The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

The Conquest of Nature

C.S. Lewis, 1944, The Abolition of Man.

“. . . the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive. In a civilized community, in peace-time, anyone who can pay for them may use these things. . . . Any or all of the three things I have mentioned can be withheld from some men by other men. . . . From this point of view, what we call Man’s power of Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument. (54-55)

“. . . . The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by prenatal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. (59)

“At the moment, then, of Man’s victory of Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’—to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man. (67-68) (emphasis added)

“. . . Every conquest over Nature increase her domain. The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them: the soul does not become Nature till we can psychoanalyze her. The wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature.

Langdon Winner, 1977, Autonomous Technology (link).

In the case of modern technology, critics of technology see that “man overcomes his bondage to economic necessity only by submitting to bondage of a different, but equally powerful sort. The conquest of nature is achieved at a considerable price – an even more thorough conquest of all human and all social possibilities” (Winner 1977: 187). (emphasis added)