What is the scientific revolution and how did it influence the world?

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paepin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The scientific revolution (~1550 to 1700) is the emergence of modern science; the advance of scientific thought during this time transformed society's views regarding science and the scientific process. This revolution was intellectual in nature - it changed the way people thought about science and nature.

During this time, European scholars were taking huge steps forward in physics, astronomy, and medicine. The church was slowly losing power and academia was developing alongside changes in philosophy. Nicholas Copernicus shook society when he suggested a heliocentric (sun-centered) universe, which contrasted the long-standing Earth-centered mentality. His book on the subject, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), began to circulate in 1543.

Of course, religious leaders assumed a different way of thinking based on ancient religious texts. After some serious attempts to stifle scientific progress, including the persecution of scientists and scholars, the church eventually gave way (WIRED, link). The shift from "belief" to "knowledge" drastically changed approaches to politics, medicine, and philosophy. Today, there is still some amount of contention between religious leaders and scientists on even the most basic of issues.

For example, in 2015, one of the leading GOP presidential candidates, Ben Carson, suggested that the Earth was created in six days - not metaphorical days, but literal days (Mother Jones, link). Of course, scientists have many ways of inferring how the Earth first formed and the approximate timeline of Earth's birth from a solar nebula. Additionally, some religious leaders argue that the planet is only a few thousand years old, but scientists have dated the approximate age of Earth to about 4.5 billion years (NASA, link).

Although some groups are slower to adopt the scientific process (and scientific thought), the scientific revolution created a space in society where scholars could challenge authority and communicate scientific knowledge. This revolution was able to kick start scientific progress in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, and astronomy. The knowledge born out of the scientific revolution is the foundation for modern science in the western world.




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