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Zmirak: Redefining “Ex-Communist” in an Evolutionary Context

Photo: Soviet flag flown in Minsk, Belarus, in 2016, by Adam Jones, via Flickr (cropped).

John Zmirak is a journalist at The Stream who holds a distinction that’s noteworthy, having rejected theistic Darwinism for intelligent design only after carefully investigating the strengths of the arguments for each, down to and including the underlying premises. I’m just catching up on his article, “Intelligent Design Makes All the Difference in the Worldview.” He describes his journey to ID:

I’ve changed my mind on intelligent design. I used to take the default path of most Catholics in recent decades — that is, accept that Darwinian evolution happened, precisely as scientists said, but insist that God was somehow “behind it.” I won’t rehearse again here how evidence changed my mind. You’d be better off reading Eric Metaxas’ Is Atheism Dead?, or Stephen Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis, or Michael Behe’s Darwin Devolves.

Suffice it to say that what convinced me wasn’t the problems Darwinism or its offshoots entail for orthodox Christian theology. It was the abundance of evidence against the Darwinian model. I didn’t even know what those theological challenges were, not until I read the massive anthology Theistic Evolution, which lays them out savagely. Whole decades of otherwise puzzling, destructive theological drift suddenly make sense once you’ve read that book. Turn the key and hear all the tumblers click inside the lock….

Do not mistake me. I wouldn’t for all the world prostitute my intellect by denying scientific evidence just because it raised theological issues. Nor would I ask others to do that. If biologists could explain the origin of life, or the Cambrian explosion, or the development of irreducibly complex biological machines like the human eye, using Darwin’s mechanism, I would doff my cap to science. I’d trim my theological sails accordingly, and use the new map to sail…

But they can’t. Read one of those books I mentioned, and you’ll see it proved over hundreds of pages. Darwinism in any form is in crisis, deep in denial, dependent on scientists’ fideistic attachment to materialism. 

I like the description of the Theistic Evolution volume as “savage.”

Down to the Foundation

He raises a psychological question about how people come to adopt their preferred picture of reality:

Most people don’t make decisions about their worldview based on sequenced logical arguments. For one thing, a great many worldviews (from solipsism to Scientology) are internally self-consistent, once you grant their premises. And discerning which premises are truthful is neither easy nor straightforward.

But I don’t think that’s how most people approach it anyway. I believe that nearly everyone, including scientists and philosophers, starts at the other end. They see a worldview’s conclusions, and decide if they are convincing. Do they seem to fit with how life and the world appear to be? If so, they’ll trace back through the arguments that led to those conclusions, maybe test if they are sound. A few will go even further and worry over the premises. It’s the rare, rare soul who will get to that point and decide, “Oh wait, the foundation is flawed. I must have been wrong!” (The most common word for such brave souls is “ex-Communists.”) [Emphasis in the original.]

Ha. He’s right. “Ex-Communist,” whether they ever were a genuine Communist or not, is indeed a suitable phrase expressing appreciation for those unusual individuals who reason their way to the foundations, and amend their understanding of reality if needed.