C. S. Lewis

Religion plays a large part in the lives of most people. What role, if any, does religion play in science fiction?

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C. S. Lewis

Postby admin » Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:33 am

(Moved from the "What I'm reading" thread in the SF forum.)

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite writers, but he really didn't understand science, and views scientists as cold blooded enemies of religion. Of course, scientists span the entire spectrum from deeply religions to strongly anti-religious, and from calm to angry. But one thing that I am sorry to see in the current debate is the characterization of scientists as arriving at their scientific conclusions because they hate religion. You get similar reasoning from the Republicans. Scientists believe in global warming because they are a) orthodox or b) part of the vast liberal conspiracy or c) hate Republicans. Science doesn't work like that, and there are all sorts of safeguards against the opinion of the scientist being reflected in the work -- the double blind experiment being the most famous. Another lie I hear too often, from religious people who in many cases know they are lying, but think they do it in a good cause, is that many scientists disbelieve in, for example, evolution or global warming. You look at the list of the "many" and it turns out to be one scientist, a bunch of MDs, and the president of Bulgaria.
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Postby Brightonian » Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:46 am

Yes, I was reading an anti-evolution tract by a religious fundamentalist a while ago who maintained that on the one hand, we shouldn't listen to scientists because they're Godless atheists, on the other hand we should listen to those particular scientists who doubt evolution. I guess logic is also the work of the Devil.
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Postby HomieBear » Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:25 pm

For me, Lewis and Tolkien both can be excused for their anti-science bents because of their experiences of war, and their unapologetic love of the pastoral. It's just consistent. It's too bad the religion gets in there to muddy it a little, since I don't think the one caused the other in their cases.
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pastoral

Postby admin » Tue Jun 19, 2007 8:21 am

Lewis and Tolkien both loved the pastoral from the viewpoint of the upper class. Neither had to do the backbreaking work or experience the plagues, pestilences, and famine that are a part of the pastoral life of the farmer. Marie Antonette loved the pastoral, too, and dressed up as a milkmaid, but I'm fairly sure she never actually milked a cow. In Anna Karinina, Tolstoy praises the simple, hard-working, hard-drinking life of the Russian peasant, and he, at least, was closer to that life than Lewis or Tolkien, and apparently did hard farmwork and was loved by his peasants. But we all know how bad London in the time of Charles Dickens was. What we forget is that people flocked to that back, miserable London to get off the farm.

There is a bumper sticker I see around here from time to time:

Crime doesn't pay.
Neither does farming.

Rick
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Postby HomieBear » Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:27 pm

Mining pays rather well, fortunately for me!
Though I mostly operate machinery I do often have very heavy labour intensive days, like today, in extreme weather and at altitude so I hope that qualifies me in the blue collar working class.
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work

Postby admin » Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:17 am

The distribution of wages never ceases to amaze me. In Louisiana, and oil rig worker (2 weeks on/2 weeks off) can earn very good wages. But crops are picked by wetbacks for bare subsistance wages.

There is a big brouhaha about "illegal aliens" and how much they are costing the rich in taxes. Nobody mentions that, if it were not for those "illegal aliens" the rich wouldn't have any food to eat.
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Postby temp » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:15 pm

Being from a scientific background in university, I regret my lack of studying philosophy, religion, literature etc...I think I got through university and only wrote a single essay.

anyway, I had a chat once with my sister who studied philosophy...I was saying how science get's incorrectly blamed for some of our problems.

Example being a gun for example. Science does not have any opinions or views...it's just facts. The hammer hitting the bullet causes the chemical reaction in the gunpowder to expand which propels the bullet through the chamber as a projectile etc etc.
Science is not to blame for the fact that the gun is used to kill people. This is the human issue, and the science itself is innocent of any such power.

I think a "true scientist" is one who has no opinions about how it impacts their religion or politics, they are just looking the facts. Personally I don't see how religion and science can mingle together given than many scientific facts contradict religious views.
In reality I don't think there is any "true scientists"...we're all human here.
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science

Postby admin » Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:56 am

My day job is mathematician, rather than scientist, but I know what you mean. People believe the darndest things, and have the strangest idea of what constitutes evidence.

Most people think, "I can't think of any other explanation," is proof positive, as in "I can't think of any way for the universe to have come into being but God creating it, so that is proof positive that God exists." "I can't think of any reason for believing in global warming than hating America, so scientists who believe in global warming must hate America."

Sigh.
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Re:

Postby Brightonian » Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:44 am

temp wrote:Example being a gun for example. Science does not have any opinions or views...it's just facts. The hammer hitting the bullet causes the chemical reaction in the gunpowder to expand which propels the bullet through the chamber as a projectile etc etc.
Science is not to blame for the fact that the gun is used to kill people. This is the human issue, and the science itself is innocent of any such power.
And yet, science doesn't operate in isolation from its historical context, and its active areas of research are largely driven by political and/or commercial imperatives. To take perhaps a hackneyed example, the scientists who contributed to the Manhattan Project weren't simply carrying out disinterested research into the properties of radioactive materials: they knew full well that a potential outcome of their research could be the death by incineration of tens of thousands of people. So whatever one's views on the overall morality of the project, those physicists have to share the responsibility.
Last edited by Brightonian on Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby admin » Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:56 am

Keep in mind that many of those scientists were Jews, and assumed the bomb would be used to save the world from Hitler. Then it was used on Japan. But, in the eyes of most Americans at the time, the Japs were barely human. Buddha, Jesus, and a few other radical thinks have, from time to time, suggested that we should care about people who do not belong to our own tribe. But most of their followers manange to ignore that message.

My reading of history suggests that the modern world is unique in that large numbers of people actually care about foreigners. A minority -- witness Obama's falling numbers as he talks to them foreigners -- but still a large number.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby Brightonian » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:46 am

I'm re-reading Lewis's SF trilogy (Ransom trilogy, Cosmic trilogy) and I have to say that much as I love his writings, I'm coming to find elements of his world-view rather repugnant. In his eyes this world, the only world we know, is a kind of mistake or abortion, a shabby copy of what it could have been if our remote ancestors had obeyed Yahweh's arbitrary edicts - and what's more it's ruled over by a malign spirit, unlike the happier worlds of Malacandra (Mars) and Perelandra (Venus) which are safeguarded by benevolent tutelary deities or "Oyarses". You get the same sort of thing in The Last Battle, where the Pevensey children are supposed to be overjoyed that they have been killed in a train crash and will never return to their real lives, or the "Shadowlands" as Lewis has it. I sometimes wonder if this indicates some profound depression or disillusionment with life on his part.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby admin » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:17 am

What bothers me most, especially in That Hideous Strength, is Lewis's view of science and scientists, as either petty, silly people who believe nonsense such as reletivity and quantum mechanics and evolution, and try to push their silly beliefs on people with good, old common sense, who know better. He once wrote that the idea that nothing could travel faster than light was silly, because if a really, really big person wanted to move his toes, then he couldn't send nerve impulses faster than light, which was rediculous, because of course a giant could move his toes any time he wanted to.

Or else scientists are power mad, and want to turn everyone into a machine who will obey their orders to the minutest detail. I get the impression that Lewis never met a real scientist in his life.

I still love the way he writes. I seem to be able to enjoy good writers, even if I totally disagree with their worldview. Thus I don't stop reading H. G. Welles because of his anti-semitism.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby Brightonian » Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:26 pm

Just found a rather worrying observation in Lewis's spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy, in connection with his childhood fear of insects:
You may add that in the hive and the ant-hill we see fully realised the two things that some of us most dread for our own species - the dominance of the female and the dominance of the collective.

Oh dear.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby catthom » Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:05 am

A good thing to recommend to your more religious friends and family is his book, The Screwtape Letters. I love the part where Screwtape advises Wormwood to look for those who have to pray daily in the same place, at the same time and staring at the same crack in the ceiling to find the weakest links.

Also, although Dickens underwent many privations in his own early life, he was, in part, writing about the Georgian period. Anyone who thinks the Victorians outrageous in their treatment of the poor and downtrodden should look at this period. The Victorians were almost enlightened in comparison.

And, about science- I have to say that the Scientific Method is our best possible model for discerning truth about our physical reality, as opposed to anecdotal and purely experiential (or emotional) evidence.

"Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen, 965–1039), one of the key figures in the development of scientific method, the emphasis has been on seeking truth:

Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough."

I'm a Scientific Method whore.
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Re: C. S. Lewis

Postby catthom » Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:11 am

"they knew full well that a potential outcome of their research could be the death by incineration of tens of thousands of people."
And, at least a couple of them (Oppenheimer included) were afraid the reaction, once started, would turn into a chain reaction.Leading to the death of the world, and not just a few hundred thousand. And they did it anyway.

A few prescient quotes from Pierre Curie-
"Alfred Nobel's discoveries are characteristic; powerful explosives can help men perform admirable tasks. They are also a means to terrible destruction in the hands of the great criminals who lead peoples to war.
Pierre Curie

Is it right to probe so deeply into Nature's secrets? The question must here be raised whether it will benefit mankind, or whether the knowledge will be harmful.
Pierre Curie

Radium could be very dangerous in criminal hands."
Pierre Curie
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