The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Scientia Potestas Est

Francis Bacon
‘Ipsa scientia potestas est’ is a well-known phrase within the scientific world. Most of us will know it as ‘knowledge itself is power.’

The phrase was first used by Sir Francis Bacon in 1597, who, along with René Descartes and others propelled the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.

Bacon, Descartes et al were born into a culture that was infused with a centuries old concept of a split between nature and humanity. In this worldview nature is simply a conglomerate of matter and hence of little value. Descartes for instance, held that the rational mind was the true source of human meaning, and that our bodies were mere matter. From this presupposition he was able to deduce that nature too was simply matter as humans were the only entities able to use reason and rationality.

With such a viewpoint Descartes was able to say, ‘I do not recognise any difference between the machines made by craftsmen and the various bodies that nature alone composes.’

It is hardly surprising then that the early promoters and explorers in the new scientific methods considered nature as needing to be tamed, subdued, and brought into the service of humans.

The writings of these early scientists are revealing:

‘Let the human race recover the right over Nature which belongs to it by divine bequest.’ - Francis Bacon.

‘Unite forces against the nature of things, to storm and occupy her castles and strongholds and extend the bounds of human empire.’  - Francis Bacon.

(We are)‘…putting it (nature) on the rack…’ – Gottfried Leibniz.

‘(We can) render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature.’ - RenĂ© Descartes.

‘(I approve) the desire to command her (nature).’ – Robert Boyle

(Nature must) ‘be put in constraint.’ – Francis Bacon.

Nature's and Human Suffering

Notwithstanding many of the scientific breakthroughs and re-interpretations of the 20th and 21st centuries (e.g. ecology, systems theory, quantum physics), nature has been suffering the consequences of the Scientific Revolution ever since.

We have continued to plunder, exploit, damage, and pollute nature.

Not only nature, but our relationships with each other have also suffered because of the notions of the Scientific Revolution – primarily because of the metaphors of conquest and exploitation.

Although the Scientific Revolution is considered historically to have taken place during the 16th and 17th centuries, the scientific quest, and its implications, has remained a significant keystone of our present-day westernised view of the world.

Conquest and exploitation of other cultures by European nations had been taking place since the late 15th century, largely self-justified by a religious sensibility that viewed non-Christians as ungodly savages needing to be shown the right ways. The Scientific Revolution shifted this sense of European superiority from a religious basis to a biological one.

When Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace independently published their theories of evolution in the mid 19th century, one of the first to take up the seemingly social implications was Herbert Spencer. It was Spencer (not Darwin as many assume) who coined the term survival of the fittest and went on to apply this to sociology, ethics, and morals. Spencer’s interpretation of Darwin became known as social Darwinism and provided the pseudo-scientific basis for European superiority. So much so that this “biological” superiority became a moral duty of Europeans to dominate the rest of the world.

Yes, knowledge – scientia – is power, and when infused with notions and metaphors of conquest, exploitation, and human superiority, becomes destructive.

We are living now in the fires wrought by these metaphors and the machinery constructed by the knowledge we have gained from the Scientific Revolution and its descendants.

We must now let go of the notion of scientia potestas est (knowledge is power) and replace it with sapientia concordia est – wisdom is harmony.

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