Class Warfare Blog

June 17, 2018

Ignorant or Duplicitous? … You Decide

I ran across the oft repeated quotation from Isaac Newton just now “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” This quotation is from the second edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), one of the most important scientific publications in the entire history of western science.

Like Einstein, Isaac Newton is oft quoted as an example of a scientist who “believed.” Exactly what they believed is often overlooked.

Isaac Newton was notoriously thin-skinned and he received a great many objections and criticisms from the publishing of the first edition of the Principia with dismay (like Michael and Beyonce, the book only needs its first name). One of the criticisms was that Newton’s work explained the motions of the planets so well there was no longer a need for God’s guiding hand to keep the planets moving in their perfect orbits. In a direct response to that accusation, Newton inserted a new paragraph into his second edition making it clear that he still believed all his laws had been created by God. In other words, he didn’t think such a statement was necessary in the first edition!

Make no mistake about it, Newton was a creationist. He did believe in “God,” but this was the mid to late 1600’s and the consequences of not believing were quite dire. Plus, what Newton actually did believe would not pass muster with the theists constantly repeating the quotation above.

From Wikipedia, “According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism. In Newton’s eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin. As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul, a personal devil and literal demons.

Now, what do you call someone who rejects the trinity, didn’t hold with Jesus being called a god, didn’t believe in immortal souls (and therefore the afterlife, Heaven, Hell, etc.), the devil, and demons? Is there a Christian sect today which can check off all of those boxes? Like Einstein, Newton was at most a theist viewing nature as the only god worth studying.

Also, Newton’s “daily” Bible studies weren’t exactly orthodox. Also from Wikipedia:

“Newton spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible. After 1690, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. In a manuscript Newton wrote in 1704 he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible. He estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said ‘This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.’”

So, those who quote the above statement incessantly as an example of a “scientist who believed” thus supporting the idea that faith and reason are compatible, are they ignorant or duplicitous? Personally I think more people grasp upon anything that supports their beliefs out of plain old confirmation bias than there are theists who actually know what is what and who are deliberately obscuring the truth to show The Truth™. This I believe is a consequence of evangelism. Few are equipped to do it correctly.

6 Comments »

  1. Good info for us non-believers … but even if we were to quote it, reference it, direct them to your blog … the common response would be Deny … Deny … Deny … because you “misinterpreted” or relied on Wikipedia (which some say lacks credibility) or put an atheist spin on it, or … or … or …

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Nan — June 17, 2018 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  2. Eddington was also a “believer,” but nothing in his belief directed his discoveries.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by john zande — June 17, 2018 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

    • Oh, Newton’s discoveries were “directed” by curiosity and a drive that really had nothing to do with religion. Religion was just the fabric of his life; he couldn’t see anything without it. But also mysticism, alchemy(!), looking for codes in the language of the Bible, etc.

      I have always wondered why people would be looking for codes in the letters of the Bible when they are looking at translations! When I was translating magazine articles one of the things you had to allow for was that English was quite parsimonious (being vocabulary driven), but Spanish might involve 15% more letters/words to say the same thing. So, when you like up the words on the page … WTF? Isaac Newton wrote in Latin as he was an erudite scholar, but was that classic Latin or ??? And the Catholic Bible was translated into Latin (the Vulgate Bible) but is well known to contain mistakes, but that’s okay, it is still the inerrant word of God! Plus, he didn’t think it was inerrant, he was sure it was not. Inspired maybe, but not inerrant. So much to love about Newton’s Christianity.

      On Sun, Jun 17, 2018 at 2:01 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 17, 2018 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

      • I have always wondered why people would be looking for codes in the letters of the Bible when they are looking at translations!

        LOL! True. Perhaps he thought the ‘magic’ would be transferred. Smart guy, but had his moments.

        Like

        Comment by john zande — June 18, 2018 @ 5:19 am | Reply

      • That translation thingy-dingy will get you every time!

        Like

        Comment by Nan — June 18, 2018 @ 11:07 am | Reply

        • How do you translate “thingy-dingy”? I have read a number of books about Bible translation and, boy, talk about a nest of snakes. The Muslims wised up to this and tell everybody that if you want to study the Koran seriously, you must learn Arabic.

          On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:07 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Like

          Comment by Steve Ruis — June 18, 2018 @ 11:11 am | Reply


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