The Scientific Method Was Developed by a Christian

The scientific method, otherwise known as the empirical method, was developed by Francis Bacon, a protestant Christian who opposed the medieval Catholic Church’s adherence to Aristotelianism. Bacon wrote a piece called “The New Organon” to counter Aristotle’s “Organon.”  The Catholic Church, believing that Greek methods were the highest expression of scientific truth, took an official position in support of Aristotle’s “tools” of science (organon). Bacon argued that the Catholic Church hindered scientific advances by insisting that the syncretistic doctrine of Catholicism and Aristotelianism be upheld.

Note that Francis Bacon wasn’t opposed to the Scriptures, but like Galileo, he was fighting against the entrenched Catholic/Aristotelian scientific position. Although Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, he was also a scientist who promoted “spontaneous generation,” the geocentric (earth-centered) view of the solar system, and the belief that the earth is composed of the four elements of earth, wind, water, and fire.

These weren’t biblical positions. After all, spontaneous generation is the opposite of creationism, and there is nothing in the Bible that says the earth is at the center of the universe, or that the earth is composed of only four elements. Aristotle didn’t base his beliefs on the Bible, but on logic (something he called “analytics”). 

Francis Bacon thought that it was wrong to study the world primarily from a philosophical or rhetorical starting point and then try to fit the world into that view. Instead, he proposed that we start with observing the world and then develop our philosophy. Inductive over deductive.

He thought it was wrong to blend Christianity and natural philosophy (classical science), in the sense that Greek philosophy (deductive science) took precedence over the truth of the observable world. He also accused philosophers of being more interested in impressing each other with their huge words than in making the world a better place. His interest in observable science was motivated by Christian love for his neighbor.

This is just another example of how Christianity is not the enemy of science. In fact, through Bacon, and his rebellion against the wrong doctrine embraced by the Catholic Church, true science was founded.

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10 Comments

  1. The Catholics upheld Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics because with it one could easily argue from the world to Theism. The scientific method gave a special focus on material things, but was never suited to take place of Thomistic metaphysics even though it did over time. Once it became a metaphysics Deism was the result, and it eventually gave way to atheism. Francis Bacon unwittingly legitimized atheism.

    1. I would agree with the statement that Bacon unwittingly legitimized atheism. The Catholics embraced Aristotelianism to their detriment. Bacon was a protestant who tried to wrestle the church away from the Aristotelian model. His efforts to make empirical (or sensory) knowledge the source of scientific truth (rather than philosophy) led to an explosion of experimental activity. Unfortunately, I would agree with you that his work also led to a form of materialism which gave birth to atheism. I don’t think he would have been happy with that outcome! I understand that the supporters of the French Revolution mistranslated his works in order to co-opt Bacon as one of their own and use his name in order to support their cause. But Bacon was a Christian!

      I don’t understand why scientific theory must always be associated with social theory–as in the case of Deism and political theory. Darwinism led to social Darwinism. Evolution has led to progressivism. And now there’s an attempt to attach quantum theory to social/political theory.

      Deism was discredited. Social Darwinism was discredited. Progressivism (our present model) is failing. And I truly fear the results of the quantum model as applied to society (mostly by New Agers).

  2. I understand why Aristotelian physics or scientific findings should be replaced, but I do not understand why Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) metaphysics should be replaced. Do you think A-T metaphysics are wrong?

    1. Actually I do. I think that Thomas Aquinas was wrong for attempting to blend philosophy and theology. These are two different strands of truth. I understand that Aquinas was trying to show that Christianity was “reasonable.” But in the long run, I believe it was a waste of time and energy. (He probably did too, since he called his work “straw” at the end of his life.) David Hume tried to decimate Aquinas and Kant tried to counter Hume, but all of it seems to me to be one philosopher (Christian or otherwise) trying to out-reason each other over the content of truth. I believe it’s wrong to argue from a position of pure reason, because it has no authority to back it up, so it becomes shifting sand. Instead, I believe there is power in the Word of God. I don’t think Christians are effective when turning to the abstract world of philosophy with its detailed arguments that don’t exist in the real world. Instead, I think Christians are more effective when they engage in flesh and blood realities as they exist in theology and history. This is the apologetics approach that I take. I don’t think atheists will be convinced by ontological, cosmological, or teleological arguments when they look at history and see the “church” that Aquinas was part of burning people at the stake.

      1. Diana,

        What if the person you are trying to convince doesn’t believe in the authority you reference and they have intellectual barriers that impair them from receiving your message? Also, what happens when you try to convince a person who won’t accept anything but pure reason?

      2. The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17. We preach the gospel! Hi Daniel! I just happened to be online.

  3. Diana,

    All truth is God’s truth. True knowledge is that which conforms to ultimate reality. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Wisdom is the correct use of true knowledge. Therefore, true philosophical arguments can be effective in leading people to God. A waste of time and energy would be to let the philosophical world be overtaken by those who reject God and consequently reject the source of true wisdom. The resulting philosophical lies they attain are very effective and must be combated with the truth. God is the end result of every truthful endeavor whether the method is theological or philosophical. Your exasperation with the philosophical world is because Christians have not put in the work to keep the truth on the forefront and in the public square. I agree that there is power in the Word of God and it can penetrate even the most stone-hearted atheist. But, God can use philosophical arguments to circumvent people’s intellectual barriers so that the Word of God can have its rightful place in their hearts. To neglect this is to neglect another avenue of truth and leave it to the connivings of the Devil and sinful men.

    1. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
      While I have no problem with Christians knowing philosophy, I have a real problem with synthesizing philosophy in with our theology. This is what happened to the early church. The attempt by Origen, Irenaeus, Augustine, et al . . . to assimilate the gospel to Greek philosophy led to much of the spiritual darkness of the middle ages.
      For example, history records scholasticism (the attempt to harmonize Christian theology with Aristotle) as being a joke, saying it had deteriorated into how many angels could dance on the head of a pin! (Duns Scotus: dunce.) It also led to the suppression of science, since Aristotelian “truth” based on human reason and “natural philosophy” led to wrong beliefs about the elements (he thought there were only 4) and origins (spontaneous generation has been disproven). The Catholic Church had also embraced the Ptolemaic view of the universe rather than the heliocentric view of the universe.
      The problem with blending in philosophy with theology is that the church ends up looking stupid because the synthesis makes the scriptures look false. The false part isn’t the Bible; the false part is the philosophy. The problem with philosophy is that you can’t depend on it being the TRUTH—while the scriptures are always dependable. For example, Galileo had no problem with the Bible; his problem was with the Aristotelianism that the Church had embraced. Pasteur had no problem with the scriptures; his problem was with Aristotelianism—in particular, spontaneous generation.
      Over and over we see that science and philosophy fail. For example, Jefferson, Hume, Voltaire, and Kant questioned the scriptures and became “scientific racists” based on their empirical observations of the darker colored races. This may have seemed like “truth” to them, but it was a lie. On the other hand, the abolitionists stood on the Word of God, in particular Acts 17 (one blood), and they were right!
      As I look over history, I see that any truth that isn’t tethered to the revealed truth of the scriptures, and conflicts with it, ends up being discredited. I’ve learned from this that the church must never compromise God’s Word in order to assimilate it to philosophy or science. If we do, invariably, the next generation looks back and sees the failure of the church—even though it wasn’t the scriptures that failed—it was the church that refused to stand on the Word that failed.
      This is why I have a real problem with the Emergent Church. Its leaders think the Scriptures are not reliable. They point to racism, genocide, witch hunts, and the suppression of science as legacies of the Christian Church. This gives them a sense of authority to justify their “new kind of Christianity.” (Brian McLaren) Their solution is to amalgamate philosophy and science in with Christianity! Thus they actually become that which they are trying to break away from! McLaren is a member of the group “Evolutionary Christianity” and promotes the work of Jurgen Moltmen (a follower of the philosopher, Hegel, whose work led to Marxist communism and Nazism—the cause of millions of deaths in the 20th century).
      You see, God is Holy. His Word is Holy. And any attempt to blend something else in with the scriptures makes the Word unholy. It’s like blending just a little excrement into a milk shake. Is it pure anymore? Is it undefiled? NO. It’s impure and defiled. Drinking it can make us sick. Jesus described it differently. He said, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.” He meant, beware of the wrong teachings of the Pharisees. Just a little leaven leavens the whole lump. In their case, they were blending their traditions in with the Scriptures. Nevertheless, there are numerous ways to defile the gospel . . . and it all leads to evil—genocide, racism, slavery, the suppression of science, witch hunts, utopianism, and on and on.
      And now all of these failures of the corrupt church are being used as a club to beat Christians with. If only the previous generations had remained pure and not dabbled around with philosophy, perhaps the skeptics would not have a leg to stand on. Unfortunately, atheists don’t do the work of separating out theological doctrine from philosophy, they just know the church was stupid or abusive, and they point to its failures as a justification for their rejection of God.
      IF ONLY THE CHURCH HAD REMAINED FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.
      As to your argument, I think Christians can understand and try to counter philosophical arguments, but we can’t rely on human reason as an equal source with revelation for “truth.” You realize, of course, that Aquinas’ arguments (a synthesis of reason and theology) would be countered by Kant in his “Critique of Pure Reason.” This would leave the centuries old Thomistic-created structure on the cutting room floor—a prime example of why reason is not on an equal par with scripture.
      Reason may have some truth to it (as Locke argued, Christianity is reasonable!), but it can’t replace the Scriptures, which have power and authority, when sharing the gospel:
      “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword . . .” (Hebrews 4:12).

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