Ariel's Response - Question 1

Historically, evolution and science have been sewn from the cloth of progress narratives. Just as man moved from the lowly ape growing taller with straightening spines, the history of science has been framed similarly as a series of revelations and steady progress towards present-day technologies and knowledges. This teleological construction of evolution, in which present day man was the intended goal, is used as an analogy for many representations of science in which the end is Truth. This response proffers that while Kuhn challenges the popular conceptualization of both evolution and the trajectory of science, he leaves many of science’s assumptions, tropes of superiority, and structures in tact.
Although Kuhn challenges the linear construction of “science” towards a pre-defined goal, he does not abandon the project of advancement, and instead seeks a “more refined solution to the problem of progress” (Kuhn, 169). He suggests the problem of evolving towards a specific ideal, could be solved by trading the defined end from the accumulation of knowledge (Truths) to the types of questions being asked. While it is enticing to accept an easy fix, a simple shift of end points, this approach seems to leave in tact an implied trajectory. For instance, Kuhn frames science as having a “primitive” beginning that has advanced over time, despite not evolving “toward anything” (Kuhn, 169-170). Thus, instead of abandoning the analogy of evolution, Kuhn tempers the analogy and establishes a definition (Kuhn 169-171).
It is worth noting that this argument is reliant upon a well-defined conception of “science”, which Kuhn implies has a value above other disciplines (Kuhn 169). Additionally, this approach suggests that the human environment (social, economic, cultural, political, built, etc.), in which science takes place, is comparable to (and therefore separate from to some degree) the natural environment. Carrying Kuhn’s analogy to its logical conclusion also has methodological implications, as the study of science as a discipline would be best approached using the methodologies of the natural sciences.
Lastly, it is important to address the framing of conflict as the key element of scientific progress. Kuhn writes: "the resolution of revolutions is the selection by conflict within the science community the fittest way to practice future science. The net result of a sequence of such revolutionary selections … is the wonderfully adapted set of instruments we call modern scientific knowledge” (Kuhn, 171). This may actually have significant harms as collaboration and relational approaches are cast as threats to this process. Furthermore, the more specific and separate the branches of science become, the less potential there is for general or cross-disciplinary breakthroughs. In contrast to Kuhn’s approach, I am tempted to define science in far less grandiose terms and to read it as just one in a long series of human belief/ knowledge systems. However, I suspect that my approach is thinkable today because of the work of Kuhn and those who have followed him.

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