Monday, June 14, 2010

Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people?

The whole picture of the universe which science has given us makes it such rot to believe that the Power at the back of it all could be interested in us tiny little creatures crawling about on an unimportant planet! It was all so obviously invented by people who believed in a flat earth with the stars only a mile or two away,' [said my friend.]
    ‘When did people believe that?’ [I replied.]
    ‘Why, all those old Christian chaps you’re always telling about did. I mean Boethius and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante.’ earth big
    ‘Sorry’, said I, ‘but this is one of the few subjects I do know something about.’
    I reached out my hand to a bookshelf. ‘You see this book’, I said, ‘Ptolemy’s Almagest. You know what it is?’
    ‘Yes,’ said he. ‘It’s the standard astronomical handbook used all through the Middle Ages.’
    ‘Well, just read that,’ I said, pointing to Book I, chapter 5. ‘The earth,’ read out my friend, hesitating a bit as he translated the Latin, ‘the earth, in relation to the distance of the fixed stars, has no appreciable size and must be treated as a mathematical point!’  
    There was a moment’s silence. 
    ‘Did they really know that then?’ said my friend. ‘But— but none of the histories of science — none of the modern encyclopedias — ever mention the fact.’
    ‘Exactly,’ said I. ‘I’ll leave you to think out the reason. It almost looks as if someone was anxious to hush it up, doesn’t it? I wonder why.’ 
    There was another short silence. small earth
    ‘At any rate’, said I, ‘we can now state the problem accurately. People usually think the problem is how to reconcile what we now know about the size of the universe with our traditional ideas of religion. That turns out not to be the problem at all. The real problem is this. The enormous size of the universe and the insignificance of the earth were known for centuries, and no one ever dreamed that they had any bearing on the religious question. Then, less than a hundred years ago, they are suddenly trotted out as an argument against Christianity. And the people who trot them out carefully hush up the fact that they were known long ago. Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people?’

C.S. Lewis, "Religion and Science," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 74-75.

No comments:

Post a Comment