Even a blind monkey, it is said, finds a banana every once in a while.
I was reminded of that bit of wisdom some time ago when Left Blogistan was enjoying itself celebrating the nasty marginalia Ayn Rand wrote in her copy of C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man.Â The joke, of course, is that both have become idols of the not-too-bright elements of the American Right, despite the fact that they agreed on roughly nothing.
In general, Rand deserves her followers, while Lewis emphatically does not deserve his. (I can just imagine Lewis’s reaction had he lived to see Ollie North (!) living in a mansion called “Narnia.”) Lewis was a superb writer of persuasive prose (I’d put him in the Orwell class) and, on average, a far clearer and more original thinker than Rand, whose “philosophy” is mostly Nietzsche-and-water. You don’t have to be a Christian to admire the brilliance ofÂ Screwtape, or its insight into some aspects of moral psychology and of bureaucratic life.
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.
Still, Lewis’s version of Christianity – and perhaps even more, his Aristotelianism – involved him in deep, deep hostility to science. You can see that in the Out of the Silent Planet/Perelandra/That Hideous Strength trilogy, where a character into whose mouth Lewis puts the words of J.B.S. Haldane is the leader of a (literally) diabolical conspiracy, with another character clearly based on H.G. Wells as its pompous, clueless front man.
Partly this is just an echo of Berkeley making fun of Newton as a way of getting back at science for proving that the actual world isn’t consistent with what had long been Christian doctrine; partly it’s an expression of the resentment of literary intellectuals toward the prestige enjoyed by scientists, as described by C.P. Snow in The Two Cultures.
But at a deeper level, it has to do with two different approaches to dealing with suffering: the religious view that accepts it as the Divine will and invites sufferers to turn their misery to spiritual benefit and the scientific/technological view that asks how knowledge can be harnessed to the task of reducing the volume of suffering in the world. It would be too harsh to say that Lewis would prefer prayer to medicine as a way of addressing the problem of disease, but “too harsh” is not the same as “inaccurate.” After all, a life saved by medicine – unlike a soul saved by prayer – is not saved for eternity.
More fundamentally still, there is an almost ineradicable tension between the stance that seeks for truth in the traditions of the past and the stance that seeks it in new inquiry, which Lewis exemplifies by “digging up and mutilating the dead.” (See Popper’s “Toward a Rational Theory of Tradition” for an attempt to reconcile traditionalism with critical thought.) Lewis’s preference for manuscripts over laboratories came from the same roots as his commitment to revealed religion.
Below are some of the passages on which Rand commented rudely. Her comments aren’t worth paying attention to, but the passages themselves say much ruder things about Lewis than Rand could ever have managed to say.
I am considering what the thing called â€˜Manâ€™s power over Natureâ€™ must always and essentially be.Â No doubt, the picture could be modified by public ownership of raw materials and factories and public control of scienÂtific research.Â But unless we have a world state this will still mean the power of one nation over others. And even within the world state or the nation it will mean (in principle) the power of majorities over minorities, and (in the concrete) of a government over the people
There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Manâ€™s side.Â Each new power wonÂ byÂ man is a powerÂ overÂ man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.Â In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who folÂlows the triumphal car.
There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how toÂ subdue realityÂ to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique;Â and both, in the pracÂtice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious â€“ such as digging up and mutilating the dead.
If we compare the chief trumpeter of the new era (Bacon) with Marloweâ€™s Faustus, the similarity is striking. You will read in some critics that FaustusÂ has a thirst for knowledge. In reality, he hardly mentions it. It is not truth he wants from the devils, but gold and guns and girls.Â â€˜All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his commandâ€™ and â€˜a sound magician is a mighty godâ€™ In the same spirit Bacon condemns those who value knowledge as an end in itself: this, for him, is to use as a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit. The true object is to extend Manâ€™s power to the performance of all things posÂsible.Â He rejects magic because it does not work; but his goal is that of the magician.
The serious magical endeavour and the serious scienÂtific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse.
Note the elision from Faust’s desire for personal power to Bacon’s desire to create knowledge that would be useful to humankind. As to goals, what Lewis says is half-true: Jenner didn’t especially want to understand smallpox; he just wanted to prevent it. (Galileo and Newton, whom Lewis doesn’t mention, were in a different business.) But if Lewis believed that preventing smallpox was a good thing, he somehow neglected to say so.
My purpose here is not to condemn Lewis; I have learned much and had great pleasure from reading his books. A non-Christian who wants to grok what Christianity is about could do much worse than Mere ChristianityÂ plus The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But Lewis’s anti-scientific and anti-technological bias comes as part of the package, and Rand wasn’t wrong to call him out on it.
38 thoughts on “Ayn Rand and the Blind Monkey Theorem”
Thanks for the interesting read.
Lewes is not alone among conservative Christians who eschew scientific knowledge in word but are happy to enjoy the fruits of the endeavor in their daily life. No doubt Lewes would have saught medical care if he were to contract small pox if he had been foolish enough to neglect the vacine to begin with. Similarly the atheist Rand who railed against the evils of socialism availed herself of Medicare and Social Security whe she faced the hard reality of the alternative.
There may or may not be atheists in fox holes but there are no fundamentalists/libertarians when death and privation come knocking.
Let’s not forget that when Lewis wrote these works the perversions of science in Nazi Germany were still fresh in his mind.
The other face of that coin was of course the “scientific” utopianism of the Communists, who even tried to reshape human nature in the image of their ideal society, and in Lysenko’s case even nature tout court.
The atom bomb, too. Don’t forget that. The impact of Hiroshima led many people to question their belief that science=progress.
I’m willing to cut William Jennings Bryan quite a bit of slack, for much the same reason. In his day, “Social Darwinism” and “scientific” racism weren’t considered perversions of evolutionary science, but straightforward expressions of it. You could find them espoused not by fringe cranks, but by the leading scholars of the day, men like Henry Fairfield Osborn (director of the American Museum of Natural History and one of the most renowned paleontologists of his era). To Bryan, insisting on the special creation of man was essential to fighting racism and preserving the dignity of the working class. (He was willing to accept evolution in general and to concede that the “days” of Genesis might have been millions of years long, but the special creation of man was non-negotiable). I can understand where he was coming from and see how a good and well-meaning man could easily have stumbled into this error.
Modern creationists, of course, can’t claim the same excuse.
Bryan opposed Social Darwinism, but not for anti-racist reasons. He supported segregation, and made his political home in the then very racist Democratic Party. E.g., he opposed a resolution at the 1924 Democratic convention that condemned the KKK, and he never publicly spoke out against the Klan.
“The Abolition Of Man” was delivered as a lecture series in February 1943 and was presumably drafted in the preceding months. I don’t believe that the Nazi wrongdoing to which you refer was widely known at that point. (Also not yet widely known: the Stalinist genocide in Ukraine, and Hiroshima (1945).)
The extent of Nazi evil may not have been known but the general outline had been perfectly clear for years. The same is true of Stalinism.
Clearly Lewis was aware that the Nazis were a malevolent political movement — they were, after all, at war with England in 1942-43. The question is whether the Nazis provoked his criticisms of science and technology. When writing the lectures that he delivered in February 1943, Lewis could not have had in mind (for example) Mengele’s experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz, because Mengele did not even come to Auschwitz until May 1943.
The Nazis connection to a form of scientific racism predates not only Mengele’s experiments but the war itself.
Odd; one thing I remember from reading The Abolition of Man some thirty-odd years ago was that Ayn Rand would have appreciated Lewisâ€™ idea that aesthetic judgments were objective, that saying that something is beautiful is not equivalent to saying, â€œI really like it.â€ Good and bad literature could be judged as such and were not mere expressions of the readerâ€™s approval or distaste. My memory of Lewis may have faded, but not as completely as my memory of Rand.
One typo to correct: â€œAfter all, a life saved my medicine â€“ unlike a soul saved by prayer â€“ is not saved for eternityâ€ should read â€œby medicine.â€
I prefer the blind-chicken/piece-of-corn version since it gives me more of an idea of randomness 😉
Please clarify: on a blog entitled “The Reality Based Community” what is the meaning of this:
â€œAfter all, a life saved by medicine â€“ unlike a soul saved by prayer â€“ is not saved for eternity.â€
I am questioning the seeming implication that there is a fact-based proof of such a notion as “a soul saved for eternity.”
That is pretty clearly a paraphrase of Lewis’ thought, not an expression Kleiman’s.
Either you’re really new here or you haven’t paid much attention to what Mark says.
Don’t “hope so”. Go back and read the piece again a time or two. Hair trigger reactions to sentences in isolation seldom lead to good reading comprehension.
What a great characterization of scientific activity.. ” digging up and mutilating the dead! ” I would think that Karl Popper would have loved it. Chewing up and spitting out tired old theories is the heighth of scientific excitement.
Ayn Rand concludes her marginal notes on Lewis with the following summary:
“The bastard actually means that the more man knows, the more he is bound by reality, the more he has to comply with an â€œA is Aâ€ exisÂtence of absoÂlute idenÂtity and causality â€“ and that is what he regards as â€œsurÂrenderâ€ to nature, or as natureâ€™s â€œpower over man.â€ (!) What he objects to is the power of reality. Science shrinks the realm of his whim. (!!) When he speaks of value judgeÂments, he means values set by whim â€“ and he knows that there is no place for that in nature, i.e. in reality. (The abysÂmal scum!)”
Keep in mind that Rand was jotting notes to herself, not detailed analysis, and included her emotional reaction to what she was reading. Rand thought in terms of essentials. And if you consider the context and overlook words such as “bastard” and “scum” you see that she does an admirable job of boiling Lewis’ point down to its essence.
“When he speaks of value judgeÂments, he means values set by whim â€“ and he knows that there is no place for that in nature, i.e. in reality. ”
She is definitely wrong there. Lewis specifically speaks of moral values as being found in nature. He has a whole essay somewhere where he talks about how important it is to study other cultures because it lets you discover the contours of where your own understanding and own culture gets things wrong. And he speaks of that as objectively wrong because he measures it against a moral reality he calls the Tao of morality. (This is from memory I don’t have the work in front of me)
“But if Lewis believed that preventing smallpox was a good thing, he somehow neglected to say so”
If by this you are suggesting that he secretly thought it wasn’t, I’m going to suggest that you’ve gotten too caught up in the partisan back and forth of blog mode disagreement.
Lewis came from an intellectual tradition where the obvious was to be filled in by the reader. That is why his short books are so dense, he doesn’t need to fill pages of the obvious, he can go right to talking about the difficult and non obvious.
Lewis is largely about balance. His critique is not that scientists can do no good, it is that when they are divorced from moral knowledge they do great evil. He is not against the advance of physical knowledge, he is against the scientist who doesn’t bother to acquire moral knowledge. That is especially evident in the Space Trilogy. The scientists want to go to other planets,and don’t care what the consequences are for the inhabitants. The scientists want to advance their studies, and don’t care if they are being funded for evil purposes by N.I.C.E.
The weird part of your critique is that you quote two paragraphs about power that could easily fit on any left leaning blog. The problem with increasing power without even maintains wisdom is that all you get is more power to oppress minorities and exploit the weak.
Are you really disagreeing with that?
I think you might be overstating the case here, Mark.
I think you’re overstating your case, Mark.
The concept that every light casts a shadow is something that you seem to take issue with, the notion that great advances come with their own challenges and darkness. Medical advances have not risen pure from the mind, and often have done great damage on their way to doing great good. Consider the early use of x-rays, or having people stand in the open to watch nuclear test explosions, or the frontal lobotomy, or the odds of getting a life-threatening infection in a hospital. It’s not unmitigated wonderfulness, the process by which we master the universe.
The difference between understanding the usefulness of science and the worship of science is critical. It is what allows us to differentiate between the curing of smallpox and the scientific use of smaller amounts of more effective poison gas to kill greater numbers of people. It is the difference that allows us to consider carefully whether we really do want Rand’s world organized for the pleasure of the indispensable few, even if some benefits “trickle down” to the great dispensable masses.
Those who raise these issues need not be “anti-science” so much as wary of it, not opposed but concerned about unintended consequences. And often enough those unintended consequences predicted by those painted as enemies of science come true. In some circles the Holocaust was celebrated as a triumph of science, as was the routine sterilization of “idiots” and other lovely consequences of the science of eugenics.
I tend to agree with this, and also with Sebastian H, above. From the first excerpts, it did seem to me as if the complaint was about how new inventions would be used by those in power, not so much about the inventions themselves. I am not a Lewis expert though. Based on this though, I wouldn’t condemn him as a science hater. (And I know not of Faust. Sorry.)
PS- I am no science historian, but my impression — mostly from really good old horror movies!! — is that people really did go around digging up bodies and “desecrating” them. My impression was, this is how we got to learn some really useful things. It’s the apple in the Garden all over again. I regard those people as heroes, but at the same time, I can understand an “ewww” reaction. One wouldn’t be happy if it happened to one’s friends or family.
And while we’re on the subject … I do think there are some very serious ethical problems in science today, particularly surrounding embryonic stem cell research and probably a lot of other stuff I don’t even know about.
I’m not saying I have the answers, but do I trust that the issues are all being soberly considered and vetted, by some representative sample of society? No, no I don’t. We are still pretty much the same humans we were a hundred years ago, and that means, vigilance is needed. Motives, methods … all of these things matter. And I don’t think it makes me anti-science to say so.
I am a lot less charitable towards Lewis than some here. He was vastly overrated. The Narnia series was clumsy Christian allegory. And he spent way too much of his life defending the indefensible.
Rand’s critique, of course, shows that a broken clock is right twice a day.
Please supply examples of Lewis defending the indefensible. Perhaps I’ve been inattentive when reading himâ€”and I daresay I’ve read as much or more of his stuff than most RBC-ersâ€”but I can’t at the moment recall anything he wrote that is indefensible. I don’t always agree with him (I don’t always agree with myself, much less with anyone else), but I can’t call to mind anything he wrote that a reasonable person would find indefensible.
Um, Orthodox Christianity– i.e., the claim that those things actually happened, as opposed to claims about some sort of larger truth that one can glean from the alleged teachings of Jesus– is completely indefensible. (And to be clear, Orthodox Christianity not only includes the central, completely preposterous story about God having a son who died and rose from the dead, etc., but also includes all of the miracles attributed to Peter and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, including multiple resurrections, numerous miracles, etc., all of which completely stopped when we developed the technology to start verifying claims of miracles as well as the contemporaneous reporting of events.)
Just because a lot of people espouse belief in something (although not nearly as many actually believe it) doesn’t mean that one can espouse it and actually be an intellectual. Lewis was a hack on behalf of the literary character Jesus (remember, we don’t have any idea who the actual Jesus was or what his actual teachings were, only what people wrote about him decades later and at least thirdhand).
Seriously? We have to have the atheism-is-not-a-religion argument again???
Forget it, I have other stuff to do. Maybe someone else here can explain it.
Dang, Dilan, that’s a disappointing response. I thought you might come up with a snippet of Lewis’ prose demonstrating a contemptible attitude he heldâ€”an attitude so thoroughly beyond the pale that I would have had to apologize for it. ( I often do feel it necessary to apologize for statements or actions of my fellow believers: too often we behave very badly indeed, betraying our professions with our deeds.) But no: what you find indefensible in Lewis is his Christian belief. Um, no. Orthodox Christianity is not indefensible, much as you may wish it so; and, no, I’m not arguing that it’s provable, but merely that, contrary to your bald assertions, Orthodox Christian faith is something sane, intelligent, well-read, and deeply thoughtful people can and do reasonably believeâ€”meaning that we have reasonsâ€”defenses, if you willâ€”for our belief. We interpret such evidence as there is about the nature of reality and of our place within it and about the historicity of Christ and the possibility of what we call miracles differently than you do. Many of us have had experiences that challenge materialist assumptions about reality. You would argue, I’m sure, that we have been misled by sensory or cranial malfunction. Perhaps. I can’t prove you wrong. Then again, neither can you prove me wrong when I interpret such experiences as suggestions of a reality that exceeds the powers of our tiny brains to comprehend. Lewis, like Pascal before him, trusted in reason, but only to a point: “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.” That doesn’t, I believe, deprive him of his status as an intellectual. Reason alone can’t take any of us as far as we would go.
In closing, I would like to remind you that Lewis wrote more than science fiction, Christian apologetics, and the children’s fiction that you find “clumsy”. You may reasonably disagree with him but that doesn’t disqualify him from the ranks of intellectuals. He was in fact a formidable literary scholar whose scholarship remains in print and is widely studied with profit. Lewis was a superb literary craftsman who wrote, not for money, but out of belief. Your attempt to smear him as a “hack” because his beliefs are not your beliefs is risible.
The last report I heard, the Texas school board outlawed critical thinking from the curriculum because it might threaten ” family values” and of course Christian beliefs. For once I believe that this board of nutcase whackos may just be right. Critical thinking most likely will undermine religious belief of any kind. Saying that there are some things that you don’t want to think critically about is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand. What it boils down to is that thinking freely is hard work which most of us prefer to avoid.
Literal belief in Orthodox Christianity is completely ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it is. Here are some of the things Orthodox Christians claim to actually believe:
1. That we know that a woman who lived 2,000 years ago did not engage in sexual intercourse, and then got pregnant, and that pregnancy was the result of conceiving a child with a deity who created the universe.
2. That there were numerous people who died and were raised from the dead, both by Jesus and by his followers, but that this stopped almost 2,000 years ago and nobody has been raised from the dead since then.
3. That a man walked on water (and not in the sense that an illusionist would do it).
4. That when you eat a cracker and drink some wine, that substance is magically transformed into the blood and body of some guy who lived 2,000 years ago, even though it still tastes like a cracker and wine.
5. That texts written many, many decades after the fact and copied from each other nonetheless accurately transcribe the exact words and actions of someone who lived and died long before they were written.
6. That the people who wrote these texts were right about what they wrote about, even though they were completely wrong about sexual morality, cosmology, the role of women, and the immediacy of Jesus’ second coming.
That’s just a start.
Look, you can espouse belief in anything you want to. As I noted above, you have the public on your side (at least in the sense of the vulgar form of Pascal’s Wager). But this stuff is just as silly as Scientology or astrology. It’s not only not backed by any real evidence, but it requires believing that things that never happen happened, and that they just HAPPENED to happen during a time period AFTER writing systems were developed but BEFORE anyone could actually verify the veracity of claims with contemporaneous documentation. God just happened to come to earth during the one time when Her visit couldn’t be verified.
I don’t have any objection to people believing this. But I have a big objection to people who want to be credited as intellectuals or great thinkers while espousing devout belief. Believing these things, literally, requires that you shut off the critical thinking section of your brain. Lewis did that– which puts him in the same category as Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard as an author.
Davidh: thanks for doing this work. You are much more polite than me! I think Esper uses the term “Orthodox Christianity” precisely so he can define belief in the way that best suits his own *beliefs* about reality.
As long as he realizes he’s doing this, I have no problem with it. I can live with him thinking that people like us aren’t “intellectual.” Um, whatever, fella.
I use “Orthodox Christians” to distinguish between people who think that key factual claims in the Bible are true (virgin birth, resurrection of Jesus, resurrection of all those other people in the Book of Acts, etc.), and people who think that the Jesus story has metaphorical or moral value, as well as people who don’t really believe at all except in the most vulgar form of Pascal’s Wager (hoping to get into heaven if it turns out to be true).
People who actually think that the creator of the universe impregnated a virgin with (as Amanda Marcotte memorably put it) “his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit”, and that this person was actually resurrected, and that the books that tell these tall tales and 100 others are true despite having been written decades thereafter, are not engaging in serious thinking. They are turning off their brains because they like the end result of the fairy tale.
We don’t consider people who believe in astrology or numerology to be serious thinkers. This is no different.
Dorothy L. Sayers, best known for her mystery stories, was actively writing at the same time as Lewis and his inner circle were writing, and was for my money about twice as smart and three times as articulate. (She translated Dante into English, memorizing chunks of the Italian and working out the translation in her head while peeling potatoes, a task which requires a pretty good head.) She had strong convictions about the relevance of Christian dogma to the most pressing issues of wartime, but thought that people of the 20th century were ignorant of its teachings to the point of barbarism. She used her experiences as a creative writer to express the dogma of the Trinity in her book The Mind of the Maker, now available online http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/dlsayers/mindofmaker/mind.c.htm .
What she had in common with Lewis was a conviction that there was a Natural Law governing the conduct of human affairs. Typhus and cholera were a judgment on dirty living not because God prefers nice, clean people, but because of the physical structure of the world. â€œThe avaricious greed that prompts men to cut down forests for the speedy making of money brings down a judgment of flood and famine, because that sin of avarice in the spiritual sphere runs counter to the physical law of nature.â€ It would be harder for Rand to task Sayers with hostility to science than it was to task Lewis with the same.
Her most famous creation, the amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, was not a believing Christian, and Sayers, his creator, respected him too much to make him into one. In The Mind of the Maker, she summarizes her reaction to the disappointment of readers who wanted her to convert him into one:
“I am sure Lord Peter will end up as a convinced Christian.”
“From what I know of him, nothing is more unlikely.”
“But as a Christian yourself, you must want him to be one.”
“He would be horribly embarrassed by any such suggestion.”
“But he’s far too intelligent and far too nice, not to be a Christian.”
“My dear lady, Peter is not the Ideal Man; he is an eighteenth-century Whig gentleman, born a little out of his time, and doubtful whether any claim to possess a soul is not a rather vulgar piece of presumption.”
“I am disappointed.”
“I’m afraid I can’t help that.”
It is too bad that she is not better known in our times. We could use an intellect like hers today. Why Lewis is so much better known than she is not clear to me.
Dilan, I’d like to offer a few small corrections. First, at least one of your “categories” is incoherent. What category is it that would contain Lewis along with Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard? Unlike Smith or Hubbard, Lewis didn’t present himself as the prophet of a new faith. He accepted an ancient faithâ€”-for reasons he compellingly articulated in “Surprised by Joy,” among other booksâ€”-and tried to explain that faith to his contemporaries, believing that what brought him joy might well do so for others. His claims on behalf of Christianity are of a completely different order than Smith’s claims for Mormonism or Hubbard’s for Scientology. If Christianity is eventually somehow proved untrue, Lewis’ faith will have been revealed to have been misplaced. But if Mormonism and Scientology are somehow proved untrue, Smith and Hubbard will have been conclusively exposed as madmen or conmen.
Second, your definition of “Orthodox Christianity” conflates several branches of the faith, making it seem, for example, that those who interpret the Bible “literally” (Evangelicals) are also those who believe in the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of Communion (Roman Catholics and some Protestants but few Evangelicals). Not all of us believe that the Gospels claim that Mary was a virgin at the time Christ was conceived. We Christians argue a lot about relatively small points of doctrine. But I suppose it won’t matter to you that few, if any, of us could be convicted for believing all 6 of your doctrines, for, as you judge the matter, our belief in any of the 6 is proof that we have suspended critical thought, and there’s nothing we can say to convince you otherwise.
Okay, although I know I can’t convince you, I nonetheless will say that I haven’t suspended critical thought about any aspect of my life, least of all my faith. (And I’m terribly ashamed of the actions of the Texas believers who wish to suspend the teaching of critical thinking.) I’m not the only Christian who would rather not believe. I believe, not because faith is a useful crutch (not for me, it isn’t!), but because as I examine the evidence I know of, the Christian story is the story that best accounts for most of the facts.
Do I believe that “there were numerous people who were raised from the dead, both by Jesus and his followers”? Why, yes, I do. But I don’t believe that “this stopped almost 2,000 years ago, and nobody has been raised from the dead since then.” Why? Because of what I have heard from trusted friends and read of events that defy, as far as we can know now, materialist explanation. A friend, clinically dead of a heart attack, revives after a time of presence with the divineâ€”or so he believes. A friend, pinned under the rubble of a collapsed bridge under which she happened to be walking when it suddenly fell apart, was comforted by an “old man.” The man vanishes, and the rubble, mysteriously, was no longer crushing my friend. One might argue that she was in shock and therefore can’t be regarded as a reliable witness. But her sister was there, and her sister’s boyfriend was there. Both sister and boyfriend were unscathed. The boyfriend, a football player, had tried but failed to move the rubble. All three saw the old man; all three noted that the old man was there and then he was there no longer; none know how the rubble was moved, but moved it was.
In That Hideous Strength, Lewis’ description of the education of his protagonist, Mark Studdock, illustrates the kind of scientific reductionism he saw as a threat to human values in modern society:
“his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw. Statistics about agricultural labourers were the substance; any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmerâ€™s boy, was the shadow. Though he had never noticed it himself, he had a great reluctance, in his work, ever to use such words as ‘man’ or ‘woman.’ He preferred to write about ‘vocational groups,’ ‘elements,’ ‘classes’ and ‘populations’: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.”
It was not an anti-science attitude that motivated Lewis; it was anti-the-above that he wanted to defend against; it was officialdom, not science, that he thought to be the force that threatened to Abolish Man.
Francis Bacon has a bad reputation not only with C.S. Lewis but with some feminist postmodernist critics of his ideal of science which they characterized as raping nature for power over her. Alan Soble even wrote a defense of Bacon from the charges leveled by Sandra Harding and others:
If you want to torment Rand in the afterlife, just put her in a room with Lewis on one side and Sandra Harding on the other as her only human company.
The â€œMonkey Theoremâ€ is a popular device used by naturalists/materialists/atheists to defend the idea that DNA code could arise by chance, given enough time â€“ similar to a bunch of monkeys pounding away on typewriters and eventually delivering a Shakespearean sonnet.
~ Ted TC Coleman
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