On last night's (March 23, 2014) COSMOS episode (the third episode) host Neil Tyson made an inaccurate assumption regarding Deistic thought. (I really like and enjoy the COSMOS series and am thankful for it. In the first episode they did a great job discussing Giordano Bruno and his free-thought struggle for truth and progress with Christianity which ended in his religious murder by being burned alive by the Christians. And the program is full of great, important and interesting facts about science. However, the assumption stated regarding Deistic thought should be addressed, in my opinion.)
While discussing Isaac Newton, Tyson commented that in Newton's time people could only understand the solar system and Universe as the work of a master clockmaker/God. He then said, "For reasons beyond our understanding, God just created the solar system that way. But this explanation was the closing of a door. It doesn't lead to other questions."
He went on to say, "Newton's laws swept away the need for a master clockmaker. Gravity is the clockmaker. Matter obeyed commandments we could discover, laws the Bible hadn't mentioned." (This shows the importance of educating people to the profound and important difference between The Supreme Intelligence/God and religion which will let people know that neither the Bible nor the Quran are the word of God.)
One of the classic definitions of Deism includes looking at the Universe as being created by a master clockmaker. This idea, and Deism itself, can be boiled down to the Universe and all its laws and designs demonstrate intelligent design (not Biblical or religious intelligent design, but natural and rational intelligent design). In fact, science is simply the study of these laws and designs in Nature. Laws and designs which Atheists believe happened by chance and which Deists believe are the product of The Supreme Intelligence/God.
Belief in The Supreme Intelligence/God in no way closes a door or stops us from asking more questions. Look at Albert Einstein. He held Deistic beliefs about The Supreme Intelligence/God and the Universe (in Einstein: His Life and Universe Walter Isaacson writes that Einstein's belief in God was a "deistic concept of God." And the Nobel Prize winning scientist Walter Kohn said he holds Deistic beliefs due to Einstein's writings) but that NEVER stopped him from asking more and more questions about the laws and designs in the Universe.
Einstein was a humble genius. He wrote, "I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."
Einstein also wrote, "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."
These Deistic beliefs in no way closed any doors to Einstein's mind and questions. In fact, in my opinion, Deistic belief spurs our minds on to question everyone and everything. As the Deist Thomas Jefferson advised his nephew, "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." (This Jeffersonian advice directly and strongly violates Judaism, Christianity and Islam which all teach their followers to fear God.)
I look forward to watching the rest of the COSMOS series. It's a great source for learning, and the more we can learn the better off we and our society are.
God gave us reason, not religion; The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition by Thomas Paine; Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You; An Answer to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity; Listen to Deism Podcasts
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