Presentation and Analysis of scientific evolution and history – Analysis and emphasis on two basic issues of scientific evolution as derived from the two following questions addressed within the set environment of researching into the field of History of Science – Reflections drawn upon the belief of David C. Lindberg as far as the scientific evolution and progress during Medieval years is concerned – Reflections drawn upon the evolution of the scientific field of cosmology and the revolution performed in this field leading to the breakdown of Aristotelian and Ptolemaic theories of cosmology
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This paper presents historical evolution of science. Paraphrasing a quote of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ‘a room without books is like a body without a soul’, one could dare to say that history without evidence and research findings in the field of scientific and artistic progress and evolution is like a narration without scope. Besides, the difference between stories and history lies in their scope. History is to be the objective depiction of things, people, events, so that present and future generations can draw their conclusions and valuable guidelines as far as the nature of human existence is concerned. If stories aim at combining pleasure with knowledge of a nation’s tradition and culture, history is to provide people with researched knowledge into the evolution of human kind. Therefore, studying science and the way it evolved throughout the years hand in hand with humans’ evolution is a natural outcome of historical studies. This paper is to focus on two specific aspects of scientific evolution, according to the following questions. The first aspect of scientific progress which is to be analyzed and presented derives from what has been said by David Lindberg regarding science’s treatment and progress within the historical period of the medieval years.
David C. Lindberg writes: “According to widespread popular belief, the period of European history known as the middle Ages or medieval period (roughly the years 450 – 1450) was a time of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition. The epithet ‘Dark Ages’ often applied to it, nicely captures this opinion.” This paper seeks to explore this statement in the light of developments in this period.
The period of medieval years is considered to be one of the so called dark pages in human history. This is mainly due to the nature of events which took place during these years and its effects on people and their quality of life. The medieval period is a period characterized by imposition and power of religious strictness and narrow mindedness. It is characterized by the prevalence of Christianity and the increasing number of Arabs and Islamic religion. Medieval Years ‘are frequently characterized as a time of ignorance and superstition, which placed the world of religious authorities over personal experience and rational activity’
Chronologically the Medieval Years are the ‘Middle Age’ which is ‘the period standing in the middle between the fall of Rome in 476 CE and the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century’. It is therefore obvious that the period of the medieval years was a period which shed no light to any aspect of life whether on a personal basis or a scientific one. The masses of people remained easy victims in the hands of the powerful ones who declared that their power was originating from religious sources. It was the lack of education and the poverty afflicting people along with the multiple wars which took place within the effort of nations to spread their power all over the known world of the time, which made things pretty easy for the ones who were obsessed by keeping their power in their hands and by imposing their own ways of thinking onto others. In the beginning, medieval years were permanently dominated by defensing or attacking wars. The most surprising of all is that most ‘wars were conducted in the name of religion, hiding their real reason of existence which was no other than the prevalence of economic and political power. Following the wars and the empowerment of Church, the real darkness came. Scientific progress, any kind of differentiated thinking, any rejection of the status quo was treated as a threat towards the established authority and power of the Church and the political powers of that period. There seems to be a labyrinth in which the only rope which can lead anyone out is to be effective, innovative thought. But this kind of thought was forbidden. All classical values of the Ancient Greek and Roman period had been rejected and the majority of poor people were treated as disposable materials, led under certain tactics and methods to serving their masters, being blind folded. No doubt or questions could arise as far as the way of living was concerned or on the potential rightness or mistake of any theory or attitude adopted on behalf of the ones on power. All these traits of that period led to some first awakenings of some human spirits who tried really hard to start realizing what was going on and what was supposed to be better for their society to happen. A wave was risen in this ocean of darkness and ignorance which started causing more and more waves of all those intellectuals who were obsessed with giving people’s lives an enlightening, free orientation. Within that inner need of people to look into the real meaning and light of their lives, Enlightenment as the new arising period came. Enlightenment was the wider philosophical and political movement focusing on humans and ensuring the improvement of their lives’ conditions. It is the period during which aspiring spirits and intellectuals started looking into the real meaning of life posing humans rights and their maintenance as the first top priority.
Enlightenment is the movement born within the context of the movement of humanism, the spiritual – artistic movement born in the 15th-16th centuries, which influenced all cultural and educational fields. The words marking its identity are ‘revival of the classical values of Ancient Greece and Rome’. Humanism brought human in the center of life. Having derived their principles from the emphasis given on progress, evolution and critical thinking during Renaissance years, humanists focused even more on the crucial role of education in one’s life. New schools, educational movements, theories and educations were founded focusing on reviving the studies of classical literature. The ideal of the classical civilization of Ancient Greece and Rome was now more necessary than ever.
Even the Universities founded and established in the Medieval Years were Universities mainly affected and influenced by Church authorities. Science historian Edward Grant writes, "If revolutionary rational thoughts were expressed [in the 18th century], they were only made possible because of the long medieval tradition that established the use of reason as one of the most important of human activities". Also, David Lindberg writes, "the late medieval scholar rarely experienced the coercive power of the church and would have regarded himself as free (particularly in the natural sciences) to follow reason and observation wherever they led”. So the change towards treating natural sciences had begun even form the medieval years since religion and was led to its boom in the Enlightenment years. Notable to say that ‘lecturers in the medieval period commonly argued that the Earth was a sphere’ which proves the attitude adopted towards science and natural science.
The analysis above shows that this particular period in time was actually a dark time, especially in comparison with the current information age of today. During this period, humanity was still discovering itself, and therefore a lot was yet to be discovered as we know it today especially with regard to European culture and civilization, and by extension, the global civilization. The modern society is defined by advancements in technology, international relations, world powers and advanced education systems. What the society of today does not know is that all what we see today is a product of years of innovation, learning, evolution as well as science, most of this having been conceived during the dark ages. It’s therefore important that a lot of research is concentrated on the role of this period in shaping the society that we live in today, as well as to inform the current generation on the developments of this period.
Discuss the revolution in cosmology from Copernicus to Newton. In your answer, consider what led to the breakdown of Aristotelian and Ptolemaic theories of cosmology.
Since the beginning of time, there had been a lot of questions as to what brings order in the universe, what creates the noted movements, seasons, days and nights and other natural phenomena. A lot of scientists did their best to come up with theories to explain these cosmological happenings. It must be noted that the common belief that God, who was thought to exist performed miracles that enabled the movements in the universe. Scientist’s begun to query how these miracles happen, and studied the same. The result was a shift from this miracle belief to a more scientific approach to this subject, and this gave birth to the work of Copernican, Newton, Aristotle and Ptolemaic theories.
Since Renaissance scholar’s rediscovered man and nature, there has been a scientific revolution in all fields of science. The perception of the world and its shape, its movements, its position in universe led to many more questions than never before. Cosmology was the scientific field which drew scholars’ and scientists’ interest even more. Galileo wrote in 1615 ‘I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can obtain by them’ whereas Copernicus had written ‘Why then do we hesitate to grant [the Earth] the motion which accords naturally with its form, rather than attribute a movement to the entire universe whose limit we do not and cannot know? And why should we not admit with regard to the daily rotation that the appearance belongs to the heavens but the reality is in the Earth?’ All these witnesses are by all means the signs of cosmology changing attitude and its nature as science towards the perception of nature and the world. The Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, the British mathematician Isaac Newton turned upside down the established authorities of the perception of the world. They were driven to rejecting their intellectual heritage of Aristotle and the Ptolemians. Butterfield, in the preface of his book ‘The Origins of Modern Science’ wrote ‘The Revolution in science overturned the authority in not only of the middle ages but of the ancient world , it ended not only in the eclipse of scholastic philosophy but in the destruction of Aristotelian physics.’ According to Butterfield ‘The Scientific Revolution outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements within the system of medieval Christianity.’ If it is to be realized that science is above all Faith in the possibility of the human mind to discover the truth underlying the mystery of the universe and human existence then all those who contributed to the revolution of science were conquered by and obsessed with that kind of Faith.
Nature was the second point on which science and intellect emphasized on. The other side was human and human mind and existence. So since nature became the second center of thought for scientists and philosophers this meant automatically the fall of the religious Christian authority and mentality which deprived human thought from evolution and opening its horizons widely questioning old established beliefs which said that the Earth for example was created within 7 days. Since the human perception had changed, then a new perception of cosmos had to be established and this is what happened leading old cosmological theories to being collapsed as not serious or wrong or narrow minded.
Cosmology was based on astronomy and mathematics and both these scientific fields were characterized by laws and the rationalized explanation of these laws. According to the medieval point of view, Earth and Nature was going on and on just by a miracle which was always new and went forever under renewal. If God stopped making Nature going on then everything would be destroyed within seconds. But this was not only a responsibility of God. It was also an individual responsibility since individuals were considered to be responsible for the existence of Nature. If individuals stopped believing in God and serving him then God would have no reason in making the Nature. So it was this cosmological order which was rejected by the intellects involved in the scientific Revolution. Humans were seen under a new perspective in which they were supposed to act and think within their personal freedom of faith, how could these ideas on God and faith keep being the reasons for the world going round?
The medieval world was based upon Ptolemy and Aristotle. Ptolemy explained that the stars were in a fixed sphere around the earth. So earth was considered as the center of the universe. The Ptolemaic system at some point started being doubted as the criteria upon which the universal laws were to be considered due to the scientific observations which started taking place as part of the Scientific Revolution. Copernicus first challenged the earth-centered system with his sun-centered system. Galileo after Copernicus was based on the accurate time measurements and started with the invention of the pendulum which made exact time measurement possible. Galileo followed Copernicus since he said ‘Sol est centrum mundi , est omnio immobile motu locali’ (The sun is the center of the universe and the earth moves’)
Cosmology changed as result of the revolution of human thought which enabled all fields of life to be seen under new perspectives. According to the medieval worldview, God ordered the movement of the universe through miracles. The knowledge about this depended on the individuals unwavering trust and faith in God, and therefore when God said it be so, it became so. This blind belief in God, led to some inquiry into these miracles, and this led to the realization that the universe was composed of four fundamental elements, which were earth, water, air and fire. Due to their nature, earth and water goes downwards while air and fire being light went upwards, with each of these elements striving to reach its natural center and this movement is believed to cause cosmos movements.
It is believed that Copernican revolution was a significant shift from what was known about cosmology during the time. It shifted the previous widely held misconception that described the earth as being stationery at the centre of the universe, to a more revolutionary dimension that actually, the sun is the constant object, while the earth and all the other members of the solar system revolve around the sun. So important was this discovery that some scientists of the time called this Copernican revolution. This work continued to inspire scientific discoveries into cosmology until Newton’s discovery, almost 200 years later.
The evolution of cosmology has been a very significant aspect of scientific revolution, as it provided a background around which most of the phenomena in scientific revolution were founded. The present world, also relies heavily on the discoveries made during this period, in policy making especially with regard to geopolitical planning as well as handling the challenges of environment that abound in our society. Contributions made during this period have also been a significant platform through which even global aspects of technology and development are established.
In the recent past, the world has experienced quite a number of phenomenal cosmological activities, and related issues that have been destructive to nature, including the tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes that have affected some parts of the world. It’s important that studies are done to determine the way these can be managed, with regard to the contribution made during the above period with regard to cosmology, which is a great contributor to some of these calamities.
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