Intelligent Design

Thomas Jefferson on ID

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Jefferson to John Adams on April 11, 1823:

I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripedal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms.

We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in its course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view, comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have exited thro’ all the time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe.

 HT Steven Waldman

43 Replies to “Thomas Jefferson on ID

  1. 1
    Gods iPod says:

    And I find it inspiring, that the one many are calling our modern-day Thomas Jefferson, also is a believer and supporter of ID. Congressman and MD, Ron Paul.

  2. 2
    Frost122585 says:

    Jefferson is always called an agnostic or even atheist by various idiot history teacher’s that I have encountered. Da Vinci was right when he said “the greatest deception that men suffer is that of their own opinion.” To call oneself a history teacher and yet ignore the clear cut thrust of letters like this one can only be facilitated by pure personal ideology.

    If the contextual description above of Intelligent Design does not give you the full thrust of the argument then you need to read it again because Jefferson lays it out brilliantly, especially for his time and era before the discoveries of molecular machines and IC that natural science now has to deal with.

    It is correct to conclude from the letter above that Jefferson was an adamant supporter and believer in ID. And let us not forget it.

    I might also add that Gouverneur Morris who wrote large portions of the US constitution once said

    “Religion is the solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward God.”

    While not directly about intelligent design, one can certianly infer that religious sentiment at least in this man’s view was given much more respect in the days of revolution which thanks to Morris and other great thinkers brought about the freest nation in the world.

  3. 3
    Turner Coates says:

    Jefferson is always called an agnostic or even atheist by various idiot history teacher’s that I have encountered.

    Say what!? Any American with a modicum of education knows that Jefferson was a deist — no ifs, ands, or buts.

    The “ultimate cause” Jefferson refers to is the First Cause of deism. To put it in considerably less elegant terms than he would ever have used, he held that design was front-loaded.

    Jefferson also believed that the Evangelists had made a mess of Jesus’ pure moral teachings. He constructed a new book, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, by excerpting from the Gospels the passages he considered authentic. He excluded miracles, the resurrection, and all indications of Jesus’ divinity.

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    I think that would be illegal to mention in biology class according to Judge Jones…

  5. 5
  6. 6
    tribune7 says:

    Of course Judge Jones would rule you can’t teach that. Judge Jones is a constitutional expert who fully understands the meaning of “separation of church and state”.

    Why would he even consider what some guy named Jefferson wrote in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Pshaw!! Only a postmodern thinker has the authority to address this issue!!! I mean, did Jefferson ever have to deal with “Bad Frog Beer” while running the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board?

  7. 7
    irreducible_complacency says:

    I’d hold out before I claimed that Jefferson was a supporter of ID. Rather, he is the same sort of positivist type that Dawkins et al are, standing on the nebulous ephemeral position that human reason can actually resolve such issues. I quote:

    The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

    How can you say that he favors intelligent design, when he does not believe in the designer? It seems to me that Jefferson is no one to be lauded, but should be excoriated for his blasphemy and calumny against what we know to be true: revelation.

    I don’t get much comfort from those who claim that human knowledge is superior to those ‘primitive doctrines’, or that the Lord is just a ‘reformer or human error’.

  8. 8
    PannenbergOmega says:

    “Jefferson believed in the existence of a Supreme Being who was the creator and sustainer of the universe and the ultimate ground of being, but this was not the triune deity of orthodox Christianity.”

    http://www.monticello.org/repo.....igion.html

    I think Jefferson, was far, far, from being on the same page as Richard Dawkins.

  9. 9
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Slightly off topic: George Washington and Providence.

    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....-22.0.html

  10. 10
    Ahmed Aouin says:

    ,,what we know to be true: revelation.”

    I do not now Mr Jeferson but if you say revealation is better then rationel you make me think about chinese engineers who must study Mao red book to desine rockets.

    Do you want fundamentals in US schools, academys? In Türkey AKP partei is bringin creationismus, is very bad, not science.

    Doktor dembski writes ID is science, not fundamentalsm. Do you support, or are you AKP?

  11. 11
    DLH says:

    irreducible_complaicency

    How can you say that he favors intelligent design, when he does not believe in the designer?

    Read and address the facts, not your presuppositions.

    Note above that Jefferson stated:

    So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have exited thro’ all the time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator,

  12. 12
    Ahmed Aouin says:

    This is very good. Mr irreducible_complaicency should read scientist like Mr Jeffersson, not little red book

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    It occurs to me that several on this thread do not differentiate between front-loaded intelligent design and theistic evolution. According to ID, design is detectable because it can be PERCEIVED; according to TE, design not detectable because it cannot be perceived; it can only be CONCEIVED. Yes, I know that the distinction is unnatural and contrived, but we are just getting started.

    TE posits that we must first accept the Darwinian formulation of chance and then somehow plug God into that paradigm. That leaves open only one possibility: God somehow stacked the deck so that everything occurred by chance. We are to conclude, therefore, that God “designed” a non-design evolutionary universe, except that design is “inherent” in the evolutionary process. In other words, life is designed, except that it isn’t; the evolutionary process is directed, except that it isn’t; biological life has purpose; except that it doesn’t. In the final analysis, their Christianity is not RECONCILED WITH Darwinism, it is SUBORDINATED TO it. Don’t blame me for this; I am just reporting. Please God, spare me Ken Miller’s schizophrenia and I will endure Richard Dawkins’ atheism with gratitude.

    Now the reason I am putting my poor reader through this hell is not to satisfy some sadistic impulse on my part, but rather to dramatize the point that Jefferson would have had none of this foolishness. When he wrote, “We hold these truths to be SELF EVIDENT,” was referring to the fact that we “deserve” to be free because we were “designed” for it and nature was “designed” to accomodate it. The “natural moral law” is nothing less than a morality that has been designed objectively in the universe and subjectively in the human heart. Because Jefferson held that design can be “perceived,” not merely “conceived,” he was in the ID camp and out of the TE camp.

    The fact that Jefferson was not, as far as we know, a “born again” Christian, has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of teleology in nature. I am having a hard time accepting the sincerity of the two bloggers who think it has relevance.

  14. 14
    irreducible_complacency says:

    Jefferson’s creator was not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is the only God that exists, and by this logic Jefferson did not believe in The Creator, he believed in an ‘agent’ that happened to be ‘eternal’. Note the very same logic that Jefferson uses (rhetorical blustering, overstatement, and the intentional use of words such as ‘agent’) used by materialist evolutionists today.

    An ‘agent’ can be, in common parlance, a natural law such as gravity. Very much the same thing with ‘creator’. What we see here is an a priori commitment to materialism, in the mechanical definitions assigned to the ‘agent’. But what Christ asserted was that the creator was not mechanical but PERSONAL.

    This quote by Jefferson that you have added further demonstrates that Jefferson was as far from an ID supporter as one could be. He didn’t believe in the designer (Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, one head of the Triune God) he believed in a material process caused by a material agent. Sounds like Ken Miller to me.

    Further, he treats the Revealed Fact of the existence of the God of the Bible as just another hypothesis (Dawkins, anyone?)

    We know that there are no such thing as natural laws. What color is a natural law? How much does it weigh? How does one observe such natural laws?

    These notions steal the very same set of assumptions that are granted us by the Revealed Word of God, then attempt to turn around and deny that revelation using those assumptions. I say get your own assumptions.

    By His grace are reason and logic sustained.

  15. 15
    bFast says:

    Complacency, “How can you say that he favors intelligent design, when he does not believe in the designer?”

    You seem to be of the mistaken belief that when IDers refer to a designer(s) we are referring to Jesus or the Christian God. You may want to quit believing what the other guys say about us. Within the science of ID, the nature of the designer or designers is truly undefined. The link between the designer and any particular God view is outside of the theory, and varies with the beliefs of the individual talking. Muslims, for instance, are welcome here.

  16. 16
    irreducible_complacency says:

    bFast I hope that Muslims do feel welcome here. They need to hear the Good News.

    As an IDer, when I refer to the designer my friend I am most assuredly referring to Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of the World. I am not concerned with what the world is saying about that, trust me.

    The link between the ‘designer’ and the God of the Bible is most certainly a function of the theory, for only the revelation of the God of the Bible predicts an observable universe, the ontology of Person, and the grace and mercy necessary for the process of logic and discovery.

    So pardon me if I dismiss the rest of your comments. If you will note, your logic (it could be space aliens or Satan) is directly blasphemous to the Creator. Your misunderstanding of ID is caused by a form of logical positivism that is shared by you and Dawkins and the other secular humanists that believe that reason triumphs over revelation, which is in direct contradiction to the Revealed Word of God.

  17. 17
    PannenbergOmega says:

    StephenB,

    I’m not sure if I’m one of the people you were refering to. My intention, specifically in regards to what irreducible_complacency wrote, was that Jefferson did indeed believe in a creator.

    Secular-progressives try to paint both Jefferson and Washington as being sceptical deists or closet atheists. The evidence (which you can easily find yourself) points otherwise.

  18. 18
    PannenbergOmega says:

    bfast, I agree with you.

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    —–PannenbergOmegal: “I’m not sure if I’m one of the people you were refering to. My intention, specifically in regards to what irreducible_complacency wrote, was that Jefferson did indeed believe in a creator.”

    No, I did not have you in mind. You are correct about the intellectual dishonesty of those who try to cast Jefferson as an agnostic. Clearly, he was a pro-design theist. To avoid misunderstanding, I will abandon my attempt at diplomacy and lay it on the line.

    I interpreted the remarks by Leo Stotch and Irreducible Complacency as direct attacks on the integrity of the design inference. In both cases, they imply that Jefferson could not be an advocate for intelligent design because he did not explcitly assign the role of designer to Jesus Christ. They both know better than that, so I have to wonder about their motives.

  20. 20
    ajl says:

    I would be careful about putting a 21st century interpretation onto Jefferson’s remarks. Jefferson was a great man, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice of his life and fortune so that we can have the country we have today.

    That being said, Jefferson was somewhat of an intellectual elitist in his day. My guess is that had Jefferson lived in the 19th or 20th century, he might be, like Dawkins, and intellectually fulfilled athiest. The early stages of Darwinism would have given Jefferson the “science” to jettison a creator and become self-focused.

    How he would respond to this in the 21st century, I don’t really know.

  21. 21
    Tim says:

    What!? Thomas Jefferson died? I so enjoyed listening to him on NPR each Sunday afternoon.

    Leo, it is not helpful to suggest that TJ would be TE. I could just as easily say that his independence of thought would have shredded Darwin’s tome, and we get . . . nowhere.

  22. 22
    Borne says:

    The book containing the Jefferson-Adams letters can be found HERE:

  23. 23
    Borne says:

    leo stotch: “To say that someone who died decades before Origins was published was an ID advocate is to claim the unknowable and …”
    You forget that ID is the original origins story. The ID term itself was mentioned before Darwin and the concept has always existed. Indeed it is the most ancient and universal of all origins concepts.

    Jefferson’s “So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent…” are exactly the ID paradigm in his own words.

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    —–Leo Stotch: “I didn’t really have a motive in mind when I posted that. But, since you see fit to question my motives. I’ve thought some about why this bothers me. Jefferson is not the advocate that you would wish him to be. Pulling that quote out of a letter where he also reiterates his denial of the divine nature of Christ is a Pyhrric victory. It opens up to ID critics the discussion of Jefferson’s belief in reason over revelation and his denial of miracles.”

    Why would a Jeffersonian denial of miracles cause any problem for intelligent design? Front loaded design is not synonymous with miracles. Also, it is not necessary for Jefferson to believe that God revealed himself in Scripture in order to believe that God revealed himself in nature. Why do you think I went out of my way to differentiate between ID and TE in an earlier post? ID is consistent with the idea that God reveals himself in nature. TE insists that God DID NOT reveal himself in nature. That is one of the many reasons why the difference matters.

    —–“This leads to the oft-heard criticism of ID not seeking to understand the methods by which biological systems are created. Frankly, I’d like to move beyond that and to a place where ID is investigating means of design, which would lead to practical applications unconceived of in the Darwinist mind.

    In other words, you would like to ID to be something different than it is. You are not content that ID should study the EFFECTS of design, you would it to begin studying the methods of the designer. That way it would not only overstep its capacities but it would also confirm, or at least make plausible, the lie that ID is faith-based.

    —–“Shoe-horning Jefferson into a role we would choose for him does nothing to further that goal and only keeps the discussion we need to get away from on the table.

    Jefferson was many things over his lifetime, and his theological sensibilities ranged from Deism to nominal Christianity. He was never an agnostic. What did not change was his pro-ID Theism. It is not possible to believe in the “natural moral law” and be a non-design Theist. That is another reason that I brought out the differences between ID and TE and tied it to the issue of morality.

    —–“Furthermore, Jefferson had a keen interest in science, and it is overly optimistic to claim he would support the modern science of intelligent design when he died long before Darwin’s work was published. You simply don’t know how he would have reacted to The Origin of Species. There is no reason to assume he would reject evolution, given some of the parallels to his interest in animal husbandry. We will obviously never know, but from what I have read about TJ, I think he would more likely be a theistic evolutionist. And TE’s are no friends of ours.”

    No, I have no idea how Jefferson would have reacted to Darwin and neither do you. So, why did you bring it up? If you are going to fast forward Jefferson in time, go ahead and move him into the 20th century and allow him the luxury of observing the specifically complex patterns in a DNA molecule. That way we can be fairly sure about what his reaction would have been. The fact that you would place him in Darwin’s time and not in our own age is an indication that you would prefer that Jefferson had been a Darwin-soaked TE rather than what he really was.

    At the same time, and, ironically, you are claiming that he was a TE anyway, so why all the speculation. You wrote, “but from what I have read about TJ, I think he would more likely be a theistic evolutionist.” This would be a very good time to be explicit and tell us exactly what you did read and why you came to that conclusion. I don’t often ask for evidence in informal discussions, but I think we are all entitled to it in this case. Especially, since TE posits that design is “illusory” and I have already made the case that Jefferson believed it was “real.”

  25. 25
    Turner Coates says:

    StephenB,

    According to ID, design is detectable because it can be PERCEIVED; according to TE, design not detectable because it cannot be perceived; it can only be CONCEIVED. Yes, I know that the distinction is unnatural and contrived, but we are just getting started.

    The distinction is interesting, and it made me think.

    Most ID advocates are not scientists, and many view the world of science through a drinking straw, as it were. I’ve never encountered a theistic evolutionist who did not embrace methodological naturalism out of a concern for maintaining the global coherence of empirical science.

    A key notion for ID advocates such as William Dembski is that intelligence creates complex specified information. (Only their socio-political objectives keep them from using the word creates.) It seems to me that the theistic evolutionists are predominantly concerned with avoiding a patchwork science in which some phenomena result from the operation of natural “laws” and the others by a sort of creation.

    What I’ve said here does not, I think, contradict what you said, but generalizes it.

  26. 26
    Turner Coates says:

    To understand Jefferson, one has to keep in mind that he was an Enlightenment thinker who spent a great deal of time in France. When Enlightenment philosophers were removing God from science, he was in the thick of it. Deism is a straightforward answer to the regress that results when one asserts that all phenomena are related by cause and effect according to Natural Law. The regress ends with a Creator that is the First Cause and Prime Mover. (What is not straightforward in deism is how one deals with human morality.)

  27. 27
    Turner Coates says:

    Most, if not all, self-identified theistic evolutionists accept the reality of miracles. They believe that science, to be a powerful tool for investigation of empirical phenomena, must exclude miracles from its scope of inquiry.

    Deists deny the reality of miracles.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    Leo: “I am sorry that you have decided to “expel” me from your personal section of the dialogue. It doesn’t give me much of a chance to understand where I “twisted” your words, nor does it give you a chance to make your case more compellingly.

    Some of your comments seemed unreasonable to me, and they still do. To me, it is unreasonable to de-intensify our rhetorical defense of ID until it produces some scientific miracle. Once that happens, it will not NEED defending and will no longer be vulnerable to assassins who would kill it in its infancy.

    To me, it is unreasonable to rule out Jefferson’s clear words in support of ID simply because he is not one of our contemporaries. In fact, ID is over two thousand years old, and everything that was said about it in antiquity still applies.

    To me, it is unreasonable to say you have read something that suggests TJ was a TE, without providing some motives for credibility. You could at least have said something like, “I once read such and such which, for me, calls into question Jefferson’s devotion to teleology.”
    We must all fine-tune our arguments from time to time, and none of us are understood perfectly even with repeated offerings. So, the less willing you are to clarify your points, the greater the probability that you will be misunderstood. Further, ID dissenters often pose as ID supporters, and the only way I know to ascertain their sincerity quotient is to challenge them. If they are interacting in good faith, the truth always comes out.

  29. 29
    irreducible_complacency says:

    Stephen I’m not arguing against the validity of the design inference at all and I don’t see how anyone could come to that conclusion. Those are very uncharitable remarks.

    It is frustrating that I cannot respond to those who attack me in this forum. is something wrong with the board, my comments are not showing?

  30. 30
    PannenbergOmega says:

    ajl, did you know Thomas Jefferson personally? This is a common revisionist view of Jefferson’s religious beliefs.

    If you were to follow the Monticello link I provided, it will show what the experts have uncovered from his writing. From what I recollect they show a man who was a ‘conservative unitarian’.

    http://www.americanunitarian.org/

    Guessing what he would have been like had he been a living in early twenty-first century America is irrelevent. In fact, he probably would have been unelectable because he was a poor public speaker and shy.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    Leo Stotch: after rereading my notes, I find that I did jump to conclusions by attributing to you something someone else wrote. Further, I added insult to injury by piling on your justified response. For both correspondences and for the confusion that followed, I apologize.

  32. 32
    Rude says:

    Fascinating! Yesterday in researching for a paper on the virgin birth I came across this very letter from Thomas Jefferson—it was on the Gould site. I’d thought to bring up Jefferson’s pro-ID words to y’all and then this morning Barry A already had!

    And there are those who don’t believe in coincidence.

    But hey—what is this? Are there still Christians who, if they could, would burn dissenters at the stake? Is it safe to confess that I’m unitarian (with a small u), a Global Warming and Virgin Birth denier?

    But I think that Intelligent Design is the greatest thing to come down the pike in my lifetime—is the Big Tent big enough for Christian heretics?

    Is it possible to believe in truth and still disagree amiably on the details? Why is it so difficult to see that if there is no Design then all the Abrahamic faiths fail, and that therefore ID is more important than the doctrines that divide those faiths? Dennett was right—Darwinism is a “universal acid” that, left unchecked, eats through absolutely everything—science included (which Dennett of course doesn’t see).

    Then there is this notion that unless ID somehow benefits us materially (medicine, technology) it fails. Why then has Darwin thrived in spite of 150 years of contributing NOTHING but trivialities? It’s the philosophy, sir! Darwin is defended with fire-breathing vehemence because of its philosophical implications.

    If Darwin has been the universal acid that silences all else, what should Darwin’s demise denote? A similar silencing of dissent? or that everything is finally on the table for discussion?

  33. 33
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Good point Rude. Lets not confuse unitarians and unitariansm with the ‘unitarian-universalists’.

    By the way, it’s nice to see you commenting here again. Hope your studies are going well.

  34. 34
    PannenbergOmega says:

    “But I think that Intelligent Design is the greatest thing to come down the pike in my lifetime—is the Big Tent big enough for Christian heretics?”

    YES!! There is room for everyone who believes there is a purpose to the universe. I think.

    There are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahai, Platonist, Deist, Stoic, Freemasons, Unitarians..

    I’m sure even if someone was a practioner of Thelema or Jungian astrology it would be cool.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Can I beg to remind us on what was actually said in the Thomas Jefferson letter?

    I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripedal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms.

    We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in its course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view, comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and, were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have exited thro’ all the time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe.

    In short, TJ was a design thinker, as was Plato before him, as was Cicero before him, and as was Paul of Tarsus before him [cf Rom 1:19 – 20 etc], as well as the vast majority of thinkers up to recent years.

    In that design thought, he appealed to the full spectrum of empirical evidence from the atom [which means that he took one side of a serious scientific debate at the time] to the cosmos, advocated a Creator as the preferred option to a self-existent universe.

    It is this worldview that one will find in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, and it is a point where American [as opposed to Continental] Deist, creationist, hebraically influenced thought and More fully Judaeo Christian thought overlapped and agreed.

    For instance, here is Paul:

    Rom 1:19 . . . what may be known about God is plain to [humans], because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . .

    And Cicero:

    Is it possible for any man to behold these things, and yet imagine that certain solid and individual bodies move by their natural force and gravitation, and that a world so beautifully adorned was made by their fortuitous concourse? He who believes this may as well believe that if a great quantity of the one-and-twenty letters, composed either of gold or any other matter, were thrown upon the ground, they would fall into such order as legibly to form the Annals of Ennius. I doubt whether fortune could make a single verse of them. How, therefore, can these people assert that the world was made by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, which have no color, no quality—which the Greeks call [poiotes], no sense? [Cicero, THE NATURE OF THE GODS BK II Ch XXXVII, C1 BC, as trans Yonge (Harper & Bros., 1877), pp. 289 – 90.]

    Now, of course after generations of being indoctrinated into the evolutionary materialist view, many profess to “know” — on scientific grounds — that the appearance of design in the universe and in life etc is misleading. However, there are serious grounds for doubting the intellectual soundness of such a worldview:

    [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home . . . . In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . . .

    So, there is much more to the story than at first meets the eye.

    GEM of TKI

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: maybe i was a bit obscure. One of the implications of rejecting self-evident truth is that one winds up in absurdity.

    So, we should reflect on what Jefferson meant when he stated “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created . . .”

  37. 37
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Judge Jones probably had Thomas Jefferson in mind when he gave his infamous commencement speech at Dickinson College. Jones showed extreme prejudice against ID and the Dover defendants — regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept — by saying that his Dover decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions. Jones said,

    . . . .this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.
    — from
    http://www.dickinson.edu/comme.....dress.html

    Ironically, Jones gave the speech while standing behind the Dickinson College seal, which was designed by USA founders Benjamin Rush and John Dickinson and which has a picture of an open bible and the college motto “religion and learning, the bulwark of liberty” in Latin.

    To me, the most irritating thing about Judge Jones is that he has gotten a lot less hell than he should have gotten for the things that he has said and done.

    Originalism sucks. As a result of originalism, the Founders have been portrayed as everything from a bunch of bible-burning blasphemous atheists to a bunch of bible-pounding holy-rolling fundies.

  38. 38
    irreducible_complacency says:

    Aye Larry and further, with no guarantee that the truth is even in the middle!

    kairosfocus I think there are serious intellectual and logical grounds for rejecting the suggestion that the capitalization of Agent means anything like the hidden assumption that you have smuggled into your account that Jefferson therefore meant a Person.

    The straw…materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature.

    Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    Now, arguing that the latter follows from the former is simply dishonest. I did what I will demonstrate that you did, but this time there is good reason to suspect that my argument is strong on merit and not simply on form.

    Defeating a mereological nihilism, with your appeals to the justified absurdity of considering ‘thoughts’ to be mere electrochemical events in the brain, sounds great and we can all get behind the notion that this is ridiculous. Even the materialists that you ascribe this position to.

    Further I am afraid that your position ultimately damages the warrant for faith at all.

    Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically

    I am always skeptical when someone simply asserts their argument as the only way to interpret the evidence, for often this has been a mistaken view in the history of the world.

    Faith is a subjective decision to believe, and no amount of information can change this. Induction and all that stuff that you already know. At some point, one must choose to impose an arbitrary decision making level. Suggesting that there is a confidence level that validates such decisions is cheapening to that faith and also inconsistent with the assumptions of such statistical models.

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them.

    of course purpose, truth and validity may have their own meanings at one’s whim. for many, the definitions are predicated upon the hypothetical existence of an ultimate frame of reference. Yet another hidden assumption that carries with it the stench of the predestination determinism that is the watermark of fascism.

    My friend, I do not understand why we do not retire this point as an argument? Believers take solace in their belief that there is an external frame of reference, and this belief is validated by their decision of affirmation. Unbelievers possess the most parsimonious argument, but they can find none of the comfort that is the fruit of communion and not deduction.

    the silliness that is piggybacked onto the ‘multiple universe’ foolishnesses is debilitating to clear thinking about the fundamental issues. it is as foolish to speak about multiple master reference frames as it is to speak about one. But between brothers and sisters in christ it becomes another issue altogether. But this argument cannot work against one who has not already been persuaded to believe on their own accord.

  39. 39
    StephenB says:

    Irreducible Complacency:

    I don’t know how Jefferson could have been any more precise in his expression. He approaches the subject with four different nuances all pointing to the same theme. Not only does he speak of a “superintending agent, a “fabricator,” and a “powerful agency,” he also dramatizes the point by indicating that this same agent is a “sustaining” force. These are all objectively oriented terms that point to a designer, or, to put it in ID terms, an agent. Now whether that designer is a “person” or not depends on your definition of same.

    Indeed, “person” is a subjective formulation that can mean almost anything to anyone. You will notice that YOU smuggled in the subjective formulation of “person” into the discussion about an objective reality and then held kairosfocus accountable for the smuggling. The issue here is “creator” vs. “non-creator” not “agent” vs. “person.” No one here is talking about persons other than you, so if you will drop the term, coherency will be restored and all will be well.

    Further, you seem to have some difficulty accepting the notion that materialism cannot account for the phenomenon of rationality. To understand the nature of rationality is to understand that it cannot arise from a matter to mind scenario. Only one account hangs together: The designer created [A] a rational universe, [B] rational minds to comprehend it, and [C] a correspondence between the two. Take away even one of these three pieces of the puzzle, and the entire rational enterprise collapses.

    In other words, rationality can exist only if the interplay between [A] and [B] was set up and coordinated by a thoughtful agent in advance. Only theistic dualism can account for such a phenomenon. Materialism/monism accounts for only one realm, compacting [A] and [B] into a single indeterminate substance, which eliminates any possibility of an interplay between two realms, which is the necessary condition for rationality in the first place. You can have materialism or you can have rationality, but you cannot have both.

  40. 40
    Rude says:

    Pannenberg Omega, thanks for the thumbs up. I also agree with those who suggest that the Founders may not have been so easily duped by Darwin. Sometimes fools rule, but it seems that in the era of America’s founding they did not.

    Larry Fafarman, you speak wisely, but then how can you criticize originalism? If one doesn’t mean what he originally said, how can his interpreter be taken seriously in what he originally said? Do judges who are postmodernly free to read anything into a text extend us the same license to read whatever we want into their pronouncements?

    If we have a “living constitution” which can be made to mean whatever the mood of the mob mandates, why do we need legislators? Why not just trust a professional elite to judge after the fact according to how they feel and not worry about what some musty old law stipulated beforehand?

    Interesting how the founders believed in reason (they weren’t postmodernists), yet they didn’t trust the reasoning of magistrates. They also understood the rule of law—of a constitution decided and agreed upon beforehand.

  41. 41
    DaveScot says:

    Just as an aside there’s an HBO mini-series that just debuted titled “John Adams” that chronicles, in dramatized reenactment, the events surrounding the U.S. declaration of independence and the revolutinary war. Prominent roles are people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams (the central role), and Benjamin Franklin. The meetings of the continental congress are a particular focus so far. It’s quite good. I’m hooked after seeing the first two one-hour episodes.

  42. 42

    […] organized religion, but argued for the rationality of belief in God, from the laws of Nature (see here and here). For all his hatred of Christianity, Tom Paine (who is, strange to say, a hero of the […]

  43. 43

    […] organized religion, but argued for the rationality of belief in God, from the laws of Nature (see here and here). For all his hatred of Christianity, Tom Paine (who is, strange to say, a hero of the […]

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