the cedar ledge

Invoking New Paradigms

Date: May 22 2022

Summary: The costs of invoking a new paradigm and the lead-up to developing one

Keywords: #new #paradigm #adoption #faith

Bibliography

T. S. Kuhn and I. Hacking, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Fourth edition. Chicago ; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Notes

Invoking New Paradigms on Faith

A problem inherit to the development of new paradigms is that to adopt these new paradigms is most certainly an act of faith. Early adherents to a new paradigm must stand against the onslaught of problems that were solved or addressed by a previous paradigm. They must simply have hope and faith that this new paradigm they have adopted will succeed in the areas where the previous paradigm failed. As Kuhn said:

“A decision of that kind can only be made on faith”

Even when this new paradigm is able to successfully surmount longstanding problems, Kuhn says that even still a vast majority of scientists will be apprehensive to adopt this paradigm. Why? Kuhn observed that two conditions must be met for further adoption:

  1. The new paradigm must solve outstanding problems that the prior paradigm could not.

  2. Much of the problem solving tools from previous paradigms should still be able to be used in this new paradigm.

In this sense, there is a type of verification or vetting of a new paradigm – an analogy to natural selection as Kuhn pointed out. For a new paradigm to be successful, not only must it address all problems hitherto encountered by prior paradigms, but be able to solve outstanding problems prior paradigms could not and the barrier to adopting this new paradigm must be minimal. “No theory ever solves all […] puzzles with which it is confronted at a given time; nor are the solutions already achieved often perfect,” is a fitting bookend from Kuhn to remember when encountering new paradigms.

One small final footnote on new paradigms is an observation by Kuhn: the invention of a paradigm most generally comes from someone very young or new to the field where a paradigm exists that they are trying to change.

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Discussion:

CC BY-SA 4.0 Jacob Zelko. Last modified: June 21, 2022. Website built with Franklin.jl and the Julia programming language.