Over at The Biologos Forum, David Williams has begun a series on what C. S. Lewis thought about evolution, Genesis, myth, and how all this fits together for Christianity (Surprised by Jack: C.S. Lewis on Mere Christianity, the Bible, and Evolutionary Science, Part 1).
Williams’s series is prompted by a recent publication of the Discovery Institute edited by John G. West (senior fellow and vice president). The Discovery Institute is a well-known apologetics organization advocating, among other things, Intelligent Design, which, according to their website, claims that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause [i.e., God], not an undirected process such as natural selection.”
For those new to this debate, you could call this “evolution lite”–some things, it is claimed, can only to be explained by direct divine intervention rather than simply a “process.”
Fair enough. It’s a free country. But what caught Williams’s attention is the aforementioned book, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. Its purpose, along with an accompanying website and documentary, is refreshingly transparent if also disturbingly idiosyncratic. As Williams reports, this project is aimed at,
enlisting Lewis as an ally in a wide-ranging campaign dealing with “evolution, intelligent design, bioengineering, moral relativism, and even the role of government” [from the Introduction, p. 13]…. To the essayists’ contentions that Lewis was politically conservative [at least in a British sense], a moral and epistemological objectivist, a sharp critic of atheistic Materialism, and an opponent of reductionistic Scientism I say nolo contendere. None of this is news. However, other features of the book are sure to raise eyebrows among close readers of Lewis, especially Edward J. Larson’s alarmingly paranoid chapter which argues that Lewis saw “science as the ultimate threat to freedom in modern society” [from Larson’s essay. p. 57].
For West … it is clearly unacceptable for theistic evolutionists to be able to cite Lewis in support of their alleged heterodoxy, and so West attempts to rescue Lewis from what he regards as a pro-evolutionary misreading of the man and his work.
West’s aim seems doomed to failure in the face of Lewis’s own very public statements advocating evolution, which West himself recognizes. But, to reach his apologetic goal, West claims to uncover for us the real Lewis, the one who can only be found beneath the surface of what he wrote rather than what Lewis explicitly said.
To make the case that Lewis is not an ally of theistic evolution … West [in his chapter “Darwin in the Dock”] 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.
Sometimes I wonder what drives people to such desperate measures.
In this series, Williams’s aim is to set the record straight (which until now needed little help) by laying out Lewis’s views on three areas relevant to this discussion: Scripture in general (especially Genesis and myth), Adam and the doctrine of the Fall, and evolutionary science and the myth of “Evolutionism.”
I am looking forward to this series, not so much for its promise to put to rest West’s awkward thesis (which, frankly, seems to be its own refutation), but for laying out Lewis’s thoughts on Scripture and evolution.