C.S. Lewis, the celebrated Oxford don who created Narnia and Mere Christianity, is best known as a storyteller, scholar, and defender of Christianity. But the new book and documentary The Magician’s Twin makes the case that Lewis had a lot to say about the growing impact of science on society.
We recently caught up with John West, editor of the book and director of the film, to talk about Lewis, science, and scientism. Formerly a professor at Seattle Pacific University, Dr. West is currently a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. His previous books include The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia, The Politics of Revelation and Reason, and Darwin Day in America. A free chapter on “C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design” from The Magician’s Twin book is available for download, while the film version can be viewed on YouTube.
Where did you get the title for the book and film, “The Magician’s Twin”?
From a comment Lewis made in his book The Abolition of Man where he claimed that “[t]he serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins.”
Science and magic are twins? Doesn’t that seem like a stretch?
I think Lewis was trying to be intentionally provocative. But I think he had a point. Like magic, science can be treated by some people as tantamount to a religion. Like magic, science can spawn gullibility among non-scientists, when they shut down their critical faculties and simply accept certain claims because they think “science says so.” And like magic, science can be a quest for power over the world. Lewis was particularly concerned about that last point: Science as power. He understood the power of science to be used for good. But he also realized science could be twisted for evil. In his own time, he saw that happening in places like Germany and his own country with the eugenics movement, the effort to breed a better human race based on Darwinian principles.
Did Lewis pay much attention to science?
I think people might be surprised at just how interested Lewis was in science, especially its relationship to faith, ethics, and society as a whole. Lewis’s personal library included more than three dozen books and pamphlets on scientific topics, many of them dealing with evolution. Several of these books were marked up with underlining and annotations, including Lewis’s copy of Charles Darwin’s Autobiography. Lewis’s interest in science shows up throughout his writings. He ultimately wrote nine books, nearly 30 essays, and several poems that explored science and its cultural impact. In fact, the last book he wrote, The Discarded Image, critically examined the nature of scientific revolutions, especially the Darwinian revolution in biology.
Was Lewis anti-science?
Absolutely not. Lewis appreciated the insights of modern science. What he opposed was scientism, the misguided belief that science gives us our only real knowledge of the world, and the corollary that because scientists are the ones with true knowledge, they should have the right to rule over society, ethics, and religion.
Are Lewis’s concerns about scientism outdated?
Rather than being outdated, I think Lewis was prophetic. By the end of his life, he worried about growing efforts to replace democracy with “scientocracy,” a society ruled by those claiming to speak for science. Lewis thought these efforts were subversive of the principles of a free society. In The Magician’s Twin book and film, we explore just how relevant Lewis’s warnings are for today, when the banner of “science” is being increasingly misused to attack people of faith. If you raise questions about embryonic stem cell research, you are attacked as “anti-science.” If you oppose eugenic abortions, you are supposed to be “anti-science.” If you criticize healthcare mandates on religious organizations, you are told that “science” demands the mandates. Some climate scientists even argue that we need to suspend democracy in order to make progress on climate change; other scientists and philosophers among the “transhumanist” movement argue that we need to evolve a new human race through genetic engineering. Lewis was amazingly astute in foreseeing the dangers we are now facing from proponents of scientism.
What would C.S. Lewis say about comments made by Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and other popular spokespeople for science who assert that the Bible contradicts science or that science proves atheism?
Lewis didn’t think the Bible was a science textbook, so he wouldn’t have aligned himself with efforts to try to read the Bible scientifically. However, he had plenty to say about scientists (and those purporting to speak for science) who insist that science proves atheism. Lewis thought the claims of these scientific atheists during his own day were nonsense, and he even satirized their claims in his science fiction novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. So I have no doubt that he would skewer similar claims being made today by Dawkins, Hawking, and company.
One of the hot-button topics you deal with in the book and film is Lewis’s view of evolution. Today Lewis is often described by Francis Collins and other theistic proponents of evolutionary theory as a big supporter of evolution. Is that right?
It’s important to define your terms. “Evolution” can mean many different things. As I write in The Magician’s Twin, Lewis addressed three kinds of evolution in his writings: evolution as common descent (the idea that we came from one common ancestor); evolution as a Darwinian process of unguided natural selection acting on random variations; and evolution as a social philosophy that explained away religion, morality, and human dignity. Lewis didn’t object in principle to evolution as common descent (evolution #1), although he placed some important limits on the idea, and by the end of his life he grew more skeptical of this claim due to things like the Piltdown Man hoax. At the same time, Lewis clearly rejected unguided natural selection (evolution #2) as sufficient to produce both the human mind and the kinds of exquisite functional complexity we see throughout nature. In fact, he believed that Darwinian accounts of the development of human reason undermined our confidence in reason. Lewis also rejected Darwinism as a social philosophy (evolution #3), especially efforts to promote eugenics (trying to breed a superior race) and efforts to debunk morality as merely the product of survival of the fittest.
Did Lewis think there was any positive connection between Christianity and science?
In his book Miracles Lewis argued that the Judeo-Christian worldview, far from being anti-science, helped inspire modern science. In Lewis’s words: “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” Lewis also discussed in The Discarded Image how the Christian Middle Ages helped give birth to scientific reasoning.
What surprising things will people learn from The Magician’s Twin?
I think people might be surprised at how much Lewis actually said about science in his writings. I also think they may be intrigued to learn about the notes and underlining Lewis did in the science books in his personal library. As far as I know, our book is the first place scholars have reported on those unpublished comments. We also cite some previously unpublished letters by Lewis. Another surprise may be the story of how Lewis came to have serious doubts about unguided Darwinian evolution while still an atheist while recovering from shrapnel wounds during World War One.
Who are the experts featured in the film version of The Magician’s Twin?
We were fortunate to film interviews with several of the contributors to The Magician’s Twin book, including Michael Aeschliman, author of C.S. Lewis and the Restitution of Man; Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea; Jay Richards, co-author of The Privileged Planet; and Jack Collins, author of Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? We also were able to talk with the wonderful Angus Menuge, who is not in the book, but who edited another great collection, C.S. Lewis, Lightbearer in the Shadowlands.
What was the most enjoyable part of The Magician’s Twin documentary to work on?
The segment about evolutionary religion from H.G. Wells to Richard Dawkins was a hoot. We set the visuals to hyped-up gospel music, and I think the sequence makes the point effectively about how some people treat evolution as if it were a religion. I also enjoyed being able to explore past predictions about the future. We were able to find clips from old newsreels purporting to show scientific utopias of the future, including a clip from Disneyland in the 1950s.
What’s up next?
The Magician’s Twin book is out, but only the first part of the documentary is available, which explores Lewis’s views on scientism and society. Right now we are in the midst of editing the next two installments. Part two will focus on Lewis’s view of evolution and be released early in 2013. Part three will explore Lewis’s journey from the “argument from undesign” to intelligent design. All three parts will be available for free at our C.S. Lewis channel on YouTube.
The first teaser trailer for the movie, The Lion Awakes, about the life of C S Lewis, has just been released. We have it here on Hollywood Jesus.
A couple weeks ago, I updated a Narnia News Blog post to let people know that the documentary planned as The C. S. Lewis Story has been renamed as The Lion Awakes. Recently, the screenwriters for the upcoming film did an interview for the “All About Jack” podcast, and today, the NarniaWeb Facebook page posted a link to a YouTube video with clips from the podcast (embedded below).
I am excited about this film, which portends to be perhaps the best documentary film about C S Lewis’ life ever, and plan to bring more updates about it as information becomes available. Keep your eye on HJ’s Narnia News Blog for more.
Here’s a good excuse to dust off the old Narnia blog: Today is C S Lewis’s birthday. (As this is published, it’s now November 29 on the Emerald Isle where he was born.)
Lewis fans have gotten together on Facebook and are celebrating the 113th anniversary of the birth of the author of The Chronicles of Narnia (and a myriad of other fiction and non-fiction works) by posting a Lewis quote to their status. Join in the fun and share some wit and/or wisdom from one of his books.
Don’t have a Facebook account? Celebrate by leaving a quote on your own blog… or right here on Hollywood Jesus. Plenty of space below!
Yesterday’s interview with Douglas Gresham on Middle-earth Radio is now available online. As I reported yesterday, Gresham, the step-son of the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C S Lewis, confirmed the rumor that Walden Media’s option for a fourth Narnia film has expired. Here is a quote from the interview:
If you’re aware Walden’s contract with the [C S Lewis] Company has expired, that’s true. And that leaves us in a situation that, for a variety of reasons, we cannot immediately produce another Narnian Chronicle movie. But it is my hope that the Lord will spare me and keep me fit and healthy enough so that in three or four years time we can start production on the next one.
Doug announced that a full-blown stage production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is being developed, but it is way too early in the development stage to give any details. He also gives some anecdotes about his life with Lewis, the making of the Narnia films, and how he ended up living in Malta. And you won’t want to miss his side of how NarniaFans.com’s Paul Martin ended up proposing to his fiancé on the Dawn Treader set.
I am at present listening to a live interview with Doug Gresham on Middle-earth Radio. Mr. Gresham confirmed the rumor that Walden Media’s option for a fourth Narnia film has expired. For more about what that might mean, see Paul Martin’s article on NarniaFans.com at this link: More information on the Future of Narnia on Film.
Gresham also confirmed that he is in the very early stages of developing a full-blown stage production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
At a later date, I will have more information about the interview, including a link to the promised recording of the conversation when it is available. You may be able to catch the tail end of the live broadcast if you are quick. Here is the link: Middle-earth Radio.
Here is a Press Release from the Middle-earth Network:
Narnia Comes to Middle-earth
Douglas Gresham to be interviewed on Middle-earth Network Radio
09.28.2011– Narnia Comes to Middle-earth
On Saturday, October 15th at 12PM noon/1PM Eastern Time, Middle-earth Network Radio will have the honor of interviewing Douglas Gresham. Gresham is the stepson of the late C.S. ‘Jack’ Lewis, and co-producer of the Narnia movies.
Join us live for the interview and to participate in the Live Event Chat where you can ask questions and interact with Gresham, and the other listeners.
The life of Gresham has been an inspiring journey filled with both tragedy and triumph. He was born in 1945 to Walter Lindsay Gresham, author of the classic Nightmare Alley, and Joy Davidman author of Smoke on the Mountain. They were divorced in 1952 and Davidman moved to England with Douglas and his brother David.
Joy Davidman had been in contact with C.S. Lewis, and the two eventually met and later married in 1956. Lewis adopted both Douglas and his brother, and the novel ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is dedicated to the both of them.
He and his brother suffered a series of tragedies with the loss of their mother Joy to cancer in 1960, the loss of their father in 1962, followed a year later by the death of their stepfather C.S. Lewis in 1963.
Douglas Gresham’s career has spanned farming and ranching, broadcasting, writing, lecturing, and ministry. His autobiography Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis is considered a classic in it’s own right. He is also author of Jack’s Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis, which is a profound insight into the person of Lewis.
As co-producer of the Narnia films he was able to realize a lifelong ambition of bringing his stepfathers books to the big screen.
Gresham has also been involved in Christian mission work. He and his wife Merrie were the founders of Rathvinden Ministries, “a general non-denominational Christian ministry of healing and helping – healing for the hurting and helping for the helpless”, which focused on victims of child abuse.
Join us for the live interview with Douglas Gresham where you will discover an individual with wit, humor, candor, and a deep humility regarding his life and works.
Here is a link so you can listen in: Middle-earth Network Radio.
I learned recently Paul Martin from NarniaFans.com has set up a store where you can buy Narnia-themed T-shirts. The quality shirts come printed with sayings ranging from the subtle to the obvious. There are also sweatshirts available with a lit lamppost.
Here are some samples what are on the shirts:
- Property of Narnia EST. MCML
- I went into the Wardrobe and all I got was this stupid t-shirt!
- Bother Eustace!
- ten thingy [It’s a Dancing Lawn forum thingy.]
Other choices include different NarniaFans logos.
To show your support for the C S Lewis novels and the NarniaFans website, visit the T-shirt Store by clicking this link: Narnia Fans Apparel.
News Corporation, the parent company of Twentieth Century Fox, mentions The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in their quarterly profits report.
The Filmed Entertainment segment of the corporation had a $210 million operating income (after depreciation) for the quarter ending June 30, 2011—up from $137 million in the same quarter of 2010. Part of the difference was attributed to the Dawn Treader film.
The 53%, or $73 million, growth was due to the worldwide theatrical performance of Rio (which has generated over $475 million of worldwide box office receipts to date), the home entertainment performance of Black Swan and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and timing of revenue availability for worldwide pay and free TV catalog product. Fourth quarter results also benefited from increased operating profit at Twentieth Century Fox Television, which was led by the growth of digital distribution revenue from library content and contributions from the Glee concert tour.
To read the full report, click the following link: News Corporation Reports Fourth Quarter Income from Continuing Operations of $982 Million, $0.35 Per Share
This morning, NarniaWeb.com’s “glumPuddle” filed an Op-ed video on the website. There has been a news drought about the Walden Media Narnia series for over a month and a half, and he thought he would speculate about the future of the franchise.The YouTube video is embedded below.
There is already quite a discussion happening at the website; you can join in by clicking the following link: Opinion: Sequel? Prequel? Reboot? What now?
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