When we think about why humans have the power to influence the world in a global scale, one of the most important factors that we should not ignore is the science. For a long time, we had acquired knowledge, made tools, and built civilizations. None of them could be achieved without science. However, if we think about “science” as a word and a kind of languages, we will find that it is also revolutionary.
What is the meaning of science originally? It evolved from the Latin word “scire,” which means to know, to another Latin word “scientia” and then became “science” in modern English. Similarly, Professor Cohen also argued that humans were rational animals and by nature, we desired to know. However, humans have used their skills, knowledge, and technologies to survive in different conditions for years and years, but we only started using the word “science” in the 17th to 18th century to define laws of nature.
Before the age of information explosion, early scientists were also considered philosophers, such as Aristotle. Humanities and sciences coexisted in harmony and people even did not distinguish them. However, C.P. Snow, in 1959, argued that the intellectual life of the whole western society was “split into two cultures – namely the sciences and the humanities.” He believed that this divergence was a major obstacle and hindrance to solving the world’s problems.
Then, we have a problem here. When did this divergence happen? And more importantly, how did it happen?
I believe the divergence happened in the same time as “the scientific revolution.” I’d like to bring back the three core questions that Professor Cohen asked during his lecture: how revolutionary, how scientific, and how unique was the scientific revolution? He thought that scientific revolution happened in the 16th to 17th century because it was when people started to describe laws of nature as “a mathematically precise, experimental-based and objective body of knowledge.” Since then, the language that we used to describe science had changed. We no longer used subjective, rhetorical, and emotional ways to describe science; instead, we began to use data, drew charts and tables, and utilize concise languages. We wanted solid evidences in the scientific papers, and it would be more convincing if they came from scientific experiments.
Professor Cohen discussed about how scientific was the science revolution and used some examples. Johannes Kepler said an interesting quote: “Sun deserves to be in the center of the universe, because it’s so noble.” This sentence seems so non-scientific. Yet, if we get rid of the bias from our understandings of modern science, we might realize that this was really revolutionary since Kepler was brave enough to think without the religious constrain. What made his assertion non-scientific was because it did not fulfill the requirements of “scientific languages” that we prefer to use in modern society.
Indeed, when we start thinking about the history of science in general, it is really difficult, or maybe impossible, to eliminate the bias of how we understand science today. However, if we choose to think science in a linguistic perspective without the bias of what we think of science today, we might gain a broader understanding of scientific revolution.