Thomas Jefferson – Intelligent Design pioneer?

This will surely raise some eyebrows and the blood pressure of certain bloggers.

IN THE battle over how to teach evolution in public schools, Thomas Jefferson’s demand for a “separation between church and state’’ has been cited countless times. Many argue that the controversial alternative to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, is an exclusively religious idea and therefore cannot be discussed under the Constitution. By invoking Jefferson’s principle of separation, many critics of intelligent design assume that this visionary Founding Father would agree with them.

But would he? For too long, an aspect of Jefferson’s visionary thought has been ignored, hidden away as too uncomfortable for public discussion – his support for intelligent design.

In 1823, when materialist evolutionary ideas had long been circulating, Jefferson wrote to John Adams and insisted that the scientific evidence of design in nature was clear: “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.’’ It was on empirical grounds, not religious ones, that he took this view.

Contemplating everything from the heavenly bodies down to the creaturely bodies of men and animals, he argued: “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.’’

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