Human Beings and Nature: The Scientific Revolution
The Scientific Revolution, perhaps one of the most significant examples of human beingsí relationship with the natural world, changed the way seventeenth and eighteenth century society operated. The power of human knowledge has enabled intellectual, economical, and social advances seen in the modern world. The Scientific Revolution which included the development of scientific attitudes and skepticism of old views on nature and humanity was a slow process that spanned over a two century period. During the Scientific Revolution, scientific knowledge enabled humans to control nature in order to improve society. With leaders such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Rene Descartes, the Scientific Revolution proves to be a crucial piece to the puzzle of understanding the effects of humansí interactions with the natural world.
The changes produced during the Scientific Revolution were not rapid but developed slowly and in an experimental way. Although its effects were highly influential, the forerunners Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes only had a few hundred followers. Each pioneered unique ideas that challenged the current views of human beingsí relationship with nature. With the backing of empirical observation and mathematical proof, these ideas slowly gained acceptance. As a result, the operation of society, along with prior grounds for faith were reconsidered. Their ideas promoted change and reform for humansí well-being on earth.
The Scientific Revolution was sparked through Nicolaus Copernicusí unique use of mathematics. His methods developed from Greek astronomer Ptolemyís ideas that the earth was the center of the universe with the other planets orbiting around it. Ptolemaic theory was supported by the Catholic Church, which also viewed humans as the center of God's creation. In his book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Copernicus kept many of Ptolemyís ideas, such as the assumptions of the circular orbit of planets and epicycles. However, he proposed a correction to Ptolemyís theory, stating that if the sun were at the center of the universe the epicycles could be reduced in number. As he states in The Heliocentric Statement, ìWhat appears to us as motions of the sun arise not from its motion but from the motion of the earth and our sphere, with which we revolve about the sun like any other planet. The earth has, then, more than one motionî(1). Although he maintained most assumptions of past astronomers, he attempted to eliminate the mathematical inconsistencies of old theory and offered a new approach to solving scientific problems. By freeing science from rigid conceptions of cosmic structures, Copernicus proposed that mathematics was the cornerstone of scientific thought. This would challenge the old dogmas, such as the earth being at the center of...