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American Spectator Reviews The Magician's Twin: How Evolution Turned the World Upside-Down


In The American Spectator, Tom Bethell has a fine review of John West's new book The Magician's Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. I thought this point that Bethell makes is especially significant. The problem with Darwinian evolutionary theory is not just that it's flawed science or that it fuels corrupted ethical views. It also upended an ancient understanding, once shared in the West, that overall the conditions of existence have long been devolving.

We are not the equal of our ancestors -- we are their inferiors.

Of particular interest are Lewis's comments in his posthumously published book, The Discarded Image. He notes the shift in recent centuries "from a devolutionary to an evolutionary scheme"; from a cosmology in which it was once considered axiomatic that "all perfect things precede all imperfect things." That is a quotation from the sixth century philosopher Boethius, who wrote the Consolation of Philosophy, a work widely read in the Middle Ages. Today, in biology at least, "the starting point is always lower than what is developed," Lewis commented.

The modern intelligent design movement has raised a related question: How did we ever acquire the information that is essential for an organism to develop in stages from amoeba to Man? No such progression has ever been observed, experimentally, and the question raised by the advocates of intelligent design has never been answered.

Life isn't evolving. It is degenerating. The memorable rabbinic phrase for this is yeridat ha-dorot, the descent of the generations. Given this, the infusion of information in life -- the genome whose fantastic complexity continues to unfold itself to biologists -- becomes all the more difficult to explain unless you have the idea of intelligent design in your scientific toolbox.

Don't mistake me. The idea of a descent through the generations is not a religious view per se. The Consolation of Philosophy is not a Christian book, and many scholars have said that Boethius was a pagan by the end of his life. The understanding that our forbearers were wiser than we is the basic insight of philosophical conservatism. All worldviews that reject this humbling acceptance tend, unsurprisingly, to be drawn to a Darwinian perspective.

Between Darwinism and its philosophical alternative, there is then this enormous difference: One humbles us before the animals, the other before our ancestors.

But enough of that. Go ahead and read Tom's excellent review, and don't forget to buy your own copy of The Magician's Twin.