The scientific revolution was sparked by the findings of Copernicus that the planets revolved around the sun. This is known as a heliocentric theory. The problem with Copernicus’ findings is that nobody could find the reason behind why the planets revolve around the earth. Isaac Newton later gave the reason for the heliocentric solar system when he developed his research on gravity. He found that gravity pulls matter towards each other, and since the Sun is the largest piece of matter it makes sense that the earth and all other planets revolve around it, since both pieces of matter are pulling towards each other.
It is difficult to say which revolution was more important, that of Copernicus, or that of Newton. I would say that because Copernicus was first to challenge the widely excepted belief that everything revolved around the earth, his revolution would be the most important, because all later findings supported and further developed this discovery. He set the standard for the others to follow. However, Copernicus’ discovery would be shrouded in mystery until a proper reason was given for his discovery, which Newton was able to resolve.
The discovery of Copernicus laid a foundation for philosophers and “free-thinkers” to follow, since the Church at that time had believed that the world was created by God, so naturally everything would revolve around the world. The heliocentric discovery challenged this, and thus put doubt on religion, at least in the minds of some philosophers. The belief that science could explain everything started to take hold amongst free-thinkers. This is what made the scientific revolution so revolutionary. The progress made in science showed that some things that were widely believed turned out to be false. This made thinkers and scientists turn to science and reason to find their answers, not the Church. A quote from Marquis De Condorcet’s “The Utility of Science” makes a case in point of the revolutionary aspect of science: “All the errors in politics and in morals are founded upon philosophical mistakes, which, themselves, are connected with physical errors. There does not exist any religious system, or supernatural extravagance, which is not founded on an ignorance of laws of nature. The inventors and defenders of these absurdities could not foresee the successive progress of the human mind. Being persuaded that the men of their time knew everything they would ever know, and would always believe that in which they had fixed their faith; they confidently built their reveries upon general opinions of their own country and their own age.” (Kramnick p.68) Condorcet is stating that all religion, or any beliefs based on the supernatural are founded out of ignorance to reality (laws of nature). In other words, because people of earlier times did not have this information available, they formed their own opinions and governed themselves according to what they “believed,” though they had no proof or evidence of its truth. Though he may go a bit far in this assessment, he does set the stage for revolutionary thought, since progress in science can now challenge “truths” that have commonly been believed. I agree more with his first statement that “errors in politics and morals” are founded upon “philosophical errors.” Science can now challenge the politics and morals of the society because the philosophical principles they are founded upon will be tested to either be true or false. This will revolutionize the way politics and laws will be formed. They will no longer be based the whims of the leaders, but now can be based on scientific fact. Anyone who opposes will be looked at as ignorant, and of course, unworthy of the respect of authority. In this view, I see where the scientific revolution had a powerful and positive impact. The “combat” against God and religion doesn’t hold up as well, and many writers in this period were able to show good reason for the belief in a God, such as Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, and even John Locke.
The scientific revolution was revolutionary because it gave people a foundation to “reason upon.” Scientific progress that gave insight to how our world works, that show us the laws of nature, now allows people to challenge and test that which was believed, and that which is proposed to believe. In essence, in didn’t challenge “religion,” but challenged “the religions” to attest to their “truths.” Reason, now working hand-in-hand with scientific facts and laws of nature, helped people and societies to overcome philosophical errors that were the foundations of corrupt governments, and unjust politics. It also helped to uncover false religions whose dogmas contradicted the laws of nature. When science is used in conjunction with reason, history, and natural law, people can enlighten themselves closer to the true meaning of why we are here, which will ultimately lead to their happiness.