After listening to Professor Cohen’s talk, “How Revolutionary-and how Scientific-was the Scientific Revolution?” I had a difficult time to discern what his personal feelings were concerning this period of time. In the context of this talk, the span of this event was the 16th and 17th centuries; this seems to be the consensus across many of the sources that discuss this event. It seemed that one point of contention was the title of this event being the Scientific Revolution. I would have to agree, that although major, this, nor any other event in the history of science should be given this title. Science is always changing, ideas are improved upon, new information is constantly ousting the outdated. To give this label to a single era of human exploration into science is questionable. I would disagree that the Scientific Revolution was, or will be, the most notable time period in the history of all science, as the name denotes it to be. I recognize why this may be troublesome and I shared his eagerness in identifying this as an issue.
Throughout the talk, three major questions were asked, “How revolutionary…?” “How scientific…?” and “How unique was the Scientific Revolution?”. The revolutionary aspect of this event had a lot to do with the breaking away from traditional religious explanations of scientific phenomena. Although this was more of a social change, it seems as though it was certainly radical and different for the time, people were affected by this new information and began to question their ideas. When the next question was tackled, “How scientific was the Scientific Revolution?” a sizeable amount of time was devoted to explaining how many of the major players during this time were simply wrong. Examples were noted, such as Copernicus saying that the orbit of all heavenly bodies was circular. Another example would be that Descartes believed that the pineal gland was exclusively in humans and that this is where the soul is held. Failure is not the opposite of success. In many cases, a single failure can lead to a new style of thinking about an issue that leads to later successes. This is one of the most rudimentary ideas in science; that a failure can often be as important as a success. Many of the ideas cultivated and expanded upon during the Scientific Revolution would be the basis of many improvements upon and new ideas of the future. The answer to the question of how scientific the Scientific Revolution was should be approached by looking at the impact this had on science and the thinking of scientists of the future. Not only focused around the raw information accrued during this time. So, I would disagree that this period could be deemed less scientific simply because the scientists of this time were wrong with some of their ideas.
The idea of this time being scientific and also revolutionary is that the people began to think outside of what was currently accepted. People began to disagree with the current means of scientific exploration and ideals that governed the scientific. The universe no longer rotated around the Earth thanks to Copernicus, new scientific methods were utilized thanks to Descartes, Galileo clarified the properties of gravity and gravity was no longer exclusive to Earth thanks to Newton. As importantly, the failures of Copernicus, Descartes, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, among other major players in the Scientific Revolution, began to open people’s minds. These scientists were exploring. They went for it, invested time into these projects, often times only to be proven wrong. That is what science is about, endless discovery. These people knew to never settle and to keep questioning. People regained a certain curiosity during this time and the inspiration that was product of the new questions being asked was certainly revolutionary in science.