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New Book Rescues C.S. Lewis from Attempted Scholarly Kidnapping

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NewMagicianCover_RGBampsm.jpgToday marks the official publication date of the latest title from Discovery Institute Press, The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, edited by Center for Science and Culture associate director John G. West and with a foreword by Phillip E. Johnson.
Why a book that seeks to clarify Lewis’s views on some of the most significant subjects that we deal with here at ENV? One obvious reason is that C.S. Lewis stands out as arguably the most influential Christian theologian of the 20th century, so his writing on science and culture matters. Less obviously, there has been a shocking movement, by some Christians who ought to know better, to adopt Lewis as a spokesman for neo-Darwinism.
In his essay “Darwin in the Dock,” Dr. West writes about one such instance of scholarly malpractice. Writing in 2010 in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, philosopher Michael Peterson was bold in adopting Lewis as a Darwinian mascot:

According to Peterson, Lewis not only embraced “both cosmic and biological evolution as highly confirmed scientific theories,” but he would have rejected out-of-hand arguments offered by modern proponents of intelligent design. In 2011, Peterson’s article on Lewis and evolution was serialized online by the pro-theistic evolution group BioLogos.

If our theistic evolutionary friends at BioLogos republished it, it must be gold in scholarly terms, right? Well, what was Peterson’s evidence?

Peterson quotes Lewis in Mere Christianity as flatly affirming that “Everyone now knows… that man has evolved from lower types of life,” as if Lewis thought no reasonable person could disagree.

That sounds pretty conclusive, but it turns out, as John West notes, that Peterson had done some “creative editing.”

Here is the unedited version of what Lewis actually wrote in Mere Christianity with the words Peterson deleted in bold: “Everyone now knows about Evolution (though, of course, some educated people disbelieve it): everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life.” Reading the sentence in its entirety, one can see that far from asserting that “Evolution” is something that “everyone now knows,” Lewis was merely stating that “everyone now knows about Evolution,” and “everyone has been told” certain things about it. This was a description of popular sentiment, not a statement about whether evolution is true or false. Lest someone misunderstand Lewis as endorsing the idea that no reasonable person can doubt evolution, Lewis added the caveat that “of course, some educated people disbelieve it.”

This is a form of intellectual kidnapping — where a revered authority, or anyway the prestige of his reputation, is stolen by one side in a debate and kept captive against all the dictates of scholarly responsibility and truth-telling.
In The Magician’s Twin, Dr. West and his co-authors seek to redeem the captive. We’ll have more to say on this in days to come. Meanwhile, like we said, as of today you can get your own copy of Magician’s Twin by going here.

Evolution News

Evolution News & Science Today (EN) provides original reporting and analysis about evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues, including breaking news about scientific research. It also covers the impact of science on culture and conflicts over free speech and academic freedom in science. Finally, it fact-checks and critiques media coverage of scientific issues.