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I could not understand the part " in the face of this onslaught" in the following passage.

Mathematics developed as a response to the demands of the sciences, which grew up in the late sixteenth century. The thinkers of the early Scientific Revolution had provided their descendents with a broad framework of new philosophies, hypotheses, and qualitative observations, all of which pointed to a revolution in thought. However, the old order was at first easily preserved in the face of this onslaught, in part due to the lack of substance to back up the theories of such thinkers as Nicolas Copernicus and Giordano Bruno. Though these scientists sensed that their hypotheses were correct, and strongly believe in them on their own, it was difficult to bring their theories to the position of respect they deserved without the benefit of clear and logical evidence.

http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/scientificrevolution/section4.rhtml


In the face of means

1.When confronted with:

her resolution in the face of the enemy

1.1 Despite:

reform had been introduced in the face of considerable opposition More example sentences

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/in-face-or-the-face-of?q=in+the+face


Onslaught means

1.Fierce or destructive attack:

a series of onslaughts on the citadel More example sentences

1.1 An overwhelmingly large number of people or things:

in some parks the onslaught of cars and people far exceeds capacity

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/onslaught


Could you please explain whole sentence to me?

1

Either definition of in the face of could apply here, and onslaught certainly means some sort of attack. The confusion may come from the fact that this isn't referring to a literal attack with physical violence - it's a battle of ideas. (This is an example of metaphor.)

Specifically, the author is suggesting a sort of battle or war between the "old order" (ideas as they stood before the Scientific revolution) and new scientists such as Copernicus and Bruno. The new scientists attacked the old order (by proposing their ideas to replace the old ideas), and the word "onslaught" suggests that this attack was quite forceful. But, at first, they did not succeed in changing people's minds.

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