7. Francis Bacon vs. Lao Tzu on Nature

“Further, it will not be amiss to distinguish the three kinds and as it were grades of ambition in mankind.  The first is of those who desire to extend their own power in their native country; which kind is vulgar and degenerate.  The second is of those who labour to extend the power of their country and its dominion over men.  This certainly has more dignity, though not less covetousness.  But if a man endeavour to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe, his ambition (if ambition it can be called) is without doubt both a more wholesome thing and a more noble than the other two. Now the empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences.”

From Novum Organum (The New Organ), section 129, written in 1620 by Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


“Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?

I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.

You cannot improve it.

If you try to change it, you will ruin it.

If you try to hold it, you will lose it.”

From Tao Te Ching, section 29, by Lao Tzu (circa sixth century)


“Science proceeds by putting nature on the rack and torturing the answers out of her.”

Attributed to Francis Bacon


“The gentlest thing in the world

overcomes the hardest thing in the world.

That which has no substance

enters where there is no space.

This shows the value of non-action.

Teaching without words,

performing without actions:

that is the Master’s way.”

From Tao Te Ching, section 43 (translation by S. Mitchell)

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