Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thomas Jefferson--the Original Intelligent Design Guy

Here's just a short snip from an excellent essay on Jefferson, the Baconian Deist, quoting Jefferson:

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

Looks an awful lot like the argument from Intelligent Design, no?


Brother James said...

To many, the only bit they want to hear about T. Jefferson is his money quote about the separation of Church and State. Anything else is just the ravings of a white, land-owning, slave-holding deist.

PaulNoonan said...

Well, yes, but Jefferson was long dead before Darwin ever set foot on the Beagle. He did not have the benefit of a scientific theory to compete with the Deistic notions of the Enlightenment crowd.

Much Enlightenment scientific work was motivated by the search for God (as you well know). That fact does not make Jefferson's statement accurate.

PaulNoonan said...

Also, later in the same letter we get this:

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.


Context, of course, is always important.

John Foust said...

Anyone here, Dad29 included, who thinks Jefferson would not have studied and accepted evolution?

Dad29 said...

Paul--as you note from the link, Jefferson did NOT believe in biblical revelation--thus his antipathy to churches (and organized religion in general.)

As to evolution, John, it's entirely likely that J. would have accepted it, at least as a theory.

He is NOT likely to have accepted "social Darwinism" however, at least based on his writings in the Declaration of Independence.