Newton provides an example of how the idea of "science" had not yet fully emerged as something separate from religion in early Enlightenment thinking. In fact, during the seventeenth century, the word "scientist" was not commonly used to describe experimenters at all; they were called natural philosophers"^^ in an extension of the Puritan idea of the study of the Book of Nature. Science had also not fully emerged as a separate concept, but was sometimes thought of as a method or style of study rather than a discretely defined set of disciplines. This was true even into Thomas Jefferson's day. Jefferson himself usually used the word to mean what today we call the hard sciences, but sometimes he used it to refer simply to the rigorous study of other fields, such as the "sciences" of language, mathematics, and philosophy.
By 1663, a time when Puritans were in a decided minority in England, 62 percent^^ of the natural philosophers of the famed Royal Society of London were Puritans,^^ including Newton, who wrote far more on religion and alchemy than he did on science.^^ Newton believed in the inerrancy of scripture, biblical prophecy, and that the apocalypse would come in 2060.^' He was "not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians," said economist John Maynard Keynes,^^ who purchased a collection of Newton's papers in 1936 and was astounded to find more than one million words on alchemy and four million on theology, dwarfing his scientific work.
Newton went on to create calculus and to publish Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,^"^ upon which modern physics was founded.
Eighty-nine years later, Principia was one of the main sources Thomas Jefferson drew upon for inspiration as he sat in the two second-story rooms he had rented from Jacob Graff in Philadelphia, writing the Declaration of Independence.
If people ask me about my worldview, I say that I am a naturalist. When most people hear that word, they think of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors watching birds and admiring landscapes—and I suppose that description applies to me. But I think of naturalism as a philosophy rather than a lifestyle. F a philosophical perspective, naturalists believe that the physical universe is the universe. In other words, there are no supernatural entities or forces acting on nature, because there is no empirical evidence for anything beyond or outside of nature. T Naturalists posit that the universe is made up of only four things: space, time. matter, and energy—and that's it. The matter and energy in.n the universe can come together in an essentially infinite number of configurations over time, and these configurations cannot be predicted with any certainty for complex systems over extended periods.^ But matter and energy do not influence and are not influenced by supernatural forces.
Of course, we can combine natural history study with gardening, hunting, owning pets, and other pursuits that keep us close to the earth. The more such activities, the better, in terms of a full, rich, characterbuilding relationship to nature. But natural history study provides training in another key environmental virtue that the others do not: leaving things alone. The sportsman’s code prohibits wasting meat from the animals killed, the organic gardener’s ethics proscribe unsustainable or wasteful practices. These are necessary lessons and these activities habituate them wonderfully. But gardening and hunting cannot fully teach restraint in our engagement with nature, for obvious reasons. The naturalist knows nature on its own terms. His goal is to see and understand animals and plants without disturbing, changing, taming, or otherwise constraining them. In an ever more crowded, manipulative, human-dominated world, restraint is an absolutely crucial environmental virtue. Without restraint, we lose wild nature, and environmentalism becomes just another movement to make the world a little safer for humanity. The best way to habituate this is to study and appreciate wild nature as is.
After an evening of talk, perhaps about the fringes of knowledge, or some new possibility of climbing inside the minds and senses of animals, we would go out on the lawn, where we took turns at an amusing little astronomical rite. We searched until we found, with or without glasses, the faint, heavenly spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand comer of the Great Square of Pegasus, when one or the other of us would then recite:
That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda.
It is as large as our Milky Way.
It is one of a hundred million galaxies.
It is 750,000 light-years away.
It consists of one hundred billion
suns, each larger than our sun.
After an interval Colonel Roosevelt would grin at me and say: “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.” We must have repeated this salutary ceremony forty or fifty times in the course of years, and it never palled.
Of course, naturalists’ activities themselves can go astray or fail to provide their full benefits. Rachel Carson warned that “it is possible to compile extensive lists of creatures seen and identified without ever once having caught a breathtaking glimpse of the wonder of life.”22 A concern to have the newest, fanciest gear has taken many a birdwatcher away from simplicity and frugality! As with hunting’s “sportsman’s code,” a “naturalist’s code” might help prevent these failures and perversions. Official birders’ codes of conduct typically include restraints on badgering wildlife and trespassing on private lands. They don’t yet condemn wasting money on unnecessary gear or driving hundreds of miles for a quick glimpse of a “life bird.” Perhaps they should. Birdwatchers know better than most the toll that excessive energy consumption takes on wildlife. By building temperance and restraint into their own codes of conduct they could further the values they believe in and act with greater integrity.