Man’s Power over Nature?

“Let us consider three typical examples:  the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive.  In a civilized community, in peace-time, 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 therefore myself a strong man.  Any or all of the three things I have mentioned can be witheld from some men by other men–by those who sell, or those who allow the sale, or those who own the sources of producion, 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 aeroplane 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 alread alive.  By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring 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 exercied by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

One Reply to “Man’s Power over Nature?”

  1. Hi, Christine.
    I finally took the time to follow RB’s advice and checked your website. The daughters look so lovely in their sleep. I’m also on Craig’s facebook so I’ve seen and enjoyed the family photos.
    The radio is playing the old song Sleepy Time Gal, and that describes me to a T tonight. I just enjoyed a long walk down by the farm. Only a week before we have in-service days before the academic year begins.
    Love, Elaine

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