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Celebrating C.S. Lewis's Birthday, BioLogos Slams The Magician's Twin


Just in time for C.S. Lewis's birthday, which is today, our theistic evolutionary friends at BioLogos have launched a multi-part attack on the new Discovery Institute Press book edited by John West, The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. The review by David Williams doesn't get off to a very promising start.

Did you think they would relinquish Lewis as a mascot no matter how thoroughly documented the case -- that he was a Darwin doubter on key points -- actually is? A bad sign is the way Williams, in a hallmark of this kind of Darwinian apologetics, throws around the word evolution without consistently making clear what he means by it. Change over time? Common descent? Unguided, purposeless random-driven churning as a design substitute? All of the above?

It's a habit of Darwin defenders to let those amiably blur in the public's mind so that having affirmed the most limited understanding of evolution, a thinker is assumed to have bought the whole package. However, Lewis did make distinctions as John West scrupulously documents in his essays in the book.

Williams writes under the headline "Surprised by Jack," and he explains that Lewis was "Jack" to his friends. "We must be prepared to be surprised by Jack." "My contention is that rather than allowing himself to be surprised by Jack, [John] West attempts to squeeze Lewis back into West's own preconceived orthodoxy."

Maybe because he's on this first-name basis with Lewis, Williams feels entitled to sweep aside the thesis of the book before he's even told us what's in it:

As we shall see, in his public statements Lewis consistently articulated the Christian faith in such a way as to be compatible with mainstream evolutionary science. Only a few years before his death, Lewis wrote in a private correspondence, "I don't mind whether God made man out of earth or whether 'earth' merely means 'previous millennia of ancestral organisms.' If the fossils make it probable that man's physical ancestors 'evolved,' no matter." Thus it would seem prima facie that Lewis was quite willing to allow for the truth of evolutionary science. To make the case that Lewis is not an ally of theistic evolution, however, West weaves together a revisionist biographical sketch of Lewis, portraying him as having harbored deep-seated doubts about Darwin from his early days and then matured into a thoroughgoing but private skeptic towards evolution in his later years. It is this tendentious revisionist distorted biographical lens through which West then goes about re-reading some of Lewis's other public statements. West's new spin on Lewis depends upon selections taken from Lewis's boyhood letters to his father and private correspondences with anti-evolutionist Bernard Acworth, observations about the ways in which Lewis underlined books in his private library, and an anecdote or two. When nothing firmer can be found, a quotation from Tolkien or another of Lewis's known associates will do in a pinch.
He goes on to invoke Lewis's dictum that "all criticism should be of books, not of authors." But so far this isn't criticism, it's just snark, and low on content. Presumably that will come later.

Well, I'm less surprised by "Jack" than I am sometimes by BioLogos. You put up a website about evolution and you have a choice. You can stick to the science, as we largely do here, or you can fill your web journal with evocations of your religious preferences (atheism in the case of guys like Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers, Christian theism in the case of BioLogos) while letting science play catch-up.

If you're going to take the latter, religious route, I think, you need to stick to the high ground. BioLogos with a startling frequency descends from there.