What were the effects of the Scientific Revolution?

Quick answer:

The Scientific Revolution, driven by thinkers like Copernicus, marked a significant shift in Western thought, breaking away from traditional influences such as Aristotle, Plato, and theology. It revolutionized the concept of Man-Nature relationship, introduced a heliocentric model of the universe, and fostered the scientific method. This shift laid the foundation for technological and scientific advancements and influenced Enlightenment thinkers to apply scientific reasoning to politics and society, setting the stage for modern science.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Scientific Revolution represented a revolution in thought and a dramatic break with the intellectual traditions that preceded it. If you look back towards the Medieval era, western thought was largely shaped by the influences of Aristotle and Plato and was closely bound with theology and scripture. Even Humanism, itself a break with Medieval Scholasticism's theological focus, was still fundamentally a backwards looking movement, drawing its focus on the rediscovery of the Greco-Roman past.

Critical in shaping the Scientific Revolution was Copernicus, who advocated for a heliocentric model of the universe (a viewpoint that clashed with both Church teachings as well as the teachings of Aristotle). This moment would unleash a debate in intellectual circles. In the meantime, further intellectuals and scientists would emerge, not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom.

Critical to this work was the Scientific Method, which held that knowledge could be actively built over time, through the use of experimentation and the publication and retesting of those results. This viewpoint would serve as a foundation for centuries of technological and scientific advancements. Indeed, this model remains the paradigm for scientific research today.

Additionally, this scientific vision would prove a critical influence on those writers and thinkers associated with the Enlightenment, who would apply this progressive vision of scientific endeavor towards politics and society. Here we see the use of reason championed as a tool for creating social and political progress. In this mindset, one can trace a direct continuity stretching back to the Scientific Revolution itself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Scientific Revolution, championed by Copernicus, the Polish mathematician and astronomer born in 1473, changed the concept of the relationship between Man and Nature. At the beginning of this so-called revolution, there was no theory of gravity and everything was explained according to the elements of air, fire, earth and water. The laws of nature according to Ptolemy and Aristotle, dictated that the heavier elements (earth and water) move downwards whereas air and fire move upwards, therefore maintaining the equilibrium; which we now know is the result of gravity. 

The Church, at the center of all philosophical beliefs and the main proponent of certain "truths" and theories based on Aristotle's teachings, mistrusted the more mathematical approach and mechanical views of Copernicus whose observations confirmed that the sun is at the center of the universe and that the earth moves. However, despite the resistance of the Church, his notions persisted and the actions of many new scientists and mathematicians who followed, set the basis for modern science, presented logical arguments, explained the theory of motion and, eventually, through Isaac Newton, gravity (first conceptualized in 1666). Newton's theory of calculus and a whole new approach to cause and effect paved the way for modern views of science. It also allowed for significant inroads into the causes and treatments of disease, previously thought to have been a result of problems associated with the four "humors,"through a better understanding of human anatomy. 

Sir Francis Bacon, The Scientific Method and the period known as the Enlightenment (the Age of Reason) which began in the sixteen hundreds continued the Scientific Revolution, and expanded on its capacity to promote the workings of the human mind and its ability to rationalize, overcoming the misconception that anything related to the senses was to be mistrusted. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are the effects of the Scientific Revolution?

The Scientific Revolution had a very big impact on the world. The movement placed an emphasis on theories of nature that could be proven empirically. The scientific method was established during this period as an emphasis was placed on what could be proven by the senses. The Scientific Revolution also changed the way people viewed the solar system and the universe. The work of Copernicus and Galileo removed the idea of the Earth being the center of the universe. This was contrary to both Catholic and Protestant teachings about God placing humans in the center of the universe. In general, the church lost credibility and power as a result of the new findings during the Scientific Revolution. It would not be a stretch to suggest that all scientific innovation that happened since the 1600's was a result of the Scientific Revolution.

Isaac Newton was also important in the understanding of the universe. He created physics and calculus and applied them to the understanding of the celestial bodies. He helped the world understand how gravity worked and its effect on the solar system. Newton's laws of motion are still taught in every high school physics class in the world.

Out of the Scientific Revolution sprung a new way of looking at politics. Philosophers started to apply science and reason to how governments should operate. This period is known as the Enlightenment and scholars like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau sparked revolutions around the world.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on