necessity, randomness and determinism, jointly enmeshed in the stuff of life. This was Darwin’s fundamental discovery, that there is a process that is creative, although not conscious.
There is a version of the history of the ideas that sees a parallel between the Copernican and the Darwinian revolutions. In this view, the Copernican Revolution consisted in displacing the Earth from its previously accepted locus as the center of the universe and moving it to a subordinate place as just one more planet revolving around the sun. In congruous manner, the Darwinian Revolution is viewed as consisting of the displacement of humans from their exalted position as the center of life on earth, with all other species created for the service of humankind. According to this version of intellectual history, Copernicus had accomplished his revolution with the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Darwin’s achievement emerged from his theory of organic evolution.
What this version of the two revolutions says is correct but inadequate, because it misses what is most important about these two intellectual revolutions, namely that they ushered in the beginning of science in the modern sense of the word. These two revolutions may jointly be seen as the one Scientific Revolution, with two stages, the Copernican and the Darwinian.
The Copernican Revolution was launched with the publication in 1543, the year of Nicolaus Copernicus’ death, of his De revolutionibus orbium celestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), and bloomed with the publication in 1687 of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). The discoveries by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and others, in the 16th and 17th centuries, had gradually ushered in a conception of the universe as matter in motion governed by natural laws. It was shown that Earth is not the center of the universe but a small planet rotating around an average star; that the universe is immense in space and in time; and that the motions of the planets around the sun can be explained by the same simple laws that account for the motion of physical objects on our planet, laws such as f = m × a (force = mass × acceleration) or the inverse-square law of attraction, f = g(m1m2)/r2 (the force of attraction between two bodies is directly proportional to their masses, but inversely related to the square of the distance between them).
These and other discoveries greatly expanded human knowledge. The conceptual revolution they brought about was more fundamental yet: a commitment to the postulate that the universe obeys immanent laws that account for natural phenomena. The workings of the universe were brought into the realm of science: explanation through natural laws. All