Re: Paradigm Shifts
- I thought that I cited a critique of his
> writing for you.My bad-- this post must have escaped my notice; I searched the
archives and found it. Sorry!
- --- In email@example.com, the_spacemouse
> I thought that I cited a critique of his
> > writing for you.
> My bad-- this post must have escaped my notice; I searched the
> archives and found it. Sorry!
You have asked my opinion of Thomas Kuhn's writing. The article I
cited was "Thomas Kuhn's irrationalism" by James Franklin, The New
Criterion, on Line. It may be viewed at:
Kuhn, author of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," is perhaps
best remembered for his buzz words "paradigm shift."
His basic thesis, as I understand it, is that scientific explanations
tend to change over time. Therefore, if we study one it may be
changed by the next generation of scientists. If he replaced the
word "changed" with the word "improved," perhaps his views would be
more logically tenable.
Of course, Kahn's "irrational" (meaning he doesn't rely on reason)
and unscientific approach is applauded by fundamentalists religious
circles because it allows them to by pass rational analysis and logic.
I imagine that Aquinas and Kuhn wouldn't get along. [;DS]
>It's a bit more complicated than that-- however, I should warn that I
> His basic thesis, as I understand it, is that scientific explanations
> tend to change over time. Therefore, if we study one it may be
> changed by the next generation of scientists. If he replaced the
> word "changed" with the word "improved," perhaps his views would be
> more logically tenable.
am vaguely remembering reading a short article or something by him
several years ago, so I may be getting oversimplifying him or
misrepresenting some of his points. What he says is that scientists
tend to think "within" the reigning paradigms, and they may reject or
"interpret away" evidence that doesn't fit within the
paradigm.Paradigm shifts --in which the dominant "frame" for thinking
about things is changed-- can and do happen, but then evidence will be
interpreted in terms of the new paradigm. As a result, the way
scientific evidence is interpreted is culturally conditioned:
different cultures have different paradigms, and they will interpret
any "facts" or evidence within the context of that paradigm. This
means not just that animists will interpret the madness of a rabid
bear differently than will those who are aware of the existence of
viruses, but that Newtonian physicists would interpret data
differently than physicists post-Einstein.
I'm not really a Kuhn fan --when I encountered him in a philosophy of
science class, I was slightly disgusted with him-- but I suspect he's
right that in practice, evidence may be misinterpreted or dismissed
because it doesn't fit accepted paradigms. (Thus, if you believe that
bacteria cannot survive in highly acidic conditions, you may not
accept that bacteria are involved in the formation of gastric ulcers.)
More to the point, I think he's right that there's a certain extent to
which the way that anyone approaches data will be shaped by that
person's prior beliefs. You don't have to be an irrationalist to
believe that. You just have to believe that human reason isn't
perfect-- and Aquinas, who believe in Original sin, would have agreed
with that. ;-)
I bring Kuhn up only because I think that he raises a valid point
about the dangers of assuming scientific objectivity. You constantly
tell us that you just interpret the "facts." What you don't admit is
that, like us, you interpret them in light of your own beliefs. If it
made sense to talk about "personal paradigms" (I'm not sure that it
does) we would say that you have a different paradigm than we do, and
thus you interpret things (such as New testament prophecies)
differently than we do. But you seem unwilling to admit that your
interpretations are influenced by your previously held beliefs. That
was my point in bringing in Kuhn.