Thomas Woodward writes to say,
Lewis’s views on evolution changed over time. He did not express in his young adulthood any doubts about common ancestry, but he is known to have had a general skepticism as early as his atheist years in the 1920s, about the power of natural selection to create higher and higher life forms (again, see West on some cutting edge research on that). His doubts about Darwinism began to increase under the influence of an anti-evolution activist in the UK, Bernard Acworth, who founded the Evolution Protest Movement, and whose letters convinced Lewis, by the early 1950s, that the science supporting macroevolution by Darwinian means was completely unconvincing, and he described evolution as the “central and radical lie” that undergirds the modernist web of falsehood. Here is the key portion of what Lewis wrote to Acworth:
September 13, 1951: I have read nearly the whole of Evolution [probably Acworth’s unpublished “The Lie of Evolution”] and am glad you sent it. I must confess it has shaken me: not in my belief in evolution, which was of the vaguest and most intermittent kind, but in my belief that the question was wholly unimportant. I wish I were younger. What inclines me now to think that you may be right in regarding it as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders. The section on Anthropology was especially good. … The point that the whole economy of nature demands simultaneity of at least a v. great many species is a v. sticky one. Thanks: and blessings
These ten letters written by Lewis to Acworth were donated in 2012 by the Acworth family to Queen’s U. in Belfast (where Lewis’s mother got her degree in mathematics), and the fanfare was captured in many publications, including this BBC story.
So, when I teach our course, “C.S. Lewis, Apostle to the Skeptic,” I explain that his skepticism of the Darwinian MECHANISM was robust, even from his atheist days (when reading Bergson on evolution), but that doubt ballooned by the early 1950s to full-fledged doubt of the entire macro-scenario, under the influence of Acworth.
Well, that would seem clear enough. The donation of the letters to the Queen’s U library attracted attention to it
But just wait till a career academic gets a grant to cast doubt on the obvious interpretation, and win Lewis back for Darwin.
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