Culture and Information - Sir Francis Bacon
Sir Francis Bacon was the grand architect of a perspective on reality so revolutionary that the human mind has yet to break its mold. Although he was neither an accomplished scientist nor a prodigious mathematician, Bacon is accredited with the creation of the philosophy of science and the scientific method, and he so effectively reapplied the notion of inductive reasoning that he is often considered its father. Bacon was the first to embark on the pursuit to translate nature into information, and believed that held to "the torch of analysis" nature would reveal her secrets. Bacon was on the precipice of a new era in thought that has blossomed into technologies he could never have imagined. Upon inspection, however, there are certain uncanny parallels between his thought and the innovations of the information age. This observation is not to say that Bacon's mindset was identical to that of a modern man by any standards, but it is to say that the nature of information seems to submit to Bacon's perception of reality.
As a master of the English language with a passion for personal edification, Bacon recorded his revolutionary thoughts in such a way that he brought about the dawn of a new era in human thought. "He spurned reliance on ordinary scholastic philosophy, calling for a study of nature and the human condition on their own terms, without artifice" (Wilson 25). Bacon was not caught in the webwork of strict rationalism, however, and did not subscribe to an overly austere view of the cosmos. He warned against the idols of the mind, which he subdivided into four types: the idols of the tribe, the cave, the marketplace and the theater. There is an echo of each of these in contemporary philosophy, science, the nature of information and other arenas of scholastic thought. The idols of the tribe, in essence, might cause one to assume more order than exists in the chaotic universe. Discoveries in quantum mechanics this century have revealed that woven into the Universe at its most fundamental level is randomness. Despite all of the attempts of science to render the contingent aspects of the Universe less arbitrary, there are certain principles (such as the Heisenburg uncertainty principle) that cannot be penetrated by reason.
The idols of the cave are "distorting prisms" that might cause "the idiosyncrasies of individual belief and passion" to effect one's objectivity, while the idols of the theater cause an "unquestioning acceptance of philosophical beliefs and misleading demonstrations" (Wilson 29). For Bacon may not have been obsessed with empiricism to the extent that many modern scientists are today, but he definitively believed in subjecting nature to rigorous experimentation before drawing conclusions, and he strongly believed observation to be sovereign over intuition in the pursuit of a fixed rule. Wilson said the following of Bacon's process of thought:
By reflecting on all possible...