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 In this day and age of contemporary science and medicine, we view these ideas as arcane, outdated, and highly primitive.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.