April 3, 2014
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Since we talk a great deal about validity of stories and theories of the world we live in, especially what is “scientifically” sound, I thought it would be interesting to look at the very nature of science, and the mechanics of it. It is easy to think from the “science camp” that science provides objective truths, and it is something that is free from beliefs. However, taking a look at how science operates allows us to think about the potential pitfalls and patterns science itself falls into. The book I read this week, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn points out a few patterns we see in the history of human scientific endeavors.
In Chapter 2 and 3 of his book, Kuhn talks about the path Normal Science takes in its development. He claims that Normal Science takes a particular paradigm which best fits to the current set of facts and experimental results, and makes incremental changes to the paradigm. Most scientists spend majority of their time and effort in 1. Determination of significant fact, 2. Matching of facts with theory, and 3. Articulation of theory. The best scientists of any time basically spends most of their time in a box, which is the paradigm of whatever scientific field they are working in. Anything outside of that particular paradigm is considered less than the work within the paradigm. The result of this system is that science moves at a very slow pace, analyzing every single detail of a particular paradigm, which could be a good thing. It allows minimal amount of error within the paradigm itself. However, one could also look at it and observe that the paradigm boxes people into thinking in a particular path, when they could be spending their time and energy on other places. Furthermore, the fact that looking outside of the box is stigmatized in the community may be a limiting factor for the development of science in a long term.