Political, Religious, And Social Controversies Of The Scientific Revolution

In the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, the Renaissance occurred in Italy, while the Protestant Reformation began in the Holy Roman Empire and dispersed throughout Europe. Meanwhile, Europeans began to explore and colonize the Americas including Asia. During the centuries stated previously, the scientific revolution began to prosper and caused for political, religious, and social controversy which both encouraged as well as discouraged its development.

To start, strong leaders supported the new ideas in science for their own political benefit but helped with it advancement. For instance, Louis XIV visited the French Royal Academy to demonstrate his support towards the new scientific ideas. This served Louis XIV well because he wanted to display he had power due to him being the monarch of the French state. Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert also encouraged scientific ideas merely for the admiration and promotion of benefits that would be given to the state. Due to Colbert’s high ranking position, he decided to support scientific work. The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes stated that scientific discoveries are called into question or stifled when it affects the interests of the powerful including their “ambition, profit, or lust”. Therefore, when scientific discoveries threaten religious beliefs it is highly criticized but political positions are not affected by them. For instance, William Harvey, an English physician did not challenge political positions but the knowledge and authority of the notion of the four humors from Galen which brought light to his theory of blood circulation. The people stated previously supported science for political advancement, personal advancement, or solely because of their belief in scientific ideas and as a result the work of scientists prospered.

Moving forward, the work of scientists would also be restrained due to the belief that it contradicted the religious doctrine. French Protestant theologian, John Calvin, only considered science valuable if it was used to demonstrate the wisdom of God. Believing that science was above God caused many to take offense. Therefore, an Italian monk named Giovanni Ciampoli wrote to Galileo saying that he comprehended his ideas but to not share them publicly because people would not listen to him due to the fact that he was not a clergyman. Ciampoli’s statement is reliable because he is familiar to the understandings of the other religious people and is a well known figure in religious work. His statement was also effective in speaking for the viewpoint of other religious people. While the emerging of revolution in scientific ideas could have made many agree with the positions of scientists most held their beliefs only to God. In Nicolaus Copernicus’ letter to the Pope Paul III, he states he has dedicated his studies to his holiness because he is the “... most eminent virtue…”. Copernicus would find the importance in both science and religion since he was a priest and as well as an astronomer but upheld his religion as the most significant figure with which shaped his thinking. The source can be unreliable because Copernicus’ letter was dedicated to the Pope which most likely caused him to write in the Pope’s liking. Copernicus demonstrated that his loyalty to his faith was greater than his loyalty to science, which was the case of most religious arguments in resistance to spreading new scientific ideas.

Although there was a strong support for spreading new scientific ideas, the standards of society hampered with its progress. In Giovanni Ciampoli’s letter to Galileo he said people would think he was insane if he publicly stated his discoveries. This was due to religion being the norm of society and caused for science to be abstained from. Many were also uneducated and could not understand the new scientific ideas being presented so they refrained. Henry Oldenburg promoted education with no bias so that philosophy could excel and essentially better the world. Many were not educated due to the fact that education was too expensive and this resulted in not being able to understand or come up with new scientific discoveries. People who were involved in science consisted of mainly white wealthy men. This aggrieved Margaret Cavendish, an English natural philosopher because she embraced science but her gender would not allow her. The divisions based on class and gender vastly impacted the extent for support of scientists work. Margaret Cavendish being denied to express her interest in the field of science because of her gender is unfair and logical that she would have a resentful outlook on the insufficient minded nature of society. The social norms of society that were present during the 16th and 17th centuries hindered the support towards science.

In conclusion, the work of scientists was both encouraged and discouraged politically, religiously, and socially during the 16th through 17th century. This was due to powerful leaders aiding the new ideas in science for their own political interest, belief that the work of scientists would refute the religious doctrine, and the standards of society hampered with its progress. 

09 March 2021
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