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Scientific Revolution
by Ganganand Jha Bookmark and Share

Primitive man was overwhelmed by sky, sea, oceans, rivers wind, rain, different kinds of trees, plants, animals and birds, He felt insecure and helpless. Fear ,inquisitiveness. Imagination and fancy had unlimited play. Chances of his survival depended on his perception of his environment and subsequent response to it. He invented and discovered a number of myths. He imagined and explained the origin of the universe, animate and inanimate objects through these tales.

Every object - irrespective of being living or nonliving talked with each other. They were able to transform themselves from one form to other. These stories spoke of God- the creator of the universe. God was imagined as the most merciful, omnipotent and supreme entity. God provided man with a sense of purpose, assurance and security. Man now could relate with his environment. He began to find assurance of security, sense and meaning of his existence. He could now relate his being with other organisms and objects. Information got accumulated over time in different societies and formed the basis of wisdom of their respective cultures.

Wise men appeared from time to time. Each of them codified the wisdom. It formed the basis of code of conduct of the respective society. The code was inviolable. Whoever had trouble with the code either propounded a new code or was punished severely for sacrilege. Dissent is not respectable.

This tradition of knowledge is known as RELIGION.

Religions assert that everything that is important to know about the world is already known.The great gods, or the almighty God, or the wise people of the past possessed all-encompassing wisdom, which they revealed to us in scriptures and oral traditions. Ordinary mortals gain knowledge by delving into these ancient texts and traditions and understanding them properly. It was inconceivable that the Bible, the Quran or the vedas were missing out on a crucial secret of the universe- a secret that might yet be discovered by flesh and blood creature.

The grand plan did not envisage improvement over the original wisdom and fate of humankind. They thought that the golden age was in the past, and that the world was stagnant, if not deteriorating. Strict adherence to the wisdom of the ages might perhaps bring back the good old times and human ingenuity might conceivably improve this or that facet of daily life. However, it was considered impossible for human know how to overcome the world's fundamental problems. If even Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and confucius-- who knew everything there is to know-- were unable to abolish famine, disease, poverty and war from the world how could we expect to do so.? Concept of development and progress, as we know now, was a pipedream

The world view and the associated wisdom got a decisive jolt with the publication of Nicoulas Copernicus manuscript titled ‘De revolutionibus orbium’ in 1543. The manuscript boldly declared that the Sun, not the Earth was the center of the “Heavenly Spheres.It negated the prevailing wisdom , which held that the earth is the center of the universe.Copernicus had an astute political awareness. He believed that the inquisition would destroy both him and his heretical beliefs. So he prudently waited until he was on his deathbed to publish his work. His concerns for his safety were full justified. 57 years later Giordano Bruno, a Dominican monk who had the temerity to speak out and defend Copernicus cosmology was burnt at the stake for this heresy.

A century later french Mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes insisted on using scientific methodology to examine the validity of all previously accepted truths. The invisible forces of spiritual world clearly didn’t lend themselves to such analysis.In the post-Reformation era, scientists were encouraged to pursue their studies of the natural world and spiritual truths were relegated to the realms of religion and metaphysics. Spirit and other metaphysical concepts were devalued as“unscientific” because their “truths” could not be assessed by the analytical methods of science. The important stuff” about life and the Universe became the domain of rational scientists.

In 1859 Charles Darwin propounded the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. It resulted in a total break with traditional wisdom. It established that life has a physical basis and that all the organisms have a common descent. It has no space for divine dispensation.
Scientific revolution has resulted in humans the world over obtaining enormous new medical, military and economic powers. Prior to that while governments and wealthy patrons allocated funds to education and scholarship their aim was to preserve existing capabilities rather than acquire ones. The typical pre modern ruler gave money to priests, philosophers and poets in the hope that they would legitimize the rule and maintain the social order.

The scientific revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance. The great discovery that launched the Scientific revolution was the discovery humans do not know the answers to their most important questions.

In fact things were not quite that simple. In every age, even in the most pious and conservative, there were people who argued that there were important things of which their entire tradition was ignorant. Yet such people were usually marginalised or persecuted-- or they founded a new tradition and began arguing that they knew everything there is to know.

        Modern-day science is a unique tradition of knowledge as much as it openly admits collective ignorance regarding the most important questions. Darwin never argued that he was the ‘Seal of the Biologists.’ and that he has solved the riddle of life once and for all. After centuries of extensive scientific research, biologists admit that they still don’t have any good explanation for how brains produce consciousness. Physicists Admit that they don’t know what caused the Big Bang, or how to reconcile quantum mechanics with the theory of general relativity.
    Open admission of igorance about important things, suggests that knowledge about important things has to be acquired instead of looking into the past wisdom contained in holy books and seeking in the wise men of the past.
 When modern culture admitted that there were many important things that it still does not know, and when that admission of ignorance was married to the idea that scientific discoveries could give us new powers, people began suspecting that real progress was possible after all.. As science began to solve one unsolvable problem after another, many became convinced that humankind could overcome any and every problem by acquiring and applying new knowledge. Poverty, sickness, wars, famines, old age and death were not inevitable fate of humankind. They were simply the fruits of our ignorance.


People throughout history collected empirical observations, but the importance of these observations was limited. Why waste resources on obtaining new observations when we already have all the answers we needed.

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