ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) are attempting to brazenly commandeer the reputation of one of America’s most celebrated Founders by claiming that he supports their brand of creationism.
The Discoveroid article in question was written by John West, the winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award. As we’ve pointed out before, West is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (the DI), where he is Associate Director of their Center for Science and Culture. That makes him one of the chief Keepers of their Wedge Strategy, and the guru of the cdesign proponentsists (a term described here: Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”).
This is West’s article, Thomas Jefferson: Intelligent Design Not Based on Religion, and here are some excerpts:
Next time someone tells you intelligent design is “based on religion,” you might point him to American Founder Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. … Jefferson not only believed in intelligent design, he insisted it was based on the plain evidence of nature, not religion.
Let’s skip the bulk of the article and get right to the end:
If more people knew about Jefferson’s real views on intelligent design, they might not be so quick to accept bogus claims that it is simply repackaged theology.
This is an unbelievably silly argument. Why? Because before Darwin, virtually everyone was impressed by the design argument. Most assumed — as do the Discoveroids — that the designer was God; however Jefferson, having a secular intellect, imagined that some kind of Deism was the ultimate cause. But there was no science to support Jefferson’s speculations; and therefore the Discoveroids can’t use Jefferson’s pre-Darwinian guesswork to justify sneaking their “theory” into science classes.
Why do the Discoveroids behave like this? We assume it’s because they know quite well that they have no science to back up their “theory.” The only actual authority they have is Genesis, but that pesky First Amendment keeps their “theory” out of state-run schools. Frustrated, they scrounge around looking for secular authorities, and there are none more respected than the Founders.
We’ve discussed Jefferson earlier, in connection with another creationist’s misguided attempt to hijack the Founders: The Founders Rejected Evolution? Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment, and he never used religion as a justification for his conclusions — unlike the Discoveroids, despite their endless claims to the contrary.
Jefferson, like all thinkers before Darwin, observed the deceptively beguiling appearance of design in nature. It was Darwin, a generation after Jefferson’s death in 1826, who discovered that this appearance can be explained by non-miraculous mechanisms — variation and natural selection.
We suspect that Jefferson would have been among the first to be persuaded by Darwin’s science, had he lived long enough to learn of it. This shameless Fourth of July contrivance by the Discoveroids should embarrass them. But it won’t.
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