In Steven Shapin’s “The Scientific Revolution”, the author leads off the book with a first sentence that makes one question the whole credibility of this work. He begins with “There was no such thing as a Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it.” That first sentence really stuck with me throughout the reading. I began to question the truth of everything he was saying, almost as if all the scientific reporting he was writing about and wanted us to believe was untrue. I do not believe there was one Scientific Revolution, as our world continues to find new information and create new technology, we are continually revolutionizing the way we think about everything, and we rely on it.
Of course the discoveries by scientists such as Galileo and Aristotle were breakthroughs in scientific discovery and created somewhat of a foundation for every future discovery, but the true revolution cannot be defined by one finding or one time period. There is a common trend in scientific discovery, it goes hand in hand with technological discovery. We as society feed off discovery, as science and technology advance, so does mankind. So, the point I’m getting at is the Scientific Revolution is one that is daily, and the reason being is because in our advanced society, as we discover, we keep wanting more. Take a revolutionary invention such as the Iphone. This creation set a bar for all future smartphones. So do we call we call it the Smartphone Revolution? No. We do not call it this because our world is filled with competition and the competition keeps trying to create more, add more, and revolutionize more. This concept applies to everything. These ideas are being processed daily. There is so much out there to discover that we have not, that is why new information keeps flowing in every single day.
So why does Steven Shapin take the time to write this if he leads off with such a contradictory and underwhelming point? Through his works he discusses scientific developments and findings and tells us the history of the scientists who created a foundation for all science in the future. He obviously respects and admires each and every one of them as he should, because without them who knows where we would be. He writes this beginning sentence not because he doesn’t believe these scientists were revolutionary, but because he believes that this time period of scientific discovery cannot be labeled a revolution.
Take, for example, “The American Revolution”, a war that proclaimed independence for The United States of America. Now our independence has not changed or been faulted in any way since that day. Now take the name “The Scientific Revolution”, have we not questioned or advanced the sciences that were once discovered during that time period? Yes, we undoubtedly have.
Shapin wants us to be informed of what has come before us so we can keep progressing as our society has done in the scientific field. With things like technology and science, there is no finish line, we must keep going and finding the next great thing that will further lead us to the next thing and so on.
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