C. S. Lewis: Man’s Power Over Nature (Part 1)

In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?
Let us consider three typical examples: the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive. In a civilized community, in peacetime, anyone who can pay for them may use these things. But it cannot strictly be said that when he does so he is exercising his own proper or individual power over Nature. If I pay you to carry me, I am not there for myself, a strong man. Any, or all of the three things I have mentioned, can be withheld from some men by other men—by those who sell, or those who allow the sale, or those who own the sources of production, or those who make the goods. What we call Man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by. Again, as regards, the powers manifested in the airplane, or the wireless, man is as much the patient or subject as the possessor, since he is the target, both for bombs, and for propaganda. And as regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense, in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive. By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurrent voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with nature as its instrument.
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), 34–35.


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    C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, educated prep schools in England, Belfast, and earned his undergraduate degree at Oxford. He was a military veteran of World War I and, in 1925, appointed tutor in Magdalen College, Oxford. He was converted to Christianity in 1931 and became a prominent literary critic, scholar of Norse mythology, Medieval and Sixteenth-Century English, and a leading apologist for Christianity. His academic work is still appreciated by scholars and his popular fiction (e.g., The Chronicles of Narnia are beloved by millions.

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