C. S. Lewis’s Views on Evolution, Scientism Clarified

Posted on November 20, 2012 in Bible and Theology, Darwin and Evolution, Education, Intelligent Design, Media, Mind and Brain, Philosophy of Science, Politics and Ethics

A new book and video clarify the views of C. S. Lewis on science, scientism, and evolution.

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), the Oxford scholar and Christian apologist whose fiction and nonfiction books have delighted and influenced many, has been cited by creationists and theistic evolutionists in support of their positions.  What did he really believe?  His views are nuanced, not put simply into a conclusory statement.  They also “evolved” over time.  The Magicians’s Twin, a new book from the Discovery Institute featuring ten Lewis scholars, helps bring long-needed clarity to the question.  Edited by John West, with an introduction by Phillip Johnson, the book explores the attitudes and environment of C. S. Lewis on science vs. scientism, Darwin, Freud, intelligent design and much more.  But it’s not just a history book.  The authors show how the warnings of C. S. Lewis about a scientific oligarchy were prophetic for today.

The book’s title comes from Lewis’s own comparison of science with magic, which he considered twins in several respects (e.g., their desire for control over nature).  While magic failed, science succeeded – yet the potential for scientific abuse rises out of its amoral naturalism.  While Lewis appreciated and applauded true science, he understood the potential harms of scientism, the belief that science alone was the path to knowledge and progress.  Lewis lived in the days of H. G. Wells and others who envisioned a scientific oligarchy in control of all aspects of human life.  Where positivists saw utopia, Lewis saw dystopia.  He portrayed the ugly end of such thinking in his novel, That Hideous Strength.

What did Lewis believe about creation?  Lewis had problems with Paley’s natural theology, but did he believe in intelligent design?  John West’s chapter on that question is available as a free download on cslewisweb.com, a new website that features the book and resources about C. S. Lewis and his views.  In The Abolition of Man, in a posthumous work, The Discarded Image, and in other works thoroughly documented in The Magician’s Twin, the nuanced views of Lewis on evolution vs. design become apparent.

On November 19, a new 31-minute video documentary was released on the YouTube C. S. Lewis page.  The documentary explains Lewis’s comparison between science and magic.  It also shows that the dangers of scientism that concerned Lewis are with us today, stronger than ever.  On ID the Future (a podcast on intelligent design from the Discovery Institute), John West described the making of the video and its purpose.

This is a welcome addition to the subject for all C. S. Lewis fans.  The book is well-written and informative, and the video is well worth the 30 minutes to watch.  The issues of scientism, political control in the name of science, and loss of human freedom are as threatening today as they have ever been.  Of particular interest is C. S. Lewis’s penchant for pointing out the self-refuting nature of naturalistic accounts of human reason.

These new resources provide a good primer on philosophy of science, ethics and the limitations of science.  The Magician’s Twin is on target with current events and major issues facing the world.  Get the book – watch the video – get informed.  At least download the free chapter by John West on “C. S. Lewis and Intelligent Design.”  It will likely get you craving to read more.

 

One Comment

Donald Holliday November 20, 2012

I was actually looking up some quotes from C.S. Lewis a while back and he had an incredible way of intelligently reasoning on many things. This for example:

Atheism and Human Thought

“There are all sorts of different reasons for believing in God,” writes C. S. Lewis in The Case for Christianity, “and here I’ll mention only one. It is this. Supposing there were no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen for physical or chemical reasons to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way the splash arranges itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, [I] have no reason to be an atheist. . . . Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought; so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

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