Jan 29

The Scientific Revolution

s1The Scientific Revolution was marked by the emergence of modern scientific method. What had started in the 13th century as a desperate backlash to the superstition and fear of the Dark Ages was now an established way to process and spread information that was reliable and more or less ‘proven’. The era lasted from the 16th century when great minds began to propose that the way we assumed the universe to be could possibly be wrong through until the late 18th century. This age was also known as The Age of Enlightenment.

The recognized founder of empiricism was John Locke. He proposed that true knowledge must be gained solely off of experience. He argued that it was sensory impressions that we gleaned knowledge from. This was an important revelation because prior to this knowledge was thought to be given through divine or spiritual means rather than from the human mind absorbing and learning on its own. Locke said that sensory impressions were recorded by the mind and our other senses, layered and then reflected upon. In doing this we were able to gain knowledge that was both accurate and proven through repetition. Francis Bacon refined this technique into the Baconian Method and this was the basis of the Scientific method that was first proposed by Roger Bacon in the 13th century.

s2None of these steps away from superstition and towards rational thought would have mattered if the people in authority hadn’t lent their support and backing towards the philosophy behind logical scientific methods. Previously the inquisition and various other forces had viciously stamped out people who used rational logic to debunk erroneous assumptions as heretics. By doing this the human race conceivably was set back hundreds of years and lost thousands of brilliant minds. By the 17th century someone in power was able to intercede in a major triumph for rational people everywhere.

That person was Charles the Second of England. Charles was a man of many skills and a deep interest in architecture, literature and science. He would often set up science experiments in St. James Palace. He was concerned by what he saw in his kingdom. The Black Death killed thousands during his reign and nobody knew what had caused it, let alone how to stop it. Superstition and persecution were rampant and people lived in terror of being accused of witchcraft or heresy. The atmosphere of terror caused his country to stagnate when he wanted it to be land of hope and freedom. He knew he had to do s3something about it and that he had the power to do so. In 1660 he backed and founded the Royal Society. Their motto Nullis in verba translates ‘Take nobody’s word for it”. This was a breakthrough for science because before that asking questions could easily brand you as a heretic which could lead to Inquisitors knocking on your door. Finally there was a safe environment for science to flourish in.

The purpose of The Royal Society was to carry out experiments, encourage healthy debate and discussion and the dissemination of scientific knowledge to all humankind. It was a lofty goal but Charles the Second involved all the most brilliant minds he could get together and the society would be the first of many of the kind. The Royal Society is still in existence today with over 1400 member, 80 of whom have been awarded the Nobel Prize. It is the oldest body of its kind in the world. Philosophical Transactions, the magazine that The Royal Society started to print in 1665 is the oldest scientific journal in existence and it continues to be a highly esteemed s4publication to this day.

The result of The Royal Society was that the Scientific Method went from being a fringe science and something only believed in by weirdos and heretics to becoming the foundation of our world today. The right to use science and to eschew superstition is a right that people have been tortured and burned alive for. It is a vital human right and the basis for remaining a civilization where the rational mind is respected and truth triumphs over fear.