Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dabbling in Dirt

Having said that he was a Atheist, I hasten to add that he was a "Rationalist" of the old, high and dry nineteenth-century type. For Atheism has come down in since those days, and mixed itself with politics and learned to dabble in dirt. The anonymous donor who now sends me anti-God magazines hopes, no doubt, to hurt the Christian in me; he really hurts the ex-Atheist. I am ashamed that my old mates and (which matters much more) Kirk's old mates would have sunk to what they are now. It was different then; even McCabe wrote like a man. At the time when I know him, the fuel of Kirk's atheism was chiefly of the anthropological and pessimistic kind. He was great on The Golden Bough and Schopenhauer.

-C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy. 

16 comments:

Crude said...

I've heard John C. Wright make similar complaints.

The Cult of Gnu is a type of atheism, not the whole shebang.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

The Old Atheists were always the best, even in the days of CS Lewis.

I think the principle is 'The only good atheist is a dead atheist.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

LEWIS
It was different then; even McCabe wrote like a man.

I wish I could write like a man. That must be so good.

Sadly, I doubt if I ever will write like a man.

Curse these chromosomes!

PatrickH said...

McCabe died in 1955, so was alive and well in the 'days of CS Lewis'.

As for the New Atheists not writing like men, they don't have your excuse do they? Is Dawkins not a man? He's got the chromosomes, so why then does he write like such an intellectual coward?

Crude said...

But PatrickH, as Dawkins has said - inconsistently, but still, he said it - we have the power to overcome our genes. Thus, despite being a man down to the genetic level, this doesn't mean he can't think, write or act like a coward.

So liberating, his philosophy!

Edward T. Babinski said...

"Writes like a man?" Is that Lewis' highest accolade?

And what's wrong with dabbling in dirt? That's what many branches of science do. (Sorry Lewis, even your metaphors are ify at best.) In fact the very molecules of life are found in dirt. That is to say that a recent analysis of the most essential chemical components found inside MODERN CELLS was shown to resemble chemicals that existed in certain regions of the early earth. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/08/1117774109.short

Lewis has no defeaters of naturalism. He can't even construct a metaphor without employing natural understanding and terms.

For instance, he wrote in MIRACLES, "Our acts of inference are prior to our picture of Nature almost as the telephone is prior to the friend's voice we hear by it." Well, does the telephone function naturally or supernaturally? Lewis' analogy merely gets one to agree that one's voice precedes the travelling of one's voice down a wire, hence he has proven nothing about supernaturalism itself. None of his analogies prove a thing about supernaturalism.

How about Lewis's analogy in the same book concerning the pond with water lilies on its surface? The pond is "Nature" and the lilies are "human reason," and naturalists, according to Lewis, believe that the lilies' stems go down infinitely deep into the water. Ah, but Lewis adds, the supernaturalist knows that the stems are rooted in firm ground (i.e., God). Such an analogy is supposed to illustrate the nature of human Reason rooted in God's.

Of course, I'd like to know what naturalist believes in ponds with no bottom and lilies with stems infinitely long? Lewis is trying to make naturalists look silly? He's making himself look silly.

It is the naturalist who points out that ponds have natural bottoms, and that water lilies utilize natural matter and energy, like minerals and sunlight, to naturally produce more water lilies.

So, a naturalist might conclude that Lewis can't even make a good "supernatural" analogy without demonstrating naturalism at work! First the telephone, then the pond and water lilies.

Papalinton said...

C S Lewis cut his teeth and became famous for his great works of fantasy. It is no doubt he is a brilliant writer and has authored many wonderful tales.

For him, the move from the Chronicles of Narnia segued seamlessly and effortlessly to Mere Christianity.

The stories are after all siblings from the same parent, mythology.

Victor Reppert said...

Ed: Ever use an analogy that didn't work so well?

Probably Lewis is contrasting selectively, in that, within the group of atheists, there has always been people who take higher roads and those who take lower ones.

What Lewis means by dabbling in dirt, I think, are what he calls "anti-God weeklies" where they sought to ridicule Christianity by, I think, showing pornographic pictures of the Holy Spirit having sex with the Virgin Mary, bringing about the conception of Jesus. Or something like that. Of course, atheists today wouldn't stoop to that level. Noooooo.

Victor Reppert said...

Papalinton: You are another one who needs to do his homework. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity before Narnia.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Papalinton: You are another one who needs to do his homework. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity before Narnia."

Does the order make any difference?

Victor Reppert said...

No, except that you display your ignorance by being unaware of it.

I'll take it one step further. If you want to refute someone's arguments, you actually have to refute those arguments. You can't go get some extraneous fact about them and use it to show that they're wrong. In introductory logic, that's called the ad hominem fallacy. You could just as easily say that there has to be something wrong with Arthur Conan Doyle's stories because Sir ACD believed in fairies. There is no good evidence that someone who writes fantasy stories is more likely to hold false beliefs in the area of religion as someone who writes realistic fiction. Fantasy authors recognize what they are writing as fantasy. Shoot Philip Pullman, an atheist, wrote fantasy stories. So what.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"No, except that you display your ignorance by being unaware of it."

I am surprised at the invective and the manner of censure in which you label me 'ignorant'. I now suspect you too run the risk of winning the race to the bottom with fellow commenters Yachov, Crude,and cl, et al in snide ad hominems.

You know full well that the dates of the works are not as you portray them. In my comment about whether the date order of the Chronicles and Mere Christianity was of any significance I did not necessarily wish to further the issue other than pose a rhetorical question. However your response is both wrong, egregious and another little fib for the sake of jesus.

The Chronicles series were written between 1949 and 1954. Concurrently, Mere Christianity, a book adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941-1944, was written by Lewis and published in 1952. [Originally published: London: Geoffrey Bles, 1952]

I stand by the truth of my earlier statement, "For him [C S Lewis], the move from the Chronicles of Narnia segued seamlessly and effortlessly to Mere Christianity."

The dates concur. Dabbling in dirt, indeed.

Victor Reppert said...

The main substance of Mere Christianity was written first, even if it was published while the Chronicles were being written.

But my main concern is the point that the writing of fantasy fiction, as opposed to, say, detective novels or historical fiction, makes one more likely to have false religious beliefs. In Mere Christianity, Lewis is writing what he believes to be true, and he attempts to provide reasons why he believes it. In the Chronicles, he is writing what he believes not to be true, and where he expects his readers also not to believe that what he is written is true. These are two different enterprises. If, in fact, he defends what turn out to be false beliefs in Mere Christianity, it is still unhelpful to say that he is a fantasy writer, so his arguments can't be taken seriously. Why is this evidence of anything other than your own anti-religious biases?

Crude said...

I am surprised at the invective and the manner of censure in which you label me 'ignorant'.

You may want to ask yourself, "If everyone from Bob Prokop (who previously tried to defend and give the benefit of the doubt) to cl to even Victor - the politest guy on the internet - calls Linton ignorant, there may be something to it. Especially considering Linton's fellow atheists generally prefer to pretend he doesn't exist and not comment on him either way."

But that would require some self-awareness which you utterly lack, you sorry old hack. ;)

Victor's got you dead to rights.

PatrickH said...

Phillip Pullman cut his teeth and became famous for his great works of fantasy. It is no doubt he is a brilliant writer and has authored many wonderful tales.

For him, the move from His Dark Materials segued seamlessly and effortlessly to The Good Man Jesus...

Papalinton said...

PatrickH
"For him, the move from His Dark Materials segued seamlessly and effortlessly to The Good Man Jesus..."

It sure did. Fantastic isn't it. But funnily enough catholic dogmatrons took umbrage:

"The His Dark Materials books have been criticised by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and Focus on the Family. Peter Hitchens has argued that Pullman actively pursues an anti-Christian agenda. In support of this contention, he cites an interview in which Pullman is quoted as saying: "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." In the same interview, Pullman also acknowledges that a controversy would be likely to boost sales. "But I'm not in the business of offending people. I find the books upholding certain values that I think are important, such as life is immensely valuable and this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place. We should do what we can to increase the amount of wisdom in the world". [Wiki]

Now ain't that the truth.