How far do you agree that the impetus (momentum, thrust) of science experienced in Europe between 1500 and 1700 was indeed a revolution?

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Chow Keng Ji (3A)

How far do you agree that the impetus (momentum, thrust) of science experienced in Europe between 1500 and 1700 was indeed a revolution?

The scientific revolution refers to the period between the 16th to 18th centuries in Europe, during the period of the Renaissance, where there was a large change in the field of science. It was started when many ancient texts were discovered after the fall of Constantinople, and together with the invention of printing, Europe experiences a revitalisation of scientific research. Defining a revolution as a dramatic and fundamental change, I do agree that this impetus of science was in fact a scientific revolution, since there was a significant change in scientists’ approach to science, along with the change of fundamental ideas in science.

The main reason why the impetus of science can be considered to be a revolution is because of the drastic change in the approach to science, or in the emergence of empiricism, which refers to scientific methodology most widely accepted in the modern context. It is a fundamental shift in the scientific method since prior to this period, the Aristotelian approach to obtaining science was to observe natural phenomena and based on deductive reasoning, form conclusions. It was only during the 16th century, that a scientists and philosopher named Francis Bacon specifically penned the empirical tradition. Thus the nature of obtaining scientific knowledge changed to a method where proper data and evidence obtained was used in the context of an experiment to form conclusions. This was not only written as a philosophy, but many scientists recognised the precedence of experimentation before formulation of scientific facts. For example, Galileo Galilei was a notable scientist who refuted the initially accepted notions that objects of different masses would fall at different rates. During his experimentation, he took great care in isolating variables, such as, when he was experimenting with balls rolling down inclined planes, he took great care in polishing the planes smooth. His systematic method of experimentation allowed him to deduce the fundamental principles of modern mechanics. Furthermore, his equations were verifiable in many different situations. As can be seen, there was the shift from simply trying to prove a claim, to using negative evidence to attempt to refute the claim, thus verifying how true it was. It was also during this period that scientists rejected religion and superstition, and proceeded to re-question the beliefs of that time with reasoning. Fundamentally, science became a much more rational process, where conclusions were based on experimentation, rather than pure observation, mixed in with false assumptions skewed by religious beliefs. As such, it can be said that due to this paradigm shift in how what was regarded to be scientific facts were obtained; the period can be considered to be a revolution.

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Another factor that supports the stand that impetus of science was a revolution is that there were a significant number of discoveries that challenged and thus uprooted the assumptions and beliefs of the time. For example, the replacement of the Aristotelian theory that matter was made up the elements earth, water, fire, air and aether with the idea that matter was made of particles, and that the chemical composition of matter was much more complex. This was a major shift in the science we now know as chemistry. Also, following the revolution, Copernicus’ heliocentric model replaced the geocentric model, which ...

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