Why I don’t believe in Intelligent Design

Because after a month of rotating infestations among my kids, £50 spent on treatments, and the wailing of miserable children who can’t stand their curly hair being forced through a tight, steel comb, I have come to understand that no loving God would carefully design the pediculus humanus capitis.

I believe in a Prime Mover, but the rest is evolution, baby.

(Of course, I realise that said Being, if omniscient, knew this particular parasite would evolve to crawl around on my daughter’s lovely locks. This complicates things somewhat.)

P.S. Before my wife starts to gripe: yes, dear, you are the one who’s been dealing with this.

P.P.S. We think they pick the lice up from church not school.

Comments

  1. Ronan,

    Think of it this way. God did in fact create the world, let it take 4.5 billion years to stir, mix and do its thing, but then let the various creatures do their thing on their own. It’s just that he didn’t put man on the earth until about 6000 years ago. By that time lice had already evolved from something probably nicer than what they were originally. :)

  2. Dan,
    So now you have me spending my morning reading about the evolutionary history of headlice. Because the pediculus humanus requires — by definition — a human host, you can tell a lot about human history by studying the buggers.

    There are apparently two lineages of headlouse DNA which diverged from a common type about 1.8 million years ago, suggesting two different lineages of early hominid (thus confirming, perhaps, the homo sapiens/homo erectus split). Either way, headlice have always been human headlice, and they’re much older than 6000 years old. Or does your smiley face infer that…?!

  3. Either way, I still don’t believe the Good Lord sat at His drafting desk designing ol’ pediculus!

  4. Well, if we take the belief that we helped in the creation, it wouldn’t have to have been the Good Lord who designed these pests–it could’ve been your punk roommate from college. This, I think, explains it–I have a former roommate who I know was involved in platypus design back in the day. :)

  5. P.P.S. We think they pick the lice up from church not school.

    Clearly they have been sent (notice the passive construction) to your house for a reason, and they will continue to infest your children until you accept their inherent Godliness. Stop fighting it with your infernal intellectualism!

  6. Definitely irreverent but I don’t think blasphemous or untrue. So with a gesture to the orchestra to get started, I once again bring out the lyrics to Monty Python’s “All Things Dull and Ugly

    All things dull and ugly,
    All creatures short and squat,
    All things rude and nasty,
    The Lord God made the lot.

    Each little snake that poisons,
    Each little wasp that stings,
    He made their brutish venom.
    He made their horrid wings.

    All things sick and cancerous,
    All evil great and small,
    All things foul and dangerous,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each nasty little hornet,
    Each beastly little squid–
    Who made the spikey urchin?
    Who made the sharks? He did!

    All things scabbed and ulcerous,
    All pox both great and small,
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
    The Lord God made them all.

  7. Peter LLC says:

    It sounds like divinely sanctioned opposition in all things to me.

  8. You could have avoided this if you did homeschool.

  9. Mark,
    You didn’t read the PPS. Should I home Primary too?!! (Hmmmm….)

  10. BTD Greg says:

    Ronan,

    I feel your pain. We’ve been there. (Our daughter’s guests died after a single treatment, though.)

    Also, I’m a big believer in home churching. I’m hoping it will catch on.

  11. Our daughter’s guests died after a single treatment, though.

    ?!

  12. While I also do not fancy ID, I’m not sure I understand how lice are an indictment given the tradl Christian stories of fall and the cursed earth. And the lice make your children’s spirits stronger while punishing you for being an independent thinker (or perhaps a Mormon). it all makes perfect ID sense.

  13. Samuel,
    Mostly, this is just a post about lice.

    Beyond that, I have simply noticed that when ID-ers invoke ID, they often point to some biological but benign marvel. Rarely (never?) have I seen ID use the smallpox virus as an example of the wonders of creation. Wondrous though it is, it doesn’t invoke the warm and fuzzies that represent ID’s fundamental MO.

  14. I’m a big believer in home churching.

    That’s a good crazy movement, indeed! We could even recreate community aspects by having a web conference for the sacrament.

    Sam, I guess it makes as much ID sense as anything can. It’s just miraculous how perfectly we’re designed to support lice. One might infer that we were created specifically to serve as hosts to them.

  15. Name (required) says:

    Can anyone point me to a clear, concise explanation of evolution and mormonism? There is something at FAIR, but it seemed to just say that we misunderstand the scriptures if we think that evolution and scripture are incompatible. I was looking for more specifics about issues like:

    -The D+C that refers to the 7000 year temporal existence. How is this reconciled with evidence that the all sorts of life (including humans) have been around much longer than that?
    -How is the Adam/Eve/fall reconciled with evolution?
    -How are the ‘created in the image of God’ quotes to be understood if you believe in evolution?

    I’ve heard various, ‘this is a possible situation’ sort of explanations, but I really like to hear a ‘this is how it makes sense to me’ explanation. Thanks.

  16. Man we had lice come home from school back in June, no one caught it until we all had it and it took FOREVER to be rid of the buggers.

    Hey look at it this way at least it gave Nitpickers a job. ;)

  17. Ronan,

    #2,

    Hah! Thanks for the science lesson. I had forgotten much since high school it seems. Don’t know what to say then dude. I don’t see the point of cockroaches, but I know they are the true rulers of Manhattan.

  18. annahannah says:

    My son had so many failed treatments. They must have been resistant. What finally got rid of them was mayonnaise on his head overnight. But it was really gross…the mayonnaise separated because of the heat. He did have on a shower cap, but he says never again. But it worked,

  19. This will make you feel better:
    My mom had 10 kids, 8 girls with hair to our waists. Suffice it to say we had lice during any and every outbreak at school.

    I read a New Yorker article in which a woman swore by good old baby oil and combing instead of the medicine.

    This too shall pass.

  20. Name (required) (#15)–

    Here are possible approaches to your three questions:

    1) Joseph Smith’s literal approach of the Bible is pretty typical of his day (although he had some progressive ideas about the Bible that seem–well, inspired). The D&C was written by Joseph Smith, under the inspiration of God. He often wrote in “thus saith the Lord” terms, but in the end, it is largely a record of how he understood the inspiration of God, which of course reflects his own biases and cultural influences.

    2) The story of Adam and Eve seems to represent a choice all of us made: to leave an idyllic life where we walked with God, and come to a world where where we would be exposed to happiness and sadness, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, etc., and would eventually die. This perspective seems to be in harmony with the temple narrative.

    3) There is a distinction between Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution. I suppose God could create the beginnings of a world that he knew would result in the species (and human bodies) that we have today. Or he could have guided our evolutionary path. That’s no harder to believe than it is to believe that it all appeared from nothing in just six days.

    I will admit that some of this requires pretty “liberal” assumptions about scriptures and revelation. Consider Aaron Brown’s comment on this thread:

    1. Accepting both the reality of evolution and the reality of God is easy.

    2. Accepting both the reality of evolution and the veracity of certain popular readings of scripture (particularly a literal, early OT) is very difficult (I would say impossible).

    3. Accepting the reality of evolution while retaining belief in LDS prophets as necessarily having special insight into how “literally” to read the scriptures is very difficult.

    I think we should be open and honest about #3.

  21. Didn’t mean to be a threadkiller . . . just thought someone should respond to Name(required). Carry on with the discussion about lice . . .

  22. sister blah 2 says:

    So sorry to disappoint, but evolution has been thoroughly refuted (or should I say, rebutted? sorry couldn’t help myself), which argument I present for your perusal here:

    “We get different types of dogs and different types of cats, but you have never seen a ‘dat.”

  23. Steve Evans says:

    No head lice in the Millennium b/c of bodies of flesh and bone. Woe to ye, human blood-suckers! Mosquitos and vampires also not welcome.

  24. sister blah 2 says:

    PS: As I recall from my own childhood, the only brand of shampoo that really worked was called “Triple X”; it also had the most effective comb design, or maybe that was really the difference and not the shampoo itself. I can’t seem to find it on the web now, so maybe it is no longer on the market. In which case, you may have to go the route of convincing your girls that buzz cuts are the hippest new trend. Echo previous poster: this too shall pass.

  25. BTD Greg says:

    Ugh. I hope sister blah 2 is kidding. It’s a funny joke, but a horribly ignorant view of macroevolution.

  26. #22:”..you have never seen a ‘dat.”. No..nor an Angel.

  27. Ronan,

    Mark Twain, another famous colonial (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) went on about the two flies that Noah took with him on the ark, and all the disease and misery that was thus preserved. In all fairness, they probably came on board with some of the cattle, but in some ways makes your lice somewhat more benign.

    We dodged that particular bullet in raising our kids, but made up for it with auto-immune issues (asthma variants and scleroderma) but fortunately all that is behind us.

    As Danithew and Peter have pointed out, part of the many manifestations of “opposition in all things”. I’m with you on the Prime Mover, and then all the parts and pieces rolling down hill in all sorts of interesting ways.

  28. Name (required) #15:

    Here are my thoughts on evolution and — in a semi-related (due to chronology and a few other issues) on the flood. ..bruce..

  29. Name (required) says:

    CE–Thanks. I’m sorry for bringing up religion in a perfectly good thread about lice.

    I generally agree with Aaron Brown’s 3 statements and the 3 points that you make. As you note, this generally leads to a very liberal view of scriptures/revelation. Once this liberal view is adopted, it tends to spread. For example, ‘Adam/Eve’–no problem–it wasn’t literal so it doesn’t conflict with science. But this also leads to, ‘DNA and the book of mormon’–no problem–it didn’t literally happen anyway.

    I’ve read various possible scenarios regarding understanding evolution within the framework of the church. People are able to say, ‘this could have happend’ or ‘that could have happened’. I rarely hear someone say, ‘This is how I understand it.’ Can anyone who believes in evolution tell me how they reconcile it in their mind?

  30. sister blah 2 says:

    #22,25: My tongue was firmly in cheek. I meant to include a link, but “rebutted” was supposed to be a pun (poor taste, sorry) on the quote’s original source, Utah State Senator Chris Buttars (of recent “black baby” [in]fame). Regrettably, his tongue was NOT in cheek.

  31. Name (required) says:

    bfwebster,

    What is your opinion on:

    1-Evolution: Was there a real Adam/Eve or is this just to be taken figuratively. Was there a real event known as the ‘fall’ or is this just figurative? Was there death before the fall? Did early people live for hundreds of years, or is this just figurative?

    2-Flood/Evolution: How do you understand D+C 77 and the 7 thousand years of temporal existence in light of your discussion on evolution and the fall? Do you assume that D+C 77 could be mistaken/misunderstood or do you reconcile it in any way with your other views?

    Thanks.

  32. SO sorry. They are evil and must die.

    I’m assuming that you are doing all the stuff listed on the package inserts. Chemically-resistant lice are really common. So here’s the stuff I learned while helping my friend (a foster mom) and through our Montessori-inspired personal infestation.

    Olive oil, plenty of it (less disgusting and more effective than mayo). 24 hours. Shower caps. Wash well then scrape individual hairs using your fingernails (in the sunlight if you can). The combs just miss too much. Put all nits and lice that you remove into a cup of soapy water. Repeat daily, for a week.

    Pull out the insecticide spray (the stuff for fleas works or you can buy the more expensive lice-icide)and get your car, the kids’ car seats and all upholstery in your house. Vacuum all.

    Keep doing everything they listed on the package insert.

    Repeat the whole routine ten days later. Ten days after that do a check in the sunlight.

    And my most sincere sympathies.

  33. Aaron Brown says:

    I think it’s very important that, even when I’m not participating in a thread, others cite my posts and comments to keep my street cred alive. Keep up the good work, folks!

    “We think they pick the lice up from church not school.”

    Ronan, this deserves its own thread. My wife is convinced that nursery is an incubator for all sorts of nasty diseases. We need a 14th Article of Faith:

    “We believe that all nursery toys should be vigorously cleaned with Lysol wipes after every set of weekly Sunday meetings.”

    This should be a temple recommend interview question for nursery workers. I’m also thinking of making up a McConkie quote about it, and casually asserting it in classes or over the pulpit. Or maybe the wife and I will chain ourselves to the doors of the new conference center prior to GC and break out the picket signs.

    Aaron B

  34. Reply to #29:
    This is how I personally understand and reconcile evolution with the scriptures…

    From my reading of the Pearl of Great Price, I get the sense that there was a great fore-seeing of how things would turn out. To me this implies that God did not have to step in and constantly interject himself throughout the plan (i.e. intelligent design), but could frame the very beginning laws of physics in such a way that the plan would occur as intended.

    I feel the need to reconcile evolution with my own religious beliefs, due to the overwhelming evidence of evolution, including archeology, genetics, history, paleontology, biology, etc. At the same time I hold to my religious beliefs due to the differing spiritual experiences I have had that have made powerful impressions upon me. To reconcile this, my understanding of things has had to change in ways that allow both to co-exist in my belief system.

    I reconcile the story of Adam and Eve, with Adam (who was born and had a belly button according to some) as being the ‘first spiritual’ son of God and Eve as the ‘first spiritual’ daughter of God. This definitely does not mean that they did not have physical parents. To create or organize something does not exclude using natural laws or processes (i.e. evolution). I’ve heard that the last known evolutionary step of man was roughly 10,000 years ago and involved a change in brain chemistry; to me this fits well in my perspective of the time frame Adam lived. So Adam and Eve would literally be the first of mankind, by being the first spiritual children of God, while yet still being born through evolutionary processes.

    Each prophet has their own cultural and personal lens of understanding that they perceive inspiration/revelation through, which helps shape what they believe and teach. This is true of myself too.

  35. Chemical treatments are increasingly a waste of time — improper use has created resistant strains of lice. What worked for me last time was:

    Eliminate the non-head habitat by putting anything soft or fuzzy in a large plastic garbage bag sealed for two life cycles, so any fresh eggs have time to hatch, live and die. Adding a spritz of bug spray to the bag doesn’t hurt. Bedding that can be put through the dryer goes through the dryer dry long enough to cook and kill any bugs in it. Do this once a week for any bedding that comes in contact with the head. Bed and carpet get bug spray once a week. Pyrethrins are pretty lethal to bugs, but break down quickly, so doing this in the morning when kidlings leave for the day should be good.

    For the head, use the metal comb every other day with a cup of boiling-temp water (pyrex measuring cup half full can be brought to a boil in the microwave quickly and repeatedly as it cools down). When a bug comes out with the comb, put it in the water — cooked bug. At every-other-day frequency, you will get ahead of the breeding cycle, and will be catching immature bugs before they can breed. When you’ve gone twice without seeing any bugs, you’ve burned through the remaining eggs, and you’re done.

    This is more labor intensive than doing the poison shampoo cycle and chemical additives. However, it works the first time through — rather than using nasty chemicals on your child’s scalp over and over, and contributing to the resistant strains if you don’t get it right.

    If you think there are others in their lives that bring risk of reinfestation, do the hot-water comb thing after the possible exposure.

    The hot-water comb thing works pretty well while watching tv. It’s no fun with thick hair, but you get better at it with practice.

    Good luck.

  36. sister blah 2, that’s a relief! My ignorance of Utah politics probably kept me from getting the joke.

    Sadly, I’ve heard a lot of similar things from people who aren’t kidding.

  37. Now my head is itching. I hate that!

  38. On the other point, I’ve said for years that, when I get a chance to talk to God face to face, one of my questions is going to be “Mosquitoes?”

    I think this is just like reality tv, head-on commercials and Madelaine Murray O’Hare hoaxes — annoying things to struggle through to build character and humility.

  39. Peter LLC says:

    Don’t worry, Jami, probably just dandruff.

  40. RJH, duly noted, and I agree that ID is generally represented by absurd spokespeople and ideas. I also think it’s funny we don’t talk about the perfectly intelligent punishments Nature provides.

    As a Mormon aside, Paul Reeve has some fascinating material on the metaphor of nits and lice in violent racism. Maybe they were created to allow bigoted vigilantes to justify genocide.

  41. Name (required) says:

    #34–Can you comment on the business about death before the fall? I believe the book of mormon says something like, ‘If adam had not have fallen all things would have remained forever in the state in which they were created, with no death, etc.’

    Does this fit into your view in some way? Was this just a statement by Joseph Smith or by Nephi that is just a reflection of their culture and understanding?

    What is meant by ‘for by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead’? (1 Cor 15)
    How does this fit in with a reconciled church/evolution view?

  42. Shave their heads – especially the girls with really long hair. It will build character by allowing them to be teased – thus understanding and empathizing with the marginalized in their society. Lice are God’s way of helping us understand the second great commandment.

    (OK; now I’m exhausted mentally. I’m heading back to the less challenging religious discussions.)

  43. #41 – Name, if the Fall narrative is figurative and applicable to our pre-existent condition, the “no death before the Fall” is perfectly accurate.

  44. I don’t want to contribute further to making a wonderful thread about lice a discussion of evolution, but I will emphasize again the central issue, imo:

    The Church has no official stance on evolution. In the last official statement on that issue, evolution as the catalyst for the creation of the *physical body* of mankind is mentioned explicitly as an option. The Church’s official position, as an institution, essentially is, “We don’t know.”

    Back to the love-teaching lice.

  45. All I know is that if there was ID, the nose would have been placed below the mouth, so it didn’t keep draining into the mouth. Now back to lice and Ray.

  46. This brings to mind the old joke:

    Q: Why did God invent mosquitos?

    A: To make flies seem better.

  47. I don’t think you need to leave the mayo on overnight or for 24 hours. IME, an hour was enough to kill the bugs. (You still need to comb out the dead bugs and the eggs afterwards though.)

  48. It’s the nits that require the extra time.

  49. I will never look at nitpicking over doctrines the same way again.

  50. Name (required):

    I’d like to help give you some answers, but maybe the best I can do is sympathize with your questions. It is difficult to reconcile evolution with a literal approach to scripture and literal-minded leaders’ statements. And you are correct that more liberal approaches to scripture and revelation raise more questions than answers. I am inclined to accept evolution, and that points me to more figurative interpretations of the Garden narrative. But I don’t pretend that this is neat reconciliation, and I don’t claim to have any real answers. In light of the perplexing contradictions, and even lack of agreement between leaders, I like to assume that the Lord hasn’t clearly revealed everything here.

  51. Name Required,

    See here.

  52. Name (required) says:

    Jeff G–I don’t think the link made it through (or maybe I’m just not getting the joke.)

    CE–thanks for the sympathy. In addition to the normal issues of reconciling literal-minded leaders’ statements, I also struggle with the concept of a deceptive God or religion that leads people to believe things that aren’t true.

    I’d guess that an average mormon is likely to be less inclined to believe in evolution because of various scriptures and leaders’ statements. Assuming that evolution is substantially correct, it seems like God is either misleading people (with a garden narrative that is bound to be taken too literally) or that God is passive when Prophets mislead people in a similar manner. Its disturbing to me that in this regard, you would tend to be more enlightened if you did NOT have the church/religion in your life.

    One response to all of this is that it doesn’t really matter anyway–this is an academic issue that is of no real consequence. This is hard to reconcile with Creation/Adam/Eve/Fall being an important theme in the scriptures and temple.

  53. Whoops! Here’s the link, which didn’t work for some reason:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2005/10/monkey-man/151/#comment-6140

  54. Name (required)

    I hope that matters of love and service are what it’s really all about. That would go a long way to explain why God seems to allow some amount of uncertainty on all but the most basic doctrinal matters. I find encouragement in thoughts like these–

    From the introduction to The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity by Edwin Hatch (h.t. Kevin Barney):

    The main question to which I invite your attention . . . is not ‘how did the Christian societies come to believe one proposition rather than another,’ but ‘how did they come to the frame of mind which attached importance to either one or the other.’ [Hatch attributes this frame of mind to Greek influence.]

    From Blake Ostler’s Interpretive Tradition post at New Cool Thang:

    . . . it isn’t important, for instance, to be able to formulate the relations of the divine persons in the Godhead correctly. If that were the standard, then only very articulate and very bright people could hope to be saved and exalted. I get the idea from the scriptures that it is more about a soft and loving heart than a correct idea in the head.

    From SL Tribune writer’s Robert Kirby’s 11/9/2007 column on people who try to get dieting advice from the scriptures:

    The Bible may work OK for stuff like murder and adultery, but it’s a poor menu.

  55. Corrected link:
    Blake Ostler’s Interpretive Tradition post.

  56. So you’re saying that, when you remove one from the head of one of your children, that it’s as quiet as a church louse?

  57. Name (required) says:

    Jeff G,

    Thanks for the link. This was brought up in #43, but the further info was helpful. I think that this is the best explanation that I’ve heard yet. It doesn’t reconcile everything, but it goes a long way.

    CE,

    I also hope that matters of love and service is what it is all about. I think that Jesus was generally focused on such matters. Despite this, its not terribly often that we are told, ‘It really doesn’t matter which church you belong to, it doesn’t really matter whether you are baptised or go to the temple…what really matters are issues of love and service.’

  58. “God doesn’t play dice with the universe” God might have let evolution happen, but he was well aware of the outcome. And he does allow bad things to happen to good people. And there probabaly isn’t always a lesson in your child getting head lice. But we are promised that through Christ, all our loses will be made up to us.

  59. Name (required)–

    There’s the rub.

  60. I have gotten lice five times in my ten months as a Primary teacher. Definitely not a coincidence.

  61. Peter LLC says:

    “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.” God might have let evolution happen, but he was well aware of the outcome.

    That’s what Einstein thought. But along came quantum mechanics and demonstrated that at the finest levels of the universe the physical state of a system could not be measured exactly and used to predict future states.

  62. “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.” God might have let evolution happen, but he was well aware of the outcome.
    A door can not be open and closed at the same time. Either God is in full control, or he makes room for Chaos ( Free will ). Evolution is Chaos, Creation is Cosmos ( full control). I don’t think you can have both (?)

  63. Reply to #15

    Here is my way of reconciliating evolution with the Fall.

    http://www.mormonsite.org/sciencereligion/evolutionadam.html

    In addition, I discuss evolution in detail in my blog. See link on my name, and click on the evolution label.

  64. #33: about the temple reccomend question being for nursery workers, no! Have you been a nursery worker? Certainly they help control infection, etc but it would be good for all adults to take their turn helping to clean the toys. The nursery workers already have it rough!!!

    A few years ago, I received a phone call to help clean the home of a family in our ward who had a lice challenge. At first I thought only the single people were asked to help. I prayed that I wouldn’t get lice, and it worked!

    That whole experience did teach me what was mentionned previously that one of the good things about lice is it is a chance to learn to love others.

    I am just happy I was luckier than #60 and didn’t get them while I was a primary teacher!

    And to the person who shared the new lyrics to All Creatures of Our God and King- thank you!! those are great! :)

  65. Jennifer says:

    We had a building wide lice problem a year ago. Two of the three wards in the building hold primary in the chapel. All those heads sitting next to each other on cloth covered pews=disaster.

    Solution: Families agreed to notify the Primary pres when they discovered lice. Primary pres notifies other two primary presidents who notify their ward. We receive the: “Someone in the building has had lice.” email. We don’t hear who, we don’t even hear which ward. When their dignity and confidentiality were maintained, people were happy to fess up.

    This fall I got the email, checked my sons and found 5-7 eggs (unhatched) and not one nit on each. No live bugs. I had caught it in the first cycle; we could trace it back 6-8 days and know exactly where they had picked it up (church). The nurse at school said she had never seen a case caught so fast, it was a pain, but not by any means a disaster.

    This year, church lice problems are down to almost nothing. It is also pretty hysterical to see all the little girls in braids and pig tails on the Sunday after an email. You can tell instantly what has happened.

    Lovely little example of Zion beating back a fallen world.

  66. Yes, I was always the first to report it at the Montessori and my kids invariably had the lightest case. If everyone would just mention it right away SO many people would be saved SO much pain, money and work.

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