Since so many of our discussions lately are about science, I thought I'd toss in some comments by three of my favorite dead people.

The Pixie

Well-known member
You say that this as far as you can see, but there's no evidence of this whatsoever, unless I'm missing something crucial. I strongly recommend reading beyond the quoted material, and approaching texts charitably, or at least not uncharitably.
Are you saying that the statement was not trying to denegrate science? I have read it, and the context. To me, it still reads like Lewis is trying to downplay science, and make religion - his religion specifically - look good. I cannot see what is point was, why he said it, beyond that.

Perhaps you can give your more charitable interpretation?
 

Lucian

Active member
Are you saying that the statement was not trying to denegrate science? I have read it, and the context. To me, it still reads like Lewis is trying to downplay science, and make religion - his religion specifically - look good. I cannot see what is point was, why he said it, beyond that.

Perhaps you can give your more charitable interpretation?
No, I don’t think he’s denigrating anything. I’ve given my interpretation already, which reads like the pretty obvious one, and ground that’s been covered at length by others.
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
I am now coming round to the position that this was something he was claiming, rather than he actually thought it.

Let's back up and examine the comment he made that led you to believe he disbelieved in the predictive power of science:

Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ............ 'I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.'​

Now do you really believe that Lewis did not believe that he would be unable to predict that if he put stuff in a pot and heated it, that the stuff would get hot?
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
But I am curious what in Perelandra makes you think Lewis was familiar with the laws of gravity ............

I don't have the book handy, but THIS from a summary of chapter 3:

SUMMARY

Lewis begins the chapter by describing how difficult it was to get Ransom to describe aspects of his journey. This is due mostly to the other-worldliness of Perelandra and the limits of language. Asked if it was too vague to put into words, he responds, “On the contrary, it is words that are vague” (30).
Unconscious for most of the journey, Ransom regains consciousness as he is descending to the surface and begins to feel Venus’ gravity. The coffin-like spacecraft essentially melts away, leaving Ransom naked and floating on a vast ocean and under a golden sky. The clouds are too dense to appreciate the sun, though its setting is obvious. Ransom floats atop great waves and weathers quite a storm.



Now surely you're not claiming that IF Lewis was unfamiliar with F= G(m1m2)/R2, he therefore denigrates science.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
No, I don’t think he’s denigrating anything. I’ve given my interpretation already, which reads like the pretty obvious one, and ground that’s been covered at length by others.
Sorry, just looked back and seen that you have:

"He seems simply to be talking about statements of fact: every scientific statement of fact is inevitably about describing the way the world works, as opposed to addressing more existential questions, such as why there’s a world in the first place, which Lewis thinks is religion’s domain."

To a degree I agree, but to my reading he is denigrating science to do that, by reducing it to mere observations, and ignoring the predictive power of science which has, ultimately, led to all the technology that we nowadays take for advantage.

The problem Lewis has is that religion, at the end of the day, is just people spouting their unsupported opinions as though they are facts. The very fact that there are so many religions tells us that most theists have it largely wrong. There is no convincing evidence that Hinduism, for example, is true, while there is that relativity is true.

I fully accept that science cannot answer some of the big questions - but neither can religion! Not in a way that persuades the unconvinced. And Lewis in this quote is trying to promote religion, so he is obliged to play down the huge success of science to make his own religion appear less pathetic.

So while I kind of agree with your position, I will continue to believe Lewis that Lewis was denigrating science in that statement.

And further, I strongly suspect stiggy wiggy particularly likes that quote about science specifically because he is denigrating science, but doing so so subtly most people do not see it.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
I don't have the book handy, but THIS from a summary of chapter 3:

SUMMARY

Lewis begins the chapter by describing how difficult it was to get Ransom to describe aspects of his journey. This is due mostly to the other-worldliness of Perelandra and the limits of language. Asked if it was too vague to put into words, he responds, “On the contrary, it is words that are vague” (30).
Unconscious for most of the journey, Ransom regains consciousness as he is descending to the surface and begins to feel Venus’ gravity. The coffin-like spacecraft essentially melts away, leaving Ransom naked and floating on a vast ocean and under a golden sky. The clouds are too dense to appreciate the sun, though its setting is obvious. Ransom floats atop great waves and weathers quite a storm.



Now surely you're not claiming that IF Lewis was unfamiliar with F= G(m1m2)/R2, he therefore denigrates science.
So your argument is founded on the fact that Lewis mentions there is gravity on Venus in a science fiction story?
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Probably because when he had the book in his hand and he dropped it, he watched it fall to the floor.
There is a fundamental difference between understanding that things fall and Newton's law of gravity. There is a web page here that discusses Newton's achievements, and it is far more than noting that things fall!

You will probably not bother to read it, because, well, why bother? And that is fair enough. However, I suspect Lewis' knowledge of science was no better than that. He knew things fall, so of course he understood gravity! But, just like you, he had no understanding of the science and no interest in having an understanding of it.
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
And further, I strongly suspect stiggy wiggy particularly likes that quote about science specifically because he is denigrating science,

And as usual you are wrong. I even quoted him as saying:

"Do not think I am saying anything against science:​

"And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science--and a very useful and necessary job it is too."​


Don't use words like "denigrating" if you don't know what they mean.
 
Last edited:

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
However, I suspect Lewis' knowledge of science was no better than that.

I'm bored with reading what you "suspect." Your suspicions are usually revealed to be baseless. See my previous post. Only an imbecile would think an Oxford professor was unfamiliar with something as elementary as the law of gravity.
 

Lucian

Active member
Sorry, just looked back and seen that you have:

"He seems simply to be talking about statements of fact: every scientific statement of fact is inevitably about describing the way the world works, as opposed to addressing more existential questions, such as why there’s a world in the first place, which Lewis thinks is religion’s domain."

To a degree I agree, but to my reading he is denigrating science to do that, by reducing it to mere observations, and ignoring the predictive power of science which has, ultimately, led to all the technology that we nowadays take for advantage.

The problem Lewis has is that religion, at the end of the day, is just people spouting their unsupported opinions as though they are facts. The very fact that there are so many religions tells us that most theists have it largely wrong. There is no convincing evidence that Hinduism, for example, is true, while there is that relativity is true.

I fully accept that science cannot answer some of the big questions - but neither can religion! Not in a way that persuades the unconvinced. And Lewis in this quote is trying to promote religion, so he is obliged to play down the huge success of science to make his own religion appear less pathetic.

So while I kind of agree with your position, I will continue to believe Lewis that Lewis was denigrating science in that statement.

And further, I strongly suspect stiggy wiggy particularly likes that quote about science specifically because he is denigrating science, but doing so so subtly most people do not see it.
You say that you continue to believe he’s denigrating science, but I’m still struggling to understand why. As I’ve suggested, he doesn’t claim that scientists only make observations (which would be absurd, and recognised as such by many readers) but that every scientific statement of fact is inevitably about describing the way the world works, as opposed to addressing more existential questions, such as why there’s a world in the first place, which Lewis thinks is religion’s domain.

This is simply to say that science and religion have different areas of competence. Evidently you disagree, inasmuch as you think religion has no area of competence, or at least not the one Lewis thinks it does. That’s fine, so far as it goes, but the further accusation of denigrating (a strong term!) science seems strange indeed.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
You say that you continue to believe he’s denigrating science, but I’m still struggling to understand why. As I’ve suggested, he doesn’t claim that scientists only make observations (which would be absurd, and recognised as such by many readers) but that every scientific statement of fact is inevitably about describing the way the world works, as opposed to addressing more existential questions, such as why there’s a world in the first place, which Lewis thinks is religion’s domain.
Of course it is absurd, but how many of his readers realise that? How many of his target audience? He is talking to Christians who want to be reassured that Christianity is great, that it is better than science.

Look back at the OP. Do you think stiggy likes this quote so much because it does a great job of representing science? Or because it helps him to uphold his faith by playing down science? I feel pretty sure it is the latter.

He wants to say that the big questions are the domain of Christianity, but in what sense? The different between religion and science is that science acknowledges it cannot answer those questions. Neither of them actually can, not in a way that is persuasive, not in a way that can be substantiated. But religion pretends it can; it pretends to have all those answers science does not. So Lewis, like so many theists, attacks science.

This is simply to say that science and religion have different areas of competence. Evidently you disagree, inasmuch as you think religion has no area of competence, or at least not the one Lewis thinks it does. That’s fine, so far as it goes, but the further accusation of denigrating (a strong term!) science seems strange indeed.
My reading is otherwise. When he says "Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like" he is playing down the entirety of science. Sure it looks complicated, but really it is not! It is just a bunch of observations!

I appreciate many of his audience will know otherwise, but many will not. I strongly suspect the average man in the street does not know what the scientific method actually is, and to him a statement that all science is is a bunch of observations will sound about right - reassuring either. Much more so back in the 40s, when science education was not as good (the 1944 Education Act did not even require science is the curriculum in the UK).
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
Look back at the OP. Do you think stiggy likes this quote so much because it does a great job of representing science? Or because it helps him to uphold his faith by playing down science? I feel pretty sure it is the latter.

There you go again. You're always "pretty sure" about stuff you're wrong about. Why in the hell would I like a quote that praises science because I think it plays it down? You make no sense.
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
So Lewis, like so many theists, attacks science.

What a silly comment. He praises science for what it does. He only notes its limitations. Or perhaps you think science CAN tell us why there is a universe and what its meaning is. So why don't you tell us what the meaning is. And even if you think there is no meaning, science can't tell you that.

If you need to go from England to Ireland and you take a very reliable automobile from where you live to an English seaport, and you tell your kids, "As great as this car is, kids, we're now going to have to get out and go in that boat if we want to get to Ireland," are you ATTACKING your car?
 

Lucian

Active member
Of course it is absurd, but how many of his readers realise that? How many of his target audience? He is talking to Christians who want to be reassured that Christianity is great, that it is better than science.
My point is that your interpretation makes Lewis say something absurd, and something that, indeed, most of his readers (n.b. not necessarily 'average men on the street', especially at the time of authorship) would have recognised as such: most readers would, one assume, be aware that scientists make predictions.

Part of reading charitably is not assigning absurd interpretations to what somebody is saying if there's a plausible alternative way of reading them. I've already offered you one, which is born out by a plain reading of the wider context in which the original quotation occurs, as well as a broader distinction made by Christian philosophers and theologians (in other words, it's one we might expect Lewis to make).

Worse still, you seem to be flirting with the idea that Lewis in fact knew better than what you claim he's saying, in which case he's not only being made to say something absurd, but being cast as a liar too. This isn't the way to read texts, I'm afraid.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
My point is that your interpretation makes Lewis say something absurd, and something that, indeed, most of his readers (n.b. not necessarily 'average men on the street', especially at the time of authorship) would have recognised as such: most readers would, one assume, be aware that scientists make predictions.
What makes you think most readers would appreciate what predictions in science actually are?

Bear in mind, stiggy was citing weather predictions earlier, and he claims to have a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Georgia Tech. I very much doubt the average man in the UK in the forties would have a clue about the scientific method.

Indeed, I now feel the need to point out that the scientific methodology is a process of hypothesis, drawing predicts, testing those prediction, because I do not feel complete certain even you understand it.

Part of reading charitably is not assigning absurd interpretations to what somebody is saying if there's a plausible alternative way of reading them. I've already offered you one, which is born out by a plain reading of the wider context in which the original quotation occurs, as well as a broader distinction made by Christian philosophers and theologians (in other words, it's one we might expect Lewis to make).
I am under no obligation to read charitably! I read it as I see it, and I see it as an attack on science.

I broadly agree with your interpretation, but that still leads me to think he was trying to undermine science. The context is that he is trying to promote his religion. How does his comment about science do that? I can only see his motive as trying to denegrate science to make Christianity look better in contrast.

Worse still, you seem to be flirting with the idea that Lewis in fact knew better than what you claim he's saying, in which case he's not only being made to say something absurd, but being cast as a liar too. This isn't the way to read texts, I'm afraid.
I would describe it as spin, rather than lying.

And whether it is that, or Lewis just did not understand science, I would not like to say. People on this thread assure me he knew a lot about science; if so, then yes he was spinning/lying.

People do do that to promote their agenda, and telling me I should just pretend they do not, just read everything "charitably" seems pretty naïve.
 
Top