Excerpts of The Magician’s Twin Book Now Available Online

In celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death and the installation of a memorial to Lewis in the famous Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, Discovery Institute Press is making available free excerpts from several chapters of the book The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society edited by John G. West. Enjoy!

The Magician’s Twin Three-Part Documentary Series

The Magician’s Twin is both a book and a three-part documentary series that explores C.S. Lewis’s views on science, scientism, and society, including such controversial issues as bioengineering, evolution, and intelligent design. You can find out more about the book here. You can watch the three-part documentary series as the installments become available on YouTube using the embedded videos below.

  • Part one of the documentary series,  C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, explores Lewis’s prophetic concerns about the misuse of science to “abolish” man and to undermine personal freedoms and human dignity.
  • Part two of the documentary series, C.S. Lewis and Evolution, examines Lewis’s growing doubts about parts of Darwinian evolution, beginning with his views while still an atheist.
  • Part three of the documentary series, C. S. Lewis and Intelligent Design, will explore Lewis’s personal struggle to find evidence of intelligent design in a world filled with cruelty, imperfection, and injustice. This video will premiere on YouTube on November 19, 2013.

C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design: A New Documentary

Throughout his life, C.S. Lewis struggled with what he called the “argument from undesign,” the reality that nature exhibits cruelty and imperfection as well as purpose and beauty.  A new 17-minute documentary tells about Lewis’s fascinating personal journey to find evidence of intelligent design in nature despite natural evil. The video is premiering on YouTube and the NRB cable and satellite network in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death on November 22, 2013. The documentary features interviews with John West, editor of The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society; Angus Menuge, editor of C.S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands. Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea; and the late Antony Flew, one of the world’s leading atheists who later came to believe in God before his death.  You can watch the documentary on YouTube starting on Tuesday, November 19.

Premiere of New Documentary on C.S. Lewis and Evolution

What were C.S. Lewis’s views about the provocative topic of Darwinian evolution? Find out in a new short documentary premiering on the C.S. Lewis Web YouTube Channel. The documentary is the second of three videos to be inspired by the recent book The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.

YouTube Premiere of Magician’s Twin Documentary

  • Does science disprove God?
  • Can science solve all of our social problems?
  • Should scientists try to evolve a superior race?
  • How much surveillance of ordinary people by new technologies is acceptable?

More than a half century ago, C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In the provocative new half-hour documentary The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, leading Lewis scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis’s concerns are increasingly relevant for us today.

The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism received its television premiere on the NRB Network. The film now can be viewed for free on YouTube.

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Newly Discovered Notes Reveal C.S. Lewis’s Early Doubts about Darwin

Famed Christian writer C.S. Lewis has often been regarded as either uninterested in the modern evolution debate or generally supportive of evolutionary theory. But newly discovered notes written by Lewis challenge those views, revealing Lewis’s intense interest in the topic of evolution as well as his early skepticism of Darwin.

The unpublished material is described and quoted from for the first time in the new book The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, out this month at Amazon.com and other booksellers.

“C.S. Lewis’s personal library contained more than three dozen books and pamphlets on scientific topics, many of them focused on evolution,” said Dr. John West, editor of The Magician’s Twin. “Several of the books on evolution contained annotations and underlining by Lewis, including Lewis’s personal copy of Charles Darwin’s Autobiography.”

“One of Lewis’s most heavily annotated books was a nearly 400-page book critiquing the creative power of Darwinian natural selection that Lewis first read as a 19-year-old soldier during World War I,” explained West. “Lewis wrote careful notes on most pages of that book, and he later stated that the book’s ‘critique of orthodox Darwinism is not easy to answer.’ Just a few years later, Lewis wrote a letter to his father saying that the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were built ‘on a foundation of sand.’ Lewis was still an atheist when he expressed these early doubts about Darwin.”

Near the end of his life, meanwhile, Lewis marked up with critical comments his copy of The Phenomenon of Man by prominent theistic evolutionist Teilhard de Chardin.

The Magician’s Twin explores C.S. Lewis’s far-ranging views on science and society, not just evolution, and it features chapters by a number of leading scholars, including Michael Aeschliman, author of C.S. Lewis and the Restitution of Man; Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward Larson; and New York Times-bestselling author Jay Richards. The editor of the book, John West, previously co-edited the award-winning C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia and directs the C.S. Lewis Fellows Program on Science and Society at Discovery Institute.

More information, including the download of a free chapter on “C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design,” is available at the website for The Magician’s Twin.

The Magician’s Twin: New Book and Film on Lewis and Scientism

The fall of 2012 will see the release of The Magician’s Twin, a new book and film exploring C.S. Lewis’s views about science, scientism, and society. The book comes out in late September, while the film will premiere in Seattle on August 11, San Diego on Sept. 15, and St. Louis on Oct. 13, followed by an online release on YouTube in November.

Edited by Dr. John West (who previously co-edited The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia), The Magician’s Twin book will explore Lewis’s warnings about the dehumanizing impact of scientism on ethics, politics, faith, reason, and science itself. Issues explored include Lewis’s views on bioethics, eugenics, evolution, intelligent design, and what he called “scientocracy.” Contributors to the volume include 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 New York Times bestseller Indivisible; and C. John Collins, author of Science and Faith: Friends or Foes.

For more information, check out the book’s webpage.

Introduction to The Magician’s Twin

Narnia. Screwtape. Mere Christianity. With more than 200 million copies of his books reportedly sold, C.S. Lewis is known and beloved by readers around the globe for his children’s stories, his works of theology, and his winsome (and witty) defenses of orthodox Christianity.[i]

One thing Lewis is not particularly well known for is his views on science.

Yet he ultimately wrote nine books, nearly 30 essays, and several poems that explored science and its cultural impact, including The Discarded Image, his last book, which critically examined the nature of scientific revolutions, especially the Darwinian revolution in biology.[ii] Lewis’s personal library, meanwhile, contained more than three dozen books and pamphlets on scientific subjects, many of them dealing with the topic of evolution. Several of these books were marked up with underlining and annotations, including Lewis’s copy of Charles Darwin’s Autobiography.[iii]

Throughout his life, Lewis displayed a healthy skepticism of claims made in the name of science. He expressed this skepticism even before he was a Christian. For example, while still an unbelieving undergraduate in 1922, he recorded in his diary a discussion with friends where they expressed their doubts about Freud.[iv] In 1925, he wrote his father about his gratitude toward philosophy for showing him “that the scientist and the materialist have not the last word.”[v] The next year he published his narrative poem Dymer, which offered a nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state that served “scientific food” and “[c]hose for eugenic reasons who should mate.”[vi]

In 1932, just a few months after becoming a Christian, Lewis wrote to his brother about the efforts of the Rationalist Press Association to publish cheap editions of scientific works they thought debunked religion. Lewis said their efforts reminded him of the remark of another writer “that a priest is a man who disseminates little lies in defence of a great truth, and a scientist is a man who disseminates little truths in defence of a great lie.”[vii]

By the 1940s and 50s, Lewis became more vocal about the looming dangers of what he called “scientocracy,” the effort to hand over the reigns of cultural and political power to an elite group of experts claiming to speak in the name of science.[viii] Lewis regarded this proposal as fundamentally subversive of a free society, and he worried about the creation of a new oligarchy that would “increasingly rely on the advice of scientists till in the end the politicians proper become merely the scientists’ puppets.”[ix]

Lewis took pains to emphasize that he was not “anti-science.”[x] But he unequivocally opposed scientism, the wrong-headed belief that modern science supplies the only reliable method of knowledge about the world, and its corollary that scientists have the right to dictate a society’s morals, religious beliefs, and even government policies merely because of their scientific expertise.

Because Lewis died nearly five decades ago, we might be tempted to think that he inhabited a vastly different world than we do when it comes to the relationship between science and culture. But in key respects, Lewis’s world was very much like our own. Then, as now, certain prominent intellectuals claimed that science provides a view of the universe that refutes the traditional religious view. Then, as now, certain pundits claimed that you were “anti-science” merely for being skeptical of certain claims made in the name of science. And then, as now, some spokespersons for the scientific establishment insisted that public policy should be guided—even dictated—by an elite class of “scientific” experts.

As the essays in this book show, Lewis has important things to tell us about the limits of science, the need for dissent in science, and the dangers of trying to govern in the name of science. Along the way, Lewis offers penetrating insights into many hot-button issues of our time, including evolution, intelligent design, bioengineering, moral relativism, and even the role of government.

Consider this book an invitation to think more deeply about the growing power of science in the public square by drawing on the timeless wisdom of C.S. Lewis. After you have read the book, I encourage you to avail yourself of the additional articles, companion videos, and other resources at the website www.cslewisweb.com, including a new documentary film about Lewis and scientism inspired by this book.

This article is reprinted from the Introduction to The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society (Discovery Institute Press, 2012).

[i] “Wheaton College to Screen C.S. Lewis Documentary,” The Daily Herald, October 20, 2001, accessed June 5, 2012, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-79384514.html.

[ii] Books by Lewis that have a major focus on science and its relationship to culture include: The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933); Out of the Silent Planet (1938); Perelandra (1943); That Hideous Strength (1945); The Problem of Pain (1940); The Abolition of Man (1944); Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1947); The Magician’s Nephew (1955); The Discarded Image (1964). Essays by Lewis with a major focus on science include: “De Futilitate” (1940s), “Funeral of a Great Myth” (probably 1940s); “Bulverism” (original version published in 1941; expanded version in 1944); “Miracles” (1942); “Dogma and the Universe” (1943); “Horrid Red Things” (1944); “Religion and Science” (1945); “Is Theology Poetry?” (1945); “The Laws of Nature” (1945); “Christian Apologetics” (1945); “Two Lectures” (1945); “Man or Rabbit?” (circa 1946); “Religion without Dogma?” (1946); “A Reply to Professor Haldane” (circa 1946); “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought” (1946); “Vivisection” (1947); “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948); “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” (1949); “The Empty Universe” (1952); “The World’s Last Night” (1952); “On Punishment: A Reply to Criticism” (1954); “On Obstinacy in Belief” (1955); “De Descriptione Temporum” (1955); “On Science Fiction” (1955); “Religion and Rocketry” (1958); “Behind the Scenes” (1956); “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State” (1958); “The Seeing Eye” (1963). Poems broaching scientific themes include “The Adam Unparadised,” “Evolutionary Hymn,” “Prelude to Space,” “Science Fiction Cradlesong,” “An Expostulation,” and “On the Atomic Bomb.” Most of Lewis’s essays are reprinted God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970); Christian Reflections, edited by Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967); Present Concerns, edited by Walter Hooper (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986); and Selected Literary Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955). His poetry can be found in Poems, edited by Walter Hooper (San Diego: 1964) and Narrative Poems, edited by Walter Hooper (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1994).

[iii] These books are presently held at the Wade Center, Wheaton College. For a listing of the surviving books from Lewis’s personal library, consult the description in “C.S. Lewis Library” (Wade Center, 2010), accessed May 18, 2012, http://www.wheaton.edu/wadecenter/Collections-and-Services/Collection%20Listings/~/media/Files/Centers-and-Institutes/Wade-Center/RR-Docs/Non-archive%20Listings/Lewis_Public_shelf.pdf.

[iv] “We talked a little of psychoanalysis, condemning Freud.” Entry for May 26, 1922, in C.S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis, 1922-1927, edited by Walter Hooper (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991), 41.

[v] C.S. Lewis to his Father, Aug. 14, 1925 in C.S. Lewis: Collected Letters, edited by Walter Hooper (London: HarperCollins, 2000), vol. I, 649.

[vi] C.S. Lewis, “Dymer”(1926), Narrative Poems, 7, 20.

[vii] C.S. Lewis to Warren Lewis, April 8, 1932, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), vol., II, 75.

[viii] C.S. Lewis to Dan Tucker, Dec. 8, 1959, in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), vol. III, 1104.

[ix] C.S. Lewis, “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State,” God in the Dock, 314.

[x] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 86.