History of Science Analysis Paper
Europe’s Age of Enlightenment was a time of new scientific theories, discoveries, and technologies that powerfully affected, even shaped, society. As technological advances became widespread after the Industrial Revolution, this interactive relationship between science and society accelerated. Reflecting on the social and scientific changes they were witnessing, Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) and Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) sought to grasp the nature and consequences of a central interest of the Enlightenment, Progress.
In his 1857 work, Progress: Its Law And Course, Spencer sought to understand Progress by cleaving it from its accomplishments and laying bare its essentials. Central to this task was dispassion as Spencer set aside consideration of the moral and ethical consequences of Progress and sought only to observe and describe its nature and effect. Such observation, he declared, showed that the nature of biological Progress had been revealed. To him biological progress was indisputably an evolution from homogeneity to heterogeneity. This “law of organic progress” he took to be the “law of all progress”.
Applying this notion to social phenomena, Spencer maintains that human history is just such a progression, an evolution from homogeneous social structures to heterogeneous ones. Accordingly, Spencer maintains that government, commerce, language, literature, arts, religion, and even the various scientific disciplines over time inevitably have grown more intricate and specialized. Writing about the distinct social classes and their structure, Spencer notes that after the Industrial Revolution, because people started to have much more specific jobs , communities and workers began to unite to manufacture specialized components for a product. Specialized tasks caused workers and companies to work together, creating mutually dependable relationships between members of society. Also at this time, many Western world countries formed mutually dependable relationships with other countries. Trade agreements with other nations of the world formed, linking countries together to exchange goods which increased globalization. Notably, for the individual this progression meant a change from persons being occupied with general tasks related to sheer survival to more specialized tasks of economic productivity. Thus for Spencer, society is on a path that takes it relentlessly toward growing complexity and its individual members toward differentiation and individualization.
In Signs of the Times: The 'Mechanical Age', Thomas Carlyle characterizes the age he lived in as the “Age of Machinery”. He points out the effects that science and new technologies have on the individual and society, in that it causes them to continuously evolve. He wrote during a time when Europe was experiencing many changes such as population growth, urbanization, globalization, and social unrest. In respect...