What happens when science leaves human values behind? Or when governments become beholden to scientists? On this ID The Future, we mark the 60th anniversary of the death of British writer C. S. Lewis as host Andrew McDiarmid begins a conversation with Dr. John West about Lewis’s prophetic warnings to us about science and scientism.
In Part 1, Dr. West first explains what scientism is: the idea that modern science, particularly modern physical science, is the only way that humans can know truth about the natural world and ourselves. West then discusses an essay Lewis wrote in 1958 called “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.” In this essay, Lewis describes what happens when science neglects human values. He also predicts the rise of technocracies – governments that are ruled by scientists and citizens who lose their privacy and freedom.
As an example, Dr. West discusses the COVID pandemic and how that recent public health crisis revealed much of what Lewis warns against. “If you have a group of people who claim to be speaking for science with a capital S, that breeds a type of closed-mindedness and intolerance,” notes West. “…If you live in a planned society, planned scientifically, someone has to be the planner…the more someone has to plan you, the less freedom you’re going to have.”
In a subsequent episode (Part 2), Dr. West will explain how scientism harms genuine scientific progress, how scientism can lead to moral relativism, and what we can do to bring science back into alignment with older, deeper human truths.
Read C. S. Lewis’s essay “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.”
For a book-length treatment of C. S. Lewis’s views on science and scientism, be sure to get a copy of the Dr. West-edited volume The Magician’s Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.
Watch the first of Dr. West’s three short docs based on his book The Magician’s Twin: