“The most revolutionary part of the Scientific Revolution was that we use a metaphor of a revolution to describe it.” That conclusion was very provocative to me. As products of their time and culture, and as aware and critic of themselves and their environment, the scientists during the Scientific Revolution started using the word revolution to explain their circumstances. “Revolution” was not only used as a metaphor to challenge the past and current standards and establish a new scientific outlook, it was also used as a cyclical historical term to describe a pattern.
During the Scientific Revolution, knowledge stopped being about enlightenment and faith and started being about experiments and testing. Although the theories were abstract and mathematical in nature, they were able to be tested physically with experiments. Everything could be put to the test in this process of discovering new principles through empirical methods and mathematical analysis. Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes created the foundations of thinking about our thinking about the world and established a new approach to methodological inquiry. This new paradigm echoed the rise of humanism during the Renaissance, which questioned religious authority and emphasized the capacity of individual human beings to understand the world. The Scientific Revolution relied heavily on a capacity for abstract thinking and a precise use of language in order to become such a powerful period in history.
According to Chalmers Brothers and Vinay Kumar, language is a tool we cannot stop using because we need it to use all other tools. Language does not only communicate and describe; by making distinctions, it creates, generates, and provides us access to conceptual breakthroughs. By acquiring distinctions and giving them a name, we discriminate between things we didn’t see as different before. New ways of seeing things allow us to do what we could not do before. In short, language and distinctions give us access to knowledge. Once you have the distinction, you have created the conceptual space for understanding and access breakthroughs. The thinkers of the Scientific Revolution realized they were living a turning point in modern science and culture, they were aware of the distinction, and named that distinction “revolution”. Even though the word could be used in different contexts (to roll back, to return, overturning, as an astronomical term…) and could take the form of different truths, it contributed to understanding and thinking about the world.
Centuries later, we continue to enhance and discover new meanings to the distinction made by the phrase “Scientific Revolution” using new analytical methods through data. We can now see we weren’t able to see before and distinguish deep structures and patterns in history. By reinterpreting the Scientific Revolution in terms of language we uncover a pattern of a continuing process of change as a critical part of history.