Hmm . . . several different things I’d like to respond to here.
I very much doubt Dex would be surprised by that. Anyone who’s done even a little reading about Newton’s life probably is aware of his religiousness. I’ve even heard it said that he thought of himself more as a theologian than a natural scientist, although I don’t know for sure if that’s true.
I certainly agree that it’s not cowardly, but what exactly makes it courageous? I don’t see how belief that God exists is intrinsically any braver than belief that God doesn’t exist. For that matter, I don’t see how either of those is any braver than the admission of uncertainty. What makes one any more “courageous” than the other?
It seems to me that Dex’s point isn’t that belief in God is cowardly, but rather that using divine intervention to explain away physical phenomena rather than probing deeper is the coward’s way out. It doesn’t sound like he’s saying there’s anything wrong with believing that physical phenomena transpire according to God’s will, only that he’s saying it’s better to investigate the causes of things instead of just choosing to assume that everything results from a direct act of divine intervention. It’s one thing to say that God created a gravitational force that pulls the apple towards the earth, but it’s something altogether different to suggest, without evidence, that God reached out and plucked the apple from the tree with his invisible hand.
Personally, I think one of the most miraculous things about the universe is that it is able to give rise to such a wide range of physical phenomena with out any need for active interference by some higher power. God doesn’t need to step in and exert his will every time he wants an apple to fall, because he’s structured the universe in such a way that it contains built-in interactions that make apples fall. And amazingly those same interactions give us the tides, and give birth to stars, and hold the galaxy together, and so forth. All the incredible structure of the universe results from a few relatively simple interactions. And like the most magnificiently constructed watch, it never needs to be rewound.
OK, so maybe I’m being overly flowery about it, and I realize I’m delving into my own personal religious views there, but my point is I don’t feel that even from a religious standpoint there’s any reason to deny that physical phenomena have physical causes, and instead assume direct divine intervention (which, again, is what I think Dex was railing against). To me a God who tampers daily in the course of events seems much less impressive than one who built the universe so well that it doesn’t require tampering.
Appologies if I’ve run too far afield of the OP.