Quotes from C.S. Lewis on Evolution

More disquieting still is Professor D. M. S. Watson's defense. "Evolution itself," he wrote, "is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or... can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible."

Has it come to that? Does the whole vast structure of modern naturalism depend not on positive evidence but simply on an a priori metaphysical prejudice. Was it devised not to get in facts but to keep out God? The Oxford Socratic Club (1944)


That, then, is the first proof that popular Evolution is a Myth. In making it Imagination runs ahead of scientific evidence. 'The prophetic soul of the big world' was already pregnant with the Myth: if science has not met the imaginative need, science would not have been so popular. But probably every age gets, within certain limits, the science it desires.

In the second place we have internal evidence. Popular Evolutionism or Developmentalism differs in content from the Evolution of the real biologists. Christian Reflections (1967) p.84-5


I grew up believing in this Myth [Evolutionism] and I have felt - I still feel - its almost perfect grandeur. Let no one say we are an unimaginative age: neither the Greeks nor the Norsemen ever invented a better story. Even to the present day, in certain moods, I could almost find it in my heart to wish that it was not mythical, but true. Christian Reflections (1967) p.88


Every science claims to be a series of inferences from observed facts. It is only by such inferences that you can reach your nebulae and protoplasm and dinosaurs and sub-men and cave-men at all. Unless you start by believing that reality in the remotest space and the remotest time rigidly obeys the laws of logic, you can have no ground for believing in any astronomy, any biology, any paleontology, any archaeology. To reach the positions held by the real scientists -- which are then taken over by the Myth -- you must, in fact, treat reason as an absolute.

But at the same time the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. The content of the Myth thus knocks from under me the only ground on which I could possibly believe the Myth to be true. If my own mind is a product of the irrational -- if what seem my clearest reasonings are only the way in which a creature conditioned as I am is bound to feel -- how shall I trust my mind when it tells me about Evolution?

They say in effect: 'I will prove that what you call a proof is only the result of mental habits which result from heredity which results from bio-chemistry which results from physics.' But this is the same as saying: 'I will prove that proofs are irrational': more succinctly, 'I will prove that there are no proofs': The fact that some people of scientific education cannot by any effort be taught to see the difficulty, confirms one's suspicion that we here touch a radical disease in their whole style of thought. But the man who does see it, is compelled to reject as mythical the cosmology in which most of us were brought up. Christian Reflections (1967) p.89


"But, don't you see," said I, "that science never could show anything of the sort?"

"Why on earth not?"

"Because science studies Nature. And the question is whether anything besides Nature exists -- anything 'outside.' How could you find that out by studying simply Nature?"

"But don't we find out that Nature must work in an absolutely fixed way? I mean, the Laws of Nature tell us not merely how things do happen, but how they must happen. No power could possibly alter them."

"How do you mean?" said I.

"Look here," said he. "Could this 'something outside' that you talk about make two and two five?"

"Well, no," said I.

"All right," said he. "Well, I think the Laws of Nature are really like two and two making four. The idea of their being altered is as absurd as the idea of altering the laws of arithmetic."

"Half a moment," said I. "Suppose you put sixpence into a drawer today, and sixpence into the same drawer tomorrow. Do the laws of arithmetic make it certain you'll find a shilling's worth there the day after?"

"Of course," said he, "provided no one's been tampering with your drawer."

"Ah, but that's the whole point," said I. "The laws of arithmetic can tell you what you'll find, with absolute certainty, provided that there's no interference. If a thief has been at the drawer of course you'll get a different result. But the thief won't have broken the laws of arithmetic -- only the laws of England. Now, aren't the Laws of Nature much in the same boat? Don't they all tell you what will happen provided there's no interference?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, the laws will tell you how a billiard ball will travel on a smooth surface if you hit it in a particular way -- but only provided no one interferes. If, after it's already in motion, someone snatches up a cue and gives it a biff on one side -- why, then, you won't get what the scientist predicted."

"No, of course not. He can't allow for monkey tricks like that."

"Quite, and in the same way, if there was anything outside Nature, and if it interfered -- then the events which the scientist expected wouldn't follow. That would be what we call a miracle. In one sense it wouldn't break the laws of Nature. The laws tell you what will happen if nothing interferes. They can't tell you whether something is going to interfere.

I mean, it's not the expert at arithmetic who can tell you how likely someone is to interfere with the pennies in my drawer; a detective would be more use. It isn't the physicist who can tell you how likely I am to catch up a cue and spoil his experiment with the billiard ball; you'd better ask a psychologist. And it isn't the scientist who can tell you how likely Nature is to be interfered with from outside. You must go to the metaphysician." The Grand Miracle (1970) pp.48-49


This point of scientific method merely shows (what no one to my knowledge ever denied) that if miracles did occur, science, as science, could not prove, or disprove, their occurrence. What cannot be trusted to recur is not material for science: that is why history is not one of the sciences. You cannot find out what Napoleon did at the battle of Austerlitz by asking him to come and fight it again in a laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age.

You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like innumerable other questions, excludes laboratory treatment. The Grand Miracle (1970) p.91


In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.

For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something present to our senses, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible.

If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the philosophy we bring to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question. Miracles (1974) pp.1-2

When a thing professes from the very outset to be a unique invasion of Nature by something from outside, increasing knowledge of Nature can never make it more or less credible than it was at the beginning. In this sense it is mere confusion of thought to suppose that advancing science has made it harder to accept miracles. We always knew they were contrary to the natural course of events; we know still that if there is something beyond Nature, they are possible. Miracles (1974) p.76


The necessary truth of the laws, far from making it impossible that miracles should occur, makes it certain that if the Supernatural is operating they must occur. For if the natural situation by itself, and the natural situation plus something else, yielded only the same result, it would be then that we should be faced with a lawless and unsystematic universe. The better you know that two and two make four, the better you know that two and three don't.

This perhaps helps to make a little clearer what the laws of Nature really are. We are in the habit of talking as if they caused events to happen; but they have never caused any event at all. The laws of motion do not set billiard balls moving: they analyze the motion after something else (say, a man with a cue, or a lurch of the liner, or, perhaps, supernatural power) has provided it.

They produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event -- if only it can be induced to happen -- must conform, just as the use of arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform -- if only it can get hold of any money. Thus in one sense the laws of Nature cover the whole field of space and time; in another, what they leave out is precisely the whole real universe -- the incessant torrent of actual events which makes up true history.

That must come from somewhere else. To think the laws can produce it is like thinking that you can create real money by simply doing sums. For every law, in the last resort, says 'If you have A, then you will get B'. But first catch your A: the laws won't do it for you. Miracles (1974) pp.93-94


Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. Miracles (1974) p.169


But if we admit God, must we admit a miracle? Indeed, indeed, you have no security against it. That is the bargain. Miracles (1974) p.169


I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur. Thus any statement put into our Lord's mouth by the old texts, which, if he had really made it, would constitute a prediction of the future, is taken to have been put in after the occurrence which it seemed to predict. This is very sensible if we start by knowing that inspired prediction can never occur. Similarly in general, the rejection as unhistorical of all passages which narrate miracles is sensible if we start by knowing that the miraculous in general never occurs.

Now I do not here want to discuss whether the miraculous is possible. I only want to point out that this is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon 'If miraculous, then unhistorical' is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it.

If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing. On this they speak simply as men; men obviously influenced by, and perhaps insufficiently critical of, the spirit of the age they grew up in. Fern-seed and Elephants



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