Yes, that’s right the famous “deist,” skeptic, and author of the Declaration of Independence judged that there was empirical evidence of a designing intelligence at work in biology, cosmology — and norms of justice, which in turn justified him in invoking “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” to explain the righteousness of America’s cause in separating from Britain.

As my colleague John West has pointed out, he wrote to John Adams in 1823 (emphasis added):

I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition….

The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms.

Now I ask you. July 4th is coming up, which celebrates the anniversary of our country’s independence, announced in the Declaration. From this, we know Jefferson was a theocrat. Aren’t all intelligent design advocates, as various comments on this blog have asserted? Shouldn’t Independence Day, a federal holiday for goodness sake, therefore be declared unconstitutional?
(UPDATE: As various commenters have pointed out, as if this somehow canceled my point, Jefferson was a critic of the Christian religion. So am I. How does that nullify the fact that, like me, he saw empirical evidence of design in nature? Other commenters triumphantly note that Jefferson died decades before the Origin of Species appeared. Big news! Yes, I was aware. But evolutionary ideas were already in the air in intellectual circles in Europe and America long before Darwin formulated his theory of natural selection. Darwin’s grandfather , Erasmus Darwin, wrote his own widely discussed evolutionary treatise, Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, in 1794.)
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