The Foundation of Western Culture
Professor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
June 23, 2010
The Foundation of Western Culture
When I think of the phrase “western culture,” some adjectives come to mind: advanced, civilized, developed, and contemporary are just a few. “Western culture is a body of knowledge derived from reason” (Western, n.d.). That knowledge brings with it a way of life that supports growth and advancement of human nature. Without that growth, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. Part of the knowledge we have comes from what we learn through the sciences. Here we will try to discover the link between western culture and the scientific method.
Western culture is not a place or a thing; it is a mind set, a way of thinking. It allows people to live together in a civilized community. It gives people freedom to grow in their knowledge; to experiment and explore in their surroundings; and to find happiness in their own world. This culture encourages development and inspires people to seek out answers. Western culture is about making life better than it was before.
Technology and the seventeenth century brought a new science to the western culture. As science advanced, it became obvious that methods being used simply were no longer good enough. The Scientific Revolution began and modern science was born. In the late nineteenth century technology was, once again, allowing physicists the chance to study things they had never seen before. With these new findings came many problems. In order to validate the new theories, a new physics needed to be formed. Both the Scientific Revolution and the dawn of a new physics shared similarities which would “suggest that science develops by way of sudden upheavals rather than steady augmentation of ideas” (Duszenko, 1997).
In the textbook Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, authors Withgott and Brennan state, “Modern scientists describe science as a systematic process for learning about the world and testing our understanding of it” (Withgott, 2008, p. 10). They believe science also refers to the information gained through the “dynamic process of observation, testing, and discovery” (Withgott, p. 11). A scientist searches for his answers and does not stop until he is satisfied. The scientific method is the most basic and popular process used to find those answers.
There are six steps to the scientific method beginning with the observations a scientist makes. Although it is the first step, observation does not end here but is used constantly throughout the scientific method process. The next step in the process is to ask questions—lots of questions. The questions might be simple or complex; and they do not have to have answers right away.
Once the questions are asked a scientist needs to try to answer those questions by developing a hypothesis. After the hypothesis has been drawn up, the next step is making a prediction that can be tested. Then the testing begins. Experiments are conducted to prove, or disprove, the predictions. Then the resulting data from those experiments must be analyzed and interpreted. “There is nothing mysterious about the scientific method; it is merely a formalized version of the procedure any of us might naturally take, using common sense, to resolve a question” (Withgott, p. 11).
So how is the scientific method related to western culture? “In the Western world, we embrace progress as essential for our existence” (Backer, 2004). Science is a big part of progress. The scientific method is used not only as a way to solve scientific issues, but non-science problems as well. One of the core values of western culture is science and technology. It is believed that without it we cannot sustain civilization. The scientific method teaches us to ask questions and look for the answers—all for the betterment of society. Is that not the basics of western culture as well?
Backer, P. (2004). What is the scientific method? Retrieved from http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/pabacker/scientific_method.html on June 20, 2010.
Duszenko, A. (1997). The Joyce of science: New physics in Finnegans Wake. Retrieved from http://duszenko.nothern.edu/joyce/backgrnd.html on June 20, 2010.
Western Culture Knowledge Center. (n.d.). What is western culture? Retrieved from http://www.westerncultureglobal.org/index/html on June 20, 2010.
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2008). Environment: The science behind the stories (3rd ed.). New York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.