Phillips 9-8 Response

3. Compare Kuhn’s argument regarding scientific development to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Taking this into account, how would you perceive science’s development and progress? Perhaps reflect on Kuhn’s engagement (or avoidance of) the word “truth” (p. 169-172)

In discussing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Kuhn argues that it was not Darwin’s core ideas that were threating; rather it was his insistence of the evolutionary process as existing without a ‘goal’ or upward trajectory of human progress (172). The radicalness of an agnostic (both in a religious and social sense) theory of development disrupted the underlying organization of this type of scientific thought at this juncture in time.

Kuhn’s project in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is to address what he sees as fundamental tensions in early works pertaining to the history of science (5). This tension lies primarily in the trend to recount scientific narratives as “development-by-accumulation” (2) and the chasm caused by accounting for earlier, now disproven, scientific thought into these histories (7). In developing a structural paradigm that can account for disagreements, inaccuracy, and change he opens the scientific field up to critique while simultaneously shifting the project of historical studies of science. For Kuhn, the goal in tracing the history of scientific thought should not be a project to simply trace ideas that came to be accepted, but to also account for the disagreements inherent in scientists “incommensurable ways of seeing the world and of practicing science in it” (4). Much like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Kuhn’s work is controversial not for its ideas, but rather from where it begins its intellectual project.

The goal of Kuhn’s text is not to show the intellectual process of producing scientific truths, but rather a way to demonstrate the conditions in which discovery and change arise out of. This stands as a barrier to the concept of a knowable and empirical truth because it challenges its rigidity in the face of opposition. For Kuhn, a historical telling of science must account for anomalies because this is from which change emerges. He writes, "Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that his anticipation about the nature of his instruments prove wrong… Obviously there must be a conflict between the paradigm that discloses anomaly and the one that later renders the anomaly law-like" (97). From this perspective there is no room in Kuhn’s work for dealing with truth, because truth will always be relational to the paradigms a scientist works out of. In order for scientific revolutions to take place, previously existing truths must be challenged and reconfigured. The project of science is not concerned with unearthing or discovering innate truth about the world, rather it wants to understand how different and conflicting knowledge’s have shaped the context of scientific thought.

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