The Scientific Revolution

During the Scientific Revolution scientists such as Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes and Bacon wrestled with questions about God, human aptitude, and the possibilities of understanding the world. Eventually, the implications of the new scientific findings began to affect the way people thought and behaved throughout Europe. Society began to question the authority of traditional knowledge about the universe. This in turn, allowed them to question traditional views of the state and social order. No longer was the world constructed as the somewhat simple Ptolemaic Model suggested.

The Earth for the first time became explicable and was no longer the center of the universe. Many beliefs that had been held for hundreds of years now proved to be false. In addition to this, the Roman Catholic Church, which had always clarified the movements of the universe with the divine power of God, was now questioned by many. The Roman Catholic Church was naturally set as 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.

Fortunately the revolution did not happen overnight but moderately over a 150-year period. Nicolaus Copernicus was one of the first astronomers to question the single worldview that the Christian faith supported. Though it was in the later years of his life that the he published On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, the question was now raised as to the correctness of the mechanics of the world. In his writings, Copernicus was not able to accurately describe the revolutions of the Earth, Sun and Stars, but he was the first man to use mathematics and observation in order to create a more accurate picture of the universe.

However, in order to conform to the Roman Catholic Church, Copernicus expressed himself carefully. Copernicus states, I may well presume, most Holy Father, that certain people, as soon as they hear that in this book about the Revolutions of the Spheres of the Universe I ascribe movement to the earthly globe, will cry out that, holding such views, I should at once be hissed off the stage (Aspects of Western Civilization 41) Through this statement, Copernicuss expresses his concern that the church will not agree with him.

Instead of stating his findings freely and allowing the Roman Catholic Church to ponder there validity, he is troubled with the opinion of the church. The statement acts to justify his finding with the church and connect them to God. Copernicus realized that the church would be quick to judge him, and possibly this is why he didnt publish his theories until late in his life. His discoveries were not so much as important as were his methods of observation and application of mathematics to explain the world. His methods of discovery helped model the direction of science over the next hundred years.

Another important figure 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 served as a professor at the University of Padua, and it was during this time that he began to question the accuracy of the Churches representation of the world. Galileos approach towards knowledge was much different then the afore mentioned Copernicus. Where as Copernicus presented his finding to the mercy of the church, Galileo wrote his conclusions and left the Roman Catholic Church interpret them as they chose.

The very nature of his findings pitted him as an opponent of the church. The Earth was not the center of the universe. Galileo had seen far into the heavens with the telescope he had designed and created an even more accurate mold of the universe. He trumpeted his views everywhere, and condemned anyone who was not immediately persuaded as a fool. Galileos finding where irrefutable in his own eyes. Unfortunately powerful figures within the church did not agree with him. Biblical passages seemed to paint a much different picture of the world.

Galileo merely suggested, The bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go (Aspects of Western Civilization 44). He also argued the fact that God had endowed us with senses, reason and intellect and to ignore these would be doing the creator an injustice. The Roman Catholic Church was infuriated by Galileos teachings and at the age of 70 indicted him for heresy. They forced him, by threat of physical torture, to recant his teachings. Galileo did eventually retract them but died knowing he was not wrong.

Francis Bacon added a key element to the genesis of the mechanical universe in his attacks on traditional knowledge. Bacon was not a scientist, but he did take great joy in telling everybody why they were wrong. , He argued that all the old systems of understanding should be abandoned. He believed that knowledge shouldn’t be derived from books, but from experience itself. Bacon believed that our creator had endowed us with wisdom and senses and to deny these would be to gratify god with a lie (Aspects of Western Civilization 37).

He went further to say that only those who doubted the strength of religion should be afraid of the truth. The Church worried that the new science could somehow shake the foundation of religion. Finally in the latter part of the revolution Isaac Newton, an English mathematician, shaped the basics of modern day physics. In his findings Newton defined the relationships between mass, inertia and gravity. His studies provided the missing pieces of the puzzle Copernicus had begun and Galileo had attempted to complete. With his information the model of the universe had been at last completed.

The Bible and God were no longer needed to explain the mysterious connection of the planets and stars. Newton did not receive the same resistance from the church perhaps because his finding where towards the end of the Scientific Revolution. The Roman Catholic Church could no longer refute the finding of science and submitted. The advances in science over the 150-year period served to crush superstitions and magical believes that people had fathomed to explain the world. Copernicus began the revolution with his finding on the Earth, planets and stars.

Galileo went further to connect the world. This came to him at great cost. Bacon and Newton meet less resistance from the Church, possibly due to their approach. In the end science proved to have the final say in the matter, not so much as to discredit the church but rather to dictate there place in the world of science. Religion is based on faith; it always has been, during the Scientific Revolution the church had extended their grip into science. In the end they remain separate, leaving each individual to decide on their own.


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