I’ve been wondering how to bring together three of my favorite subjects: C.S. Lewis, science, and theology. (Or, counted another way, it becomes two topics: Lewis with science and theology.) Recently, I came across Lewis’s essay—really an oral presentation to the Oxford Socratic Club—from 1944 in which St. Clive takes up the question: “Is theology poetry?” And he refines the question to become to whether theology is merely poetry (which it isn’t), and then analyzes the poetry of the “Scientific Outlook” presented by evolution (and especially H. G. Wells) as a philosophy of progress that gradually and painfully overcomes obstacles.
It’s a fascinating lecture—as Lewis is wont to create—not on science per se, or even evolutionary science, but on the use of evolution to create a worldview, one which challenges orthodox Christian accounts of the world.
And I want to lean on this point just for a moment. It is here—not as a field of study, but as an understanding of the world or sense-of-life, where science often intersects--or even collides with--theology. Many evolutionists see a mindless, “pitiless indifference” (to quote Richard Dawkins) against the entirely purposeful creation by the hand of God.
The reason Lewis rejected the “Scientific Outlook” was this: it asserts the truth and reasonableness of its claim without thereby providing a place for reason. Or as he put it:
If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.
The Scientific Outlook tries to fit in reason in an irrational—or maybe arational—world. Belief in a Creator God who endows humanity with reason makes entirely more sense. Lewis concludes that’s why he does not believe in the “Scientific Outlook,” but instead believes in Christianity, which includes reason and science.
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
I suppose that’s where St. Clive, science, and theology all come together for me and why I subscribe to both the affirmation of Christian theology and the insights of science, including those of evolution through natural selection.
How about you? What do you think?