C.S. Lewis on the myth of popular evolution

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Mikah
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24 Mar 2020, 9:31 am

Another of these great doodle videos to watch while we enjoy a taste of living in a police state.

Before you only read the title and make assumptions, this is not really about the biological hypothesis, it's much more about "evolutionism" and "progress". Ideas that still hold sway.


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The_Walrus
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24 Mar 2020, 12:18 pm

I watched this video (which perhaps unsurprisingly at the end is revealed to have been produced by religious fundamentalists).

If Lewis had a point then it’s been rather lost by the tide of history. He may have been criticising a common thought in his contemporaries that progress is inevitable, but I don’t think that thought is common today. You see lots of people fretting about the “wrong people” breeding, about whether selective breeding of farm animals has gone too far, about the joys of the “good old days” before Attlee/Wilson/Thatcher/Cameron/Johnson ruined everything. We are obsessed by dystopia, we see crisis around every corner. Today we believe that progress is something that has to be toiled for.

On biology, again history has not been kind to Lewis. We have far more evidence now for common ancestry than we did in Lewis’ time, and absolutely no evidence has been found for his “collapse and rebirth” hypothesis. Indeed, I’d argue that this is an example of Lewis committing the same mistake he accuses others of - the oak dropping its acorn is not “recessing” because the oak is not mightier than the acorn.

Lewis also confuses the ability to reason with the existence of logic. By analogy, if I were blind then that would not mean that light did not exist (although I would have little or no way of telling that it did, certainly no direct way). This doesn’t mean that light is something invented by the sighted. Our ability to detect light is the product of millions of years of directionless evolution, and it is only by mere chance that we can detect light. No thinking force gave us eyes. That does not make light “irrational”.

Similarly, our ability to reason came about as the result of blind evolution. But the irrationality of the process does not suggest irrational results and it certainly doesn’t suggest an inherently logic-free universe. Human beings lacking the ability to count would not stop one plus one from equalling two. Our ability to count evolving irrationally is not proof that we cannot count.

Lewis’s predictions of the future are, inevitably, of mixed accuracy. He was right to call bullshit on psychoanalysis. But his suggestion that physics would not back up evolutionary theory has proven wrong. Mere Christianity was published in 1952 (based on talks given during the war) but in 1964 the CMB was discovered. Lewis hitches a lot in a resurgence of Christian theology, but this has not happened. Today’s great theologians are very elderly men - Plantinga, Ward, McGrath, Polkinghorne. Three of them were born in the 30s and McGrath has lived his entire career in the shadow of Richard Dawkins.

Although I usually agree with their conclusions, I don’t think much of Dawkins, or Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennett as theologians (Dawkins is a great scientist and Dennett a great thinker but no theologian). Dawkins and Dennett are old men themselves, Dawkins well over the hill. But those three, and the late Christopher Hitchens, all loom far larger in both the public and the intellectual consciousness than Plantinga or the late Hick. Plantinga and Hick are perhaps comparable to PZ Myers or Matt Ridley, second tier atheist thinkers, when it comes to modern discussions about God. And for an awful lot of people, theology is almost entirely irrelevant. If they have a belief then they don’t defend that position and just ask to be accepted. If they don’t have a belief then they don’t see a need to defend that position.

I’ve gone on a bit about theology there, but in conclusion I think Lewis does a reasonable job arguing that there is no guarantee of “progress”, but does not provide any argument against emergent complexity.



vermontsavant
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24 Mar 2020, 12:50 pm

Well I respect old Clive Staples but the video lacked any scientific references that refute evolution scientifically,nor any reference to scripture or the book of Genesis in it's defense thereof.

A lot of intellectual mockery using classical and modern cultural references,sort of trying to make evolution into something corny.I was expecting Lewis to use the bible and in particular Genesis and also some scientific refutiation as well.


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24 Mar 2020, 3:35 pm

I've only listened to the first seven minutes, but speaking as an evolutionary biologist, I'd say he's got it just about right. What he's talking about is evolutionism (rather than evolution) – like scientism (rather than science). Evolutionism is a close relative of progressivism – it's a teleological pseudo-religion followed by those who have abandoned historical religion but are still driven by religious impulses. It's like "scientific socialism" – all the old Marxist-Leninists declared themselves to be proudly scientific, just like today's climate catastrophists. Leftists still love to proclaim themselves "the party of science" – but those proclamations have little to do with actual science and a lot to do with primate status-signalling.


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naturalplastic
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24 Mar 2020, 3:52 pm

Just a long winded way of saying "there is no such thing a progress." And that "the notion of progress is just a secular humanist substitute for religion".

Not saying that there is no such thing as progress. Just that that's what C.S. Lewis is saying.



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24 Mar 2020, 4:01 pm

naturalplastic wrote:
Just a long winded way of saying "there is no such thing a progress." And that "the notion of progress is just a secular humanist substitute for religion".

Not saying that there is no such thing as progress. Just that that's what C.S. Lewis is saying.
There isn't necesarily and corolation between progress and evolution.It seems Lewis does to much social mockery of evolution and not enough references to science and also scripture,particularly Genesis.

Clive Staples made no attempt for a case for the validity of Genesis account of creation,instead he stereotypes evolutionists with outdated perceptions and use of mockery.As opposed to making a real case for the science of Genesis.


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24 Mar 2020, 4:26 pm

Well, the thing to bear in mind there is that he isn't trying to prove Genesis correct. He has no background in science through which to do so. He's also aware that coming out as a Biblical literalist would ruin his reputation. It's an impossible position to defend explicitly. It's slightly easier to say "ordinary people have a poor understanding of evolution" and slyly hint at why you believe there must be a God and hope that some people make the connection.

I don't buy the "evolution is a religion" talk at all. That's creationist poppycock. A religion isn't "something you believe without understanding why", it requires worship, devotion, the rituals and trappings of a religion. Someone who uses a toaster even though they don't understand how it works isn't worshipping the toaster.



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25 Mar 2020, 12:59 am

The_Walrus wrote:
Well, the thing to bear in mind there is that he isn't trying to prove Genesis correct. He has no background in science through which to do so. He's also aware that coming out as a Biblical literalist would ruin his reputation. It's an impossible position to defend explicitly. It's slightly easier to say "ordinary people have a poor understanding of evolution" and slyly hint at why you believe there must be a God and hope that some people make the connection.

I don't buy the "evolution is a religion" talk at all. That's creationist poppycock. A religion isn't "something you believe without understanding why", it requires worship, devotion, the rituals and trappings of a religion. Someone who uses a toaster even though they don't understand how it works isn't worshipping the toaster.


Ok,so writing the Screwtape letters didn't make Lewis look like a fundamentalist :lol: ?

So convincing people that they don't understand evolution is going to make them believe in God?That would just get people to try to learn more about evolution.

I am not against evolution but I am saying that the video was unconvincing because it offered no evidence against evolution other than mocking it.

So you say he doesn't want to be viewed as a fundamentalist but the video mocks the romantic and enlightenment philosophers mockery of the theology of the middle ages.

If your going to attack evolution you need more than social mockery,most people who attack evolution you send either science or validation of scripture.

Lewis was a Christian apologist, I am not sure who thinks Clive Staples doesn't take the Bible literally.In a very sophisticated educated man's way,but literally non the less.

There was a story of three Rabbi's who found the tree of life and paradise and we're never seen or heard from again.

I know Lewis was not a Kabalistic Jew,but why not use a story like that,it's pro garden of Eden.

I just don't get what the video is trying to prove,it certainly didn't convince me against evolution.


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25 Mar 2020, 2:33 am

Further more,how can anyone say Lewis wasn't a fundamentalist.

He made it explicitly clear in all his writings that only Christian's go to heaven,that is the very definition of a fundamentalist.even the Narnia books subtly imply that.

He was an educated, intelligent and eloquent biblical literalist,but a fundamentalist non the less.

He certainly doesn't fit the stereotype of an American Bible belt fundamentalist but those people are not educated,if they had degrees from Oxford they would talk more like Lewis.

Clive Staples absolutely believed only Christian's could go to heavan and that followers of other religions and athiests and other secularists all go to hell.That is what a fundamentalist is, educated or not.


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25 Mar 2020, 4:07 am

Well, Mere Christianity is an adaptation of talks he gave for the radio. If you’re the sort of person who believes in evolution then you’re not going to change your mind because someone tells you the Genesis story. If you hear someone saying “it is irrational to believe that reason evolved because then how can reason be real?” then maybe you’re going to be confused enough to change your mind.

I’m not trying to say anything about Lewis’ personal beliefs, only about how I think he was trying to portray himself here.

Disagree on your reading of Narnia btw. Aslan accepts pious devotion to Tash as equivalent to devotion to himself. I interpret that as Staples saying that Jews/Muslims/etc. can be saved through Jesus even if they don’t accept him as Lord, as long as they have sincere faith in some proxy. I guess it’s damning for atheists.



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25 Mar 2020, 7:26 am

The_Walrus wrote:
Well, Mere Christianity is an adaptation of talks he gave for the radio. If you’re the sort of person who believes in evolution then you’re not going to change your mind because someone tells you the Genesis story. If you hear someone saying “it is irrational to believe that reason evolved because then how can reason be real?” then maybe you’re going to be confused enough to change your mind.

I’m not trying to say anything about Lewis’ personal beliefs, only about how I think he was trying to portray himself here.

Disagree on your reading of Narnia btw. Aslan accepts pious devotion to Tash as equivalent to devotion to himself. I interpret that as Staples saying that Jews/Muslims/etc. can be saved through Jesus even if they don’t accept him as Lord, as long as they have sincere faith in some proxy. I guess it’s damning for atheists.
I was thinking of more books besides just Mere Christianity.

Your likely right about Genesis,people do make a scientific and mathematically compelling case for creation that is sophisticated and makes a point.But these are Jewish mystics who dissect the tree of life and the garden of Eden on a more complex level then would Lewis.It would be unrealistic to expect that from him,I guess the video suites his personality.

You could be right about Narnia,it's been so long since I've read those books I couldn't really argue with you,but in other books he clearly says only Christianity is valid,The Screwtape letters for example.

I guess I am factual person and I found the sarcasm and condescension un persuasive,I'm looking for hard facts,trying to make another viewpoint look bad or unintelligent doesn't do it for me.The origins or reason have no bearing on the origins of species,because if there is no god establishing what is reason then reason is relative.

If your looking for real compelling evidence of creationism your going to find it on the Jewish side of the aisle if your interested not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with Christianity.But Christians focus on the new testament and don't dissect the old testament in super complex detail.

I am not trying make a religious statement but I just wasn't persuaded by this video.


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25 Mar 2020, 1:53 pm

I fear I have to restate my warning for some in this thread, Vermontsavant in particular.

He's not deconstructing Evolution - The Scientific Theory. His red herring with the unwinnable "how can we trust our own reason" argument aside, he is talking about "Evolutionism", "Progress", "Wellesianity" the worldview that sprang up around Evolution and, he argues, even predates it. The worldview that does not really understand biological evolution, yet puts a hollowed out, idealised version of it at the centre of everything. Though Walrus disagrees above, I still see it everywhere.

The part about acorns turning into trees and all that is only to offer a reason why the romantic "Cosmic Evolution" myth is so readily accepted, not to refute the biological theory. Likewise he never really offers a counter-hypothesis to biological evolution, he is just pointing out the error in the imagination. though I can understand the confusion if it wasn't carefully listened to.


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25 Mar 2020, 2:23 pm

Mikah wrote:
I fear I have to restate my warning for some in this thread, Vermontsavant in particular.

He's not deconstructing Evolution - The Scientific Theory. His red herring with the unwinnable "how can we trust our own reason" argument aside, he is talking about "Evolutionism", "Progress", "Wellesianity" the worldview that sprang up around Evolution and, he argues, even predates it. The worldview that does not really understand biological evolution, yet puts a hollowed out, idealised version of it at the centre of everything. Though Walrus disagrees above, I still see it everywhere.

The part about acorns turning into trees and all that is only to offer a reason why the romantic "Cosmic Evolution" myth is so readily accepted, not to refute the biological theory. Likewise he never really offers a counter-hypothesis to biological evolution, he is just pointing out the error in the imagination. though I can understand the confusion if it wasn't carefully listened to.
I have never ever even heard of the theory to which you speak,sorry about the misunderstanding and spamming your thread albiet by accident.


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Mikah
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25 Mar 2020, 2:31 pm

vermontsavant wrote:
I have never ever even heard of the theory to which you speak


That's likely because it doesn't really have a proper name, yet it is at the heart of many 19th and 20th century philosophies, both extinct and extant.

Edit:

vermontsavant wrote:
sorry about the misunderstanding and spamming your thread albiet by accident.


No need to apologise, you are a polite and thoughtful poster and were certainly not "cberging" the thread.


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26 Mar 2020, 10:50 am

after being clarified on the meaning of the post I did some online research on the concept of "Evolutionism" as different from the scientific theory of evolution.

I appears it came about in Victorian England by creationists as a pejorative term for those who believe in evolution.And that "evolutionism" is just a condscending stereotype of what people who believe in evolution think.


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