Intelligent Design

ID’s Anglo-American Enlightenment Roots

Spread the love

This from a course to be taught in the fall at Rutgers. I’m a big fan of the Scottish common sense realists (especially Thomas Reid) and will be publishing an anthology later this year collecting together writings of Hume, Reid, and Paley on natural theology.

Professor Gregory Jackson
Seminar: The Anglo-American Enlightenment (350:629)

Tuesdays – 9:50am to 12:50pm
Bishop House, Room 211

In this course we’re going to take an extended look at the origins of “intelligent design,” a phrase coined not in our own time but in the context of the debates over science and religion in the eighteenth century. Far from believing that the two were irreconcilable, many of the Enlightenment’s influential thinkers worked tirelessly to integrate the material and spiritual worlds into a grand design that accounted both for the occult and the increasing importance of Newtonian physics and the natural sciences. We will range through the works of writers such as Ralph Cudworth, Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather, George Berkeley, David Hume, John Taylor, Anthony Collins, and Daniel Whitby. In so doing, we will explore emergent theologies that incorporated natural philosophy and empiricism (“evidential Christianity”), including
Jonathan Mayhew’s Seven Sermons, which articulated the rationalized “theology of virtue”; Samuel Webster’s Winter Evening’s Conversation Upon the Doctrine of Original Sin (1757); Hume on miracles; and Joseph Priestly’s Early Opinions of Jesus Christ (1789) and The History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782), a book Thomas Jefferson deemed
essential reading. We will also read Edwards’s posthumous Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World (1755) and The Nature of True Virtue (1755), works that summarized orthodox Christians’ anxiety about the over rationalization of the Protestant theological tradition. We will link this historical exploration of design theory to contemporary concerns with science and religion as antithetical categories.

While taking place within a transatlantic context, these debates comprised a particularly important dimension of the American Enlightenment’s special interest in Deism and secular humanism. We’ll contextualize this venture in the century before, in Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke, concerning ourselves largely with epistemology. Because the 1692 Salem witch trials provide an apt synecdoche of the evidentiary crisis marking the onset of the American Enlightenment, we’ll examine the conflicting metaphysics, ontologies, and epistemologies that continued to promulgate an atavistic worldview on the one hand, and augur secular modernity on the other. And finally under full steam, we will examine
the importation of neo-stoicism and Baconian empiricism to the colonies, filtered through Scottish Common Sense Realism- key philosophical underpinnings of Enlightenment debates over natural religion and the religion of nature. Expect to read all or parts of Samuel Clarke’s Natural Religion (1705); Francis Hutcheson, System of Moral Philosophy;
Thomas Reid’s Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (1764); and Dugald Steward’s Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. These classic texts of the Scottish and American Enlightenment illuminate the epistemological convergences that have come to characterize our secular modernity.

7 Replies to “ID’s Anglo-American Enlightenment Roots

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Hi Dr. Dembski,
    Here is a paper that may be of interest to you.

    Intelligent Design – The Anthropic Hypothesis

    http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc8z67wz_0hm7ftjfn

  2. 2
    sparc says:

    Bornagain,
    where is the authors name?
    Which journal has it been published in?
    How much of it has just been copied/pasted?
    And the main question:
    Is it even compatible with the kind of ID Dr. Dembski has been promoting for years?

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    In the past as now it is the notable thing that the Anglo-American world believed in God and Genesis more then others pound for pound.
    This is because of the puritan/Evangelical influence that was greater. So everyone was more persuaded about these matters.
    I also see the greater intelligence of the Anglo-American world, also from the puritan/Evangelical influence,as a origin for greater confidence in God/genesis.
    Cause and effect.
    There is today a great belief in these things but it does need successful thinkers to lead the way in order for these beliefs to come into greater prominance or dominance.
    This coarse could be the start.

  4. 4
    Scot.David says:

    Mr. Byers – You said: “I also see the greater intelligence of the Anglo-American world, also from the puritan/Evangelical influence,as a origin for greater confidence in God/genesis.”

    Are you really tryng to say that the Western world is more intelligent than the non-western world? What’s next, an “ID Crusade”?

    Unless you can support your assertion, you run the risk of being taken for a right-wing bigot, and also run the risk of labling the entire ID movement as such.

    However, it also appears from your phraseology that perhaps English is not your first language. If so, I apologize and gladly wait for your elucidation.

  5. 5
    SaintMartinoftheFields says:

    If I were a student at Rutgers, I would almost certainly sign up for this course.

  6. 6
    PaulBurnett says:

    The course description starts: “In this course we’re going to take an extended look at the origins of “intelligent design…

    Here’s another “origins of intelligent design” resource: The prolific author John Phin’s 1908 book, “The evolution of the atmosphere as a proof of design and purpose in the creation, and of the existence of a personal God.” One chapter is titled “Intelligent Design” and another is “Adaptation as Evidence of Intelligent Design.” Written long before Gonzalez, Dembski, Behe or Johnson were born, Phin’s book pulls no punches as to Who the Intelligent Designer is.

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    Scott, David.
    No not western but Anglo-American civilization.
    Yes i insist that the English-speaking peoples were more intelligent then everyone else since the reformation. As I said because of religious motivations.
    this is a fact determined by scoring achievements in all things man does intellectually.
    To deny this is to deny the clear truth and rightful compliment.
    Therefore I.D and biblical creationism is more likely to be found in the more intelligent nations and peoples.
    This because truth is more easily discovered among more advanced peoples.
    since god and genesis are true it logically follows it would be more accepted here.
    To discover high things requires high ability. this has been a foundation behind science.
    What I say is true. If its not true then demostrate why and not make bitter accusations without substance.

Leave a Reply