, Research Paper
Questions! Where did I come from? Why is the sky blue? How do the trees produce fruit? Ever since man looked around his environment and tried to figure out the things that was going on around him he’d ask questions. Mankind has always wanted to understand the world around him.
For centuries mankind had used a belief system of supernatural powers, gods and goddesses and eventually an all-powerful God to explain the world around him. And for a while supernatural explanations of how nature worked was enough. But by the 16th century man had started to explore the workings of the world around him. This exploration of nature and how it relates to mankind is called science. This time of exploration from the 16th century is called the Scientific Revolution.
We will take a look at the development of science throughout the periods of the first scientific revolution. We will take a look at the men who played a significant part in the development of science and how that development affected mankind’s outlook on the universe in which he lived. We will discuss the ideas of Galileo, Bacon and Marquis de Condorcet and see how their ideas affected society.
In order to understand how revolutionary the ideas of the Scientific Revolution where we need to understand theories of the universe that preceded 1500’s called the Aristotelian concept of the universe. According to this theory all matter was arranged in a hierarchical order according to its quality. The higher up the order that the matter was placed the better the quality of that matter. The Christian church adapted the principal with, of course, God being at the top. The closer to the top that the object was, the closer to God it was. Mankind is placed just below Angels in the order, and therefore close to God. Mankind was God’s creation in His own image, and therefore the most important creation on earth. Because earth was the home of God’s most important creation it was placed at the center of the universe, with the sun ,moon and stars going around it. This made sense because ancient man could see the sun and moon coming up and going down over the horizon. And if one pondered the question of why the sun and moon rose and fell it could be concluded that they, along with the Stars, rotated around the earth. This concept is called Ptolemaic astronomy.
The first figure that we will discuss in the Scientific Revolution was Galileo Galilei. He was an Italian born professor of mathematics who had a great interest in the workings of the universe.
Galileo had seen into the heavens with the telescope he had designed and created an even more accurate picture of the universe. The Earth was not the center of the universe, as Copernicus had stated in 1543,he claimed.
Galileo’s observations went against the official teachings of the church. Did not the Bible say that the sun stood still according to the Old Testament story of Jericho? The Earth not being the center of the universe would not fit into the Ptolemaic astronomy concept. The academic philosophers, who subscribed to Church doctrine, feared that if Galileo’s principles are found to be true then people might question the accuracy of the Churches representation of the world, and possibly lose belief in the Bible. The Church was infuriated by Galileo’s teachings and at the age of 70 indicted him for heresy.
In 1615 Galileo published a letter written to the Grand Duchess of Tuskegee Christina, in which he defended his scientific positions against the accusations of the Church influenced philosophers.
He states in the letter that those who accused him aren’t interested in the truth and show, “a greater fondness for their own opinions than for the truth, they sought to deny and disprove the new things which, if they cared to look for themselves, their own senses would of demonstrated to them.” He wrote that the charges made against him are sprinkled, “passages taken from the Bible which they had failed to understand properly, and which were ill suited to their purposes.” He went on to say that his attackers are spreading rumors about his theories being unholy when he states, “they have endeavored to spread their opinion that such propositions in general are contrary to the Bible and are consequently damnable and heretical.” When he wrote, “they would have us together abandon reason in the evidence of our senses in favor of some Biblical passage, but under the surface meaning of its words a different sense” , he was saying that those who speak out against him are saying that we should give up reason and scientific evidence and believe their particular interpretation of Scripture even though it may not be God meant. Galileo makes the argument that even “though the Holy Bible never speak untruth… it is very abstruse, and may say thanks which are quite different from what its bare words signify.” He went on further to write that an order for the Bible to hold truth for each and every man it must be interpreted and therefore the words may have a different meaning when read by different people in different circumstances. Galileo is basically saying in this letter that those who oppose him use verses from the Bible out of context and that would be better for them to use reason in trying to understand God’s grand plan for nature, and that God had endowed us with senses, reason and intellect and to ignore these would be doing the creator an injustice.
Englishman Sir Francis Bacon and Frenchman Rene Descartes were both proponents of a new scientific method of explaining God’s universe.
Descartes was a mathematic genius, which did not adhere to the traditional scientific principles of Aristotle. He believed that it was necessary to doubt existing truths, until using the deductive reasoning and a systematic mathematical process could prove them.
Bacon, too, had no great love for the old traditional methods of trying to understand the things around us. He called for the use of the “inductive method” of acquiring knowledge. This method relied on particular observations to arrive at generalizations. By studying particular trees, such as apple trees and peach trees, scholars could induce knowledge about trees in general.
In 1620 Bacon wrote New Organon, which expressed his views on the new Scientific Method. He wrote, “it is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the Super inducing and in a grafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we should result for ever a circle with mean progress…” , which means scientists should have used the new scientific method instead of the traditional methods of Aristotle and Plato.
Bacon used a metaphor, using insects, to show the three types of scientific methods. The first was like the ant that piled up tons of data but did nothing with it. The second was like the spider that wove exquisite and complex webs. The webs were just ideas of the scientist without any observation behind them. The third, which Bacon preferred, was the honeybee that took things from nature and mixed it with the stuff of its own being to produce something sweet and useful to humankind. In other words the scientist using this type of method gathered information by observation and experimentation, which is followed by a rational interpretation of the results. This is called the empirical method. Bacon felt that through use of his empirical method of science and with the support of the government funds scientists, like the ones at Gresham College, could make great strives in improving the lives of the population and making the nation powerful and rich.
Gresham College in London, England was an institution funded by Sir Thomas Gresham, which had close ties with the Royal Navy. Many instruments were developed there which aided in accurate time keeping and observation of the stars, which was so critical in ocean navigation.
Instruments such as a newer telescope, the thermometer, the microscope, the pendulum clock, the barometer and the air pump. These instruments not only helped England become a great sea power, by enabling ships to travel farther and return safely, but gave the scientists more accurate ways to gather information. The monarchy saw the value of instruments produced by the scientists and established the Royal Society of London in 1662.
England was not the only country whose monarchy recognized the usefulness of science. Other royal houses established and often funded scientific societies of their own. By 1700 there were four great academies in Europe, The Royal Society of London, the Academy of experimentation in Florence, The French Royal Academy and the Berlin Academy of Sciences. The academies were places where leading scientists met and were encouraged to experiment and do research. The findings of the Scientists were published in books and journals. These publications at first were read only by other scientists but eventually would be found in libraries and homes of the noblemen.
Scientific Revolution scientists such as Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes and Bacon wrestled with questions about God, human aptitude, and the possibilities of understanding the world. The Church was an opponent of the Scientific Revolution, not so much because of opposition to new ideas but instead because the new information contradicted the model of the world the church had created.
The Church felt that if people lost faith in the Church’s view of the universe then they might lose faith in the Church itself and not support it. Without support of the people ,and the money it brings, the Church could lose the power that it held in Europe. Eventually, the implications of the new scientific findings began to affect the way people thought and behaved throughout Europe.
The impact of the Scientific Revolution on how people thought about the world around them was great. It’s most direct influence was on European intellectuals who created a movement called the Enlightenment.
Enlightenment intellectuals greatly admired the accomplishments of the Scientific Revolution. As they had questioned the authority of traditional knowledge about the universe they also began to question traditional views of the state and social order. Their favorite term ,reason, literally meant the use of the scientific method to understand everything. Physical science then was not the only place where the method of observation and reasible deduction could be used.
At the center of the Enlightenment movement was a group of French writers and intellectuals, in Paris, called The Philosophes. Their goals were to use the Scientific method, or deductive reasoning, to solve mankind’s social problems. They believed that with reason the human condition could be changed for the better. They called for abolishing slavery, equality for all classes of people. represenitive government of the people, quality education for all the youth, and the birthright of each person to enjoy a happy life. Life here on earth should get better through progress and common sense thinking. This was change in attitude implied that man could have a good life here on earth and not have to wait until they entered heaven. Again this contradicted the model of man’s role in the world that the church had created.
One such example of the ideals of The Enlightenment was Sketch Of The progress Of The Human Mind, written by Marie-Jean Caritit, The Marquis de Condorcet. Written in 1793-94 he traced the nine stages, or epochs, of man’s progress as it had already happened. The tenth stage, he predicted, would be a society, where progress would provide mankind with a perfect life.
He writes, that nations should be equal and share in the enlightenment that is enjoyed by the powerful civilized nations.
“Should not all the nations of the world approach one day the state of civilization reached by the most enlightened peoples such as the French and the Anglo-American? Will not the slavery of nations subject to the Kings, the barbarity of African tribes, and ignorance of savages gradually disappear.” He further goes on to write that slavery will be abolished and all men will be free.” Thus the day will come when the sun will shine only on free man born knowing no other master but there reason; or tyrants in their slaves priests and they’re ignorant, hypocritical writings will exist only in the history books and theaters.” Scientific progress will produce wonderful machines to help mankind produce more goods and grow more food. “…that new tools, machines, and lose will add everyday at the capabilities and skills of humans they will improve a perfect precision of their products of decreasing the amount of time and labor needed to produce them… a smaller piece of land will be able to produce commodities of greater usefulness and value than before… we will be with the Jews for each type of soil of production of goods that will satisfy the greatest number of what it with the least amount of labor and expenditure.” He noted that mankind will be able to do away with war,” The most enlightened people, having seized for themselves the right to control their life and treasurer, was slowly come to perceive war as the deadliest plague and the most monstrous of crimes… they will understand that they cannot become conquers without losing the liberty that perpetual ounces of the only way to preserve independence and that they should seek their security not power.” And finally he wrote that progress will eliminate poverty and sickness, “No one can doubt the progress and preventive medicine, the use of healthier food and housing, a way of living that increases strength through exercise without destroying it through excess, and finally the destruction of the two most persistent causes it of deterioration, property and access of wealth, will lengthen for human beings the average life span and I share more good health and a stronger constitution. Clearly improvements in medical practices resulting from the progress of reason and the order of call society will cause transmittable and contagious diseases to disappear as well list diseases caused by climate,
nourishment and certain vocations.”
The men that we have discussed felt that it was important to open our eyes and discover the world around us and try and answer the many questions that human beings ask about our universe, through observation, experimentation and deductive reasoning. That all mankind had the ability to reason and make a better life for themselves here on earth through progress, and scientific inventions. The Scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment was just the beginning of a journey that mankind would take toward a world of better medicine, more and healthier food, shorter work hours and longer lives. And maybe, if we use a little more reason and common sense we can achieve the goal of The Marquis de Condorcet and live in that peaceful and perfect world.