Monday, July 22, 2019

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas A. Khun Essay Example for Free

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas A. Khun Essay In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas A. Khun argues that scientific progress is not a matter of the slow, steady accumulation of knowledge over time but, rather, that it is characterized by long-standing beliefs about the world being radically overturned by the discovery of new information that fails to conform to existing frameworks. He also argues that the nature of the progress of science tends to be mischaracterized in textbooks and in educational practices, which typically cast the progress of science as a cumulative acquisition of knowledge where one breakthrough follows logically from the last.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   In the essay, Khun uses the term â€Å"paradigm† to describe what science at large currently holds to be true about nature. The definition of a paradigm is a temporal one subject to change and any given paradigm only survives so long as it is useful to the working scientist.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   â€Å"These [paradigms] I take to be universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners† (p. ix), he states in the book’s foreword.   This   definition of a scientific paradigm is essential to Khun’s reasoning. Kuhn goes on to deconstruct the process by which revolutions take place, how they are generally brought to be accepted and how they influence the work and attitudes of the scientists that work within their parameters. For Kuhn, a revolution in paradigm equals a revolution in science.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The paradigm is central to the work of what Khun calls â€Å"normal science†   which he defines as â€Å"†¦firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice. (p. 10)† This is the stuff of text books, the academy and what forms the majority of scientific research. Much of normal science concerns itself with fitting what information is gathered by practitioners into the predefined â€Å"box† provided by the current paradigm. Described by the author as â€Å"mopping up† operations, these endeavors occupy the working lives of most scientist. Practitioners of normal science are not concerned with the discovery of new information that fails to fit the existing paradigm (p. 24).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   In the workplace, the word â€Å"paradigm† has taken on a much less structured definition than that used by Kuhn. A paradigm may well describe a current consensus of scientific thought and practice or it might describe a series of results expected of the practitioner by they who fund the experiments. It could describe a corporate paradigm—a word that corporations do not hesitate to use and stretch to the point of nonsense-that serves as a working model for how the business at hand ought to be carried out. The use of the word paradigm in the workplace differs significantly from Khun’s. Where Kuhn is careful to offer a clear, concise definition of the term, in the casual language of the workplace a â€Å"paradigm† can refer to almost anything that serves as a model from which something is expanded.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The story of the evolution of science is   a story of one paradigm being replaced by another. For a new paradigm to emerge, it must be so compelling and so better-suited to explaining the observed universe that it draws scientists away from the old paradigm which preceded it. It also must leave enough to be discovered that those who engage in research are compelled to embrace the new paradigm (p. 10). Once the new paradigm becomes the establishment view, the work of normal science becomes concerned with refining the empirical research that necessitated the creation of the new paradigm.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The work of gathering factual information about the universe and the influence of the current paradigm on that gathering is a defining characteristic of normal science. Kuhn breaks the process of fact gathering into three distinct categories: the gathering of facts that the paradigm shows to be particularly revealing; the gathering of facts that can be compared to the predictions of the theory; and, the gathering of facts which allow the resolution of ambiguities in the existing paradigm.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The first type of fact gathering often concerns itself with refining data to a greater degree of accuracy than was previously possible. The accuracy of the data scientists are able to gather using a refractor telescope   is far exceeded by the accuracy of the information they are able to gather with a radio telescope. The pursuit of such refinements takes up a great deal of the resources of normal science. It is precisely because the existing paradigm holds that the accuracy of data describing the position and movement of stellar objects is of the utmost importance that resources are committed to such pursuits. In the field of normal science, a practitioner may become regarded as particularly accomplished through these endeavors. As Kuhn puts it: From Tycho Brahe to E.O. Lawrence, some scientists have acquired great reputations, not from any novelty of their discoveries, but from the precision, reliability, and scope of the methods they developed for the redetermination of a previously known sort of fact . (p. 26) In this instance, normal science seeks not to innovate, but to refine the means by which the paradigm is validated.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   It is also imperative for the paradigm to more accurately make useful predictions and a second focus of normal science concerns itself with this. To this end, specialized equipment is created that allows more precise measurements of natural phenomena which serves to bring data more in line with the predictions of the paradigm. In these cases, the paradigm not only dictates the question, but the methodology by which the answer is to be obtained. The existence of the paradigm sets the problem to be solved; often the paradigm theory is implicated directly in the design of the apparatus able to solve the problem (p. 27).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   As Kuhn sees it, the machinery, method and the question itself all owe their design, and the nature of their application, to the paradigm they are intended to investigate.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Kuhn’s third class of fact-gathering endeavors concerns itself with further refining the paradigm itself.   This is the most important class of fact-gathering in normal science (p. 27) and Kuhn divides it into subtypes, being those which seek to establish a mathematical constant, those which aim toward the creation of qualitative laws and those which aim to articulate a paradigm in ways that describe phenomena closely-related to those which the paradigm was originally designed to describe. He describes this third class of data-gathering activities as more closely resembling exploration than the others (p. 29).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Kuhn observes that normal science finds itself with a lot of mopping up to be done on behalf of the paradigm. Mopping up can be understood as the work necessary to make findings fit the paradigm.   Mopping up can also be understood by what it does not endeavor to do. Normal science, in its mop up efforts, does not strive to find anomalies and novelties that do not fit within the relevant paradigm, nor does it tend to pay much attention to those anomalies it does discover. Normal scientists don’t concern themselves with inventing new paradigms nor are they particularly tolerant of those who do (p. 24).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   While this could be interpreted as an excessively narrow, almost dogmatic, situation, Kuhn holds that such experimentation facilitates advancement within the paradigm and, thus, the advancement of science as a whole. Even though the work may be being done in the service of the paradigm more than in the interest of novel discovery, it still serves a useful purpose. As in many other instances in the book, Kuhn gives an historical example to shore up his argument. †¦ the men who designed the experiments that were to distinguish between the various theories of heating by compression were generally the same men who had made up the versions being compared. They were working both with fact and with theory , and their work produced not simply new information but a more precise paradigm, obtained by the elimination of ambiguities that the original from which they worked had retained(p. 34).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   In this way, normal science working under a paradigm does increase the accuracy and understanding of the natural world, however inflexible the basis for that work may be. An element of normal science that Khun finds characteristic is that it contains an aspect of   Ã¢â‚¬Å"puzzle-solving†(p. 36).   Puzzles are a category of problems that require one to think creatively to find a solution. What makes puzzles particularly relevant is that there is only one correct answer to the puzzle. While a puzzle-solver may find a novel way to fit together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, it would be judged as wrong if that novelty did not result in the picture offered as the correct solution. Similarly, much of normal science concerns itself with finding answers which are known in advance of whatever effort is made to find them.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   A practitioner of normal science seldom sets out to conduct an experiment for which he does not already suspect he has the result. The power of the paradigm is to make those predictions accurately and the lure of the puzzle is that it presents a problem where the skill of the scientist can be ascertained by their ability to find answers that may have eluded previous researchers (p. 38). There is a certain addictive property in this, to be sure, particularly to those with the sort of curiosity-driven personality that lends itself to the practice of science.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚     Ã¢â‚¬Å"There must also be rules that limit both the nature of acceptable solutions and the steps by which they are to be obtained† (p. 38) .   Again, the box with all its rigidity serves to paradoxically advance understanding the universe through its restrictions. There must be expectations for without expectations there is no way to define what is anomalous; no way to determine what is novel. Kuhn uses the example of a machine that measures wavelengths of light. The machine’s designer must demonstrate that they are, indeed, measuring the wavelengths of light as they are understood by current theory. Any unexplained anomalies that fail to fit with what is expected are likely to be seen as a flaw in the design of the experiment that renders its findings essentially useless (p. 39).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   There is an obvious workplace connection to Kuhn’s description of how a paradigm functions to at once restrict and advance science. Were an anomaly to become commonplace enough that it merited investigation, then perhaps resources and time will be allocated to that pursuit. However, the tendency of normal science being to ignore or suppress anomalous findings, it is more likely that those anomalies will be disregarded altogether for cause of their adding nothing to the existing paradigm under which the scientists, and thus the workplace, operate. But, in cases where those anomalies cannot be ignored, where they are not truly anomalous but, rather, repeatedly-observed novel facts, the seeds for innovation are sewn.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   A novel discovery can shatter a scientific paradigm and bring about changes that could have never been expected. â€Å"After they [novelties] have become parts of science, the enterprise, at least of those specialists in whose particular field the novelties lie, is never quite the same again† (p.52)   .   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   For a discovery to be truly novel, it must satisfy two criteria: it must not be predicted by the current paradigm and it must be something for which the scientist was not prepared. When this situation occurs, the paradigm cannot simply be added to in order to explain the novelty. The scientist must â€Å"learn to see nature in a different way† (p. 53) before the fact becomes a scientific fact.   Seeing nature in a different way, however, presents a crisis.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   If the anomaly, upon investigation, becomes recurrent, a process starts where it becomes clear the that the paradigm must change. This cause a great deal of anxiety in the scientific community as a paradigm shift inevitably means that the techniques and foundations of science need rewritten. Kuhn remarks: â€Å"As one might expect, that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should. Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones† (p. 68). This is an important observation for the practicing scientist. While it is easy enough to regard anomalies as a failure of equipment design or of the practitioner, keeping one’s mind open to the possibility that a novel, and potentially important, phenomena has been observed is imperative to the progress of science. Further study within the paradigm may serve to identify the anomalous as the norm and thereby advance the paradigm as a whole. The study of the anomalies within the paradigm is, perhaps ironically, the best way to advance the paradigm itself. â€Å"So long as the tools a paradigm supplies continue to prove capable of solving the problems it defines, science moves fastest and penetrates most deeply through confident employment of those tools† (p. 76).   Khun regards the crisis as an opportunity. â€Å"The significance of crises is the indication they provide that an occasion for retooling has arrived† (p. 76) . Now that the crisis is at hand, what remains to be seen is how the scientific community will act toward it.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   It may seem that Kuhn is sometimes disparaging toward science for its rather strict adherence to its guiding paradigms. However, there are counterinstances to any paradigm that occur in most any research and, therefore, any research presents crisis (p. 81). Normal science does well to be pragmatic in the face of anomalous data, if only for the sake of saving time and money that can be directed toward more useful research. Scientists generally do not line up to renounce their existing paradigm in the face of anomalies.   Even persistent anomalies that cannot be explained by a mistake do not generally present a crisis (p. 81). Oftentimes, continued work within the existing paradigm will serve to resolve the anomalies. Sometimes these counterinstances are set aside to be resolved later if they prove not particularly disruptive.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The process of a paradigm being rewritten has its own historical pattern. â€Å"All crises begin with the blurring of a paradigm and the consequent loosening of the rules for normal research† (p. 84) . When this occurs, science returns to a state similar to that which existed before the creation of the paradigm now in question. There is ambiguity, the opportunity for innovation and creativity but within a small, clearly defined area. This situation, however, is where revolution is fermented.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The construction of the new paradigm is not a slow, cumulative process, it is a complete â€Å"reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals† (p. 85). There will be a period where both paradigms are used to solve problems but the difference between the means by which the problem is solved will be decidedly different in each model. The process of redefining the paradigm is part of extraordinary science. When scientists are confronted with crises, they react by embracing different attitudes toward the existing paradigm. The proliferation of competing articulations, the willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent, the recourse to philosophy and to debate of fundamentals, all these are symptoms of a transition from normal to extraordinary research (p. 91).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   After setting up the playing field, Kuhn begins to describe the actual process by which a revolution takes place. He references the nature of political revolution as a parallel. â€Å"Political revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created† (p. 92) . Possibly more than in any other part of the essay, Kuhn start to flex his intellectual power in this chapter. He uses as one example of the parallel the discovery of the X-ray. For most astronomers, x-rays presented no real problem and were easily enough assimilated into their existing paradigm. For a particular group of scientists, however, specifically those who worked with radiation theory or whose work involved the use of cathode ray tubes, x-rays violated the laws of the paradigm under which they worked.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Like a political revolution, the new paradigm seeks to replace the old in part because the old paradigm does not allow for the existence of the new. They are not compatible in the same way that ruler by a hereditary monarch was not compatible with the new paradigm of representative democracy that characterized the American revolution. For there to be a need for a new paradigm, the old must be logically incapable of providing an explanation for the anomaly, or anomalies, that served as the impetus for its being questioned.    It follows that the new paradigm must make predictions that are inherently different from those of its predecessor (p. 97). For the new to come into its own, parts of the old must be sacrificed (p. 93). As the crisis deepens, competing camps vie for relevance, each offering its own solution to the problem at hand. They each attract their adherence and the auspices of the old paradigm are no longer sufficient to unite the divided camps. As is the case with political revolutions, there is a freewheeling period where there is no clear authority.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The debate between the new paradigms is essential.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Each one lures adherents with its promises of usefulness and its vision of life under the new paradigm.   Scientists do not leave their paradigms easily. In fact, rather than being left out in the cold, most scientists will not reject their existing paradigm until a viable alternative is offered (p. 77).   Kuhn holds that the study of persuasive argument is as important as the study of logical and reasoned argument in periods during which practitioners are undertaking the process of finding a viable alternative to a no-longer adequate paradigm (p. 94).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Kuhn holds that scientific revolutions invariably resolve with the world view of the scientific community having been forever changed (p. 111). What was once familiar is now new, what was once established as accurate is now proven to be something less than that by the new paradigm. Paradoxically, the new perception depends upon the new paradigm just as the old mode of seeing the world depended upon adherence to the discarded paradigm. Without a point of reference, the world becomes incoherent. Where scientific revolutions are concerned, there may be a shift in paradigm but there is always a paradigm, whether it be contemporary or past its relevance. As Kuhn argues in previous chapters, it is from this structure that innovation flows and, therefore, the constant presence of a paradigm is not necessarily a failing on the part of science.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Though the world of science may have been turned on its ear, one is unlikely to ever get this impression from textbooks and courses. The paradigm, once established, becomes victim to what Khun calls the â€Å"invisibility† of scientific revolutions. This could be seen as a true weakness in the scientific community. Like those that ferment and enable political revolutions, scientists tend to rewrite history in such a way that omits the conflict, controversy and creativity that led to the revolution that gave birth to the current paradigm. †¦scientists are more affected by the temptation to rewrite history, partly because the results of scientific research show no obvious dependence upon the historical context of the inquiry, and partly because, expect during crisis and revolution, the scientist’s contemporary position seems so secure (p. 138).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Thus, this remarkable history of revolution in thought, in practice and in humankind’s knowledge of the universe is glossed over in textbooks. The revolutions that once turned the world on its ear, at least for scientists, become the realm of normal science and the practitioners go back to mopping up reality to make it conform to the predictions of the new paradigm just as they did in the service of the old. Kuhn makes his case mostly by citing textbooks as an example of how history is rewritten but, since text books are the tool of the trade where the teaching of science is concerned, the significance is obvious.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   However, the way in which the paradigm is regarded has its advantages. †¦once the acceptance of a common paradigm has freed the scientific community from the need constantly [sic] re-examine its first principles, the members of that community can concentrate exclusively upon the subtlest and most esoteric of the phenomena that concern it. Inevitably, that does increase both the effectiveness and the efficiency with which the group as a while solves new problems (p. 164) . Here, again, is the theme of the â€Å"box† of the paradigm allowing scientists to explore beyond its limits. The efficiency with which scientists can work under a shared paradigm and the reliable set of tools with which it provides them are priceless. Perhaps, this is the reason the scientific community works so hard to preserve whatever paradigm is relevant at the time; it is not the fear of the new but the fear of the loss of what has proven itself valuable.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   What is interesting about Kuhn’s essay is that he does not use the word â€Å"truth†-excepting in a quotation from Francis Bacon—a fact that he point out himself (p. 170). Kuhn holds that there may not be a need for any such lofty goal. â€Å"Can we not account for both science’s existence and its success in term of evolution from the community’s state of knowledge at any given time?† (p. 171)   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   This is a powerful idea. Perhaps, a better understanding of the universe is not a goal but a thing better defined-and accomplished-if it is understood to be an ongoing process. Kuhn also provides a powerful question for those who would regard, or characterize, science as a form of dogma: â€Å"Does it really help to imagine that there is some one full, objective, true account of nature and that the proper measure of scientific achievement is the extent to which it brings us closer to that ultimate goal?† (p. 171)   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   A poignant question, indeed. Is there an endpoint to science? Is there a point where there will be nothing left to learn, nothing left to explore and when the collected work of science will entail all that there is to know about the universe? If history is any indication, such a situation is unlikely. The story of science, and Kuhn argues this convincingly, can be seen as a continuing process without any particular goal in site. There may be the subset of goals toward which the practitioner of normal science works, but these are simple goals relating to the desired outcome for one experiment or another, not goals set for science as a whole. That is to say, to work toward a better understanding of the orbit of Jupiter is not to work toward anything so esoteric as a better understanding of the universe, it is to simply add to the ongoing process of scientific revolution by examining one subset of data within a paradigm. The value of Kuhn’s essay extends beyond what value it may have to practitioners of science. It provides a framework that can help anyone, scientist or not, understand the means by which science determines what is an accurate description of the natural world. Science currently finds itself challenged on many fronts for many reasons, most of them having little to do with science and a great deal to do with politics and theology. Kuhn’s essay provides a potent reply to the casting of science as dogmatic or religious in nature.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Personally, I feel that this book is of the utmost value to anyone engaged in the practice of science at any level. What Kuhn manages to do in this essay is to communicate what amounts to an understanding of understanding itself. The scientific method has proven over and over again to be the most accurate means that humanity has devised to make sense of the universe. But science must strive to understand itself as much as it strives to understand the universe.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The only sure protection against dogmatism is the acknowledgement that all theories are temporal, subject to unexpected and radical change and that they function to explain nature as it is currently understood. There is an important distinction between our current understanding of the universe, our paradigm, and the reality of the universe. Our understanding is always limited to the cumulative experiences of scientists past and present, which, along with those significant moments of revolution have provided the best means available to make accurate and useful predictions. The nature of science, however, is one of constant evolution. As Kuhn argues, this evolution is not a process remarkable for its consistency so much as it is a process remarkable for being punctuated by research and discoveries that cause huge leaps forward in understanding. A scientist who does not understand this may well find themselves consigned to a life of puzzle-solving exercises designed to confirm what is already known rather than experiencing what I would submit is the true passion-inducing aspect of science, the discovery of novel facts that turn the world of science upside down and test the limits of the scientific community’s ability to assimilate and understand those discoveries. Probably the most radical contrast between science and dogma is that science, in its best practice, never shies away from examining itself, its conclusions and the accuracy of the beliefs it encourages. It may not submit itself easily to such tests but it will given time and the impetus of novelty. Kuhn’s essay provides a means by which one might acquire much insight into the workings of science and the scientific community and it provides a celebration of the many crises that have pushed science, and therefore humanity, forward in thought and understanding.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   I find myself in agreement with Kuhn’s conclusions about the ways in which the scientific community reacts to and eventually assimilates novel discoveries. Science, indeed, has been forced to concede long-held beliefs about the universe in the presence of new evidence which did not fit with old paradigms. The case of the evolution of life, where scientists once worked mightily to ensure that there was some room for theology, is one such instance. In the face of Darwin’s observations, science was forced to accept a new paradigm where the nature of living organisms was changed not by providence but by the environments in which they lived. More importantly than Darwin’s impact on theological theories of evolution, or the lack thereof, however, was the concept that evolution was not a goal-driven process (p. 171). This conflicted not only with the theologians of Darwin’s time, but with the accepted scientific theories, the paradigm, of biology as well. No longer was the march of life seen as a march forward toward any particular destination. It had now been more accurately described as a process dictated by the situations of individual organisms rather than the result of some grand design. There was no particular better or worse aspect to the wildlife on the Galapagos evolving to fit the islands on which they lived, the modifications inherited by way of natural selection simply flowed from the natural environment and, given a different environment, they would change again.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   From that new paradigm and from the practitioners of normal science who worked and continue to work within it came modern medicine, agricultural practices and many, many more achievements that are directly traceable to the current paradigm where life is believed to have evolved into its present state over billions of years of slow, cumulative changes. Without the flexibility to change the existing paradigm, we may have found ourselves unavailed of the knowledge of the double-helix, the methods by which bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics and the roots of genetic disease. As Kuhn points out, a radical paradigm shift such as that started by Darwin is necessary for a scientific revolution but the work of those practicing normal science, the geneticist working in the lab, the geologist using the paradigm that explains how a layer of rock strata may be assigned a probable age, the physicist whose work allows for technology such as carbon dating, are all as necessary for the acquisition of a better and more accurate understanding of the universe as is the revolution itself. And, further, that paradigm-driven research is the usual means by which revolutions in the scientific paradigm come to pass.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   That puzzle-solving work of the normal scientist will always draw some to the practice of science. The allure of finding a solution, of one’s research becoming part of the evidence that defines the current scientific understanding of the universe is a powerful one and one that should be encouraged. Normal science may have its elements of drudgery and it could be characterized as only confirming what is already known but that would be inaccurate. Science forms theories based on facts. The power of science to constantly discover new facts about our universe has for a long time been a source of hope and inspiration to humanity as a whole. However, the work of better refining our understanding is of equal value. Science must keep an open mind while continuing to adhere to the paradigms that have provided the best answers. Kuhn’s observant, thoughtful and enlightening essay provides a means for practitioners to better understand the importance of both. References Kuhn, T. (1991). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd Ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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