Religion effect on The Enligtenment and The Scientific Revolution

written by Sadi Evren SEKER

This paper is submitted to Dr. Kostas Gavroglu in order to fullfillment of module 2 requirements in Science Technology and Society requirements in Istanbul Technical University.

Abstract:Aim of this study is mainly discussing the effect of religion over the enlightenment and scientific revolution and vice versa. Main resources of this paper are “The Enlightenment” by Dorinda Outram and “The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science” by John Henry beside the other refrences. I have tried to be objective but since I have muslim and Turkish identities, in some parts of this paper this may effect my comments or point of view.

1. Introduction

At the best of my knowledge, 18th century has a major role in enligtenment and scientific revolution, by the major effects of religion (church) and scienctific improvements. Those two primary effects has supplied by social events by the role of politics, economics, metaphysics, military and the complex interplay between these factors. Since philosophy is the universal set of social studies, philosophical changes and discussions can be considered as a roof over all these discussions,

By the light of above information we can seperate this study into two main categories and some sub categories as listed below:

Here the negative effect of church was the one of the main forces of the positive effect on scientific revolution and enlightenment. On the other hand, there were interactions between other societies and process of retranslation of old manuscripts beyond the church.

2. What is Scientific Revolution?

Discussion of scientific revolution depends on a major crack on the time line of history. Here the word crack is not a simple point but a period of time. Since using word science or revolution can be considered as anachronism, we can say that there was a major change in the philosophical background. In those days instead of the terms scientist of science, “natural philosopher” or “natural philosophy” were more appropriate. Story of scientific revolution underlines the first establishment conceptual, methodological and institutional foundations of modern science. I have prepared the following table to clearly pinpoint this crack in time line.

Changes in Scientific Revolution

Before Scientific Revolution

After Scientific Revolution


Natural philosophy



Secrets of Nature

Experiments open to public


Philosophical, rhetoric manuscripts

Mahtematization of nature

Explanations to natural facts

Religious explantions

Scientific explantions

Priority in the Society

Most important thing was religion and church

People started to pay more attention on science and universities than religion

Occultism is another issue, which was very polular before scientific revolution, here there are two possible categories of occultism:

  1. Occultism in Religion

  2. Occultism in Science

I will mention “occultism in religion” in the “4.1.1. Interactions between other societies” section. Here we can go into the details of occultism in science, which is a monopolistic approach to the science. Before the scientific revolution, the early scientists were alchemists, astronomers (most of the time with the aim of astrology), and magicians. In all these groups of early scientists, we can see the major effect of secrecy. They have wanted to protect their workings from the public, and somehow wanted to earn a supremacy over society by using secrecy of knowledge.

After the scientific revolution, this secrecy has collapsed down by a new emprical approach. In this approach, main effect was making experiments open to the society, over and over, which yields same results everytime.

Since the main idea in emprical approach was learning by trying, most of the theoric studies applied to the nature. On those years we see an increasing success on emprical studies, such as the more reliable approaches from skilled craftsmen than university-trained intellectuals.

Another aspect of view can be the change in the documentation of science. Since science is a cumulative dicipline, each work should be kept in a well formed way for next researches. In the early period we see shoddy documention methodology because of the lack of the documentation material such as the paper and ink or because of the lack of the communication between natural philosophers, or because of the secrecy. This has started to change after the scientific revolution. Many early period manuscripts and books have retranslated (most of the time from arabic or ancient greek languages) and reclassified. Ofcourse one of the main problem was communicating in a universal language between scientist from different locations or different generations. The solution was a well formed mathematization of natural philosophy. After this period, it was somehow possible to prove something my only using mathematical approach, which was an impossible process before the scientific revolution.

Another aspect of view can be the change in the religion. Before the scientific revolution, religion was the only authority over the society, but by the revolution, science has gained some reputation from society, and if we consider our time as a extension of scientific revolution, it is clear that science has more “reliability” than religion in most of the cases. Since philosophy, so the science is effected from the society, this is not an accidental occasion I think, more there was an injection of external philosophies over society, which I will discuss in the effect of church section. Important thing here is the explanations of natural facts is shifted from religion to the science. Infact they answer different questions, “why“ and “how”, but science has founded some facts that are contradicting with the explanations of church. So if we try to be cleaned from anochranism, I think on those years church has not limited its studies by the question “why” and somehow made some explanations on “how” because of the lack of “science” today.

  1. What is Enlightenment?

There are many discussions about the meaning of enlightenment, but most of them agree on the date as the 18th century. I think it is one of the major events in the past, which still effects our today world. Some defitions of enlightenment depends on thinkers, some depends on events, some depends on society, but I believe the defitinition of enlightenment is somehow union of all these definitions. We can see a great “awakening” in the society, we can see “cannon of great thinkers” or we can see lots of events such as french revolution, and enlightenment is not one of these, but all of them.

Enlightenment is basicly another crack following the scientific revolution. Most of the initial points such as social, political, economic issues in scientific revolution has stabilized by the enlightenment period and carried a little bit further. For example in enlightenment we can see similar approaches to religion, but different than scientific revolution, in enlightenment society has guided to modern-paganism (or atheism with anochranism). We can see more philosophical movements in enlightenment. Since there is no border between enlightenment and scientific revolution, they may be considered as complementary periods or periods intersecting with each other.

  1. Major parameters effected (ignated) Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment

In this study I have discovered that there are lots of effect over scientific revolution and enlightenment, but another discovery was the major roles of church and the philosophy.

    1. Effect of Church on scientific revolution and enlightenment.

I think church has helped the scientific revolution and enlightenment, which have negative effects over church. First of all we know that on those days, church was the major authority over the society of europe and this makes it the primary target for any rebel movement. Second church was studying all the fields to make religious explantions without any limitations, which made church vulnerable in many fields from astronomy to biology. Third by the authoritive definition of church we can see that church has to stop any objections to keep its authority which also creates an opposition in the society. Fourth we can see the role of church in religion wars with other societies, such as muslim societies, which has no negative role over the society but supplied the enlightenment by the intrusion of new philosophies and artifacts. I want to start with the effects of crusades over enlightenment and scientific revolution.

4.1.1. Interaction between other societies

At the best of my knowledge, after the conquers of eastern societies (such as Turks, Arabs or Egyptians) over east europe, some of the knowledge is passed to the eastern society by the help of worst economical and social shape of europe on those days. On the eastern societies, these informations, data or knowledge has reshaped and some more thing has added to the early status. Regaining of this modified or early knowledge has been possible by the crusades. Not all the crusades but one of them has a special place in the history of enlightenment I think. After the conquering of jarusalem, the crusades army has left a group of soldires to protect those lands in Jarusalem and cyprus. They have named theirselves as “knights of the templar” which the templar was the solomons temple in jarusalem. They were very useful for the church and the europe not only by protecting the lands but also for the trade and finance between two worlds (for example christian pilgrims was depositing money to them to transfer jarusalem). By the way they have created strong relations with kings and church. After a time period they have effected from the local philosophies, architecture, fine arts and the “science”.

In fact all these events started in 12th century. The effecting face of knights of templar to the enlightenment or scientific revolution was after the understanding of their heretic faces by the church in 14th century. First their relations between church has broken and this has effected the relationships by the kings of europe, especially the king of France. The have hidden underground and escaped to the countries switzerland1 and the scotland 2, while they were banned from all europe3.

Most of them have survived by hiding under the massonary lodges in scotland4, which was one of the strongest lodges in europe on those days. Since knights were very well trained on construction, the gothic architecture, a very close architecture to the middle east architecture has started to be applied on those years.5

Since Massonary illustrated the central dilemma of the Enlightenment, they have used the term “public opinion” to legitimize their movements. Since lodges are social institions, we first see the effect of social institions over the politics on those years.6

Another interesting relation might be the french revolution and the Knights of Templar, since it can be very easily considered as a revenge, but unfortunately I could not find any sufficient resource to supply this idea, while preparing this paper.

Anyway we can conclude the major role of crusades as the interaction between societies. For example I have found some philosophies very close to muslim philosophy in the enlightenment. For example the idea of “spiritual things could only be told to men by God through specially chosen human channels such as the prophets” is somehow exactly same as the muslim philosophy.

On the other hand, we do know the interaction between exotic cultures, such as the colonies, and europe was another parameter of enlightenment. The interaction has a speed up after the printing press, while the passing borders was much more easier for a book or a newspaper. On the other hand, christian world has produced the 'Chirstendom' as being that their opponent was not7.

      1. Effects of Pressure of Church to The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution

Most of the sources shows that the enlightenment can be considered as anti-religious by pointing the French Revolution, and lots of movements planted on those years. I have the same opinion, perhaps there are many movements that can not be classified as anti-religios, but most of them was somehow trying to find a mid point between them such as the movement of Deism8, increased amount of toleration in England and France, “great awakining” in North America, or English Methodism.

I think the main breakdown has started by the founding Angelican Church. The popular story of England King Henry the 8th about divorce was because of the pressure of the Church. In England, by this break off a new concept of state is declared. King of England was also natural protector of Church, which legitimises and gives a religious role to the King. This idea was also one of the effecting ideas during the enlightenment and scientific revolution. Since the definition of authority is somehow different in Britian than the Continent, they have had a different aspect of view on clock making. Clock metaphore towards the end of 17th century in the continental europe was a religious thing and God was seen as a clockmaker and the workings of the clock displayed the importance of fulfilling one's allotted role and obeying the authority of the system9. Since these issues were more liberal in Britian, they were the dominating clockmakers of europe, another interesting thing is, they are the inventors of first self-effecing self-regulating devices10.

The main idea lays behind the enlightenment and scientific revolution is the curiosity. Man was curious about the nature, universe, history, philosophy, religion and the gender. They have tried to find answers for all the questions surrounding their habitat. Some answers was not enough to satisfy, so they have requestioned. But the biggest problem on those days was the church. Church was an obstacle for some of the research. For example the researches of Galileo, Copernicus or Kepler was legitimised after great discussions in Church, and they were still not completely legitimised. The society has faced with two options, they would either select to obey the church without accepting it, or they should find some alternatives to the church. In the early period of scientific revolution there were only a few person awaken and the solution was mostly convincing the church, like copernicus or galileo did. But in the enlightenment period, there were great number of peoples and communities. They have solved the problem by finding appropriate philosophies rather than church. For example the reasonable chirstianity, which was the main idea behind protestant movement. But reasonable chirstianity also brought along new problems of its own. The status of bible was open to discussion. So by the effect of increasing interest in other religions 'comparative religion' has started to be discussed. Another missing point of evil has yielded the 'theodicy', or great awakining in North America was named as methodism. All these new movements shows us that, there was no appropriate philosophy in the religion to handle the scientific revolution or the process of enlightenment. Even the early seperations was not enough to handle by the classification of Pietism from Lutherism, Jansenism from Catholicism or Methodism from Angelicanism.

I think problem here is somehow ontological. Wheter it is modified, revised or modernized the existence of religion is always a problem for the enlightenment. We see the solutions of religion has also yielded more problems than they solved. This is reasonable because the enlightenment is mainly supported by the anti-religion movements. In the scientific revolution somehow there is a difference. Scientific revolution was also contradicting with the church but, there were few talented people awaken and some were inside the church. So the results of scientific revolution was not big social movements, but those results has prepared the enlightenment of societies.

      1. Results of changes in Religion by the effect of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution

First of all, nothing was same for religion after the notion of enlightenment and the scientific revolution. As I have already mentioned before, there were lots of communities with different religions after the enlightenment notion. In fact there are two common assumptions, former assumes the end of enlightnment in the French revolution ( and also other revolutions such as the American Revolution, or the revolution in Geneva can be added). Latter approach assumes that the enlightenment still continues. In her book Outram has selected the former approach and she has enriched the final line to the revolutions of Geneva, Corsica, British Colonies (North America), Austrian Netherlands.

I should say that, I disagree on this point of discussion. For exampleKant says:

'If it is now asked whether we live at present in an enlightened age, the anser is: No, but we do live in an age of Enlightenment.'

Defining the Enlightenment as the lifes of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz or Immenuel Kant does not seem fair to me. In fact after studying enlightenment I believe the process of enlightenment still continues. The church has still authority and pressure, such as the birth control. There are still contratictions between science and religion11. The movement atheism has never been as strong as today. World goes to Globalism and without any frontiers communication and comparative religion became more dominant. Peoples are asking more questions. And I believe that enlightenment still continues. For example after the french revolution, we see the Marxist Orthodoxy as an episode of class struggle. I think class struggle still continues under the process of enlightenment.

  1. Conclusion

As a conclusion I want to draw an overview of the history of europe in a few words. I think everything has started with the paganism in europe. While the eastern europe, ancient greeks (or hellenistic aegean) there were lots of discussions in the philosophical or scientific background, the western europe was drawing animal figures to the walls of caves. After the chirstianity, europe especially the western europe has increased in scientific studies.12 By the effect of anti-religious movements and enough amount of pressure from the church the religious world has cracked and a new world order is established. This establishment first starts with the vulnarabilities of the stuedies of the Church in many different diciplines. This first defeat of Church can be considered as the scientific revolution13. Initially there were several people working on scientific and natural facts to find out reasonable answers. It was easier for the church to hide such studies from the public. After the changes on social background, by the help of colonisation, scientific revolution, occult groups, or other culters, enlightenment has ignated in all social levels, art, science, social organisations, etc. Results were destructive for the Church. First they have defeated in the diciplines not strongly related to the religion (as the view of today), second they have lost lots of believers to the other sects.

On the other hand, progress on the science has slowed down by the religion effect. It is impossible to guess (and not correct), what would happen without the Church, but it would be fair to say that the church has a negative effect on science and it still continues14.


[1] “The scientific Refolution and the Origins of Modern Science” by John Henry, University of Edinburg, 1997

[2] “The Enlightenment” by Dorinda Outram, Cambridge Press, reprinted version of 2001, first printed in 1995

[3] Catholic Encyclopedia,, 2003

[4] “The Story of the First Crusade”, by Dr. Tom J. Rees, 2003,

[5] “The Monks of War”, by Desmond Seward, Penguin Books, 1972, London

[6] “The Wariors and the Bankers”, by Alan Butler, Stephen Dafoe, Templar Books, 1998

[7] “Occult Concpiracy”, by Micheal Howard, Fine Communications, 1997

[8] Scottish Masons,, 2003

[9] Founding the Knights of Templar,

1Switzerland was the eastern neighbor of france on those years. “The wariors and the bankers”, Alan Butler

2Scotland on those days, was the only country out of the control of the catolic church. By the king Robert Bruce.

3By Papa V. Clement 1312 “Vox in excelso”

4Mirabeau, Histoire de la Monarchie Prussienne, V. 76 – and – Lecouteulx, de Canteleu, Les Sectes et Societes Secretes, p. 97

5First gothic architecture was in a chapel(rosslyn) in scotland on those years., and Dorinda Outram has mentioned about “Gothic Revival” in The Enlightenment p.28, and

6The Enlightenment, Dorinda Outram, p. 25, 36

7In this case, chirstendom may be the being anti-muslim.

8The movement Deism believes, the creator as god, but god has no effect on the natural laws of cosmos.

9I considered it as an absolute definition of monarchy.

10“The scientific revolution and the origins of Modern Science”, John Henry, p. 91,92

11The discussions of “evolution” or Darwinism also had another view to these discussions.

12Here we can say that, the migration of some scientists or philosophers because of the war with muslim world have also effected the scientific or philosophic studies in the western europe. Another part of research I want to continue and I believe that effected the western europe is Andalusia.

13I think some secondary reasons would be the lost of Constantinapol to the Ottoman Empire, where the scientific studies and the archives have carried to Italy.

14I agree with the church but church has a negative effect over clonning for example.