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New Website Explores C.S. Lewis's Thoughts on Science & Scientism

CSLewisonMaterialism.jpgWhile you're waiting for the September 18 launch of John West's new book The Magician's Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, go take a look at the new website C.S. Lewis Web, which collects a lot of fascinating and relevant supporting material. Some of the articles that have already gone up there include "C.S. Lewis's Divine Comedy," "C.S. Lewis and Materialism," "How Hollywood Reinvented C. S. Lewis in the Film Shadowlands" "Top Ten Books That Influenced C.S. Lewis," and more.

The publication date for Magician's Twin is still some weeks away but at the new website you can read Dr. West's Introduction to the book, which starts this way:

Narnia. Screwtape. Mere Christianity. With more than 200 million copies of his books reportedly sold, C.S. Lewis is known and beloved by readers around the globe for his children's stories, his works of theology, and his winsome (and witty) defenses of orthodox Christianity.[i]

One thing Lewis is not particularly well known for is his views on science.

Yet he ultimately wrote nine books, nearly 30 essays, and several poems that explored science and its cultural impact, including The Discarded Image, his last book, which critically examined the nature of scientific revolutions, especially the Darwinian revolution in biology.[ii] Lewis's personal library, meanwhile, contained more than three dozen books and pamphlets on scientific subjects, many of them dealing with the topic of evolution. Several of these books were marked up with underlining and annotations, including Lewis's copy of Charles Darwin's Autobiography.[iii]

Throughout his life, Lewis displayed a healthy skepticism of claims made in the name of science. He expressed this skepticism even before he was a Christian. For example, while still an unbelieving undergraduate in 1922, he recorded in his diary a discussion with friends where they expressed their doubts about Freud.[iv] In 1925, he wrote his father about his gratitude toward philosophy for showing him "that the scientist and the materialist have not the last word."[v] The next year he published his narrative poem Dymer, which offered a nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state that served "scientific food" and "[c]hose for eugenic reasons who should mate."[vi]

In 1932, just a few months after becoming a Christian, Lewis wrote to his brother about the efforts of the Rationalist Press Association to publish cheap editions of scientific works they thought debunked religion. Lewis said their efforts reminded him of the remark of another writer "that a priest is a man who disseminates little lies in defence of a great truth, and a scientist is a man who disseminates little truths in defence of a great lie."[vii]

By the 1940s and 50s, Lewis became more vocal about the looming dangers of what he called "scientocracy," the effort to hand over the reigns of cultural and political power to an elite group of experts claiming to speak in the name of science.[viii] Lewis regarded this proposal as fundamentally subversive of a free society, and he worried about the creation of a new oligarchy that would "increasingly rely on the advice of scientists till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists' puppets."[ix]

Lewis took pains to emphasize that he was not "anti-science."[x] But he unequivocally opposed scientism, the wrong-headed belief that modern science supplies the only reliable method of knowledge about the world, and its corollary that scientists have the right to dictate a society's morals, religious beliefs, and even government policies merely because of their scientific expertise.

Go over to C.S. Lewis Web and read the rest of the Intro to Magician's Twin..