Patrick McEvoy-Halston Philosophy 220 Jeffrey Foss 04 June 2001 Paradigm Shift: An Immodest Proposal I am not convinced

by Kuhn’s argument that scientists should relinquish their belief that they are getting closer and closer to an objective, complete, true account of nature. Kuhn offers us a new paradigm to understand scientific revolutions, which emphasizes discontinuity and the losses along with the gains of new scientific paradigms. He tells us that accepting a new paradigm is a matter of persuasion, and though there are aspects of his argument which are persuasive--for instance his ability to tolerate living in a universe which is not ultimately understandable--on the whole, I do not find his argument persuasive. I sensed in it a “dishonest” quality (which I will later detail), which inspired a successful search for a conceptual paradigm similar in structure to his, but which does not make truth (fundamental universal laws) seem necessarily forever beyond human apprehension (even if we cannot know, assuming they exist, and we find them, that there is something that clearly distinguishes them as “the end of the journey”). At the end of reading his piece, I cannot say, though, that I felt his conclusion should be dismissed--I actually would prefer that scientists not need for their research to be about finding final, total truths. But I say this even if science is capable of discovering them. But because I would like to see scientists re-orient themselves as Kuhn suggests (and beyond! as you will see) regardless of whether Kuhn’s account of science’s history is persuasive, his thesis, for my purposes, may be counter-productive. Kuhn believes that the current scientific quest should be abandoned because it cannot be realized, but he thereby leaves us with the implicit corollary that should his own paradigm not stand the test of time, then scientists should continue as they had previously toward a “goal set by nature in advance” (Kuhn 1970, 171). Kuhn’s attention to the limitations of text-book learning in science--even when used in support of a nevertheless


productive scientific community--compared with the breadth of sources he sees used in history, philosophy, and the social sciences, is wonderful ammunition for a humanist argument against a strict diet of text-book learning for any student, including would-be scientists. Also, the implicit value of the importance of our own lives, suggested in his proposal that science should concern itself with solving current, relevant problems, is too valid to leave to the truth-value of his own paradigm of scientific development for scientists (and us) to consider a fundamental reorientation towards how they (we) conceive of the scientific enterprise. Kuhn starts off on the wrong foot by not explicitly acknowledging the paradigmatic flavour of his own theory. He is arguing against “the most prevalent contemporary interpretation of the nature and function of scientific theory [that theories are fundamentally compatible] . . . [because it] would restrict the range and meaning of an accepted theory so that it could not possibly conflict with any later theory that made predictions about some of the same natural phenomena” (98). He argues against this contemporary “paradigm” by suggesting its consequences--it leaves scientists immune to attack--but, also, and more importantly, by attempting to prove that his own account of scientific revolutions, producing incompatible theories, is more in line with historical truth than theories emphasizing continuity and compatibility. He is attempting a paradigm shift of his own; but he leaves to us the responsibility to recognize his argument as such. Thus he offers us: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; and not: A Paradigm of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Why does this matter? Because if we consider his theory as a paradigm we are more likely to test if what he says about paradigms of science applies to his own paradigm of the nature of scientific revolutions. A scientific paradigm, says Kuhn, cannot be true because: (1) it always overreaches, nature at some point starts introducing anomalies which the paradigm


cannot account for, and which eventually lead to new paradigms to account for them; (2) because a shift in paradigm always involves a shift in emphasis; what was previously emphasized, apparently, becomes merely the subject of sub-specialties of a new science. The loss is substantial: with Newton’s sizes, shapes, positions, and motions, we lose Aristotle’s colours, tastes, and weights (104). Therefore, argues Kuhn, “since no paradigm ever solves all the problems it defines and since no two paradigms leave all the same problems unsolved” (110), scientific truth is always a relative thing. He proposes that scientists spend their time considering which problems they should be working on, and not on an impossible quest for the holy grail of scientific research: an all inclusive, final account of nature’s laws. Yet if we consider his own theory a paradigm we may not be of the mind to consider his “truths” as conclusive! Perhaps he is overreaching; perhaps facts, anomalies, will appear in the historical record which do not accord well with his theory. We might imagine being drawn, after Kuhn’s theory is displaced, much as essences of material bodies, previously discarded, were popularized again with Newton, to theories of scientific theoretical development which emphasize compatibility and progressive development! There may be a reason why we should not consider what Kuhn says is true of scientific paradigms as also holding true for theories which account for the nature of scientific paradigms, but one does not come to mind. Kuhn does suggest that there is something distinctive about scientific paradigms that may not hold true for other paradigms--political science; art; etc.--but he also tells us that what he has to say about scientific paradigms “are constitutive of nature as well” (110). Moreover, his theory sure “looks” awfully paradigm like. It appears complete and final. He makes the previous theory with its emphasis on compatible change appear ridiculous; thereby enhancing the progressive flavour of his own theory. He even highlights a role for those


who adopt his theory which looks a lot like the role of scientists during the paradigm phase: fill in the gaps. He asks: “What must nature, including man, be like in order that science be possible at all? Why should scientific communities be able to reach a firm consensus unattainable in other fields? Why should consensus endure across one paradigm change after another?” (173). In other words, we should pursue solving problems which do not challenge his paradigm, but follow, and remain to be explored, after accepting it. Is he offering us, then, a paradigm characteristically similar to a scientific paradigm?--if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck . . . But by not explicitly addressing this possibility, I sense possible manipulation, and am, therefore, less likely to be seduced (persuaded) by his theory. Kuhn, though, if presenting us with a paradigm, is offering us one which, apparently, does not lose something substantial as it displaces its predecessor--after all, his apparently does not. Kuhn is not telling us that that shifting our focus away from the consistent, accumulative nature of scientific conceptual development across time, is a way to highlight the equally valid conceptualization of the history of science’s discontinuity. No, Kuhn is telling us that there is no such consistency--its a fallacy (apparently) of those accustomed to imagining progress as axiomatically attached to definitions of the scientific enterprise. Kuhn’s theory integrates all the “facts” of the previous model, rejects how they were conceptualized, and advances to a true account of science’s development. Yet if this holds true for Kuhn’s intellectual journey, is he right that it does not hold true for science as well? In order to be persuaded by Kuhn that science ought to abandon its quest for truths, it is very important that we accept his premise that, at least as far as scientific paradigms are concerned, there is no logical inclusiveness (i.e. something important must be left out) between successive scientific theories. Why? Because movement from paradigm to paradigm might then seem progressive, i.e., as unqualified,


meaningful growth. If correct, then the scientific enterprise would structurally look very much like it was heading towards something--perhaps even the truth. One could argue that this would not happen in any case, that the progression is infinite, that nature is ever-shifting, or too complex for human understanding, but it would be a harder case to make--and, likely, would be less persuasive to the reader. Graphically, it is easy to imagine progressive stages leading someplace important e.g., a stairway to heaven; an escalator to the top of the building; the upward development of the backbone from ape to homo sapiens, a child into and adult etc. In fact, Kuhn might be well advised not to have the word progress, with its associative meanings, anywhere near our cognitive palette for serious consideration. With progress, there is emancipation, and this could lead us to a “weak link” in his theoretical construction: will the past hold true for the future? Kuhn tells us that “[t]hough logical inclusiveness remains a permissible view of the relation between successive scientific theories, it is a historical implausibility” (98; my emphasis). What, though, about the future? Kuhn is telling us that scientists should abandon their quest for truth because the historical trend amounts to a universal constant: we can expect more of the same. Anyone grounded in the philosophy of science knows that Kuhn is not the first spectre put forth to frighten scientists into remembering their (supposed) human imperfection. Hume is also used to prove that what holds true for science today, may not tomorrow (or even the next instant!). Now an honest philosopher of science, who does not take special and particular pleasure in humbling the scientific enterprise, will admit that if Hume can be used to scold science, he can also be used to scold those who mean to humble science as well. So lets imagine, inspired by Hume, a conversation with Kuhn: “Sure, Kuhn, I’ll agree that everything you tell us about the history of science holds true, but tomorrow, you cannot prove to


me that science will not turn into a pink, fluffy bunny!”. No doubt his response could only be: “ (sigh) . . . I cannot disprove your contention, therefore the universe no longer makes sense to me.” Maybe not. Hume’s point about the nature of induction belongs in the “imagine your a brain in a vat” sort of philosophy: to the lay person it holds no more lasting persuasive effect than a magician’s tricks--you forget about it once you are outside the magician’s tent. Kuhn’s argument, though, was widely read and accepted. But you can still use Hume to counteract Kuhn’s attempt to draw our attention to the historical past, and address the possibility that what holds true for the past does not necessarily hold true for the future. I can imagine a historical paradigm composed of stages, similar in many ways in form and in character to Kuhn’s, but which ends in a final stage which persists thereafter without much change. This is Piaget’s model of the nature of human cognitive development. Piaget tells us that we all go through various cognitive, revolutionary, schematic shifts through the “history” of our lives. It is not death, however, which terminates the sequence. Instead, during adolescence, we enter in the formal operations mode of thinking, which is with us thereafter. Before reaching formal operations, and thinking in, say, the preoperational mode, a child does not know she is thinking irrationally or overly self-centered. “He is, rather, manifesting a type of thinking which precedes . . . the appearance of logical operation” (Hundert 1989, 112). If we were to imagine the latest scientific paradigm as equivalent to an intermediate (preoperational; concrete) phase of Piaget’s “paradigm” we might imagine that a scientific paradigm equivalent to Piaget’s final formal operational phase lies ahead. There are reasons, pro and con, for arguing the relevance of this analogy. I will start with a argument in support of its relevance. There are striking similarities between the two theories. Both Piaget and Kuhn are


interested in cognitive “map-making” (Kuhn 109). Kuhn mentions, specifically, the cognitive functions of paradigms (109). Paradigms offer scientists a map with which to determine what “nature does and does not contain and about the ways in which those entities behave” (109). And they offer directions for map-making: the gestalt of theories, methods and standards needed to determine the legitimacy of problems and solutions (109). With Piaget, a cognitive schema is characterized as a “ ‘mobile frame’ successively applied to various contents” (Hundert 110) of the world that determines, to some extent, what a person “sees.” Both Kuhn and Piaget make this point: a scientific paradigm, or a cognitive schema, generally finds what it expects to find. This is why Kuhn tell us that “cumulative acquisition of novelty is not only rare in fact but improbable in principle” (96), and that “[t]he man who is striving to solve a problem defined by existing knowledge and technique is not, just looking around . . . [: he] knows what he wants to achieve, and he designs his instruments and directs his thoughts accordingly” (96). Edward Hundert tells us that, according to Piaget, “once a concept . . . is constructed, it is applied to experience . . . : it is immediately externalized so that it appears to the subject as a perceptually given property of the object and independent of the subject’s own mental activity” (114; emphasis in original). Both Kuhn and Piaget imagine though, that nature eventually throws up challenges to existing paradigms, or schemas, which accumulate, and which eventually necessitate a revolution (Kuhn) or revolution-like accommodation (Piaget): a radical reorientation in ways of mapping the world which account for the anomalies. Before and after this occurs, for Kuhn, the scientific community goes about the assured business of dealing effectively and efficiently with problems at hand (64), while, for Piaget, children go about happily and effectively assimilating their worlds. With the shift, however, for both theorists, you are left with scientists, for Kuhn, and children, for Piaget, who have trouble understanding those outside of their paradigm or


schema. Thus we learn from Kuhn, that scientific communities end up “talk[ing] through each other” (109), and from developmental psychologists that children ahead or behind their peers in terms of cognitive phase will have difficulty being understood, or understanding their peers. There are, however, several significant ways in which the two theories differ: (1) Piaget, contra Kuhn, believes that the succession of cognitive schemas are integrative and progressive. Children move from an “inability to experience the reversibility of certain states of affairs” (Hundert 118; emphasis in original) to being able to do so. One might imagine that it might be neat to be able to go back and no longer be able to able to experience the world this way, but what we have lost is an inability to do something, rather than a capacity to view the world in a profitable way. (2) Piaget’s schemas are irreversible, whereas Kuhn emphasizes reversibility of emphasis over time--so if a science emphasizes essential essences, then discards them, at some later point they may once again be embraced. (3) Piaget’s model highlights significant change as something that occurs during a person’s lifetime, whereas Kuhn emphasizes that a change in paradigm can only be adopted by a different generation of scientists, i.e., Piaget’s model is Lamarckian while Kuhn’s is Darwinian in nature. (4) Finally, Piaget’s final schema of formal relations is not really about a capacity to understand the nature of the world, i.e., the truth, but, instead, involves a capacity to use our “concrete” knowledge of the “real” world to imagine new truths. How could this be analogous to the scientific enterprise of uncovering truths, the wisdom of which Kuhn hopes his thesis calls into question? I believe that the first three differences between Piaget and Kuhn amount to arguments against accepting Kuhn’s premise that truth forever lies outside scientists’ grasp, and the last one can be used to argue that, nonetheless, Kuhn--so long as the reader has been seduced, persuaded, by my listing of the similarities between the theorists to imagine them as models in competition with one another--is right that


this scientific quest for truth interferes with better projects. Is Kuhn correct that scientific paradigms are neither integrative nor progressive, in the sense that they leave very important ways of understanding the world out from paradigm to paradigm? I am not certain; but if we are not looking at the past with Kuhn’s map in mind, perhaps we will being to notice the kind of integrative progression he claims does not exist. For instance, Kuhn draws our attention to extreme reluctance of “professionals” (171; scientists?) to accept Darwin’s theory. The one idea that was particularly unappealing to them was Darwin’s idea of natural selection: it seemed to leave no role for a supreme artificer working with a plan towards a goal. Kuhn is both using natural selection to demonstrate the difficulty scientists have switching paradigms, and also as a model with which to compare his own model of scientific revolutions. He tell us that “the resolution of revolutions is the selection by conflict within the scientific community of the fittest way to practice future science” (172). This fitness, he qualifies earlier, must meet two all-important conditions: “First, the new candidate [paradigm] must seem to resolve some outstanding and generally recognized problem that can be met in no other way. Second, the new paradigm must promise to preserve a relatively large part of the concrete problem-solving ability that has accrued to science through its predecessors” (169). That is it. Yet Kuhn is telling us that even after natural selection became the paradigm for most scientists, there still exists a need for his paradigm to help convince scientists not to be teleological in their thinking! Is it possible that a third requirement must be met for a paradigm to be adopted by a new generation of scientists: it must be emotionally palatable? The general impression you get from Kuhn is that during the revolutionary stage, various powers go at it, and with the victor goes the prize of establishing their model as the basis for the next paradigm. So you might have


Latitudinarians in favour of Newton’s model because they see it as a model of the universe which is a good match for their own desire for a society predicated on curbing self-interests, maintaining social stability, and commerce (Jacob 1976, 142). They win the revolution, and we then have, supposedly, a generation of scientists who are not by nature all that concerned whether the paradigmatic scientific model they use matches well with their own religion, say-they just want a model, any model, that seems to explain the universe along with the anomalies unaccounted for by the last paradigm, so they can proceed, in neuter-like fashion (not Popper’s bold scientists here!), about their monkish business of mapping the details. The model “chosen” may indeed have been one of many possibilities, but once decided, it obstructs from view other possible models that lost the battle for hegemony during the revolutionary phase. For his purposes, Kuhn thereby accomplishes two useful goals: (1) He has us imagining that it is impossible for data to be “explained” by only one paradigm--there exists another out there, though no longer visible, that would do the job equally as well. (2) Though he insists that the paradigm adopted must still fulfill certain requirements (e.g., “preserve a large part of the concrete problem-solving ability that has accrued to science through its predecessors” (169)) in order to be accepted by a scientific community (which is what he says distinguishes scientific revolutions from political revolutions), this qualification, though important, still seems to leave to power politics a good deal of maneuvering room in the sort of model they could herald-thereby heightening the sense of subjectivity and decreasing the sense of objectivity we associate with scientific paradigm “progression” through time. But Kuhn offers us an anomaly to his own theory that once a paradigm is adopted, others by and large slip from view. Kuhn in fact emphasizes that even well after Einstein, many scientists have not been quick to understand Newton’s theories as having been proven “wrong” (99; his word ) by Einstein. This is


maddening to Kuhn, because it is well past time for them to have done so! “Wake up, the paradigm has shifted!” The case could be made that Kuhn is not right that Einstein established Newton’s theories as being fundamentally wrong; but even if this is the case, perhaps we should consider whether there is something about the Einsteinian universe which may not be palatable even to a new generation of scientists who have not grown up with Newton’s theories. If we can imagine that a scientific paradigm must be “emotionally” acceptable (e.g., must leave room for God; must leave room for primacy of “man”, etc.) to a generation of scientists for it to reign as the model of choice, which must be factored in when accessing why a particular paradigm “wins” the battle during the revolutionary phase and why it is accepted thereafter, (i.e., let’s not be intimidated by current intellectual trends to meekly accept that the powerful few really are responsible for the nature of the social world we live in. The power of our leaders might be proportional to need we feel for powerful people to “hold the world up”--the “Queen bee, may really be the slave of the sister-worker bees;” the “dog may really wag his own tail”, etc.) then perhaps we could look at the nature of the paradigm accepted as a way to gauge the emotional state of a generation of scientists. Therein, might there be signs of a kind of real progress in the scientific enterprise which Kuhn’s map does not show? Before briefly pursuing this possibility, to help further make the point that paradigms might be metaphors with an emotional as well as a logical character (Abram 1991), I will pursue an example which, I think, might be especially relevant to my reader. Assume that anomalies appear in our current scientific record and it turns out that all the new, say, dinosaur fossils discovered date as being only a couple thousand years old. We recheck all our previous fossil finds and discover that they now show the same thing: it appears that all these fossils are remains of animals who perished at exactly the same time, and not so long ago.


Should we imagine, then, that while the current generation of scientists would not accept these anomalies as anomalies (as Kuhn would have us imagine), that, somehow, the next generation of scientists would accept the data within a new paradigm even though it could not help but be a very good fit for fundamental Christian ways of conceiving our universe? I, myself, have difficulty imagining where these scientists would come from--surely they would not be the sons and daughters of most living scientists! If there was a revolution (with Michael Ruse as General telling his forces to fight on!), I would guess that the fundamentalists, fortunately, would be badly outnumbered and outgunned in countries with the fire-power to matter (the American Republican Party always distances itself from its fundamental elements lest it never win a national election), so I cannot imagine fundamentalists populating this post-revolutionary paradigm stage . My best guess is the likely outcome would be fortuitous to anyone hoping scientists stop chasing down nature’s truths: I picture a new generation of potential scientists preferring figurative truths to literal ones--“all the world really is a stage, you know; anyone who asks to see the wood and nails is nothing but an annoying fuddy-duddy, or worse, a subversive!” Michael Ruse in his article “Darwinism Defended” (1982) tells us, with great passion, not only that creationism does not account for the “facts,” but that, if a creationist paradigm prevailed, it would stifle the scientific enterprise of accumulating truths--no small thing, because for Ruse, it is the scientific enterprise which “distinguishes us from the brutes” (327). He tells us that:

Human beings have many, many failings. In a century which has seen both Auschwitz and Hiroshima, I need hardly dwell on them. And yet, for all this, there is something noble about humanity. We may be little higher than the apes. We are also little lower


than the angels. We strive to live, and thus we produce our technology. But, man does not live by bread alone: he produces art, and literature, and knowledge, for its own sake. Perhaps the model of the double helix will lead, through recombinant DNA techniques, to great technological advances. But, the model in itself is a thing of beauty, and an inspiring testament to human achievement. (327; my emphasis)

For those who are familiar with Ruse, this may be a stretch, but imagine him as the basis for our conceptual model of the “scientist.” Now revisit Kuhn’s thesis. You might wonder if Kuhn’s scientists, though fitting a popular image of a scientist as detached and unemotional, might be somewhat “unreal.” Ruse, powerfully, is telling us of the importance to him of models as things of beauty. They seem to have near religious significance: they are part of mans’ “salvation.” Might this have been true for scientists throughout history, and if so, are scientists so malleable that they are capable of imagining any model they are deeply immersed in this way? If Newton’s model allowed no conceivable role, or place, whatsoever, for God, yet still accounted for anomalies tripping up the previous paradigm, would the Newtonian model appear as a thing of beauty to scientists after a paradigm shift to Newton’s theory? Possibly, perhaps, all that is required is an intermediate generation to struggle with this, to be followed by a generation of scientists who can move from teleological theories, to natural selection, leading to subsequent ones who eventually conceive of universes, like Stephen Hawking does, without a beginning, without a prime mover, and without themselves being different in temperament from scientists who previously needed a fundamental place for God in their paradigmatic universe. But perhaps, instead, the uncertainty of the truth-value of this account of the history of science generates enough dissonance to require our further attention, and prompt our further inquiry, before


categorizing it as truth. Is it possible that we humans are maturing over time? The psychiatrist Casper Schmidt believes (also see deMause 1982) that: [a]s in the case with the Copernican revolution, with the Darwinian theory of evolutionary change, and, most recently, with Freudian psychology (each of which constitutes an assault on the omnipotence and grandiosity of the infant in each of us), each person on earth has to work through each of these revolutions themselves. The closer to home these schemes reach, the more difficult they are to accept and integrate. Thus, more people accept the Copernican revolution than the Darwinian, and the hardest pill of all to swallow is the one that says we are not the masters in our own minds.” (1981, 339)1

Lovelock’s theory, for example, of a living mother Earth, Gaia, tells us that we are not masters in our own minds--instead, we are Gaia’s mind, so we should direct our (her) mind to Gaia’s purposes (1991, 19). Scientists, scholars, often hotly disagree with Lovelock’s larger claims. James Kirchner, for example, has a difficult time swallowing this particular aspect of the Gaia thesis; though not so for David Abram. Are we witnessing temperamental differences between the two men, which explains why Kirchner, according to Abram, prefers a mechanistic model, while Abram prefers an ecological epistemology? Abram tells us that “[w]hen the natural world is conceived as a machine, the human mind necessarily retains a godlike position outside of that world. It is this privileged position, the license it gives us for the possession, mastery, and
I find this theory suggestive, though I do not accept that being able to imagine oneself as something’s “servant/slave” necessarily proves your maturity--the opposite may be true: these days scientists never seem to tire telling us we are really automatons, perhaps because they secretly enjoy imagining themselves as exceptions to the rule?


control of nature, that makes us so reluctant to drop the mechanical metaphor” (68). But if only we could do so, because “this human privilege comes at the expense of our perceptual experience” (68). Abram, like Schmidt, imagines the stumbling block to paradigm change to be a matter of giving up seemingly childish impulses. It is beyond this paper to document, and beyond my means to even conduct, a historical investigation of my own to see if there is the gradual maturity over time of the scientific community that Schmidt believes is a true account of the historical record. However, these sort of speculations are beginning to percolate (see deMause 2001?; Greenspan 1997). 2 Emotional progress does seem plausible enough a theory to me, that Kuhn would have to have addressed the emotional appeal of paradigms to help persuade me that what is lost from one paradigm to another paradigm is not some of its “childish” appeal.3 As it is, given my awareness of counter-arguments, it seems as justifiable to use Piaget’s model of the maturing mind to understand science’s history, as to use Kuhn’s. Are scientific paradigms meaningfully understood as reversible, so that what was once emphasized and dropped, will be the subject of attention of a later paradigm? As mentioned, Kuhn tells us that with Newtonianism, science encountered a “genuine reversion to a scholastic
2 Lepan, in fact, inspired by Piaget, looks to literature to see if there actually is an increase in “cognitive sophistication” in the writings of the “giants of literature” across time. He finds them: Shakespeare, Harold Bloom and his “Invention of the Human” be damned!, is dethroned. Shakespeare with his “one hundred and one derogatory words applied to women” is getting a hard time from feminist critics as well. And my professor of English History, John Money, surprised me (and himself actually) last semester, by asking himself out loud if there might “in a very real sense” be a quantum leap with Jane Austen in the range, and subtlety, of emotions explored. Though beginning to wobble, and perhaps contrary to what is found in the science, the current hegemonic paradigm in the humanities favours relativity, and enjoys scoffing at those who believe that “progress” can be something more than an ideological, power-saturated, construct (oh, if only we could be Uebermenschen like them, and see beyond our ideological fog as they are able to do!) 3 Sandra Harding (1991) believes that the ability for science to produce reliable explanations depends on the social conditions of the time. I have to admit a strong attraction to the idea that the nature of the social conditions, the nature of any particular culture, depends almost entirely on the amount of warm interactions the aggregate of people had, in particular with their mothers, during their childhoods (see deMause 1982, 2001?; and Greenspan 1997). For an account of cultures as not being sui generis, that takes on the tautological idea that “the cultural and social elements that mold the individual precede the individual and are external to the individual” (Tooby and Cosmides 1992, 26), see the brilliant book soon to be published by Lloyd deMause (untitled, though possibly The Emotional Life of Nations, publishing date 2001?; another alternative is to visit


standard” (105; my emphasis). “Innate attractions and repulsions joined size, shape, position and motion as physically irreducible primary properties of matter” (105-106; my emphasis). Without Kuhn’s map in our mind, guiding our historical search, this, too, might be suspect. In Abram’s essay, “The Mechanical and the Organic”, he tells us that science is better understood, as a whole, as imagining substances as passive and barren (67). Newton, according to Abram, is not to be seen as bringing back Aristotilean-like essences, but as having played a part in severing the link between science and alchemical magic, by “hid[ing] and very publicly deny[ing] the vast alchemical researches that occupied him throughout his life” (67). He is part of the distancing of science from a “view of the material world, of matter itself, as a locus of subtle powers and immanent forces, a dynamic network of invisible sympathies and antipathies”(67). For Abram, it is the current generation of scientists who must reverse their current course, and imagine, with the help of a new ecological paradigm, a world alive with essences once more, because this to date has not been part of the sequential history of science. Again, as I do not know history well enough to know whose model better applies to the historical record--Kuhn’s or Abram’s--and as I have trouble sufficiently persuading myself that both theories are likely in their own way to be true (though this may be the case), Kuhn has not persuaded me of the tendency of paradigms to reverse themselves in important ways (and therefore not be a progressive stage-like process akin to Piaget’s cognitive schemas) across time. Kuhn’s theory offers us scientists as men who are “rigid”, unchanging--leaving it to the process of selection to move generations of scientists from paradigm to paradigm. He tells us that scientific training is such that: [I]t is not well designed to produce the man who will easily discover a fresh approach. But so long as somebody appears with a new candidate for paradigm--usually a young


man of one new to the field--the loss due to rigidity accrues only the individual. Given a generation in which to effect change, individual rigidity is compatible with a community that can switch from paradigm to paradigm when the occasion demands. (166)

Is there a necessary conflict between Kuhn’s rigid scientists and Piaget’s growing children and adolescents? It is possible to imagine both models as complementary. Just as in science, as you move from physics, to chemistry, to biology you do not necessarily expect the “rules” to remain constant; there may a real sense that what applies to children and adolescents does not apply to the creative world of adult scientists. Yet not all of Kuhn’s scientists are so rigid. In fact, those younger scientists, or new ones to the field that Kuhn refers to, are not simply “fresh”--they are creative geniuses. They do not command much of Kuhn’s attention, perhaps because like Darwin their role is secondary to “[n]ature itself . . . [undermining] professional security by making prior achievements seem problematic”(169), but they must still transcend the paradigm that will be left behind by way of incorporating anomalies within a new paradigm of their own creation. These geniuses, in fact, seem to do what Piaget says formal operations permit everyone to be able to do: to transcend everyday models of experience. The other scientists are presented by Kuhn almost as Piaget imagines the previous stage--the concrete operations stage--as operating. The resemblance is obvious and remarkable. According to Kuhn, “the new paradigm must promise to preserve a relatively large part of the concrete problem-solving ability that has accrued to science through its predecessors”(169; my emphasis). Fortunately, this is all but certain because “[n]ovelty for its own sake is not a desideratum in the sciences as it is in so many other creative fields” (169), so “new paradigms . . . usually preserve a great deal of the most


concrete parts of past achievement and they always permit additional concrete problem-solutions besides” (169; my emphasis). For us to accept Kuhn thesis, it is important that we not consider too closely the possibility that a change in the way scientists are taught might produce scientists who are either capable of bold imaginings, and/or capable of moving from paradigm to paradigm within their lifetimes, and remain a scientific community. Why? Because part of the persuasive appeal of Kuhn’s theory is the consistency of the model he proposes. It is the proposed consistency of the past record of science, with its inevitable future, that informs Kuhn’s suggestion that scientists abandon their quest for truth. It helps that his scientists are characterized as being fundamentally limited--not Popper’s adventurous explorers of the unknown, but those following in their wake, making all the observations that the explorers could not because of the “newness” of their enterprise, while traversing a route previously laid down and, therefore, safe. To help persuade us to adapt his own paradigm, an image of the timid, limited scientist is an ideal impression to leave us with, because if scientists can be bold, capable of integrating different, new paradigms, with relish, then nature does not as easily seem as something so great that it lies forever beyond our apprehension. It is important that, compared to scientists cautiously limiting themselves to assembling data, nature eventually demonstrates its (her) God-like ability to subvert any paradigm scientists have crafted to “cage” it (her). And there is something of Jack Nicholson’s cry: “Truth--you can’t handle the truth!” (my grateful thanks to Jeffrey Foss for this) which informs Kuhn’s thesis, that many of us might be pre-disposed to associate as characteristic of the human condition. His model might even “fit” our own critical self-evaluation. Subliminally persuasive then? The reason there are now so many Kuhnians about these days? I think so; but a problem emerges for Kuhn’s paradigm to have real lasting power in the future, if, with the help


of a counter model, we can imagine the possibility, so to speak, of a scientific community of “Jack Nicholsons” who can handle the truth! There is an old conceptual paradigm which has had considerable staying power whose accuracy and sense of inevitability must also be challenged so that we do not give Kuhn’s model more persuasive power than it deserves. That is the idea, as Charles Pierce, for example, offers us, of the great few amongst the mediocre many:

But [even] in the most priest-ridden states some individuals will be found who are raised above that condition [unable to put two and two together]. These men possess a wider sort of social feeling; they see that men in other countries and in other ages have held to very different doctrines from those which they themselves have been brought up to believe; and they cannot help seeing that it is the mere accident of their having been taught as they have, and of their having been surrounded with the manners and associations they have, that has caused them to believe as they do. (1971: 1877, 37).

A scientific community composed of many men and women similar in character to Pierce’s great few, might just be up to the task of finding, and “handling”, nature’s truths--if in fact there is any such thing. In fact, Kuhn, by drawing our attention to the cause of scientists’ limited nature-their stifling education--increases the likelihood of us considering this very possibility: a community of “formal operation” superstar scientists! Would such a community find universal truths? Maybe they could--but it would not be their primary concern. Formal operations, “[r]ather than finding in practical problems instances of the constancies of the real world . . . [involves] apply[ing] the algebra of formal thought to


situations which have not yet arisen” (Hundert 124). The biologist Brian Goodwin, influenced by Piaget, explains what this would mean for lifeforms: appropriate (genetically adapted) organisms can be generated by either a response to a new environmental challenge, a hereditary state arising by some means and resulting in an appropriate organismic form for that environment; or spontaneous reorganizations within the hereditary constraints can occur, producing organisms with new morphologies and behaviour patterns which must then either discover or create appropriate environments. (53-54; my emphasis)

Imagine this community of scientists as a new kind of life-form, which rather than using science simply to better help us adapt to nature, or to solve relevant problems as Kuhn hopes it would, focuses on creating its own preferred surround, its own “nature.” The idea might sound unnatural so perhaps I will say instead that this community might concern itself with creating its own “unnature.” No, I like my idea, so I will not let it seem like a Frankesteinian monstrous one. Instead, I will suggest that scientists should imagine themselves as natural magicians once more (as Abram recommends). Kuhn is right, scientists should reconsider trying to find out universal laws as their primary goal, but so that they can instead refocus themselves on a new one: help (please! please!) make the universe more enchanting. They could, of course, continue seeking out current properties of the natural universe (while it lasts) if it expands their tool kit; certainly help us solve the utilitarian problem of bringing about widespread happiness; then get to the important business of making a moon out of green cheese, rivers that flow chocolate, and a “gravity” that works as it does now, but only while you are really attracted to something else


(once your heart commits to another you can move (upwards! downwards! sideways!) on). Scientists like this would need an imagination more than they would need a methodology. So they would have to mix their textbook (Basic Tools to Re-Make the Universe: the Science of Generatology) learning, with a good mix of fantasy and fun. I would recommend they take at least as many history, and english classes as they do science ones. Psychology, too--if they can get through all the “neurons” and “grey-matter” to humanist psychologists like Carl Rogers. Finally, they could take philosophy courses--especially Jeffrey Foss’s: they would learn what it really means to be subvert the natural order of things. Sound good? I think so. Sound like a “childish” regression? I do not think so: a child might prefer his/her private fantasy to “reality”, and animism, as pleasant as it seems to the modern reader, might amount to unhealthy projections, but prefering nature as mundane is no indication of one’s maturity. Only a senile, old fool insists that what “is” is what “ought” to be. Kuhn knows this, but his counter-offer is too mundane, too modest. Instead, how about you join me, dear reader, let us be amongst the future wizards who fashion a golden brick road to a truly brave, new world!