C.S. Lewis on Intelligent Design

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At the same time, Lewis upheld methodological naturalism, the view that the methods of science can only arrive at naturalistic explanations.  He wrote,

Science works by experiments.  It watches how things behave.  Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so and-so,’ […] Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is [….] But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes-something of a different kind-this is not a scientific question.  (Mere 22)

Most scientists I know do recognize the limits of scientific inquiry.  Some, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, however, claim that science disproves the existence of God.  This is an error of logic.  As we shall see, the intelligent design community commits the same error, though in an opposite sense, by claiming that science proves the existence of God.

In sum, C. S. Lewis, every ounce a Christian, believed that science is limited to naturalistic explanations.  This limitation is not a defect; rather, it is a robust means of avoiding un-testable explanations such as, “Jane is short because a witch cast a spell on her.”  Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of witches.  Neither can it prove or disprove the existence of a Creator God.  The explanations of science are of a different sort from those of faith and are therefore not inherently contradictory.  Therefore, since science is complementary to faith, and science affirms the reality of human evolution, why do so many Christians deny it?

Biblical inerrancy: there’s the rub

Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations hold that Adam and Eve could have been physically descended from earlier life forms, but that God imparted to them a unique, rational soul.  This is a view known as theistic evolution.  Christian fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals, in contrast, consider the special creation of Adam and Eve to be a core doctrine.  Whether they believe the days of creation in the first chapter of Genesis should be interpreted literally or otherwise, they maintain that Adam and Eve were two real individuals whom God made physically distinct from the animals.

A 2007 public opinion poll revealed that 48% of the American public believes God created the world and human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years (Berkman 2008).  In contrast to these so-called “young earth creationists,” most intelligent design theorists believe in an old earth.  All intelligent design theorists, however, seem to reject the modern theory of evolution.  This is, understandably, why conservative Christians who believe that the special creation of Adam and Eve was physical as well as spiritual have rallied behind the intelligent design movement.  The chief concern of conservative Christians is that any departure from the traditional view of creation might undermine their commitment to biblical inerrancy.  This begs the question, though, of whether it is not possible to accept the evolutionary principle of universal common descent and simultaneously to believe the Bible is inerrant.

Inerrancy and myth in Scripture

In Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis wrote, “I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were pagan and mythical”  (Reflections 110).  This statement seems unorthodox.  But to understand Lewis’s meaning, we must remember that he was a scholar in medieval literature and mythology.  In popular usage, a myth is a commonly-held belief that is not, in fact, true.  In the field of literature, however, as Lewis himself notes numerous times, a myth is a traditional story, usually involving gods or heroes, which explains some aspect of a people group’s worldview or religious belief.  The term “myth,” as used in this paper, is consistent with the latter definition.  A myth is thus an explanatory story; the word in and of itself does not convey truth or non-truth.

Most Christians today are suspicious of looking for truth in a pagan myth.  Louis Markus explains, “[o]n the one hand, we fear that our doctrines will become diluted with pagan elements […] On the other hand, we are suspicious of any language that resembles pantheism” (Markus 2001).  In his 1944 essay “Myth Became Fact,” Lewis wrote, “[t]he heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact [….] By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth:  that is the miracle.”  For Lewis, Christianity was the one true myth.