The Scientific Revolution occurred over a span of many years, but marks a drastic shift in thinking that altered public perception of the world. Humanity’s position within the entire universe even changed as a result of new scientific developments, which is undeniably innovative. This revolution was revolutionary, because science was not only modernized, but social and religious mores were also challenged and ultimately upended.
Ideas that had long been accepted as fact were invalidated over the course of the Scientific Revolution, proving that even “facts” are not unchangeable. Copernicus, for example, proved that the sun is at the center of the universe, not the earth. The public then had to grasp the idea that the planet is in constant motion, and is simply a speck of dust in the scope of the universe. One can assume that confusion, conflict, and widespread denial ensued as people tried to understand this earth shattering concept, this proof of human inferiority. There was social upheaval resulting from this, and also religious confusion as this conflicted with long held beliefs about earth’s favored position in the universe and centralization among the heavens. Something that seemed unquestionable was questioned and disproved. Thus, what do we now accept as fact that could be eventually proved wrong? Could there be another revolution, in which the modern world’s extensive scientific developments are rendered obsolete? Viewed through the lens of modernity, developments as substantial as Copernicus’s would undoubtedly be considered revolutionary today.
However, Copernicus was not the first to suggest a heliocentric solar system. Ancient Greeks had made significant discoveries that Scientific Revolution-era scientists drew upon to form their theories. This does not make the Scientific Revolution less revolutionary, though. In the time of the Greeks, these discoveries did not make enough of a social impact to be carried on through history, and were thus replaced in popular opinion by models of the universe that aligned with accepted beliefs. During the Scientific Revolution, science carried enough weight to make a lasting social impact. Whether new discoveries were accepted or not, they were remembered. This in itself is revolutionary, because science came to the forefront of public consciousness.
Perhaps the reason the Scientific Revolution was able to be so revolutionary is because it was largely unprecedented. There were not yet strict laws dictating what is classified as pseudo-science or sound theory. For example, Newton discovered the laws of gravity but also practiced alchemy. Kepler justified his discovery of the elliptical orbit of the earth in part with the belief that the ellipse was a more “worthy” shape. The discoveries of these scientists still survived in history despite later understanding of pseudo-science. This attests to the effectiveness of scientific freedom, the progress that can be made when laws of right and wrong are not defined. Since any such laws can be shattered by new discoveries, they seem merely restrictive.
Due to its scientific novelty and social impact, the Scientific Revolution must be classified as revolutionary. At the time, it must have been disorienting, as humans began to understand the vastness of space and the laws governing it. For now, the Scientific Revolution is “the” revolution in science, not just “a” revolution. However, that may someday change.