A new film that premiered this week on YouTube reveals how the late Christian apologist C. S. Lewis was a prophetic writer when it came to his warnings about science.
Lewis, most known for his works The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, was not opposed to science itself, even encouraging Christians to study it. But what he was a critic of was "scientism." Scientism, according to PBS, sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth.
"He never, so far as I know, attacked science itself. What he attacked was scientism – this idea that the method or the methods really of natural science should be the bar by which every other intellectual discipline must be held," said Jay Richards, co-author of Indivisible, in the film "The Magician's Twin."
The 30-minute documentary, written and directed by Dr. John G. West, was released on Monday. West, associate director at the Center for Science and Culture, felt the documentary was so important that he chose to make it available to the public for free on YouTube.
In the film, West and other scholars outline Lewis' thoughts, based on his writings, on how science was being and could be further corrupted.
Lewis made an unusual comparison, saying science and magic were twins because of their ability to function as a religion, their encouragement of a lack of skepticism, and their quest for power.
"A magical view of the world can give one a ... grand vision that there's something out there," said West, explaining the first similarity. It can also give a sense of meaning, he added.
Just as English author H. G. Wells turned Darwin's theory of evolution into an alternate religion, West sees many nontheists today doing the same thing. He pointed to Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins who has stated that Darwin "helps us become an intellectually fulfilled atheist," and the thousands of nontheists who joined the Reason Rally earlier this year where they offered science as a religion, in West's view.
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
"Today, I think you see a lot of people speaking in the name of science who offer science as a quasi-religion. It's what gives their lives meaning," said West, who authored the book The Magician's Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.
A second way magic and science are similar, according to Lewis, is that they both promote a type of credulous thinking.
"Lewis pointed out that in the modern world, people will believe almost anything if it's dressed up in the name of science," West explained.
This applies to Freudianism, which Lewis satirized in his work The Pilgrim's Regress, and evolutionism – the popular idea that matter could "magically transform itself into complex and conscious living things through a blind and unguided process," as the documentary describes.
"The idea that a blind and purposeless process without a mind can produce things like human beings that have minds and produce moral beliefs and things that sometimes go against our need for physical survival ... really was an outlandish one, according to Lewis," said West. "How could a mindless process produce minds? To think that it could, really just shows how gullible people can be in the name of science."
Lastly, in the same way that magic is about the quest for power over the universe, much of modern science has also been devoted toward power over the world, Lewis observed.
West noted, "Modern science brings us good things ... but on the other hand, that tendency to want to control things can bring us the Orwellian state of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four."
In that sense, Lewis felt that science was more dangerous than magic since at the end of the day magic failed, West pointed out.
"Modern science has the potential that you really can control people if you find the right drugs or find the right treatments, you can manipulate them," said "The Magician's Twin" author. "If you don't have some other way of protecting and limiting what you do in the name of science, some ethical basis that isn't dictated by science itself that could control it, then you are facing a really bleak future."
Lewis depicted possible bleak scenarios in That Hideous Strength (1945), such as sterilization of the unfit, selective breeding, and biochemical conditioning.
"Lewis depicts a world in That Hideous Strength in which nothing is sacred," said Michael Aeschliman, author of The Restitution of Man, in the film. "We see the consequences of a world in which nothing is sacred, including humans."
Later in his life, Lewis, who died in 1963, became alarmed by the rise of scientific authoritarianism. He was concerned about the rise of a new class of experts speaking in the name of science and dictating everything.
West found Lewis' concerns of authoritarian science to be "eerily prophetic," with some in the science community now calling it "pro-science" to abort children with genetic defects (NBC Chief Medical Editor Nancy Snyderman), or calling for the genetic enhancement of humanity or otherwise face extinction (Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford).
"Human beings ... now have the power not only to control but to create new genes for themselves. Why not seize the power?" the film quoted biologist Lee Silver of Princeton University as saying.
Public policy should not be informed by science alone, West argued.
"Public policy is not just about the technical expertise of how things work, it's about what good is worth having at what price. Scientists are not moral philosophers. How should we act and what's worth spending money on, what's worth doing, what freedoms are worth giving up or not?" he posed.
"Someone's science training doesn't give them the right to dictate the rest of society."
Lewis, an atheist turned Christian, was a consistent champion of following an argument wherever it might lead and he urged Christians to keep up with the science of their day, according to West.
But the possible dogmatic use of science was a concern for him.
"Lewis, I think properly so, was frightened by that potential within science and that's why he stressed why we really need to understand the limits of science," said West.
"We aren't just blind matter in motion. We're part of a designed universe that actually sets limits on what we should and shouldn't do."