"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Intelligent Design, Laestadian style?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Intelligent Design, Laestadian style?

Growing up in the ALC, we took the book of Genesis quite literally when it came to the story of human origins. I assume this is true for the other branches of Laestadianism as well, since if you have no reason to believe otherwise it is a pretty natural way to read Genesis 1.

Biblical scholar Marcus Borg calls this way of reading the Bible "natural literalism." Prior to the beginnings of modern science in the 1500s, it was pretty normal (although still not a universal practice by any means) to take much of the Bible's descriptions of natural history at face value. Given the high status the Bible holds within the Christian tradition, with little evidence suggesting otherwise, a reasonable adherent would have no reason to doubt that the creation story was anything but a straightforward account.

Since then, many of the sciences and humanities have delivered findings that call older interpretations of the Bible into question. Whether one accepts the findings as true or not, I think everyone can agree that the findings do question older ways of understanding the Bible. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is Darwin's theory. One of the many dividing lines in modern Christianity is between believers who incorporate modern science into their understanding of faith, and those who see science and faith as diametrically opposed to each other.

I think it's safe to say that Laestadians are firmly in the "diametrically opposed" camp. ;-) Ex-Laestadians, on the other hand, run the gamut. I bet we have young earth creationists, intelligent designers, people who just aren't sure, as well as folks who fully accept Darwin's theory reading this blog.

I'd love to hear from all of you.

I'd also like to recommend a Nova episode that will air tomorrow evening on PBS. It might be fun to watch the episode "together" and then discuss it here in the comments. If you don't have access to the television program, PBS has a comprehensive web site full of information. Full details below:

NOVA: Judgment Day: Putting Intelligent Design on Trial Tuesday, November 13th 8:00 PM Eastern Time on PBS (check local listings)

Phillip Johnson, the founder of Intelligent Design, defends his ideas

Defending Intelligent Design

NOVA: Why do you think some people do not accept evolution?

Johnson: I think they see a problem. I don't think it's that they're ignorant. I think that they see that what's being given to them as evolution is less than science in that it hasn't really been proved, and yet it's presented as if it were proved. And on the other hand, it's more than science, in that it contains the whole philosophy behind it, metaphysics as it were.

Biologist Ken Miller defends evolution, and explains his views on why faith and science are compatible

Defending Evolution

NOVA: Where do you come from personally on this topic?

Miller: I think that faith and reason are both gifts from God. And if God is real, then faith and reason should complement each other rather than be in conflict. Science is the child of reason. Reason has given us the ability to establish the scientific method to investigate the world around us, and to show that the world and the universe in which we live are far vaster and far more complex, and I think far more wonderful, than anyone could have imagined 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.



  1. Great Topic!

    On the Science Channel last night,
    using the Hubbel space telescope,
    the latest estimate for the age of
    the universe is 13.7 billion years

    How do you get by Genesis (6ooo
    year old universe) which is the
    basis for original sin?

    You have to live in two different
    parallel worlds as had been
    previously discussed on this blog
    some time ago .

    More later.

  2. Many Trails Home11/13/2007 09:55:00 AM

    Great topic, once again, ttg. I personally have no problem with this "conflict:" I suspect that God "invented" evolution! How simple is that!
    As for "parallel universes:" I suspect that we all live constantly in parallel universes of one sort or another. For example: the universe of God's creation, the finite world, versus the invented "universe" of insurance, taxes, "financial instruments" (which are currently imploding as the chimera that they in truth are), "money" and all the other nonsense that we pretend to be real. This dichotomy is not that much different than the invented worlds of religion, it just has the apparent weight of "reason" on its side. We'll see. I'd just as soon "retreat to the monasteries" myself. MTH

  3. I'm watching NOVA right now. Already I'm wondering if the controversy isn't so much Darwin as it is what are assumed to be the implications of Darwin.

  4. They're describing creationism now (I hope in order to contrast it with intelligent design) as those who believe in a literal reading of Genesis and who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

  5. I didn't realize that established case law (a supreme court decsion) actually bans the teaching of "creation science" in public schools in the US.

    I guess the question NOVA is going to examine is how much or how little intelligent design is like creationism.

  6. Interesting stat: "Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the U.S. population does not accept evolution."

  7. Hmmm...I always thought the Discovery Institute was a creationist organization, but according to the documentary it is now "the nations leading intelligent design proponent."

    I can't wait to see if NOVA gets into the nuts and bolts of what makes intelligent design different than creationism.

    I know more than a few folks who used to be young earth creationists and are now intelligent design defenders.

    Is it just creationism repackaged, or is it something new? If ID is something new, what about it is different than creationism?

  8. Now they have Johnson on, saying that evolution hasn't been "proved."

    I think it's interesting that all these apologists always talk about proof, whereas scientists talk about evidence.

    A subtle, but critical distinction, I think.

  9. I don't think that intellgence design is science, but I do think its a phenomena attempting to reconcile science with religious belief.

    Which is not an altogether bad endeavor.

    Do folks who support intelligent design accept other scientific data like the age of the universe, and the world?

  10. Miller is on now, and he just said, "any theory that can stand up to 150 years of continuous testing is a pretty darn good theory."

    Also some interesting points on how many different fields, paleontology, biology, and genetics all provide multiple different lines of evidence that support evolutionary theory.

  11. Okay, they're done yapping about evolution for the moment; now we'll get to see if intelligent design makes predictions, is testable and falsifiable the same way evolution is.

  12. Defenders of ID being interviewed say that they don't really have to disprove Darwin's theory; all they have to do is show that credible scientists looking at the empirical data could credibly interpret it as supporting design.

  13. Michael Behe, ID proponent, biologist, and author of "Darwin's Black Box" defines design as:

    "Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts. When we percieve that parts have been arranged to fulfil a purpose, that's when we infer desgn."

    If a system is deemed too complex to have evolved by natural selection, they must have been the product of a designer.

  14. Behe cites the "propeller" on bacterial flagellum as one of the most dramatic instances of design. Take any one part away, and the "propeller" doesn't work any more. How could that have evolved.

    Critics of design are putting the "propeller" under the microscope and comparing it to poison stings on other bacteria. The structures are very similiar although they have dramatically different functions. Proponents of evolution say this explains how seemingly "irreducibly complex" components could have evolved through natural selection.

  15. Now Miller is on, critiquing another favorite example of irreducible complexity; the mousetrap. Take any one of its five parts away, and the mousetrap is useless, ID proponents argue.

    Yet Miller takes two parts away and uses the mousetrap as a somewhat inelegant tie clip.

    The main point for evolutionary proponents being that things can serve multiple functions that could be favored by natural selection.

  16. Interesting bit of an interview with a creationist who says that suggesting that humans evolved from earlier forms of life is "like a slap in the face" because it contradicts the notion of human dignity because of being created in the image of God.

    I think this is a point worth addressing and dissecting later. It certainly explains why the stakes are so high for some on this issue.

  17. Creationism was actually one of the factors that spurred me to leave Laestadianism. I grew up as a creationist, but when I started asking questions and failed to receive solid answers, my faith in creationism was shaken. For example, when I read the account of creation in Genesis, I noticed that there were actually two creation stories. Why? Nobody gave me a good answer. When I learned that creationists accepted so-called "micro-evolution" but not "macro-evolution," I wondered what was the firm line that preventing one from morphing into the other? There was no answer. This questioning helped open me up to more questions regarding broader topics like the value of Laestadianism for my life.

    Most people don't have much need for a deep understanding of how things like evolution or planetary dynamics work, so it's not surprising that most people have a poor understanding of both. When we learn that a large percentage of Americans tell the pollsters the sun orbits Earth or the world was created without evolution, we can really blame the poor science teaching in the US.

    If you have questions on this topic, a good source of answers is talkorigins.org

    Creationism comes in many flavors. Old earth creationists believe the earth is far older than 10,000 years, but they don't think life evolved. Young earth creationists disagree, thinking everything was created within the last 10,000 years.

    Intelligent design people lack a coherent set of ideas, but their movement boils down to trying to convince people that evolution has flaws somewhere. Two of the more popular proponents, Behe and Dembski, have tried to coat their ideas with sciencey language, but they really don't seem to have much more than, "I don't see how evolution could have done this, therefor evolution is false, therefor: God."

    Intelligent design is not the same as the idea that God used evolution as a tool to create what we see today. That idea is called theistic evolution.

  18. Now they're talking about how "Of Pandas and People", the major ID textbook, was actually a creation science textbook before the supreme court decision banning creationism, and how it was revised with sections hardly altered except for replacing the words "creationism" with "design."

  19. The documentary is almost over, so I'll close with this final quote from the judge who ruled that teaching ID in public schools (a Bush appointee):

    ". . . proponents of intelligent design make an assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general."

    I look forward to hearing others' comments. I'll take some time to digest this and come back with some comments of my own in a few days.

  20. Many Trails Home11/14/2007 11:37:00 AM

    So, Ilmarinen, I didn't have any idea that what I believe actually has a name: "Theistic evolution." I rather like that. MTH

  21. I guess I am a Theistic Evolutionist also. I believe in evolution in the sense that all living things are in an evolving state (but, then, what about crocs?), but I don't necessarily believe in Evolution (man evolving from lower forms). We seem to have come so far in the sense of understanding past and future, and yet we do not really know how some other creatures "think". I like to think that God created us "special", but maybe that is just our arrogant wishful beliefs. Maybe it IS the height of human ego to say that we were created in God's image, as I read somewhere. Frankly, how would WE know?

  22. Many Trails Home11/15/2007 04:42:00 PM

    Sisu, I have a strong conviction that we are created in "God's image" which is to say, we are firstly spirit (which is what God is, I guess, or at least that is the closest we can come to what God is, being unknowable, unnamable, etc). This simplistic thinking by some Bible literalists that, if we are made in God's image, God must therefore have two arms, two legs, etc strikes me as ridiculous. God is not a mammal, therefore why would God need arms and eyes? My daughter, at age 5 or so, could "see" angels and described them as light in pastel colors. When looking at pictures of angels in a child's book - with requisite arms, legs AND wings - she said to me, "Oh, that's silly. Angels don't look like that. They're just light."
    Out of the mouth of babes . . .
    Many blessings to you. I enjoy your posts. MTH

  23. One of the more interesting questions that I think often goes unaddressed is: "If evolution is true, then what does the creation story mean for us today?"

    I accept evolution as the best scientific explanation we have for human origins and development. But as a Christian I seek meaning for my life from the biblical stories. How can I still do this in light of scientific knowledge?

    If I can still find meaning in the text, then evolution need not be a "slap in the face," an affront to human dignity, etc.

    One way to approach the creation stories is to see them as allegories for spiritual and psychological development. Any of you parents reading this might be able to relate to how innocent your children were when they were born, yet at some point in their lives they understood the difference between good and evil, and chose to do something evil. Sound like a Bible story you have read?

    Carl Gustav Jung, depth psychologist of the early 20th century and contemporary and student of Freud, studied creation stories and myths from many different religions and cultures looking for "archetypes", common psychological symbols that all human cultures use to describe and evoke their deepest dreams. Such symbols are present in Genesis in the description of the garden, the rivers that circumscribe it, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  24. Great topic and comments. Tomte, thanks for the good work. While life is extra-busy these days, I perk up when I see an Extoot email in my inbox.

    Personally, I find the whole ID debate kind of odd and embarrassing, like having an earnest national dialogue about fishes, loaves, tea leaves, and phrenology. These ideas belong to history (with Laestadius, and his earthquakes and crows and harlots).

    Must the case for rationalism be made very 10 years? In fact, it makes me kind of depressed and angry.

    When I left the OALC, I had a mental trick that helped me with my anger toward the whole cabal. I imagined them as 8-year olds, who didn't really understand the power of their punch, or the consequences of their ignorance.

    But 8-year olds grow up, for Pete's sake.

    It isn't just the OALC but a horribly huge segment of the human race that insists on remaining infantile. Ignorant. Irresponsible. Stuck in the 19th (or earlier) century.

    Can we all just agree not to claim knowledge of (1) the unknown and (2) the unknowable? Can we stop pretending that faith is anything but personal?

    It is a Jungian appreciation of myth (via Joseph Campbell) that allowed me to consider (and to some degree, revalue) the myths of Christianity outside of their ethnic and historical context. It was only in a Jungian context that I could participate in the Eucharist.

    Myths are wonderful. I see every day how much my children enjoy creating them.

    For their sake, I can only hope a new prophet arises, with a vision for the perpetually irrational that will be powerful enough to save the planet.

    (It seems that I have not only lost my faith in myth, but in man. Sorry to be so glum.)

  25. Hmmm... Interesting. If you disagree with Free regarding the origins of the universe you are infantile, ignorant and irresponsible. Wow. I (an intelligent educated ex-OALCer who after prayerful study) hold to the literal 6 day creation. The prophet has already arisen. Jesus the Messiah the Son of God himself. Hear Him, He has spoken and continues to speak in His creation all around us. Perhaps there should be some discussion of the bigotry in making statements of infantilism, ignorance and irresponsibility because of disagreement.

  26. Does anyone know if Laestadius himself wrote anything on this topic?

    As a 19th century botanist you'd think he would be familiar with Darwin, at the very least.

  27. Anon, I'd be interested in hearing the details about why you feel the need to choose between the two, and how you come to your present conclusion.

    For me, literalism stopped working for me well before I really gave any serious thought to Darwin vs. Creationism. My disillusionment with literalism came from other sources. So I'm interested in hearing stories from people who have left Laestadianism, examined a bunch of their previously held values, learned about modern science (I assume) and still retain literalism in this area.

  28. Any fragment of my belief in the literal Genesis stories evaporated when I learned that the Gilgamesh myths preceeded Genesis by thousand(s) of years. So many civilizations throughout history have had the same creation myths. Maybe all humans have a need to explain their existence and the universe in a similar fashion, peculiar to us as a species.

  29. I took a look at Ilmarinen's link above and found that it cleared up one point that was confusing me about Intelligent Design versus Creationism:

    "You may have heard that ID differs from creationism in not insisting that the earth is only a few thousand years old. It's not quite that simple. Creationists come in both 'young earth' and 'old earth' varieties. So do ID proponents. The difference is that old and young earth creationists are at odds. ID, on the other hand, takes a 'big tent' approach. You are free to accept geological evidence or wave it aside. The Designer could have made the earth look older than it is.

    ID mirrors creationist thinking in a fundamental way that you might not notice if you are not familiar with the genre. All creationists agree that there are some inherited genetic changes. The different breeds of dogs, for instance, are not held to be special creations. But creationists always divide evolutionary changes into two kinds: there is a simple kind of change, which they agree evolution can do. But evolution is always somehow blocked from causing the really significant changes, either because evolution just can't do it, or it is so improbable that you can forget about it in practice."

  30. This debate is interesting and it something that man will debate until the end of time (in my opinion).

    Theism evolution is something I learned from reading this blog. Which I read from time to time,
    As I am an ex laestadian.

    My question to add to the debate is ...when did God create the dinasaurs.

    If you are a strict creationist, then dinasaurs and man co-existed.

    Carbon studies show that dinasaurs existed 65 million years ago, and the earliest man existed 2 milllion years ago.

    I would like to hear everyones thought on this, as even children will ask this question. I haven't a clue how to answer this with a biblical explanation.

  31. Many Trails Home11/18/2007 02:57:00 PM

    I am going to stick my neck out and say something snotty here: It seems to me that "intelligent, educated" and "hold to the literal 6-day creation" are mutually incompatible concepts. Anyone who has the most rudimentary education in geology, astronomy, embryology, etc cannot possibly "believe" in literal 6-"day" creation without closing down her/his rational mind. What is a "day" anyway, before the earth was set spinning around the sun? For starters. And what about the dinosaurs?
    I was recently reading some posts by a petroleum geologist who wrote a lot for the "Intelligent Designers" (I think) and he eventually had a "crisis of faith" and was booed and hissed - and worse - by the "Intelligent Designers" for daring to question the age of the earth, the evidence for which was in front of his face every day. How he could ever have bought into the ID in the first place is beyond me. I think he had some overwhelming need to belong. Humans amaze me no end. MTH

  32. Well there is a growing contingent of physicists, geologists, etc. out there who will tell you that the earth is not a jillion years old. They hold to a young earth with catastrophic activity to explain what we see scientifically. So it's not just me who is educated and holds to a literal 6 day creation. There really isn't anything more rational about the evolution 'theory' than the creation account. Perhaps evolutionists are being irrational for not considering that what we see can be explained by the creation account. And dinosaurs lived before the Flood when the earth was covered in a moisture rich shroud. This shroud came down as a part of the deluge and the land could no longer support this type of fauna.

  33. But, did the dinosaurs coexist with man?

    Day 4 in Genesis-God created animals (including sea monsters.

    Day 6 He created man in his image.

    So if you believe this "literally"-then dinosaurs existed with man.

  34. I'm going to stick my neck out, take a stand, and say that I have no strong opinions other than to believe that God designed the world. The details of such may never be known.

    I'm okay with not knowing how it was done. There is so much to be learned about it that we have not yet discovered. There is evidence that can be used to point in one direction or another. To me, the complexity of it points to a designer, who I believe to be God.

  35. Many Trails Home11/19/2007 06:52:00 PM

    Well said, Daisyaday. I like your attitude. I couldn't agree more, except that being of an inquisite (some might say, argumentative) bent, I still wonder and want to know. And I wholeheartedly believe in the dictum: "Ask and it shall be given" . . . especially when the supplicant is requesting knowledge. God responds in wondrous ways. Many blessings to you. MTH

  36. A day to God could be a billion years, how do we really know? A day that they speak in the bible probably isn't 24 hrs like we think now.

  37. Anonymous,

    I agree. Just like forty days and forty nights doesn't mean that literally. It's like us saying it's raining cats and dogs. Think how people of the future will interpret THAT!!

  38. Many Trails Home11/20/2007 03:14:00 PM

    Yes, did you know that "40 days and 40 nights" means "as long as it takes?" And the "eye of a needle" in the Bible refers to a gate into Jerusalem that was unusually low so a camel had to go down on its knees to get thru - still a possibility (unlike a literal needle) but difficult. Can you think of any others? MTH

  39. Hello.
    This is completely off topic, but I am curious how and why the majority of people on here(it seems anyways)now seem to have such strong faith in another form of religion. I ask this out of complete curiousity and awe, because for me, when I realized the truth about the OALC, I realized that all of it was B.S. and that there is simply no proof of ANYTHING, not the bible, not Jesus, not even God. I believe in a creator, but I have no reason to believe that this creator is helping me through life, or answering prayers, etc. I hope that I do come off as sounding bitter, because that is certainly not the case, I just simply can not find it in me to believe in something that is simply taken out of a book that supposedly is the 'truth'. But to get back to my original question, I am curious how and why you believe in what you believe in. Thanks for any feedback.

  40. Hello, Anonymous,

    Curiosity is good. Asking questions is good.

    If you go back and read some of the archive comments on this site, you will see that many of us had years of pain and isolation (the Dark Night of the Soul) before we ventured out to find some sort of community. For me, and perhaps some others, Free's site here was my first time to put into words my years of struggle.

    I have to say I rather envy those who were able to walk through the doors of another church and feel right at home. That is not my case. I still feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land no matter where I go. I no longer feel guilty, like God is going to strike me dead, when I attend another church; however, I have not joined one. I miss it. Looking back on my teen years, I never really felt like I belonged with the other kids in the OALC, so in a way I'm missing something I never truly had!

    My prayers for you in your search,

  41. Interesting observation and question, Anonymous.

    Most of the former Laestadians I know are not religious. However, as religion usually dominates this blog, it selects for the religious -- who contribute the most ink/pixels.

    Some of our nonreligious readers are reluctant to offend, so they don't post. Many are content to keep their inner thoughts inner. (Are these Finnish traits? Laestadian programming?!)

    That's all fine. But everyone gains from a dialogue with diverse ideas. Even offensive ideas.

    For many of us, the doubts that led us out of Laestadianism are not resolved by a new religion; they continue to light our way through life, bringing new questions and complexity. And sometimes loneliness.

    Like Sisu, I still feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land, and the older I get, the more I see the integrity and beauty of that path. Strangers are great at meeting other strangers, and discovering strange views.

    I hope you continue to post!

    I hope you continue to share your observations.

  42. I'd be interested in seeing a non-religious ex-Laestadian as a regular contributor to this site.

    Most of the ex-Laestadians I know are now evangelicals of various stripe. I think that's the smallest leap on can make; it allows people to get out from the most oppressive aspects of the tradition while still leaving most of their religious views intact.

    If there is one thing I hope this site does, I hope it shows that there are many options for the ex-Laestadian. There isn't just one way of being a faithful Christian any more than there is just one way of being fully human.

    I'd like to see a wider range of voices.

  43. "Non-religious ex-Laestadian" describes me pretty well. When I started questioning Laestadianism, I sincerely sought for a religious community where I felt fed, but after an extended and dark period of searching, I realized I wasn't finding anything. Now, although I've found fellowship with Unitarian Universalists and some people might describe me as spiritual, religion is not a part of my life.

    My life is fullest when I spend it making connections with others and with the world around me. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of following arbitrary rules, but I know I will never go back. That is not an option, and I would go mad trying to fit into that mold ever again. I'd rather build homes for the homeless and hike every trail within driving distance.

  44. Thanks for the candor, Ilmarinen.

    While I am not irreligious or antireligious, I am at this stage in life nonreligious (even on a Jungian level!). Our experiment with the Lutherans went south some time ago. Let's just say the curriculum has not caught up with the clergy.

    Like Ilmar, I sometimes miss the simplicity of arbitrary rules. They are much easier to teach, for one thing. My son asked me the other day if it is ever okay to lie. It would have been so much easier to simply say no, but he's old enough for an answer that builds character, not simple obedience.

    When our kids whine about being bored, we tell them to "move your bodies, get creative, help others" as keys to self-fulfillment and usefulness. This is what makes life full for me.

  45. http://www.expelledthemovie.com/

    This documentary/movie addresses this very well. See this and hear scientists speak for themselves.