Science To The Rescue, Part 9 to blupete's Essay
"To reconcile the indifference and contingency of human actions with prescience; or to defend absolute decrees, and yet free the Deity from being the author of sin, has been found hitherto to exceed all power of philosophy. Happy if she be thence sensible of her temerity, when she pries into these sublime mysteries; and leaving a scene so full of obscurities and perplexities, return, with suitable modesty, to her true and proper province, the examination of common life; where she will find difficulties enough to employ her enquires, without launching into so boundless an ocean of doubt, uncertainty, and contradiction!"13It was Francis Bacon14, in 1605, much impressed by the materialist theories and the resultant discoveries of both Copernicus and Galileo, who, in delineating the principles of the inductive scientific method, argued that the only knowledge of importance to man was empirically rooted in the natural world. (It is, incidentally, to Bacon we trace the expression, "Knowledge is Power.") The age had finally arrived whereby it was believed, by a clear system of scientific inquiry (a new approach) that man might exercise mastery over the world. It is with such thinkers as did follow Bacon -- Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Paine, and Jefferson -- that this scientific approach was applied to political and social issues; and so arose the liberal and the belief in a sense of human progress and the belief that the state could be a rational instrument in bringing peace to the whole of society.
I mark the words the state could be a rational instrument "in bringing peace" to society. To those unacquainted with the history of the last two hundred years, I say to you: all the scientific observations are that man is best left, under appropriate criminal law, to govern himself. As Sir Karl Popper did, we might liken "social science" to "midwifery": it is the mother not the midwife who is obliged to go through the untidy and the painful business of delivering her baby. An important additional point that is to be made, by the way, is that not only can a state not be run by a controlling mind, but the controlling mechanisms, as the Roman statesman, Cicero, pointed out, cannot even be set by one controlling mind (much less by a committee): a lasting state can only evolve through the passing of several generations, that is to say, it comes into being only after the passage of a considerable period of time. "Our state, ..." as Cicero wrote fifty years before the birth of Christ, "Our state, on the contrary, is not due to the personal creation of one man, but of very many; it has not been founded during the lifetime of any particular individual, but through a series of centuries and generations. There never was in the world a man so clever as to foresee everything and that even if we could concentrate all brains into the head of one man, it would be impossible for him to provide for everything at one time without having the experience that comes from practice through a long period of history."15
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