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Our Senses

Posted in: History , Math

First, Copernican theory has done more to determine the content of modern science than is generally recognized. The most powerful and most useful single law of science is Newton’s law of gravitation. Whithout anticipating here the discussion reserved for a more appropriate place in this book we can say that the best experimental evidence for this law, the evidence which established it, depends entirely on the heliocentric theory.

Second, this theory is reponsible for a new trend in science and human thought, barely preceptible at the time but all-important today. Since our eyes do not see, not our bodies feel, the rotation and revolution of the Earth, the new theory rejected the evidence of the senses. Things were not what they seemed to be. Sense data could be misleading and reason was the reliable guide. Copernicus and Kepler thereby set the precedent that guides modern science, namely, that reason and mathematics are more important in understanding and interpreting the universe than the evidence of the senses. Vast portions of electrical and atomic theory and the whole theory of relativity would never have been conceived if scientists had not come to accept the reliance upon reason first exemplified by Copernican theory. In this very significant sense Copernicus and Kepler began the Age of Reason, in addition to fulfilling the cardinal function of scientists and mathematicians, that is, to provide a rational comprehension of the universe.

Taken from Mathematics in Western Culture by Morris Kline.