Quotes by C.S. Lewis

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Morality, Science, Theology
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Here are some enlightening comments by famed Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis on modern science – the view currently lauded by the postmodern pseudo-science pundits of today. There are also quotes on morality and other subjects.

On evolution:

While it may be true that Lewis believed in Darwin’s theory when younger he did not when older.

‘I wish I were younger.  What inclines me now to think you may be right in regarding it [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders.’  Lewis, C.S., Private letter (1951) to Captain Bernard Acworth

On Science:

“Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared – the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age.”
M. D. Aeschliman C. S. Lewis on Mere Science  1998 First Things 86 (October, 1998): 16-18.

“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too.  If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms.  And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s.  but if their thoughts -i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true?  I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents.  It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”
-God in the Dock (p52-53  Answers to Questions on Christianity)

“Long before I believed Theology to be true I had already decided that the popular scientific picture at any rate was false. One absolutely central inconsistency ruins it; it is the one we touched on a fortnight ago. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought-laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory, in other words, unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based. The difficulty is to me a fatal one; and the fact that when you put it to many scientists, far from having an answer, they seem not even to understand what the difficulty is, assures me that I have not found a mare’s nest but detected a radical disease in their whole mode of thought from the very beginning. The man who has once understood the situation is compelled henceforth to regard the scientific cosmology as being, in principle, a myth; though no doubt a great many true particulars have been worked into it.” (p.162)
- They Asked for a Paper. Geoffrey Bles  London  1962  211 p.

“No doubt those who really founded modern science were usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power.”
–The Abolition of Man

“You will read in some books that the men of the Middle Ages thought the Earth flat and the stars near, but that is a lie. Ptolemy had told them that the Earth was a mathematical point without size in relation to the distance of the fixed stars — a distance which one  medieval popular text estimates as a hundred and seventeen million miles.”

“Let’s pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.”

“The laws of physics, I understand, decree that when one billiards ball (A) sets another billiards ball (B) in motion, the momentum lost by A exactly equals the momentum gained by B. This is a Law. That is, this is the pattern to which the movement of the two billiards balls must conform. Provided, of course that something sets ball A in motion. And here comes the snag. The law won’t set it in motion. It is usually a man with a cue who does that. But a man with a cue would send us back to free-will, so let us assume that it was lying on a table in a liner and that what set it in motion was a lurch of the ship. In that case it was not the law which produced the movement; it was a wave. And that wave, though it certainly moved according to the laws of physics, was not moved by them. It was shoved by other waves, and by winds, and so forth. And however far you traced the story back you would never find the laws of Nature causing anything.

The dazzlingly obvious conclusion now arose, in my mind: in the whole history of the universe the laws of Nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. But how do you get it to do that? How do you get a move on? The laws of Nature can give you no help there. All events obey them, just as all operations with money obey the laws of arithmetic. Up till now I had had a vague idea that the laws of Nature could make things happen. I now saw that this was exactly like thinking that you could increase your income by doing sums about it. The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere.

This may be put in the form that the laws of Nature explain everything except the source of events. But this is rather a formidable exception. The laws, in one sense, cover the whole of reality except–well, except that continuous cataract of real events which makes up the actual universe. They explain everything except what we should ordinarily call ‘everything’. The only thing they omit is — the whole universe.”
- God in the Dock

On morality:

“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others. Or put it this way. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something—some Real Morality—for them to be true about.”
- Mere Christianity

“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”
–The Case for Christianity

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering  which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that  you have excluded life itself.” -The Problem of Pain

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.  Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.” -The Abolition of Man

“If naturalism were true then all thoughts  whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes… it cuts its own throat.” -A Christian Reply to Professor Price

“All men alike stand condemned, not by alien  codes of ethics, but by their own, and all  men therefore are conscious of guilt.” -The Problem of Pain

“[One] can regard the moral law as an illusion,  and so cut himself off from the common ground of humanity.” -The Problem of Pain

“The human mind has no more power of inventing  a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a  new primary colour in the spectrum…” -Christian Reflections

“The very idea of freedom presupposes  some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike… Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in  objective values, we perish.” -Christian Reflections

“Atheism turns out to be too simple.  If the whole universe has no meaning,  we should never have found out that it has no meaning…” -Mere Christianity

“Whenever you find a man who says he doesn’t believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.”
–The Case for Christianity

“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process”
–The Abolition of Man

“It is mere nonsense to put pain among the discoveries of science. Lay down this book and reflect for five minutes on the fact that all the great religions were first preached, and long practised, in a world without chloroform.”

“Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask.”
–The Problem of Pain

And, once again, attempts to resolve the moral experience into something else always presuppose the very thing they are trying to explain —as when a famous psychoanalyst deduces it from prehistoric parricide. If the parricide produced a sense of guilt, that was because men felt that they ought not to have committed it: if they did not so feel, it could produce no sense of guilt. Morality, like numinous awe, is a jump; in it, man goes beyond anything that can be ‘given’ in the facts of experience. And it has one characteristic too remarkable to be ignored. The moralities accepted among men may differ —though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed —but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practise. All men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of  ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt.”

“The second element in religion is the consciousness not merely of a moral law, but of a moral law at once approved and disobeyed. This consciousness is neither a logical, nor an illogical, inference from the facts of experience; if we did not bring it to our experience we could not find it there. It is either inexplicable illusion, or else revelation.”

“If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you will find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction, it’s not so bad.”

“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional…values  have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the  debunking process.” -The Abolition of Man

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,  but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -The Problem of Pain

On Christianity:

“Christianity is not the conclusion of a philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event following on the long spiritual preparation of humanity which I have described. It is not a system into which we have to fit the awkward fact of pain: it is itself one of the awkward facts which have to be fitted into any system we make. In a sense, it creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving.”

“And when we come to the last step of all, the historical Incarnation, the assurance is strongest of all. The story is strangely like many myths which have haunted religion from the first, and yet it is not like them. It is not transparent to the reason: we could not have invented it ourselves. It has not the suspicious a priori lucidity of Pantheism or of Newtonian physics. It has the seemingly arbitrary and idiosyncratic character which modern science is slowly teaching us to put up with in this wilful universe, where energy is made up in little parcels of a quantity no one could predict, where speed is not unlimited, where irreversible entropy gives time a real direction and the cosmos, no longer static or cyclic, moves like a drama from a real beginning to a real end. If any message from the core of reality ever were to reach us, we should expect to find in it just that unexpectedness, that wilful, dramatic anfractuosity which we find in the Christian faith. It has the master touch —the rough, male taste of reality, not made by us, or, indeed, for us, but hitting us in the face.”

“His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can’. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

“We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the soundwaves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.”

“Perhaps this is not the ‘best of all possible’ universes, but the only possible one. Possible worlds can mean only ‘worlds that God could have made, but didn’t’. The idea of that which God ‘could have’ done involves a too anthropomorphic conception of God’s freedom. Whatever human freedom means, Divine freedom cannot mean indeterminacy between alternatives and choice of one of them. Perfect goodness can never debate about the end to be attained, and perfect wisdom cannot debate about the means most suited to achieve it.”
–The Problem of Pain

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

“Christianity is a world that is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there a rumor going around the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

“If Christianity was something we were making up,” he says, “of course, we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” (Mere Christianity)

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

“The notion that everyone would like  Christianity to be true, and therefore all atheists  are brave men who have accepted the defeat  of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense.”  -Encounter With Light

Various:

“The theory that thought is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense; for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction but of which it would be meaningless to use the words ‘true’ or ‘false’”.
-C.S. Lewis

“Looking for God–or Heaven–by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters”
–’The Seeing Eye’, Christian Reflections (150)

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

“All that we call human history-money, poverty,  ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires,  slavery-[is] the long terrible story  of man trying to find something other than God  which will make him happy.” -Mere Christianity

“In coming to understand anything we are  rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of  the facts as they are.” 

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