Talk:Natural theology

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Eastern Orthodox[edit]

Orthodox Christianity rejects Natural theology. Can someone add this in the article? Also contrast it to scholastic theology. --Kupirijo 04:49, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

--Where is your evidence that the Orthodox reject natural theology? The Cappadocian Fathers were to a degree natural theologians. Check out Pelikan's book, Christianity and Classical Culture.Grailknighthero (talk) 14:41, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Natural Theology vs. Deism[edit]

I see a lot of similarities between these two philosophies/theologies. I understand Deism is a type of natural theology, but I was wondering what the differences are and what other types of natural theology there is besides Deism. Thanks!!! Byronarnold 22:26, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Well, Natural Theology was pretty clearly used in both Deism and Theism, since it's beyond my expertise you'll have to look at these articles to work out the difference. However, William Paley was clearly a theist and his Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature followed on from his Evidences of Christianity and was similarly influential on the Church of England which was the church the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises such as William Whewell. However ideas such as Whewell's "But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this-we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws." which Charles Darwin cited at the start of The Origin of Species may be more deistic. Good luck with the quest, .. dave souza, talk 08:53, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
As of right now, I consider myself Deist. But I want to learn as much as I can about "Natural Theology". Maybe I fit more under it than I do Deism. Who knows? Well, I'm going to google the term, see what all I can find! Thanks for your reply!!! Byronarnold 01:34, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

difference b/t natural theology and deism ... in the article??[edit]

I find it very confusing the difference betwixt the two, and would be very grateful for someone expert in both to perhaps describe for us, the lay person, what the differences are, in the article text. thank you. Decora (talk) 15:08, 19 September 2009 (UTC) There were a lot of differences that could have been mentioned. Natural Theology is opposed by many prominent thinkers. By contrasting the Natural Theology with Deism, it makes the article stronger. The existence of the creator of the world was not described in depth. There are some missing steps to showing the differences of the two ideologies — Preceding unsigned comment added by RyH11 (talkcontribs) 02:28, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

Potential additional content/definition for the page: Natural Theology[edit]

The term "natural religion" has been used to describe an 18th and 19th century notion of "natural theology" that used reasoning and ordinary experience rather than supernatural beliefs, but did not deny beliefs. This is set out in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Seeing a god or gods in nature, or nature-worship, are also included in the term "natural religion", as exemplified by Frank Lloyd Wright's quote: "I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.". These religious directions were an offshoot of Christian culture and based on the western understanding of nature at that time.

In contrast, the ideas in The Natural Religion by the zoologist and philosopher, Dr Brendan Connolly, are based on what is now world-wide knowledge of the biological system as accepted by all of human kind, not just western or Christian cultures. It sees humans as one part of our biological system and points out that there are no indications that humans are also part of something else, such as a supernatural world. Much of our current knowledge of ourselves was not known during the 18th and 19th centuries, therefore the then small green shoots of natural religion that tentatively investigated if reasoning could answer religious questions, have now come of age in Dr Connolly's book The Natural Religion ISBN 978-0-9558313-0-0, which now benefits from much greater and up-to-date knowledge to underpin its ideas. Also, no trace of "natural theology" is found in The Natural Religion, as it does not suggest any gods or any supernatural beliefs in or about nature, and takes an agnostic stance.

The Natural Religion therefore does not define religion, see Religion Explained, as found in English language dictionaries with having supernatural beliefs and deities as part of it, but as: "A set of ideas about ourselves and the world around us". The reasoning employed in the book 'The Natural Religion', sees traditional religions using beliefs to guess the answers to questions which were as yet unsolved due to lack of information. What the concept of The Natural Religion has in common with other religions is that it examines the age-old questions about the Meaning of Life, but contends that we now know why human life, as well as life in general, exists, and that the boundaries of human knowledge are now drawn at our understanding of the nature of Energy. Dr Brendan Connolly was a speaker at the International Conference on Human Ecology, Manchester, UK, June 29th to July 3rd 2009

--Scrutineer1 (talk) 15:11, 21 April 2010 (UTC)

Resemblance to Intelligent Design[edit]

I can't help but notice that Natural Theology bears a striking resemblance to Intelligent Design. So striking is the resemblance, that I'm tempted to say that Intelligent Design is Natural Theology repackaged for the modern age. Should this article be expanded into that area or would that cause a redundancy? Wolf ODonnell 14:39, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

A brief mention is appropriate, but detail belongs in the intelligent design articles – as you've probably noted, Behe explicitly refers back to William Paley as a predecessor of ID, though of course they tend to claim that ID's not religion. . . dave souza, talk 16:41, 13 September 2007 (UTC)
ID can be either or both of two things: (1) an argument that naturalism is insufficient to explain evolution; (2) a P.R. campaign to make Creationism palatable to educators. If it's also a form of natural theology then it's three things and that would make my head spin. --Uncle Ed 17:14, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Natural theology is the theistic form of deistic natural philosophy. It does not reject the evolution of species into another or the slowly forming universe over billions of years. Intelligent design, defined by Britannica, rejects the evolution concept. It would probably be less confusing to just say that natural theology and natural philosophy are synonyms. In practice they aren't discernible. Both have been around for 3000+ years before the terms 'intelligent design' and 'biological evolution' were even coined and parroted by popular culture. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:11, 24 December 2010 (UTC)

(i) You're commenting on a 3 year old thread. (ii) Paley's take on natural theology, and his watchmaker analogy, is probably the most widely-known version of it these days -- and is the immediate philosophical antecedent of ID. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 10:17, 24 December 2010 (UTC)

Barth and Brunner[edit]

This article should at some point discuss the debate between Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. 04:27, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for your suggestion. When you feel an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the Edit this page link at the top. The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes — they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to).
In my opinion the sentence you deleted actually provides useful clarification and links that are inappropriate in the title phrase to the article, so I've reinstated it. Mr Hippo does seem to be an early exponent of the idea, suitable references for this and other points will welcome. .. dave souza, talk 16:36, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Potential source[edit]

The introductory chapter (p9-54) of Adaptation: Natural Selection in Evolution, Michael R. Rose, George V. Lauder (available through Google books), contains considerable information on the movement of Natural Theology from a basis in astronomy ('Astrotheology') to a basis in biology ('Physicotheology'). Might prove useful in fleshing this article out. HrafnTalkStalk 09:47, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Lead problem[edit]

I noticed an editor recently alter the lead without any discussion here. Of course the alteration miraculously benefits a content dispute this editor is having at Astrotheology. The basic definitions I've seen for natural theology seem to more or less follow this one: "'Natural Theology' is the favorite term in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries designating the knowledge of God drawn from nature in distinction from the knowledge of God contained in revelation." I'm not sure that this is specific to "God's purpose" as the new edit claims. Also the edit in question claims that natural theology is theology "on nature" as opposed to a theology "from nature" or "based upon the observation of nature". Isn't that entirely reversed? Can someone with expertise here please have a look at this. I reverted it and asked the editor to bring the change to the talk page first. Thanks.PelleSmith (talk) 21:31, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Gifford basically establish Natural Theology to prove the existence of God, and he wanted it to be a natural science. It evolved and embraced many theologies over time. The quote I put there was based on Paley's Natural Theology, and the quote is taken almost exactly as it exists in Modern Predicament. I realize there was a better way to states it, but I wanted to make sure I would not be accused of exactly what you accused me about. WP:AGF, and using "editor" to hide it doesn't help. Since you restored the text, it is now up to you to WP:PROVEIT. — Dzonatas 22:57, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I noted a suspicious circumstance I did not accuse you of bad faith. By what authority do we alter the lead of an entry on a very broad ranging historical concept to fit the strict definition of one of many possible primary sources? I will advise you once again to please familiarize yourself with our sourcing conventions. WP:V and WP:RS are the places to start. Anyway I've asked for outside opinions here at three Wikiprojects: Religion, Philosophy and Christianity. RegardsPelleSmith (talk) 23:28, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
"By what authority do we alter the lead of an entry on a very broad ranging historical concept to fit the strict definition of one of many possible primary sources?" There was nothing being cited in the lead, and wikipedia needs it to be verifiable. Hmmmmm, so you deleted one of the only verifiable statements in the lead section and was not ready to provide something better cited? At least, if you felt it did not reflect what the source says, then attempt to rewrite it. You've obvious taken such open rewrite position on astrotheology to suit your pov, but you don't apply the same spirit here? — Dzonatas 23:38, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Look, I'm not the one who came here and altered the entry after getting into a content dispute at astrotheology. I'm only returning it to its pre-altered state. Lets not confuse events here. I apply the same spirit here of course, and its actually that spirit I'm trying to impart on you. The issues I have on the other entry also have to do with WP:V and WP:RS. Primary sources are not encouraged, particularly not when we dealing with a primary historical source in what is a much much larger concept.PelleSmith (talk) 23:46, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Your invite attempt looks suspicious to call more attention to the AfD. — Dzonatas 00:49, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
If I wanted to just mention the AfD I would have, and there would be nothing inappropriate about it. Of course I didn't do that, I asked for people with expertise here to please take a look at the disputes. These Wikiprojects are relevant to the topic at hand. Please do post this at other relevant Wikiprojects I might have missed.PelleSmith (talk) 00:54, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Relevance of Hindu sacred texts[edit]

I've {{irrel}} tagged the Hindu material as it presents no evidence that this material is "based on reason and ordinary experience" -- it appears rather 'based upon sacred texts and mataphysical speculations'. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 06:06, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Marcus Terentius Varro[edit]

I would point out that:

  1. The previously-tagged material on Marcus Terentius Varro does not establish that he is one of the "Key proponents" of Natural Theology (or even that he is a proponent at all). Meaning that this material should have been deleted regardless of sourcing.
  2. That a citation to the German-language Die Theologie der frühen griechischen Denker, lacks even page numbers, is completely useless for WP:Verification.
  3. That the citation to Shanks only appears to verify the "three kinds of theology" claim, not the rest of the material.

HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:13, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

  • The proponent issue was not previously specified. It will be best dealt with by retitling that section as History. Varro's part was to provide an analytical scheme which is helpful to understanding this history of the matter. This is described in the Shanks source.
  • I shall add a quote to the citation of Die Theologie der frühen griechischen Denker to clarify this.
  • That will not affect the fact that the material is irrelevant, in that it doesn't establish Varro as one of the "Key proponents" of Natural Theology.
  • I shall also remove the leading banner tags as these seem stale or redundant.

Colonel Warden (talk) 11:31, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

  • Neither banner is "stale or redundant". HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:42, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • The request for citations at the article level is redundant to the request for citations at particular points. The latter are preferable because they are clear and actionable. The request for an expert is stale and the talk page discussions indicate that we have adequate expertise here. Colonel Warden (talk) 11:49, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Oh, and I would point out that Colonel Warden deleted 5 {{fact}} tags, without providing citations for the material they were tagging. This is generally considered to be WP:VANDALISM (e.g. see {{uw-tdel3}}). HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:26, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

  • Not sure what you're talking about there. Which five? See also WP:AGF. Colonel Warden (talk) 11:31, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Sorry, it was six: (i) "Besides Zarathushtra's Gathas...", (ii) Thomas Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, (iii) William Derham & (iv) his influence on Paley, (v) William Paley & (vi) Horace Mann.[1] Your pretending not to know what I'm talking about, and your long history of pulling such stunts (e.g. here, only a few days ago), means that you've long since used up any assumption of good faith. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:38, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • That's clearer. This was inadvertent, as when I read your edit summary and looked at the diff, I only noticed the removal of material and missed the word tags. When making bold and controversial edits, it seems best not to bundle them with other minor edits as the latter will tend to be overlooked and get lost in the wash. Colonel Warden (talk) 11:46, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • No, these were not "bold and controversial edits" (merely removal of long-tagged, and irrelevant, material), and you are solely responsible for failing both to read the edit summary and to read the dif carefully. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 11:57, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • The material is not irrelevant, being discussed in this context by multiple reliable sources, and so shall be restored in the course of further improvement. Colonel Warden (talk) 12:12, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • What sources discuss Varro as one of the "Key proponents" of Natural Theology? ("Key proponents" being the section title.) HrafnTalkStalk(P) 12:16, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • This point is covered above. It is the section title and ordering of the material which is the problem, not the references to Varro. I plan a general cleanup which will address this and numerous other issues. All will become clear when the article is written better. Colonel Warden (talk) 12:30, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Varro didn't "provide an analytical scheme", that scheme was provided by the Stoics (via Publius Mucius Scaevola), Varro simply inherited/reiterated it (e.g. see here). HrafnTalkStalk(P) 12:43, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • This is one of the sources which I had in mind too. It is good that we are reaching consensus. Colonel Warden (talk) 12:53, 14 November 2010 (UTC)


  • Except that this source merely mentions Varro in passing, as a bit player in getting from the Stoics to Augustine. You'll need to work harder to demonstrate that Varro had a prominent part to play in the development of NT. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 13:20, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Again, this is another source which I had identified as promising. As you are now being more productive and thinking along the same lines, it seems most efficient that you work further upon this topic while I attend to another topic which is even greater need of attention. More anon. Colonel Warden (talk) 14:45, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I believe that what I said was that "if you're wanting to write about Varro..." and pointing you away from a source that barely mentions him. That was not an offer to write material myself. Although I have access to that one source, I lack the context to see how he fits into the wider-scale development of NT. This, as much as the lacking of sourcing, is the problem with the article -- the whole thing reads like a series of snapshots, rather than a coherent narrative about the philosophical development of the concept. It makes for bad articles. I already have another such article on my plate -- and one that I've both got a better handle on, and easier access to better sources. So re-writing the history and development of Natural Theology will have to wait for now. HrafnTalkStalk(P) 15:29, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Radical morphology[edit]

[Moved from User talk:Hrafn ]

Hello, Hrafn;

Would you be able to insert some kind of definition (parenthetical gloss, etc.) for radical morphology in Natural theology? I'm unfamiliar with the term (which is why I redlinked it); otherwise, I'd have done it myself. Thank you! J. Spencer (talk) 23:27, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

  1. Discussion of articles belongs on article talk.
  2. The phrase "radical morphology" was taken directly from the cited source, Alexander & Numbers(2010)p. 107 -- which in turn cites The Life of Dr. Knox (to which I have no access). I assumed that A&N considered it relevant to Knox's Bridgewater comments, so I followed suit. Nothing in the passage suggested that they were using "morphology" in a sense different from morphology, so I included a link to that article. Likewise nothing indicated to me that they were using "radical morphology" as a distinct term of art, so I objected to the redlink. Your options appear to be threefold: (i) read 'The Life of Dr. Knox' to discover what they meant, (ii) leave the phrase as is or (iii) remove it as being confusing to the reader.

HrafnTalkStalk(P) 05:01, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

This obviously refers to Radicalism (historical) and Morphology (biology). More specifically, it's about the new anti-establishment medical campaigners associated with the British Medical Association and The Lancet, in particular Thomas Wakley whose support of radical anatomy and attacks on the Bridgewater Treatises were rather more significant than Knox's. Desmond, Adrian J. (1989), The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-14374-0  covers this: p. 20 mentions the "Bilgewater" books being pilloried in the radical press, pp. 114 cites Knox attacking Cooper and Bell's attempts to find design functions for deformities as "sometimes very pompous and imposing, as in the Bridgewater Treatises, but still downright nonsense" and calling natural theology "a vile patchwork, almost peculiar to British physiology, a jumble of expedients and contrivances to meet difficulties." It continues on to p. 117 with discussion of Wakely's views on the topic, and gives more on the views of Knox on pp. 388–389. It doesn't specifically say that Knox coined the term "Bilgewater", but associates him with it. Will aim to return to this when time permits, dave souza, talk 11:02, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Natural Theology Outline[edit]

Hello, I am a senior at Bucknell University currently enrolled in the History of Ecology course for the spring semester. We are responsible for writing our own articles on topics relevant to the course. I chose to research and write about natural theology. Here is my outline of the research I have found.

Natural Theology is known to be one of the most controversial topics in history of religious discussion. Many thinkers had similar findings from their research about natural theology. The basic understanding of natural theology is that it is based on reason and ordinary experience. Because of the many religious ideas surfacing throughout the world, many theologians were nearly forced to create their own understanding of religion and how it is perceived in society. Natural theology is a particular type of philosophy that studies the presence of God. The natural world is the prime setting for understanding natural theology. There is a major purpose behind the controversy of natural theology.
The questions that theologians want to ask is the creations of God, his own existence, and how certain names can be applied to God himself. For many religious extremists, the idea of natural theology has challenged their thoughts and own beliefs and values. The questions of natural theology, is apparently making people question the effects of a God in the world. All of the negativity in the world makes individuals hesitant of their beliefs. The debate over natural theology shows all of these arguments. There are several different ways to analyze the presence of God in the world. The controversy of natural theology has ideas that explore this topic.
Many thinkers such as William Paley, John Ray, and even Carl Linnaeus played a part in advancing natural theologian theory. The published work. Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation The evidences of the existence of God is the most important component of understanding Natural Theology. Natural theology uses reasoning by human beings to study the presence of higher power. A problem possibly arises when individuals take into account all of the negative issues across the world. People are often questioning the reality of God and his power over the people.

RyH11 (talk) 20:39, 25 March 2014 (UTC)Ryan

Hi, thanks for taking an interest in improving this article. Some comments:
If you want to indent a new paragraph, use colons at the start: leaving a space removes formatting.
Saying " one of the most controversial topics in history of religious discussion" seems rather an exaggeration, don't think there were any massacres over this area.
Most importantly, verification is needed for anything on Wikipedia, so you have to cite the sources you're summarising and not present your own "original research". Care is also needed to give a neutral overview of the topic, giving due weight to majority expert opinion on the topic. There are the Wikipedia core policies, it can take a bit of getting used to but following them will give good structure to your writing. Thanks again, dave souza, talk 07:27, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

Controversy of Natural Theology[edit]

There has been a great deal of controversy over the way in which people view natural theology. Natural theology is a topic that serves a specific purpose. The people who are continuing the essence and being of a higher power provide people with the knowledge. The true purpose is to prove God's existence within the world. God's presence sometimes goes unnoticed which leads to some thinkers to deny the presence of a God. The philosopher, William Paley was pivotal in his analysis of debate over natural theology. His thoughts on natural theology were different. He thought the creation of higher power could be seen through happiness in man or the well-being of the world. Thinkers who study natural theology want to prove that there is a God working in the universe. A controversy of the existence of God is negatives of the world. Often times people question his existence due to the great deal of dreadful situations across the world. Many people began to understand God's existence many years ago due to problems they foreseen in the wold. People are still trying to figure out the existence because there is no definite way of telling if the existence is real.

RyH11 (talk) 04:46, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

Hi, as above this looks like your own "original research" and verification is needed so cite your sources showing that these conclusions have already been published. I'd comment that while God's existence can be believed in through revelation, the empirical approach of natural theology either presupposes God's existence, or is presented as a proof which is open to scientific examination and hence disproof: see teleological argument for more on the topic. The great deal of dreadful situations across the world is the basis of the problem of evil, which theodicy attempts to answer. Historically, natural theology was significant in developing British science in the early 19th century, but by the end of the century it was clear that "god did it" did not work as a scientific explanation. Which led to some more recent controversies. . dave souza, talk 07:45, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
For this particular analysis on natural theology I was planning on outlining the possible topics to add to the article. This was not an official analysis of the controversy of natural theology. I do have the sources to back up the statements I made about these controversies and you can refer to my talk page to find those sources. I do understand exactly why you stated that I needed verification for the analysis I proposed. Thank you for responding. .RyH11RyH11 (talk) 19:35, 9 April 2014 (UTC)


I have been asked to review articles as an assignment for a university class and have some suggestions for the improvement of this.

All paragraphs in the lead section are done well. However I feel as though the second paragraph explaining vasso and the origin of of theology should be moved out of the lead section and moved into key proponents or made into its own individual section. The structure can also be improved. I would suggest dividing the important contributors up better by time or maybe even give each contributor their own sub heading so the article itself is easier to navigate. I think that better headings than "key proponents" and "later examples" can be used. Fort he most part the article is well balanced. It looks like there is equal coverage on each specific person and their influence. The only flaw I see in that is that the bridgewater treatsies is covered much more in depth than any other aspect of natural theology. I am no expert on how to write from the neutral perspective, but as far as I can tell the coverage of the article appears to be neutral throughout. there are many books and websites listed that appear to be reliable. In the section Later Examples there are several sentences/statements that a lack a citation. For example:

William Derham (1657–1735), was a friend and disciple of John Ray. He continued Ray's tradition of natural theology in two of his own works, The Physico-Theology, published in 1713, and the Astro-Theology, 1714.[citation needed] These would later help influence the work of William Paley (see below).[citation needed]

Rory.Bonner (talk) 03:19, 15 April 2014 (UTC)

Critical Review of Natural Theology[edit]

Hi RyH11, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my critical peer review of the natural theology article.

To begin, I thought the lead section was clear, concise and well-written. It does not get into too much detail, but leads well into the rest of the article to explain the subject further. However, I will suggest that the lead section might benefit if you mention the Bridgewater Treatises in it, since it is not yet mentioned and it is a relatively large portion of the article. As for the article's structure, it appears to be neatly organized and specific information about the subject is easy to find because of the appropriate headings. As a suggestion, though, since there are not any yet, perhaps the article could use some relevant pictures? The article is well balanced, touching on a variety of important people related to natural theology as well as other related terms. However, the section on the Bridgewater Treatises is by far the longest, which might be able to be balanced better, unless you feel it is best represented as it is. The article's coverage is also neutral in view and objectively states the facts about the subject. Even when it addresses individuals' specific views within the field, the article makes a point to distinguish it as a viewpoint as opposed to a factual information. Finally, the references in the article all seem credible and useful in validating the page's information. Although, as the page points out, some of the information still needs to be cited (such as for Aristotle, Barlow and Derham), but once that is done, the references will be in great shape.

Great job so far on the article and keep up the good work! Jjt022 (talk) 03:58, 15 April 2014 (UTC)Jjt022