Galileo questioned the basic principles of the scholastic worldview that were considered dogmatic. He was right in his doubts, and he demonstrated that Aristotle’s physics, which was believed to be the only truth for nearly two thousand years, was wrong. Although the church punished Galileo, he went down in history as the founder of modern science.
Shortly before that, in 1543, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus was published, displacing the model of a geocentric Solar system that had prevailed for centuries with the heliocentric astronomical model. As the church defended Ptolemy’s geocentric model, it had to push back the publication of Copernicus’s work until the year of his death.
According to Aristotle’s physics, since planets are spherical symmetrical objects, they move in circular orbits, the heavens are filled with a substance called aether, the heavens are superior to the earth, and the laws there are different from those on the earth. Since some observations about the motion of the planets were inconsistent with the circular orbit theory, they were constantly adapted to various circular motions. For centuries, it had never occurred to anyone to try a different trajectory instead of a circular orbit. However, based on previous observations, Kepler concluded that the planets move in elliptical orbits rather than circles. Replacing the circle with an ellipse eliminated unnecessary mathematical and geometric confusion, and the motion of the planets in elliptical orbits was confirmed by both previous and subsequent observations and calculations.
These discoveries, which took place at about the same time, undermined the authority of the church and marked the beginning of E.J. Dijksterhuis’s “mechanization of the world picture,” a mechanical explanation of natural phenomena. A while later, Isaac Newton assumed that the heavens and the earth obeyed the same laws and discovered the laws of Newtonian mechanics, which could explain both the revolution of the Moon in the sky and the fall of the apple on the earth.
The physical-mathematical explanation of these scientific hypotheses was completed shortly after the realization that elliptical orbits were possible, that the physical matter could be the same in the sky and on the earth, and that the earth did not have to be the center of the Solar system. But even though the human mind was fully prepared to understand nature, it took centuries for it to develop the courage to resist dogmas. This victory of physics over church dogmas and human illusions later became an example and a source of courage for scientists working in other fields of science. Evolution and historical consciousness emerged with the realization that the animate and inanimate worlds and social institutions had a much older past than religion assumed. The understanding came that the Universe, the Solar system, continents, minerals, and nature in general have a history. Charles Darwin opposing the creationist view of the origin of man was especially important. Darwin showed that man had not been created by a supernatural force, but evolved from organisms of lower-level organization. This is how Darwin described his encounter with primitive people in The Descent of Man:
“The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind—such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful. They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own small tribe. He who has seen a savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his veins.”
After man’s place in space and origin was established, it was the human mind’s turn. Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, showed that human nature is determined by irrational motives in the subconscious, that conscious activity is the ego mediating between the id, i.e., the primitive self, and the super-ego, i.e., the social ego, and that a person is neuroticized to the extent of the ego’s failure to keep this balance. Satan is the destructive and selfish motives in person’s subconscious that led them astray. It was understood that those whose libidinal energy is not directed to useful work through social institutions creates problems for themselves and society.
However, these theories were not the last theories to be completed; the spirit of science prevents any scientific theory from becoming a dogma. In the later development of science, Einstein corrected Newtonian mechanics. His own theory of a steady-state universe was criticized, and he accepted his mistake, which he called the greatest fiasco of his life, when experiments proved it wrong.
Darwin added a chapter entitled “Difficulties on Theory” to his The Origin of Species. Psychoanalysis was also criticized by scholars in psychology and other disciplines. Popper wrote that psychoanalysis is a theory that does not explain anything because it explains everything. Jung stressed that Freud was too focused on the role of sexuality in the psyche, that the subconscious consisted more of archetypes, and that the religious-mythological makeup of the soul must be taken into account, as it is human nature to believe. Man began his study of nature with distant cosmic bodies, the history of scientific research when it comes to man as the subject is new, and there is controversy. However, the general areas, framework and methods of research have already been determined, and any new theory that will emerge further must explain the previous one. Einstein’s theory of relativity explains many phenomena more accurately, but Newtonian mechanics for large masses and low velocities still holds as a special case of the theory of relativity.
Dogmas, that is, beliefs that claim to possess knowledge but offer questionable methods to acquire that knowledge, are usually the means of exploitation. The main purpose of religion is to adopt a theological model of man, to evaluate people to the extent that they conform to this model, to enslave man. In parallel with the development of science, the increasing ease of access to information, and more and more people relying on their own minds as a result of individualization, religions strongly oppose skepticism and scientific thought. This position is shared by ideologies, and scientific theories are met with conspiratorial skepticism. Democratization and socialization of knowledge is one of the most promising trends of modern times. Without the intervention of ideology or theology, people quickly learn to turn to their minds. Views shaped by one’s own mind instill in an educated person a sense of responsibility that ready-made recipes cannot offer.
Similarly, democracy argues that legitimacy, previously claimed to have come from the heavens, must be looked for on the earth, in individuals, that every citizen is responsible for the political system and has the right control it. Both science and democracy have a mechanism for correcting mistakes through experience—through scientific experience and through elections.
Rather than approaching humans with a model that has nothing to do with nature, the correct understanding of nature can save one from a lifelong neurosis. Human development is possible only with the correct understanding of its initial conditions and the establishment of appropriate social institutions with this in mind. It is impossible to control a person, they must be given the opportunity to control themselves in society—through behavior, knowledge and political system.