[ by Charles Cameron — wishing you all blessings on the Fourth ]
My eye was caught today by yet another disaster — which in turn reminded me of tomorrow, the Fourth of July. It’s just one example among many:
— but it brings up again the question of whether we think in terms of “acts of God” or “laws of Nature” or — somehow — both. And that’s where thw roding of the Constitution comes in, with the phrase “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”:
If I used that phrasing — “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” — today, I might well be attempting to please or at least placate readers who variously:
believe in a God separate from and superior to Nature, and author of Nature’s laws
believe in a God essentially indistinguishable from Nature, wholly immanent, &
disbelieve in any kind of God, but recognize Nature as a catchall term for the Whole System.
I don’t suppose that would necessarily be the case in 1776, though, and wonder whether the phrase should be read as:
the Laws — of Nature and of Nature’s God
the Laws of Nature — and of Nature’s God
and if the second, whether the and marks a distinction between Nature and nature’s God, or also covers the possibility of their being one and the same.
And once we’ve cleared that up, and bearing in mind that John Donne could write “At the round earth’s imagin’d corners” — thus conflating the old, imaginative, square earth with the new, scientific, spherical one — how feasible do you think it is to hold simultaneously the idea that a given earthquake, hurricane, tsunami or volcanic eruption is an act of God and a natural disaster?
A worldview paradox?
July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
November 18, 2013, Room for Debate: Natural Disasters or ‘Acts of God’?