Sunday, May 10, 2009

98 Thomas Kuhn

A book you absolutely should read is "the Structure of Scientific Revolution", published in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn.

He claimed that philosophers offered only a simplistic interpretation of the history of science as a continuous process of progress, in which we get closer and closer to the truth.

Against this Kuhn clearly showed that there exists radical and unbridgeable discontinuities between different periods of scientific research, because of which the idea of continuity is untenable.

Kuhn describes normal science as ‘puzzle-solving’. Its main purpose is to convey the idea that like someone doing crossword puzzles or chess puzzles or jigsaws, the puzzle-solver expects to have a reasonable chance of solving the puzzle.

Finding the solution will depend mainly on his own ability, and that the puzzle itself and its methods of solution will have a high degree of familiarity.

Periods of 'normal' science do not so much show independent and objective research but much more the inclination to hold on to postulates and expected results about which exists consensus.

In such periods unexpected or unfitted results and observations, called anomalies, are declared to be irrelevant, discarded or at the best explained by streching the theory or add ad hoc explanatory theories.

Research in which the dominating postulates of the ruling theories are questioned are discared as wild and useless speculations. Characteristic in such e a period is that articles which question the dominating theory itself, are refused by the established editors of prominent scientific journals, for instance. The establishment doesn't like to give way.

This is what Kuhn called the disciplinary matrix, and later the paradigm. It is a web of postulates and opinions of a certain community, which controls the direction of the scientific research. In periods of 'normal' science only results that confirm the dominating theories are accepted. The paradigm itself is never questioned.

Only when the anomalies increase and an other theory solves the puzzles better and better, then will take place a paradigm shift, a scientific revolution. True revolutionaries were for instance Copernicus and Einstein.

The revolutionary phases are not merely periods of accelerated progress, but differ qualitatively from normal science. Revolutionary science, however, is not cumulative in that, according to Kuhn, scientific revolutions involve a revision to existing scientific belief or practice.

This is quite a different approach than Popper suggested. He held that a single reproducible, anomalous phenomenon be enough to result in the rejection of a theory. But scientists adhering to their paradigms hardly regard anomalies as refutations of their theories, but rather as issues that need more research or need a special explanation.

Kuhn also introduced the concept of 'incommensurability'. This means that it is almost impossible to compare two paradigms with eachother, because the lack common measures. For Kuhn this meant , that science is not a development that gets always closer to the ultimate truth.

When you look out of the window at the sun and regard it as the center of the universe, you see something else when you regard it as just a star around which the earth rotates. Such views are, according to Kuhn, incommensuable.

The subjectivism in science makes the idea of an absolute truth highly questionable, so we'd better drop that idea according to Kuhn. Because it is impossible to investigate the nature of reality without a paradigm, we must regard science as the evolution of ideas in response to the world.

In an evolutionary sense this means that science isn't a road to the ultimate truth, but mainly a permanent process of adaptation of the organism to its environment.

And like in evolution there is no evidence of a developmental process in the direction of some ultimate being, the perfect being, there also is no evidence of a development in the direction of some ultimate truth.

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: This concludes my words on Kuhn...:-)
[13:21] Aya Beaumont: Hmmm.
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: as we can't know anything about ultimate truth- we cannot know whatthe road would look like
[13:22] Laila Schuman: i have trouble with the idea that a single instance is enough and does not require examination.... or am i misinterpreting what was said
[13:22] Aya Beaumont: Even the idea of ultimate truth is pretty iffy.
[13:22] Mickorod Renard: my thoughts too
[13:22] herman Bergson: Well..the idea of an ultimate truth....
[13:23] herman Bergson: I think it is related to our ability to see finity
[13:23] Topaz Arai: The use of the term "Ultimate" shows you're begging the question.
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: or our inability tio understand infinity?
[13:23] herman Bergson: Yes,,, you are right Topaz...
[13:23] Topaz Arai: Arguments from Perfection...always beg the question.
[13:23] herman Bergson: I should have said ..just the truth
[13:24] Aya Beaumont: But it's a common misconduct in various philosophical theories... first you say that ultimate truth/knowledge/whatever is impossible, and most people agree.
[13:24] Mickorod Renard: I mused over a statement I read the other day about the way science today is only as we know it cos of the route it took
[13:24] Aya Beaumont: Then you extrapolate this to mean that truth/knowledge/whatever is a useless concept.
[13:24] Mickorod Renard: but its wierd to think of other routes
[13:25] herman Bergson: what do you mean by useless, Aya?
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: i think we are going back to meatphysics here..
[13:25] Aya Beaumont: Nah, I'll drop it. =)
[13:25] herman Bergson: Yes MIckorod, we are also captured in some paradigm
[13:25] Aya Beaumont: But I love the term meatphysics. =)
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. so did i. I meant metaphysics.
[13:26] arabella Ella: i think the problem with kuhn really is ... if there cannot be any truth how can we understand what he tells us ... as truth or as falsehood ... and that gives rise to a contradiction
[13:26] Topaz Arai: truth, like most reasonable concepts, can be defines as an Impossible Perfection, or as something humanly attainable. Again, if you mean "total truth" or complete truth" or "absolute/perfect/infinitely accurate have begged the question, again.
[13:26] Aya Beaumont: To discuss science as it stands... Yes, there is a problem with assuming that people are disinterested and objective.
[13:26] Laila Schuman: perhaps a difference between truth and ultimate truth?
[13:27] Aya Beaumont: A scientific bigshot's income and career depends on his theories. He isn't going to accept a refutation easily.
[13:27] Topaz Arai: thats my point Laila.
[13:27] herman Bergson: The way Kuhn uses the concept of truth has a strong pragmatic dimension in my opinion
[13:27] Aya Beaumont: And yet his relevance depends on his doing so.
[13:27] Samuel Okelly: Kuhn’s description of anomalies would seem to support what I have previously euphemistically referred to as the arrogance of the scientific method
[13:27] herman Bergson: if you use it in another way we are en route for Hope's metaphysics
[13:28] arabella Ella: will you be doing feyerabend too herman? as a follow up to Kuhn?
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes Arabella
[13:28] Mickorod Renard: has anyone wondered whether we actually need a body?
[13:28] herman Bergson: Can you elaborate on that Samuel?
[13:28] herman Bergson: Nobody, Mickorod..:-)
[13:28] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:28] Aya Beaumont: Bodies are neat.
[13:29] herman Bergson: oops, Samule crashed I am afraid
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: mick.. sometimes i wonder why we need a brain when body can be so much more fun lol
[13:29] Aya Beaumont: Yeah... but bodies aren't much fun without a brain, are they?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Let's stay with the subject here
[13:30] Mickorod Renard: but as we see into things like quantum mechanics the universe seems so wonderful that it begs the question whether we need to exist bodily
[13:30] Topaz Arai: lol depends what you sue them for Aya.
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: sue sound nice too:)
[13:30] herman Bergson: Welcome back Samuel....glad to see your body..:-)
[13:31] Laila Schuman: back on task guys
[13:31] Aya Beaumont: Anyway... religious people usually have a hard time understanding a system built on doubt.
[13:31] Samuel Okelly: thanks :)
[13:31] Aya Beaumont: For some reason, perhaps.
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: the truth is merly that...the truth, our inbility to find does not creat degrees of either have it or you are not the truth
[13:31] herman Bergson: Back to Samuel's remark
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: hi Rodney
[13:31] Aya Beaumont: And as for the scientific system, it's hardly perfect... but any alternatives are blatantly worse.
[13:32] herman Bergson: I would interpret it in another way Aya....
[13:32] Rodney Handrick: Hi Mick
[13:32] herman Bergson: we are captured oin own own paradigm
[13:32] herman Bergson: Science is science as we see it..we cant see it ohtherwise
[13:32] Topaz Arai: captured?
[13:33] herman Bergson: captive?
[13:33] Aya Beaumont: Certainly... but put it another way: How big must the splash be for a revolution to change that paradigm?
[13:33] herman Bergson: locked up
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: we see it as we are shown it Herman
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Aya, that is the question
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: it could be subject to our imagination
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: i think we forget these 2 revolutions had lots of others to prepare the way..
[13:33] Aya Beaumont: Knowing something about the medical sciences, I can say that it does take a bit to change old convictions.
[13:33] arabella Ella: a paradigm shift aya ... a completely new way of looking at things ... like the copernican revolution
[13:34] Aya Beaumont: No, not things that big.
[13:34] Aya Beaumont: But take Helicobacter Pylori.
[13:34] Laila Schuman: sometimes the "splash" sneaks in ... a ripple... and just grows... so it does not have to appear as a major deal all at once
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: people are naturally resistant to change
[13:34] Mickorod Renard: but we follow the ripples
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Laila.....we must not expect some instant revolution one day to the other
[13:34] Ze Novikov: say more Aya
[13:34] Aya Beaumont: Early 80s, people felt absolutely certain stomach ulcers were due to too much acid.
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: double helix.. a revolution?
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: inflated egos create stone walls for change
[13:35] Aya Beaumont: This was based on (among other things) the idea that no bacteria could survive the stomach acid.
[13:35] Laila Schuman: AMEN ari
[13:35] Rodney Handrick: agreed Ari
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is what Kuhn points at...that process in science
[13:36] Aya Beaumont: But some people thought they might, and when they found bacteria in ulcerated stomachs... the change was instant and massive.
[13:36] Topaz Arai: the resistence process?
[13:36] Aya Beaumont: Within that field, of course.
[13:36] Mickorod Renard: is there much evidence to support his idea's?
[13:36] Samuel Okelly: I think it is interesting that Kuhn recognised limitations of a self-regulatory paradigm
[13:36] herman Bergson: It might be a good example least of a mini revolution
[13:37] Aya Beaumont: It didn't take too long for doctors to start doing research on what antibiotics you needed to kill that infection.
[13:37] herman Bergson: What would be a revolution is when medicine was replaced by some quantum energy theory which solves more
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: anyone to comment on watson and craig?
[13:37] Aya Beaumont: The alternative was mutilating operations, so most people preferred this.
[13:38] Topaz Arai: Herman, that replacement *is* science still
[13:38] herman Bergson: oh yes Topaz
[13:38] Aya Beaumont: quantum energy medicines? I'll believe it when I see data. =)
[13:38] herman Bergson: but a whole new paradigm
[13:38] Topaz Arai: I don't see any revolution different from evidence becoming popularized, and people then changing their minds.
[13:39] Topaz Arai: if its stills sience, its still the exact same paradigm, isn't it?
[13:39] herman Bergson: You overlook Kuhn's concept of incommensurability here
[13:39] Aya Beaumont: It could of course also be that at the start of the scientific process, the field was open, and key discoveries were made. Big questions were answered.
[13:39] herman Bergson: besides Kuhn had a philosophical theory with epistemological consequences
[13:40] Aya Beaumont: With time, people got more and more narrow questions to answer.
[13:40] Aya Beaumont: Revolutions got smaller.
[13:40] Samuel Okelly: "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"
[13:40] arabella Ella: i think it is also relevant to state that Kuhn's ideas were a reaction to Popper's on falsifiability
[13:40] Aya Beaumont: This MIGHT actually mean that science has been on the right track all the time, no?
[13:41] herman Bergson: The only thing Kuhn wanted to show was that science is not some progressive development
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: the obvious corruption in the the process of popularization of an idea makes it suspect
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well..the scientific revolution is indeed a change of mind by the ruling class of scientists
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: i have the impression that when we talk about science we have a very narrow minded view..
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: i mean here.. in class..
[13:42] herman Bergson: I wouldnt say that Hope....
[13:42] Aya Beaumont: Herman, I think it may be rather a replacement of the ruling class.
[13:42] herman Bergson: I guess science can be understood as the knowledgebase that shapes our world
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: i'm listening:)
[13:42] arabella Ella: yes hope ... science is not always what scientists make it out to be ... even scientists are limited by their human perspective
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: is this ruling class of scientists any different from ethe clerics taht historically retarded our advancement to the truth?
[13:43] arabella Ella: and science needs philosophy ... for better meta thinking
[13:43] Mickorod Renard: I suppose it would be interesting to imagine where science would be if it had followed another path
[13:43] herman Bergson: There is a lot of politics in what is called 'scientific research' Aristotle
[13:43] Aya Beaumont: Aristotle: You can't have a science wiki. Not every person's view of things is as relevant.
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: come on.. we all sit in front of a computer.. now developping a computer.. is that science or not..
[13:43] Mickorod Renard: could it have been diferent?
[13:43] Qwark Allen: and lobbys behind both
[13:44] arabella Ella: but ... if you take pharmaceuticals as science ... they are financed by the large corporations ... lobbyists as qwark just said
[13:44] arabella Ella: same applies to medicine
[13:44] Aya Beaumont: And of course to social sciences.
[13:44] Qwark Allen: to all investigation
[13:44] Qwark Allen: camp
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: yes true,,the days of discoverin much in the garden shed are over
[13:44] arabella Ella: yes of course
[13:44] herman Bergson: Indeed Qwark
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: plato was sponsored too lol
[13:45] Qwark Allen: ehehhe
[13:45] Qwark Allen: yes hope
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes he was by the society that kept him alive Hope
[13:45] Laila Schuman: i think we are leaving the effect of politics, sociology and economics out of the equation... these things are HUGE when it comes to science being funded... they can make or break a paradigm's very existance
[13:45] arabella Ella: today we have patronage ... in a more modern guise
[13:45] Aya Beaumont: I find when I look at things in science, that social sciences are a very long way from using scientific method.
[13:45] Topaz Arai: Plato was sponsored by power political elites, who took over athens..more than once.
[13:45] Rodney Handrick: true arabella
[13:46] Laila Schuman: socioligical factors... affect funding
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: this retardation of progress is like our current state of dependence on fossil fuels, those in power have put us all in jeopardy
[13:46] Aya Beaumont: For example, they conduct deep interview studies of three people, and draw huge conclusions from that.
[13:46] Laila Schuman: the arms race... race to space... and public opinion
[13:46] arabella Ella: take female ailments for example ... less research there and more into male ailments ... why ... cos most research is funded by males and researched by males ...sorry for the gender reference
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: I think it is more sinister than that Ari...
[13:46] arabella Ella: altho that is slowly changing
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: social science hasnthad the technological restrains as other types of science over history
[13:46] herman Bergson: Ok...Ok...I think that will do!!! ^_^
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I think you ar right Rod
[13:47] Aya Beaumont: So it has been MORE resistant to change.
[13:47] Aya Beaumont: Some social sciences, such as psychology, are STILL preaching the gospel of Freud, for crying out loud.
[13:47] arabella Ella: science today progresses in the direction which those who fund it wish it to move ( I dont like the word 'progress')
[13:47] herman Bergson: Many concluded from Kuhn's theories that we had to look at the development of science in a completely different they way you all enumerated here in examples
[13:47] Topaz Arai: social sceince does not have restraints, like being repeatably demonstratable too
[13:48] Laila Schuman: by social science, i mean what society thinks and allows at a given time... what about stem cell research... that is fueled by opinion
[13:48] Aya Beaumont: Or following any sort of scientific method. It's generally enough if you call the parts of your paper Abstract, Discussion and Conclusion.
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: yes, so it could have been exploited more freely
[13:49] herman Bergson: Let us keep in mind that Kuhn opposed philosophically against logical positivism
[13:49] herman Bergson: and the idea of progress in science
[13:49] herman Bergson: and against Popper's falsificationism
[13:49] Laila Schuman: and more than ever... opinion makes science possible or not
[13:49] Aya Beaumont: So what does he suggest?
[13:49] Laila Schuman: often the opinion of people who know nothing about the subject
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: one should use the word progress with care.. ..:)
[13:50] arabella Ella: yes
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: agreed Laila
[13:50] Topaz Arai: ok..I don' get how he opposes the idea of progress in science. but..shrug
[13:50] Laila Schuman: or have a vested interest... bush on global warming
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes Hope, I agree, but the logical positivists believed in it, I would say
[13:50] herman Bergson: getting closer and closer to the truth
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: some still use it like in the bible- make the world you own..( or something like it)
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: yrs Laila
[13:51] arabella Ella: herman i must leave early today
[13:51] arabella Ella: RL calling
[13:51] arabella Ella: bye everyone
[13:51] Laila Schuman: baiee
[13:51] herman Bergson: well...before you go Arabella...
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: bye ara
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: bye Ara
[13:51] arabella Ella: thanks herman
[13:51] Ze Novikov: bye
[13:51] Aya Beaumont: Again... what does Kuhn suggest?
[13:51] Topaz Arai: Bye Ara
[13:51] Qwark Allen: bye ara
[13:51] Era Lucas: bye
[13:51] Samuel Okelly: tc ara
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: bye Ara
[13:51] Aya Beaumont: That science is useless, let's all go worship instead?
[13:51] herman Bergson: What crossed my mind is that all we say here is within the bounderies of our own paradigm
[13:51] Aya Beaumont: Or does he have concrete ideas for improving the process?
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: I shall worship science
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: worship what?
[13:52] herman Bergson: Science isnt useless at all....
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: lets worship life and love to all
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: right on Mick
[13:52] herman Bergson: but it can only be evaluated in a pragmatic sense, I would say
[13:53] Rodney Handrick: the issue is...what version of love?
[13:53] Topaz Arai is worshipping a paint of Bryers Strawberry ice cream
[13:53] Laila Schuman: back to the subject
[13:53] herman Bergson: Version 2.4, I would suggest
[13:53] Aya Beaumont: Love to all, whether they want it or not!!!!!
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: is Kuhn suggesting that self-regulatory science subjectively limiting what is accepted can not be considered a clear path to progres?
[13:53] Aya Beaumont: And let's make it illegal for people to die. Dying is just messy anyway.
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: its free to discard
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed Aya
[13:54] herman Bergson: a sec..plz....
[13:54] herman Bergson: Well Samuel, I think that Kuhn would say..yes only wintin the bouderies of a given paradigm
[13:55] herman Bergson: As normal science is a cumulative process of puzzle-solving
[13:55] Aya Beaumont: It's interesting that many scientists are well aware of this problem...
[13:56] Aya Beaumont: They formulate it: Yeah, I know my research won't change the world... but from time to time, someone manages it, and until they do, all the rest of us can do is plod along.
[13:56] Mickorod Renard: many scientists make acidental periferal discoveries whilst in persuit of answers to other things
[13:57] Aya Beaumont: Exactly... and THOSE are the killer discoveries.
[13:57] herman Bergson: That is what I am wondering indeed Aya....where does this revolution come from..when are the anomalies that big that it happens
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: aya.. scientific discoveries don't change the WORLD.. they change our understanding of the world..
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: do you mean the good ones?
[13:57] Topaz Arai: they change the world, a lot.
[13:57] herman Bergson: from Newton to Einstein is 300 years for instance
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: consequences is when we can make use of it..
[13:58] herman Bergson: From Ptolemaeus to Copernicus even more
[13:58] Aya Beaumont: Someone once said... the sound of a discovery is not Eureka!!!
[13:58] Aya Beaumont: Rather, it's Hmmm, that's funny...
[13:58] Topaz Arai: lol
[13:58] herman Bergson smiles
[13:58] herman Bergson: quite right
[13:58] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:59] Topaz Arai: i think the eureka is the end, and the "hmm thats funny" is the beginning..and in the middle is science.
[13:59] Aya Beaumont: And it's also worth remembering: If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.
[13:59] herman Bergson: I think that one problem is our limited perspective..
[13:59] herman Bergson: we only have a history of about 2000 years here
[13:59] Aya Beaumont: The really impressive scientists I have met are all very humble people.
[13:59] Aya Beaumont: It's not unknown to them.
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: nicely said aya.. that was my point when i said notrevolution without those who laid the foundations..
[14:00] Mickorod Renard: but our perspective is founded on others idea's
[14:00] Aya Beaumont: They do research because they are curious... not because they want to rule anything.
[14:00] Laila Schuman: ripples
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: if you know your stuff, you do not need to try and impress anybody
[14:00] herman Bergson: indeed Aristotle..:-)
[14:01] herman Bergson: You just impress by knowing your stuff..:-)
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: right ari.. federer and nadal are not playing to impress the crowd.. they enjoy the game and make money:)
[14:01] Samuel Okelly: im not sure we can generalise as to what motivates scientists
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[14:01] herman Bergson: Very true Samuel...:-)
[14:01] Aya Beaumont: Absolutely not, Samuel.
[14:01] Qwark Allen: that was nice phrase herman
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: sam.. what motivated the guy who invented the wheel....
[14:02] Aya Beaumont: But neither can we assume that all preachers want what is best for them.
[14:02] Laila Schuman: i find that true science and true art... are those who are pushing at the edges... research on the edges
[14:02] herman Bergson: To make a charriot to kill his enemies, Hope
[14:02] Aya Beaumont: for the people they preach to, I mean
[14:02] Mickorod Renard: I think his bicycle kept gettin stuck
[14:02] Aya Beaumont: Religion is worse than science in this issue.
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. herman you wouldn't be here without the wheel.. 500 bc.. movement from the east to the west..
[14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Laila, pushing the envelope
[14:03] Mickorod Renard: I still wonder what the definition is for religion
[14:03] Aya Beaumont: Religion is based on belief, not doubt.
[14:03] Mickorod Renard: I see many who science is their religion
[14:03] herman Bergson: That is for theology to discuss Mickorod
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: religion: looking and getting answers for what remains inexplainable..
[14:04] Aya Beaumont: Believing WITHOUT evidence is seen as a strength in religion.
[14:04] Mickorod Renard: science do alot of that these days
[14:04] Aya Beaumont: All religious systems share this principle.
[14:04] Samuel Okelly: we can not arrive at belief without first having considered doubt – the two are surely interlinked
[14:04] Aya Beaumont: And yes, many scientists.
[14:04] Laila Schuman: back to science
[14:05] herman Bergson: If you dont mind, ....
[14:05] Topaz Arai: all?
[14:05] Topaz Arai: =P
[14:05] hope63 Shepherd: lol
[14:05] Aya Beaumont: Yes... all.
[14:05] herman Bergson: As we are leaving the subject Kuhn....I think it is a good moment to conclude our debate
[14:05] Aya Beaumont: You can't have a religion where people go and demand evidence for things you say, can you? =)
[14:06] herman Bergson: Feel free to continue the debate, but officially the class is dismissed..^_^

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-10-23 13:25:27

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