The Origins of Modern Science

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The origins of modern science date to the seventeenth century, a period so marked by innovative thinking that it has been called the `century of genius.'...Breaking free of the bonds of tradition, these sixteenth-century thinkers developed the scientific method, a means of understanding based on a systematic observation of natural phenomena and experimentation regarding causes and effects (Merriman, 311).

The ideas of many scientists, and philosophers, such as Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Francis Bacon, flew in the face of the 16th century intellectual orthodoxy. Of these great thinkers, the ideas Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Rene Descartes (1596-1650), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), stand as prime examples of human reason colliding with the ideas of the Catholic Church. Given their continued importance, and the unquestionable impact of these thinkers, we find it important to ask: why were these men and their ideas heretical?

The tradition of utilizing human reason to understand both the cosmos and the existence of mankind preceded Galileo, Descartes and Newton. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), a pioneer in logic, metaphysics, ethics, natural sciences, politics, and poetics, profoundly influenced Western thought. He firmly believed that terrestrial bodies naturally move towards the earth (which he alleged was located at the center of the universe). He also claimed there was an unnatural violent motion that moved away from the earth. This view of natural and unnatural motion fit agreeably with the Churches view of good and evil. Claudius Ptolemy (85-165 A.D.) an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer, accepted the ideas of Aristotle, and based his astronomical findings on the belief that all heavenly bodies encircle the ea...

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...devoted to the religion?

Researching the topic of heresy and the great intellectual minds of the seventeenth century was an interesting process. I find it very hard to comprehend the thought that Galileo was placed under house arrest for life for not agreeing with the false statement that the earth is the center of the universe. Yet, Newton simply agreed with the ideas of the church and continued to make more observations that suggested the traditional views of the church were wrong. Why was no punishment given or action taken against him for finding more evidence towards the true facts? In the eyes of the church Galileo and Descartes seemed to be Heretics. One cannot forget that these men were hassled by the church for simply believing something other than those of the church. Especially, that most of the traditional views of the church were absolutely false.
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