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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas S. Kuhn PhD’

No process yet disclosed by the historical study of scientific development at all resembles the methodological stereotype of falsification by direct comparison with nature.
    —    Thomas S. Kuhn
From his book:  “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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The man who is striving to solve a problem defined by existing knowledge and technique is not, however, just looking around.  He knows what he wants to achieve, and he designs his instruments and directs his thoughts accordingly.  Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that his anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong.
    —     Thomas S. Kuhn
From his book: “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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Cumulative acquisition of unanticipated novelties proves to be an almost non-existent exception to the rule of scientific development.  The man who takes historic fact seriously must suspect that science does not tend toward the ideal that our image of its cumulativeness has suggested.  Perhaps it is another sort of enterprise.
If, however, resistant facts can carry us that far, then a second look at the ground we have already covered may suggest that cumulative acquisition of novelty is not only rare in fact but improbable in principle.  Normal research, which is cumulative, owes its success to the ability of scientists regularly to select problems that can be solved with conceptual and instrumental techniques close to those already in existence.
  —   Thomas S. Kuhn
From his book:  “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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In science, as in the playing card experiment, novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation.
   —    Thomas S. Kuhn
From his book:  “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
[Note: “the playing card experiment” is a psychological test of individuals to evaluate subject’s perceptions via the use of a few modified cards in a standard deck of four suits. i.e. a red, six of spades.  Most individuals insisted the colors were black or shadowed with black (they were not).  This happened even when the “exposure” to the card was longer than a two seconds.  The experiment hi-lights we have a “natural” proclivity to “see” what we expect to see.   —    KMAB]
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Introducing Science”  —  book review
Today’s review is for the graphic introductory book:  “Introducing Science” (2001©) written by Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon.  This book is apparently a recovered (as in published with a new cover) book which was previously titled:  “Introducing Science Studies“.  The original title is FAR more accurate and the title I purchased is misleading, if not completely false.  This is not a book about “Science”.  It starts off as a history of science and jumps into being a criticism of the philosophy of science and an overview of the history of the social epistemology of science during the later half of the 20th century.
What’s the difference?  Well, to me, science is the study of what we can measure and quantify with the goal of better understanding the universe as we experience it.  Basically, you observe; you propose an explanation; you come up with a test of your proposal;  you execute the test and accurately record the results;  you evaluate the results for significance; and, then you publish your results and conclusions for peer review.  If the review shows the test flawed or the data is not significant or not repeatable, then your results —  and specifically your conclusions are unproven “scientifically”.   You then have to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new test or a better theory.  Ultimately, the final goal of “understanding” is to have a theory with predictive value.
This book deals with none of these issues.
What this book DOES do is make claims about science being “Western” and “male” dominated as well as offering statements about the value of science(s) from other cultures without providing any support for the statements.  I don’t doubt that some “medicine man” (person) in some non-Western country may have observed the medicinal value of some root or herb and used it in their healings.  That doesn’t make it scientific pharmacology.  And the authors keep making these types of statements as if simply making them makes them valid criticisms of “Western”.
So, if I didn’t think much of this book as an “introduction” to science, is it of any value?  Interestingly, yes.  I found the book to be a pretty good introduction / overview of the sociological criticisms of science.   The main criticism of the book is really about how “normal” science has become “BIG science” and is funded by business and government without apparent ethical review by society.  The book doesn’t say why this is so.  Simply that it is.  And, I mostly agree with the authors even without supporting evidence.  Private profit drives most scientific development these days.  That’s just the way it is.  The authors do say that since the end of the Cold War, big science as shifted from government funding of physics to corporate funding of biology / pharmacology.  And I agree with that, too.
Final recommendation:  poor to moderate.  If you are looking for an introduction to “science” or the history of science – forget it.  This book is “almost” worthless.  The only value I see is in the “Further Reading” notes at the end of the book.  If you are looking for an overview of the politics of science, the philosophy of science, the sociology of science, feminist criticism, colonial criticism, and post-“normal” criticism – then this is the book for you (and I’d say the recommendation becomes “strong to highly”).
One final comment:  I recently read and reviewedThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn.  Kuhn’s book is the work that “created” the conceptual split between “revolutionary” science and “normal” science.  In the past, science was thought to progress like a river.  Kuhn’s book proposes that it more like a river with a random occurrence of waterfalls.  “Normal” science is what most scientists do every day.  The “waterfalls” are Newton, Einstein, etc. who come along with brilliant insights.  I found it amusing to see a work I’d so recently read reported as a “classic” work from the last century.  It made me appreciate Kuhn’s work even more…
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Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like.  Much of the success of the enterprise derives from the community’s willingness to defend that assumption, if necessary at considerable cost.
  —   Thomas S. Kuhn
From his book:   “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”  —   book review
This book review is for the historical / philosophical science book: “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962©), written by Thomas S. Kuhn.  Kuhn was a PhD in physics, but, I gather, considered himself more of a science historian than a “working” physicist.  Kuhn is most famous for this book and it is considered one of the most significant science books of the 20th century.
As I understand it, Kuhn believes there are two types of “science”: the “normal” science and the “revolutionary” science.  Normal science is what 99% of all scientist do: gathering data, analyzing data, creating and refining instruments and tests to gather data.  Revolutionary science is what a small group of scientists do.  Unsatisfied with the anomalous data which doesn’t fit the current understanding (“paradigm”) of a science topic, this group thinks about and generates new ways of looking at the data which just doesn’t fit the “old science” standard.  The ideas which come out of this small group become the “paradigm-shifts” of science.
The historical view of the development of science is analogous to a river: you start somewhere in the past and over time, you pick up more and more water (data, theories, tests, rules, formulas) until you have a full blown river (science classification system, like Chemistry, Biology, Physics or whatever).
Upon review of the history of significant scientific break-throughs, Kuhn found that instead a river, the flow of science was more like a rapids which develops into a water fall.  The rapids are the problems which the current state of science cannot explain or explain away the data supporting.  At a certain point, the problems become too obvious and then “someone” comes along and proposes an alternative explanation for nature which explains the problems.  Like a waterfall, this fully disrupts the rivers steady stream and there is turbulence (“revolution”) until the water can re-stabilize.  Kuhn proposes this is when most, if not all, of the old guard from the prior paradigm have died off.  Then the cycle starts again…
Is this a “great” book?  Did it change my world view (paradigm) of science?  Is it a “good” read?  My answers would be:  Yes!  Not really.  And, no!
I have seen multiple sites and reviewers hail this book as a GREAT book and one which everyone should read in their lifetime.  Who am I to disagree with others more learned than I?  I did find it to be a powerful argument for its case / proposition.
Did it change my view of science?  Not really.  Why not?  Because the ideas in this book are now (after 50+ years) considered to be fairly standard in many fields, not just in science.  The proposition is considered almost human nature: most folks just work to work and every once in a while someone comes along who shakes every thing up.
The issue I have with the book is that it is not a very good read.  I found it EXTREMELY academic AND pedantic.  I am not a historian, a trained scientist, nor a philosopher. I found myself forced to stop at least every few pages to look up a word to make sure I understood what was being said.  Worse, on substituting the definitions I found the sentences made more sense (to me).  I normally don’t mind a specific academic word being used if there is a very specific thing being said which doesn’t lend itself to a simpler word (or phrase).  But, when there is an easier word (or phrase), you (the writer) are not impressing me when you cloud your message with academic erudition.  (See, I can do it, too!)
Also, while the book is reasonably short at just over 200 pages, it is about 150 pages longer than it needs to be – because it is so specific and repetitive.  I felt as if I were reading a dissertation and the author was trying to overwhelm me with proof he’d done his research.  I wasn’t overwhelmed, just bored through most of it.
Final recommendation: strong.  It is easy to see why this is considered a “classic” for its day, but that day was fifty-years ago.  The book (and proposal) has won the day and I believe is fairly widely accepted in both science and in many other fields.  While I recommend this as a classic, it is not an easy or quick read if you want to gain any appreciation of the concept of revolutionary paradigm shifts and how they differ from normal progress in any field (not just science).  Therefore, I doubt the average person will bother to work their way through what is already societal background knowledge. In any case, the concepts of the book are more simply explained in Wikipedia and with far fewer words.
I am better for having read this book, but I would have preferred a gentle tooth cleaning to a root canal.
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