The Scientific Revolution refers to the time period of changes and developments in thought, technology, and areas of science such as physics, biology, mathematics, and chemistry that transformed the views on society and nature. The 16th and 17th centuries were right at the time of the Renaissance, where the concept of humanism became a part of the intellectual basis, and can oftentimes be defined as an age of development. These times sparked curiosity and hence discovery bridging modern day knowledge.

Steven Shapin, in his book, The Scientific Revolution, boldly asserts that “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution.” We learn as we continue reading that his point is more that the notion that the scientific revolution was an cataclysmic-like event where all of a sudden science and logical reasoning defeats the medieval word of antiquated ideas of religion, is in fact not so much the case. In other words, the way we are taught about the scientific revolution in school is portrayed incorrectly. Now we understand that Shapin is not “anti-science,” but rather believes that there really is no nucleus to the “revolution”.

I agree with Shapin to the extent that this black and white portrayal of science and knowledge as the latter and the institution of religion as the former that we are taught in our high school classes may be an over-exaggeration for what it was. At the same time, I firmly believe that the scientific revolution still occurred during that period of time. The term revolution insinuates that there was a rejection of an old system, in favor of a new one— which was exactly what happened. People began questioning the place of religion in science, and scientific figures acted upon it. With that, was the advent of the Copernican system, telescopes, microscopes, mathematics, etc. In the end, the scientific revolution in a way bridged the “science” of the past and the science have today.

Perhaps the term “Scientific Revolution” is too assertive, as if it is striving to prove a specific idea, that may not have been wholly representative of what it really was. Still, it is fact that scientific discoveries were prolific. Scientists faced scrutiny from the religious institution, and even other academics as well. An important takeaway for me was that the scientific inquiry began loosening its affiliation to such religious institutions, a beginning to the science we practice to this day. The term “science proves that science is true” can be applied today, but it also holds true during the 16th and 17th centuries as well.

Sources:

Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution. The University of Chicago Press, 2018.