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In the years following the age of the wars of religion, a revolution of different sorts caught hold across Europe. Many of the traditional views of the Church and Scholasticism were abandoned as scientists began looking at the world in a more secular sense, free of the dogmatic philosophy which dominated Western thought in previous centuries. Bacons establishment of the importance of inductive reasoning, empiricism, and mathematics allowed scientists to view the universe in a more objective matter. Descartes belief in rationalism further advanced the importance of mathematics, claiming the material world was regular and predictable, therefore human reason could deduce all the knowledge of the universe. The more secular views of the world and the break with traditional Christian doctrine, however, did not constitute the abandonment of a belief in God. Conversely, God was now seen as a rational being governing a rational universe. This new view of God appealed to many Europeans, for most were weary of the religious strife that had entangled Europe in the previous decades.


Throughout the Scientific Revolution, scientist and philosophers would have a tendency to reexamine traditionally held values. Nowhere is this best exemplified as is in the reshaping of the European view of the universe. Since the Middle Ages the Catholic Church had followed the Ptolemaic model of the universe, a geocentralized solar system where the Earth is orbited by the various planets in regular, crystalline spheres. The Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, however, presented a system where the sun was the center of the solar system, thereby solving numerous mathematical problems encountered at the time. German astronomer Johannes Kepler further championed Copernicanism by discovering that the path of the planets orbits is elliptical rather than circular, as was previously thought. English physicist Sir Isaac Newton would later justify this theory by establishing his laws of gravity. The redefining of the universe dramatically changed the Christian concept of the world, for the previous geocentralized models were consistent with Christian beliefs. Furthermore, the establishment of a new scientific model of the universe in face of Catholic opposition demonstrates the break with philosophical and scientific beliefs with the Church. This intellectual break, however, is not consistent with a spiritual break from a belief in God, for many scientists were pious and devout individuals. Nevertheless, the waning influence Christian beliefs had on European intellectual thought became clearly evident as scientists such as Vesalius and Harvey countered traditional views of Scholasticism and the beliefs of the philosophers of antiquity.


Perhaps the largest advocate of materialism was the English philosopher Sir Thomas Bacon. Although not a scientist by profession, Bacon advanced the philosophy of empiricism, which embraced primarily quantitative observations and the induction of conclusions from those observations. Bacon therefore believed knowledge could only be gained through experimentation. He also established a common belief of the scientific revolution, claiming that the material advancement of science and technology would lead to the advancement of a civilization. Bacon disagreed with scholasticism in that it embraced the accomplishments of past civilizations. Bacons belief in empiricism, however, would have a significant effect on scientific and theological thought during the 17th century. The dependence of mathematics would reshape the world in mathematical terms. This belief in a consistency in nature would be reflected as Christian scientists sought to establish God as equally rational to the world he created.


The antithesis of Bacons empiricism was Rene Descartes rationalism. As opposed to empiricisms inductive reasoning, rationalism is most clearly defined in its belief of a deductive method of reasoning. Descartes claims to doubt everything except ones own reason and the existence of God. Outside of thought in the material world, everything is governed by the laws of mathematics, and therefore is predictable for it is part of a complete system. The belief in God is essential to rationalism, since God serves as the only other constant excluding the human mind.


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In braking with tradition dating well back into the Middle Ages, the scientists and philosophers of the Scientific Revolution began examining the world with more secular intuitions for more secular answers. The scientific and doctrinal disagreements with the church demonstrated the continuing decline in power of the Catholic Church and the lessening affects Christianity had on Western culture. Combined with the new followings of rationalism and mathematics, the worldly values of the Scientific Revolution redefined God as a more rational being; the philosophies of Thomas Bacon and Rene Descartes exemplified this. Moreover, empiricisms and rationalism portrayed matter outside the human mind as innate, and therefore presented a more objective view of nature. Hence, the Scientific Revolution can most clearly be marked by its search for a mathematical and rational basis for religion.





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