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A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Editor’s pick: Thomas S. Kuhn

Credit: Gettyimages

Paradigm Shift

If we dive into the chronicles of History of Science, we can easily notice that each Scientific Revolution came after a substantial crisis in the established traditions. Major cultural shifts like the transitions from mythological to philosophical mind, from Judaism to Christianity, from Newtonian to Quantum Physics were always part of bigger social changes that gradually induced a switch in people's worldviews. The inhumane exploitation of laborers instigated the need for the formation of the Human Rights Codex but also new and more efficient technologies and devices. The latter brought about the necessity of improved power sources, which now led us to the fearsome levels of Global Pollution and Warming – the biggest environmental catastrophe since the beginning of Written History. Nowadays, we undergo a global shift in the way we treat and see Nature and other species as part of it. The time has come for a Green Revolution – the new paradigm.

As it is written in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "A mature science, according to Kuhn, experiences alternating phases of normal science and revolutions. In normal science the key theories, instruments, values and metaphysical assumptions that comprise the disciplinary matrix are kept fixed, permitting the cumulative generation of puzzle-solutions, whereas in a scientific revolution the disciplinary matrix undergoes revision, in order to permit the solution of the more serious anomalous puzzles that disturbed the preceding period of normal science."

Below you can enjoy some excerpts of Thomas S. Kuhn's most significant work.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)

1. "Paradigms are not corrigible by normal science at all. Instead, as we have already seen, normal science ultimately leads only to the recognition of anomalies and to crises. And these are terminated, not by deliberation and interpretation, but by a relatively sudden and unstructured event like the gestalt switch. Scientists then often speak of the "scales falling from the eyes" or of the "lightning flash" that "inundates" a previously obscure puzzle, enabling its components to be seen in a new way that for the first time permits its solution. On other occasions the relevant information comes in sleep. No ordinary sense of the term 'interpretation' fits these flashes of intuition through which a new paradigm is born. Though such intuitions depend upon the experience, both anomalous and congruent, gained with the old paradigm, they are not logically or piecemeal linked to particular items of that experience as an interpretation would be. Instead, they gather up large portions of that experience and transform them to the rather different bundle of experience that will thereafter be linked piecemeal to the new paradigm but not to the old."

2. "Once a first paradigm through which to view nature has been found, there is no such thing as research in the absence of any paradigm. To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself. That act reflects not on the paradigm but on the man. Inevitably he will be seen by his colleagues as "the carpenter who blames his tools."

3. "In recent years, however, a few historians of science have been finding it more and more difficult to fulfill the functions that the concept of development-by-accumulation assigns to them. As chroniclers of an incremental process, they discover that additional research makes it harder, not easier, to answer questions like: When was oxygen discovered? Who first conceived of energy conservation? Increasingly, a few of them suspect that these are simply the wrong sorts of questions to ask. Perhaps science does not develop by the accumulation of individual discoveries and inventions. Simultaneously, these same historians confront growing difficulties in distinguishing the "scientific" component of past observation and belief from what their predecessors had readily labeled "error" and "superstition." The more carefully they study, say, Aristotelian dynamics, phlogistic chemistry, or caloric thermodynamics, the more certain they feel that those once current views of nature were, as a whole, neither less scientific nor more that product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today."

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