Not Completely Comfy: Lewis and Evolution

Part 3 of a series sifting conflicting claims about C. S. Lewis’s views on evolution.  Part 1 here; Part 2 here.

In 2010, philosophy professor Michael Peterson threw fresh meat into the slow-boiling debate around C. S. Lewis and evolution (“C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62:4, Dec. 2010, also available here).

Peterson accepts the scientific world-story, namely, law-guided development over about 13.7 billion years of atoms, stars, galaxies, heavier elements such as carbon and iron (forged in star-cores and supernovae), planets, and eventually, on at least one planet, life; then the shaping of life, including human beings, by biological evolution.  He opposes Intelligent Design (ID), which claims that living systems could only plausibly have been produced by an intelligent agent (guess Who).  But like many of the ID advocates he opposes, Peterson would like to have C. S. Lewis—killer smart and cosmically popular—on his side.  Since Lewis has been dead since 1963, such alliances can only be established by sifting through Lewis’s... Read More

The Shift that Wasn’t: C. S. Lewis and Bernard Acworth

Part 2 of a series of posts sifting conflicting claims about Lewis’s views on evolution.  Part 1 is here. An Acworth Shift?  Captain Bernard Acworth, born 1885, was a British submariner in World War I.  He had strong opinions on bird and butterfly migration, evolution, physics, and other topics, which he published in a number of books.  In the 1940s he wrote to C. S. Lewis, who had become famous during the war for the BBC radio addresses later... Read More

Which Side Was He On? Enlisting C. S. Lewis in the Evolution Wars

An obscure, slow-motion war is being waged over C. S. Lewis.  Was he a more or less secret foe of Darwin and a proto-advocate of Intelligent Design, long before that school of thought named itself?  Or was he a champion compatibilitist, serenely accepting the validity of modern biology and finding it no ill fit with his Christian orthodoxy? Both views have been urged lately, but before I review a few of the major volleys, I’d like to address... Read More

One Giant Leap for Evangelical Mankind (in the Climate Discourse)

An interesting document just came to my slow-moving attention: Loving the Least of These (2010), from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). It is an attempt by an evangelical pastor, an atmospheric scientist, an MBA, and a VP of the NAE to “start a conversation” about climate change, especially what is sometimes called “climate justice”—the view that there are moral and legal implications to the fact that climate change, although... Read More

“The Evil Eye Controls Something Which Is Counted”: Gaza, Israel, and the Nature of Numbering

Several years ago, another overwhelmingly asymmetrical conflict between the armed forces of Israel and the Gaza Strip was under way.  The terms of debate then were similar to those we hear now: Israel’s undoubted “right to defend itself” versus the claim that its actions in Gaza do not constitute a legitimate or morally proportional exercise of that right.   It is certainly the case that because the Gazan combatants possess only small arms... Read More

The Threat of Thrift

A few environmental pundits have recently taken up an oddly contrarian position: personal consumption choices don’t matter.  “Lifestyle changes that emphasize greater efficiency, less consumption, and genuine personal sacrifice may feel good and make for good press, but they rarely help the earth,” argue economists Paul Wapner and John Willoughby (Ethics & International Affairs, 12/05).  Cutting personal consumption even to zero would... Read More

Hard to Believe: Analysis and Ecstasy

But this habit of close observation—in Humboldt, Darwin, and others.  Is it to be kept up long, this science?     — Henry Thoreau, Journal, July 23, 1851   I walk a lot.  Since I live in Vermont, where endless woods beckon, walking comes naturally—but in the early 1980s, as a student at the Rutgers College of Engineering in ratty old Piscataway, New Jersey, I walked just as much and needed it more.  I trudged along the trash-dotted... Read More

A Tale of Two Studies: Media Filtering of Science Narratives

  In April, 2012, a Science article suddenly caught an extraordinary amount of media buzz: Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan’s “Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief” (Science 336, 493, 2012).  The L.A. Times, Scientific American, Huffington Post, ABC News, Atlantic, Panda’s Thumb, and other prominent venues immediately drew attention to the study (of which an admirably balanced account can be found here).  It looked... Read More

We Believe . . . What?

  A friend recently asked me, “What is faith and what belief?” Words of this sort have so many meanings that to think about them is like looking at a dozen unfocused images projected on top of each other in a promiscuous jumble.  In practice, to compare “faith” with “belief” means choosing one of each word’s many meanings and sharpening the focus until the two things become distinguishable in some interesting way.  In what follows,... Read More

A Sometime Rhyming Style: Physics and Theology

Science is too often milked for pseudo-insights into non-science.  How many times a day does someone announce that “Einstein showed everything is relative” even though he didn’t and was in fact annoyed by the popular belief that he had?  Cosmic fine-tuning, the Big Bang, the concept of “energy,” and biological complexity have all been hijacked to support magical or religious beliefs.  Whole books have been written misconstruing quantum... Read More