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Newton Understood that Nature Manifests Design of the Highest Order

Michael Egnor

To all our readers I wish a happy and blessed 2018. We have much to celebrate in this season, and I would suggest that in addition to our traditional celebrations, we take a moment to give thanks for the life of a man who was born in 1642.

Isaac Newton transformed mathematics and physics. He (co)discovered calculus, and discovered the principles of motion and gravitation that form the basis of most modern physics and engineering. Even the great advances of the 20th century in relativity and quantum mechanics were elaborations on, or formulated in distinction to, Newtonian mechanics.

Some atheists have implicitly claimed Newton as their own. They woefully misunderstand Newton and the Scientific Enlightenment.

Newton, like virtually all the great scientists who have given us modern science, was a passionate Christian. He was unorthodox; his beliefs are best described as non-Trinitarian monotheism, bordering on Deism. Yet he wrote more extensively about biblical prophecy and Christianity than about physics and mathematics, and he believed that the harmony and mathematical beauty in nature were the design of the universe from the Mind of God.

He wrote:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. […] This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or “Universal Ruler”. […] The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, [and] absolutely perfect…

Newton held atheism in disdain:

Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.

Newton understood that nature manifests Design of the highest order, and that science, properly understood, is the study of the intelligent design of the universe. Atheist belief — the denial of intelligent design in the natural world — is the antithesis of science. Atheistic scientism is akin to idolatry, and is an ideologically motivated refusal to acknowledge the obvious design manifest in the natural world.

Newton’s revolutionary research was an exemplar of the indispensability of inference to intelligent design in science. This design inference was shared by virtually all the great scientists of the past several centuries, from Copernicus to Galileo to Kepler to Faraday to Pasteur to Maxwell to Einstein.

So with the New Year I’m thankful for many blessings. In my prayers, I give our Creator thanks for the blessing of modern science, given to us through scientists like Isaac Newton who explicitly seek and reveal nature’s intelligent design.

Image: Isaac Newton, by William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.