During the scientific revolution, nearly 500 years ago, budding scientists faced an even greater impediment than discovering the complex ideas and formulas of calculus: established societal beliefs. Not only were scientists making completely new discoveries with little prior scientific knowledge, but their discoveries largely went against societal beliefs and religion at the time. This draws a very similar parallel to the present day issue of climate change, in which much of society refuses to accept the scientific truth, limiting the true potential of it. The advancement of science has and continues to face challenges, not only from the mathematical and scientific problems themselves, but also the societal ones.
During the start of the scientific revolution, religion provided all established knowledge, causing new scientific ideas to be controversial. As great philosophers began to comprehend the universe through astronomy, physics, and the other sciences, their discoveries started to go against the established doctrine. For instance, Copernicus’s idea that our solar system is heliocentric contradicted all previous understanding of our cosmos. Furthermore, Aristotle’s proposal that all life had intrinsic value was previously unheard of (librarypoint.org). These new scientific speculations strongly contradicted what was told in the bible. Therefore, it is to be expected that there would be upset at the introduction of these scientific ideas. Think of it like this: if your explanation for all things physical had been written down clearly in a book, and the desires and tellings of God had been preached to you for your entire life, it is expected that you would be upset if someone told you everything you knew was wrong. Science did this very thing. It provided doubts about the presence of God by offering logical explanations to explain how else our cosmos functions. Therefore, these pioneering scientists were not only delving into new territories with no prior knowledge, but also they were going against what society wanted to believe. Society provided no guidance for the philosophers of the scientific revolution; on the contrary, they were doubted and questioned when they offered their conjectures on the universe. Despite this, society has come to accept science as the established doctrine in today’s world. However, that is not to say that all science is fully accepted.
Environmental science and climate change, both exceptionally valid, are questioned by 53% of the global community and the entire conservative party in the United States government (theguardian, ES118). This could be considered as the second scientific revolution. Despite exhaustive data and experimentation, many simply do not want to accept climate change as a reality. It could be that, like the scientific revolution discussed in Shapin’s book, the idea of climate change is too disruptive to our current society. I think, however, the reason people are fighting against the notion that the climate is changing, is a result of the inconvenience it would provide. For example, if Trump were to admit to the reality of climate change, his political influence through fossil fuel industries would decline (grist.org). Furthermore, accepting climate change as a reality would increase the societal pressure to reduce energy use, divest from fossil fuels, and decrease general consumption of goods such as plastics, cars, and processed foods. This is the barrier environmentalists must break through. People do not want to care about climate change; the things they would need to do and give up are too great. That said, progress is being made in the form of renewable energy and environmental policies. However, for humanity to better mitigate the effects of climate change, society must also accept it as a reality, as they accepted the scientific ideas established by scientists such as Aristotle and Galileo.
Societal resistance to science is not contained to just one time period. It is perpetual. There will constantly be new ideas and theories that will oppose established knowledge and beliefs. Society frequently doubts and refuses to accept science, even if all the evidence supports it. With an issue as serious and imminent as climate change, this is a critical challenge. While questioning science is important for accountability, it is important for society to accept science as it provides key solutions to our world’s problems.