In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis states “It is difficult to assign to instinct our attitude towards an object which exists only for reflective men.”(p.37-38). This passage is in the midst of Lewis work on showing the existence of natural law.
Such a statement presents us with more than one thing to ponder. Are there objects which exist only for the mental reflection of men? If not, how do we explain the seeming reality of such ideas? If so, from where do they come? What purpose do they serve, but for our own enjoyment? These thoughts are, for some men, the primary focus of existence, and the passion which gets them up in the morning. Are we to believe that such thoughts are purely mental byproducts of functional survival, even when they have no apparent connection (For they are, by definition, purely reflective, not functional or utilitarian)? Also, it would appear that not all men have purely reflective thoughts, but only some. Why?
But Lewis’ question goes even deeper. He asks about our attitude about purely reflective objects, and what is the most reasonable origin of these attitudes. Why would we have changes in attitude about objects which exist only in our state of mental reflection?
By “instinct” he is speaking of purely physical need to propagate the species. Note that Lewis does not say such a layered approach to thinking is impossible to be generated via instinct, and very often our committed atheist naturalist friends seem to find a way to explain away such questions with a wave of the “survival of the fittest” wand…a sort of atheist-of-the-gaps approach to hard questions. But I must agree with Lewis here that it appears quite difficult to assign to instinct the cause of a value judgment put upon an object that only exists for no other purpose than pure mental reflection. And if God does not exist, then all causes are, in the end, pure physics and chemistry, and all we have to work with are natural forces. But if God exists, we have a few more options to ponder.