Philosophy and the Concepts of Modern Science

By Oliver L. Reiser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE CRISIS IN SCIENCE

I. SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION
THE question is sometimes discussed as to which of the various inventions and discoveries of the human race has produced the greatest change in social life and action. If we are thinking of consequences largely practical in nature--those which modify our modes of life more than our habits of thinking--then this honor probably belongs to the invention of fire. But if we are thinking of the influence of rational doctrines, and confine ourselves to the culture of our own Western World, the choice probably lies between the following:
a. the new cosmology of Copernicus, which replaced the older geocentric theory of astronomy established by Aristotle and Ptolemy;
b. the Darwinian theory of evolution, which supplanted the "special creation" theory of the origin of species;
c. the contemporary discoveries in physical science, which have resulted in Einstein's theory of relativity, the quantum theory of energy, and its offspring, wave mechanics.

Here, in the order of historical development, we undoubtedly have the three greatest discoveries of the human mind in the field of the sciences.

Without trying to decide the merits of the claims of

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