In today’s spotlight I wish to focus some attention on the idea of science and its paradigms. In Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions we come to understand that science can be very slow, indeed rigid and resistive, to paradigm shifts. Quoting for a moment, “Kuhn challenged the then prevailing view of progress in ‘normal science.’ Normal scientific progress was viewed as ‘development-by-accumulation’ of accepted facts and theories. Kuhn argued for an episodic model in which periods of such conceptual continuity in normal science were interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. The discovery of ‘anomalies’ during revolutions in science leads to new paradigms. New paradigms then ask new questions of old data, move beyond the mere ‘puzzle-solving’ of the previous paradigm, change the rules of the game and the ‘map’ directing new research.” 1
Science or Nonsense
Since Kuhn’s history of science book, many have advanced their pet theories using Kuhn’s argument as their fortification for why science resists their ideas. In other words, they might argue something like, “Science is in the business of protecting itself, so from student to professor, they work to reinforce the existing paradigm and thereby strengthen it against challenges.” And where this might have some traction, it is not an absolute protection against nonsense—or at least it should not be. That said, there are all sorts of loons out there claiming to possess new scientific evidence that the scientific community will not share with you. They however, the missionaries of truth, will for a price (usually through the sale of a book or seminar) make you privy to their ground breaking discovery.
As a result we have heard in the past decade or so many full-blown falsehoods held high as science. I have interviewed some these folks myself and when you push them into a corner, they often admit that their discovery is only their opinion. Still, there are those who must believe their audiences are imbeciles, for they insist on things like our DNA code literally contains the words, “God eternal within the body” or, alternatively, “God within the body.” Now this claim actually persists today among some despite the many scientific refutations to this non-sense. One writer put the entire matter this way, “So this is the big secret that he has discovered: within each cell of our body is God’s signature in Hebrew (and because Hebrew is a Semitic language, this supposedly works for Arabic as well). From this tiny numerological connection he bases his entire case and claims a whole new science. It is easy to play around to get just 4 letters to fit, but to then state that this implies the entire DNA is a library that will shortly be read in Hebrew with the right translation is absurd.” 2
Now I could write a book about some of the crazy scams out there sold under the umbrella of new science, just forging its way into a new paradigm, but I think from this one example you can easily ascertain my point. Where science is constantly challenging itself and where eventually new paradigms do emerge, that should not provide a license to make up stuff and pawn it off as science.
Now the real problem, how are we to sort the revolutionary ideas that are truly pushing the boundaries of science from the garbage masked as poor pseudoscience? The credibility of the one sharing information is one way, the number of their qualified peers that have added credibility is good, the level of their education always important, their published peer reviewed scientific papers add to the mix, the number of studies verifying their work a real plus, but even then questions can persist.
So it is my inclination to hold in abeyance a final judgment until and unless the paradigm moves. That not withstanding, I am always game to hear a new idea but I hope I’m not so lame as to believe everything shoved out there as being true.
My thoughts, what are yours?