During the quest for enlightenment, religiosity and spiritual values were in decline, while rationality and scientific reasoning were prized as redeeming qualities for well-known intellectuals, such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Sprat, and Sir Isaac Newton. The inception of the Royal Society was to be a breeding ground of intellectual stimulation for scientists, architects, sociologists, psychologists, astronomers, philosophers, etc. What I noticed about the current Royal Society’s motto, which states, “Take nobody’s word for it,” is the fact that it mirrors the initial goal of the Royal Society, as well as Bacon’s utopian novel, The New Atlantis, and even University of California campuses.
Science is largely conducted by experimentation, and no matter the amount of knowledge we have gained, there will be a continual cycle of new knowledge to refute what was just learned. Last semester in Core lecture, my class and I had to unlearn the reasons that revealed why Pluto is not a planet, and follow the criteria to debunk the original reasoning scientists classified Pluto’s planetary status. Bacon’s The New Atlantis even covers how the islanders’ desire to grow in knowledge of the world. They select their best suited explorers to travel and cultivate all they have learned and report it back in twelve years. After those twelve years another succession of explorers will take place to learn more. As Bacon writes the purpose of Solomon’s House, was to “enlarge the bounds of the human empire.” As a University of California student I appreciate the research conducted in each individual campus because, like the Royal Society, all of the campuses contribute to this “21st-century learned society.” Although I would argue there are drawbacks to the UC system, like the fact that it functions more as a business enterprise in some ways, especially with the recent tuition increase, it does perform what Sir Francis Bacon desired in his mythic-utopian society. Students can participate in abroad programs to learn new languages or teaching techniques in order to expand their knowledge of a subject. I suspect that since the United States and other countries focus on capitalist means for trade, rather than “trade for light of growth of all the world” this results in the view of knowledge as a commodity rather than a value for intellectual cultivation and stimulation. Even the Royal Society and other scientific institutions focus more on the industrious and economical means, rather than showcasing skillful language or fiction and poetry to give a different outlook on intellectualism and scientific thought. Does this mean our society is growing lethargic due to innovations in technology, or that we are more fact-based rather than expressing the facts in clearer or artistic perspectives? This certainly was not what Bacon had in mind, nor what the Royal Society intended, but it does spark a discussion on whether we value an efficient understanding of things, instead of a complex, artistic approach toward what we are learning. -Jessica Mijares