Paradigm shift

From ArticleWorld

Although now widely used and misused as a descriptive, paradigm shift was coined by Thomas Kuhn to describe changes that come about in the fundamental assumptions underlying scientific theories. In his seminal 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn describes the processes by which such changes come about, and their consequences.

Scientific revolutions

Kuhn described how earth-shaking changes such as the move from a Ptolemaic cosmology to a Copernican one come about, and their consequencs. He defined paradigms as not simply a set of rules and guidelines for the practice and theory of science, but as epistomological conditions so fundamental, they constitute truth itself, and the worldview of those who live in a world with science. These could include such truisms as The earth is round. The conditions for a paradigm shift, or scientific revolution are created when anomalies are detected that fall far outside an acceptable margin of error, or are grossly and inexplicably inconsistent with parts of the paradigm. If, for example, scientists detected one spot on the earth where people constantly seemed to 'tip over the edge', that would be cause for a crisis in the discipline. There would be further exploration of the 'earth is round' fact, which by now might have gone to being a 'belief', and after a series of protracted intellectual battles between followers of the old and the new, a new paradigm would be accepted.

Kuhn's revolution

In the face of accepted belief that scientific development is neutral and objective, 'pure science' in fact, Kuhn suggested that the acceptance of new paradigms sometimes comes down to individual scientists' inclination and willingness to accept or reject certain propositions. Kuhn examined two major debates in early 20th century physics – the Michelson-Morley experiment results vs the possibility of calculating Mercury's perihelion, and the shift from the Maxwellian, or electromagnetic worldview, and the Relativistic Einsteinian one. Kuhn argued that in these cases, just the passage of time was often a factor in the tipping of the scales between two competing paradigms. Also, that science is clearly affected by the human nature of scientists rather weakens the logical-positivists' position of science as a realm of calm rationality and [logic]]. As fundamental was Kuhn's rejection of Karl Popper's model of falsifiability as the basis of change in science, paving the way for a revolution in the philosophy of science.

Cultural paradigm shifts

Some social and behavioural scientists describe cultural paradigm shfitstoo, such as when a hitherto unknown peoples in the depths of New Guinea or Amazonian Brazil are taken to a cinema or shown a photograph. More recent such paradigm shifts include the development of cochlear implants for deaf adults, developments in genetics that tilt the nature versus nurture debate, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Kuhn's phrase is misrepresented by proponents of relativism who use it argue that because paradigm shifts have been proven to occur, all sets of paradigms, even religious, ethnic, or individual, are equally valid and could theoretically overturn the current paradigm of rationality and progress. Kuhn in fact argues that paradigm shifts are always for the better, and concept is fundamentally [[teleology|teleological]. The phrase is also often misused in management and marketing jargon.