Rousseau is a religious nut

August 21, 2007

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote the creationist’s argument for an intelligent designer. That is, if you find a watch, you recognize that this thing was created and it is not natural. So, too, are birds and people and whales marvelous machines that must have been created by God. He also made the argument that God must be the first cause that set the universe in motion. Two absurd religious arguments found in Book IV of Emile (read it here). Religious nuts quote these arguments, but they avoid the rest of that section where Rousseau says he does not believe in organized religions. Instead, he’s a theist who thinks organized religions are scams (he’s much too verbose). That’s why his books were burned at the time by Christians. I’ll have to bring that up the next time some moron preaches about creationism to me.

I was lead to Rousseau’s writings by this excellent article by Mark Lilla, who wrote of this book: “It is the most beautiful and convincing defense of man’s religious instincts ever to flow from a modern pen.” Frankly, that’s bull. If you read that section where the Savoyard Priest rambles on and on, you’ll see that it is full of holes and logical leaps. He argues for the existence of God by a thought experiment. But without any real data, thought experiments can go anywhere you want. It would be like asking a senile Senator to describe how the Internet works. He might describe it as a “series of tubes” because he is forcing a limited set of facts into his existing mental frameworks (i.e. plumbing). It sounds convincing to other ignoramouses, but it’s completely wrong. Rousseau is forcing his limited knowledge of physics to fit his preferred idea of a God. Like every crackpot conspiracy theory, a few facts can be a dangerous thing.


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