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Category: 03. 9/19 Scientific Revolution (Page 2 of 2)

The Radical Ideas of the Scientific Revolution

While today we view the Scientific Revolution as a period of significant change in math, science, metaphysics, and other related fields of study, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, these changes had no effect on daily life. The name “Scientific Revolution” suggests that it was a sudden eruption of discovery and new ways of thinking; however, the revolution actually spanned over the time between the end of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, thus making it a much more gradual change than the name implies. Due to its gradual nature, the revolution did not affect the average person, as it took time for the general population to adopt these radical ideas.

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Empirical Evidence in the Scientific Revolution

Though Karl Popper’s differentiation between science and pseudo-science was written during the 20th century, his argument is rooted in the patterns of the scientific process during the Scientific Revolution. While simple observation and contemplation were considered reliable methods of science prior to the revolution, empirical evidence and a general atmosphere of skepticism dominated the theories of the Scientific Revolution. It is this shift in process that strengthens the credibility and impact of the discoveries made in the natural sciences during the revolution. Continue reading

Establishing Success During the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth century was forged through the curiosity of scientists like Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo (to name a few). We can thank these men for their colossal imaginations as they ventured into a world of science that had never truly been analyzed before. Going above and beyond, literally, these scientists used their skills to look beyond the realm of normal science. Until this point, the Church controlled most of the scientific theories and did their best to dictate the lives of their followers. It was only until scientists began to study the world around us in an attempt to uncover our true place in this elaborate universe. To be fair, not all of these men were correct in their discoveries, and in fact, many of them were completely off base. Yet, their work ethic and courage to study something new inspired scientists everywhere. Periodically, scientists were coming out with theories that denounced those of the past and even proposed ideas of the future. Not every one would turn out to be fact, but that was not the point. Scientists were diving into a new field of study causing excitement and curiosity, which in turn, led to more scientists, theories, and eventually, true facts that help dictate our world even to this day.

Although Copernicus was not the first to propose the heliocentric model of a Sun centered solar system, his name is rarely not used in the same sentence as ‘heliocentric model’. His persistence and commitment to his studies allowed him to uncover the truth (mostly), and his legacy lives on because of this. Copernicus refused to believe the proposed idea of the geocentric model of the universe. He very easily could have simply accepted the theory for what it was and moved on to something new. Instead, like all great scientists, Copernicus tested the limits and explored new truths, which as a whole, embodies what the Scientific Revolution was all about. It was a time of question and exploration into new ideas and new theories. Studies were beginning to poke the surface of science that had never even been researched before. The idea of expanding and exploring new ideas inspired scientists everywhere to go beyond the realm of established Church ideals and philosophies. It is as if a new found love for science emerged during the period of the Scientific Revolution. Pushing, refuting, and contradicting one another was the only way for scientists to uncover the truth and eliminate false theories. This passion and commitment to success was born during the sixteenth century, and science has been benefitting from it ever since.

Common Misconceptions

The commonly conceived notion about the scientific revolution is pretty simple. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century are group of scientists developed a plethora of scientific laws that helped shape how humans view the world in today’s time. Kids have been learning this simple fact since grade school.  However, the idea that the scientific revolution is the proper terminology to depict this time period can be argued. I believe that the commonly conceived scientific revolution has some flaws in being that not all of these men were “scientists” and that depicting only this allotted time period as the scientific revolution is a little drastic.

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What is the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution was the period of time where our thinking as humans changed and we began to modernize as a society. But what was the Scientific Revolution and how did this change of thought come to be? Obviously, this time period holds much relevance to our society today, but it surprisingly holds more than most people expect. Our thinking of the universe and how we inhabit earth drastically changed during the 16th to 18th century. The Scientific Revolution is a label for the period of time where scientific discoveries were made and ways of thinking changed so that the effects continue to be relevant in our society today.

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Contextualizing The Scientific Revolution

The commonly conceived notion of the Scientific Revolution during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is the tension between modern discoveries and methodologies against ancient traditions and practices. Many introductory science courses reflect on the contributions of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. Their roles in establishing the distinction between religion and antiquated modes of thought and the natural sciences are no doubt, substantial. Yet, these select narratives are limited in scope and do not reflect the broader political, religious, and cultural factors affecting scientific progress. In The Scientific Revolution, Steven Shapin presents a broader context by discussing commonly undisclosed factors that shape the Revolution.

One reason why the Scientific Revolution is misconceived is due to the brevity in which students learn about the history of science. Courses typically have one or two days to go over these concepts, which glosses over two centuries worth of history. It is only in advanced coursework or independent study focusing on the Scientific Revolution that students can engage in a deeper level of analysis and inquiry. As a result, students that do not inquire about the history of science do not get a broader and deeper understanding of the myriad of contributing factors.

In the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon believed there was a necessary to create a “catalog…of all the effects that could be observed in nature” (85), which is similar to how modern scientific organizations and standards operate today. Shapin argues the purpose of these catalogs was to provide a “register of fact…to provide the secure foundations of natural philosophy” (90). The metric system can be considered a modern example of a catalog as it is an internationally adopted decimal system of measurement used in all facets of life. Using the metric prefix system for weights, shipments of goods can be measured in a standard unit, kilogram instead of constantly converting between units. Another example is the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology (IEEE), which has established standards for software and research development life-cycles. Many research facilities, universities, and companies adhere to the IEEE standards today. In the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon understood the need for these catalogs, which have manifested in modern scientific organizations and standards.

Against most preconceived notions of the Scientific Revolution, modern science emerged under the influence of various intellectual and societal factors. As Shapin describes, the contributions of religion,  philosophy, and naturalism were additional factors affecting the development of scientific inquiry. Legacies of the Scientific Revolution are still apparent today in the form of internationally recognized scientific organizations and standards. Despite the importance of the Scientific Revolution, not every person will dig deeper into its complex history. Most people blindly accept and take for granted the science and technologies they depend on everyday.

Shapin, Steve. The Scientific Revolution. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

The Impact of The Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution, and in fact science itself, has been criticized by many due to the fact that it is so unclear – so undefinable – as to make it nearly impossible to come to a complete agreement of it’s nature. To me, however, I look at The Scientific Revolution as the period in time in which the world progressed from pre-modern, Aristotelian scientific practices to the more advanced modern science of today. Not only were scientific practices drastically changing in the way in which we made discoveries, but what we were discovering significantly changed as well.

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