C.S. Lewis on Reasoning to Atheism – Apologetics 315

I love the way that C.S. Lewis can take some of the most challenge concepts that we face in life and formulate such succinct responses to them.  Here’s a little excerpt from his writings that addresses issues arising from atheistic belief and why belief in God is definitely reasonable. Hope you enjoy!

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.

It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

—C.S. Lewis
The Case for Christianity, p. 32.

Thanks to Apologetics 315 for sharing this post.  C.S. Lewis on Reasoning to Atheism – Apologetics 315.

6 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis on Reasoning to Atheism – Apologetics 315”

  1. It is not, in any conceivable fashion, like up turning a milk jug and expecting a map of of London. Perhaps CS Lewis is writing from a confused perspective, where he rejects evolution in an attempt to explain the brain. But there is a continuous corrective pressure, called Natural Selection, that means if you can’t estimate the trajectory of a predator it will eat you; if you can’t learn from previous experiences you will fail to hunt and starve to death; if you can’t deduce things you won’t be able to plan so either the winter will freeze you to death, else the summer will kill your crops.

    Not only that, but the success of the human brain is evidential. Society and technology work, relying on laws we have discovered. The brain is reliable, regardless of theistic arguments and truths.

    1. You misunderstand Lewis, which I can understand if this couple of paragraphs is your only experience with his statements on the matter. Lewis did not argue against evolution, he argued against the materialist assertion that evolution would be an unguided process. He’s claiming if evolution is the basis of life’s progression, it was a guided process as determined by a mind, not blind chance. This is what he is illustrating with the jug and map of London.

      And, he’s not the first to assert the question that if we are the product of blind processes, how can we trust our own judgment:

      The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
      – Charles Darwin

      1. prologue: There is no evidence evolution is a guided process. That is why we do not claim that it is. That is very different from asserting that it is unguided.

        What I said was that Lewis does not understand evolution. If you are wrong about reality in the infancy of human evolution, you die. That is the profound difference between evolution by natural selection and spilt milk. Not only that, but to follow Lewis now means we cannot trust our minds under any circumstances; so long as the mind is more likely to be wrong than not under evolution (as Lewis says – but is likely wrong) then he equally cannot trust reasoning that leads him to theism because he could still have the mind of a chimp and be wrong.

      2. Evolution as a guided process is not a scientific question, and natural selection is an assumption based on the same information as guided evolution. Science only accounts for what is observable and testable, and a mind behind it or lack thereof is not a scientifically testable or observable phenomenon. You and Lewis come to the science of evolution the same, allowing it can be (if not certainly is) true. Where you divulge is on the basis of philosophical interpretation of the evidence.

        “If you are wrong about reality in the infancy of human evolution, you die.”

        How does this support an unguided process over a guided one? All this establishes is that life is fragile, which is certainly not purported to be otherwise in any of the monotheistic religions.

        “That is the profound difference between evolution by natural selection and spilt milk.”

        Only if you approach the evidence with the a priori that there is no God. The same process could just as easily be called “design for adaptation” when you come with the a priori that there is a God. Hence, this is not a scientific statement, but a philosophical one.

        C.S. Lewis: from Mere Christianity:
        Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. … Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more he would agree with me that this is the job of science — and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes — something of a different kind — this is not a scientific question. If there is “Something Behind,” then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them.

        “Not only that, but to follow Lewis now means we cannot trust our minds under any circumstances; so long as the mind is more likely to be wrong than not under evolution (as Lewis says – but is likely wrong) then he equally cannot trust reasoning that leads him to theism because he could still have the mind of a chimp and be wrong.”

        You make Lewis’ point. The only position from which you can trust your convictions is from a theistic point of view. Otherwise you’re where Darwin was in this question, where your naturally evolved brain interprets and defines “consciousness” to you, from which you assume you can use deductive reasoning to interpret your world and define such abstract terms as morality, love, meaning, purpose, etc.

        Also C.S. Lewis:
        For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.

      3. I didn’t say evolution is unguided.i said there is no evidence it is guided. Anyone who says it is guided musty be able to account for how they know.
        And natural selection is a fact. That’s what the e coli experiments demonstrate. Your are free to do the research.
        And being wrong about reality leading to death is a means of demonstrating that the brain is not the result of chance and chaos. There is a selection process: the ability to reproduce.
        I don’t assume there is no God. I have no reason to believe there is. I am running on the conviction that believing things until they prove to be untrue leads to believing wrong things. Please don’t assert what I believe to me again. I know what I believe better than you do.
        Lewis is claiming there is a distinct difference between guided and unguided evolution: only one creates a rational brain. Ignoring that of you accept that claim you can never trust yourself because you can’t tell which brain you have, he is claiming to know something about a “something behind”.
        As I’ve already mentioned, natural selection is capable of making a rational(ish) mind. As it happens, one of my favourite YouTube videos “the kalam cosmological fallacy” addresses some of the mistakes of the human mind. They doesn’t prove evolution isn’t guided, but as they ate fossilised errors, it does show that any guide cannot be perfect.

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