C. S. Lewis: Man’s Power Over Nature (Part 2)

. . . The latter point is not always sufficiently emphasized, because those who write on social matters have not yet learned to imitate the physicists by always including Time among the dimensions. In order to understand fully what man’s power over nature, and therefore the power of some men over other men really means, we must picture the race extended in time from the date of its emergence to that of its extinction. Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment, bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists, and limits the power of its predecessors. This modifies the picture which is sometimes painted of a progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes, resulting in a continual increase of human power. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for, though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands, we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the age most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its predecessors, almost as drastically as that of its successors.

Part 1»
C. S. Lewis |  The Abolition of Man: Or Reflections On Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English In the Upper Forms of Schools (New York: MacMillan, 1947), 36.


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