Francis Bacon -- archaic
in his way. And yet, I think, crucial.
Bacon proposed: A
reconstruction of the sciences, arts and all human knowledge to
extend the power and dominion of the human race...over the
In the 17th century,
Bacon's ideas for systematizing science were crucial in the
foundation of the Royal Society of London and also in the French
project which became the Enclyopedie of Dennis Diderot.
He lived between the time of Galileo and the time of Newton. His
statue, sitting, made of marble in his expensive pantaloons, is
next to that of Newton in King's College, Cambridge.
Bacon's New Atlantis
is a utopia about a society founded on science. The basis of the
Royal Society was that ideas should be tested experimentally,
proved, published and then re-tested to challenge them. If a
scientific experiment cannot be repeated, then it must be judged
false. Earlier science had done this. The Royal Society of
London with its Proceedings systematized the process. No longer
was discovery so random. The idea of peer review was born.
The idea was one of a totality of knowledge, leading to a
totality of control.
With this came the idea
that the good life, human progress, emanates not so much from
service to God. It comes from the harnessing of science to make
invention and from inventions to develop mechanical processes
for the manufacture of things or the extraction of the materials
that make things.
Problems arise, as now,
when knowledge is not total and when we suffer the sensation
that going forward may lead us back. The more we invent, the
more we consume, the more we pollute. I am not dogmatic about
this. I am saying that it can happen. Which is why I invented
Planet Technopolitana to be a place where we can ask questions.
I think this is relevant
to now. Bacon wanted 'dominion of the human race...over the
universe.' We don't have that. We do have dominion over our own
universe, this planet. Increasingly, we do. My question, which
is not an exact one, is about whether we have come to worship
invention and progress to such a degree that we can't go back on
where we are.
Can we? Or do we want
to? I don't know the answers. I do think that while scientists
frequently reject God or his 'existence', it is possible to
argue that science has become our God. As it was heresy in the
middle ages to doubt divinity and people went to the stake for
arguing specific dogma, is it not now heresy to say we have too