What was the Scientific Revolution?
The Scientific Revolution was a rapid advance in learning as a result of the systematic form of inquiry known as the Scientific Method. The consistency of this method made it easy for scientific discoveries to be transferred from one country to another; it gave scientists a common language. Some key figures in the Scientific Revolution include: Copernicus’ revelation that the earth revolved around the sun, Rene Descartes’ attempt to base his beliefs about the world on provable facts, Francis Bacon’s copious writings on the possibilities for science to improve the human condition, as well as Newton’s theories on motion and gravity.
The Scientific Revolution
The rapid advance in learning, known as the Scientific Revolution, was largely a product of the systematic form of inquiry known as the scientific method. The scientific method provided a way for people to learn things more systematically and be able to share that learning with other people so that they didn’t have to repeat the learning themselves. With the scientific method, learning is incremental. A question is posed, a hypothetical solution is formed, observations are made, and the hypothesis is either supported or refuted.
Learning is a step-by-step systematic process with the scientific method. There is a method to learning with this. You have a question that’s posed. How is something done? How could we make this better? You come up with a hypothetical solution, or your hypothesis, for what you think will happen if you do these experiments, for how you think you can fix it, and then you try out different experiments. One at a time, try out an experiment, observe the results, and after a series of these experiments you can decide whether the hypothesis is either supported or refuted.
Often, the hypothesis is then going to be tweaked. You’re going to adjust it one way or another and then do more experiments and see if the observations prove that your new hypothesis is correct or incorrect. It’s just a very systematic way to get accurate results and come up with an accurate solution for a problem. In that way, people learned a lot of different things during the Scientific Revolution.
The consistency of the method, you’re using the same steps each time, made it easy for scientific discoveries to be transferred from one country to another. If one person said, “I used the scientific method. I came to this discovery,” someone else in another country could do the exact same experiment. They could say, “Okay, they came up with this hypothesis. I’m going to test it, watch the observations, and see if I agree with them.”
The person who is coming up with this discovery has already tested it lots of times before he announces it as a discovery. Whenever someone else goes to test it, because the scientific method is so consistent, they should get the same results that the original discoverer did. Along with a standard form of measurement, the development of the scientific method gave scientists a common language.
Even if they didn’t speak the same language, even if they weren’t from the same country, all of the scientists at this time were using the same standard as far as measurement. The measurements would translate from one country to another without having to do any new calculations and they were using the scientific method. It wasn’t exactly a language, but it meant that everyone was conducting their scientific experiments the same way.
They posed a question, they would say, “Okay, this is what I think will happen,” or “this is what I think will be a good solution,” they perform a series of experiments, observe the results, and see if that hypothesis is correct or incorrect and if they need to adjust it. By having every scientist do this, that was a common process, a common system. It became like a common language for them. Scientists also benefited from the development of powerful telescopes and microscopes.
When they were conducting these experiments, when they were trying to observe results and see if their hypotheses were true or false, they had these new powerful devices to use as well. That advanced the learning during the Scientific Revolution. There were several key figures in the Scientific Revolution. We talked about scientists making these discoveries. These were some of the important scientists and some other people who’ve relied on science for their philosophical ideas.
Let’s look at a few. Copernicus startled the world when he theorized that the earth revolved around the sun. Since that is how we are used to hearing it, that makes sense, but at the time, this challenge the geocentric model of the universe that was widely accepted at the time. Most people, pretty much all people, believed that the sun revolved around the earth, that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything else was just working around the earth.
Copernicus, after observing things, said, “I don’t think that’s right. I think that, really, the earth is revolving around the sun. Maybe some other things are, too.” He came up with this new theory that really just startled everyone. It surprised them, because it wasn’t anything they were used to hearing. Then,the Italian, Galileo, supplied scientific experiments that proved Copernicus’s theory was accurate.
Copernicus had made so many observations on his own, and he came up with this theory. He announced it, and then Galileo came along and produced different scientific experiments that would support Copernicus’s claim. It would make other people be able to believe it more easily. That idea slowly matriculated and became more accepted. It wasn’t easy at first, because a lot of people were used to what they believed.
It would be like if today someone told you, “Oh, actually the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun. The earth revolves around Mars.” You would not think that was accurate because of everything we’ve learned so far. You would probably need a lot of scientific experiments and other evidence that was going to show you that it was different. The people at that time needed that to let them know that Copernicus’s theory was actually correct.
One of the philosophical heroes of the scientific revolution was the Frenchman Rene Descartes. He attempted to base his beliefs about the world on provable facts. He was a philosopher, but he only wanted to base his philosophies on provable facts. He didn’t want to discuss the ideas based on what he thought. He wanted it to be ideas based on provable facts, on evidence that he could show to support his philosophies.
One of his most widely-known sayings is: I think, therefore I am. The simple explanation for that is just if you are thinking about it you exist, then you obviously must exist, because there is an “I” to do the doubting about the existence in the first place. It’s a little circular, but that was his way of saying, you know, if you are able to think about the fact that you might not exist, then you definitely do exist.
He tried to use logic like that and other provable facts to support his different philosophies. Francis Bacon was an English intellectual who wrote copiously on the possibilities for science to prove the human condition. Francis Bacon said the human condition was in bad shape. In general, people weren’t living as well as they should be living. He believed that science was the answer. He wrote copiously on this.
He relied on science, and he was promoting science as the answer to advancing the human condition and making it making life better for people. Then, Sir Isaac Newton excelled in many different fields, but he’s best known for his theories on motion and gravity. Newton helped create the idea that objects in the world behave in a regular and predictable ways. For instance, if I let go of this marker, it would fall.
That is because we know about the force of gravity on Earth and this marker, or anything I was holding, would fall if I let go of it, because that’s how gravity works. This object would behave in a regular, predictable way in regular conditions. The Scientific Revolution was perpetuated by many different figures from all across Europe, but it was basically just an increased spread of learning. There was a lot of learning going on and this was primarily based on people starting to use the scientific method.