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Salon on science’s long road to atheism

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From “This is how science lost God: Atheism, evolution and the long road to Richard Dawkins’ latest Twitter controversy,” a book excerpt from A Brief History of Creation at Salon:

Voltaire’s views on religion, like his views on nearly everything else, were sometimes arbitrary and often contradictory. They were united in their hatred of superstition, and beyond that, little else. At times, his argument for God could appear utilitarian. He worried about whether morality could exist in a world devoid of a supreme being, a world in which good and evil were all relative. “If God did not exist,” he wrote, “it would be necessary to invent him.” Voltaire had a habit of quoting himself, a backhanded way of elevating his own importance. That quote was one of his favorites.

But there was a deeper reason for Voltaire’s advocacy of the divine in the face of this now open disbelief: Voltaire really did see the natural world as proof of a divine intelligence. In the “Dictionnaire,” he had ridiculed the notion of an active God. But he did believe in an ultimate creator, what he called a “Supreme Infinite,” responsible for creation, after which the world existed as it had always existed. … Nature had laws, but laws that fit the plan of a creator. They were an “intelligent design,” as such a notion would one day be known. Voltaire’s view of the world was much the same as that held by Newton, another deist. In the book on Newton that Voltaire had completed at Cirey, he had written, “If I examine on the one hand a man or a silkworm, and on the other a bird or a fish, I see them all formed from the beginning of things.” The world may indeed be a clock, as Descartes suggested, but it had always been a clock. It had been, from the beginning, fully formed. Complete. “A watch,” Voltaire said, “proves a watchmaker.” If he detested organized religion, he detested atheism even more. More.

Apparently Darwin and Dawkins saved the world from Voltaire’s intelligent design concept. For now, at least.

See, for example: Royal Society is rethinking evolution and

Dawkins vs. the flying horse for how that’s all working out.

A Brief History of Creation is not doing badly Could have valuable info.

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5 Replies to “Salon on science’s long road to atheism

  1. 1
    groovamos says:

    I’m sure the people at salon.com would prefer Newton to have been a deist rather than a churchgoing biblical scholar, and expounding a creator, performing “actions [in nature and history], creating, preserving, and governing … all things according to his good will and pleasure.”

    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ewton.html

  2. 2
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News. The Salon article described a fascinating period in France’s intellectual history, which laid the groundwork for the rise of scientific naturalism.

    Readers with an interest in this period might also like to have a look at a book titled, Atheism in France, 1650-1729, by Alan Charles Kors (published by Princeton University Press). In this erudite work, Professor Kors argues that bickering between rival schools of Christian theologians was what ultimately gave rise to atheism among France’s intellectual elite. In what Kors describes as the “great fratricide”, theologians from bitterly competing schools of Aristotelian, Cartesian, and Malebranchist Christian thought attempted to refute each other’s proofs of the existence of God, and to depict the ideas of their theological opponents as atheistic. This caught the attention of France’s reading public, causing many intellectuals to doubt the existence of God. France is to this day an atheistic country.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Thanks much, vjtorley at 2. I have always sensed that there was a neglected history there.

  4. 4
    GaryGaulin says:

    Then let this sad neglected history be a lesson to us all that God never was or ever will be beyond scientific investigation. Our creator provided us with a brain to through science on your own figure out how we were created, now use it! Amen..

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    I think very few science subjects bump against anything to do with God or the bible.
    So what “science” thinks is irrelevant.
    Just va few people might bring up that SINCE the natural world is a running machine then no God need be around or around at its creation. Thats all it is and no more insightful.
    If the natural world is a self running machine then no God would be visable.
    Only in the complexity, diversity, glory of the universe and biology is God to be seen as the author.
    Yet like reading a book the author is not around while reading the book and turning the pages. BUT don’t say thats evidence there was no author but the book made itself.
    more easy then this biology stuff eh.

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