The Sight of Science
It is a truth universally acknowledged that he whose mind is ahead of his time and above that of his peers may not be understood by his fellow people and be subject to critisizm and persecution. Galilei Galileo, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes were among the first to break away from the conventional views of their times to find a place for science in a society and propose the way it should be practiced. All three authors agree on some points but differe markedly on others. Bacon insists on the importa nce of experimentation and relative uselessness of senses and experience, while Decartes thinks them imporatnt for understanding of nature. Galileo stresses the need for separation of science and religion, while Descartes deems the correctness of the method of scientific thought to be most important. Yet all three writers agree that natural science should be freed of the grip of theology and human ethics, what sets them apart from previous generations of scientists and thinkers.
In his Discoveries, Bacon goes at great length to discuss the influence the prescientfic mode of thinking has had on generations of scientists, and tries to Descartes asserts that the mathematical method of examining the relationship between objects and expressing them in concise formulas, applied to the entire realm of knowledge, permits him to exercise his own reason to the best of his ability. Since nothing in philosophy is certain, it is evident that he must discover his own philosophical principles.
Galileo's views on science and religion, as seen from his Letter to the Grand Dutchess Christina are very radical for his times. He suggests that physical sciences must be separated from theological studies because the goals of the two disicplines are totally different: theology is concerned with salvation of the soul, while the sciences are concerned with understanding of nature. He believes that the clergy apply faith where ther is none involved -- one cannot undersand nature just by quoting the Scripture because the nature, a fruit of God's infinite wisdom., defies the simple explanation men's feeble minds attempt to find in the Bible. To truly understand nature, one has apply the little of the reason that God has given to him and look "between the li nes" for the true meaning of the Bible. There are a number interpretations one can find because the Bible is often general and simplistic; Galileo suggests that the best way to find the true meaning is to disprove the false conclusions by finding contradicions in nature, as determined by accurate experiments rather than fervent meditation. It is a job of scientists to examine nature and it is the business of theologists to make sure the Bible agrees with it, for nature is no less a manifestation of God than the Holy Bible itself:
"A thing is not forever contrary to the faith until disproved by most certain truth.. When that happens it was not the Holy scripture that ever affirmed it but human ignorance that ever imagined it." (St. Augustine, De Genesi Ad Literam i, 18,19, p. 206). Ultimately, the true faith and physical sciences take two different but parallel pathways in an attempt to understand God, one by following His canons and the other by exploring His creations, "by Nature in his works and by doctrine in his word" (183).
Bacon differs somewhat in his view of science and religion. Indeed, he claims that a true science
must be free of religious tenets where they do not
apply: "It is therefore most wise soberly to render unto faith that are faith's" (317). However, Bacon goes further to describe the different uses and abuses of religion that can either further or impede the adavancement of science. Perhaps most notable of them is the idea of differentiating true faith from superstition. The true faith is derived from th e scriptures and applied only to the matters of salvation, while superstition is a dangerous mixture of philosophy and religion that...
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