In the seventeenth century many scientists and philosophers strayed away from the church’s way of thinking and began to seek out their own explanations of the world around them. Scientists questioned, even opposed theories the church had been teaching for centuries. Alexander Pope, a philosophical poet, wrote a very controversial poem that changed a lot of people’s views on God’s divine role in human kind, as well as inspired people to think for themselves.
How did Pope incorporate the belief of God with the new scientific discoveries of his time? Exploring these questions gives a better understanding of the conflict between science and religion in the seventeenth century, and insight on a man who believed everyone should accept the world as they find it.
The scientific revolution was a time of dramatic change. People began asking questions of the world around them, and instead of looking to the church for answers as they had for many years, started coming up with their own theories.
Alexander Pope was very interested in the scientific discoveries of his time, particularly those of Sir Isaac Newton, and tried to incorporate them into his faith. This was dangerous however, because the Church opposed all of the new ideas being brought forth, as they felt it was challenging their beliefs. Pope’s main intent was not to oppose the Church; instead, he sought to build a bridge between religion and the new scientific discoveries as a way to glorify God.
By writing “An Essay on Man”, Pope wished to present a God that was different from those in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The faith that he presents in his poem is similar in that it is monotheistic; however, the new ideas he offers on humanity’s role in the universe was incomparable to any other religion at the time. This was just one of many examples of the critical thinking that was beginning to be used in the scientific revolution, and encouraged others to seek out their own explanations of the world around them. For centuries it had been common belief that the earth was the center of the universe and humans were God’s greatest creation; therefore, new discoveries in nature and the universe generally contradicted the Church’s teachings and beliefs.
In Pope’s poem “An Essay on Man”, he explains God’s relationship to the world in a Newtonian way. Pope tried to use the new scientific discoveries in nature and the universe as a way to glorify God, showing that He was everywhere and a part of everything. The poem states that no matter how complex or evil the world seems to humans, it follows the natural order of God, and therefore should be accepted. Pope believes that the ignorance of people to the world around them inhibits their relationship with God.
It was this kind of thinking outside of the norm that was present among many philosophers during the scientific revolution. The most important aspect of the scientific revolution is people began to ask questions of the world around them, and sought the answers for themselves. Instead of looking to the church for answers, they began to observe, examine and explore for themselves. Alexander Pope was one of many , who instead of accepting the Church’s beliefs, interpreted the universe and God’s place in it all in his own perspective and encouraged others to do the same.