The Power of Truth Itself

    When C. S. Lewis published his novel That Hideous Strength in 1946, issues like human cloning were the stuff of science fiction. But, as many of its readers have since come to realize, the book was prophetic; scientists today are debating whether or not to clone human beings. The technology is in place, but Lewis's novel was prophetic in other ways, as well -- especially concerning the nature of morality. Scholars in a new field called evolutionary psychology are working busily to deconstruct moral behavior, exactly as Lewis anticipated. As Andrew Ferguson recently explained in The Weekly Standard, evolutionary psychologists see morality as "an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes." But where, we might ask, does this line of argument lead? And does it even make sense? Well, think about the emotion of guilt. Maybe you're impatient and have a habit of honking at slow-moving drivers. You race yellow lights, going through on red most of the time. Now, suppose you're getting away with it. No traffic tickets, yet. But you have a growing sense of unease . . . guilt feelings, in other words. Evolutionary psychology holds that there's nothing real about this feeling: There's no objective basis to guilt. Humans have such emotions only because of our evolutionary past, so they say. If it was adaptive in the past to feel bad when our ancestors behaved certain ways, then that's what natural selection favored. But environmental conditions change, and what we regard as "right" and "wrong" can shift. And they claim there's no objective, biology- independent basis for morality. C. S. Lewis saw this argument coming over fifty years ago, and put it into the mouth of the most terrifying character in his novel, Professor Frost. Frost tries to win over a protagonist, Mark Studdock, to the dark side, telling him to forget about fundamental human motivations like "right" and "wrong." "Motives are not the causes of action," says Frost, "but its by-products . . . when you have obtained real objectivity, you will recognize, not some motives, but all motives as merely animal." Guilt? Remorse? According to Professor Frost, such things don't exist. They're illusions -- tricks of the mind. In the novel, Mark Studdock finds this idea terrifying -- as well he should. If this is where the practice Frost calls "objective science" leads, then science has taken a terribly wrong turn. But, of course, what Frost calls "science" isn't really science at all. By the same token, what evolutionary psychologists call "discoveries" aren't genuine knowledge; they're speculation. As Andrew Ferguson points out, much of evolutionary psychology rests on surmise and guesswork about what may be "adaptive." In reality, our moral sense is grounded, not in what we adapt to, but in what is right and true. It may be adaptive to kill unwanted infants, as rats do when they're overcrowded. But it's morally wrong, because infants bear the image of God. And that's something we know objectively. C. S. Lewis saw where science that denies God will ultimately lead: to unspeakable horror. And Christians need to examine the claims of science just as critically. Science is not value-free, because truth itself is a value -- and what is right and what is true have the same Source. For further reference: Ferguson, Andrew. "Evolutionary Psychology and its True Beliefs." The Weekly Standard, 19 March 2001. rguson_bkart_6_26_01.asp Lewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. New York: MacMillan Co., 1946.


Chuck Colson


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