C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy
C.S. Lewis’s celebrated Space Trilogy—Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength—was completed over sixty years ago and has remained in print. In this ground-breaking study, Sanford Schwartz offers a new way to look at these novels that challenge the idea that they show a clear struggle between a pre-modern view of the universe and the modern scientific paradigm that replaced it. Schwartz situates Lewis’s work in contemporary intellectual, cultural, and political history. He shows that Lewis does not simply dismiss the current “evolutionary model.” Still, He discriminates carefully among different kinds of evolutionary theory—”mechanistic” in Out of the Silent Planet, “vitalist” in Perelandra, and “spiritual” in That Hideous Strength—and their distinctive views of human nature, society, and religious belief. Schwartz also shows that the conflict between Christian and “developmental” viewpoints is far more complex than is generally assumed in each book. In line with the Augustinian understanding that “bad things are good things perverted,” Lewis constructs each of his three “beatific” communities—the “unfallen” worlds on Mars and Venus and the terrestrial remnant at St. Anne’s—not as the sheer antithesis but rather as the transfiguration or “raising” of the particular evolutionary doctrine that is targeted in the novel. In this respect, Lewis is more deeply engaged with the main currents of modern thought than his self-styled image as an intellectual “dinosaur” might lead us to believe. He is also much more willing to look into how the evolutionary model could be changed in a way compatible with traditional Christian beliefs and committed to addressing the unique problems of modern life. C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier highlights the enduring relevance of Lewis’s fiction to contemporary concerns on a wide variety of issues, including the ethical problems surrounding biotechnology and the battle between religious and naturalistic worldviews in the twenty-first century. Far from offering a black-and-white contrast between old-fashioned Christian humanism and a modern heresy, the Space Trilogy should be seen as a modern religious apologist’s searching effort to enrich the former through critical engagement with the latter.
C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy PDF
Author(s): Sanford Schwartz