The Industrial & Scientific Revolution

industryWhy did the scientific revolution take place when it did and where it did around 1500 - 1800 in parts of Western Europe ?

Let's start with economic growth as an evolutionary wealth creating process which discovers and accumulates more survival value for the costs incurred than competing alternatives. Thus adaptive efficiency defines economic efficiency, so let evolution rip!

The evidence suggests that the industrial and scientific take off followed the removal of constraints and the speeding up of evolution.

The necessary but not sufficient 'causes' include -

breaking the grip of established authority

opening up diversity and choice

encouraging cooperative institutions

establishing scientific method

rewarding successful innovation directly

protecting tort law, free trade and innovative technology

defending wealth stocks from predators, parasites and diminishing returns  

isaac newtonThis is one possible scenario, but 'causes' can't explain complexity meaningfully ... however evolution does ... completely ... some economies evolved an institutional environment (generally accepted rules of behaviour) which encouraged a process of competitive technological and organisational innovation creating survival value, or 'know how', more efficiently than alternatives.

entangled bankThe same process which built Darwin's 'entangled bank' started building industrial towns in England around 1700. Take a deep breath and think about this very basic physical process - open dissipative systems of complex human interactions in cities, intensified by a stream of coal energy, generated auto catalytic loops of synergies, which increased useful survival surpluses which were complex enough to avoid diminishing returns and became self sustaining ... think better survival value per unit of energy cost ... think adaptive efficiency. 

(I don't suppose anyone can be happy with that last paragraph unless they have read all the references on this website)

Before 1500 Aristotle and the 'ancients' remained the custodians of 'know how' and the West was playing catch up until Copernicus and the 'moderns' started to question. Skeptics discovered evidence & replication. Maths was applied to ballistics, perspective, navigation & mapping. Mechanics followed, pumps, telescopes, microscopes, clocks & printing. Then universal laws and the usefulness of prediction and the progressiveness of change. But science was underpinned by philosophy, by ideas of liberal democracy - empathy, moral sentiments, tolerance & respect for the views of other people. The last witch was burned in 1745, rain dances were less enthusiastic and the skeptics began to question the pontifications of 'the powers that be', currying favour led to dependency not progress. 

Read my essay notes here

Don't forget to send me your comments, corrections and critique ... here

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