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Turning Point for Science

Before the microscope, people who had little respect for science. People were describing diseases as the work of the devil or as God's punishment for sin. It was widely held that knowledge was more about intuition than it was about disciplined sense experience. Many were with Plato that the real world was not the world of the senses. Many believed that knowledge was sent down from the heavens.

The microscope was invented in the Netherlands in the late 1590s. In 1632 in England, John Locke was born, and he was influenced by that new technology. John Locke has been described as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. A big part of the Enlightenment was a new and growing respect for science. A new understanding of disease was spreading, and belief in the influence of the devil was in retreat.

John Locke had an impact also on epistemology (theory of knowledge). Locke held that knowledge is based on experience and is tentative and probabilistic: empiricism. As written in our online encyclopedia Wikipedia:

Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

John Locke, by the way, influenced the founding of the United States. According to Locke, a ruler gains authority through the consent of the governed. This grew out of his opposition to rule as a god-given right (devine right) claimed by monarchs.

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