First Scientist’s 800th Birthday Reminds Us of The Ultimate ‘Tonic’ to Restore Society

Roger Bacon, the 'first scientist' is celebrating his 800th birthday this year - a time when truth is conveniently misused.

  • This year, English polymath and ‘first scientist’ Roger Bacon celebrates his 800th birthday.
  • This celebration reminds the society of something that Bacon advocated for – the tonic of truth.
  • His belief upholds the essential truth of life and shows antipathy towards ignorance and corruption – problems that transcend time.

This year marks the 800th birthday of celebrated truth seeker Roger Bacon, the English polymath tagged as the ‘first scientist.’ Bacon’s tonic of truth is of particular importance now, with its rampant misuse, adjusted based on personal convenience.

Roger Bacon was neither the first nor the last to seek the ‘truth’ about the world. However, the depth of the study reflected in his Opus Majus (“Great Work”) is so remarkable that he got the title Doctor Mirabilis (“Wonderful Teacher”).

The pursuit of truth

Bacon believed that the improvement of human life based on complete removal of error requires a respect for learning, real-world experience, and the pursuit of truth. According to Bacon, fixing the society’s ailment means redirecting people from their false map of reality, so they don’t ask the questions and lose their way until they reach their ultimate destination.

Experimenting on the cause of error

Bacon’s belief lies in the premise that there are four causes of error: 1. weak, unworthy authority, 2) long-standing customs, 3) dense crowds’ opinion, and 4) the blatant display of knowledge to hide ignorance.

He also advocated the belief of asking the best questions instead of finding the correct answers. In his view, an intense examination of authority by getting rid of the unreliable details is the way to advance human knowledge.

By putting their ideas in a trial, the ‘first scientist’ believes that people can cut off the credulity of habit and reject what doesn’t hold up in the real world.

As Bacon once said:

“Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not make the conclusion certain, nor does it remove doubt so that the mind may rest on the intuition of truth, unless the mind discovers it by the path of experience.” 

Just as a fire can only be understood by those who have seen how damaging it can be, Bacon argued that society could only function properly if educational institutions have cleared away the ignorance and failure that mires the community.

Ignorance and corruption

Bacon’s antipathy towards ignorance and “bullsh*tters” stems from the belief that it breeds corruption. He believes that good political leaders don’t need “yes-men.” Then – and even now – differing opinions and differing points of view drive the perspective of truth.  

Bacon’s gift to the world, his truth, is all about determining the best perspective from multiple perspectives. In these challenging times, his belief that the natural desire to know is more necessary and beneficial than pursuing answers. People must seek to know the truth and cling to what they have proven by experience to be valid.

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