Crisis Resolution and Scientific Revolution

Three routes exist for crisis resolution within a normal scientific community. First, the community may forestall the crisis by proposing an adjustment to the received paradigm, provided that this adjustment is plausible enough to decrease the severity of the paradigm’s perceived inadequacies. Second, the community may, after repeated failures to explain the crisis-inducing problem(s) satisfactorily, defer this problem(s) indefinitely to future, scientific research. In both these cases, the crisis finds its resolution, however tenuously, in fresh reaffirmation of the received paradigm (Kuhn 84–85).

Yet, most radically, the community may adopt a third response in which they allow the crisis to create “extraordinary science,” which exhibits “a willingness to try anything, the expression of explicit discontent [with the received paradigm], [and the] recourse to philosophy and . . . debate over fundamentals” (Kuhn 91). Extraordinary science’s openness to abandon old paradigms provides an occasion for “scientific revolutions,” or major changes in these reigning paradigms (Kuhn 34, 90). Still, beyond the simple occasions for revolutions that extraordinary science provides, for revolutions to occur, viable alternatives must exist for whatever paradigm may potentially be rejected. For, only in these alternative paradigms are extraordinary science’s occasions for revolution met with positive invitations to changes of paradigmatic allegiance (Kuhn 76–77; cf. Carson 88).

In this post:

D. A. Carson
D. A. Carson
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn

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  1. I recommend James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (1988) for an excellent modern example of such a paradigm shift and experience of the poor researchers of UCSC.

      1. I’ve read most of what Gleick has written. He has a nice bio of Fenyman (“Genius”). An excellent author on the natural sciences.

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