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Try to Imagine Our Country’s Founding if the Founders Had Not Been Advocates of Intelligent Design

Thomas Jefferson.jpg

The Huffington Post pleasantly surprised us today with an excellent piece on the necessary role of faith in public life, by James Robison and Discovery Institute’s Jay Richards (“Accepting the Obvious: Faith Is an Integral Part of American Public Life”). We just learned that their book, Indivisible, hits the New York Times bestseller list at No. 5 this week. Congratulations, Jay!
The authors prompt me to wonder how Darwinists think the American Revolution might have gone — whether it would have been possible at all — if the Founders had not been intelligent-design advocates. Richards and Robison cite 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.

R&R make the unassailable point that the belief in inherent human equality and dignity — entailing inalienable rights, beyond the government’s own right to abolish them — is not obvious. Most cultures through history, religious or otherwise, have not recognized those rights and regarded them instead as privileges granted at the pleasure of the authorities in power. Perceiving the existence of a cosmic author behind the designs of life and nature is certainly no guarantee of liberal values but those values are hard to justify without it. In the absence of a common designer, the presumption of human dignity and quality has no anchor — it’s just wishful thinking.
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. Stephen Meyer produced the relevant citations in a Boston Globe op-ed a while back. Jefferson wrote to John Adams:

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.

And, Jefferson went on:

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.

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. Inconveniently, as many an heir has discovered when the money ran out, you just can’t live on such an inheritance indefinitely. In the end, you’ve got to invest what you’ve got and grow it or put more of your own money into the account.
Darwinism, secularism, materialism — these are notions that have seduced a lot of otherwise clever people into thinking we can simply spend what we received from our forefathers without ever looking to the bottom line.
Photo credit: Kevin Harber, Flickr.