An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 3 (part 2)

Bacon’s vision is motivated by Genesis 1:26-27, the cultural mandate. For Bacon this means that human’s rule the rest of creation and to do that they need to understand it better. The fall affected humanity’s ability to rule over creation, but science can help regain this dominion over creation. His view of the image of God is humanity as hands-on rulers over nature, bringing it under control. As Dowe notes:

… the cultural mandate and related religious ideas are the motivating ideological notions behind Bacon’s vision of a scientifically-driven society. (p 72)

The question in my mind is, is this not an idolisation of science by Bacon? Isn’t his a view of science as a saviour: science will undo the fall derived from a misreading of the cultural mandate?

The end of the twentieth century saw a reaction to this ideology from environmentalists and feminists.

Lynn White Jr, in his famous 1967 article, blamed the ‘ecologic’ crisis on Christianity with its Baconian emphasis on dominion and rulership. (I have dealt with some of White’s objections in an article published in Themelios and available here.)

Carolyn Merchant in her Death of Nature asserts that how we think of women is linked to how we treat nature.

For Bacon nature was metaphorically female – and Merchant argues that so-called harmless metaphors can have a profound influence on practice and attitudes.

It should be remembered that White and Merchant are arguing against this Baconian view of dominion. Genesis itself sees: dominion in terms of careful and responsible stewardship; and nature not necessarily in terms of being female. The problem is not so much Genesis and the cultural mandate but with the exploitative views of women.

The seventeenth century thinkers tended to have a harmony view of science and religion and utilised the two books metaphor: the two books – Scripture and nature – have a common author and so must be in harmony.

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