From C.S. Lewis, Four Arguments Friendly to a Universe by Design
by John G. West
Editor’s Note: With the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s passing next week, November 22, we are pleased to offer selections from CSC associate director John West’s book The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society. What follows is excerpted from Dr. West’s Chapter 7, “C.S. Lewis and Intelligent Design.”
C.S. Lewis countered the argument from undesign with several positive arguments in favor of the existence of a transcendent intelligent cause for nature. They include:
1. The Argument from Natural Beauty
From early on, Lewis’s pessimistic view of nature as “red in tooth and claw”1 was counterbalanced by the longings stirred within him by nature’s beauty.2 even in Spirits in Bondage, the bleak vision of nature presented in some of his poems can be contrasted with poems describing scenes of overwhelming beauty that raised glimmers of the transcendent. For Lewis, our experience of beauty in nature pointed to the reality of something beyond nature:
Atoms dead could never thus
Stir the human heart of us
Unless the beauty that we see
The veil of endless beauty be3
In Lewis’s view, the longings provoked by earthly beauty could not be accounted for by a blind and mechanistic material universe. They required a transcendent cause outside of nature. This cause was not necessarily personal, but it did go beyond blind matter and energy. As a consequence, it put an intelligent agent back on the table as one of the options for discussion.
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2. The Argument from Morality
Lewis eventually recognized that the argument from undesign suffered from a critical flaw: If the material universe is all there is, and if human beings are simply the products of that universe, then on what basis can they criticize the universe for being so bad?4 By judging the universe in this way, human beings are presupposing the existence of a moral standard outside of material nature that can judge nature. But where did this moral standard come from? The existence in every culture of a standard by which the current operations of nature are judged implies the existence of a transcendent moral cause outside of nature. Again, this transcendent moral cause is not necessarily personal, but a transcendent personal God is one of the alternatives that can now be considered.