Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stewart on the Founders' Cosmic Beliefs

A few days after I wrote my piece on cosmic religions, I see Matthew Stewart had a similar piece on the matter. I didn't read Stewart's book. His article could have been based on the research found there. A taste:
If these peace-loving aliens were a threat to anything, it was to theology. John Adams put his finger on the problem as a young man in a diary entry from 1756. Given the near-certainty of alien life, he reasoned, Evangelical Christians must either condemn our extraterrestrial brothers to everlasting perdition or suppose that Jesus shows up on an endless number of planets in ever-changing alien incarnations. Thomas Paine later made the same point in print, rather more caustically: “The person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.”
There are a lot of sightings of strange objects in the sky. I often wonder if not only have we been visited by them, but if we are their projects. If they do exist and are visiting, it needs explaining why they aren't sharing their technology like zero point energy and cures for diseases like cancer. One reason is it would be too "disruptive." Likewise if they are that much more advanced then they have presumably knowledge of the origins of reality. That would disrupt or perhaps clarify "religion."

Perhaps the recorded miracles of old were simply uses of advanced alien technology. From Thor:
Erik Selvig: I'm talking about science, not magic.
Jane Foster: Well, "magic's just science we don't understand yet." Arthur C. Clarke.


 Thor: Your ancestors called it magic...
[Thor skims through a book on Norse mythology]
Thor: ...but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.


Bill Fortenberry said...

This is just one more example of Stewart jumping to conclusions. I could not find anywhere in his book or this article where he demonstrated that belief in aliens could only be an indication of one's acceptance of epicurean philosophy. For example, C. S. Lewis spoke publicly about his belief in aliens on at least two occasions even doing so in language very similar to David Rittenhouse. Does that mean that Lewis was actually a closet Deist who followed epicurean philosophy more than the Bible?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Rittenhouse was no "Deist" at least in a non-Christian manner. I wrote about his beliefs here:

jimmiraybob said...

Mr. Fortenberry “This is just one more example of Stewart jumping to conclusions. I could not find anywhere in his book or this article where he demonstrated that belief in aliens could only be an indication of one's acceptance of epicurean philosophy.”

[trying again with fewer citations per comment]

That’s because he does not make that claim. He does not jump to the conclusion that you’ve constructed. You’ve constructed a strawman argument. What Stewart does do is outline a history narrative – correctly – beginning with the 4th-century BCE Greek philosopher Epicurus’(1) physics/cosmology(2) that proposes a plurality of world’s and the likelihood of a multitude of other life forms. This is based largely on Epicurus’ development of the concepts of atomism, materialism, and an infinite universe. These ideas were later encapsulated in the work of the 1st-century BCE Roman poet Lucretius(3) in his de rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things).

Steven Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern(4) does a very good job of presenting the story of the reemergence of Lucretius’ de rerum Natura into 15th century Western Europe following its discovery by the manuscript-hunting Humanist scholar Poggio Bracciolini.

Epicurean physics/cosmology played a defining role in the development of western philosophy and science and was a counter to Aristotelian/Platonic scholasticism, which the Catholic Church had largely incorporated and championed.

It’s true that in the post-medieval west, to believe in the plurality of worlds inhabited by some sort of alien life, did/does not mean that you were/are an Epicurean in all its philosophical aspects, but there’s a very strong likelihood that you would have gotten there, at least indirectly, via the transmission of Epicurean physics/cosmology.

And, of course, many of the founders were well read in the classics, ancient Greece & Rome, and steeped in the science of their day, including astronomy & the "new" physics/philosophy.


2) See Epicurus’ Letter to Horodotus @

& notes on Epicurus’ physics @

jimmiraybob said...

[continued citations]


& de rerum Natura


See also Steven Greenblatt talking about the Swerve:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Absent a foundation more significant than a John Adams diary entry on extraterrestrials when he was 21, secular-left pseudo-scholar Matthew Stewart continues to offer

The alleged Englishness, the imaginary whiteness, the supposed Protestantism of the republic’s early years made America what it is, or so the thinking goes

incoherence masquerading as a thesis.

jimmiraybob said...

And Tom successfully sticks the booga booga landing. It must be so liberating not having to have any actual knowledge or understanding. Just sittin' back launching the mindless bombs - the culture wars in all their glory.

Shouldn't you be over at the Old Life informing them of how much their religion sucks? I'm sensing that Butch has said something that you need to mock.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What's Stewart's thesis, tough guy? As always, floor's yours, and good luck. ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yeah, that's what I thought. ;-)

jimmiraybob said...

Oh, you were serious.

First, try typing into Google "identifying a thesis statement." There are many helpful articles on how to identify a thesis. [See what I did there? Give a man a fish and he has a fish, teach a man to fish....]

Unfortunately, many of the pages that I reviewed were fairly emphatic that the article or book, for which one is trying to ID the thesis, actually be read. I know that that's a bridge too far so I'll help a bit on Stewart's Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic (Hardcover – July 1, 2014). The thesis might have something to do with the American Founding having heretical origins.

But we all know that you don't really care about any kind of honest discussion, you just want a fight. Sorry to disappoint. Maybe later.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually you showed up looking for a fight. When you got one you fled. Bye.

Stewart doesn't even have a point or you'd have told us what it is.

jimmiraybob said...

I "showed up" to comment on Mr. Fortenberry's false claims.

TVD - "Stewart doesn't even have a point or" blah, blah, blah.

You know that you're incapable of an honest discussion or you'd honestly engage. No one fled. I tossed you a bone since you seem to have a hard time with discerning theses. Chew on it a bit a see what you can come up with.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What was Stewart's point? Spare us your shout-downs.

jimmiraybob said...

If there’s a broad point that Stewart makes it’s that our understanding of nature and our universe has changed and will continue to change with new information - starting from early metaphysical speculations about our cosmos to today’s empirically-derived scientific understanding. As Stewart writes, and this is as good a choice as thesis statement as any, “It isn’t our commitment to the past but our capacity to transcend it that made America.”

Or, as Stewart paraphrases the great American philosopher, Captain Kirk, “The American thing is the human thing: to boldly go where none have gone before.”

jimmiraybob said...

And to Mr, Fortenberry's comment regarding C.S. Lewis. Lewis was an avowed atheist until about mid life when he went through a theist* period and then after a couple of years when he came out as an avowed Christian.

Through his academic and scholarly work with ancient Greek and Roman literature, he was thoroughly familiar with Lucretius' work de rerum Natura (see my first comment above), as well as the science of his time (astronomy), and is a perfect example of accepting some aspects of Epicurean philosophy (physics/cosmology) and still not be an Epicurean in all aspects (such as concerning the afterlife).

*the term deist might also apply - upon recognizing a God desire he did flirt with Hinduism, among other possibilities, during his transition to Christianity. Regardless, he was searching for something that he eventually found in Christianity.