“CS Lewis and Charles Darwin go into a pub and start talking about the Tao”: Yeah, I know it sounds like one of those very weak and far-fetched jokes. Darwin, aristocratic and withdrawn, wasn’t the type to hit the famous British bars, let alone the more than a decade gap between the death of the father of evolution (1882) and the birth of the author of The Chronicles of Narnia ”(1898). Even if the two met, there would be no shortage of problems.
I’m not just saying this because of their diametrically opposed paths from a religious point of view – Lewis, the young atheist who became one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century, against Darwin, the priesthood candidate in the Anglican Church, who was different from religion and religion removed He became the most famous agnostic of all time.
It turns out that while Lewis is used (and abused) by fundamentalists today, his theological and fictional work has had a robust and heartfelt dialogue with evolutionary theory. For example, in his touching space trilogy, a work that combines a medieval cosmological perspective with modern science fiction, Lewis imagines that an intelligent species from the planet Venus evolved from aquatic, non-terrestrial ancestors. And in “Pure and Simple Christianity” he uses speculation about an alleged “next step” in human evolution to speak of the resurrection of Christ.
The most harmonious marriage between the two thinkers, however, lies in the realm of ethics, however strange the claim may seem. And that brings us to the Tao that I mentioned in the first paragraph. In “The Abolition of Man”, another Lewis classic, the goal, passionately attacked by the author, is the philosophical and moral relativism of certain currents of modern thought. To counteract this trend, Lewis formulated the concept of the Tao – a term he borrowed from Chinese antiquity to emphasize its universality.
We can translate the Tao as “way”, “way”, “road” or more abstractly as “doctrine”, “principles”. Lewis uses the concept to denote the many similarities between the ethical beacons of great civilizations. Both the Chinese Confucius and the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth “discovered” independently the famous “Do not do to others what I am not supposed to do to you”. Nor are there cultures that praise thieves and traitors and condemn the generous and loyal.
The strange thing is that Darwin has already sensed this tendency for a relatively universal morality to emerge, and recent studies in social psychology confirm the idea that something very similar to the Tao is actually found in a wide variety of societies.
In part, these are principles that naturally arise when you try to live with other people who are not your family because they build mutual trust without which no society can function. The point is that, while most races recognize its universality, ultimately only apply it to members of their own group, leaving others outside of this “magic circle”.
The impartial use of reason, another tool of the human mind that is sharpened by evolution, can help us to open this circle more and more. It takes time, it’s complicated and painful, but we get there. And it comforts the heart of this writer to know that what connects us is much greater in the heart than what divides us. We are a family business.