Francis Bacon and Science as the Road to God

Francis Bacon is one of the major figures of the 17th century Scientific Revolution. It was he who formulated the modern scientific method of induction through experimentation. This replaced the methodology of Aristotelian, scholastic science, in which one observed nature and then attempted to deduce the reasons behind it. Bacon was also deeply religious, and strongly argued that the new science promoted the belief in God, rather than atheism. The critics of the new ‘mechanical philosophy’ believed that it would lead to atheism as it concentrated only on secondary causes. Bacon strongly argued that religion and science should be kept separate. Nevertheless, he argued that although science could not tell us anything directly about God, it would still lead to Him as the Lord acted through secondary causes. He thus stated

‘Undoubtedly a superficial tincture of philosophy may incline the mind to atheism, yet a farther knowledge brings it back to religion; for on the threshold of philosophy, where second causes apear to absorb the attention, some oblivion of the highest cause may ensue; but when the mind goes deeper, and sees the dependence of causes and the works of Providence, it will easily perceive, according to the mythology of the poets, that the upper link of Nature’s chain is fastened to Jupiter’s throne’.


Basil Wiley, The Seventeenth Century Background (Harmondsworth: Penguin and Chatto and Windus 1934).

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