Since the beginning of the early civilizations, man tried to understand the world around him and why events take place. Some tried to put symbols to non-living things and even on natural occurrences, while many turned to religion to explain the meaning of life and the mystery behind the creation story. However, there were a few who deviated from this unyielding faith in religious preaching and sought to answer the world’s many mysteries through their own studies. In Europe, this desire to solve these mysteries escalated into a conflict between religion and science that resulted to the advent of the Scientific Revolution. Regardless of the criticisms and opposition from religion, the Scientific Revolution ushered the beginning of European intellectual development by providing new means to understand the mysteries of the universe and ushered the influx of new ideas that revolutionized the understanding of people on life and the universe.
Studies regarding the universe and other aspects of life had long been argued throughout the globe since the Ancient Period as early scholars tried to give their perceptions on how man can understand these mysteries. Their ideas had been passed on throughout the globe and were used as foundations for other philosophers or scientists to counter or support. Religion, especially the Catholic Church, had mostly monitored these new studies and made sure these studies were adherent to their standards and endorsed what theories their followers should accept. One of these endorsed theories pertained to the very structure of the universe and the nature of the heavenly bodies, including the Earth. Alongside early philosophers, the Catholic Church advocated the Ptolemaic or geocentric theory based from the works of Roman writer, mathematician, astronomer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy, which argued that the Earth is in the center of the universe. The Earth is then surrounded by several spheres where the planets, stars and even Heaven is located. The Earth, according to this theory, constantly changes and is an imperfect plane made up of material substances. The planets and other heavenly bodies move on the outer spheres from the Earth, starting from the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the stars. Beyond these spheres is where the Empyrean Heaven is located or the realm of God and those who have been saved. Religious or mythological cosmology had also been prominent in the period as a means to explain the creation story and who had been responsible for such act. The public had immediately accepted these theories out of the pretense that their religious leaders supported these theories and there were no other theories contesting the studies
However, by the 16th century, questions had been raised regarding the accuracy of these traditional theories and scientists provided their own analysis over these olden beliefs. The first expert that had questioned the olden beliefs on the universe was a Polish mathematician named Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543). In his book “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”, Copernicus argued that Ptolemy’s theory does not match with the movements of the heavenly bodies and advocated that the sun is in the center of the universe and not the Earth. This theory on heliocentricity argued that the sun was motionless in the center of the universe and the planets, including the Earth, revolve around it. Copernicus argues that while there is a perceived movement of the sun around the earth, he argues that this is due to the daily rotation of the planet around the sun each year. Since Copernicus was not a physicist, he was unable to answer the inconsistencies that come along with his theory. He was also very reluctant to publish his findings regarding the issues he had discovered with the Copernican system. However, he was coerced to publish it due to a Lutheran scholar who read the drafts and included an introduction that it was just an abstract idea and not a theory against the established concept of heaven and earth. Since his death, Copernicus’ ideas remained seen as a plausible data but not a realistic or working one. Nonetheless, the Copernicanism theory had been the first major wrench to the Ptolemaic system that had been advocated by the Church.
Aside from the fact it became the first major challenge to the traditional concepts of the universe, it is said that Copernicus’ revolutionary idea, albeit seen as an abstract idea since the time of his death, triggered the onset of what is now known as the Scientific Revolution. The term implies that it is the period in history wherein a dramatic upsurge of new techniques and theories were introduced to provide another perspective in crucial issues and introduced both modern science and intellectual development. In this period, scientists have slowly begun to introduce new facts and studies to answer as to why the universe moves as it is and how do factors influence these changes. After Copernicus, German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) utilized the laws of planetary motion to support the heliocentric theory and observed the movement of the planets (First Law), their speed and their distance from the sun (Second Law) and magnetic force to sustain his argument. His studies were written in several books such as the Cosmographic Mystery (1596), Astronomia Nova (1609) and The Harmonies of the World (1619), revising Copernicus’ theory to understand motion and contradict the Aristotelian belief of the difference between heaven and earth .
With the structure of the universe explained and proven by Copernicus and Kepler respectively, the revolution had introduced further understanding on the very nature of the planets and their structure. Italian scientist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the first person to analyze and observe the heavens through a telescope, which enabled him to discover the surface of the moon, Jupiter’s four moons, Venus and the sunspots. These discoveries made by Galileo were written in the book ‘The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius)’ published in 1610 and caused an uproar throughout Europe regarding their concept of the universe . However, the Church and skeptics condemned both Copernicanism and Galileo’s work as it threatened both Christianity and the overall conception of the universe. They saw Galileo’s work as heretic and even forced Galileo to stand in trial after the release of his book ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ in 1623 that refueled the discussion on heliocentricity. Galileo became a heretic and continued to work on his final book ‘Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating the Two New Sciences’ in 1938, which details his entire physics research for thirty years .
Despite the imposition that the Galilean thesis and Copernicanism are considered heresies by the Catholic Church, astronomers leaned towards these two theories and accepted them as the new conception of the universe. However, there were still uncertainties when it came as to the factors that enable motion through the universe as no one had been able to consolidate Copernicus’, Galileo’s and Kepler’s positions regarding this matter. When English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton (1642-1727) entered the discussions and introduced his book “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” or the “Principia”, Newton expounded on three laws of motion that guides the planetary bodies. He explained that the reason why planetary bodies revolve around elliptical orbits around the sun is due to the gravitational pull of each body (also known as gravity). Newton also explained that the essence that all motion in the universe can be proven with just one universal law. Cosmology had also taken a new twist when Newton introduced the world-machine concept, which argues that the universe is a huge expanse of machinery that operates according to the laws set by time, space, and motion. Newton became one of the prominent faces in the Scientific Revolution era and even inspired other scientists such as Albert Einstein centuries later with his theory of relativity .
The advent of the Scientific Revolution did not just introduce new ideas and concepts in Science but also triggered further intellectual development throughout Europe after the 17th century. First and foremost, the Scientific Revolution introduced the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment, which became prominent throughout Europe as the public questioned the validity of tradition as compared to reason and individualism. It is said that this age revolutionized human thought and introduced logic to arrive in possible conclusions and reasons as to why the acts happened. Similar to the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment contradicted with superstition and intolerance displayed by the ruling factions in Europe and America, but also introduced new means to understand the nature and man’s role in society. Aside from the Enlightenment, the introduction of life sciences was also triggered by the Scientific Revolution. The movement was pioneered by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) as he introduced a classification system to organize plant data through their sexuality and structure to enable further development. The social sciences had also been encouraged by the Scientific Revolution and enabled philosophers to challenge preconceived norms on human kind and introduce their own. Some of the most notable philosophers in the period were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Men (1750)) and Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations (1776)). Finally, science had also been given immense attention since the 18th century as it became a major subject from the elementary to university years. Governments had also utilized the scientific breakthroughs from the past and utilized them in military efforts and establishing a world order .
It is undeniable that both religion and science play a heavy role in the development of mankind since the time of the ancient civilizations. Both have presented their perspectives as to how to understand life and the universe in its entirety, and shown lapses in some areas that the other tries to answer. The advent of the Scientific Revolution opened the minds to the public that perhaps; there is another way to understand the mysteries surrounding the planet and challenge what is currently perceived as a fact. While religion had been reluctant to accept these scientific advancements, the introduction of new techniques, perspectives and data had triggered not just a scientific revolution, but also intellectual progress which legacy remains up to the present time. If science had not been allowed to flourish in that time period, knowledge regarding the universe and human kind would not be as liberal or accurate as it is seen today due to religious biases and restrictions on research.
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