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The Demolition of Man

Terry Graves

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The scientific attempt to cheat death in a culture of death.

In C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, Joseph Pearce devotes eighteen pages to Lewis' space trilogy, yet nowhere does he mention the lectures, later published as The Abolition of Man, that gave voice to what Lewis elsewhere called "the serious point" behind these books. In Lewis' own words, in a letter to an Anglican nun, the "serious point" is this: "...that thousands of people in one way or another depend on some hope of perpetuating and improving the human race for the whole meaning of the universe -- that a -- scientific' hope for defeating death is a real threat to Christianity ..."

Sixty years later, it is now tens or hundreds of millions who depend on that hope. Some go further, believing, as Jacques Barzun put it, "the fallacy ... that the method of science must be used on all forms of experience and, given time, will settle every issue." Of course, science cannot explain even its own bases: why matter and energy exist and why they are not chaotic. Still, this dependence on science is to be expected, if only because so few are aware of an alternative: George Sayer wrote in Jack, his biography of Lewis, that few members of the audience at the Abolition lectures understood them---and this was at a university in 1943. And in that same letter Lewis noted that of about sixty reviews of the space trilogy's first novel, " ... only 2 showed any knowledge that my idea of the fall of the Bent One was anything but an invention of my own.

In this far less literate era, even fewer would trouble to pry Lewis' "serious point" out of a long essay like The Abolition of Man. Still fewer would find it hidden in the fantastic elements of the space trilogy's entertaining novels, set on, successively, Mars and Venus and in a literally demonic institution in Britain, the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, or N.I.C.E.

This reluctance, or inability, to grapple with "the serious point" is a recipe for disaster. What Lewis feared and foresaw is no longer science fiction: underway are numerous scientific and pseudo-scientific efforts whose goals are to improve the human race and achieve personal immortality.

Read the entire article on the Crux website (new window will open).

Posted: 03-Oct-06



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