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Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving 
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Post Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn


Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving



Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:49 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
Once again, using Prof Pajares excellent summary from http://des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html

Quote:
Chapter IV - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving.

Doing research is essentially like solving a puzzle. Puzzles have rules. Puzzles generally have predetermined solutions. A striking feature of doing research is that the aim is to discover what is known in advance. This in spite of the fact that the range of anticipated results is small compared to the possible results. When the outcome of a research project does not fall into this anticipated result range, it is generally considered a failure, i.e., when "significance" is not obtained.
The "known in advance" comment is not quite right. Research can confirm a hypothesis, but if the outcome is certain there is no point in conducting the study. All investigation has a purpose, framed as an explicit reason for activity. Failure to confirm a hypothesis is not failure of a research study. For example, an astrology study analyzed correlation between birth charts and suicide data, and found none. This shows that any planetary effects are far weaker than is imagined by astrologers.
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Studies that fail to find the expected are usually not published. The proliferation of studies that find the expected helps ensure that the paradigm/theory will flourish.
This one applies strongly to pharmaceutical research especially drugs for mental illness. The proponents have a conflict of interest, pushing them to publish results that will be to their commercial advantage, and to suppress results that will not aid them financially. So we see the flourishing of the paradigm of drug treatment of mental illness and neglect of other methods. This example shows that a paradigm is not just an objective framework, but is conditioned by money and politics.
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Even a project that aims at paradigm articulation does not aim at unexpected novelty. "One of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions" (37). The intrinsic value of a research question is not a criterion for selecting it.The assurance that the question has an answer is the criterion (37).
The bottom line here is that no one who has vested interests welcomes surprises that may put their interests at risk. "Intrinsic value" is a very obscure notion. Intrinsic to whom? There is no value without a valuer. And assurance of solvability is also not a real priority. People fund research they consider useful. "Pure" research with no immediate use always has some deeper strategic purpose, such as reinforcing a cultural framework (English literature) or enabling possible future technology (pure mathematics). Obscure research proposals need to articulate a strategic justification if they are to get resources.
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"The man who is striving to solve a problem defined by existing knowledge and technique is not just looking around. He knows what he wants to achieve, and he designs his instruments and directs his thoughts accordingly" (96). So why do research? Results add to the scope and precision with which a paradigm/theory can be applied.
The way to obtain the results usually remains very much in doubt—this is the challenge of the puzzle. Solving the puzzle can be fun, and expert puzzle-solvers make a very nice living.
This distinction between puzzle solving and paradigm shift is comparable to the military distinction between tactics and strategy. Most practical work is tactical, operating within a defined strategy. Debate over strategy is high level, and generally proceeds within a framework of shared assumptions. Yet, a strategic shift, especially one that changes core assumptions, produces major change in tactical possibilities.
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To classify as a puzzle (as a genuine research question), a problem must be characterized by more than the assured solution. There exists a strong network of commitments—conceptual, theoretical, instrumental, and methodological. There are "rules" that limit the nature of acceptable solutions—there are "restrictions that bound the admissible solutions to theoretical problems" (39). Solutions should be consistent with paradigmatic assumptions.
This idea of a paradigm as 'a strong network of commitments' is illustrated by religious debate. Adherents of a creed view any doubt as threatening to unravel their entire belief system. So creationists see evolution as a threat to community and morality, and cannot separate the metaphysical and the social functions of belief. The rule of Biblical inerrancy is seen to limit the nature of acceptable solutions. Yet once inerrancy becomes questionable, the whole network of practices based on it may also become questionable, potentially sometimes in ways with destructive or unforseen consequences.
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There are quasi-metaphysical commitments to consider.
This observation that scientific theory contains a metaphysical dimension is important. Part of the standard scientific paradigm includes the assertion that metaphysics is obsolete. But then Kuhn's observation that theory determines which questions are admissable shows that scientific values do function in a way that goes beyond merely empirical observation. In functioning as a network of commitments, the paradigm has a subconscious dimension, revealed in emotional reactions to ideas that may challenge the paradigm. George Orwell explained this psychological syndrome very astutely in 1984 with his concept of 'crimestop', the ability to see that a line of thought has risky potential and so to nip it in the bud.
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There may also be historical ties to consider. the steps by which they are to be obtained (methodology). commitments to preferred types of instrumentations. the ways in which accepted instruments may legitimately be employed. Despite the fact that novelty is not sought and that accepted belief is generally not challenged, the scientific enterprise can and does bring about such unexpected results.
Again, looking at the religious example, theologians and archaeologists have studied the Bible and historical sites in order to confirm traditional belief. However, their research has often led to findings that refute the premise that inspired them.


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Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:29 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
Quote:
Again, looking at the religious example, theologians and archaeologists have studied the Bible and historical sites in order to confirm traditional belief. However, their research has often led to findings that refute the premise that inspired them.


Religion is a subjective experience, not an objective discovery.
You are speaking of die-hard literalists here, and nothing more. You need to make a clear and honest distinctions to avoid broad generalizations.


Other than that, thanks for sharing some good thoughts on this chapter.


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Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:57 am
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Post Re: Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
Does somebody still have the link to this outline?
I remember it was great and I'd like to look at it again.


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Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:17 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
ant wrote:
Does somebody still have the link to this outline?
I remember it was great and I'd like to look at it again.


Here you go. Google is your friend.


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Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:27 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4 - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving
sweet

where's the hug smiley when you need it


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Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:28 pm
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