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They Left This Out of Cosmos: Newton Saw Nature as a "Cryptogram Set by the Almighty"


Jay Richards and Casey Luskin have last night's third, historical-revisionist episode of Cosmos well covered. For myself, as I was watching what Neil deGrasse Tyson does with Isaac Newton, I thought of John Maynard Keynes's summary of the relationship of Newton's science to his religious beliefs:

He regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty -- just as he himself wrapt the discovery of the calculus in a cryptogram when he communicated with Leibniz. By pure thought, by concentration of mind, the riddle, he believed, would be revealed to the initiate.

Keynes believed that this made Newton the "last of the magicians." Actually, it made him a great scientist. Yes, a "cryptogram set by the Almighty" -- as a characterization of the puzzles offered by our own contemporary science, unsuccessfully whitewashed by a materialism that assures us it's got everything all figured out, I don't know of any descriptive phrase that's better.

I'm now on Twitter. Find me @d_klinghoffer.

Image: William Blake's "Newton" (1795).