Screwtape takes on a new student & tackles science


My budding student RotRing,

You may be wondering how I am still employed in the field of educating young tempters after that dismal failure Wormwood. It is with some relish that I can report that the failures of a nephew are not visited upon the uncle. At least not too harshly. You may further find yourself thinking that you are in the very unfortunate position of having someone like myself as your guide, as you seek to become more proficient at keeping patients away from our Enemy. Just remember that the student does not surpass his teacher and that the gap between you and myself is quite vast. I have, as I am sure you have heard, enjoyed a fair bit of success in the realm of tempting. You’ll have plenty of room to learn and grow.

Now RotRing, I note from your latest report that you are wondering about some advice I gave some time ago, to that dreadful nephew of mine, regarding the use of science. At that time I wrote that tempters should ‘not attempt to use science as a defence against Christianity’ as it would ‘encourage patients to think about realities they can’t touch and see’.  Each age has a distinctive set of characteristics -as you, I am sure, remember from your studies – and we must be mindful of them so that we can better craft strategies for dealing with your patient.

In this age, in which your patient is living, there is a great deal of thinking about science. This could have been a disaster for us, but without much effort on our part things have  managed to turn in our favor on this matter. When I gave Wormwood the advice about science, I also reminded him that they ‘find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes’. This is still true. Science has now made many ‘unfamiliar’ things far more ‘familiar’ to your patient.

These disgusting humans love to dwell on the cosmos thinking themselves so very smart having managed to put together some crude tools to measure smaller and smaller matter at greater and greater distances. This has allowed them to gather more information about the workings of the universe and even postulate how it came into being. It used to be that such simple things as the sun rising was a beautiful and inexplicable mystery which caused them to appeal to gods or even to use our Enemy as an explanation for how this could be. But as they formulate their theories and tame the universe with mathematics, that which cannot explained, through what they call the natural laws, has greatly diminished and with it the gaps in which our Enemy is needed. And your patient, if he is like most, is quite content to accept the grand idea that science’s ability to provide natural explanations is more than adequate to put our Enemy out of a job.

For you see RotRing, our great advantage is that we have got them to make the mistake of assuming that describing how the universe works is the same as explaining how the natural laws came to be in the first place and why these laws remain in existence providing such an orderly and fine tuned machine such as it is.

But the world and the universe are anything but tame. I well remember that time, if I can call it that, when space and time sprang into existence out of a void of nothing. It was a splendid spectacle. Stars burst into being and burned brightly. Galaxies swirled and formed into an ever expanding expanse. Oh, how we cheered and marveled at it all. And how we looked forward to making it our domain and our playground.

But then our Enemy announced that He was turning it all over to the little vermin. Those petty little playthings that He dumped into a garden on a small planet tucked into some distant corner of this great universe. How our Father fumed and raged, storming out of the throne room. It was at that moment that our great rebellion started and we were determined to take what should have been given to us.

I digress.

As I noted, the current time in which your patient lives is filled with a great admiration for science because it allows them to define a reality that is physical and ‘seen’. As they learn more they have produced technological marvels that fuel an attitude that there is nothing that cannot be accomplished, much like the tower builders of old. Watch over them as they marvel at their ability to smash atoms and discover new particles yet never seem to wonder how science, which is the study of the natural laws, can hope to peer back into the past to describe events that occurred prior to the existence of those natural laws that they are so fond of. As a careful observer of these creatures it is fun to watch them get so excited over all their formulas which allow for any number of unverifiable speculations as to how the universe came to be. Things such as quantum gravity fluctuations, multiversesbeing spit out of a black hole from another universe, or even their age old idea that the universe is eternal – these all replace our Enemy. Yet they never give a thought to considering that quantum mechanics, multiverses, or even a universe spawning black hole all had to came from somewhere. You see the ‘unfamiliar’ really does get muddled in their thinking when the ‘familiar’ is available. You must continue to foster the idea that a naturalistic explanation removes the need for Him.

With their great successes they have also become blinded to what science really is and what its limits are. After all science, rightly understood, is the study of the natural world and how it works. It never dawns on them that the ability to save a life through drugs and technology hardly gives science the ability to answer the question ‘how should we live?’ Your job is to make sure that an idea like that never takes hold in your patient.

Should you find your patient beginning to question these things, I have found that whispering the name Galileo is all that is needed to turn their thoughts and attitudes against our Enemy.

Your masterful guide,
Screwtape

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