Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Two Lewis quotes on evolution

From Lewis's Essay "Is Theology Poetry?" Read to the Oxford Socratic Club in November 1944.

After that it is hardly worth noticing minor difficulties. Yet these are many and serious. The Bergsonian critique of orthodox Darwinism is not easy to answer. More disquieting still is Professor D. M. S. Watson's defence. "Evolution itself," he wrote, "is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or... can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible." Has it come to that? Does the whole vast structure of modern naturalism depend not on positive evidence but simply on an a priori metaphysical prejudice. Was it devised not to get in facts but to keep out God .Even, however, if Evolution in the strict biological sense has some better grounds than Professor Watson suggests--and I can't help thinking it must--we should distinguish Evolution in this strict sense from what may be called the universal evolutionism of modern thought.

In "The Funeral of a Great Myth" Lewis wrote "But I do not think it has really come to that. Most biologists have a more robust belief in Evolution than Professor Watson."

But it is interesting to compare Watson's quote to Lewontin's here:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community of unsubstantiated just-so stories [in evolutionary biology] because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material causes, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who believes in God can believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.

What were Bergson's objections to evolution?


Edward T. Babinski said...

Henri Bergson (1859-1941), coined the concept/phrase of an immaterial force driving all living things, the "elan vital."

The concept of intuition was an on-going investigation for Bergson. He held that intuition is stronger than intellect. He also sought to wed current theories of biological science with those of consciousness, linking his own idea of an intuitive method and the problem of biological evolution as considered by Darwinism. Bergson posited an immaterial force, élan vital, as a creative impulse that better explained the expansive thrust of life than the ideas of Darwin. His ideas may have anticipated theories of relativity and modern theories of the mind. Due to these concepts, his ideas were greatly criticized by the Catholic Church. However, Bergson himself converted to Christianity in 1921.

Bergson won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927 and maintained the status of something of a cult figure in the years between World Wars. He published only one book during the last two decades of his life, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932; trans. 1935), in which he aligned his own philosophy with Christianity. Although not a practicing Jew, Bergson renounced all of the posts and honors previously awarded him, rather than accept the Vichy government's offers to excuse him from the scope of their anti-Semitic laws. He decided to join the persecuted and registered himself at the end of 1940 as a Jew. For his last seventeen years he suffered from crippling arthritis and died of bronchitis on January 3, 1941, at the age of eighty-one.

Victor Reppert said...

Some nice biographical background, Ed. But what were his objections to Darwinism?