Question: How does Objectivism respond to the conception of God presented by the Deist school of thought? If a belief in some kind of divine Creator is based on reason, not mysticism, can this be reconciled with an Objectivist philosophy?
Answer: Deism is the belief that an omnipotent, eternal, and all-knowing God created reality and set its rules, but that the Deity does not intervene in the natural workings of His universe.
In essence, Deism retains the idea of God on the basis of some of the classic arguments for God, and abandons other classic arguments for God, such as the argument from miracles. However, since none of the classic arguments for God stand up to reasoned inquiry, Deism is both false and unnecessary. Deism keeps the idea of God at a distance from practical affairs. This is to the good, to be sure, but it does not make Deism a position founded in reason.
Do we need to posit a Creator of all existence? No, because it is an escapable and fundamental fact of reality that existence simply exists. Since a Creator, to create the rest of reality, would need to exist, such a Creator would be a part of existence. If we are not satisfied with the axiom that existence simply exists, needing no further explanation, positing a Creator won't help us, since we should not be satisfied either with the idea that the Creator simply exists, needing no further explanation.Deists have also appealed to the argument from design. In modern form, this refers to the elegance of biological evolution, or to the laws of physics, or to the values of certain physical constants, and supposes that this natural order must be the product of a conscious Designer. But everything that exists must exist in some fashion or other: this is the fact that is described by the Objectivist axiom of Identity and that is summarized in the canons of logic. Reality must exist in some particular way.
For any person whose thinking is based in reality, atheism is simply a matter of integrity.
In any case, it is only after millennia of investigation and many false starts that people have managed to summarize some basic physical facts through concise principles like Newton's three laws of motion. And not all science is so simple and elegant. To think God or reality deserves the credit for the brilliant discoveries of the human mind is putting the cart rather before the horse.
In the 1700s, before the development of evolutionary biology, paleontology, and modern geology, the order and diversity of the living world lacked any scientific explanation. In this context, the argument from design had a certain plausibility, and so Deism was then a genuine home for people committed to reason, such as Thomas Jefferson and others of the Founding generation. But that plausibility has disappeared as we have not only learned the history of life on Earth, but have also come to understand its inner workings.
Today, for any person whose thinking is based in reality, atheism is simply a matter of integrity.