As humans we have come a long way. Existing on earth for merely over 10,000 years, we have come to build the grand monuments and the tiny smartphones; both unthinkable in the natural world.
However, science studies theorist Bruno Latour is not as impressed and you and I do. In fact, according to Professor Keith Peterson from the Colby philosophy department, we have never been revolutionary at all.
Revolutions come in many different shapes and sizes; from scientific revolutions to political revolutions, and, as we have mentioned previously in the semester, even a volcano eruption could trigger a revolution. However, was is a revolution, exactly?
A revolution is generally understood as a historical event that generates a “great divide” from the past time periods. For example, we name the invention of a series of mechanics the “industrial revolution”. Another case of note is the scientific revolution, which produces many theories that are the cornerstones of modern science.
However, did the scientific revolution actually happen? Professor Peterson broke down the illusion for us. The theories that were discovered during this period were actually floating around for hundreds of years, and the publication of them did not stir a huge ripple in the society. Even to this day, the scientific revolution and the industrial revolution have certainly not reached every nation and culture in this world, and by the definition of revolution, they are never complete.
This concept of revolution, as illustrated by Professor Peterson, is, in fact, very Euro-centered. These “industrial revolutions” and “scientific revolutions” all share a common origin, that is Europe, and spread out to the rest of the world. Revolutions that are made in the third world countries, however, are barely heard and are considered of little historic significance by Western scholars. Another illusion Westerners have is that our way of approaching nature, the “scientific” way, is the only valid approach, while neglecting the diverse cultures that the rest of the world host that potentially influence more people and could be more advanced. Lastly, Westerners come to understand that there is a dualism between nature and society, and the conflicts between those two are irreconcilable, which is simply untrue. Professor Peterson argues that science, society and politics are actually all intertwined with and dependent on each other, while the debate of the definitions of “true science” and “false science” is simply a societal and political one, as science in fact never stand alone and understood to be universally correct.
Overall, professor Peterson revealed a new way to view revolutions from a philosophical standpoint, and pointing out how much humanity has grown while how little we actually know.