Sir Frances Bacon, Johannes Kepler, the Scientific Revolution & Astronomy
Faith during the 17th Century Scientific Revolution
During the Scientific Revolution, understanding greatly advanced in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology and philosophy.
The person most credited for the “scientific method” was Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).
Bacon was Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of Britain, being knighted in 1603 by King James I, during whose reign Jamestown, Virginia, was settled – England’s first permanent settlement in the New World.
Bacon’s writings were instrumental in the founding of the Royal Society of London in 1660 under King Charles II, which brought together the greatest scientific minds in England.
He is quoted in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building, on the dome above the North lobby of the Great Hall’s stairway:
“KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – Sir Francis Bacon,De Hoeresibus.”
Bacon advanced “inductive reasoning,” where evidence is empirically and methodically observed with our senses, pointing to a probable conclusion.
This is contrasted with Aristotle’s “deductive reasoning,” where one starts with a generalization or major hypothesis, adds minor, specifying premises, then reasonably and logically predicts what the evidence should be.
Another Bacon quote is displayed in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building is in the West Corridor, on the South tablet:
“The first creature of God was the light of sense; the last was the light of reason. – Bacon,Essays, Of Truth.”
The longer quote is:
“The first creation of God, in the works of the days, was the light of sense; the last was the light of reason, and his Sabbath work, ever since, is the illumination of the spirit.”
“There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”
Bacon wrote in Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620:
“Man by the Fall fell at the same time from the state of innocence and from his dominion over creation.
Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences.
For creation was not by the curse made altogether and forever a rebel, but in virtue of that covenant ‘In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread’ it is now by various labors at length, and in some measure subdued to the supplying of man with bread; that is to the uses of human life.”
Bacon wrote in Sacred Meditations, 1597:
“God saw the works of His hands and they were exceeedingly good;
when man turned to consider the works of his hands, behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit.
Whereof if you will do God’s works your sweat will be like aromatic balm and your rest like the Sabbath of God; for you will work in the sweat of a good conscience and rest in the leisure of sweet contemplation.”
“Without doubt we are paying for the sin of our first parents and imitating it. They wanted to be like gods; we their posterity, still more so.
We create worlds. We prescribe laws to nature and lord it over her. We want to have all things as suits our fatuity (foolishness), not as fits the Divine Wisdom, not as they are found in nature.
We impose the seal of our image on the creatures and works of God, we do not diligently seek to discover the seal of God on things.
Therefore not undeservedly have we again fallen from our dominion over the creation;
and though after the Fall of man some dominion over rebellious nature still remained … we have for the most part forfeited by our pride, because we wanted to be like gods and follow the dictates of our own reason …”
“Wherefore, if there be any humility towards the Creator, if there be any reverence and praise of his works;
if there be any charity towards men, and zeal to lessen human wants and sufferings;
if there be any love of truth in natural things, any hatred of darkness, any desire to purify the understanding;
men are to be entreated again and again that they should dismiss … those inconstant and preposterous philosophies …
that they should humbly and with a certain reverence draw near to the book of Creation … that on it they should meditate, and that then washed and clean they should in chastity and integrity turn them from opinion.
This is that speech and language which has gone out to all the ends of the earth, and has not suffered the confusion of Babel; this must men learn, and resuming their youth, they must become as little children and deign to take its alphabet into their hands.”
Sir Francis Bacon wrote in Essays: Of Goodness (NY: Tryon Edwards, D.D., A Dictionary of Thoughts, Cassell Publishing Co., 1891, p. 71):
“There never was found, in any age of the world, either philosophy, or sect, or religion, or law, or discipline, which did so highly exalt the good of the community, and increase private and particular good as the holy Christian faith …
Hence, it clearly appears that it was one and the same God that gave the Christian law to men, who gave the laws of nature to the creatures.”
Profound statements of Bacon include (NY: Tryon Edwards, D.D., A Dictionary of Thoughts, Cassell Publishing Co., 1891):
“I had rather believe all the fables in the Talmud and the Koran, than that this universal frame is without a mind.”
“They that deny a God, destroy man’s nobility; for clearly man is of kin to the beasts by his body, and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.”
“Knowledge is not … for a proud mind to raise itself upon … but a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man’s estate.”
Bacon wrote regarding charity in Instauratio Magna, 1620-23:
“I would address one general admonition to all;
that they consider what are the true ends of knowledge,
and that they seek it not either for pleasure of the mind, or for contention, or for superiority to others, or for profit, or fame, or power, or any of these inferior things;
but for the benefit and use of life; and that they perfect and govern it in charity.
For it was from the lust of power that the angels fell, from lust of knowledge that man fell;
but of charity there can be no excess, neither did angel or man ever come in danger by it.”
Regarding virtue, Bacon stated (NY: Tryon Edwards, D.D., A Dictionary of Thoughts, Cassell Publishing Co., 1891):
“Certainly, virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”
“A man’s nature runs either to herbs or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one and destroy the other.”
“Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth it.”
“We cannot too often think there is a never-sleeping eye, which reads the heart, and registers our thoughts.”
“He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”
“In revenge, a man is but even with his enemies; but it is a princely thing to pardon, for Solomon saith, ‘It is the glory of a man to pass over a transgression.”
Regarding God and government, Bacon stated (NY: Tryon Edwards, D.D., A Dictionary of Thoughts, Cassell Publishing Co., 1891):
“All precepts concerning kings are comprehended in these: remember thou are a man; remember thou art God’s vice-regent.”
“God hangs the greatest weights upon the smallest wires.”
“There never was found, in any age of the world, either religion or law that did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible.”
“When any of the four pillars of government, religion, justice, counsel, and treasure, are mainly shaken or weakened, men had need to pray for fair weather.”
“If I might control the literature of the household, I would guarantee the well-being of the church and state.”
Regarding goodness,Bacon wrote (The Essays of Francis Bacon, “XIII. Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature”):
“Goodness … of all virtues … is the greatest; being the character of the Deity: and without it man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing; no better than a kind of vermin.
Goodness answers to the theological virtue Charity …
Goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man; insomuch that if it issue not towards men, it will take unto other living creatures; as it is seen in the Turks, a cruel people, who nevertheless are kind to beasts, and give alms to dogs and birds …
Indeed there was never law, or sect, or opinion, did so much magnify goodness, as the Christian religion doth …
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shews he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.
If he be compassionate towards the afflictions of others, it shews that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm.
If he easily pardons and remits offenses, it shews that his mind is planted above injuries; so that he cannot be shot.
If he be thankful for small benefits, it shows that he weighs men’s minds, and not their trash.
But above all, if he have St. Paul’s perfection, that he would wish to be an anathema from Christ for the salvation of his brethren, it shews much of a divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ himself.”
“Philosophy, when superficially studied, excites doubt; when thoroughly explored, dispels it.”
In his treatise Of Atheism,Sir Francis Bacon declared:
“A little philosophy inclineth men’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds to religion.
For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further. – But when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”
The Scientific Revolution was advanced by the works of many notable individuals:
Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), founder of the modern understanding of human anatomy;
William Harvey (1578-1657), described in detail arteries, circulation and the heart;
Rene Descartes (1596-1650), father of analytical geometry and modern western philosophy;
Robert Boyle (1627-1691), a father of modern chemistry;
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679), father of modern biomechanics;
Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), father of microbiology;
William Gilbert (1544-1603,), a father of electricity and magnetism;
Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647), invented the mercury barometer;
Otto von Guericke (1602-1686), invented the air pump;
Zacharias Janssen (1585-1638), inventor of the optical telescope and and the first truly compound microscope.
Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) proposed the heliocentric theory, where the sun was at center of the solar system, rather than Ptolemy’s geocentric theory of the earth being at the center.
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) proposed that stars were distant suns, the universe was infinitely large, and that the Earth was not the center of it.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) father of modern physics and modern observational astronomy, made the first practical use of the telescope.
“I am inclined to think that the authority of Holy Scripture is intended to convince men of those truths which are necessary for their salvation, which, being far above man’s understanding, can not be made credible by any learning, or any other means than revelation by the Holy Spirit.”
Galileo’s work gave credence to Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, which was further advanced by Johannes Kepler.
An attack of smallpox when he was four years old left him with crippled hands and poor eyesight.
Overcoming these handicaps, Kepler took up the study of science.
At age 23, he became a professor of astronomy.
In 1600, Kepler traveled to Prague where he became an assistant to the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), who was known for his comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations.
King James I and his bride, Princess Anne, visited Tycho Brahe while in Denmark for their wedding.
After Tycho Brahe’s death, Kepler continued making astronomical observations.
Johannes Kepler discovered the laws governing planetary motion and pioneered the discipline of celestial mechanics, known as Kepler’s Laws.
These aided Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in his formulation of the theories of gravitation, motion and calculus. Newton is considered a father of modern science and a father of modern physics.
Kepler wrote in The Harmonies of the World, 1619:
“O, Almighty God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee!”
Kepler’s publishing of the ephemeris tables, necessary for plotting star movement, contributed to the theory of calculus.
In comparing celestial orbits of the planets with polyphonic harmonies in music, Kepler wrote in The Harmonies of the Worlds(1619):
“Holy Father, keep us safe in the concord of our love for one another, that we may be one just as Thou art with Thy Son, Our Lord, and with the Holy Ghost,
and just as through the sweetest bonds of harmonies Thou hast made all Thy works one,
and that from the bringing of Thy people into concord, the body of Thy Church may be built up in the Earth, as Thou didst erect the heavens themselves out of harmonies.”
“The heavenly bodies are nothing but a continuous song for several voices (perceived by the intellect, not by the ear); a music which… sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time.
It is therefore, no longer surprising that man, in imitation of his Creator, has at last discovered the art of figured song, which was unknown to the ancients.
Man wanted to reproduce the continuity of cosmic time … to obtain a sample test of the delight of the Divine Creator in His works, and to partake of his joy by making music in the imitation of God.”
In the conclusion of his treatise, The Harmonies of the Worlds (1619), Johannes Kepler wrote:
“I thank Thee, my Creator and Lord, that Thou hast given me this joy in Thy creation, this delight in the works of Thy hands;
I have shown the excellency of Thy works unto man, so far as my finite mind was able to comprehend Thine infinity; if I have said aught of Thy glory, graciously forgive it.”
“The cause of the six-sided shape of a snowflake is none other than that of the ordered shapes of plants and of numerical constants;
and since in them nothing occurs without supreme reason – not, to be sure, such as discursive reasoning discovers, but such as existed from the first in the Creator’s design and is preserved from that origin to this day in the wonderful nature of animal faculties,
I do not believe that even in a snowflake this ordered pattern exists at random.”
Two centuries later, Yale professor Benjamin Silliman, who in 1818 founded the American Journal of Science and Arts, stated:
“The relation of geology, as well as astronomy, to the Bible, when both are well understood, is that of perfect harmony …
The Word and the works of God cannot conflict, and the more they are studied the more perfect will their harmony appear.”
Complex patterns in nature seemingly confirm Kepler’s belief in an Intelligent Designer.
One such pattern is called the “divine proportion” or Golden Ratio.
Kepler’s study of this ratio is a geometric progression called a Kepler Triangle.
This irrational ratio, also called phi, is expressed as the decimal number 1.618.
Expressed as an equation, it is called the Fibonacci sequence, where, beginning with zero, each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.
Greek mathematician Euclid explained it as when a line is cut in two, and “the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater to the lesser.”
The Golden Ratio is observed in extremely complex geometric patterns called fractals, where each part has the same statistical character as the whole.
The Golden Ratio is displayed everything from atoms to galaxies, snowflakes, crystals, to the petals of a rose and seeds in sunflowers and pine cones.
It exists in nautilus sea shells and seahorse tails, from fish scales, to snake skins, to bird feathers, to the dimensional shape of an egg.
It is observed in fluid turbulence, from the vortex of water going down a drain, to ocean waves, to hurricanes and tornadoes, and to the twisted shape of a DNA molecule.
Another unique aspect of the universe was noted by physicist Stephen Hawkins in A Brief History of Time (1996, p. 126):
“If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, it would have recollapsed before it reached its present size.
On the other hand, if it had been greater by a part in a million, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars and planets to form.”
There are hundreds of parameters which all must be present or life on Earth would be impossible, such as:
-If the Sun’s gravitational pull was not balanced with the centrifugal force of the Earth spinning in orbit, the Earth would either be pulled into the Sun or fly off into space;
-If the Earth were 2 percent closer to the Sun it would be scorched and if it were 2 percent further away from the Sun it would be frozen.
-If the Earth did not have a molten core, there would be no magnetic field to protect the surface from deadly cosmic radiation;
-If Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system — with a mass 2.5 times all the other planets combined — was not exerting its immense gravitational pull, comets and asteroids from space would strike the Earth;
-If the Earth took longer to rotate, increased exposure to the Sun would make it inhospitable;
-If the Earth did not have a tilt there would be no seasons;
-If the Moon did not exist, the oceans would continually wash over the face of the Earth;
-If the Moon were not in its exact position, there would not be the precise gravitational pull necessary for the Earth’s ocean tides.
Best-selling author Eric Metaxas wrote in the The Wall Street Journal article “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God” (Dec. 25, 2014):
“In 1966 … astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star.
Given the roughly octillion — 1 followed by 24 zeros — planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion — 1 followed by 21 zeros — planets capable of supporting life …
But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening … As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis — 0 followed by nothing …”
“What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed.
His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly …
… Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine:
‘In light of new findings … we should quietly admit that the early estimates … may no longer be tenable.'”
Metaxas stated further:
“As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero … In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one …
… Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life — every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart.
Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface.
… The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing.
What can account for it? … At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces?…”
Eric Metaxas ended:
“Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that ‘the appearance of design is overwhelming’ …
Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said
‘the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator … gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.'”
A Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle, Don Brownlee, stated during a panel:
“If you think of the universe as a whole, it’s almost a totally hostile place … The Earth is undoubtedly rare in the solar system.”
In book five of The Harmonies of the World (1619), Johannes Kepler wrote:
“The die is cast; the book is written, to be read either now or by posterity, I care not which.
It may be well to wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.”
“I had the intention of becoming a theologian … but now I see how God is, by my endeavors, also glorified in astronomy, for ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.'”
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