Re: Chapter 2 - The Route to Normal Science
In this chapter, Kuhn defines a paradigm as an achievement that is sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, while being sufficiently open-ended to leave problems to resolve. Commitment and consensus around a paradigm are the basis for normal science.
It seems to me that the model of change that Kuhn defines here has much broader application than just to science, and in fact it describes the evolution of all living systems. Stephen Jay Gould, with his theory of punctuated equilibria
, explains that complex ecosystems are stable for long periods, and only really change when they encounter a crisis. The same is true for societies, beliefs and scientific paradigms.
Kuhn uses the example of the emergence of electrical theory in the 1700s. Starting from diverse and incompatible hypotheses, ideas gradually emerged that had higher explanatory power, leading to a paradigm shift. This process looks very similar to another theme that Gould examines in depth, the Cambrian Explosion
of 530 million BC. Numerous diverse body plans (phyla) evolved, but only those that were most efficient survived. This is much like the way only scientific theories with highest explanatory power survive. And a paradigm shift can be similar to the PT extinction event.