Before the 16th century, Europe had a radically different approach and view of science. At that time, this system of explaining the universe and superstition were seen as equal counterparts. There was a belief almost, that the ways of life could not be explained logically, but only by superstition and the mysterious actions of God. That assumption was created in part by the Catholic church and since, the church influenced a large portion of the common people’s time and lives, science remained as it was. On the other hand, feudalism played a role in the lack of science.
During this time period, the general population was busy working for their nobles and kings in exchange for constant protection. Literacy and education were not priorities for the people; the only necessity for the world was to survive. However, there were some existing discoveries made by Classical Greece and Rome period. Along with the correct formulas of Greek math and geometry, Ptolemy’s view of a geocentric universe (all bodies of space revolve around the earth), and Galen’s incorrect descriptions of the human body were concepts held by the Catholic Church.
Because these values were proven with scripture evidence, the primality and incorrectness of science can be clearly displayed. However, the events of the Scientific Revolution played a positive influence upon the intellectual and religious thought during its time which further modernized society. The Scientific Revolution could be described as not only a movement toward organized science and a rebellion against the way of thought but a change in culture and institution as well.
During the 16th to 18th centuries, ew sub-sciences such as astronomy, optics, physics, and chemistry were created with a definite advancement in the mathematics and philosophy. The revolution was mainly caused by the necessity for more knowledge and learning. The rediscovery of ancient yet highly developed mathematics from the Babylonians, Greeks, and Egyptians during the Renaissance only added fuel to the spark of interest. The final cause of the revolution was the Age of Exploration which required inventors and physicist to create clocks and watches for sailors to navigate the oceans more efficiently and accurately.
As a whole, these events created something bigger, The Scientific Revolution, and its start is credited with one man, Nicolaus Copernicus. He claimed that the Earth was not the center of the universe as believed by the Church and thus the whole world. However, his heliocentric theory published in his book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (or On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres) could not be proven while he was still alive, as the world lacked telescopes. Only later would Johannes Kepler confirm Copernicus’s idea with mathematical proof.
Copernicus would not just start the path for a revolution, but he would also lead the way for a numerous amount of physicists and astronomers. Soon after, an astronomer/physicist named Galileo Galilei studied gravity, falling objects, and motion of pendulums all while looking to the skies above with the new invention of the telescope. Galileo was the first to explain that an object’s mass does not determine its falling acceleration and the principle that an object will continue to accelerate unless there is friction present.
He supposedly dropped objects from the top of the Tower of Pisa to prove these basis, but proving that is another term paper for another time. Sir Isaac Newton, another physicist, used Galileo’s findings to fuel his own as he created three laws of motion and other bases for gravity that he published in Philosophi? Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Needless to say, he was one smart apple-pun intended. He, with the help of his predecessors, explained how the universe worked and how it would continue to work forever.
Also, not to mention, he created the subject that all high-school kids love and know so well: calculus. On the other side of the spectrum, mathematics and philosophy were two other subjects that saw major advances and changes during the Scientific Revolution. For starters, the French genius Rene Descartes could be considered one of the fathers of modern mathematics as well as an important figure in the revolution. Since it rained a lot in France, and Descartes could not always go out, he had more than enough free time to singlehandedly create the Cartesian plane or the x and y axis.
This system could be considered one of the most important aspects of geometry and math, and it led to something even better than calculus: linear algebra. Gottfried Leibniz was another mathematician/philosopher. He believed that the universe was composed of spiritual entities called monads, and these objects gave the appearance of the physical world. Basically these monads in his mind were atoms. Overall, all the people who played important roles in the Scientific Revolution thought of themselves as reformers. They ushered in a new age of reason and explanation.
Now, the world did not answer its questions with ancient responses; it thought for itself. As the Scientific Revolution grew stronger and stronger, it lead to another movement known as the Enlightenment. While the revolution stressed the importance of improving academics and intellectual aspects, the Enlightenment focused on developing politics and religion. Three main beliefs emerged from this movement: dualism, rationalism, and empiricism. Dualism focused on the separation of mind and body or a subject and an object.
Rationalism described that opinions should be based on logic and not previous experiences. Rationalists also believed that everything could be explained by science and reason and the absence of miracles and superstition. Empiricism stated that humans must observe the world rather than use pre existing ideas and books. These ideals would be used by Enlightenment philosophes to create changes in law and government. To begin with, John Locke created one of the most important ideologies for a state.
The Social Contract Theory stated that a ruler must provide his subjects with life, liberty, and property, and if he did not, rebellion would be justified. The Baron of Montesquieu created the concept of separation of powers and the checks and balances system, Voltaire described the power of freedom of religion and speech in a nation, Diderot stated that a man could live a moral and righteous life without the presence of religion, while Adam Smith thought of the laissez faire and capitalism systems of economies.
The notions mentioned may sound familiar, for they are the support and foundation for democracy. These philosophes created not just a new type of government; they sparked revolutions (not the Scientific kind). Citizens now revolted against the kings and queens who ruled their nations and treated them poorly. Rebels set up new governments with a democratic mindset, rulers were beheaded, and people had rights, equality, and freedoms. Politically, in some people’s minds, society progressed more in the Enlightenment, a span of around 150 years, than it ever did since the thousands of years in ancient history.
As the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution’s ideals spread quickly across Europe, no part of society was free of change even the sacred Catholic church. One of the new spiritual ideas was deism. People now began to believe that although there was one God and he did create the universe, he stopped his involvement with humans and Earth. God let the universe work as an independent machine. Along with deism, John Locke created the theory of separation of church and state. This idea would prove useful as it prevented religious leaders from having political influences as well.
Locke’s theory and Voltaire’s belief in freedom of religion went hand in hand together as they are fragments of the foundation for the United States government. On the other hand, criticism of monarchies and the rise of constitutionalism emerged from the minds of Enlightenment philosophes. For the first time, monarchs were seen as servants of the people rather than God. In creating these changes, some Enlightenment philosophes and revolutionary scientists were challenging the church. After Copernicus created his heliocentric theory, humans began to view themselves as not perfect.
No longer were they center of the universe as God intended; there were not the center of anything. Due to more discoveries, the world quickly became free of superstition, miracles, and magic and was filled with reason, logic, and science. Ultimately, the Scientific Revolution proved scriptures wrong while the Enlightenment persuaded society for an increase in secularism. However, the Church did have its defenses. Men like Galileo and Copernicus were accused of heresy, a first class ticket to eternal damnation.
The Church could issue executions or imprisonment which scared some to not publish their findings. Without the heavy influence of Christianity upon the Scientific Revolution, perhaps there could have been more advances sooner. The events of the Scientific Revolution played a positive influence upon the intellectual and religious thought during its time which further modernized society. Using inductive reasoning and a new method of inquiry, the mysteries of the world and nature were revealed. The Scientific Revolution was the destruction of ignorance and the rise of study.
Yet, science still battles religion in a war of the new (science) versus the old (religion) or observation versus faith. These subjects always contradict each other as science analyzes how the world behaves while religion tells us how people should behave. Surprisingly, both scientists and theologists ask the same questions; science explains through logic while religion explains through spiritual meaning. Blending the two institutions will prove impossible, as their differences are so strong, they will always remain separate.