You also said, "But they were Christians heavily influenced by the Enlightenment." What am I to make of that remark, since I am both a Christian and a huge fan of "modern science" so much so that I take it seriously enough to critique it?
It almost seems as if you see the Enlightenment mainly as an "improvement" on the then-prevailing "religious barbarism." This attitude seems a tad anachronistic to me, a kind of "backloading" of currently-prevailing "fashionable" (i.e., politically correct) attitudes. (The people living back then probably wouldn't have had a clue what our current "fashions" or "festishes" could even mean.) This sort of practice, to me, is to commit intellectual malfeasance by citing (a very seriously misplaced) "history"....
There is no question in my mind that the Framers Christian to a man and mainly Calvinist in their spiritual leanings were enormously influenced by the Enlightenment. Some of the greatest thinkers who ever lived, lived in this era. And across many different fields of endeavor. The Framers were not only well-educated men; they were learned men "learned" because, as Christians, they had a common criterion of Truth and Justice; and a common concept of Man as an individual and social animal (so to speak).
But I digress. My main point is you seem to suggest that there really is some sort of "divide" between science and religion, or even more crudely put, between reason and faith. And one is "better" than the other.
But I wonder, how on earth can you separate them, really?
To illustrate what I mean, please let me compare and contrast two great "leading luminaries" of the Enlightenment: Sir Isaac Newton and Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace.
IMHO, Newton was one of the greatest thinkers humanity ever produced. He, in his turn, produced an absolutely marvelous abstract system with an extraordinarily apt ability to model and predict the behavior of objects in the direct-observational realm; i.e., the space-time sense of reality that we humans normally experience. (A Darwinian theorist might argue on these self-same grounds that the human "sense" of space-time is an "evolutionary development" probably largely due to the evolution of better connections between "the brain" and the respective brain centers that collect and sort sense data related to natural objects as detected by means of the five senses .... Fun question to think about; but not now.)
Anyhoot, fairly or unfairly, people say that Newton's mechanical theory "revealed" the true state of affairs in our Universe: That is, the Universe [preferably an uncreated and eternal one, from this perspective] is an "entity" which is inherently, relentlessly, thorough-goingly material, mechanistic, and deterministic in its evolution. Newton's Laws "explain" everything; they are the foundation of modern physics; and the very idea of what we mean by "classical physics."
I think Laplace certainly took up his mécanique celéste i.e., the "clockwork universe" idea from Newton.
Napoleon: You have written this huge book on the system of the world without once mentioning the author of the universe.Some would interpret this exchange to mean Laplace thought so much of Newton's Laws, that the "need" for God was perfectly obviated for him:
Laplace: Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.
Given for one instant an Intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which Nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis ... to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.Well, NO KIDDING. Laplace is "definitely onto something there." But WHO does he imagine such an Intelligence could possibly "be" himself?
I do not want to "flog" Laplace, just to "flag" how his "attitude" has had historical resonance in our times....
Compare this "attitude" with that of Isaac Newton.
Newton was making an abstract, universal description attempting to account for the mechanics/dynamics of material bodies wherever they occur in the Universe. And thus, the so-called "Newtonian particle" is a total abstraction, and has to be such, if it presumes to account for the movements of all bodies everywhere in the universe at all scales that fall under direct human observation, from atoms to planets and suns and stars....
Certainly the "Newtonian particle" is not some hard little billiard-ball sort of thing, persisting homogeneously in time, subject to changes only by means of local causes, on a time-line moving inexorably, irreversibly from past to present to future.... Yet the existence of just such a "body" is critical to the functioning of any "clock mechanism."
Whatever the case, the notion of a thoroughly-determined, "clock-work universe" has been totally exploded by twentieth-century quantum physics....
But oh I'm digressing again....
To sum up: There are at least two important things to note about Newton's fundamental worldview, or cosmology, that people seem not to remember today. (1) Newton believed the Universe is a divine creation. (2) Newton believed that, because "random," mechanistic causes in Nature cannot but fail to produce "disorder" sooner or later, the "Lord of Life, with His creatures" had to step into the picture, every now and then, to set matter "aright" again.
All I'm saying is: Newton himself did not divide himself along the lines of "science versus religion" as if they were some sort of mutually-exclusive combatants in his own nature. He saw them as necessary, complementary parts of his one self-same nature, which he recognized as finally, somehow, "under God."
My suspicion is the Framers were pretty good "Newtonians," at least. Perhaps they would have found Laplace's divertissement a/k/a "parlor trick" a little underwhelming....
Just guessing, of course. Thanks so very much for writing Notary Sojac! I hope I haven't bored you to tears....
1.) Lumping Newton in with the ‘oddballs’ that were the ‘enlightenment’ imho they only included Newton to give some added weight to their deluded thinking.
2.) Although not of the ‘enlightenment’ group, the scientist most consider 2nd only to Newton, Albert Einstein, also had
a similar quote regarding science and religion.
Now let’s see how did that one go...
....America.....had a very different intellectual genealogy, having been much more influenced by the skeptical enlightenment of Britain and Scotland than the radical enlightenment of France."
".....Something unique and unprecedented in human history occurred with the American founding. Somehow, Americans stumbled upon the very means to unleash human potential through liberty, individual initiative, free markets and representative democracy, to become the unrivaled economic, scientific, and political leader of the world. How did they do it?
I just recently read What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, and there is an instructive passage about the American intellectual consensus of the early 19th century, at the very time we began our ass-kicking world-historical ascent (and bear in mind that this is a secular scholar with no religious agenda whatsoever):
"As this chapter is written in the early twenty-first century, the hypothesis that the universe reflects intelligent design has provoked a bitter debate in the United States. How very different was the intellectual world of the early nineteenth century! Then, virtually everyone believed in intelligent design. Faith in the rational design of the universe underlay the worldview of the Enlightenment, shared by Isaac Newton, John Locke, and the American Founding Fathers....
Thanks for the very thoughtful post. I don't have time to reply in depth right now, but....
It almost seems as if you see the Enlightenment mainly as an "improvement" on the then-prevailing "religious barbarism."
I wouldn't put it so crudely, but it's clear that between 1650 and 1750, it became (mostly) unacceptable in Western Europe to advocate the forced conversion or physical punishment of those who had a different faith.
That change is, in my opinion, crucial to the modern concept of individual liberty, since if the state can dictate how one may worship God, what can it not dictate?
And that brings to mind another question. If I am to accept the premise of some Christians that only Christianity can serve as the basis of a free society which respects liberty, why is it that during the total ascendancy of Christianity in the west from ca. 350 to ca. 1700 AD, there came into being so few "free republics"?
"....nothing can happen in the world of science that is inconsistent with the existence of God. To cite one prominent example that comes to us via quantum physics, if this were a Newtonian universe of logical atomism -- i.e., a cosmos of completely disconnected parts -- that ontology would be radically inconsistent with the existence of the immanent God. To put it another way, the infinite sea of quantum potential is a kind of exteriorized mirror image of God's interior. .....
"Creation is continual. If we are to be accurate when speaking of creation, we should use not the past tense but the continuous present. We should say, not 'God made the world, and me in it,' but 'God is making the world, and me in it, here and now, at this moment and always.' Creation is not an event in the past, but is a relationship to the present."
"Which is why you are called (i.e., it is your summa voc-ation) to live your life with love and creativity, or even "creative love," which is again to be a proper mirror and image of the Creator. Or, to quote Augustine, "Creation precisely affirms a principle of origin, but not necessarily a principle of duration.... God is before the world of duration, yet the word 'before' does not mean a priority of time, but of eternity...."