What a star is

As the film of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is about to grace our screens perhaps it’s good to point out the science-faith questions raised by this, the fifth book in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series. Eustace spends much of his time at sea looking at only the scientific explanation for events, and I’m sure a slightly more thorough study of the book would be interesting from a science-faith point of view. But this quote has been burning a hole in my pocket since I heard it mentioned on a BBC programme about ‘The Narnia Code‘ in 2009.

Here, Eustace is reminded of a great truth by Ramandu, the keeper of Aslan’s Table at the world’s end.

‘I am Ramandu. But I see that you stare at one another and have not heard this name. And no wonder, for the days when I was a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations have changed.’

‘Golly,’ said Edmund under his breath. ‘He’s a retired star.’

…’In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’

‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of…’

CS Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn treader, 1955.

From chapter 14: The beginning of the end of the world


Mr Darwin’s Tree

Last Friday the play Mr Darwin’s Tree was performed in Cambridge (one of two performances sponsored by the Faraday Institute as part of Cambridge University‘s Festival of Ideas). It’s  a one-man show written by Murray Watts and performed by Andrew Harrison, and was commissioned by the think-tank Theos, as part of their ‘Rescuing Darwin‘ Project in 2009. It lasts 70 minutes, and I was a bit worried that – it being Friday night – I would be likely to fall asleep. But Andrew Harrison was superb as Darwin (at various ages), Darwin’s father, Darwin’s wife Emma, his Daughter Alice, the captain of the Beagle, and a number of other characters. The young Darwin’s list of pro’s and cons of getting married is hilarious!

It was almost completely historically accurate, though I’m sure interpretations of events and Darwin’s papers will vary. Watts, I think, has picked out the essentials of Darwin’s life, and retold them in a very immediate way. There is much to empathise with, and the use of some of Darwin’s letters adds another layer of immediacy. The play focuses in on Darwin’s development of evolutionary theory (without delving into the scientific details) and parallel loss of faith, as well as the responses to his new theory from a number of different people. It brings out the tension between science and evolutionary theory that people felt at the time, but also shows the nuances in the various responses. Watts clearly wants to challenge the standard simplistic ‘science at war with faith’ myth.  In the end, the play has a positive message from both a faith and a scientific perspective. Very entertaining, very thought provoking, it will probably make you cry – and they’re open to booking more performances around the country…