The paper “The Scientific Revolution - a Paradigm Shift from Miracles to Facts" is a persuading example of a term paper on science. It is easy to dismiss something which one makes no effort to understand. Throughout the middle ages, the understanding was undoubtedly sought with reference to God, religion, and the natural world. Theology procured its stature as the queen of all sciences (Galilei, 1957). Likewise, society adhered to the authority and teachings of the Church. However, sometime between the mid-sixteenth and early eighteenth century, a revolutionary event took place in history and took its seat as humanity’s new path to knowledge and understanding. This paper aims to show that the birth of Science radically transformed the manner by which society viewed religion, God and Nature. This period is known as the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution has led to modern discoveries beyond human imagination. Religion still plays a central role in the lives of human beings, but science still remains as humanity’s tool for finding rational explanations for phenomena that happen in the world.
The historical significance of the scientific revolution is characterized by humanity’s radical shift in thought. It primarily represented an intellectual movement from religion to science as the source of absolute knowledge that is clear and distinct to the mind. According to the medieval worldview, “Nature was conceived to be kept going from moment to moment by a miracle . . . It was God who ordered the universe through these miracles. .If God pronounced it to be so, then it must be so” (“Kreis”, 2009a, n.p.).
This paper will be divided into four parts. The first part will be devoted to a historical analysis of the scientific revolution. A brief history of the medieval worldview will be emphasized herein. The second part will focus on the impact that the scientific revolution made in contrast to the pre-established medieval worldview, in the light of religion, God and Nature. The third part will emphasize some important ideas and figures that gave birth due to the impact of the scientific revolution. Here I will stress how these ideas characterized the potential of society to progress and evolve. Finally, part four will consist of my conclusion as well as a justification on how this can be traced and applied further in this present day and age.
In order to understand what the scientific revolution is, it is vital to take note of what was happening before the birth of science. What was the dominant educated-European view of the world before science stepped into the picture? During the middle ages, Christianity was the dominant worldview. Christianity began to globalize, and along with it were challenges. One major challenge was the development of human reason. This was characterized by a man’s capacity to rationalize. The Church wanted to explain its teachings through faith alone. Thus, the supremacy of reason above faith was perceived as a threat to the Church. To compensate for this, Christian thinkers sought to reconcile religion and science, for according to the Church, they have one common factor, i.e. they both led to a single truth: “God exists” (Kreis, 2009b, n.p.). Furthermore, during the middle ages, the dominant view was that of geocentrism. Since the earth was known to be the center of the universe, human beings were made to feel central above all else. It is this view that the Church accepted and advocated. It was not until a major breakthrough by Nicolaus Copernicus that initiated the first and final break from religious dogma.
Miracles vs. Facts
Herein is the birth of modern science. Since the time of the publication of Copernicus’ On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), religious authorities and teachings were attacked and questioned. In what ways did this revolution affect the previous worldview? The greatest impact was on how people thought and believed. Due to the rise of modern scientific methods, the geocentric view of the universe was replaced with the new heliocentric theory, which made the sun as the center of the universe. Religion was forced to step down as the source of truth along with the decline of the authority of the Church. Not only did the power of religious authorities decline, so was the nature of human knowledge. “This, in turn, raised questions about the traditional Human Eternal Verities, i.e. how humans understood themselves in relation to 'God, Nature, and Man'” (“Hatch,” n.d., n.p.). Science was slowly overpowering the powerful image of God. “Science is faith. And the Gospel of that faith was written by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and others” (“Kreis,” 2009a, n.p.).
The foundation of religion is faith, while science stems from human reason, i.e. the capacity of human beings to think. The former hindered humanity’s potential to intellectually grow, while the latter paved the way towards a new era of human discovery. This new era of human discovery is known as the Enlightenment.
Immanuel Kant (1784) defined Enlightenment as “daring to know”. The emphasis herein is that during the Enlightenment, humanity started to realize that knowledge could be applied to practical human affairs. Thus, society conceived of science as that which could bring enlightenment to humankind. What were the scientific discoveries that shaped the minds of many? Among them are the following: Adam Smith came up with economic laws. John Locke formulated various ideas of constitutional government. Education for women began to flourish. Voltaire wrote works that attacked the established religious order. (Strayer, 2008). The beginning of modern science continued to flourish throughout history, and along with it came the development of human inquiry.
In the nineteenth century, science was applied to new sorts of inquiry; it undermined Enlightenment assumptions. Among the influential intellectual figures are Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. It is in this regard that science, along with its developments, characterized the potential of human beings to progress and evolve by the use of reason above faith. Are these discoveries of the Enlightenment still applicable today? What about religion?
Science - a dogma?
Indeed, the birth of science has led to modern discoveries beyond human imagination. Religion still plays a central role in the lives of human beings, but science still remains as humanity’s tool for finding rational explanations for phenomena that happen in the world. The scientific revolution represented the final break with religious dogma. It marked the transition of humanity towards an evolved modern way of thinking.
I end this essay with insight on today’s progress in scientific thought. During the late 1900s, Thomas Kuhn (1962), an American physicist, raised a controversial issue in his work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He questioned the authenticity of the scientific revolution. “Was there a Scientific Revolution that replaced pre-scientific thinking about nature and society and thus marked the transition to modernity? Which later developments, if any, are truly revolutionary?” (Nickles, 2009, n.p.).
Indeed, many scholars have challenged the claim that there was a development appropriately called The Scientific Revolution. Steven Shapin (1996) captures the tension by starting his book with the following statement: “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it” (p. 1).