice of tight-lacing, and in consequence of imperfect breathing. Poor children born of these miserable slaves of fashion have diminished vitality, and are predisposed to take on disease. The impurities retained in the system in consequence of imperfect breathing are transmitted to their offspring" (Review and Herald, October 31, 1871).

Some have questioned Ellen White's credibility for suggesting the possibility that some women may have inherited small waists from their mothers--as if she were claiming divine revelation on this point. Her cautious, qualified assertion ("may have inherited") indicates that she was not claiming revelation here. Even if she was mistaken in her understanding on how some persons may have acquired their physical deformities, it does not gainsay the health principles she was advocating, or the wisdom of her counsel that women should abandon such unhealthful practices. (See "Avoid Making the Counsels 'Prove' Things They Were Never Intended to Prove.")

Wigs and Insanity?

In the October 1871 issue of The Health Reformer, [1] Ellen White wrote of "hurtful indulgences" that militate against the highest interests and happiness of women. Among these "indulgences" she included wigs that, "covering the base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centering in the brain." As a result of "following this deforming fashion," she said, "many have lost their reason, and become hopelessly insane."

In the context of today's comfortable wigs, critics tend to ridicule this statement. But Mrs. White was referring to an entirely different product. The wigs she described were "monstrous bunches of curled hair, cotton, seagrass, wool, Spanish moss, and other multitudinous abominations." [2] One woman said that her chignon generated "an unnatural degree of heat in the back part of the head" and produced "a distracting headache just as long as it was worn."

Another Health Reformer article (quoting from the Marshall Statesman and the Springfield Republican) described the perils of wearing "jute switches"--wigs made from dark, fibrous bark. Apparently these switches were often infested with "jute bugs," small insects that burrowed under the scalp. One woman reported that her head became raw, and her hair began to fall out. Her entire scalp "was perforated with the burrowing parasites." "The lady . . . is represented as nearly crazy from the terrible suffering, and from the prospect of the horrible death which physicians do not seem able to avert." [3]

With reports such as this in the public press, it is easy to understand why Ellen White would warn women against the possible dangers of wearing wigs and trying to "keep pace with changing fashion, merely to create a sensation." [4]


[1] The Health Reformer, October 1871, pp. 120, 121.

[2] Ibid., July 1867.

[3] Ibid., January 1871.

[4] Ibid., October 1871.