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C.S. Lewis backed evolution -- really?

Michael F. Haverluck   - Guest Columnist


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A recently released book from the Discovery Institute unleashes unpublished writings by C.S. Lewis exposing motivations behind the troubled theory of Darwinian evolution.


For decades, atheists have claimed that renowned Christian theologian and author C.S. Lewis fully supported Darwinian evolution -- an argument evolutionists have often used to buttress their argument that intellectual Christians agree with their secular account of origins.

The Magician's Twin (book cover)Many of these assertions have gone relatively unchallenged over the years -- until recently with Discovery Institute's release of its new book, The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, edited by Dr. John G. West, vice president of the Institute. It reveals, for the first time, previously unpublished material and quotes from Lewis on the highly troubled and controversial theory.

"The Magician's Twin explores C.S. Lewis's prophetic warnings about how science -- a good thing -- is being hijacked by those who want to erode faith, traditional ethics, and personal liberty," West told OneNewsNow in an exclusive interview.

He maintains that there is plenty of documented evidence pointing to Lewis's true take on the subject of human origins.

"C.S. Lewis's personal library contained more than three dozen books and pamphlets on scientific topics, many of them focused on evolution," says West. "Several of the books on evolution contained annotations and underlining by Lewis, including Lewis's personal copy of Charles Darwin's autobiography."

When asked what drove him to come out with his latest work, West expressed that heightened attacks and intolerance of competing origins accounts made the timing ripe.

"We live in an age when a growing number of people are misusing science to debunk faith in God, traditional morality, and even personal liberty," the vice president and senior fellow of Discovery Institute explained. "Lewis was a prophetic critic of this kind of 'scientism,' and I think there is much we can learn from him for today about both the legitimacy of science and the dangers of its misuse."

And this scientism of C.S. Lewis's day is alive and well today, says West, who notes that the acclaimed Christian author would have much to say about contemporary atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye and Stephen Hawking, who make scientific assertions in an attempt to discredit the legitimacy of the Bible.

"[H]e had plenty to say about scientists [and those purporting to speak for science] who insist that science proves atheism," asserts West, who contends that Lewis not only disagreed with many of the precepts behind the evolutionary theory of his time -- he thought they were ridiculous and non-academic.

"Lewis thought the claims of these scientific atheists during his own day were nonsense, and he even satirized their claims in his science fiction novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength," West reports. "So I have no doubt that he would skewer similar claims being made today by Dawkins, Hawking and company."

Lewis' take on evolution

But how exactly did C.S. Lewis view evolution, especially with his atheistic background?

"It's important to define our terms," West points out. "'Evolution' can mean many different things. As I write in The Magician's Twin, Lewis addressed three kinds of evolution in his writings: evolution [no. 1] as common descent (the idea that we came from one common ancestor); evolution [no. 2] as a Darwinian process of unguided natural selection acting on random variations; and evolution [no. 3] as a social philosophy that explained away religion, morality and human dignity."

West explains Lewis's devolving confidence over the years in the troubled theory's subdivisions.

"Lewis [initially] didn't object in principle to evolution as common descent (evolution no. 1), although he placed some important limits on the idea, and by the end of his life he grew more skeptical of this claim, due to things like the Piltdown Man hoax," West reports. "At the same time, Lewis clearly rejected unguided natural selection (evolution no. 2) as sufficient to produce both the human mind and the kinds of exquisite functional complexity we see throughout nature."

West

And according to West's research, Lewis was no fan of Charles Darwin's claims on human origins.

"In fact, he believed that Darwinian accounts of the development of human reason undermined our confidence in reason," says the associate director of the Discovery Center for Science and Culture. "Lewis also rejected Darwinism as a social philosophy (evolution no. 3), especially efforts to promote eugenics (trying to breed a superior race) and efforts to debunk morality as merely the product of survival of the fittest."

Seeds of doubt

Lewis' skepticism in evolution began well before his Christian faith, says West, who shared some of the most powerful excerpts from writings that uncover the acclaimed Christian author's mindset on the issue.

"One of Lewis's most heavily annotated books was a nearly 400-page book critiquing the creative power of Darwinian natural selection that Lewis first read as a 19-year-old soldier during World War I," explained West. "Lewis wrote careful notes on most pages of that book, and he later stated that the book's 'critique of orthodox Darwinism is not easy to answer.'"

These doubts led the young Lewis on an intellectual journey that questioned and analyzed the theories that were popularly accepted and propagated by many contemporary scholars of that time.

"Just a few years later, Lewis wrote a letter in the 1920s to his father, saying that the evolutionary ideas of [Charles] Darwin and [Herbert] Spencer ... 'stand themselves on a foundation of sand, of gigantic assumptions and irreconcilable contradictions an inch below the surface,'" West added. "Lewis was still an atheist when he expressed these early doubts about Darwin."

A few decades later, Lewis referred to evolutionists as extremist fanatics in much the same way that today's evolutionists try to paint creationists and others who don't ascribe to their dominant theory.

"In 1951, Lewis wrote to Capt. Bernard Acworth of the Evolution Protest Movement: 'What inclines me now to think that you may be right in regarding it [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders,'" West relayed.

It is contended by West that just a decade later, Lewis was fully aware that evolution was more than a proposed science; it became a philosophical mindset and a religion in and of itself.

"In the 1960s, Lewis -- in his last book, The Discarded Image -- wrote about how the Darwinian 'revolution was certainly not brought about by the discovery of new facts.'" West shared. "What he meant by this is that Darwin's theory was largely accepted not because of any new evidence in biology, but because of the development of new cultural attitudes that predisposed people to accept Darwin's theory."

And what work does West believe most powerfully showcases Lewis's belief in creation?

"His book, Miracles, provides an eloquent refutation of materialism -- the claim that everything is simply the product of blind and unguided material process rather than the result of purposeful design," West told OneNewsNow.com. "Lewis also argued in this book that the Judeo-Christian worldview -- far from being anti-science -- helped inspire modern science. In Lewis's words: 'Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.'"

More than a theory -- a dictate of life

But at the same time, Lewis acknowledged that those shunning moral accountability strive to establish laws of their own to wipe out the need of an intelligent Creator, while at the same time discouraging anyone from questioning their so-called factual account of origins.

"Lewis disliked the growing dogmatism of proponents of Darwinian theory, and he urged people to adopt Socrates' motto of 'following the argument wherever it leads' instead," West proclaimed. "I think Lewis's support for healthy discussion and critical inquiry in the sciences is something we all can learn from for today."

The renowned British author understood the dangerous power behind evolutionary thinking, noting how those behind it have the ultimate goal of power and control -- not enlightenment.

"Also, by the end of his life, Lewis was especially worried about the efforts of some people to replace democracy with 'scientocracy' -- a society ruled by those claiming to be scientific experts," West continued. "Lewis thought these efforts were subversive of the principles of a free society. His warnings on this point are especially relevant today, as we see the banner of 'science' being increasingly misused to attack people of faith."

He sees the battle being played out today through a number of hot-topic social issues.

"If you raise questions about embryonic stem-cell research, you are attacked as 'anti-science,'" he contends. "If you oppose eugenic abortions, you are supposed to be 'anti-science.' If you criticize healthcare mandates on religious organizations, you are told that 'science' demands the mandates."

And West believes that society today must be as discerning and vigilant as Lewis was decades ago and not fail to see the writing on wall.

"Some climate scientists even argue that we need to suspend democracy in order to make progress on climate change; other scientists and philosophers among the 'transhumanist' movement argue that we need to evolve a new human race through genetic engineering," concludes West. "Lewis was amazing in foreseeing the dangers we are now facing from the proponents of scientism."

This column is printed with permission. Opinions expressed in 'Perspectives' columns published by OneNewsNow.com are the sole responsibility of the article's author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, OneNewsNow.com, our parent organization or its other affiliates.

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