Thomas Kuhn and Why Paradigms Shift - Deepstash

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What Is a Paradigm Shift?

Thomas Kuhn and Why Paradigms Shift

Thomas Kuhn and Why Paradigms Shift

The term "paradigm shift" was coined by the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). He argued that science couldn't advance until most people working within a field agree upon a paradigm. Before the agreement, collaboration and teamwork are restricted.

Once a paradigm theory is established, those working within it can start doing normal science. But now and then, normal science reveals anomalies that can't be explained within the dominant paradigm. When the inexplicable results start piling up, it eventually leads to a "crisis."

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What Is a Paradigm Shift?

What Is a Paradigm Shift?

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-paradigm-shift-2670671

thoughtco.com

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Key Ideas

Paradigm Theory

A Paradigm theory is a general theory that provides a broad theoretical framework or "conceptual scheme." It offers underlying assumptions, key concepts, and methodology to scientists working in a particular field. It gives their research its general direction and goals.

Examples of paradigm theories include Copernicus' heliocentric astronomy (with the sun at the center), Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, germ theory in medicine, gene theory in biology.

When A Paradigm Shifts

A paradigm shift occurs when one paradigm theory is replaced by another:

  • Ptolemy's astronomy giving way to Copernican astronomy.
  • Newtonian physics (time and space are the same everywhere for everyone) replaced by Einsteinian physics. (time and space are relative to the observer's frame of reference.)

Changes That Occur During a Paradigm Shift

Thomas Kuhn argues that reality cannot be described independently of the conceptual schemes through which we observe it. Paradigm theories explain our conceptual systems.

When a paradigm shift occurs, the theoretical opinions of scientists working in the field changes.

Critics of Thomas Kuhn

Kuhn's claim related to paradigm shifts is very controversial.

His critics argue that this "non-realist" approach leads to a sort of relativism, and concludes that scientific progress has nothing to do with getting closer to the truth. Kuhn states he still believes in scientific progress since later theories are usually better than earlier theories.

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A paradigm shift
A paradigm shift

To define a paradigm shift, we should first look at a definition for a paradigm.

A paradigm is defined as a pattern that may be copied, or a group of ideas about how someth...

History of the paradigm shift

Psychologist Jean Piaget saw children's development as a series of separate stages marked by periods of adjustments. Inspired partly by Piaget, Thomas Kuhn - a physicist, philosopher, and historian of science -proposed two kinds of scientific change:

  • Incremental developments in the course of "normal science."
  • Scientific revolutions that accentuate the more stable phases.

He proposed that scientific revolutions are not a matter of incremental progress; they involve "paradigm shifts."

Various distinct senses

The term paradigm can be used in many distinct senses. For example:

  • A paradigm could refer to a special kind of achievement that draws an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, but is open enough to leave all sorts of problems for the new group to solve.
  • Paradigms can be used to offer general epistemological viewpoints, like a broad sweep of reality, when it "determines large areas of experience at the same time."

What Thomas Kuhn meant originally by paradigm has, over time, assumed an expansive set of meanings, sufficiently open-ended to allow other possibilities to be explored.

The human microbiome
The human microbiome

The human body is made up of trillions of human cells. There are possibly three times as many microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) living in and on the human body. The micro...

Using metaphors to describe microbiomes

Metaphors that scientists use to talk about the microbiome influence scientific understanding and can shape medical treatment. For example, viewing the microbiome as an "organ" or a "part of the immune system."

Some physicians support fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) - treating the malfunction of the gut microbiome by swallowing a pill full of someone else's poo. It follows the same basic principles as an organ transplant, and the treatment is probably a consequence of understanding the microbiome as an organ.

A limited perspective on the human microbiome

To think of a microbiome as an organ creates a limited perspective because organs are relatively set. Generally, a heart will develop and remain the same in each person. But a microbiome is not one thing. It's trillions of things and responds to small changes in our diet, environment, and behavior. It works together with the human body in a symbiotic relationship.

Each metaphor can only capture a part of what the microbiome is. We need all the metaphors to understand the complexity of the microbiome and its role in our bodies.

The scientific revolution

Human history is often framed as a series of episodes, representing sudden bursts of knowledge. The Agricultural Revolution, the Renaissance, and the Industrial Revolution are a few examples where ...

Pseudo-Science 

Much of the knowledge about the natural world during the middle ages dates back to the teachings of the Greeks and Romans. Many did not question these ideas, despite the many flaws.

  • Aristotle taught everything beneath the moon was comprised of four elements: earth, air, water, and fire.
  • Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy thought that heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, planets and various stars all revolved around the earth in perfect circles.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans held to the idea that illnesses were the result of an imbalance of four basic substances and was related to the theory of the four elements.
Rebirth and Reformation
  • During the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in the arts and literature. It led to a shift toward more independent thinking.
  • In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther promoted his thoughts by printing and distributing them, encouraging churchgoers to read the Bible for themselves. This led to the Protestant Reformation.
  • In the process, the criticism and reform led to placing the burden of proof ahead in understanding the natural world, paving the way for the scientific revolution.

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