academic thoughts

Monday March 17, 2014
Some reflections on Normal Science, Thomas Kuhn, Paradigms …

Even though my background is more ‘arts’ than ‘science’, the subject is fascinating. If I understand correctly, there seems to be a commitment and collegiality among scientists, in that, over time, there develops an allegiance to a consensus of thought and approach. This will initiate and/or continue a particular research tradition. Kuhn says paradigms suggest which experiments will be worth performing. He also states that shared paradigms precede shared rules. This is important and results in his statement – which I use as the springboard for my next paragraph – “paradigms could determine normal science without the intervention of discoverable rules.” (p.164, The Structures of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)

To this non-scientist, the above discussions seems to suggest that ‘doing science’ might be akin to ‘doing philosophy’ (or theology, psychology etc.) – various ‘schools’ develop. Some observe/think about the matters of study, all the while bringing the specific limitations and tools of approach or paradigm in which they operate – in which they were nurtured. Consequently, assumptions may exist that could be in competition with alternative schools/paradigms. Humanly speaking then, some courage – or dare I even say, even imagination – (both of which are in essence non-scientific and unmeasurable terms) – might be required to move research and accepted theory in a new direction. If I might be permitted some courage and imagination then, is it possible that ‘scientific revolutions’ might be less than truly neutral and objective, and consist of a human element which might competitively push one paradigm over another? This then lowers science to the level playing field of all other academic explanations of reality. The curtain is pulled back – the wizard of science is human after all.

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