There is a “1620 Project” in the United States that centres on the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock in 1620. That’s an extremely important date and for us all in the West, but there is another moment from that same year we should all be commemorating which ought to be thought of as the real 1620 Project.
The true beginning of the enlightenment among we of the English-speaking world may be dated from the publication of one of the most important books ever written, which also occurred in 1620. I am not going to pretend I am doing a massive amount of work in bringing this even to your attention, but will take most of this from known sources, and naturally from Wikipedia. But it is the date that matters and also the assessment. These are the facts under the heading Novum Organum “which is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon, written in Latin and published in 1620.” Aristotle had written the original Organum a couple of thousand years before. This was the new version that more or less underpinned the scientific revolution that was to come. This is from Wikepedia.
Bacon’s work was instrumental in the historical development of the scientific method. His technique bears a resemblance to the modern formulation of the scientific method in the sense that it is centered on experimental research. Bacon’s emphasis on the use of artificial experiments to provide additional observances of a phenomenon is one reason that he is often considered “the Father of the Experimental Philosophy” (for example famously by Voltaire). On the other hand, modern scientific method does not follow Bacon’s methods in its details, but more in the spirit of being methodical and experimental, and so his position in this regard can be disputed. Importantly though, Bacon set the scene for science to develop various methodologies, because he made the case against older Aristotelian approaches to science, arguing that method was needed because of the natural biases and weaknesses of the human mind, including the natural bias it has to seek metaphysical explanations which are not based on real observations.
Essentially, the scientific method consists of the following. There is something that exists for which some explanation is sought. There is therefore a proposition put up as a tentative explanation. Evidence is sought so that the proposed theory can be examined to see if it conforms to other things we also think we know. And eventually, if the theory passes all of the tests which are applied, the theory becomes part of our scientific canon unless and until a better theory is proposed that fits the facts even better. But at its core is the testing of the evidence, “real observations” as it is stated in the passage above.
Everyone is now so knowledgable about so many things. Water, for example, is made up of two gases, oxygen and hydrogen. What a fantastically improbably idea. How could this have ever been discovered? And the reason it was eventually discovered is because of the scientific revolution that Bacon initiated with his abandonment of the Aristotelian approach based on common sense without an actual experimental basis as a means of confirmation.
I fear we are now, as I write, honouring this great tradition just as we are in the process of abandoning it. We seem to have entered a superstitious age which in a way takes us back to the Witch Trials which, as it happened, occurred following the arrival of the Pilgrims at the town of Salem. We are entering an age of superstition where what is believed is determined by what people prefer to believe. It does seem that idiocies such as global warming and its policy sister, The Green New Deal, are believed because people prefer to believe it. There has been no evidence worth the name to associate temperatures and climate with fossil-fuels and electricity production. Nevertheless, it is a belief that has swept the planet, and oddly has especially affected people who are referred to as “the educated”.
Evidence-based science seems to be in the process of being discarded in favour of common superstition. There is a bit of it about at the moment. Heaven help any scientist who comes to a conclusion that contradicts accepted beliefs.
Although it may seem somewhat off centre from the 1620 Project discussed above, the reaction among employees at Penguin Publishing in Canada to the publication of the sequel to Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life is nothing less than astonishing but also a very troubling sign of the times. Book burning and the suppression of ideas one disagrees with was once seen as the very epitome of a Dark Age, yet here we are, and these people work inside a publishing company.
At the meeting to discuss the publication, an employee apparently said: “People were crying in the meeting about how Jordan Peterson has affected their lives.” If this is the feedstock of the generation to come we are no longer the free, open society we have been for the past four hundred years. These are people who burn witches along with books.