DoctorE

Turtles all the way down

Former Christian fundamentalist: Science robbed me of my faith

Posted by doctore0 on September 10, 2013

Robbed = Freed!
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gawddelusionsAuthor Ed Suominen explains how evolutionary biology forced him to abandon creationism — and the church

Ed Suominen was raised in a small sect of Lutheran Christianity called Laestadianism. Of the 32,000 denominations into which Christianity has fractured, his is one of the more conservative. Members believe in the literal truth of the Bible, including the creation story. They eschew sins like drinking, dancing, watching television, wearing earrings, and playing school sports. They marry only within their own sect and believe God alone should decide how many children they have. Suominen followed the rules; he met and married the right kind of girl, and together they have 11 children.

But Suominen is also an engineer, trained at the University of Washington. He has been a patent agent and an inventor, and eventually his work with electrical and digital systems led him to notice something his church hadn’t taught him about: the power of natural selection. He was trying to optimize a design, when he came across a useful software tool:

“You set up an artificial chromosome with each digital ‘gene’ determining a parameter for some widget you want to design. Then you created a population of individual widgets by running simulations with different sets of randomly chosen parameters, and had the widgets ‘mate’ with each other. You repeated this process over many successive generations, throwing in some mutations along the way. Those widgets that worked best in your simulation had the best shot at having ‘children’ in the next generation.”

It was the beginning of the end. After discovering the practical value of evolutionary computation, Suominen began reading about evolutionary biology. The Genesis story fell apart and frayed the fabric of his Christian belief.
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