On November 6th I will lecture on the many ways in which C.S. Lewis doubted Darwinism using the new book The Magician's Twin that I adopted for an interdisciplinary science/culture course at The College at Southwestern. Here are a few PowerPoints slides and related comments I shall make.
Note that Lewis came to this Darwin-doubting opinion long before he embraced Christianity. In fact during his youthful years Lewis found himself deeply attracted to the grand materialist story of the cosmos. But, as this letter to his father reveals, he also found "comfort" in the fact that there were fatal weeknesses in Darwinian evolution. Lewis had read scientific critiques of Darwinism and underlined key passages that revealed serious flaws, as Lewis scholar John West points out in The Magician's Twin. Dr. West spent time at The Wade Center reading through many books in Lewis's former personal library that bear such Lewis annotations.
For example, in 1920 Lewis read and annotated Henri Bergson’s 1917 published critique (pictured left) of the creative power of natural selection (the heart of Darwin's theory), Bergson helped Lewis understand that random variations could not make natural selection truly creative. Lewis noted Bergson’s view that “natural selection” is “bad metaphor” used to persuade in the absence of sufficient evidence for what unguided evolution could actually accomplish (See The Magician's Twin, p. 125-127).
Lewis also anaylzed carefully Darwinian claims about the origin of rationality itself. Natural selection can’t explain the origin of rationality, Lewis contended, because “it is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn them into acts of insight,” Why? Because the “relation between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known,” Lewis argued in the 1960 edition of Miracles--the most mature form of Lewis's thought on Darwinism. Who influence Lewis on this topic? See the next slide.
When it came to the issue of the origin of human reason, Lewis extracted many insights from G.K. Chesterton and Arthur Balfour. Lewis later remarked that Chesteron's The Everlasting Man (1922) was one of the ten most important books to the shaping of Lewis's perspective on life. Chesteron wrote regarding human rationality: “Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution” (as cited in West, p. 128). Balfour's book Theism and Humanism (1915) made a similar permanent mark on the mind of Lewis. Only an ultimately moral being (God) could be the foundation for human moral experience, argued Balfour. "The source of morality must be moral. the source of knowledge must be rational," wrote Balfour (as cited in West, p. 129).
Why is all this history important? Because Lewis was a very smart and influential man and various groups of evangelicals today wish to claim him for their cause. Recently theistic evolutions have tried to cast Lewis in their image. As I wrote in an earlier blog:
The Magician's Twin ... sets the record straight concerning what C.S. Lewis thought about evolution and intelligent design. Two years ago philosopher [and theistic evolutionist] Michael L. Peterson published an essay that depicted Lewis as a supporter of Darwin’s theory and as one opposed to many of the principal components of what is now know as intelligent design theory. Peterson misrepresents both the contemporary scientific worth of intelligent design as well as Lewis’s thoughts about Darwinian evolution. As a historian of science with an essay about the history of Darwinism and Christianity in the same journal in which Peterson published his essay, I am eager to help clarify the historical record regarding Lewis and evolutionary theory.