Live Not By Lies

The original article, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

A reflection on the article, by Michael Egnor.

I got involved in the intelligent design movement before I became a Christian, although the insight that ID offered became important in my conversion. I had been an atheist, or at least an agnostic. I took a Randian (as in Ayn Rand) perspective on religion: religion was just another form of rent-seeking for priests, a way of making a living by plying a lie.

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

You’d be surprised, how many religious leaders couldn’t care less about God, but instead are merely crippled wolves who are doing the one job they have the paper qualifications for.

Lots of religious rent-seekers out there, who are confident that God does not see.


I thought God didn’t exist, not because I had worked out the arguments and came to that conclusion (like most atheists I understood virtually nothing about the real arguments), but because, as Laplace reportedly said to Napoleon about God, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” Life was in need of explanation, and Darwin provided it. Man, and all living things, evolved by variation and selection, from some primordial accident of chemicals. Science had proven this, I thought, so why waste my time in a church pew?

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

This was the correct choice for him, at the time. The choice with integrity.

It is not the unbelievers out there that are the danger. No matter how many guns they have.

It is the unbeliever that poses as a believer that brings harm to the flock. That needs to be driven out.

Especially the fake believer in a leadership position.

Two things drew me into ID. First, I was aghast at the treatment of ID theorists and other skeptics by Darwinists. I believed in Darwinism, but goodness gracious Darwinists were nasty. It didn’t seem to me like good science: my beloved mentor, biologist Bob Pollack with whom I did research in college, said: “A good scientist is always his own most exacting critic.” Darwinists spent their time excoriating IDers, and seemed to care little for genuine critiques of their own science. I thought: if Darwinism is good science (as I thought it was), Darwinists should welcome public debate and engage honest discussion. After all, if they had the facts, what is there to fear? But instead, they Expelled anyone who questioned Darwinism. They insulted people, intimidated them, used the courts to silence them, and callously ruined their careers. This was Lysenkoism, not science. 

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Sometimes, there are people who react in horror and revolution when lies and corruption drops its mask. And their repulsion to evil shapes and drives their entire future.

That is not a perfect proof for having the Name of God on your forehead… but its Serious, Heavy-Duty Evidence.

In my own career, my embrace of ID has had little negative effect. I got promoted and got tenure and I advanced in my career without Darwinist hinderance. They tried — there have been many calls to my university demanding that I be fired, and I’ve had death threats. But I have done fine, due to the integrity and good nature of my bosses and the fact that I have a day job that doesn’t depend on Darwinists’ opinions of me. Not so for many of my colleagues in the ID community, who depend on grants and on academic decisions made by Darwinists, and who have suffered greatly. The ID folks who have sacrificed careers and withstood public excoriation and even judicial attack to tell the truth about design in nature are heroes, plain and simple.

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

A hero that stands for the truth despite opposition – believer or not – is someone to be respected.

I’ve watched current events, especially “cancel culture,” with interest and with an unsettling sense of familiarity. The film Expelled is, after all, a documentary about professional “cancellation,” a decade or so before cancellation in America went viral. It is as if the Darwinist assault on ID was a run-up to the contemporary massive assault on intellectual freedom. Dissenters are denigrated, slandered, excluded, and fired for expressing opinions that just a few years ago were widely expressed and often still represent majority opinion. The Darwinist trope that criticism of Darwinist theory is “anti-science” is the prologue to the woke mob’s trope that free speech is a kind of “violence.” It’s the same segue — the Darwinist/cancel culture mob’s response to reasoned discourse is “Nice career you’ve got there — shame if something happened to it.”

There is, obviously, a totalitarian flavor to all of this, and (remarkably) it is imposed on us by us. We’re doing this to ourselves. No Bolshevik faction has stormed Washington and occupied the White House and commandeered the army. We have chosen to expel/cancel ourselves.   

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

I can understand Dr. Egnor’s apprehension.

But personally?

I see this as the Establishment trashing about, smashing things and screaming as its end draws near.

Like a wounded and dying Beast, feeling the grip of Death tightening on its bones.

All that suppression and oppression and Darwinian poison isn’t going to save Darwin.

And all that shouting and mob action and delusional laws isn’t going to save the aging and already bankrupt Progressive Welfare State.

And so we fear to speak out for scientific integrity or freedom of speech lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of the mob or as pariahs without a career or a business. 

Survival in the scientific profession, and (increasingly) survival in the social, economic, and political realm depends on accepting a very specific kind of dogma. Solhenitsyn:

“We have been indoctrinated in political courses, and in just the same way was fostered the idea to live comfortably, and all will be well for the rest of our lives…”

If we take a knee — if we pay homage to Darwinian stories or accede to the mob — we can get on with our lives, even prosper. But at the price of our minds and our souls. 

“The circle — is it closed? And is there really no way out? And is there only one thing left for us to do, to wait without taking action? Maybe something will happen by itself? It will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge, extol, and strengthen — and do not sever ourselves from the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies.”

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Satan likes to kill, most of all.

But, even in the beginning, his first weapon was the lie, not the poisonous fang, not the constricting muscle.

Solzhenitsyn explains the essential role that our lies play in enforcing conformity:

“When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: “I am violence. Run away, make way for me — I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally — since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies — all loyalty lies in that.”

The use of force to enforce conformity is limited: it cannot be sustained. Darwinists can’t spend all their time destroying colleagues’ careers. Mobs can’t fill the streets day and night. Cancellers depend on your complicity. They depend on you to lie. With this insight — the fundamental insight by which we can fight cancel culture in the lab and the classroom and in the world — Solzhenitsyn sees how each of us can fight the censors. 

“And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me. This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism.”

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Lies are the road to death: spiritual, then physical.

As the man said, Live not by lies.

And if the preacher says we should live by lies?

Walk away, and don’t look back.

Darwinist (and other) censors depend on our personal participation in lies to silence us, and this provides us with a weapon they cannot counter: personal non-participation in lies, a kind of civil disobedience. 

“[L]et us refuse to say that which we do not think… we [will] be astonished how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and subside.”

Solzhenitsyn recommends a series of acts of non-participation: we refuse to write or endorse or speak any statement in science or ethics or politics that is untrue. We refuse to be compelled to attend meetings or activities if they are contrary to truth. We will walk out of meetings in which lies are promulgated. We will only read and endorse literature that advances truth. 

Solzhenitsyn has no illusions about the difficulty and potential consequences of non-participation in lies.

“Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice. But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude… It will not be an easy choice for a body, but it is the only one for a soul.”

Even this non-participation in lies will be very difficult, but it is a powerful kind of resistance. 

“So you will not be the first to take this path, but will join those who have already taken it. This path will be easier and shorter for all of us if we take it by mutual efforts and in close rank. If there are thousands of us, they will not be able to do anything with us. If there are tens of thousands of us, then we would not even recognize our country.”

“If you can, fight scientific censorship and cancel culture actively — by speaking out, by writing, by activism. Do ID research. Support Discovery Institute. But if you are in a position in which you cannot actively resist — if because of your family or your circumstances you cannot risk your livelihood — you can quietly resolve not to participate in lies.”

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Why back lies, when you can back the truth instead?

Also: backing the truth with cash pays dividends.

They’re terrified of ridicule

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Right now, they are trying with all of their strength to make ridicule and public challenge as expensive as possible.

There is a time coming – fast – when ridiculing Our Betters will be very cheap and cost-free.

“When the cost of something falls, demand increases.”

The censors depend on active personal destruction not to silence us, but to get us (out of fear) to lie and thus silence ourselves. Their power is not in their violence but in our complicity. 

Don’t be complicit. Don’t participate. Don’t give assent to Darwinist or atheist or Marxist lies. If you’re a teacher, let your students know (implicitly if you cannot do so explicitly) that the Darwinism you are forced to teach is not, as the censors insist, a perfect doctrine with strengths only and no weaknesses. If you are a scientist, don’t include nonsensical Darwinist tropes in your publications or even in your conversations. When others tell Darwinian fairytales, if you are not in a position to openly reply, a quip or a joke (they’re terrified of ridicule) or just a smirk or rolled eyes is resistance. You can always just walk away. 

Censors of all sorts depend on the cooperation of their victims. Don’t cooperate. Don’t participate. Serve only the truth. Live not by lies. 

“Live Not by Lies”: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Intelligent Design by Michael Egnor

Leave the lies to the fearful and dying collectivists.

YOU live by the truth.

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