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“The Earth is flat, we just haven’t discovered where the edges are yet.”


“It is hard to make nature fit a paradigm.” ~ Thomas Khun

There is more to “Human-made” problems in the world than the greedy distractions of a “misanthropic global climate change” philosophy.

“The men who called Copernicus mad because he proclaimed that the earth moved … were not either just wrong or quite wrong. Part of what they meant by ‘earth’ was fixed position. Their earth, at least, could not be moved.” To say that the heliocentric model is true and that the geocentric model is false is to ignore the fact that the two models mean quite different things by the term “earth.” ~ Thomas Khun

As a result, a paradigm shift is fundamentally not a scientific but a philosophical change, because the incommensurability of paradigms means that there is no external stance from which one can be shown to be superior to another.

Kuhn observed that that competing paradigms in physics never coexist for very long, and that progress in normal science occurs precisely when scientists work within only one paradigm, and pointed out that some social sciences may never be able to enter the paradigmatic stage of normal science because unlike physical scientists, social scientists generally cannot in the face of a disagreement revert to an agreed-upon exemplary solution to a problem; their controversies are precisely about what the exemplar ought to be. The social sciences are grounded on competing views of what the world is and should be: certain basic concepts, such as “the state,” “institutions,” or “identity,” cannot be defined by consensus. 

“a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ~Max Planck

It is more difficult in the social sciences to carry out true experiments and test counterfactuals, the social sciences are inhibited from closely following the model of the physical sciences. And the passage of time is a relevant factor.

On the other hand, Karl Popper defined science in terms of rational criteria of empirical observation, he seemed to place scientific tools equally in the hands of philosophers of science, skeptics, and common persons who needed some means to question scientists who tried to back their claims by appealing to their own scientific authority. For Popper, novel scientific theories should be greeted with skepticism from the outset. But for Kuhn, one of the key characteristics of the healthy functioning of the community of scientists is its practice of singling out a successful theory from its competitors — without concern for its social implications, and in isolation from public scrutiny.

However, Popper’s falsification principle particularly targeted the tendency among some influential social scientists to advance their political and social theories without revealing their philosophical underpinnings. Some of the great catastrophes of the twentieth century resulted from the widespread acceptance of theories that reduced society to a machine that could be steered by competent authorities, which — to the extent that it attempted to predict and regulate society — could lead to a passive public and technocratic governance at best, or modern serfdom and totalitarianism at worst. (Sound familiar?)

Popper’s insistence on falsification was precisely meant to sustain the need of the social sciences to focus on questions of first principle, so as to avoid the rise of any new dangerous philosophies falsely carrying the banner of science. And even Khun argued that “scientists may always be asked to explain their choices, to exhibit the bases of their judgments. Such judgments are eminently discussable, and the man who refuses to discuss his own cannot expect to be taken seriously.”

In the end, criticism of both Khun’s and Popper’s notions on shifting paradigms may ultimately and indubitably prove one’s philosophical viewpoint. Dependent of course, on one’s ‘global’ perspective, whether it be true or false….

Gleaned from “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions at Fifty” – The New Atlantis, Matthew C. Rees


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Skeptic Arguments and What Whose Paradigm of Science Says

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