I have studied the Scientific Revolution in previous history courses as I am sure many Colby students have. There is always a header at the beginning of the section in the history textbook titled “The Scientific Revolution.” This header implies great scientific achievements were made that dramatically altered history. The textbook juxtaposes Aristotle with Galileo or Newton to show the grave change in scientific discovery about our world such as that Earth is not the center of the solar system. The textbooks frame their scientific progress as an overnight success that was revolutionary. However, Professor Cohen makes a valid observation that revolutions are not overnight occurrences. The instance that starts the revolution could be one moment, but the thoughts that fueled the revolution begin well before. The Scientific Revolution was a change in thinking that built over time. Textbooks don’t include the time leading up to the Scientific Revolution.
I have often thought that science and philosophy to be very separate fields of academia. Historically as Professor Cohen pointed out, they are very much intertwined. Aristotle was a philosopher making scientific assumptions. Galileo primarily also used philosophy to make his discoveries. If philosophy was the primary tool to make scientific discoveries, why is the Scientific Revolution taught as math based discoveries? Once understood that the Scientific Revolution was not heavily math based, but rather a change in philosophical thinking, it make sense to juxtapose Aristotle and the scientists in the revolution. Philosophy has become a forgotten important aspect to science because it is not taught to be utilized together. No science course has a prerequisite of a philosophy course or vice versa. They have been separated over time, but to understand the history of one, one must study the other. It’s easy to understand the cause of a political revolution because it usually is quite obvious. A political institution is oppressing a group of people and they then seek independence. To understand what makes the Scientific Revolution revolutionary, one must look at how science was understood prior to the revolution.
Shortly after Professor Cohen began his lecture, I found myself wondering what was even revolutionary about the Scientific Revolution. History courses I have taken in the past have only taught me that many scientific discoveries were made and it was revolutionary. However, scientists have continued to make discoveries, but we don’t have a second Scientific Revolution. The discoveries made did change the human perspective of the universe, but so have many other scientific discoveries. Einstein’s discoveries weren’t called Einstein’s Revolution, so what made this time period for science so revolutionary? I believe this is how Professor Cohen came to his conclusion that the word “revolution” is being used as a metaphor for the Scientific Revolution. Metaphorically Aristotle was “dethroned” and the modern thought process for science was introduce. Also, the importance of publishing began. According to Professor Cohen, these two aspects are the key as to why we can call it a revolution. Unfortunately, students are improperly educated about the revolutionary aspects of the Scientific Revolution. Thus creating this illusion that mathematically based science was basically invented during the Scientific Revolution, which radically changed our history, and began the divulsion between science and philosophy.