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Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History 
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Post Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn


Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
From http://des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html

Kuhn begins by formulating some assumptions that lay the foundation for subsequent discussion and by briefly outlining the key contentions of the book.
A) A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs (p. 4).
1. These beliefs form the foundation of the "educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice" (5).
2. The nature of the "rigorous and rigid" preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a "deep hold" on the student's mind.
B) Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" (5)—scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
C) To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (5).
D) Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education" (5).
E) A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly "subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice" (6). These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—"the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science" (6).
1. New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
2. When a shift takes place, "a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory" (7).


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
In a sense, there is something of a feedback loop. Scientists add to the pool of scientific knowledge within the "context" of science they've been taught. When those discoveries point to hypotheses that are disconnected from(or don't follow from) the current paradigm, there is a sort of dissonance. As the discoveries accumulate and the hypotheses strengthen, it can possibly show that the paradigm is the cause for the disconnect rather than the discovery/hypothesis. So the paradigm is shifted to account for this.

That's my attempt at a layman's interpretation. It's difficult with an audio book, but it will get easier as I get used to it.


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Interbane wrote:
From http://des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html

Kuhn begins by formulating some assumptions that lay the foundation for subsequent discussion and by briefly outlining the key contentions of the book.
A) A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs (p. 4).
1. These beliefs form the foundation of the "educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice" (5).
2. The nature of the "rigorous and rigid" preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a "deep hold" on the student's mind.
This first chapter contains a lot that can be usefully explored to consider Kuhn's general hypothesis of paradigms as a psycho-political model of conceptual change. These first comments about the rigid nature of normal science help to illustrate the psychological dimension. Scientists naturally scoff at ideas that lack evidence. The nature of thought means that scientists naturally elide from the observation that unproven assertions do not predict anything to the claim that unproven assertions are false. This is probably fair enough.

As far as physics is concerned, I wonder if Kuhn is like a general preparing to fight the last war? There have been no real paradigm shifts as far as I am aware within physics since Einstein. The great expansion of knowledge over the last century has occurred in a framework of stable fundamental concepts. Even areas of dispute, such as the cosmological constant, the uncertainty principle, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy, do not suggest that Einstein's fundamental discovery of the relation between space, time and mass might be incorrect.

By contrast, the earlier paradigm shift from Newton involved the rejection of the concept of absolute Euclidean space. My feeling is that we will not see a change in basic concepts of physics that alters our model of physical reality in a comparable way, simply because relativity is so much more true than either Aristotle or Newton's physics. New changes will arise in how physics interacts with other disciplines.

Quote:
B) Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" (5)—scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
This point introduces a key idea, the concept of world. Scientists consider the concept of world to be self-evident, understood as objective reality. However, world is also a subjective concept, understood as a framework of meaning. A question here is the legitimacy of unscientific concepts of world. It may be that science is necessary to explain the world, but it is far from clear that science is sufficient to explain the world.
Quote:
C) To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (5).
I'm really unsure about the status of this claim. Normal science suppresses most novelty because it is wrong. If novel ideas are true, they face immense burden of proof. While an existing paradigm works, ideas that would dismantle its basic assumptions really have to demonstrate superior explanatory power.

Where I see this as most relevant today is in the field of religion. Traditional Christianity assumes, without evidence, that Jesus Christ existed as an actual person. To achieve a paradigm shift in religion, with broad acceptance that the Gospels are fiction, would subvert basic commitments of the church. So the fundamental novelty of the hypothesis that Christ may not have existed is suppressed.
Quote:
D) Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education" (5).
The point here is that resources are not provided for research that questions existing conceptual boxes. This theme reminds me of the old Chinese concept of the mandate of heaven, as the basis of regime legitimacy. While an emperor has the mandate of heaven, he has absolute power to dispose of all resources. Similarly, existing conceptual boxes control all research resources, and anyone who questions these boxes excludes themselves from normal scientific career.

The example of the Christ myth is a case in point, with researchers on this topic not allowed to speak in universities, mass media or peer reviewed literature. Another example, just as controversial, is astrology. I am not aware of any evidence for astrological claims. However, the situation also prevails that anyone who wishes to do research on astrological topics commits career death, so scientists are terrified of the entire topic. As a result of this aggressive suppression by universities, there has been no systematic empirical research into astrological topics for several decades.
Quote:
E) A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly "subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice"
As noted with the example of Christianity, this applies equally to non-scientific topics. It is likely that we can see such shift in assumptions in other fields including economics, anthropology and history.
Quote:
(6). These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—"the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science" (6).
1. New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
2. When a shift takes place, "a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory" (7).

This idea of a transformed world is analogous to the Biblical concept of 'a new heaven and new earth'. Galileo and Darwin most certainly transformed the European world.

Kuhn raises some claims which require further analysis. He says incompatible paradigms are "incommensurable", meaning they cannot be measured against each other. But it is precisely the fact that old paradigms can be weighed in the balance and found wanting that constitutes such a commensuration. He also questions the categorical distinction between fact and theory, asserting that all facts are theory laden. I really find this dubious. It seems to me that facts are particular while theories are universal, so the fact-theory distinction remains valid. A theory guides which facts are valued, and helps in discovery of new facts and rejection of falsity. But a theory does not influence which facts are true, a question that always remains a matter of empirical observation and evidence regardless of any theory.


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Thank you very much for giving me a great information ..!!

Have a great day....!!!


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Hi Andrew, I hope you are reading the book. I am finding it extremely helpful in explaining the social factors in production of knowledge. I look forward to discussing the relation between fact and theory, and the assumptions that influence views about what is important.


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Quote:
There have been no real paradigm shifts as far as I am aware within physics since Einstein. The great expansion of knowledge over the last century has occurred in a framework of stable fundamental concepts. Even areas of dispute, such as the cosmological constant, the uncertainty principle, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy, do not suggest that Einstein's fundamental discovery of the relation between space, time and mass might be incorrect.


My understanding is that the only new paradigm possibility is String Theory, which would include a quantum theory of gravity.
GUT, from what I've read, no doubt includes a more complete understanding of gravity.
If neutrinos are traveling faster than light, then our understanding of spacetime might be drastically altered as well. I'm not a scientist, but to me it makes intuitive sense.

Quote:
It may be that science is necessary to explain the world, but it is far from clear that science is sufficient to explain the world.


That's a great comment...,
Which lead me to ponder this:

Protagoras claimed that "Man is the measure of all things." If metrics are human assumptions, which lead to scientific theories, at what point are these assumptions sufficient to explain the world? Is there a true, natural metric to explain experience? Data is subject to interpretation, and re-interpretation.

Quote:
This idea of a transformed world is analogous to the Biblical concept of 'a new heaven and new earth'. Galileo and Darwin most certainly transformed the European world


A paradigm shift is truly revolutionary. I agree that science is qualitatively enriched as a result. These revolutions are accomplished almost always, I'd say, by "rebels" who leave behind the norms, definitions, values, etc of the current institution. The herd mentality of the institution can ultimately be detrimental to progress.

Since you are continually using religion, specifically Christ, as an example, for the sake of the argument, would you consider Christ a rebel of sorts?

Thanks



Last edited by ant on Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Robert Tulip wrote:

As far as physics is concerned, I wonder if Kuhn is like a general preparing to fight the last war? There have been no real paradigm shifts as far as I am aware within physics since Einstein.

Actually, there were two major paradigm shifts in the early 20th century: relativity and quantum mechanics. While a lot has happened in physics since then, nothing that revolutionary has occurred.

However, I wouldn't characterize Kuhn as "a general preparing to fight the last war". Instead he wants to study the most exciting times in scientific history, just as historians tends to focus more on the big events in world history.

Kuhn's book, which I read many years ago, still has some relevance to modern-day science. Though first-tier paradigm shifts are rare, less significant paradigm shifts occur more frequently. In a slight departure from Kuhn, I see multiples scales of paradigms, which means smaller paradigms can change during time periods when the fundamental paradigms are more constant.



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Hi JTA, so pleased you re-opened this discussion.

What I meant about the 'last war' comment was that the basic assumption of paradigm theory is that existing ideas may be wrong. In principle this is a legitimate and important scientific stance, except that it has potential to be forced into a logical reduction to absurdity. Many existing ideas are true, and cannot be proved wrong. The dominant scientific paradigm is very robust against criticism because it has such heavy weight of evidence and method on its side.

Paradigm theory, at its most extreme, says it may be possible that our existing scientific explanation of the nature of the universe and reality is entirely incorrect, that existing science has flawed assumptions at its heart that produce systemically false conclusions.

We see the model for this view in 'the last war' of paradigm theory, with the observation that Newton was completely incorrect about the relation between time and space, producing the need for the relativity revolution, and that the Bible was completely incorrect about creation, producing the need for the evolution revolution.

My attitude here is that we should not expect to see such fundamental paradigm shifts within science again, simply because our current frameworks provide such high explanatory power that we should assume new knowledge will add to them rather than refute them.

By the way, I still don't understand why Quantum Mechanics constitutes a paradigm shift, since the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle only really shows that quantum events are below our measurement threshold, not that the universe definitely has a radical indeterminacy. This is why Einstein said God does not play dice.

Religion is another story. The supernatural paradigm is now in process of being overturned as entirely false, precisely because we need to see the materialist discoveries of science as absolutely true. Scientific knowledge is not compatible with the non-evidentiary fantasy of conventional faith.

We see precisely the sort of upheaval in conflicting new explanations of religion that Kuhn predicts in his description of the structure of scientific revolutions. New theories are radically incompatible, and have not yet produced a compelling alternative vision. The current paradigm shift on religion is moving through stages of ignoring, ridicule, debate and acceptance.

For example there is debate between mythicists and atheists about whether religion should be reformed or abolished. Both see a need for a paradigm shift away from prevailing Christian orthodoxy, but the vision of a new understanding has not been articulated with sufficient clarity to produce any new consensus on a replacement paradigm, a framework that would explain what bits of the old paradigm remain valid and which do not.

My view is that an absolute stance on scientific law is needed to bring about a paradigm shift in religious concepts. While we stick with the Kuhn attitude of 'perhaps Einstein and Darwin will be proved wrong in basic concepts' we entertain a radical doubt similar to David Hume's questioning of causality 200 years ago. Such empirical doubt is needed to 'wake us from our dogmatic slumber', as Kant put it, but is simply unable to establish traction to prove the error of supernatural thinking in religion.

The need is for a new Kant to Kuhn's Hume, showing that synthetic a priori propositions (necessary truths) are logically essential for experience to be possible, so that any expected paradigm shifts will expand on existing scientific frameworks, not replace them in fundamental concepts. Absolute knowledge is a condition of experience.

I hope that makes sense!


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Thanks, Robert. I wandered onto this site for the first time in months and noticed that you were discussing an interesting book that I read many years ago.

As a Ph.D. in physics, I can tell you that quantum mechanics was an even larger paradigm shift than relativity. Einstein's famous "God does't play dice" reflected Einstein's refusal to accept the principles of quantum mechanics because if was too revolutionary. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle involves a lot more than some things being too small to measure.

The current theories of physics do have a great deal of supporting evidence, and I doubt that there will be another paradigm shift in physics during my lifetime. However, the same could be said about Newton's theories for centuries. Newtonian physics does a great job of explaining the world, but it breaks down in extreme conditions, such as high velocities, high energies, or small distances. Also, there are certain things that it can't explain: you can't derive chemistry from Newtonian physics. Modern physics handles those extremes, but still breaks down when you go to even further extremes: there's still not a coherent theory combining general relativity and quantum mechanics.

I'm not convinced about a paradigm shift is happening or going to happen in religion. Some people still believe in traditional religion, some are atheists, and some have other beliefs. While beliefs and philosophies are continuously evolving, it's not clear that religious views are changing more dramatically now than they have in past decades.



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Quote:
For example there is debate between mythicists and atheists about whether religion should be reformed or abolished. Both see a need for a paradigm shift away from prevailing Christian orthodoxy, but the vision of a new understanding has not been articulated with sufficient clarity to produce any new consensus on a replacement paradigm, a framework that would explain what bits of the old paradigm remain valid and which do not
.


I disagree with your judgment about religion.
Within theism is a perpetual struggle between repression and reform. This struggle can be categorized as "progressive revelation." Secular language would express this as the notion that particular stages of human social and moral development prepares us for the next, and so forth and so on. You can not ignore this aspect of religion. To do so is to stereotype religion. Religion will never be abolished because it, like all human constructs, is a work in progress. You are fixated on religious sects that are concerned only with keeping the status quo.

Progressive revelation does away with this nonsense that religion is "the opiate of the masses."

:)



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
Robert wrote:

Quote:
As far as physics is concerned, I wonder if Kuhn is like a general preparing to fight the last war? There have been no real paradigm shifts as far as I am aware within physics since Einstein. The great expansion of knowledge over the last century has occurred in a framework of stable fundamental concepts. Even areas of dispute, such as the cosmological constant, the uncertainty principle, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy, do not suggest that Einstein's fundamental discovery of the relation between space, time and mass might be incorrect.



We would not know if our understanding of physics requires rehabilitation because certain phenomena like dark matter and dark energy (which you've mentioned here) are not accessible.

You entirely miss one of Kuhn's essential points about paradigms, which is why you seem to be implying that because there have been no "real paradigm shifts" of late our concepts should be considered fundamentally sound:

Quote:
Paradigm procedures and applications are as necessary to science as paradigm laws and theories, and they have the same effects. Inevitably. they restrict the phenomenological field accessible for scientific investigation at any given time.
-- SOSR

Our current Einsteinian paradigm must restrict itself to its current style of testability and interpretation of generated data to keep its concepts in line with the paradigm in place. It is a necessary evil, if you like. But it does not follow that our current conceptual framework is as stable as currently thought.

And what "last war" are you talking about?
Kuhn, to my knowledge, was not at war with anyone, including the logical positivists.
Was he? Link me to something that claims he was.



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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
There are two different sorts of paradigm shift under discussion here, and they are easily confused with each other. A paradigm shift can either overturn or refine previous thought. The shift from geocentric to heliocentric cosmology overturned earlier views, whereas the shift from Newtonian to Einsteinian cosmology can arguably be seen as a refinement, since Newtonian mechanics remains largely valid except in extreme circumstances. I understand that this generalisation can be disputed - for example the Ptolemaic epicycle theory remains roughly accurate as a way to predict apparent planetary positions, but the general principle here is that we have seen an evolutionary progress towards a more accurate and comprehensive explanation of the nature of reality.

The current situation is that science has detected accelerating expansion of the universe as measured in galactic red shift, and the role of so called non-baryonic dark matter and dark energy. These observations have such a high level of consistency and conformity that we are on safe ground saying that any future findings will refine our model of an expanding universe rather than overturn it.

My analogy between TS Kuhn and a general fighting the last war is that paradigm theory is sometimes used to imply that everything we know through science could be wrong, just as the geocentric theory was proven to be totally wrong. I simply disagree. We should expect that new science will build upon strongly consistent predictive models such as celestial mechanics and the theory of evolution.

In religion it is another matter. We are still in a 'Ptolemaic' universe as regards our knowledge of the origins of Christianity. I fully expect a paradigm shift to produce a widespread recognition that the Gospels are entirely fiction. This is an audacious view that provides a far more comprehensive and accurate explanation of the extant evidence than the traditional account of Jesus Christ as an actual person.


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Post Re: Chapter 1 - Introduction: A Role for History
A refinement of certain open questions during a paradigm is part of the practice of "normal science as puzzle solving"'is what I am relativley certain Kuhn is cliaming. Puzzle solving is not pre paradigmatic, it is very much part of an existing paradigm.

During a shift, science goes into a state of crisis,meaning because anomolies that resist solution are approached in ways contrary to the paradigm that no longer offers a solution. A "shift"is part of crisis territory. At that time science becomes very Poperian and releases itself from paradigm dogmas.



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