Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Twenty


Weston returns from his head-washing and has a conversation with Oyarsa regarding his purposes and goals. Ransom translates most of this as Weston’s grasp of the language is too rudimentary. Devine speaks once and is essentially shut up.

Oyarsa tells them they must leave soon, once he has spoken with Ransom. That they will be given oxygen and supplies to arrive home and then their ship will “become what you call nothing.” Oyarsa tells Weston about himself and about the Bent One on Thulcandra that has bent Weston. He pronounces Weston “bent” and needing work since his ways are confused and harmful but aimed at helping his race, but he pronounces Devine “broken,” eaten up only with greed and himself.


During the conversation between Weston and Oyarsa there is mention of return to earth which troubles Devine because he understands the planets are moving. They realize that they came there when the planets were in an alignment to give them a relatively short travel distance for interplanetary travel. But now it has “months” since they have arrived. The distance is much too far to make it with the amount of oxygen they have on board the ship. Oyarsa volunteers to give them supplies and air to last 90 days. This doesn’t mean that they will successfully navigate the distance and land on earth, but it does give them the physical necessities for the journey.


“Tell him… that I don’t pretend to be a metaphysician.”

So there you have it. The scientist interprets Oyarsa’s questions to be metaphysical in nature. I’m pleased I came to the same conclusion.

This chapter focuses on the conversation between Weston and Oyarsa with Ransom translating. The entire conversation deals with the metaphysical narrative clash between Oyarsa’s “world-view” and Weston’s. I will say that these are at least somewhat representative of the worldview of Western Christianity and of scientism or futurism.

The crux of Weston’s view is that he has come to Malacandra as some type of emissary with a plan to later conquer the planet. He believes that though earth has many years left, it will not last forever and the people will need a planet to move to, and one after that, and on and on. Thus he is acting on behalf of humanity. But, Oyarsa points out, he is willing to sacrifice a human, Ransom, to save humans. So he doesn’t really value people as much as civilization, his race and its survival. Oyarsa points out the absurdity of sacrificing people to save people. Weston believes that Life is greater than right or wrong and must be preserved in any way possible even if it requires killing others – people of Earth or of Malacandra. Life as a “right” to overtake “lower forms of life” in order to preserve posterity.

This sounds atrocious at the surface and yet much of the science of the 20th century lead precisely there. There were the grotesque examples of this seen in Nazi Germany with human testing done to patients in concentration camps and with the systematic extermination of what was considered lesser races. This was Lebensunwertes Leben, or life unworthy of life. This was going on at around the same time Lewis wrote OOTSP.

But there are many other examples as well. The American eugenics movement sought to remove the “lower forms of life” from modern society with forced sterilizations, imprisonments and the like. There are our millions of abortions, life that is felt to be unworthy of living since the mother has chosen she can’t deal with the child for whatever reason. In that situation, the mother’s life takes precedent over that of the child. This is often called a woman’s “right” to choose.

We may find it somewhat understandable that he would be willing to destroy Malacandrians, as they look almost like beasts to human eyes, but as Oyarsa points out, Weston and Devine went back to Thulcandra with the explicit purpose of kidnapping another person and turning him over to be killed. So it isn’t a matter of a misunderstanding. It is hatred of life in support of Life.

Our modern medical ethics are filled with such confusion. We speak of beneficence and non-maleficence, but we rarely speak of right and wrong or of sin. We speak of survival of the fittest, but not of self-sacrifice or courage.

At the same time we have men on earth who hope to live forever – futurists of a certain type. They live to advance technology to extend life without understanding what life really is, Who has given it or for what purpose. Weston claims to be no metaphysician, but that claim is false. He is very much a metaphysician, but not a very good one. He misses the flaws in his own logic and even the bigger picture of what life is.

But Oyarsa sees through this:

I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you. There are laws that all hnau know, of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred.

The silent planet’s Oyarsa has taken that law and blown it up so that it drives the people there to disregard every other law.

Now I want to say that I see a difference between the love of kindred taking over and what Genesis 3 gives as the original sin. Genesis 3 seems to concern more a sin of pride and of wanting to be a god, to set out what is right and wrong, good and bad (or bent) for ourselves instead of listening to our Creator and his laws. Now that seems perfectly inline with Augray’s earlier assertion that Thulcandrians all want to be little Oyarsa themselves.

But what I see represented in this love of kindred law is a type of Darwinism-run-amok. Survival of the fittest. Help the species. Might is right. Darwin on the science end of the argument. Nietzsche on the philosophical, or metaphysical side. And Weston wants to use modern science and knowledge to get us there, to help mankind (man, not hnau) arrive there. This is the scientism that our society is trumpeting and that Lewis is condemning. A very damning of a damnable narrative.


The Verdict


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