Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

That Inscrutable Newton 

I’ll tell you what I like most about this video. It faces honestly some of Newton’s peculiarities without trying to explain them away.

No one with any sense of integrity can deny that Newton had an interest in the supernatural. He wrote and thought about God a lot. And not only about God. He was fasinated with alchemy. Scandalous.

It is hard to imagine how anyone could try to pass Newton off as an atheist, but believe it or not, they have tried. Most, however, do not resort to such an egregious abuse of history. They content themselves with imagining that the mystical side of Newton was something he kept separate from his science. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is what Newton says in his General Scholium to the Principia Mathematica:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent being.
Clearly Newton believed in God. But while atheists cannot honestly claim him as their own, neither can evangelical Christians. Newton did not believe in the trinity. He was not a Mormon, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or Muslim or a Jew. But he was on the same side of the Arian controversy as they are. Newton did not trumpet his religious beliefs. But he did manage to get a special exemption from the king to the requirement that scientists must be members of the clergy.

So what does all this mean? Two conclusions come to mind.

  1. Newton’s fascination with the mystical may not be “scandalous.” It may, in fact, help to explain why we was more open to allowing ideas so crazy—at the time—as the idea that two unconnected objects thousands and even millions of miles apart, with nothing but empty space between them, would actually have some sort of attracting force pulling them towards each other. I mean, we take it for granted now, but if you think about it, it is pretty mystical and bizarre.

  2. Newton’s belief in God cannot be dismissed as something he assented to because his church required it of him. When did Newton ever allow a religious body to tell him what to believe? Clearly it was not his religion from which sprung his belief in God. It was his science. Newton rejected atheism not because it was unreligious. He rejected it because it was fundamentally unscientific.
Let’s examine this simple statement (the law of gravity) for awhile and analyze it:
Every (heavenly) body is attracted to every other by a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
This universal law affects any two objects in the universe no matter how far apart or close together or small or large they may be. Incredible. That’s not small stuff, folks. Could it be that God allowed Newton to indulge the mystical for awhile to prepare his mind to accept an idea (the law of gravity) which seemed much too mystical for any scientist at the time to accept?

During he last part of this life, Stephen Hawking seemed to be flirting with the idea of belief in God. But he tyranny of his atheistic religion put a stop to it. Finally, he said that because of the law of gravity, the universe could have created itself.

Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.
What nonsense! Clearly it is Hawking, not Newton who allowed his religion to dictate his beliefs in open spite of his science.

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