Event 75

“From Superstition to Science”
The Scientific Revolution
Beginning 1543 AD

Nicolus Copernicus
This is a portrait of Nicolaus Copernicus of Poland by an unknown artist, circa 1580. Copernicus’s book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, is widely regarded as a work that began the scientific revolution.
Credit: Image is courtesy of Wikipedia.

You may not realize it, but you use science all the time. When you study the mileage performances of car models before a purchase, when you check out the RBI statistics on a baseball player to predict his performance, or when you record your weight steadily decreasing through diet and exercise, you are employing a scientific method. It is such a part of our culture and society we tend to take it for granted today, but this is a fairly recent phenomenon in the human epic. Prior to this, explanations for events that occurred in the natural world were steeped in beliefs in superstition, magic, witchcraft, omens, and ghosts.

The scientific revolution did not happen overnight, but rather developed over several centuries. Beginning in the 16th century, new ideas about astronomy, biology, and chemistry slowly led to a new approach that emphasized the gathering and organization of observable facts to make sense of the world. Early scientists such as Sir Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes (logic, philosophy of science), Nicolas Copernicus and Galileo (astronomy), Sir Isaac Newton (physics), and William Harvey (anatomy) paved the way for the establishment of the modern scientific method.

Here are some of the main characteristics of the scientific method:

• Science is empirical, meaning that it is primarily based on factual evidence gathered from observations of the natural world
• Science focuses on careful observation and recording of information (data), with detailed note-taking and other forms of documentation being crucial
• Science emphasizes experimentation, where different variables can be controlled and altered to examine different results
• Science stresses mathematical measurement and quantification, as well as statistical testing for significance, to demonstrate that the patterns observed could not have happened by chance
• Science emphasizes model building and hypothesis testing
• Science is falsifiable, meaning that if the evidence does not match the hypothesis predictions, that hypothesis may be abandoned or modified.
• Science is self-correcting, meaning that ideas can be modified or abandoned based on new information and/or methodological approach, and are not carved in stone.

Unlike religion, science is not based on beliefs, faith, dogma, or the supernatural, but rather on “the hard evidence”. For many or most people, science and religion are not incompatible, but rather two different ways of viewing our world.



Science is the primary basis for all major advances in medicine, technology and manufacture, engineering, transportation, and energy production. Without the scientific revolution, we would probably still be living in a Dark Ages, where superstition would rule supreme.





The birth of science occurred in Greece, according to this YouTube video with Carl Sagan.

This webpage provides a brief introduction to the Scientific Revolution.

This is a Wikipedia webpage about the Scientific Revolution.

This is a timeline of activities and events that occured during the Scientific Revolution.

This is a selected list of some of the major figures of the Scientific Revolution.

This is a webpage about the roots of the Scientific Revolution, with some mention of non-European influences.



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