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Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science
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Author:  Chris OConnor [ Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by Thomas S. Kuhn


Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Sun Jan 15, 2012 6:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

Professor Pajares Study Guide describes this chapter as follows, quoted, with my comments in between.

http://des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html

Quote:
Chapter III - The Nature of Normal Science.
If a paradigm consists of basic and incontrovertible assumptions about the nature of the discipline, what questions are left to ask? When they first appear, paradigms are limited in scope and in precision. "Paradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute" (23). But more successful does not mean completely successful with a single problem or notably successful with any large number (23). Initially, a paradigm offers the promise of success. Normal science consists in the actualization of that promise. This is achieved by extending the knowledge of those facts that the paradigm displays as particularly revealing, increasing the extent of the match between those facts and the paradigm's predictions,
and further articulation of the paradigm itself. In other words, there is a good deal of mopping-up to be done. Mop-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. Mopping-up is what normal science is all about! This paradigm-based research (25) is "an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies" (24).
Just considering this last point (my bold), I don't agree that a paradigm necessarily tries to force nature, it is more that it ignores things that it cannot explain. and only studies things it can explain. Only when people prove the things that the paradigm cannot explain are important do we find this conflict emerging. Again, this model illustrates the deductive nature of science, starting with a theoretical framework and only taking interest in problems that can be explained within the framework.
Quote:
no effort made to call forth new sorts of phenomena. no effort to discover anomalies.
when anomalies pop up, they are usually discarded or ignored. anomalies usually not even noticed (tunnel vision/one track mind). no effort to invent new theory (and no tolerance for those who try). "Normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies" (24).
"Perhaps these are defects . . . " ". . . but those restrictions, born from confidence in a paradigm, turn out to be essential to the development of science. By focusing attention on a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable" (24). . . . and, when the paradigm ceases to function properly, scientists begin to behave differently and the nature of their research problems changes.
To be fair to scientists, crackpots continually spruik mad ideas. It really is up to the innovator to prove they are not a crackpot, as scientists would destroy their reputation if they wasted time on ideas that reject the current mainstream view. I take a close interest in the website Bad Astronomy Universe Today, where they have an 'Against the Mainstream' section in which people continually make valiant efforts to disprove current knowledge. We see that the current scientific framework is extremely robust and defensible, because of its high level of coherence, with extremely close match between measurement and prediction in basic cosmology.
Quote:
Mopping-up can prove fascinating work (24). [You do it. We all do it. And we love to do it. In fact, we'd do it for free.] The principal problems of normal science.
Determination of significant fact. A paradigm guides and informs the fact-gathering (experiments and observations described in journals) decisions of researchers?
Researchers focus on, and attempt to increase the accuracy and scope of, facts (constructs/concepts) that the paradigm has shown to be particularly revealing of the nature of things (25). Matching of facts with theory. Researchers focus on facts that can be compared directly with predictions from the paradigmatic theory (26)
Great effort and ingenuity are required to bring theory and nature into closer and closer agreement. A paradigm sets the problems to be solved (27). Articulation of theory. Researchers undertake empirical work to articulate the paradigm theory itself (27)—resolve residual ambiguities, refine, permit solution of problems to which the theory had previously only drawn attention.
All this seems to conflict with the claim that science is primarily inductive - that it is based on observation. Instead, the paradigm theory suggests that science chooses which facts to study on the basis of already formed theoretical premises, deductively setting its priorities from the starting point of a universal theory. Kant expressed this situation by saying there is no perception that is unguided by concepts.

But I don't agree that this deductive nature of science implies that facts are theory-laden. A fact is true or false regardless of our knowledge. Our perception is certainly governed by theory, but real facts have an external objectivity. It is true there are many facts we will not discover until we have theory that enables us to do so, and Kuhn gives numerous examples of this. But the theory is just the path to the fact, it is not the fact itself, which is a statement of what is the case about nature.
Quote:
This articulation includes determination of universal constants. development of quantitative laws. selection of ways to apply the paradigm to a related area of interest. This is, in part, a problem of application (but only in part). Paradigms must undergo reformulation so that their tenets closely correspond to the natural object of their inquiry (clarification by reformulation). "The problems of paradigm articulation are simultaneously theoretical and experimental" (33). Such work should produce new information and a more precise paradigm. This is the primary work of many sciences. To desert the paradigm is to cease practicing the science it defines (34).
An example in Newtonian physics is that it took nearly a century after Newton to explain the motion of the moon. The inverse square law of gravity by itself leaves an enormous array of practical problems regarding how the simple mathematical law actually operates in reality.

Author:  ant [ Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

Quote:
no effort made to call forth new sorts of phenomena. no effort to discover anomalies.
when anomalies pop up, they are usually discarded or ignored. anomalies usually not even noticed (tunnel vision/one track mind). no effort to invent new theory (and no tolerance for those who try). "Normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies"



Quote:
Robert wrote;

To be fair to scientists, crackpots continually spruik mad ideas. It really is up to the innovator to prove they are not a crackpot, as scientists would destroy their reputation if they wasted time on ideas that reject the current mainstream view.


Crackpots are not the first thing that came to my head.


Inherent in all social institutions are conceptual machineries who's objective is to keep the individuals of the institution in step. Efforts to maintain legitimization of the institution's way of doing things ( for Science, research, data accumulation and interpretation, acceptable methods of experimentation, etc) is of paramount importance to the survival of the institution. It maintains the reality that the institution orients itself in. The reality the current paradigm has defined as "universal, necessary, and certain knowledge" is in place as long as it is not infiltrated by a deviant from outside the "normal" structure set in place.

It can be said that Einstein started the quantum paradigm and became a pariah to it when he turned his back on a random universe. He was woking so far on the edge of the physics of Bohr, Schrodinger, etc, that he was essentially boxed out of the scientific community as a result. Of course I realize that Einstein is not the type of crackpot you are referring to. However, it can be stated that there is forceful resistance to most deviants/rebels that will work on the outskirts of the paradigm in place to protect the comfortableness of the paradigm/institution.

Author:  Interbane [ Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

I think scientists have historically defended the incumbent paradigm not with forceful resistance, but through heated discussion. Forceful resistance makes it sound as if they threaten each other with beatings and imprisonment. Even scientists who were at direct odds would have conversations, sometimes only in writing.

Quote:
A fact is true or false regardless of our knowledge.


I disagree. Before a set of words can even form a factful sentence, we must go through a great deal of learning to understand the sentence. If a fact is to exist in some ether while we learn to understand it, I'd have you point me to it's location. We must be taught the corresponding or incorporated concepts of the fact, and if we are taught them incorrectly, the fact is no longer true to us. If all culture takes on our misunderstanding and turns it to the norm, the fact would then be false, by virtue of a shift in our knowledge.

What I mean is, facts don't exist outside our knowledge. They are part of the whole, and would be influenced by it in some manner. Perhaps you could say "A fact is true or false depending on different aspects of our knowledge."

Author:  ant [ Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

Interbane wrote:
I think scientists have historically defended the incumbent paradigm not with forceful resistance, but through heated discussion. Forceful resistance makes it sound as if they threaten each other with beatings and imprisonment. Even scientists who were at direct odds would have conversations, sometimes only in writing.

Quote:
A fact is true or false regardless of our knowledge.


I disagree. Before a set of words can even form a factful sentence, we must go through a great deal of learning to understand the sentence. If a fact is to exist in some ether while we learn to understand it, I'd have you point me to it's location. We must be taught the corresponding or incorporated concepts of the fact, and if we are taught them incorrectly, the fact is no longer true to us. If all culture takes on our misunderstanding and turns it to the norm, the fact would then be false, by virtue of a shift in our knowledge.

What I mean is, facts don't exist outside our knowledge. They are part of the whole, and would be influenced by it in some manner. Perhaps you could say "A fact is true or false depending on different aspects of our knowledge."



Quote:
What I mean is, facts don't exist outside our knowledge.


I tend to agree with Robert on this one regarding facts being true regardless of our knowledge of them, but for probably different reason(s) than Robert.

I ask this: What about mathematical truths? Perhaps they are the only absolute truths that exist outside our realm. That is the theory of some mathematicians - mathematics are a discovery of man, not an invention by man.

Take for instance someone like Ramanujan? How was this person able to extrapolate mathematical theorems that years later were applicable in the "real" world? Was the language of mathematics innate for Ramanujan? Also, Chomsky hypothesized that certain linguistic characteristics are innate.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Chapter 3 - The Nature of Normal Science

Interbane wrote:
I think scientists have historically defended the incumbent paradigm not with forceful resistance, but through heated discussion. Forceful resistance makes it sound as if they threaten each other with beatings and imprisonment. Even scientists who were at direct odds would have conversations, sometimes only in writing.
The heat has come more from the advocates of change, with their discussions largely ignored by the incumbency. The first stage in paradigm shift is that new ideas are completely ignored, sometimes because gatekeepers of established venues do not consider the new ideas acceptable for peer review. The second stage is when new ideas are ridiculed by defenders of the status quo ante. This is a process that can generate more heat than light, but is essential for the new paradigm to understand how it is perceived by people with false assumptions, and to be able to respond to common questions. The third stage is when a new paradigm becomes subject of formal debate, having won enough respect through the ridicule phase to be seen as plausible. The fourth stage is when a new paradigm is accepted. In some cases, the old paradigm and everything associated with it now becomes the object of ridicule, for example geocentric astronomy.

At every phase, the range of legitimate facts within the debate is narrowly prescribed by prevailing theory. There is as much psychology and politics in this change process as objective research.
Quote:
RT wrote:
A fact is true or false regardless of our knowledge.

I disagree. Before a set of words can even form a factful sentence, we must go through a great deal of learning to understand the sentence. If a fact is to exist in some ether while we learn to understand it, I'd have you point me to it's location. We must be taught the corresponding or incorporated concepts of the fact, and if we are taught them incorrectly, the fact is no longer true to us. If all culture takes on our misunderstanding and turns it to the norm, the fact would then be false, by virtue of a shift in our knowledge.

What I mean is, facts don't exist outside our knowledge. They are part of the whole, and would be influenced by it in some manner. Perhaps you could say "A fact is true or false depending on different aspects of our knowledge."


I'm glad you picked up on this point Interbane, as I really was angling for such a response regarding epistemology. What is a fact? Your response raises the complex problem of the relation between language and truth. Your statement that facts don't exist outside our knowledge implies there are no unknown facts, that this idea is a contradiction. However, your view here contradicts the common use of the term fact. For example, we commonly say things like "unknown to all, the volcano was in fact getting ready to erupt." The fact of tectonic movement exists independently of human knowledge of it, and does not become a fact only at the moment of perception.

People generally regard facts as states of affairs in the world, not linguistic representations of those actual realities. However, in science the language factor is far more important, because our theoretical vision of reality governs what we accept as fact. But this illustrates the distinction between fact and perception. A fact is a reality in the world, regardless of whether we know about it. As we start to relate to the fact, we explain it as a perception that is governed and framed by our concepts.

In philosophy, there has been a big debate about whether we have access to reality. Kant introduced a distinction between phenomena, or things as they appear to us, and noumena, or things as they really are. He argued that all our knowledge is of appearance, and we can never tell if our knowledge penetrates to the actual reality.

I find that Kantian line absurd, as it is obvious that we often do know a lot about what things really are in themselves. Granted we do not know everything about anything, but we do know something. For Kant to say we can know nothing about things in themselves puts our thought entirely into a fantasy bubble, with no real access to an objective external reality.

Paradigm theory, especially the way facts are selected and valued on the basis of theoretical priorities, shows that there is more such Kantian fantasy in human knowledge than many scientists would often wish to admit. But this requires balance. We should not say that facts found by scientific research are open to doubt when the methods to find them are obvious and sound and abundantly confirmed.

Where doubt does legitimately enter the picture is when science extrapolates from facts to formulate universal theories. Even here, there is often ground for strong confidence, for example in the laws of evolution and physics. No one says these laws tell us everything there is to know, but science does claim that they accurately describe how processes must have occured.

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