What Would Newton Do?

By Phil Plait | July 23, 2007 9:34 pm

Monday, the Boston Globe ran an editorial that I found very irritating. The writer, Jeff Jacoby, points out that perhaps the greatest scientific mind of all time, Isaac Newton, was not only very religious, but was a young-Earth creationist. For Jacoby, this shows that science and religion can work hand in hand:

For Newton, it was axiomatic that religious inquiry and scientific investigation complemented each other. There were truths to be found in both of the “books” authored by God, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature — or as Francis Bacon called them, the “book of God’s word” and the “book of God’s works.” To study the world empirically did not mean abandoning religious faith. On the contrary: The more deeply the workings of Creation were understood, the closer one might come to the Creator. In the language of the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Jacoby also has some fun with the idea that Newton today would never get a position at a University, let alone Cambridge, and in fact Jacoby spends much of his editorial on that subject:

When Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning,” [Newton] determined, it means 3988 BC.

Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor who espouses not merely “intelligent design” but out-and-out divine creation.

I call shenanigans.


Let me be clear: I am not saying that some aspects of religion and science cannot get along. But pointing out that Newton was a creationist is a total non-sequitor, and Jacoby’s conflating it with modern Universities just accentuates his error.

Newton was indeed one of if not the finest mind of his time… but he was of his time. You can’t simply pluck Newton out of the historical timeline and then mock Universities today for not accepting someone of his beliefs. You have to take this to its logical conclusion: if Newton were born today (or, let’s say, 30 years ago so he would be applying for tenure now), he wouldn’t be a young Earth creationist in the first place.

In Newton’s time, the largest telescopes were the ones he himself built. The sciences of geology, biology, astronomy, and anthropology were in their youth; at that time, the very foundations of the sciences were being (pardon the word) created, but the details, ah the details were lacking.

Consider: When Newton lived, Uranus and Neptune had not yet been discovered. Neither had any asteroids. The nature of the Milky Way Galaxy was almost totally unknown; they lacked the instruments and mathematics necessary to understand much of what they saw (math, incidentally, that Newton invented). They couldn’t possibly have known the terrible age of the Earth, how the continents moved. The discovery of radioactivity was 150 years in the future when Newton lay dying, and its use as a clock for geologic eras was still more years later.

If Newton were born today, he wouldn’t have to invent the parabolic mirror telescope; instead, he could use one– perhaps one orbiting the Earth. He wouldn’t have to invent calculus; by the age of 20 he would have mastered it. He could then use it, apply it to his observations. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and that allows us to see very far indeed. Newton was one of those giants, but today’s Newton would see even farther.

If Newton were born today, he wouldn’t be a creationist. He’d be a cosmologist.

So please, spare me the ridiculous comparisons of smart people who are or were creationists. In Newton’s time it was all there was, but today we understand so much more. And of course there is more to see, and always, always more to learn.

But all that we have learned so far is unequivocally at odds with young Earth creationism, and Universities are absolutely right for not wanting to have a YEC teach their classes.

The analogy is ridiculous, and insulting. Newton didn’t see far because he was a creationist, he saw far because he was a genius. Asking what it would be like for him today is the wrong question, since it is posed so poorly. But a much more fair question to ask is: how much farther might he have seen had he not been a creationist? And how many Newtons are out there now, but having their vision dimmed by the fog?

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments (145)

  1. You are the man!!

    I just discovered your blog a few days ago, now I’m getting addicted. Keep it up!!

    Greets from Chile.

    r.

  2. Crux Australis

    Goddam, but you are a good writer. Perhaps I should buy your book, as well as Newton’s.

  3. Christian Burnham

    Being very perverse here, but one interesting thing about Newton is that his religious beliefs were considered dangerous by his contemporaries (who had alternative theological opinions).

    Perhaps a better analogy would be a modern day professor who holds unfashionable political views, which lessens his/her chance of obtaining tenure.

    Whatever- I agree that the argument made in this editorial was particularly poor. If Newton were a racist (was he?) then would that justify racism today?

  4. Davidlpf

    Taking something completely out of context of the situation is that not rule 1 for the hoax believers, conspiracy theorists, and creationists.

  5. You’re the man!

    I discovered your blog a few days ago and I found it more interesting every time.

    This “journalist” missed the whole point, trying to take someone out of their timeline is just a stupid thing to do.

    What’s next!? Not accepting ancient-greek soldiers into the US Army because they encouraged pederasty to improve the troop morale? and even worse, writing an article about it!!

    I’m with you on this, it was very irritating to read that piece of crap.

    Keep up the good work man.

    You just earned a fan from Chile :)

  6. Christian, that’s an excellent point. And I dithered over mentioning Newton’s obsession with alchemy. One false dichotomy deserves another, don’t you think?

  7. Fred

    Well-stated. But it’s “non-sequitur”, not “non-sequitor”. From the Latin phrase meaning “it does not follow”.

  8. Cory

    Wonderful entry! I’ve been recently thinking about Pascal, his infamous wager of the existence of god, and just how much he might have made the counter-wager, of god’s non-existence, if he were alive today with all the knowledge he innocently lacked. I’m reminded of what Stephen Weinberg had to say about Newton’s view of the mysteries of the cosmos as a great puzzle laid down by god for us to figure out: “Well, we don’t do that anymore.”

  9. Tim

    This is a pretty common tactic of Creationists in an attempt to prove that “real” scientists can also be creationists: just list a whole bunch of really famous people who died long before the Theory of Evolution even existed, or at best, were alive when the theory was in its infancy.

    Christiananswers.net does it at the below link:
    http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-scientists.html

    They include Newton, Kepler, da Vinci, Pascal, Bacon, etc. in their list of “creationist” scientists.

  10. “Newton was indeed one of if not the finest mind of his time… but he was of his time. You can’t simply pluck Newton out of the historical timeline and then mock Universities today for not accepting someone of his beliefs.”

    To add to this point, Newton lived before the time of Darwin and Wallace. As a widely-read man of science in his time, it is not unreasonable to assume that had he access to evolutionary theory, he would have read it, understood it, and accepted it – possibly even devising experiments of his own.

    Do you really think Newton (born in our time) would be a cosmologist? That is a comforting thought.

  11. Lucas

    Sadly, that awful insult to the great minds of the past is fairly common, and a lot of people believe that crap.

  12. Phil raises a very interesting question:
    “But a much more fair question to ask is: how much farther might he have seen had he not been a creationist? ”

    From my reading on his life he certainly spent much of his later years writing vast tracts of dubious theology and was heavily involved in alchemy. To my mind it is likely that he could have achieved a lot more “scientifically” if he had not applied his efforts to theology and alchemy.

    Newton is great example of the dangers of viewing someone through hagiography. I used to use him as a wonderful example when teaching, I gave the students two articles about him. The first was a standard textbook-style piece about all his great scientific discoveries and achievements. The second discussed him as a person whilst still covering his scientific achievements. My students were amazed to read the second piece and found it far more revealing an engaging than the first. What alarmed them was that Newton was revealed to be an exceptionally unpleasant person. He enjoyed watching forgers hang when he was Master of the Royal Mint. He bore grudges, some of which are famous to this day. His brilliance was undoubted but this of course did not mean he was right on everything. Some more recent examples of famous scientists with similar traits spring to mind.

    Anyway, another great article Phil.

    For those interested in learning more I’d recommend Michael White’s book, “Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer”. For those into lengthy fictional account of Newton read Neal Stephenson’s “Quicksilver” trilogy – Newton, Hooke, Leibniz and more!

  13. Really terrific post. I’ve got one of my own in the works on Newton and alchemy, should I ever get around to finishing it… it’s an intriguing aspect of the Great Man, but he was, as you say, of his age. Alchemy wasn’t definitively discredited until just before or after Newton’s dotage/death. At least that’s my understanding…

  14. Olive

    Someone truly on a level with Newton could be crazy as a loon and still worth everyone’s time. If a person developed a unified theory of physics or brought peace to the Middle East or cured cancer or whatever geniuses do nowadays, I wouldn’t bat an eye at a university snatching them up despite eccentricities.

    Whether or not such a compartmentalized person could exist- able to thoroughly disregard data in one field but not the next- is open to debate.

  15. Quiet Desperation

    I can fix it.

    “Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor whose knowledge is 300 years out of date.”

    Not to mention if he were alive today, he must be some sort of evil zombie or something.

  16. Actually, I think it happens all the time. For instance, I know that some prominent physicists who had done good and important work in their own fields of specialization advocated for the reality of psychic powers in the 1970s, excited by the performances of people such as Uri Geller (Martin Gardner gave all the gory details in some of the essays in “Science: Good, Bad and Bogus”).

  17. Sam

    Great entry Phil! You keep me reminded of why badastronomy.com is the first thing I type in when I sit down at my computer :) Keep up the good work man!

  18. RBH

    The first question to ask of mush-heads like Jacoby is which of the religions “truths” Newton discovered he can name. The one about angels nudging planets in order to maintain the stability of the solar system?

  19. gazza666

    The thing that strikes me as most odd about these sorts of things (eg “Newton was a YEC” or “Einstein believed in God”) is not whether they’re true or false, but rather why they’re considered relevant.

    Newton was a genius, Einstein was a genius, and (let’s be perfectly honest here) Phil himself is a lot smarter than most of us here (certainly than me!) And yet they are all three most indubitably still human – just because a scientist says he believes in something doesn’t make it ipso facto true – even if it’s a brilliant scientist with a proven track record of having his hunches proved right.

    Why is anyone so insecure in their belief in naturalism that it requires “celebrity endorsement”? To me, that’s the interesting question – and I suppose the answer is that even skeptics are not immune to hero worship. (Witness Randi, Penn & Teller, Adam & Jamie, and so on).

  20. gazza666

    The thing that strikes me as most odd about these sorts of things (eg “Newton was a YEC” or “Einstein believed in God”) is not whether they’re true or false, but rather why they’re considered relevant.

    Newton was a genius, Einstein was a genius, and (let’s be perfectly honest here) Phil himself is a lot smarter than most of us here (certainly than me!) And yet they are all three most indubitably still human – just because a scientist says he believes in something doesn’t make it ipso facto true – even if it’s a brilliant scientist with a proven track record of having his hunches proved right.

    Why is anyone so insecure in their belief in naturalism that it requires “celebrity endorsement”? To me, that’s the interesting question – and I suppose the answer is that even skeptics are not immune to hero worship. (Witness Randi, Penn and Teller, Adam and Jamie, and so on).

    (And if this didn’t double post, then there’s a problem with the “and” abbreviation in your comment processing…)

  21. gazza666

    The thing that strikes me as most odd about these sorts of things (eg “Newton was a YEC” or “Einstein believed in God”) is not whether they’re true or false, but rather why they’re considered relevant.

    Newton was a genius, Einstein was a genius, and (let’s be perfectly honest here) Phil himself is a lot smarter than most of us here (certainly than me!) And yet they are all three most indubitably still human – just because a scientist says he believes in something doesn’t make it ipso facto true – even if it’s a brilliant scientist with a proven track record of having his hunches proved right.

    Why is anyone so insecure in their belief in naturalism that it requires “celebrity endorsement”? To me, that’s the interesting question – and I suppose the answer is that even skeptics are not immune to hero worship. (Witness Randi, Penn & Teller, Adam & Jamie, and so on).

    (And if this didn’t double post, then there’s a problem with the “and” abbreviation in your comment processing…)

  22. gazza666

    Argh! Sorry. Not my fault – the server gave an error.

  23. I would think that Newton, at most, might be like an astronomer I know who believes in the creation story, or something similar. He doesn’t deny that the universe is 15 billion years old (give or take a few) but still believes it was made 6000 years ago — it was made as an old universe, just as Adam and Eve were made as adults.

    I’m not saying this is legit. It reminds me of the argument that Iliad wasn’t written by Homer but by another Greek of the same name. But it doesn’t contradict the facts of science. And it is in keeping with the “clockwork universe” that Newton proposed.

  24. darius

    The discovery of radioactivity was 150 years in the future when Newton lay dying

    He must have been doing something right if he lived that long…

  25. Actually, it is well known that Newton was interested int he occult. His theory of gravity was, at the time, explainable only with cult beliefs, because they were not supported by his three more famous “laws”. With gravity, there was a force being applied to objects _with_no_direct_contact_ between those objects.

  26. Tegan Harper

    I studied Primary Education for 4 years here in Australia and always chose the science subjects I was a science nut and one of my good friends who was from Alabama would often join my lecture even though she wasn’t enrolled. Once I remember our lecturer (I can’t rmember his name a shame I LOVED those lectures) was talking about how we might in our career encounter the problem of teaching the creationist theory as a science, which rubs me the wrong way being a lover of science. I’m agnostic, but my friend stood up in the middle of the lecture and argued with the lecturer for pretty much the rest of the hour about how it SHOULD be taught as a science. We argued for quite a while as to why it shouldn’t be taught as a science but as a teacher I get it all the time! Parents have talked to me extensively about how I should be teaching it to their children as a science. But the whole point of science is to disprove theories…and you can’t disprove or prove faith, and proof denies faith anyway. Anyway point is this comes up in schools all the time, and they use all sorts of reasons as to why it should be taught alongside evolution. It drives me crazy.

  27. Zoot

    Regarding science coexisting with religion.
    (Sort of off topic, but I need to vent)

    Many eastern religious practices can, and do mingle quite happily with science, both culturally and cognitively speaking. Many brands of Buddhism, Zen, Tantra and so on.
    However, what these religions have in common is that they are centered around an inquiry into the nature of ones own consciousness, and no prepackaged answers to this inquiry are provided. It’s a personal journey so to speak.

    They also lack a dictator God. For these reasons some would say that they are not religions at all, but rather philosophies or simply practices, but that’s another debate.

    The problem with our western religions is exactly that they have settled on a bunch of answers, and discourages personal inquiry.

    Even the soviet union might have turned out great if the ruling party had been willing to just stop every once in a while and evaluate the situation with an open mind. But there were large segments of their system that they, because of their dogmatic relationship to the ideology, could never question or modify.

    And therein lies what I think is perhaps the heart of the matter:
    While a well reasoned approach to communism would probably end up much like the social-democratic systems of northern Europe, taking the dogma out of Christianity or Islam would leave..what? Architecture, cheap wine and very small carpets. And some some of the corniest rock bands imaginable. That’s what’s *actually* there.

    The Christian meme can not survive if you’re not ready to take anything on faith, nor acknowledge religious authorities, and it wants to survive. Therefore it can not co-exist with science.

  28. Tomas2

    Also, if Newton was alive today he would look like a weirdo because of his 17. century clothes. That could hurt his career as well.

  29. Josh

    Also, if newton were alive today, those freaks would be condeming him to hell for being gay!

  30. Regner Trampedach

    Isn’t it interesting how religion is pretty much unchanged since Newton’s time and how far science has brought us in that same time.
    Thanks for some great posts, Phil.
    Cheers, Regner

  31. Talking about what people from the past would believe had they been born today…

    “The problem with our western religions is exactly that they have settled on a bunch of answers, and discourages personal inquiry.”

    Wouldn’t it have been great if we’d have another Jesus born today? Considering how he questioned the settled bunch of answers of his time? (Bearing in mind some people think he’d have been an atheist, if he were born today. Hehe.) I like pointing out that Jesus (most likely) believed the earth to be flat, just like he was unaware of calculus and quantum mechanics for that matter. Didn’t make him less of a great teacher, did it. I call him a free thinker.

    Zoot, I do disagree. (Sorry, I’m maybe also digressing into religion now…) If you know where to look, you can find great value within the Christian tradition. Consider the books written on the similarities between (certain kinds of) Christianity and Buddhism. Buried within what is the stereotypical Christian meme complexes, are some valuable memes. I think the way forward, for Christians, is to dig up those valuable memes, and use them against all the rubbish that rules that particular meme complex. “Use Jesus to fight the typical abuses of Christianity”, the Christians can learn a lot from him. (Yea, I’ve been reading a tad too much “liberal theology”. Makes the whole thing seem terribly ironic and very sad.)

    I’ll stop myself from ranting further.

  32. gazza666, yea, there does seem to be something wrong with the comment posting…?

  33. Donnie B.

    Darn, I hate showing up late for the party. Others have already pointed it out, but when the faithful mention Newton’s beliefs it’s worth emphasizing the irony: he was a big-time heretic.

    If he were alive today, he might be a Scientologist or perhaps a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may He touch us with His Noodly Appendage).

  34. Beren

    I recently read a justification of Newton’s alchemy that essentially argued that it was the chemistry of his time. We now know that it’s a scientific dead end, but perhaps we didn’t then. Unfortunately, the book provided no further details, and I don’t even know the history of alchemy (or chemistry) to a Wikipedia level of detail :p The point is, though, that only by studying it could we determine that. I don’t see any reason to think less of the people who did so. I think the more important question is: did he approach alchemy in a scientific manner, to the best of his ability?

  35. You have an ego problem that clouds your view of religion. As most “skeptics” I speak to do. Religion is not equivalent to YEC, which (while I realize you are speaking in general terms for effect) is just wrong. The only real problem with your speaking in general terms is it’s effect on people like Regner Trampedach who believe (ignorantly I might add) that religion is unchanged since Newton’s time.

    While many fall in that category, there are a good number of religious people that have evolved in their understanding. I belong to a religion that has been teaching some things for 150+ years that are just now in the recent decade or two being validated by scientific research. Things like the “Big Bounce” that have been postulated fit neatly into the doctrines taught by some religions.

    It’s folly to make YEC and religion equivalent which you seem to with your commentary (and the comments of others) here.

    ~RZ

  36. When I read an article like this, and the responses that follow, I’m pulled in a different direction. It’s a given that the author’s argument is completely without merit. Typical creationist ploy and a weak one at that.

    What fascinates me is to consider what “truths” or world views that we hold dear today will be laughed at in 100, 200, or 300 years? How will the scientist of 2307 look back at us?

    We sit smugly atop our technological tower and smirk at our less informed ancestors, but in truth we are still children. There is so much we don’t know, and that is what makes science exciting! There is always more to discover. It’s like Xmas morning. What will be under the tree?

    What will be the next thing that shatters the way we see the universe?

    OEJ

  37. The_German

    Another point:

    we do not know which gods and godesses Phytagoras believed in, but a² + b² still equals c².

    T_G

  38. The_German

    Another point:

    we do not know which gods and godesses Phytagoras believed in, but a2 + b2 still equals c2.

    T_G

  39. The_German

    Sorry, had an error message so I posted this twice

  40. The_German

    It happened again. this was the message:

    Regex ID: 18261 () appears to be an invalid regex string! Please fix it in the Blacklist control panel.

    Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/badastro/domains/badastronomy.com/public_html/bablog/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_util_class.php:208) in /home/badastro/domains/badastronomy.com/public_html/bablog/wp-comments-post.php on line 67

    T_G

  41. DrFlimmer

    In Newton’s times physics just was another thing of philosophy. With Newton the “real” physics were born, he made the first differential equation. If he was the first to solve it by integral calculus is unknown (he claimed to be, but there was a german mathematician who invented it at the same time).
    But in his times it was so “obvious” that there is a god as there is at least one tree in a forest. So everyone had to be a “creationist” but to call them that way, well, this is ridiculous.

  42. D.S. Ellis

    So…did you send a copy of this to the Boston Globe, Phil? Even if it never saw print, someone there would have to read it.

  43. MarshallDog

    Oy, I am embarrassed to be a Bostonian. Phil, can you send in your editorial reply to the Globe please? More people need to read it. People need to understand that Jacoby’s logic is falicious, and arguments like this are BS at best.

  44. MarshallDog

    Hey, I got that error message too when I tried to post. The post still went through, but maybe there’s something wrong with the setup here that’s giving people an error message.

  45. I have often wondered what would happen if Newton or Einstein were alive today, and whether the fruits of modern technology might have provided such a distraction that they would never have gotten very far with their scientific careers. An unending supply of internet porn, bloggers everywhere spouting opinions, YouTube, the idiot box… From what I’ve read about Newton’s personality, I could imagine him putting a significant amount of time into fighting flame wars online.

  46. SLC

    In response to the moronic writings of Mr. Jacoby, it should be pointed out that Charles Darwin was also a creationist when he stepped on board the HMS Beagle in 1831. He only abandoned this view based on his own observations and research conducted during the voyage.

  47. Kristin

    As a regular reader of the Boston Globe, I just wanted you all to know that Jacoby is an idiot, and the only reason the Globe keeps him around is because he is their only republican columnist (ok, that may be only my personal opinion, but still). I, for one, haven’t believed a thing that he has written since he committed a serious act of plagiarism back in 2000 (and yet he wasn’t fired for that, only suspended for a few months).

    I’m sure many Boston Globe readers will be writing in to “correct” Jacoby’s statements, but I want to echo the requests of others in this forum: Phil, please send your response to the Globe.

  48. When people make this claim, it is usually to counter the assertion that to be a serious scientist and engineer, you must be:

    An atheist
    Firmly subscribing to Evoluion

    I have seen lists of post-Darwin scientists who would not be able to tick that list, so because they might subscribe to a religious faith and question evolution, they can not be serious scientists and their work has no value whatsoever even if it is not connected with evolution at all.

  49. Douglas P

    Jeff Jacoby needs a reality check.

    Regardless of Newton’s belief, he demanded EVIDENCE!!!

    Consider his remark “I feign no hypothesis”.

    “I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction.”

    What a truly great man!

  50. Being a YEC would be the least of Newton’s problems upon approaching a modern University.

    First, his application would land in the rubbish bin. No one would want to fight their way through a handwritten application written in out-dated English. It would be seen, rightly so, as pretentious and foolish. He would have no recourse to dispute his application, since he would not know how to use telephones, email, etc. He would have to attempt to go, physically to the University and beg an audience. This would pose a real challenge- no form of conveyance (except walking) would be familiar to him. Assuming someone instructed him on the use of taxicabs and buses (and modern currencies!), he would still almost certainly be arrested in the process for some cultural offense compounded by his bizarre (by our standards) mode of dress. I can only imagine his response upon meeting a dark-skinned or female(!) dean. I don’t think it would end well for him.

    Even if he did, somehow, make it into the University, he would certainly fail nearly every mathematics class. He would insist on using his own peculiar notation, and not the standard forms that we’ve adopted. I can imagine that he would take some offense at seeing Leibniz’s notation used for Calculus.

    If we’re going to transport someone into the future, we must be consistent about it. We cannot pick and choose one attribute to keep, one to ignore.

  51. Terry

    Quote
    I would think that Newton, at most, might be like an astronomer I know who believes in the creation story, or something similar. He doesn’t deny that the universe is 15 billion years old (give or take a few) but still believes it was made 6000 years ago — it was made as an old universe, just as Adam and Eve were made as adults.
    unquote

    Know what you mean Mike, I’ve heard that argument before too. Making the universe ‘appear’ older than it really is, is meant to overcome (among others) the starlight problem – we see light from stars that are, say, 20,000 light years away thus proving that the universe has to be more than 6000 years old. “No” says your pet YEC, “god made the universe appear older than it really is (or made light travel faster or yada yada yada). The question should then be, “wouldn’t that require god to use deception”? Surely not.
    TG

  52. Al

    The “Created to look older than it is” argument reminds me of the Omphaloid Heresy, which was to ask whether Adam had a navel (omphalos in Greek). If he did, this was evidence of a non-existent history and so God was being deceptive. If he didn’t, this characteristic was not passed on to succeeding generations and so the Creation was imperfect. Neither alternative sat well with the Papal authorities, so at one time you could be burned at the stake for even asking, never mind taking a position. Artists of the period protected themselves by adding a generous abundance of the traditional fig leaves.

  53. khazar

    Excellent post

  54. For some reason, this post reminds me of the Asimov story in which William Shakespeare arrives in the present day, enrolls in a Shakespeare class in college, and flunks.

  55. StevoR

    Quiet Desperation on 24 Jul 2007 at 12:13 am said :
    “I can fix it.

    “Not many modern universities are prepared to employ a science professor whose knowledge is 300 years out of date.”

    Not to mention if he were alive today, he must be some sort of evil zombie or something.”

    Or Vampire maybe? 😉

    Hmmn.. I see a movie in my opaque cystal ball of solid halite :
    ————————-

    _* Newton the Undead*__

    Risen from the dark of the 18th (or was it 16th?) Century, he now stalks the land praying on the poor befuddled Creationists. Can even this strange creature born of nightime necromancy and alchemical voodooo drive a stake through the heart of the evil BS that cannot die – The oh so silly Creationist lie!

    Can even the bewigged non-crusader returned from the depths of the black past finally defeat his long time nemesis of religious insanity and redeem himself for the past wrongs against Hooke & Leibnitz. Witness the anguished conflict, the nonsense screaming into perdition for mercy against teh cold sharp fangs of reality. See the culmination of the struggle of Western society from Hypatia to Sagan and decide for yourself which Undying Beasts to back in Nuuuu-tonnne the UNdead!

    Starring :

    Arnie Schwartnegger as Isaac Newton

    Tom Cruice as the Evil ID Ghoul

    Samuel L. Jackson as the Vu Du Necromancer who raises Newton to battle the forces of Christian Evil

    Mel Gibson as Robert Hooke’s Ghost

    Danny DeVito as Leibnitz

    Carrie Fisher as Caroline Herschel (Newton’s side-kick & love interest)

    Janet Jackson as Madame Curie (Newton’s other sidekick & rival love interest doubling as costume designer)

    &

    Paris Hilton in her first cross dressing role as mad President-King George III / Bush II

    ——————
    Now there’s something I’d like to see! 😉

  56. DaveKan

    A point I have recently seen been made about Pascal’s wager is that before you can make the wager, you need to decide which religion and which sect of that religion to wager on. I think Pascal would have some splaining to do if he had put all his chips on the christian god and after death found himself in front of allah or odin.

  57. StevoR

    Getting an error message too …

    Can we edit these now I sure hope so! I didn’t mind theold vesion but if this works better once the bugs are ironed out then we’ll have… a computeerscreen with crushed steaming insects and a mess! 😉

    Yes, I’m in a silly mood tonite! 😉

    Incidentally for non-geologists :

    halite = rock salt, a mineral (min + superscript ‘l’ in geol-speak/ abbriev.) form of salt ie. take with a lot thereof & tongue very firmly in cheek
    … to avoid getting wa-ay too salty!

    Will I get that same error message and have to refresh the screen again (copying this to paste oncemore as to the post if doesn’t turn up at first…?

    Hmnn. I’d reckon so. (Sigh)

  58. Brian T.

    Yeah, the “appearance” of an old universe argument cracks me up. It suggests that God is a trickster, deliberately misleading people with bad info so they’ll end up in Hell. Cue Mr. Bill Hicks pantomiming as God walking around stuffing dinosaur bones in the ground….”Let’s see who believes in Me NOW! Hahaha.”

    We should start a new religion and call it “Last Thursdayism”. We believe that the whole of the universe was created Last Thursday. All those memories of your childhood? God put those there to make you *think* the universe is older than it really is.

  59. Ut

    # Rational Zenon 24 Jul 2007 at 5:40 am

    “You have an ego problem that clouds your view of religion. As most “skeptics” I speak to do.”

    I don’t think it’s “ego” to demand evidence, as most skeptics do. I do, however, think it’s frustrating to constantly have things like Newton’s religious views thrown out there to support the religious argument. It’s a logical fallacy that comes up repeatedly, and those who use it don’t seem to understand why the argument is invalid, no matter how well or how often it’s explained to them.

    “Religion is not equivalent to YEC…”

    You can replace “YEC” with just about any dogmatic claim that continues to stand stubbornly in defiance against an ever growing mountain of evidence. YEC is simply the one that pops up the most frequently in the US, and in the US news.

    “The only real problem with your speaking in general terms is it’s effect on people like Regner Trampedach who believe (ignorantly I might add) that religion is unchanged since Newton’s time.”

    On a very real and fundamental level many of us believe that religion is not only unchanged since Newton’s (or, say, Homer’s) time, but that organized religion, by its very nature, is unchangeable. Unquestionable faith in dogmatic revealed knowledge collapses in upon itself once you remove either the unquestionable faith, or the revealed knowledge.

    Any way you rub it, it’s not science, and once that revealed knowledge starts bumping up against solid physical evidence a scientist has to choose which to adhere to: The evidence, or the dogma. Choose the dogma, and you pretty much choose to foresake your career. We don’t want our astronomers believing that the universe is 6000 years old any more than you want your mechanic believing that your car is made of gouda and that it runs on Coca-Cola.

    “I belong to a religion that has been teaching some things for 150+ years that are just now in the recent decade or two being validated by scientific research.”

    I don’t think anyone is saying just because something is taught be a religion automatically invalidates it. See, it’s not the specific bit of information that’s the offender, but rather the reason why it’s believed to be true. If that reason is steeped in research and experiment, then it’s fact based and science friendly. If that reason is “Because Dave said so…” well, not so much. The skeptics want the hard facts, not the blind trust in some sort of father figure.

    Ultimately, it’s that blind trust and unquestionable faith that Phil’s constantly attacking. “Religion” is just a nice catch-all term for it because, well, (especially in the western world) that’s what religion is. YEC is religion (and a *very* popular religious doctrine in and around where Phil lives), in as much as a square is a rectangle.

    “Things like the “Big Bounce” that have been postulated fit neatly into the doctrines taught by some religions.”

    Does it help or hurt that current evidence suggests a universe that will accelerate its expansion and continue to diverge? The “Big Bounce” may fit neatly into what people believe, but when the current research suggests that it’s not going to happen, then what? Perfectly stationary stars fit nicely into the pre-conceived notions of a lot of people as well, but we now know that they just aren’t so.

    “It’s folly to make YEC and religion equivalent which you seem to with your commentary (and the comments of others) here.”

    YEC => Religion

    The true folly, and one that I see again and again, is the exclusion of magic. Most religions teach an “us not them” dichotomy which basically boils down to a “Our unproven or unprovable beliefs are absolutely true, while their unproven or unprovable beliefs are absolutely false. People tend to be way too quick to put down other peoples magic in favour for their own “reality”. The opposing beliefs are either simply fairy tales, or ancient stories, simple entertainment, or wayward “silly” beliefs that are now “outdated”, or simply flat out and unquestionably “wrong”. Yet, they stick to their own myths and magic as (if you’ll forgive the phrase) gospel truth.

    A good friend of mine has a saying (that she, oddly enough, ripped from a Warner Bros. cartoon): If you deny one magic, you must deny them all. Magic is magic, and though research may validate some claims made by magicians it may never validate the actual mechanics. So, unless you’re willing to pick your battles and forever argue by affirming the consequent (another logical fallacy), having a claim by a religion shown to be true should be of little comfort.

  60. StevoR

    Yup – once more unto the error message – to mutilate Shakespeare …

    On a serious note why pick Newton as the genius from the past NOT say Copernicus or Galileo or Darwin?

    People in the past – even the smartest ones – didn’t know what we know today because they didn’t have the technology or accumulated historic experiences, scientific papers & information we have available because of science and the cumulative work of all the geniuses (geniii?) since. Newton said it :

    We stand on the shoulders of Giants.

    The Creationist want us to ask the giant at the bottom of that vast human pyramid for thetruth even though hecan’t see over thewallof dogma locking his view. Worse they want to take the word of that giant as gospel and ignore the words of the highest giant when she’s using the shoulders of all the others to see furthest.

    We’ve made progress, and increased our understanding. When we didn’t know about lightning it was a sign of the Sky-God’s displeasure. Now we do know its static electricity making natural fireworks – and instead of killing people and frequently blasting Churches it hits lightning rods and we’re all safer for it.

    Were Newton taken from his time and introduced to ours .. Well, lets be honest nobody knows how he’d react or what he’d think.

    The shock might send him mad – or given some of his odd ideas madder. Or he might experience a relevation and accept what he used to think was right was wrong – in alchemy /chemistry, religion / science and other lot of other things.

    It makes the basis of a good SF tale … like the Asimov one mentioned by someone here. (“The Immortal Bard” Pages 162 -164 in “the Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov’ *, Grafton, 1986.)

    However, it makes a very poor basis and very weak to downright nonexistent case for supporting YEC!

    (Yeck – now that pronunciation sounds about right for describing the distasteful, obnoxious, decietful, medieveal, steaming ple of BS that is so-called “intelligent” design.)
    —————- ——— ——————————– —————————- ————

    * The same book also contains Asimov’s short story on the Creation & how the cost of Papyrus shortened the Biblical account from 15.2 billion years into just 7 days – see pages 143-144. It sounds like a joke but as Asimov noted :

    “It is funny, yes, … but underneath I am quite serious. One is at the mercy of the medium one uses, so that when papyrus was not common and printing non-existent, books had to be much shorter than they are today and that influenced you in anything you wanted to say.”

    – Isaac Asimov, P. 143, ‘The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov’, Grafton, 1986.

  61. Hey, what’s up, I just had to tell you this, your blog is so awesome in so many ways. I love science, I like your points of view, and the writing is spot on, and enjoyable. I got your blog in my rss reader and always check your stories out. Thanks!

    TELL IT LIKE IT IS! Stay rational. :)

  62. Gary Ansorge

    Ah yes, the regenerating universe as a quantum tree hypotheses(???). Now for some fun,,,

    Mind(the indivisible STUFF OF REALITY), is the causative factor in the creation of all new universes on the quantum tree,ie, when a mind dies in one universe, it “causes” a new universe to be born, identical in every way to the previous one, but the “new” one has that “mind that died” as the primary causative factor of this “new” universe, ie, it’s the new “god”,,,,,,but the very nature of reality is that the mind that died doesn’t realize it’s a god in “this” universe,,,at least, for a while,,,

    I LOVE Speculative Fiction,,,even when it’s probably bull crap,,,

    I wonder why the YECs never reference that other world class mind, Steven Hawking? As in his statement that,
    “In the vicinity of the singularity, all events are equally probable.”. Pope John thought this was equivalent to,”In God, all things are possible”, in response to which,
    Steven said,”I don’t think Pope John really understood what I was saying,,,”.

    Steven is a good example of how far a brilliant mind can see, unfettered by old superstitions,,,

    Gary 7

  63. “I belong to a religion that has been teaching some things for 150+ years that are just now in the recent decade or two being validated by scientific research.”

    Bull. Name them and provide references to 150+ year old church materials which clearly state these claims, and a website won’t cut it since I doubt your church had on 150+ years ago.

  64. MichaelS

    RE The universe looks old: Back when I was all yekkie myself (that being all I knew growing up), it was pretty simple. I never knew about all the redshifts, and microwave background, etc.; I thought the argument was that because there’s a star 13 billion light years away means the light must have taken 13 billion years to reach us.

    Now, if God created all these stars for us to enjoy, but the universe is only going to last a few thousand years, why not create light between us and them so we can actually enjoy them? Obviously, it might make more sense to just keep the stars in a nice little radius around the Earth and not worry about any problems, but unlike these guys, I wasn’t going to sit there and deny what was right in front of my face. Since I knew God had created stars billions of light years away, it didn’t make any sense to *not* create all the light in between.

    I knew less about the geographical evidence, and without anyone to question, kind of assumed that there were just a couple scientists promoting stupid ideas like carbon dating, etc. I didn’t think God made the Earth look old; I thought those couple scientists with their anti-God agenda were mis-interpreting the data.

    Of course, I’ve since challenged the science behind old-Earthism and learned a myriad of things that fly in the face of a young Earth. But when I didn’t know all those things, my belief wasn’t unlike Newton’s.

  65. The answer given to the “Is God using deception” question when the “Doctrine of Apparent age” is used is that God has told us what he did, so we are not deceived.

    FWIW

  66. [quote]If Newton were born today, he wouldn’t be a creationist. He’d be a cosmologist.[/quote]

    I was under the impression that Newton applied so much time and effort into his work in order to abstain from immoral practices. If that’s the case and if Newton were born today, would he apply his genius to the sciences… or the pursuit of women?

    Thought of the day.

    William

  67. It’s a curious thought, though. If Newton had been born in 1977, then he would NOT have been born in 1642. So history would have been a whole lot different … would we even have cosmologists today?

    Yah, Leibniz and Weirstrass and Cauchy and all the rest would still have been there to create calculus, even without Newton. But it would certainly have been different.

  68. alfaniner

    The speculation is not “If he were alive today”, but “If he were magically transported from his time to ours” for the author’s conclusions. For a proper scenario, the phase should be “If Newton had grown up in this day and age” and extrapolated from there.

  69. Eric

    This happens because theism is all about authority – the bible is authoritative, the church leaders are authoritative (or infallible, for the Pope), etc.

    What they don’t understand is that science doesn’t work that way. And it confuses theists.

  70. StevoR

    What if they brought Darwin back from his past into our present and told him what was going onwith his scientific theories versus the religious YEC BS?

    How would he react? Would he sigh wearily, shrug and say something like “What you STILL can’t understand the difference between scientific fact & religious fiction?” ould he be mad, disappointed, disgusted, angry, sad or just bewildered?

    Now there’s a far more relevant question asfar asapplying historic figures to present controverises goes!

    As for when I wrote uncorrected – & still haven’t been able to work out how to edit yet (Or … what … ? We _still_ can’t edit our posts here??) I meant to write :(edited below)

    ***

    Newton said it himself : We stand on the shoulders of Giants.

    The Creationists / YEC-ers / ID politico-relig cultists want us to ask the giant at the bottom of that vast human pyramid for the truth and take his word for it even though he cannot see over the wall of dogma blocking his view. Worse they want to take the word of that lowest giant in the historical chain as gospel and ignore the words of the highest giant despite the fact that she’s using the shoulders of all the others to see furthest.

    That’s just dumb. Newton would (hopefully) tell him and that goose of a columnist so.

    ***

    One last thing – if God is really all-knowing and all-powerful and if She really did firectly inspire Moses or Jesus or Muhammad or [insert prophet of choice here] why didn’t It add afew sciebntific predictions that past people may nothave understood but which future scientisdts could have confirmed?

    Example : Whycouldnm’t the Bible /Quran / Torahj / [whatever] have predicted
    the existence of Hydrogen and helium and the fact that such elements make up most of the Sun. (plus Jupiter & Saturn.) Say with a small cryptic verse like :

    “The Sun is not small as you think but larger tahn all the Lands combined thousandfold, yea all the wandering stars combined too. Yet verily I, your God, say it is made fromthe lightest of all things which is yet unknown to you – not fire but like unto air except lighter, hotter and in the depths squashed to liquid form and carrying the essence of lightning .”

    Or again why not have areal God state that theer are mor ethan just the five obvious visible planets with averse like :

    “As is the Evening Star and Morning Star, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury is your own World. Truly I say unto you these five wanderers amid the heavens are not alone even round your own Sun, a star like those smaller points of nighttime brightness, are found other worlds of like nature. I tell you of a tilted one you may barely glimpse on closest inspection at the right times (ie. Ouranos) another that is blue and stormy which you must wait on your intelligence to detect. (ie Neptune) I also speak as your Lord and command you write and keep these words; a time will come when you find such a yet unseeable world but small so tiny you will argue over what it is whether rock in thesky or world like planet (ie. Pluto) and you shall find it not alone but set amidst a strewn feld of smaller and one (or more? Hey, I’m not God and thus can’t say!) barely larger (ie. Eris aka Xena aka UB313) such world-star.”

    Or even -and this would be useful God could have told Her prophets directly – Look there _were_ dinosaurs, the Earth is billions of years old, you did arise fromacommon ape-like ancestor, Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin will be right and for the love of Me don’t try to make my code of ethics into a science textbook! 😉

    Perhaps its a free choice thing but surely God can be subtle and clever enough to put Her /His/ Its all-powerful Creative Talent into getting something scientifically verifiable into a truly inspired Text or just keeping the worst errors out..

    If Christianity, Islam or any other religion told us clearly and before we knew the fact that say the outer planets existed, we evolved, our solar system was billions of years old – now that would be a strong sign of Her /His /its existence.

    If not … why not? Does God not wish to be proved real and leave it to us as faith -albiet faith confused bycontardictory evidenceand cintradicting our minds work with his deceptions and his followers lies?

    Maybe … Or maybe the simpler truth is the most obvious most plausible one. The Bible (and similar texts) isn’t really inspired by any real God.

  71. “I belong to a religion that has been teaching some things for 150+ years that are just now in the recent decade or two being validated by scientific research.”

    Bull, cite historical documents which show the scientific breakthroughs your religion had 150+ years ago.

  72. Helioprogenus

    As Dr. Richard Dawkins would point out, Newton’s time had a zeitgeist of its own that we cannot possibly compare to ours. It’s the same argument to be made that Charles Darwin was a racist, therefore, Natural Selection should be considered a product of inherent social racism.

    If we pluck historical figures out of their time, and attempt to judge them by our modern ideas and values, of course, they’re going to look outdated, and for some, they will support their idiotic views.

    Here’s food for thought though, what will our descendants think when they look upon us? Will we seem as outdated to them? Will they look at our physical sports, or various other aspects of our culture (which I am glad to say I enjoy) and judge us based upon their contemporary values? Will we seem uncivilized and brutish to them? Ultimately, everything is relative, and the Zeitgeist of the time dictates how we as a society functions. I am glad that we do live in a time when we can look at the world skeptically and although we don’t understand everything around us, we are proceeding at an amazing and wondrous pace.

  73. Jon Niehof

    Yep, Newton was all about the established Church authority. That’s why he specifically petitioned the king to be exempted from taking holy orders (required for Fellows of Cambridge at the time)…wait….

  74. Crux Australis

    To Tegan Harper:
    I’m a science teacher in New Zealand. I work in a Catholic school (obviously with lots of religious people). I am not religious, I denounce ID and Creationism whole-heartedly and I have a problem with Moon Hoaxers too (there’s even one at my school). I guess I don’t get your problem much, but I do have interesting debates with a fellow teacher (an IDer (whom, incidentally, I count amongst my friends)) about the science/religion aspect. He gives me his Creation magazines and videos and I tell him why they’re wrong.

    I’m with you, keep up the good fight across the Ditch.

  75. dingedarmor

    I wonder if Newton were alive today if he would have drawn similar conclusions as Einstein or Hawkins seem to about deity? I know it’s mere conjecture but it might make a good science fiction story.

  76. Ryan

    I found it insulting that “if Newton were born today, he wouldn’t be a creationist.” The fact that just because we are far more advanced in the fields of science now than in Newton’s day does not mean that he would abandon his faith or his belief that God created the universe.

    Nor is it fair to ask, “how much farther might he have seen had he not been a creationist?” Newton was a scientist and true scientists analyze, hypothesis and experiment without bias.

    If you believe that secular scientists are the only ones with the answers or are the only ones that can see “through the fog” then you are greatly mistakened.

  77. @Ut

    “I don’t think it’s “ego” to demand evidence, as most skeptics do. “~Ut

    Demanding evidence sometimes is not the same thing as demanding evidence for all things. When trying to dissect the, without a doubt theory of the origin of all life, at some point ALL people (skeptics included) whether they want to or not will end up saying something like, “We don’t have the answer to that yet, but it could be xxxxxxx.” Where the x’s represent some religious doctrine, or some (currently) unfalsifiable theory, or other. It is nothing more than ego to say I’m right and you’re wrong because you don’t have evidence for everything you say, which when it all comes down to it is what is happening.

    I personally don’t believe in YEC because if the Christian God is as loving and benevolent as people say, I don’t think it’s rational to think that he would deceive all the people with scientific evidence saying otherwise. That wouldn’t be fair, loving, or just which are all attributes of the Christian God.

    I believe that God (or someone before Him) perfected the laws of the universe’s life cycle and has framed our Earth according to those laws, but that’s just me.

    “The true folly, and one that I see again and again, is the exclusion of magic. Most religions teach an “us not them” dichotomy which basically boils down to a “Our unproven or unprovable beliefs are absolutely true, while their unproven or unprovable beliefs are absolutely false. People tend to be way too quick to put down other peoples magic in favour for their own “reality”.”

    The same unprovableness (I realize it’s a made up word), you speak of applies to both mindsets at some point. Whether you accept that notion will determine whether or not it’s about “ego” or not.

    I personally love science, and believe it demonstrates my belief in God.

  78. Crux Australis

    Yikes, what’s eating Eat Me? That’s a good come-back by the way.

  79. yesbutthenagainno

    Do consider though that a major argument is that the concept of a god is illogical and anyone with an intellect will see through such a fantastic and unfounded superstition.

    According to that, then if Netwon believed in creation, and a god, then Newton wasn’t that bright after all. So was he bright or not?

  80. notso

    Do consider though that a major argument is that the concept of a god is illogical and anyone with an intellect will see through such a fantastic and unfounded superstition.

    According to that, then if Netwon believed in creation, and a god, then Newton wasn’t that bright after all. So was he bright or not?

  81. You’ve missed the point. The point is that religious belief does not preclude scientific exploration or rational thought. If it did, we wouldn’t even have science today — we’d be trapped in perpetual religiosity.

  82. quicksilver

    I thought I would disagree with the blog author but after reading the argument I have to agree. Whether you believe the teachings of the Bible, take it as literal fact, or loathe it… it never pretends to be a textbook on science. Treating the Bible as a scientific reference to extrapolate the age of the earth is like using a physics book as a religious reference to decide your beliefs and morals. You really have to try hard to read your own biases into the Bible to come up with a young earth view…

  83. Is your sole purpose in life to complain about the things that irritate you? It would seem so.

  84. Dori

    I seem to recall that in 2000, a poll was taken by, I think, AAAS, to nominate the greatest scientist of the last millenium. With geniuses such as Kepler, Copernicus, Einstein, Da Vinci, and of course Newton to choose from, who do you think came in at the top of the list? Darwin. His theories changed all fields of science as we know it.

  85. keep in mind newton would have died at the stake if he claimed he was an atheist.

  86. Calvin

    Excellent point, though you missed what is probably the most important part: there was NO young-earth Creationists during Newton’s time! Young-earth creationism and the literal reading of the Bible are modern inventions by Christian fundamentalists! The literal reading of Genesis was started by Ellen White- she is the mother of young-earth creationism, and she lived in the 19th century!

  87. Jim

    A note: this was an opinion piece not an editorial of The Boston Globe. Also, as another person commented — this man is beyond the pale. He’s the resident nutjob for the Globe. Why oh why the keep him, I can not fathom.

  88. I like your response to the editorial. I agree that the analogy is ridiculous. However, I think it’s not just a question of whether or not Newton would believe in Creationism if he were alive today, or even whether the answer to the question is meaningless simply because Newton is not alive today.

    I don’t actually care whether or not Newton would believe in YEC if he had been born today. He sounds like a strange enough person that it is possible that even if he had been born in modern times he would still believe that the Earth was created in 3988 B.C. Even then, someone that smart, with the potential to make world altering contributions should be given a position at a prestigious university, even if he thinks that the world is flat. Of course, it would ridiculous for a geology physics department to hire him.

    Regardless, whether or not one brilliant person happens to believe that the earth is flat or 4000 years old doesn’t change anything unless he can provide evidence to sustain his ideas. That’s the difference between science and religious fundamentalism. What’s important is what you do, not who you are.

  89. Smalls

    So you’re saying that no reputable scientists of today are creationists? That’s funny, because the more we learn, the more we’re proving evolution wrong – Darwin didn’t know about all the data in the cell, DNA – and the complexity of life… and many “experiments” and theories supporting his cause have been debunked in the past few years. The narrow-mindedness of keeping out certain theories like young earth (which I myself do not necessarily believe or disbelieve) is what is holding us back from the true age of our earth. E.g. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/03/0324_050324_trexsofttissue.html

    that’s a new idea, huh? That soft dinosaur tissue could still be pliable today? Oh no, it wasn’t preserved in an anaerobic swamp – rather it was in sandstone. A friend of mine spoke with the finder – she says the smell of rotting flesh is not uncommon at dinosaur digs but the bones are always preserved, so the insides don’t ever get examined.

    I was an atheist for many years and have come to learn recently that the bible is literally the greatest history book mankind has. Read some of it and cross-reference anything. It’s 100% true.

  90. Jim Gee

    Thoughts on Young Earth Vs Old Earth. According to current physics time is a dimension ant there for there may be something outside the dimension of time. If Creation were outside the dimension of time it would make the young earth vs old earth agument pretty silly. Current physics also indicates that time is not constant and effected by things like gravity. I think the whole thing may be outside our understanding.

  91. Pete Cockerell

    There was a good short story in the (now defunct) Omni magazine many years ago. It was about a young contemporary scientist who invented a machine that could send a modern (well, 1970s era) scientific calculator back in time to Isaac Newton, to help him in his calculations and give a boost to scientific progress. Of course, the unintended consequence was that Newton saw the calculator as the devil’s own instrument, and it inspired him to start writing the long religious tracts that distracted him from his scientific work :)

    As you say, Newton was a product of his time. His brilliance was unfortunately undermined by the fact that his life was also steeped in superstition.

  92. EZ

    Some questions I submit to the logical posters on this thread.

    First, you say that his interest in alchemy also ruins his credibility for creationism. But, as the author put so well, “The sciences of geology, biology, astronomy, and anthropology were in their youth; at that time, the very foundations of the sciences were being (pardon the word) created…”
    So, seeing as science had just began to be discovered, how could you be sure what was science and what was not? Every inventor has many more failed experiments than succesful ones. The fact that one line of research has failed does not mean that the others are automatically wrong as well, as can be shown by his contributions to the sciences of physics and others. Therefore, you cannot discount his research into creation due to his research into alchemy any more than you can discount his research into physics due to alchemy.

    Second, carbon dating has been discovered to be more and more unreliable. I won’t bother to post links, simply do a google search and you will find thousands of pages on it. Sure, most of them are christian sites, but its not exactly a favorite subject of knowledgable evolutionists. Remember, things that were purported to be science in his day has been found in succeeding years to be nothing, don’t fall into the fallacy that all science today is perfect.

    Third, another point you mentioned was continental drift. Without going into the dead horse of evolution vs creation, i will mention that the bible does mention the continents seperating. Genesis 10:25 fyi, it mentions the earth being divided, probably in a cataclysmic event. Before you start bashing this, however, remember it is simply my own belief, just as Newton believed that alchemy was possible and that two bodies attract.

    But, in the end, the evidence doesn’t matter. We both have our faith in a God, whether it be the intelligent designer or materialistic evolutionists.

  93. Atomic Scrotum

    Why wouldn’t Newton be a creationist if he were born today? Do all scientists think alike? Do all great minds?

    Why can’t science and religion work hand-in hand? Widespread scientific study and widespread athiesm is a relatively new phenomenon. Most of the brilliant men and women who have studied, practiced, and discovered everything we take for granted today were religious.

    I just don’t see why science and religion need to be exclusive. A rational mind can certainly accommodate a faithful soul.

  94. EZ

    Some questions I submit to the logical posters on this thread.

    First, you say that his interest in alchemy also ruins his credibility for creationism. But, as the author put so well, “The sciences of geology, biology, astronomy, and anthropology were in their youth; at that time, the very foundations of the sciences were being (pardon the word) created…”
    So, seeing as science had just begun to be discovered, how could you be sure what was science and what was not? Every inventor has many more failed experiments than successful ones. The fact that one line of research has failed does not mean that the others are automatically wrong as well, as can be shown by his contributions to the sciences of physics and others. Therefore, you cannot discount his research into creation due to his research into alchemy any more than you can discount his research into physics due to alchemy.

    Second, carbon dating has been discovered to be more and more unreliable. I won’t bother to post links, simply do a Google search and you will find thousands of pages on it. Sure, most of them are Christian sites, but it’s not exactly a favorite subject of knowledgeable evolutionists. Remember, things that were purported to be science in his day has been found in succeeding years to be nothing, don’t fall into the fallacy that all science today is perfect.

    Third, another point you mentioned was continental drift. Without going into the dead horse of evolution vs. creation, I will mention that the bible does mention the continents separating. Genesis 10:25 fyi, it mentions the earth being divided, probably in a cataclysmic event. Before you start bashing this, however, remember it is simply my own belief, just as Newton believed that alchemy was possible and that two bodies attract.

    But, in the end, the evidence doesn’t matter. We both have our faith in a God, whether it be the intelligent designer or materialistic evolutionists.

  95. My own religious beliefs not withstanding, I feel the need to point out that many prominent, modern scientists are Christians.

    I find it funny that this would be used as a forum to discuss what scientists (other intelligent people) are able, or unable, to believe

  96. CJ22

    Newton was gay, so not many modern churches would accept him as a bishop either. Pot…kettle..black…

  97. David Lomax

    Great article!

    Here’s another point to add: If Newton had not been a creationist, he might not have even lived to achieve all that he did. Let’s not forget that religion has a long history of punishing blasphemy, sometimes with death. Who knows how many potentially great minds were snuffed out by ignorance and intolerance?

    Yes, Newton professed religious views, but that was in the days when it was mandatory to hold those views. I think of this in much the same way that I think of the religious people’s claim that god inspired all the great works of art of the pre-modern age. Sure — when religion was mandatory, and when you could only produce art work that glorified god, there was all sorts of artwork that glorified god, some of it astonishingly beautiful.

    As soon as any art form breaks out of that “mandatory religious phase” I think you get better works anyway. Let’s not forget that Shakespeare came around just after the time when the only legal drama in England was that which told stories from the bible.

    It’s not that different with science. As soon as belief in god became optional, all sorts of great scientists were able to come out and state their atheism (or their mealy-mouthed agnosticism at the very least). Further, all sorts of people were able to be raised without the threat of expulsion from their families or communities because of their beliefs.

    Calling Newton a creationist is sort of like calling anyone who doesn’t dissent in China a Maoist.

    Sorry for the long post…

  98. Atomic Scrotum writes:

    “Widespread scientific study and widespread athiesm[sic] is a relatively new phenomenon. Most of the brilliant men and women who have studied, practiced, and discovered everything we take for granted today were religious.”

    Wow, you really couldn’t have missed the point more, could you?

    BTW, if you consider anyone that doesn’t ascribe to your particular religion a heretic (atheists included), then the “true religious” have always been the minority.

    OEJ

  99. Daffy

    “The answer given to the “Is God using deception” question when the “Doctrine of Apparent age” is used is that God has told us what he did, so we are not deceived.”

    Care to give a quote?

    And, really, you just dodged the issue. If the Bible says one thing and the physical evidence another, then either the Bible is just wrong or God lied.

    I go with wrong, but perhaps you are more comfortable with lied.

  100. Troy

    A few years ago there was Brady Bunch movie the premise was the fish out of water scenerio where the Bradys were the same as they were in the early 70s when the famous sit com was actually filmed. I’m not a fan of absurd comedy and I didn’t care for the movie but this scenerio is exactly what Jeff Jacoby is doing to Newton.
    It was an apt question Phil asks is how much better a scientist would Newton have been, consider that Kepler actually believed in astrology and it stifled the end of his career essentially limiting further accomplishments. Astrology doesn’t have as many modern friends as Young Earth Creationism, but I could see astrologers making the same point Mr. Jacoby makes but about astrology. Newton’s interest in hocus pocus may have allowed him to overcome the mental hurdle to believe that invisible fields could act at a distance but nonetheless context is everything.

  101. tacitus

    So, seeing as science had just began to be discovered, how could you be sure what was science and what was not? Every inventor has many more failed experiments than successful ones. The fact that one line of research has failed does not mean that the others are automatically wrong as well, as can be shown by his contributions to the sciences of physics and others. Therefore, you cannot discount his research into creation due to his research into alchemy any more than you can discount his research into physics due to alchemy.

    EZ, you don’t really understand what science is, do you? Alchemy and creationism share one thing in common–when science is used to test their claims, those claims were found to be overwhelmingly wrong. That’s what separates Newton’s triumphs over his failures. His Laws of Motion have proven to be correct countless times since his day, whereas his beliefs about alchemy and creationism have come up short time and again as new scientific discoveries have been made. Young Earth creationism isn’t wrong because alchemy proved to be wrong. It is wrong because it fails miserably as a scientific hypothesis.

    Second, carbon dating has been discovered to be more and more unreliable.

    Carbon dating isn’t used to date objects beyond the age of a few thousand years old, it is useless in measuring the ages of rocks and fossils that are many times that old, so it is mostly irrelevant in determining the age of the Earth.

    But in any case, the science of radiocarbon dating is getting better and more accurate all the time as techniques are refined and cross-checked with known dates and other dating methods (tree rings, ice cores, varves, etc). It is only being “called into question” by creationists.

    Third, another point you mentioned was continental drift. Without going into the dead horse of evolution vs creation, i will mention that the bible does mention the continents seperating. Genesis 10:25 fyi, it mentions the earth being divided, probably in a cataclysmic event.

    First, continental drift (or plate tectonics to give it its modern name) has nothing to do with evolution. It is a geological process, not biological. Second, the movement of continents, while it does result in the odd earthquake and volcano, is not the result of “a cataclysmic event”. It is quite demonstrably (from examining rocks making up the ocean floor) the result of a process that moves the plates around by an inch or two per year over many millions of years. There is no doubt whatsoever that this was *not* a one off event that happened a few thousand years ago. There is no physical evidence for the cataclysm you claim the Bible speaks of, none at all.

    But, in the end, the evidence doesn’t matter. We both have our faith in a God, whether it be the intelligent designer or materialistic evolutionists.

    I believe you are trying to dish out an insult here, but it simply shows up your ignorance, or a very limited imagination. Nobody believes in evolution or evolutionists as gods (kind of a weird thing to say in the first place!). In any case, determining the age of the Earth is nothing to do with evolution. Physics, geology, and chemistry are all that are needed to determine that the Earth is 4.3billion years old, (and a smattering of astronomy, of course).

  102. A note on semantics: This isn’t an “editorial” from the Boston Globe. In newspaper parlance, an editorial is an opinion piece prepared by the editorial board of a newspaper. It is a column/op-ed piece, which reflects the opinion of a single, usually one-time contributor.

  103. Cyclica

    Beautiful post. I’m glad there are still clear-thought minds in the side of reasoning. Your blog is an inspiration. Thank you.

  104. Crux Australis

    Now, just a clarification on a point which bothers me. When we say “Earth is 4.3 billion years old”, from what point are we measuring its age? The first clumping together of the oligarchs from which it (probably) formed? Or the beginning of the period of cooling? Is it even possible to say? How does the 0.1 billion year uncertainty compare with the length of those epochs?

  105. Prashanth

    Excellent analysis and critique of a very fallacious, indeed fatuous argument- Newton must be turning over in his grave!!
    The Creationists seem to be getting more and more desperate by the passing day, to have to look to a great scientist dead nearly 300 years for validating as it were, their beliefs held in the face of strong scientific evidence to the contrary.Have they run out of all ideas??
    Keep up the good work!

  106. Helioprogenus

    Are some of these creationists posting messages here for real? Supposed converted atheists? I think they’re trolling for responses, because it’s hard to imagine anybody as stupid considering all the evidence pouring in. Let me say something to all these creationists, bible bangers, and religious zealots. If you had never heard of what you consider the word of God, then you would believe something else that you were indoctrinated into believing. You are no better then islamic fundamentalists. If you had been reared in another religious environment, then your small mind would embrace all the superfluous religious lies that you were fed. The great thing about skepticism, science, and atheism is that it defies indoctrination. It’s all based on empiricism. Technological progress was not achieved by singing praises to whatever god existed at the time. It was achieved through the accumulation of scientific progress. Although individuals were products of their time, the sum total of their knowledge has allowed us to advance to where we are today. Even if Newton was an ardent creationist, his work has enlightened our views of the universe. Ultimately, we don’t know how he would function were he removed from his place in history. Perhaps he would have been killed in an automobile accident, and we would never have learned of his existence. Hypothetical ideas like this are fun, but ultimately pointless, because we are not focused on the religious views of the past but of how we shall progress towards the future, with all these narrow minded religious folk using their resources for fancy myths accumulated millennia ago.

  107. Chris

    I sure hope you send that as an editorial rebuttal. They, (YEC) keep using the most absurd reasoning to convince the pea-brained masses of their ideology. Here’s the straight dope: God was created by man. Sure I would believe that certain events in the bible may have happened, not exactly as they are written but it’s fair to assume that real events were orally passed to later generations and then combined (and embellished upon) to form the stories of the Old Testament. But to pass off ancient stories as factual, and SCIENTIFIC is utterly insane to say the least. How about the creation stories of other large religions like Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Native Americans? Do they believe their particular creation stories as FACT, or just a way to metaphorically explain how they got here? Probably not (pure assumption on my part).
    YEC and other fundies, are adamant about radical Islam, but what they don’t see is that they are EXACTLY like them. Ok, I deviated from the point but I had to throw that in there.

  108. I have a comment regarding an above post (EZ on 24 Jul 2007 at 3:41 pm) in particular the closing lines which say …

    “But, in the end, the evidence doesn’t matter. We both have our faith in a God, whether it be the intelligent designer or materialistic evolutionists.”

    (ahem)

    VOMIT! Oh my Science – that makes me want to VOMIT!

    :)

    Evan

  109. Daffy

    I was trying to summarise the doctrine of Apparent Age, or the doctrine of Mature creation.

    You asked me for a quote, and I was not sure what you were asking, so have to assume it was a quote of the position I was trying to summarise.

    I have found this article which covers this doctrine in more detail.

    The quote you requested

    Others have suggested that if God created things that appear older
    than they really are, that is deceptive on the face of it. Thus, by defi-
    nition the doctrine of apparent age makes God out to be a liar and
    should be rejected on that count alone. However, such an accusa-
    tion overlooks the fact that God plainly told us whatHe did! Any-
    onewhotakes the time to read Genesis 1-2 can see within those chap-
    ters God’s methodology. In fact, He made certain to tell us exactly
    how the Earth and its inhabitants came into existence. Perhaps’
    just perhaps’ if God had not told us in such numbingly exact terms
    what Hedid, or if Hehad not been as specific asHewas, then some-
    one might be able to accuse Him of deception or trickery. But no
    one can accuse God (justifiably) of such despicable behavior be-
    cause His Word adequately explains His actions. He did not hide
    the facts from us but, quite the contrary, went to great lengths to re-
    veal them.

    I hope this clarifies what the doctrine of the apparent age says on the matter of alleged divine deception

  110. Darth Robo

    EZ

    “But, in the end, the evidence doesn’t matter. We both have our faith in a God, whether it be the intelligent designer or materialistic evolutionists.”

    Faith is fine, but has very little to do with science. Science makes no claim as to existence (or not) of a god. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. That’s not what this article is about.

    But I’m curious, how is evolutionary biology any more “materialistic” than any other science? Or, let me guess: is “materialism” just a substitute for those evil atheists? If so, what does atheism have to do with biology?

  111. Gary Ansorge

    EZ: You’re wrong. Evidence DOES matter,,,

    Eat Me: I have a calll for you from Hannibal Lector. He wants your address,,,

    Gary 7

  112. Irishman

    Ryan said:
    > I found it insulting that “if Newton were born today, he wouldn’t be a creationist.” The fact that just because we are far more advanced in the fields of science now than in Newton’s day does not mean that he would abandon his faith or his belief that God created the universe.

    That is not what Phil is saying! Jeez, people — Creationist DOES NOT EQUAL Christian! A person can be a sincere Christian and believe in an old Earth, evolution, and science as a means of discovering about the world. Creationism is a doctrine about the diversity of life, one of unchanging life forms (i.e. species) and unconnected origins (each species independently created). Evolution is the premise of developmental change over time from common ancestry.

    Newton was a Young Earther because the science for investigating the age did not exist. Therefore, he applied his explanatory mind to the information he had available.

    yesbutthenagainno said:
    > Do consider though that a major argument is that the concept of a god is illogical and anyone with an intellect will see through such a fantastic and unfounded superstition.

    >According to that, then if Netwon believed in creation, and a god, then Newton wasn’t that bright after all. So was he bright or not?

    Its not so simple as that. Many a bright and intelligent person is caught with unfounded or erroneous beliefs. Sometimes people have blinders for one aspect of life that they don’t have elsewhere. It is entirely possible to be a genius and wrong.

    Dori said:
    > I seem to recall that in 2000, a poll was taken by, I think, AAAS, to nominate the greatest scientist of the last millenium. With geniuses such as Kepler, Copernicus, Einstein, Da Vinci, and of course Newton to choose from, who do you think came in at the top of the list? Darwin. His theories changed all fields of science as we know it.

    Interesting. Determinations like that are difficult to make, because sometimes comparisons are hard to put on equal footing. While Darwin’s discovery was certainly significant and a major shake up to our understanding of the world, for breadth of contribution to science I would have to argue for Newton. He put much of the foundations of understanding in place for mechanics, gravity, optics, fluids, and also co-created calculus. Newton’s contributions to physics were dramatic, significant, and broad. He is admired for the stuff he got right, not the stuff he got wrong (alchemy, young Earth).

    Smalls said:
    > That’s funny, because the more we learn, the more we’re proving evolution wrong – Darwin didn’t know about all the data in the cell, DNA – and the complexity of life… and many “experiments” and theories supporting his cause have been debunked in the past few years.

    Modern Evolutionary Theory is not strictly Darwinian. The current paradigm is called the “Modern Synthesis”, which takes the concepts of natural selection and combines in other aspects of bilogical study. There is still much we don’t know and have to learn, but I hardly think we’ve proving Evolution wrong.

    > (link)
    that’s a new idea, huh? That soft dinosaur tissue could still be pliable today? Oh no, it wasn’t preserved in an anaerobic swamp – rather it was in sandstone. A friend of mine spoke with the finder – she says the smell of rotting flesh is not uncommon at dinosaur digs but the bones are always preserved, so the insides don’t ever get examined.

    I followed the link. Nothing there gave any contradiction to Evolution. The article itself does say

    “Finding these tissues in dinosaurs changes the way we think about fossilization, because our theories of how fossils are preserved don’t allow for this [soft-tissue preservation],” Schweitzer said.

    New ways to think about fossilization, not evolution.

    EZ said:
    > First, you say that his interest in alchemy also ruins his credibility for creationism… Therefore, you cannot discount his research into creation due to his research into alchemy any more than you can discount his research into physics due to alchemy.

    That’s not exactly what is being done. The reference article is trying to use Newton’s status as a remarkable physicist and the number of contributions he made to justify Creationism. Pointing out other examples of Newton being wrong is valid to show that just because Newton was a creationist (and Young Earther) doesn’t make it right.

    David Lomax said:
    >Here’s another point to add: If Newton had not been a creationist, he might not have even lived to achieve all that he did. Let’s not forget that religion has a long history of punishing blasphemy, sometimes with death. Who knows how many potentially great minds were snuffed out by ignorance and intolerance?
    >Calling Newton a creationist is sort of like calling anyone who doesn’t dissent in China a Maoist.

    You have a fair point in general about how religious dissenters could have a hard time. However, I don’t think it is precisely fair in Newton’s case. Every indication is that Newton was a sincere believer. That’s not to say if he had been a disbeliever, he would have been able to do everything he did, but his ability to dissent was a bit more than you give credit. He chose to study religious themes, something he could have safely ignored without creating problems if it didn’t fit his beliefs.

  113. MichaelS

    Apparent age makes sense to a point. If you instantly create a world that’s designed to sit around for a few thousand years and get destroyed after armageddon, it doesn’t really make sense to create a big, flat sphere that might have a couple small hills and canyons by the time all is said and done. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to create stars a billion light years away if we’ll never see them. Because of this, one would expect God to create light from far-away stars, carve canyons, create mountains, etc.

    But it all breaks down after that. The problem is that there is much, much more evidence of an old Earth than “it looks to be old”. Why would God create redshifted galaxies, an expanding universe and the CMB? Why would God make different stars in such a way that we can say “This star came after those stars, because the material it’s made of had to be created by them first.”? Why would God create fossils of species that never existed? I don’t remember that being in the bible.

    When you buy a tire, you can have them heat-cycled so you can install them and go race. If you don’t, you have to put 50 to 100 miles on them to get all the oil out and make them usable. So you could say the tire manufacturer gave you a tire with an apparent age of 50 to 100 miles, when it actually has 0 miles on it. But what you don’t see are curb rashes on the sidewall, nails in the tread, repair patches from a previous nail, chunks of tread ripped off from hitting a rock, spider cracks in the tread blocks from 1 g corners, or steel belts showing because you ran too much toe and overheated the shoulder of the tire. That wouldn’t make sense.

  114. Daffy

    Sticks, you claimed that “…God told us what He did.”

    I am asking you to provide a quote from God to back up that completely outrageous statement.

    You are dodging again.

  115. michael autin

    Personally I think alchemy is a great treasure load for comedy skits to demonstrate the difference between REAL science and many “mock” sciences. Just because someone uses the word science and then uses WORDS from science does not make what they are saying science… Usually it is an agenda to fog up science, and to cast doubt on science, and confuse usually sober science people who either have succumbed to party, or are exhausted from so much effort.
    With such a competitive and no longer COOPERATIVE environment due to culture clash and the shifting of markets as that happens and the shifting of the foundation away from western towards eastern philosophies as the underlying foundation and therefore the infiltration of false suppostitions at the base of needed education which errodes the old science and is trying to supplant new science with new leaders, who seem to be BENT on making SCIENCE a cult…
    Well alchemy and sobriety are a part of my comedy and helps me retain real science values and knowledge and Experiment confirmation, and is also good for computer programming and mental memory skills. How often I seek to share science knowledge and get a cart load of hoakum in return… Makes me want to stop talking science as so few people are capable of REAL disussion and expansion of ideas… they are too interested in social concrens, not that that is bad, but some people need to be science and not so socialist. Social and socialist are two different ideas. Usually those who use the word “racist” are in fact the racist person in the discussion.

  116. Esstee

    Well this is a great example of misaligned thoughts counteracted with yet more misaligned thinking. I completely agree with the notion that Newton was in compliance with the trends and information within his own time period. However, ending the observation with yet another assumption ends up being just as ludicrous as the first.

    Until someone raises him from the dead, we have no way of telling what his decisions or position would be regarding the creation of the earth or otherwise. Is it really so complicated?

    We could conclude the entire observation by saying that Newton believed in God and creation. To which I say, big deal!

  117. EZ

    First off, thanks to the Irishman for using logic to create a very valid counterpoint to what I said. All I can say to that is that my comment was more directed towards the people posting below the article than the author himself.

    As for Darth Robo, all I can say is that your inflammatory comment is completely unfounded, and should use logic to create a meaningful argument instead of your personal biases. My use of the phrase “materialistic evolutionists” simply refers to the scientists who believe that the only answer is the physical world that they can touch, feel, and see, and they limit themselves to that. And your right, science itself makes no such claim. Its the people that do that. Oh, and i don’t recall posting anywhere or hinting that I think atheists are evil, because i don’t.

  118. Daffy

    Is this the quote you wanted

    I thought you were after a quote on what “Apparent age” taught from a YEC source to back up my summary of the YEC position, sorry about that confusion

    MichaelS

    In the article I linked to in a previous post, it did mention fossils. According to YECs the fossils are not part of the doctrine of apparent age, but are to do with the global flood of Noah – which is a side topic for another time.

    I was just trying to show what the doctrine of Apparent Age says in response to some of the criticisms levelled at it.

  119. Daffy

    Sticks,

    Yes it is. Thank you. It is not actually a quote from God as you claimed, but it will do, I suppose. And I have one more question: do you actually believe that quote to be factual? A very simple question: Yes or No.

    I am guessing you won’t answer.

  120. If that is what it says, we do not have the liberty to pick and choose what bits we like and don’t like, although I understand some theologians dispute this.

  121. Daffy

    So, Sticks, then you also agree with the verse in Leviticus where it says someone must be killed if they are wearing a garment made from 2 different fabrics. Better check your closet for cotton/polyester blends.

    You do not have the liberty to pick and choose.

  122. Putting this on another tangent if anyone is still around

    What would Newton have made of Einstein’s work which showed flaws in Newtonian mechanics?

  123. Darth Robo

    EZ:

    “all I can say is that your inflammatory comment is completely unfounded, and should use logic to create a meaningful argument instead of your personal biases.”

    Aw! :(

    “My use of the phrase “materialistic evolutionists” simply refers to the scientists who believe that the only answer is the physical world that they can touch, feel, and see, and they limit themselves to that.”

    In other words, atheists. I’m glad you don’t think they are evil, that’s nice. But people who study evolution are no more materialistic than anyone else. And there are such things as scientists who are also religious. Most of them don’t let religious ideas stop them from using the scientific method. Even to them, evidence DOES matter when it comes to doing science. The study of evolution, whether it is done by a religious or non-religious scientist is no more “materialistic” than the study of physics, chemistry, geology or the weather. God might be responsible for all of it. If you got a problem with atheists who disagree or think that’s dumb, go take it up with them – I’m not one. But no “evolutionist” would use that word to describe themself. And your use of the word “materialistic” to me shows your own biases. I’ve only ever seen those words used in that context by fundies who generally use that term to create a “boogieman” they can complain about. I don’t have a problem with religion. But if I feel that someone is talking daft, I will say so.

    Sorry. (shrug)

  124. David C. Taylor

    The universe was created this morning.
    I know this, because I was there at the time.
    Now I’m here.
    Look at that!
    It was just created again!

    But those puzzled by nothing
    will never notice.

  125. jl

    We live in a solar system that is nearly infintesimal when compared with the size of the universe estimated to be at least 13.7 billion light years in time and space dimensions. (that is about 8.083 x 10^22 miles or 4.25 x 10^26 feet, depending on the exact factors you are using, but what is a few light years anyway!)

    Hominids in their different forms have only been around a very short time(ten of millions of years)of the Earth’s history,(4.5 billion years) much less the history of the universe.

    In light of such almost incomprehensible distances and enormous time intervals doesn’t it seem slightly ludicrous and incredibly presumptive for any of us, but especially the fundamentalists, to be “absolutely certain” of anything? Of holding “the truth”?

    In all that space and time which we have only the smallest personal experience with, how can we possibly know that one 4000 year old religion is the absolute and unrefutable truth?

    At least science, as imperfect as it is, at it’s best, keeps searching,asking questions and allows that almost any fact can be falsified and revised.

    Religious fundamentalism is a pathological symptom of a “constipated mind”.

    If archaic religious beliefs cannot evolve to adapt to new conditions and information, they will become extinct or at least irrelevant as other pre-scientific beliefs have become in the past. Increasingly such dogmas are showing themselves to be a huge obstacle to the resolution of the difficult political situations and urgent ecological problems we face.

    Fundamentalism is one “species” many of us will not agnonize over it’s demise.

  126. Irishman

    Sticks, speculating on the hypothetical actions of someone long dead is prone to erroneaous thinking. Taking my guesses with a grain of salt…

    Einstein’s work only made sense in light of further discoveries in chemistry and physics. Without understanding the concept of the photon, or electromagnetics, Einstein would not have reached the revelation he made. So in order for Newton to have made sense of Relativity and the effects to his own ideas, he would have to also become aware of the intervening results in the nature of atoms, light, and electromagnetics.

    Assuming he had the time to read and digest all of that material, it is difficult to determine if he would have stubbornly refused some of the implications, or if he would have accepted them in light of the results of testing. The admirer in me would like to think that Newton was bright enough to follow the science, and would have rethought his position given how GR was able to explain something his own math could not.

    However, much of what was computed with regards to planetary motion was actually done by others after Newton.

  127. I am sure Isaac Newton was attempting to develop a worldview that encompassed the whole of reality, viz., the physical as well as the nonphysical. After all the subject matter of science is the purely physical. Humans, possessing nonphysical properties of consciousness and rationality, in turn develop (mathematical) scientific theories. Explaining the whole of reality is quite a contemporary endeavor and I am sure that Newton would still be struggling with such questions even if he were amongst us. Newton would use all sorts of sources and knowledge to answer such deep, human questions. What we have today are scientists who attempt to explain the nonphysical in terms of the physical, which is nonsense.

  128. Let me join the chorus of praise for this post.

    If Newton were alive today, he’d probably master calculus by 14 or so, but might figure the big money is in Wall Street. He’d likely be running a hedge fund with complex buy-sell algorithms by 30, not applying for tenure.

  129. penny

    Newton also refused to believe in the “holy trinity” , which would upset these fundies.

    It is also now clear “The Crest of the Peacock” ( Cambridge Uni Press) that calculus was known in Kerela, India– long before Newton “discovered it” and
    that they were using differential equations. No so surprising, when one realizes
    that Kerela was a major spice trader with Europe–so that the ideas could easily get to Europe–or that Archimedes had explored many aspects of Calculus. However, this is being ignored –though clearly established–as all things were invented by European white men. So was Newton such a genius after all?

    In a similar way, in a slightly later time, India beat Europe by about a century in applying
    Hill’s differential equation to the three body problem ( see above ref), but we still call it Hill’s equation. Heavens, China beat Cramer to the determinate solution of
    linear systems by centuries and we know it, but still call it Cramer’s rule.
    All things were invented by Christian European white male geniuses.

    Newton’s teacher Issac Barrow also had many aspects of calculus, such as the differential triangle.

    Finally, would Newton–if alive today–be a cosmologist? First and formost, as then–he would be a MATHEMATICIAN. He would probably dabble some in cosmology, as he did in Natural Philosophy.
    Penny

  130. penny

    By the way, I am such a strong supporter of this site that I believe we need a kind of “Bad Astronomy–Bad Science” Gideon’s group to put archives of this site in hotel rooms, alongside the already existing
    “Gideon Bibles”.
    Phil Platt is the man!!

    best
    Penny

    Today, I am going to go off and see “Sunshine”–I desperately need to see a comedy! From an Astronomy perspective–that is what it is!

  131. penny

    Phil Platt is the man!!

    To paraphrase G.H. Hardy–spelling doesn’t work before breakfast!
    Sorry, Penny

  132. baccarat download

    Logging into this website should be a requirement for anyone knowledgeable on earth these days…

  133. reviews

    I dont even remember how i reached your site but it doesnt matter, cause i’m so happy i found it, it really made me think, keep up the good work

  134. mobile home owners insurance truck insurance

    nice site, very informative, well designed, easy to use … what can i say ? i love it…

  135. regole e valore delle carte al baccarat

    Hello, I just wanted to say you have a very informative site which really made me think, Thanks ! A site with a wealth of info.!…thanks very much! Have a nice Day!!

  136. HELLO FROM A CREATION SCIENCE EVANGELIST. IT SEELS TO ME THAT A LOT OF YOU PEOPLE DON’T REALLY KNOW MUCH ABOUT CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. WHEN I STARTED VIEWING THE DVD’S AND CD’S AND ARTICLES AT “DRDINO.COM”, I WAS AMAZED AT HOW WHAT THEY WERE SAYING AND PROOVING IN A SCIENTIFIC WAY SO MANY SO MANY IDEAS ABOUT A YOUNG EARTH CREATED AROUND 6000 YEARS AGO. I REALLY ENJOYED THE INFORMATION THAT MADE ME SEE THINGS MORE CLEARLY THAN “BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF YEARS AGO”. I’M NOT KNOCKING IT BUT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO DISPROVE AND REFUTE CREATION SCHIENC EVANGELISM, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE A GOOD, LONG, HARD LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE KNOCKING. AND HEY! YOU JUST MIGHT FIND MORE THAN YOU EXPECTED. I CHALLENGE YOU TO GO “SEEK” THE TRUTH OR EXPLORE POINTS YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO DEBATE IN A BETTER LIGHT. I’VE BEEN A SEEKER ALL MY LIFE AND IT REALLY FEELS GOOD TE GET AHOLD OF SOMETHING SOLID. TAKE THE CHALLENGE ALL YOU BRAVE BRILLIANT INDIVIDUALS. BY THE WAY YOU TALK I KNOW YOU’RE A SEEKER LIKE I WAS. HAVE YOU REALLY GOT THE GUTS TO EXPLORE WHERE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE? (SOUNDS LIKE STAR TREK HA!)
    I WISH YOU ALL A GREAT JOURNEY—IF YOU DARE?

    MAY THE LORD OF ALL HEAVEN AND EARTH BLESS YOU ALL THROUGH JESUS CHRIST,
    RAYMOND

  137. Gnomox

    Wouldn’t Newton be scared to realizethat Science has become an Ideology matching & serving the aims of capitalism ??!!

  138. Gnomox Abdul

    Wouldn’t Newton be scared to realizethat Science has become an Ideology matching & serving the aims of capitalism ??!!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+