One of the primary questions for this class is, “What constitutes a revolution?” I would like to take this question a step further by asking, “Who gets to say what constitutes a revolution?” Professor Cohen had the slides at the ready, prepped for the inevitable questioning of the Eurocentrism of his presentation. While he may have minutely quelled the intrigue, the question remains: Who gets to say what constitutes a revolution? What revolutions do we teach and who are the leaders of said revolution? Professor Cohen resolved that what really came from the Scientific Revolution was “a revolutionary metaphor,” and he admitted that “winners get to write history,” but with this reflection, do we not have the control over how we get to teach history? Why allow the non White Christian men to be sidelined when there is the potential to center them? As we delve into the question of “What is a revolution?” I think it is only proper to examine the current Academy’s potential for revolutionary acts of pedagogy. Will we revolve around the Eurocentric pedagogical approach, or will we revolt against the continual erasure of Othered thinkers?
In my examination of revolutions, identity, pedagogy, and power in this presentation, I want to underscore the danger in assuming an “objective body of knowledge” without asking the key questions of “whose revolution?” and “whose world view?” After all, what is modernity and who claims it? Growing up, my education centered the Medieval world view without much acknowledgment of the multiplicities of world views. There continues to be an assumption that the Medieval world view is “our” world view, is the world view; what is more, these assumptions birth ethnocentric comments that the “West is the best” and so on. I believe Professor Cohen subtly highlighted these assumptions as he spoke of the attempts to overthrow Aristotle. In this dissection, it is clear the intellectual hierarchies as Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo sought to become the “great authority.” They presented what they believed to be “objective bodies of knowledge.” Moreover, as we think about the ways power shaped the Scientific Revolution and our perception of it, I would like to point out the Biblical underpinnings of Professor Cohen’s presentation. As Professor Cohen articulated, we speak of the Scientific Revolution as if it is unique–like a creation story. It serves as this period of 1572-1704 in which we often think of the current dominant understanding of how the world works to be invented, and thus the inventors or creators of these stories become a prophet. Newton is Adam. These great authorities deliver the laws, as if some greater force thrust the knowledge (and thus the power) onto them.
Yet, if what Professor Cohen is true–that the fundamental background came from Pagans, Jews, and Muslims–then when are we going to dismantle the creation story as it stands? When are we going to give credit where credit is due? And why are we still upholding hierarchical historic academia when we have the potential and the capacity to at least question the benefits of giving and seeking “great authority” because of academic discovery? Ultimately, as we study the Scientific Revolution I find it helpful and important work to think about the revolutions that have not happened. Those that are imbedded in the creation stories, the scientific stories, the exclusionary stories. Those that have the potential to be, to create new metaphors and new meanings, if only we are willing to admit that none of us exist in a vacuum, and to use the term a “great authority” may be neglectful of all the collaboration and creation inherit in knowledge making.