Thursday, October 30, 2008

C. S. Lewis and Alan Jacobs on Richard Dawkins

Alan Jacobs has a short piece on Dawkins called "Sir Richard Rides Forth to Slay Another Dragon" that treats Dawkins and his anti-fairy tale crusade with just precisely the degree of seriousness it deserves.

As I was reading the piece by Dawkins the other day, the thought occurred to me that perhaps C. S. Lewis prophecied the coming of Dawkins in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This evening, I looked it up. Lewis began his book as follows:

"There once was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. . . . He didn't call his father and mother "Father and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on the beds and the windows were always open." (1)

Apparently, Dawkins regrets not growing up in such a home as this. He laments the fact that his parents actually allowed him to read fairy tales and wonders if it might have "damaged" him. He concludes that it is a subject for "research." Lewis again:

"Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools." (1)

It is interesting how Lewis' description fits our earnest scientest so well. Maybe that is because Dawkins' viewpoints are not at all "up-to-date," but rather the same old "modern" stuff we have been hearing about ever since the 18th century. It says something disturbing about our society that all you have to do is put a white lab coat on a guy and people think he is a great prophet and oracle of wisdom - when he wouldn't even recognize a dragon upon meeting one.

"At the bottom of the cliff a little on his left hand was a low, dark hole - the entrance to a cave perhaps. And out of this two think wasps of smoke were coming. . . . Something was crawling. Worse still, something was coming out. Edmund or Lucy or you would have recognized it at once, but Eustace had read none of the right books. . . " (68)

What a pity. He had read none of the right books. A pity indeed.

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