“Landmark” Texts and Experiments

Principe says on p. 78 (see also p. 104) that what are today seen as “landmark” experiments in the history of science were in their own day viewed as much more ambiguous and controversial. Only in hindsight do we see these events as marking significant discoveries. Do you think the same might be said of the “landmark” canonical texts of the humanities? Bonus points if you use a Unit 1 reading as your example.

Historical literary work most certainly has the same trend of influence on society as historical scientific experiments. In Principe’s The Scientific Revolution, he notes the experiment of Francesco Redi. Redi disproved the idea that maggots are created from the tissue or food they infest; however, this did not disprove to society the general idea of spontaneous generation because people created explanations to solve for his results. This reaction by society shows that people are resistant to a change in their understanding of how things work. As a result, scientific experiments that we consider important today didn’t gain immediate traction in their time period. Similarly, texts such as Locke’s Two Treatises of Government were not immediately popular because they challenged the status quo. Locke’s purpose was to refute the government institutions of his time. It required a migration of people to the new world to implement Locke’s principles in society; however, today we take these ideas for granted and sometimes see them as outdated, whereas they were revolutionary in Locke’s time. This dynamic can be considered from a present to future perspective as well. Ideas that are formed from science and literature today may be labeled as impractical, but over the next century may be normalized and integrated into society. For example, research on climate change has proved the causation between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming; however, there is a social resistance to convert from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This resistance primarily derives from the interest of big business.

Tycho Brahe discovered the first alteration of the superlunar world. Before this discovery, christians believed the Heavens were unchanging. How did this discovery and similar events of the scientific revolution change the way people practiced Christianity?

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