Kuhn in perspective

Paul Arveson (arveson@oasys.dt.navy.mil)
Fri, 29 Nov 96 18:15:10 EST

"It is worth keeping in mind that not all scientists or
philosophers of science accept Kuhn's views on the development without
qualification. Inter alia, extreme versions of such views (not to be
attributed to Kuhn himself) have led to the currently popular notion
that science is, at root, entirely a sociological phenomenon.
George Murphy"


It has now been 34 years since Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions. This book became the avenue through which vast numbers
of bizarre, private theories were promoted as "new paradigms" and it offered the
"scientific" justification for everything from TQM to scientific creationism.
Social scientists found in Kuhn a way of getting scientific respectability and a
status equal to physics.

Shortly after it was written, Kuhn received much criticism from his own
community, the philosophy of science, and Kuhn added a Postscript to a later
edition in which he tried to back-pedal on some of his statements. But it was
to no avail. The book was eagerly seized upon and has become its own paradigm.
Unfortunately, the philosophers have been unable to get the word out about the
due criticism and refutation of Kuhn's description of science. The world wanted
so badly to "escape from reason" that their warnings went unheeded to this day.

Real physicists such as Steven Weinberg (Dreams of a Final Theory) have
noted "the unreasonable ineffectiveness of philosophy." His point is that
physical scientists are generally realists and reductionists, and that this
methodology has been successfully proceeding with little help from the
philosophers, thank you.

Weinberg's critique may not be relevant to the social sciences, which need
all the philosophical help they can get.

But Christians should beware of using Kuhn to justify anything. Your
"paradigms" may become relativised by another's "paradigms".

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
73367.1236@compuserve.com arveson@oasys.dt.navy.mil
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)