CS Lewis letters presented to Queen's demonstrate writer's anti-Darwinism
A COLLECTION of letters from Belfast writer CS Lewis which were yesterday presented to Queen’s University Belfast has illustrated how he entertained doubts about Darwin’s theory of evolution – and how he saw parts of Donegal as lovely and sinister.
Members of the Acworth family were at Queen’s to donate 11 letters that Lewis wrote to Capt Bernard Acworth, founder of the Evolution Protest Movement.
The letters, written between 1944 and 1968, disclosed how the author of the Narnia series, Oxford academic and devout Christian, tussled with the issue of evolution. Capt Acworth’s son, the Rev Dr Richard Acworth and his daughter Phyllida, a Queen’s English graduate, were at the college yesterday to formally hand over the letters to Deirdre Wildy, head of special collections and archives at Queen’s.
Dr Acworth spoke about how his father founded the anti-evolution movement in the 1930s and was dedicated to opposing the teaching of the theory of evolution as scientific fact. He corresponded with Lewis, arguing that evolution was incompatible with Christianity.
The letters point to Lewis gradually moving from his initial fairly unquestioning acceptance of evolution to a more critical position without ever actually endorsing Capt Acworth’s anti-evolutionist stance.
“My father became friendly with Lewis during the 1940s. In his published works, CS Lewis infrequently addressed the subject of creation and evolution, and when he did, he usually endorsed some version of theistic evolution,” said Dr Acworth. “These letters are fascinating, because they reveal that, during the last years of his life, Lewis was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the claims being made for organic evolution.
“They also contain insights into various aspects of Lewis’s private life, including when he married his wife [Joyce] at her bedside in hospital as she was dying of cancer and she seemed to make a miraculous recovery.”
Lewis also talks of visiting Donegal, describing the scenery in north Donegal as “lovely” and south Donegal as having a “sinister character”. The correspondence also reveals how, in 1951, Lewis declined to write a preface to one of Capt Acworth’s books opposing evolution.
“When a man has become a popular Apologist he must watch his step. Everyone is on the look out for things that might discredit him,” he wrote.
The handover took place in the CS Lewis reading room, in the university’s McClay Library, which is entered through a replica of the wardrobe door used in the feature film, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.