We ask our non-US readers to indulge us as we celebrate America’s Independence Day. But first — the news:
As they traditionally do on this day, the Discoveroids have once again hijacked poor ol’ Thomas Jefferson. At their blog we find that this year’s intellectual body-snatching is conducted by David Klinghoffer. His historical-philosophical fiction is titled Try to Imagine Our Country’s Founding if the Founders Had Not Been Advocates of Intelligent Design.
Klinghoffer begins by doing something we often see done by creationists — he misquotes the Declaration. He tells us that these are “the opening words of the Declaration of Independence”:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Are those the Declaration’s “opening words”? The typical, uneducated, brain-dead follower of the Discoveroids may think so, but the rest of us know that Klinghoffer — like so many other creationists — conveniently leaves out the Declaration’s first sentence. You know, the one that says the American people were assuming “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” entitle them.
It was in Jefferson’s second sentence — the one Klinghoffer quotes — that he started referring to the “Creator” — the one he had just identified in the preceding sentence. But who or what is “Nature’s God”? Does it sound like Yahweh? No, it doesn’t, and that’s why creationist quote-miners always skip Jefferson’s first sentence.
Moving along in Klinghoffer’s charming little essay, we come to this:
The author of the Declaration, deist Thomas Jefferson, could only write as he did because he believed on the grounds of reason and science that human life really did reflect purpose and design.
Then he plucks something out of the extensive late-life correspondence between Jefferson and Adams in which they privately shared their thoughts on religion. Neither was conventionally religious. This is what Klinghoffer quotes — and in doing so he relies on the scholarship of Stephen Meyer who had quoted it earlier:
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.
Quote-mining alert!! You can see the entire letter here: Jefferson’s letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823 and we’ll quote from it, putting the Discoveroid material in blue and the omitted material in red:
On the contrary I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it’s 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 it’s composition.
We’ll leave it to you to make sense of Jefferson’s letter. It’s terribly rambling. With that “On the contrary” phrase he’s dismissing “Jewish and Christian revelation” — and we assume the Discoveroids don’t want you to be too aware of that. Jefferson is relying on the evidence as it was known by him in 1823, and on his powers of reason. Unlike the creationists and the Discoveroids today, he’s not dismissing any well-established scientific knowledge.
However, Jefferson was writing a generation before Darwin’s theory was published, so here and there it seems that he’s fumbling with Paley’s watchmaker analogy — as did Darwin in his youth. It is doubtful that Jefferson would make that mistake today. But even with the limited information available to him, Jefferson was definitely not a creationist — see Thomas Jefferson on Young-Earth Creationism.
Hey — the Discoveroids quoted something from that same Jefferson letter three years ago, and we wrote about it here: Discovery Institute’s False Fourth of July. As with all creationists, they keep recycling their old stuff.
The Discoveroids are somewhat different from other creationists, however, regarding their peculiar practice of appropriating the carcasses and reputations of dead people. Well, why not? Jefferson’s name is laden with prestige, for which the Discoveroids are desperate. Besides, the dead don’t protest when they’re being abused, so that kind of body-snatching is a safe, albeit disreputable tactic. Were we to play that game, we would claim that Alexander the Great agrees with your Curmudgeon, and would eagerly serve as a humble squad leader in our army.
Then Klinghoffer says:
The Western world, in so far as it has adopted the American model, is still living on the inheritance we received from the Founders with their belief, drawn from reason and from faith, in intelligent design.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The whole American Revolution was based on intelligent design! Okay, that’s enough from those guys.
As we’ve done before, we’ll give you a few links to some good Fourth of July reading: Here’s the Declaration of Independence, plus the Articles of Confederation, which was mostly drafted at the same time as the Declaration, but it wasn’t ratified until 1781. Hey, no collection would be complete without Common Sense by Thomas Paine.
Here’s the Constitution. Let’s not overlook President of the United States in Congress assembled, listing ten Presidents before George Washington.
Check out Primary Documents in American History (1763-1815). Loads of goodies there. You ought to be aware of this: Veto of federal public works bill by James Madison, because pork barrel spending is unconstitutional.
That’s enough. Enjoy the holiday, and feel free to use the comments as an Intellectual Free Fire Zone.
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