« Philosophize This!

Episode #025 ... A Scientific Method For Your Life!

2014-06-09 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we learn about Francis Bacon, a 16th century English philosopher. We first discuss what it meant to pursue knowledge during  the time Francis Bacon lived and why he thought that scientific advancement should be society’s chief priority. Next, we examine Bacon’s “Four Idols of the Mind,” which were the biases he believed prevented humans from thinking scientifically. We touch on everything from germ theory to diet fads to healthcare reform to gender inequality, with some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos thrown in for good measure. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this or any episode of the podcast check out the website. That philosophy, five the start work. We have additional content further reading transfer so every show all pre, of course, But if you value the shows an educational resource and you want to help keep it going, you can find that more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alter if you're, buying something from Amazon this week anyway, consider clicking through our banner it's at the bottom centre of the landing page philosophize this dot org more percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up there. Key for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you have a show so have you guys ever been to one of those really. Tsar, dark places on the internet like let's hear watching a video and then click on a related video, and you keep clicking on the next related video and the next one.
Smashed cut you six hours later and you're just watch Nyan cat on a four hour loop will deep inside the bowels of the internet and one of these really weird places. There's a war being fought. It's the Youtube, video and comment war between fundamentalist Christians and science. Really the best way to describe it is a war zone made seriously I should see some of these comments that some of the most destructive. Four things I've ever seen in my life each one of these Youtube videos is its own, unique, crazy battlefield. This battle field is obviously an extreme caricature of what actually exists in reality, but you have to acknowledge that the dynamic that exists an extreme form on these Youtube videos isn't completely unfounded. You wouldn't say that there's a war between science and religion today, but you definitely have to acknowledge that the two don't
agree on many things. You certainly wouldn't consider science and religion, friends in today's landscape will. Today's episode is going to take you back to a time long before this warrant, internet, when science in religion we're friends, they didn't hate each other. But what we're going to talk about today is the beginning of at rift that we would identify in modern times between the two of them. This is the moment when signing religion, both kind of like this Dame girl at school and in science, took her to the school dance and other religion pretended like everything, was cool and he said he's happy for both of them. The seeds of hatred were planted and things were going to change forever. Now I could spend a long time talking about the history of the time period and the whirlwind of ideas and political events that led to somebody like Francis Bacon being able to exist at all. But to be honest, volume,
of work have been written on it, and it all isn't crucially important when trying to understand Francis Bacon and what is contributions were. What I will say is that it was a complete mess at the time centuries old political troubles, centuries old ways of thinking collide. with new ways of thinking, different methods of trying to maintain. Wherein get everybody on the same page. But if you were an outsider looking in on Europe at the time, the one thing you'd be certain of is that these people were confused. Alright, there have been few instances throughout human history where people have been more confused than these people are now for a law time the church had coexisted with science, but because of the insecurity brought on in the church by the humanistic movement and all these new interpretations of Christianity. The church turned away from Seeing it as a hostile alternative to the way that they explain things in response to this confusion, the
headed into what we now know as the scientific revolution, people like Francis Bacon, but that's science and religion serves two completely different functions and that science shouldn't be seen as something that's threatening Christianity threatening to overthrow it. In fact, he was religious, health science should be seen as something used as a catalyst for human prosperity completely separate from religion. Francis bacon must have felt like an alien dropped on the planet, earth and forced to live among the people. He looked around him and thought that people have been thinking about that. Wrong for a long time. Not only did he have a vision of what the ideal society would look like, he had what he thought the solution to all of humanity's problems
Only did he know where humanity needed to go, but he knew how to get there. But let me start here with so much ambiguity about what the truth was. Europeans of the time period increasingly looked for knowledge of all sorts bacon toxin. One of his works about the fact that people seem to by nature desire to know It seems to be something about humans. He says they want to know things for a myriad of different reasons, usually completely selfish reasons like they want to be the guy. That knows the most about everything at the party that they're going to that weakened or for personal ambition or glory or even says just to distract themselves away from their personal life. In fact, when we think of it wiring knowledge in modern times, we think of any kind,
Some place, like the library getting some giant dusty tome, slamming it on the desk and reading through it laboriously four hours, but the pursuit of knowledge to people in a time of Francis Bacon was a little more brought. They thought of knowledge differently. Knowledge meant any act or behaviour. That was building into uncharted territory in some way see to them. Columbus was seen as a seeker of knowledge among all the other titles that he had because he was sailing his ship into uncharted territory and gaining knowledge certain interpreters of theology at the time we're seen as seekers of knowledge. For the very same reason we wouldn't see those people as seekers of knowledge by today's standards, but they were considered as such in the time of Francis Bacon and when he looked at the people of his time that were known as knowledge, because he thought they had it all wrong, not We were they looking for knowledge in the wrong way, but there were for knowledge for
all the wrong reasons. Tat actually writes a lot about this. He breaks down all the different types of people. In his day that more pursuers of knowledge and all their different forms in fields. One of the most Yes, once our people that he referred to as the reasoners and he has a couple other names for them, but above all else they were philosophers. We would think of them as rationalists. They were people that thought to find knowledge. You used reason, and we know from study former rationalists, that this sort of knowledge always comes by way of them having arguments with each other, or some sort of verbal altercation that sort of conjures up knowledge from within there was no experiment that they perform. That offered a new insight that they were talking about. There was no ex
Colonel stuff happening at all. They looked within their own minds. They argued with each other about the contents and they arrived at what they thought was knowledge. Now, if you look at it from their perspective, you can definitely see how they. I would have thought that knowledge didn't really require any sort of reading from the physical world to arrive at it. In fact, if you remember, this was the basis used by Plato to make the case for why he thought we were born into this world with total knowledge with a complete wikipedia of the world in our head at birth, and that acquiring knowledge was just the process of remembering it of conjuring it up. Well, another prevalent type of person that was a seeker of knowledge. The bacon talks about are the ones of the superstitious variety. These people weren't just the various faith based thinkers of his time. They extended all the way to people like magicians and chemists, and
People that would put on a show for a crowd on a street corner people that seemingly he'll ailments and the people in the crowd with their magic potion now, because this magical realm was so little understood at the time these people were as seekers of knowledge, because they were doing things that people really couldn't explain and they were delving into that uncharted territory. They were seen as men and women. Where does they may be That were harnessing the power of nature in some way for the betterment of man, and this is, a very important part of the thinking of the time period for many reasons, but the most important part is look as humans. We ve learned to do a lot thanks. We ve learned to tell the soil and plant seeds inside of it. And then collect and an an amount of food at harvest time we learn to domesticated animals for our benefit. We ve learned to redirect rivers and streams to our benefit. If we can learn to harness
power of nature for the betterment of man. In all these ways, maybe there's a way for humans to be complete masters of nature, to be in troll of nature, rather than the other way around Belize, magicians and reasoners were seen as people that were going on the quest of mastering nature. Francis Bacon thought that three pensions have changed the world and a lot of man along with it more than anything else throughout human history, the compass, the printing press and and powder and all these things were arrived at three harnessing of nature in some way. This is part of what Bacon saw as the ultimate task of science. He actually gives a great metaphor in one of his works. He says that the superstitious seekers, Knowledge are kind of like ants because they just wander around in a line and they collect things from the physical world to build their world to build their colony. The reasoners
like spiders, because they just sit around all day and they spend these overly intricate webs made out of nothing. But what is inside of them now, both these methods to Francis Bacon are flawed. The true pursuit of knowledge should be more like what a bead, it shouldn't rely solely on the powers of the mind or rely. It solely on material from the natural world, it should be sought
a middle path between the two of them like a b? It should gather evidence through experiments from flowers in the fields, but then it takes that material and uses its own skills to digest it and transform it into something that benefits more than just the b itself. The bee does this in the form of honey. Then he builds the colony. The pursuer of knowledge should do this in the form of discovering something beneficial to all of mankind, not just the person that found the knowledge, see. That's the problem with these magicians and these glorified high school debate, team coaches to Francis Bacon, see at best when someone has like a bad back and they approach the alchemist or the magician and there's a crown around, and he mixes them a potion.
Made from the elements of nature that he's masterfully, blended together and thereby harnessed the power of one that potion works. The only thing that happens is the magician gets a little bit more well known among the people. He does a little bit more liked, and he makes a little bit more money, but how does a benefit Society as a whole, especially considering that when it doesn't work what these people always said was well. I guess my powers, are weak today. I guess I'm not a steward of nature, as I typically em, but that's just today. Tomorrow, it's probably gonna work again, but how is that controllable? How can we know what's working or not working if we always have to go,
how many men potions the guys had in the last twenty four hours bacon had a better way of looking for knowledge. He thought that we should look for negative instances and things, let's say, for example, instead of doing ten experiments, were you give different plants, different levels of sunlight and then from all that work you draw the conclusion that all plants need sunlight to grow. Instead of doing that, you should look for instances where plants dont need sunlight. It's much better approach. He's in confusing, like shouldn't. We take this seriously considering the huge benefit. Humanity stands to gain from finding all this knowledge, but let's not project our times under there this certainly seems very obvious today, but it truly wasn't back in the time of Francis Bacon. I may even just a couple decades before we have maintained, we talked about it last time, talking about how
Searching for these overarching rules and generalities about the world might ultimately just be a waste of time, because it seems like they're, always gonna, be replaced by a different one, eventually and look. We can understand why a lot of people may have felt that way, including montane, especially mounting may after all, It's very easy to look at the metaphysics of the philosophers that mountain was reading and most influenced by it's clear, they're, arguing based on conjecture, is the world made only of water or only a fire. Is this rock I'm holding made of a combination of earth and fire or earthen water? Maybe all three? How can you really know maybe there's a fiery substance that pervades all things that brings them life? You know me, you could see how this stuff could be viewed as a complete waste of time that was
We're gonna yield any practical benefits, but this was the genius of Francis Bacon not only to realise that it could benefit all of humanity, but to recognise the various faults in the way that people think about things that prevent them from arriving at that knowledge, Because of the selfish motives that typically underlie why people seek knowledge in the first place, Bacon thought that science shouldn't be something which really aid to one guy performing a magic trick on a street corner. It should be a collaborative effort. In fact, he thought it should be financed by the government. Bacon thought there was nothing better to spend tax dollars on. I mean after all, what could possibly improve the lives of a state citizens more than scientific progress, and should we really rely on purpose no ambition to improve people's lives. They can thought it was
really scary, to think about the fact that somebody could just find the cure to cancer or some other very valuable piece of information like that and then just sit on it for years. Traveling in all the glory and fame. That would come with something like that in theory. If, instead, the government discovered the cure to cancer, it wouldn't be something that people could profit from either monetarily or emotionally. It would be public domain and there are all kinds of other examples we can think of a million of them. So how about the fact that, from the nine in thirty. We ve had solar powered in electrical cars around in some sort of makeshift sense, but they ve just never sold now in today's world, we have an energy crisis. Every prison since Ronald Reagan has vowed to remove or pendant on foreign oil, For some reason, there still Aren't any mass market feasible.
Purely solar powered or electrical cars. Why is that now? This could be just the nature of the technology, but in an alternate universe, couldn't it also be what Bacon was scared of? I mean in this alternate universe. Someone could apply did the technology to make these things feasible a long time ago and then sold those patents to the companies that stand to benefit from these trillion barrels of oil still in the ground? No, I'm not going Alex Jones on everybody, What I'm saying is. This is the sort of thing that Bacon was trying to prevent with state subsidized research, but this wasn't the only vision that bacon had for society or for the government. He actually wrote a book called the New Atlantis, it's a classic. He outlines what he sees as a opium society, the perfect society. This is actually very common among thinkers now.
Listeners of this show will remember back when we talked about Plato's republic. Were Plato outlined the ideal form of government? Well, a lot of subsequent thinkers tried to do just that too. They thought they had a better way. People like Saint Augustine, people like Thomas Moore, who was a friend of Erasmus, that we talked about well, Francis Bacon's utopian society makes science their chief price The details on how all of it would work he gives fascinating accounts of how science would eventually solve all of humanity's problems. If we just let it one of my favorite concepts that he talks about just because it's so different from All the other ways philosophers have approached the subject in the past is when he talks about human access now typically philosophers have all arrived at the conclusion that things go downhill, pretty quick when humans have free
over a finite amount of resources. Right, let's say that there's only so much food around to feed a group of people, then some big guy comes in and eats half of it, and now there's not enough food for the rest of the group. Humans should be temperate so that that sort of thing doesn't happen. We should regulate ourselves. Let's say some sheep need to be protected in the pasture and some kid keeps lying about a wolf coming around it, eaten all the sheep. Eventually the wolf does come around some sheep get eaten and everybody's mad at them. Humans should be honest. Well, these are the sorts of things that virtue aims to prevent restriction from certain behaviors. Well, Bacon's approach goes to complete.
Opposite direction? He says that science is gonna solve the problem of human access, because it's gonna make human access, excess and obsolete thing. Eventually, science will make it so that there's so much food that people dont need to regulate how much they eat, because there's more than anybody could possibly eat, eventually: science, Make something like a lie detector so that it doesn't matter if that kid is lying about a wolf coming around or not we'll be able to tell whether he's being honest or not. Science makes a pursuit of virtue practically obsolete, such a unique approach to this problem that so many philosophers have tried to solve, But it's important to note Francis Bacon realised that this utopian society that he was envisioning
was a long long way away. There was a mountain to climb first, if we were ever gonna get to his vision, and it was gonna, be a tough wrote to fight this uphill battle for humans to think in a way that unbiased enough to yield these sorts of benefits for humanity, we need Did to circumvent tendencies in the very brains were using to find knowledge, Bacon thought that all humans have four types of biases that prevent them from thinking in a scientific way, and we should all strive to eliminate them here. I quote there was yet a much more important and profound kind of fallacies in the mind of man, which I find not observed or inquired at all and think good to place here as that which of all others, Appertain Ith, most to rectify judgment, the force whereof the such as it doth not dazzle or snare the understanding and some particulars, but doth more generally, inwardly, infect and corrupt the state thereof for them.
End of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidents. Now It is rather like an enchanted glass full of superstition and imposture if it be not delivered and reduced for this purpose. Let us consider the false appearances that are imposed upon us by the general nature of the mind. End quote: let's try to think about the four idols the mind that Francis Bacon lays out in terms of how we might use them today to make our lives better. Let's try to create a scientific method for our lives. The first one is the least exe. Of the four, it's probably the most obvious, and it's probably the one, that's least in our control.
But we should acknowledge it. The first idol is what bacon refers to as the idols of the tribe. What Francis Bacon was referring to is the flawed way in which we perceive the world around us. He talks about human understanding as being like a like a cracked mirror that distorts the reflections that we see in it like an or put into the water, where it looks bent because of the way our eyes perceive light, but it's actually straight now the significance This is it just because we see things or hear things or smell things in a certain way, doesn't necessarily mean that our perception is based entirely in reality now. The obvious example that we touched on many times in the past is that the world is comprised of mostly empty space.
It's made up of animals that are ninety nine percent empty right. Now we don't see it that way. We have senses that create a representation of the world. That's useful to us that representation is made up of solid objects. It just wouldn't be useful for us to see all the empty space, but that map of the world is on a lot of assumptions and bacon would say that those assumptions can get us into a lot of trouble if we're trying to view reality on realities terms, blessing of a modern example. Let's say you, your digging through a trash can for summaries and looking for something, and then you take that same hand, and you give a sponge bath to a very sick hospital patient right and then you look at your hands and it looks like their perfectly clean. Your senses are telling you that it's perfectly ok.
This giant bag. A flaming, hot cheetah was and then licked the powdered cheese residue off of your fingers right seems like everything's, fine, we'll Francis Bacon, wouldn't have endorsed that behaviour will for two reasons: one. It's completely disgusting, just use a napkin for God's sakes and second, because your hands art actually clean. They have germs all over them. You're gonna get sick. Millions of people died for what they thought were unexplainable reasons before germ theory was developed in the eighteen hundred than they knew why they died, and it took this long because people trusted that biased map that their senses gave them. Wait too much, but we should do, is be mindful of this limitation, and our own lies the second idols. What bacon calls the idols the cave now. This is an illusion to Plato's allegory of the cave, and it refers to our ways of thinking about the world that we've been conditioned to believe.
Based on our own individual education or customs, there may not actually be evidence to support this knowledge that we have. But it is what we believe. Now. The examples in this category are endless. You guys can probably think of a thousand, but just for the sake of clarification One that everybody might be able to relate to is the way that a lot of modern Americans think about their diet. For the last few decades, brilliant marketers have condition people to believe things like a low carb diet is healthy or a low fat diet is healthy. They say the stuff, as though ninety percent of your calorie should come from protein exclusively low calorie equals, healthy and high calorie equals on well that's nowhere near what reality is right,
your body needs, carbohydrates or you're. Gonna constantly feel lethargic, your body needs fats or you're, not gonna, digest things properly, your brain, what function correctly, etc. If we're talking about what a healthy diet is as far as what percentage of your calories comes from each of the three proteins carbs and fats,
that's completely dependent on your lifestyle. Just like the total number of calories you eaten a day is dependent on your lifestyle. Sure a low carb diet is healthier than eating at Taco Bell three times a day and being massively overweight, and yet these diets help those types of people to think of food in terms of something other than how they can treat themselves to something right now. But these fat diets have also created a group of dogmatic people that oversimplify nutrition, and what being healthy, really is. Francis bacon would definitely put these sorts of police into the idols of the cave. The third idle is, what's called the idols of the marketplace. Now this is the most interesting wonderment it has to do with the preconceived biases we hold regarding what
in vision, when we communicate with each other, for example, I can say that I'm recording this podcast and I'm talking and one microphone now. Each person listening to the show has an image in their head of what that microphone looks like righteous picture. It right now that image comes from the sum total of every microphone you ve ever seen in your life, combined with what you think microphone may look like now. What if I said, instead of a microphone? What, if I said, I'm talking into a transmitter to record the show? What, if I said, I'm talking into a recording device these different words bring up different images in everybody's head of what's being described, but the act thing that I'm describing hasn't changed. A single bit bacon recognize this, and he realized that these individual biases that we hold about the connotation.
Behind words, could prevent us from seeing reality on realities terms. This is a huge flying human thinking and its honestly exploited by people all the time in today's world. The fact is each and every one of us would benefit greatly if we could just find out when we're being exploited, for example, newspapers or news networks will commonly used certain words when describing something that make you feel a certain way, that's in their best interests, direct and manipulate what you think about what they're telling you about. One really good example that I recently read, and I can't remember where I read it, but it had to do with the current debate on health insurance in the United States. Now certain news outlets that want you to like the current bill, that's gonna, be passed, will describe it as health care reform because there's a positive comment,
patient associated with the word reform. That word implies that there is some current flawed mechanism, that's in need of being fixed for you to be against health care reform. You need to be against reform in general now, in the opposite. The aisle they'll describe it as socialized medicine. Now the thinking there is that they're going to strike a negative, bored with a lot of Americans that have an aversion to socialism? That's not what Mary is all about now. The thing there describing hasn't changed at all, but the way that people perceive it has changed quite a bit. It's gone from a bill, that's our saviour that saving us from a damage system All the way to a hostile takeover of our american way of life bacon would point out that the reality of what it is lost somewhere in the middle somewhere in the connotation of the words. The final idle Francis Bacon talks about is what he called the idols of the theatre,
the theatre implies that the world is a stage, a stage on which many acts have already been performed that shape the way. We currently think about things. Now when he said this, Francis Bacon was referring to long accepted doctrines of thought or philosophical systems, things that might shade the way we view the world. Now he considers these philosophical systems as theatre, because kind of like fictional plays, where we create a setting that isn't real at all, and we acted out as though it is. We can see this kind of thing in droves in modern times all around us, but let's think about how much is at stake here, being born into the world being conditioned into a philosophical approach to life and then not question it? What the Then why, as a society, we deeply admire people like Martin Luther King, Jr, Susan be Anthony. Harriet Tubman is because they questioned.
philosophical systems underlying the world that they were born into. I mean how many Women were born before the nineteen twenties in the United States that were told that, simply because of their gender, they were inferior to men. And therefore not allowed to do everything that men could do and how Many of those women just accepted that. There were millions of them that just thought. I guess this is just the way that it is I'm a woman, I'm just not Kay the bull of doing certain things well enough to be trusted with them, but was that based in reality? Of course, it wasn't what Francis Bacon I just have to do is to not allow ourselves to fall into a biased way of thinking simply because were born into it, and it's easy just to go along with it. You can follow me on twitter at I am Stephen West. You can join in the discussion on Facebook. We find me
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.