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At Evolution News and Science Today: Why C. S. Lewis doubted the creative power of natural selection

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A new biopic, The Most Reluctant Convert, is coming out November 3 on the great 20th-century Christian apologist C.S. Lewis (1898–1963) and John West offers a look at Lewis’s doubts about Darwinism. Lewis is often portayed as “accepting evolution.” But in these matters, read the fine print:

Lewis did affirm that “with Darwinianism as a theorem in Biology I do not think a Christian need have any quarrel.” But for Lewis “Darwinianism as a theorem in Biology” was a pretty modest affair. Contradicting leading evolutionists, Lewis thought the “purely biological theorem… makes no cosmic statements, no metaphysical statements, no eschatological statements.”

Nor can Darwinism as a scientific theory explain many of the most important aspects of biology itself: “It does not in itself explain the origin of organic life, nor of the variations, nor does it discuss the origin and validity of reason.”

So what can the Darwinian mechanism explain according to Lewis?

“Granted that we now have minds we can trust, granted that organic life came to exist, it tries to explain, say, how a species that once had wings came to lose them. It explains this by the negative effect of environment operating on small variations.” In other words, according to Lewis, Darwin’s theory explains how a species can change over time by losing functional features it already has.

Suffice to say, this is not the key thing the modern biological theory of evolution purports to explain.

Noticeably absent from Lewis’s description is any confidence that Darwin’s unguided mechanism can account for the formation of fundamentally new forms and features in biology. Natural selection can knock out a wing, but can it build a wing in the first place? Lewis didn’t seem to think so.

A further indication of just how skeptical Lewis was about the creative power of natural selection appears in a talk he delivered to the Oxford University Socratic Society in 1944. There Lewis stated that “the Bergsonian critique of orthodox Darwinism is not easy to answer.” Lewis was referring to Henri Bergson (1859-1941), a French natural philosopher and Nobel laureate who offered a decidedly non-Darwinian account of evolution in his book L’Evolution Creatice (Creative Evolution).

John G. West, “Why C. S. Lewis Doubted the Creative Power of Natural Selection” at Evolution News and Science Today (October 25, 2021)

It goes on and gets better. Any sort of evolution Lewis believed in would be banned in U.S. schools. Not mindless or materialist enough.

19 Replies to “At Evolution News and Science Today: Why C. S. Lewis doubted the creative power of natural selection

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note:

    Letters that clarify C.S. Lewis’s dismissal of evolution (“central and radical lie”) donated to Belfast U – August 31, 2014
    Excerpt: 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
    (CS Lewis)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....belfast-u/

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    Lewis got his biology degree where again? And, of course, this is not a rejection of evolution, he just doesn’t like pushy Darwinists. Kind of the pot calling the kettle black….

  3. 3
    jerry says:

    Lewis got his biology degree where again?

    Yet, Lewis is more accurate about the Evolution debate than a trained biologist like ChuckDarwin.

    It doesn’t take a biology degree to think clearly. In fact it looks like a biology degree is an impediment to thinking clearly.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    zweston says:

    CD…. What is your best evidence for macroevolution? Have you ever doubted macroevolution and approached it critically to try to disprove it?

    Just think a minute in a zoomed out way… What was first, male or female? Which organ system evolved first? How in the world do nutrients in a tree get pumped up against gravity to the top? How did that evolve? How in the world did a digital code create itself…. none of these questions can be answered without complete story-telling… so I’m not sure the need for a degree in the field.

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    What is your best evidence for macroevolution?

    Chuchdarwin is not going to answer this. It’s not in his wheelhouse.

  7. 7
    JVL says:

    Zweston: CD…. What is your best evidence for macroevolution? Have you ever doubted macroevolution and approached it critically to try to disprove it?

    I can’t answer for CD but I spend time having conversations here to challenge my views.

    What was first, male or female?

    Neither.

    Which organ system evolved first?

    Probably no ones knows but it kind of depends on what you call an organ system. Circulatory? Nervous? Skeletal? Skin?

    How in the world do nutrients in a tree get pumped up against gravity to the top?

    Partly capillary action but, I THINK, large trees do have systems which ‘pump’ up against gravity. I’ll try and check. You could check yourself you know?

    How did that evolve?

    Capillary action is just physics.

    How in the world did a digital code create itself

    Possibly through chemical affinities in the case of DNA. There is a lot of interest and research dealing with this.

  8. 8
    chuckdarwin says:

    #5 Zweston
    Trees get their water and nutrients by transpiration, not by story telling. That is first year botany. https://www.pnas.org/content/101/50/17555
    Skin was the first organ to evolve.
    I think your question about male-female appearance would be better answered by your rabbi or priest.
    What does digital code have to do with evolution? That sounds like something you’d find in an ID book by Meyers and company…..

    PS: I didn’t see JVL’s post when I did this, in any event, his answers are correct. I think it is pretty established that skin is the first developed organ.
    I’ll address “macroevolution” in a follow up post.

  9. 9
    chuckdarwin says:

    Let me quickly address “macroevolution”.
    “Macroevolution” and “microevolution” were coined by a Russian entomologist, Yuri Filipchenko. in the 1920s. Neither term is used with any frequency in the biological community because natural selection is observed both in intraspecific and interspecific variation. Filipchenko was an odd duck, while he generally rejected both Darwin and Lamarck, he did accept evolution. He was also heavily involved in Soviet eugenics having formed a quasi-governmental agency dedicated to Soviet eugenics.
    Use of the term “macroevolution” has become vogue in the ID community which claims that natural selection cannot result in speciation. I’ve linked to two articles that both describe the relationship between natural selection and speciation and give an example. https://www.pnas.org/content/106/Supplement_1/9939 and https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/speciation-the-origin-of-new-species-26230527/

  10. 10
    Blastus says:

    Better a great mind, combined with a finely tuned bovine excrement detector, than an ordained high priest of biology.

  11. 11
    Blastus says:

    Zweston asks good questions. Rudyard Kipling published “Just so Stories for Little Children” in 1902. The Kipling stories are at least entertaining (and are perhaps as accurate as Darwinian evolution). But JVL and Chuck neither inform nor entertain in their responses.

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    Neither term is used with any frequency in the biological community

    A current book that addresses macro evolution but in actuality doesn’t is

    Understanding Evolution by Kostas Kampourakis University of Geneva”

    A chapter heading is “ Speciation, Extinction, and Macroevolution”. But in actuality nothing is said other than it happens. No actual examples other than speculation and deep time.

  13. 13
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin,

    Trees get their water and nutrients by transpiration, not by story telling. That is first year botany.

    The last I heard, transpiration is how plants lose water from their leaves. Better retake your first-year botany. LOL

    -Q

  14. 14
    chuckdarwin says:

    #13 Querius

    From the Biology Dictionary:

    Transpiration is used to describe the specific action of water evaporating from a plant, but the word transpiration is also used to generally describe how water moves through plants. When water enters the plant through the roots, it is pulled up through the xylem tissue in the stem of the plant to the plant’s leaves by capillary action and the cohesion of water molecules. When water reaches the stomata, which are small holes in the leaves, it evaporates due to diffusion; the moisture content of the air is lower than the moisture in the leaf, so water naturally flows out into the surrounding air in order to equalize the concentrations. (my emphasis)

  15. 15
    zweston says:

    @CD & JVL…

    So you think transpiration and photosynthesis evolved? “it’s just physics” Where did physics come from?

    I didn’t ask which was the first organ to evolve… which one of the ones listed was first? They can’t exist without each other!

    As far as digital code and evolution… your main vehicle for the variety of life is mutations from the transference of a 4 character code. Do you think dna evolved to repair itself as its transmitted?

    How did we get sexual reproduction… we went from asexual to having male and female… how did that happen? What was the process? How long did it take? Why would natural selection have done that?

    The reason I said macroevolution is that we can differentiate between the type that everyone here will affirm (adaptation) and the type that we will not, which is macroevolution. We can play word games, but this is another detractor….

    What is a species? Science doesn’t even have a universal definition…. and what we are arguing is that Random Mutation via natural selection cannot account for complex body plans… it is insufficient to bring molecules to man. Natural selection explains the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest.

    It doesn’t matter who I quote if the information is correct…right? ID is wrong because Stephen Meyer likes it… silly.

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin @14,
    What a strange definition of transpiration. Here’s a better one for you:

    Transpiration in plants occurs only by three special structures. Depending upon the means by which transpiration is taking place it is divided into three types.

    Stomatal Transpiration
    Stomatal transpiration is one form of foliar transpiration. When transpiration takes place through leaves, it is foliar transpiration. Plants leaves have microscopic openings on the epidermis which are meant for gaseous exchange and transpiration. These openings are stomata. In Stomatal transpiration, water in the surface of the leaves is evaporated into the atmosphere when the stomatal opening opens. The stomatal opening opens when light falls on it. Stomatal transpiration accounts for 85%- 90% of the total water loss in plants.

    Cuticular Transpiration
    As the name suggests the type of transpiration that takes place through cuticles is cuticular transpiration. This is also a kind of foliar transpiration. Cuticles are waxy covering on the epidermis of the leaves. The cuticular layer is impermeable to water and permeable to water vapor. Hence, water in the form of vapor is lost through this layer. Cuticular transpiration occurs in plants with a thick cuticle layer and a lesser number of stomata. It also occurs in plants when the stomatal opening does not open under certain conditions. Cuticular transpiration accounts for around 5%- 10% of the total water loss.

    Lenticular Transpiration
    Lenticular transpiration refers to water loss in the form of vapors through the lenticels of the plant. Lenticels are a porous tissue found on the barks of woody stems and roots of dicots. The pores in the tissue act as a pathway for gaseous exchange and transpiration. Water loss by lenticular transpiration is very less.

    The loss of water through transpiration is replaced by means of the xylem by capillary action involving molecular cohesion and adhesion.

    -Q

  17. 17
    Querius says:

    (Crickets from Chuckdarwin)

  18. 18
    Origenes says:

    Blastus @10

    Better a great mind, combined with a finely tuned bovine excrement detector, than an ordained high priest of biology.

    Hear! Hear!

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    Origenes @10,
    And haha! I think I’ll start wearing a BE dosimeter ™ on my shirt. The LEDs in it change from Green to Yellow to Red and then flashing burnt umber . . .

    A great stocking-stuffer by the way. LOL

    -Q

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