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John West: C. S. Lewis and the Prophet in the White Lab Coat Who Declares, “Thus Saith the SCIENCE”

Photo: C. S. Lewis, via Asar Studios/Alamy (Photo by © Norman Parkinson Archive/Iconic Images/Getty Images).

Science needs its critics as much as any field of human endeavor does. Maybe even more so today, since there is a widespread feeling, hardly upset by our experience with the public health tyranny imposed in the context of Covid, that “the Science” is beyond question. 

John West edited the book The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society and he talked recently with podcaster Joseph Weigel about the model of science criticism that Lewis provides. It’s a theme that threads through many of Lewis’s writings — including That Hideous Strength (a great novel, and Dr. West’s favorite, he says, though the choice is a tough one), the third chapter of The Abolition of Man, and elsewhere. 

Lewis’s Prescience on “Technocracy”

For a shorter read, West recommends Lewis’s essay “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.” He has pointed out the eerie prescience of this passage by Lewis:

We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness, and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relieve it, in the other. In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves, in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers — a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians — a Church that can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfold, if only they will! Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again. We cannot blame men for making it. We can hardly wish them not to. Yet we can hardly bear that they should.

That was in 1958, when it was already evident that many in the West were all too willing to obey the prophet in the white lab coat who declares, “Thus saith the SCIENCE.” The abuses committed under the resulting “scientocracy” are the theme of West’s very interesting conversation with Weigel. Listen to it here

Dig Deeper

For more on Lewis and his warnings about science abuse, watch these three short videos: