A Colby Community Web Site

Category: 03. 2/21 Scientific Revolution (Page 1 of 2)

Why call it the Scientific Revolution?

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. Continue reading

The Fathers of Modern Astrology

In Steven Shapin’s bibliography, The Scientific Revolution, he discusses the achievements of Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo in establishing the heliocentric universe. As we all learned in middle school, this went on to start  one of the biggest controversies between science and religion since Darwin’s Evolution of Species. However, this is actually a common myth. The science behind Copernicus’ work helped solve problems that the geocentric model could not, but it still was just as problematic as the model before it. It was only centuries later that this “scientific revolution” was seen as  philosophers trying to correct the church’s teachings.

Continue reading

Technology Leads To Technology

From around 1550-1700 extreme developments and questioning materialized in Europe. Today, this period of time is known as the Scientific Revolution. While many of whom were credited with new discoveries around this time, philosophers began to question what was previously known to be true. As new findings were being made so were new technologies, and not only were these advancements in of themselves, but they also aided introducing future technology. This domino effect created by changes in the way people looked at science and technology lead to major scientific discoveries in history. Continue reading

A Revolution and a Revolution Walk Into a Bar…

A revolution is not just the overthrowing an established institution, but it is also a way of making the unfamiliar, familiar. The scientific revolution did that exactly. By exploring thought, experimenting, and challenging what was accepted as truth, society was moving away from accepting laws of nature and religion. As a result, not just science, but society was advancing in the way people thought about every day matters. The most interesting aspect of this revolution, is that it might be happening again, today, with the technology revolution.

Continue reading

The church’s science

While in current times many consider religion and science to be in fundamental conflict with each other, it is interesting to read about the relationship the two have had throughout the scientific revolution. Galileo seemed to be one of the first major scientific disruptors to religious teachings, however the author said that even many groups within the Catholic Church believed that his findings were progress, pushing Catholic European society forward intellectually. While the church eventually stood against Galileo, it also later stood to accept its teachings which set a good precedent for the relationship of these two fields. From this period forward the church became the predominant supporters of scientific pursuits. Whether it was the church directly, or other affiliated institutions, the majority of research was done on the budget of the church. The author noted that “…few could, or wished to, separate their scientific work from church concerns.” (P. 126).

It is said that philosophy guides science, and science guides politics, I see religion as merely a philosophy that was guiding the scientific philosophy of the time. Later it became a trend that aristocratic families would host scientists as patrons. This is very similar to the trend of musicians at the time, patrons would support musicians that would formerly have to stay within the confines of the churches use for the music and give them the level of freedom to make their best creative work. This is similar to the trend with the sciences, allowing for things like astronomy to be studied beyond their practical navigational uses. Capitalism doesn’t offer a consistent demand for the more philosophically driven scientific experiments. In many ways universities serve as a new form of patronage in todays society for professors who are driven by intellectual drive, rather than financial. This offers the opportunity for a healthy balance between religion and science because many private colleges are religiously affiliated. Rather, when science become driven purely by its financial opportunity it starts becoming dominated by investments in the military, oil and other high return endeavors. It is interesting in an aristocratic society how people have the leisure and motivation to become well versed in philosophy, sciences and religion. It is clearly a flawed system but this is a class that doesn’t exist even in capitalist societies because you always need to manage and increase your assets and “keep up with the joneses” so the result is a ruling class that is still capital driven rather than basing their social status in these pursuits. However in the scientific societies that eventually developed rules against the use of religion in scientific conversations started a trend of separation between the two fields. I think it would be better to have thinkers versed in religious, philosophical and scientific thinking in harmony but the current system has clearly veered away from that. I think the concept of religious-affiliated universities and private colleges that invest in professors that pursue projects in science and technology is the pinnacle of todays positive relationship between the religion and science.

Scientific Subjectivity

Many early beliefs about the earth, nature, and the universe that were at the time considered to be scientific fact turned out to be completely untrue. Some of these misconceptions, such as the geocentric model of the universe, are understandable; from earth’s perspective, it certainly looks as if the “heavenly bodies” are revolving around earth. Continue reading

The SciRev: What was Overthrown? Will it Last?

The Scientific Revolution was in principle a revolution or overthrow of Aristotelian cosmology. All of the previous conceptions of the sublunar realm and the heavens were upended and overturned. Innovations and realizations produced by the likes of Galileo Galilei, Nicolas Copernicus, Francis Bacon and others contributed to the process that would ultimately lead us to the current state of the scientific and technological field. These advancements are seen as permanent, accurate solutions and approaches to science, a more fact-based system than the Aristotelian system that came before it. However, that prior system lasted for hundreds of years, who is to say that this system will last forever?

The Aristotelian model viewed the sublunar realm as an area of generation and corruption, with four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. It viewed the realm of the heavens as a perfect and incorruptible arena that moved in a uniform circular motion. The practice of medicine was centered around examining the colors and consistencies of biles, blood and phlegm. These were concepts generally accepted and promoted by scientific, religious, and authoritative officials at this point in time. They had been established and “proven” through a general process. In this day and age of contemporary science and medicine, we view these ideas as arcane, outdated, and highly primitive. Who is to say that our current system of the scientific method and our observational processes won’t one day be viewed through a similar lens?

Steve Shapin in his work, Scientific Revolution,  argues that we must trust in science and rely on it as our most accurate source of knowledge. I believe that we ought to approach the very system that we currently employ with a healthy sense of skepticism. If we just blindly bind ourselves to the scientific method and other systems that we assume to be true, then how are we to be any more advanced than those who studied Aristotelian sciences? As a race it is our duty to improve and raise our level of consciousness and  understand that there is always much left to learn. It seems to me to be a dangerous assumption that we have simply “got it right this time”, that suddenly we have figured out the perfect approach to science. I have no doubt that in another hundred years, many of our current assumptions will be viewed as incorrect, if not simplistic. I beg our generation to take a careful approach.

The current debate over climate change is a perfect example. Despite substantial evidence for the case of change, there are many people in the United States and around the world who refuse to believe it. This summer during an internship in Washington, D.C. I was fortunate enough to meet with a member of the House of Representatives. During our meeting I was astounded to learn that he simply did not believe in global warming or climate change. This is the type of nativity that we need to avoid. WE must approach all assumptions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

What to trust?

On the final page of Steven Shapin’s Scientific Revolution, he writes, “Science remains whatever it is- certainly the most reliable body of knowledge we have got.” This implies that we ought to trust science. But, the fact is that today, many of us don’t. 21st century public opinion polls show that Americans do not believe that the earth is warming as a result of human-induced activities. Similarly, people do not believe that their kids should get vaccinated, or that their risk of lung cancer will go down if they quit smoking. So, what has rendered this broken sense of trust? I make the case that the consumption of today’s media is partly to blame for the threatened reputation of science.

Forget information that is unbiased, factual, or free of rhetoric. Today’s media has a narrow scope. It is manifested in invoking a particular emotion in an audience, at the expense of accuracy. In other words, there is an incentive for the media to acquire a level of credibility that may distort from factual science. For instance, reporters have become experts at breaking down complex scientific jargon into a language that is easier to understand for the non-scientist. As a result, people read “academic” papers that have been stripped of their original meaning. Likewise, journals feel pressured to publish papers only if they have “exciting” findings. This means that real, truthful science may not even make it to the newsstand.

One author suggests, “We are fed fudgings, misunderstandings, errors, and fabrications every day.” This is evident in today’s world, as researchers are guilty of altering their experiments by controlling certain variables, in order to produce the results that they want (i.e. results that they can tailor to their audience). In fact, one study revealed that 14% of the scientists surveyed said they know a scientist who has made up entire datasets. More shockingly, 72% of these scientists admitted that they know someone who has gone to the extent of eliminating data points in order to sharpen their results. This is just one instance that proves that the consumption of media is taking a toll on science’s credibility.

Looking forward, we should take Shapin’s words with a grain of salt. Yes, we cannot deny the legacy of the Scientific Revolution. Shapin taught us that science is knowledge- it is a “collectively practiced, historically embedded phenomena.” But, there is a problem that we ought to address. Our media is full of opinion-based, misguided, and meaningless information. Thus, we should consider how we consume it. If science cannot be trusted, perhaps we should trust ourselves. Trust yourself to question how you consume this constant barrage of misinformation. Trust yourself to be like Bacon, to question authorities- maybe not by denying everything that you have been told, but by asking questions that matter (e.g. Should the methodology be critiqued? Are there any limitations to a particular study? Is the sample size representative enough to make a generalization about a larger population?). If we can do this, perhaps science can earn back the reputation that Shapin puts forth.

« Older posts

© 2023 ST112 A2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑