Thursday, December 17, 2009

"The Funeral of a Great Myth"

The following article looks at CS Lewis' old essay "The Funeral of a Great Myth".

The myth is not the theory of evolution, per se, but "popular evolutionism".

Although our attitudes and so forth may have changed since CSL first penned "The Funeral of a Great Myth", I think it's an important essay and still valuable reading today. For instance, CSL points out a few things which some would do well to take on board (e.g. evolutionary change doesn't necessarily imply improvement).

Related, I believe Alvin Plantinga's EAAN owes a fair bit to CSL's argument that evolutionism is self-refuting because, on the one hand, science (which those who subscribe to evolutionism believe includes evolution) depends on logic and reason; but, on the other hand, those who subscribe to evolutionism likewise argue logic and reason are products from irrational processes. Or as CSL put it: "I will prove that there are no proofs."

BTW, CSL "fictionalizes" much of the content here in his book That Hideous Strength. I think he might've done so in part because he believes one of the main reasons evolutionism is so embedded in our society and culture is that it captures the imagination, and he wanted to strike at the imagination: "It gives us almost everything the imagination craves - irony, heroism, vastness, unity in multiplicity, and a tragic close. It appeals to every part of me except my reason. . . . It is our painful duty to wake the world from an enchantment."

Perhaps evolutionism is indeed the great myth of recent generations (e.g. CSL's) as well as our generation. In any case, it needs to be debunked. I think reading CSL's "The Funeral of a Great Myth" would be a good start. You can find it in his collection of essays titled Christian Reflections.

Update: I stand corrected re: Plantinga's EAAN owing something to CSL. Steve points out the following interview (PDF).


  1. Although Plantinga may not owe CSL for his EAAN, I think it's fair to say EAAN was anticipated by various figures decades before. I’m not a philosopher, nor do I play one on t.v. However, having read much of Gordon Clark and only having a little familiarity with Alvin Plantinga, I have found one important apologetic affinity between the two thinkers (another might be their theodicy for evil). It is along the lines of an evolutionary argument against naturalism. Plantinga has definitely elaborated this argument out extensively throughout the last two decades. It is worth noting that Clark possibly anticipated such an argument 50 years earlier in his “A Christian Philosophy of Education” (in my opinion, one of his best apologetic works).
    In the signature series volume of that book in the last paragraph on page 94, Clark outlines an evolutionary argument against naturalism. I would be interested to know if this paragraph appears in the original edition of 1946. If this paragraph was added, it must have been added before Clark’s passing. It is an extremely important insight and one that may even have appeared earlier in the writings of G.K. Chesterton as well. I don’t read Lewis or Chesterton too much, but remember coming across some of their quotes online somewhere to the effect of an evolutionary argument against naturalism. Plantinga definitely argues more fully and vigorously in his developed EAAN.

  2. In Reppert's book, C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, he groups the Lewis and Plantinga arguments under a general rubric of "arguments from reason." So although Plantinga is almost certainly not derivative in any way of Lewis, they are both derivative of the same general project.