jueves, 29 de marzo de 2007

Historicity of Science

The “essay” does not have quotations to make the reading easier, but at the end is the bibliography read for writing this.

Popper on 1982 on his book realism and the aim of science tells us that a method of looking for verifications, it’s a typical method of a pseudoscience, and it is clearly different and distinguishable from the method of testing a theory as severely, that is the method of criticism, the method of looking for falsifying instances. If we accept this, the astronomers that look for new stars or that work specifying their distances, are not scientists; but the people that look for falsifying instances for the Chinese zodiac are. Opposite to this, Kuhn shows us that the problem of demarcation is not really a problem, but a product of the human idiosyncrasy; that is why we recognize some problems as scientific while others not depending on the prevailing paradigm. So we could say that the paradigm is what identifies a field of science.

There are two typical parts in science, one of Normal Science and one of crisis. The first one is characterized by past realizations accepted by a community (as a paradigm), for some time, as fundamental for the posterior practice. While normal science could be alone for long time periods, the crisis needs the existence of a paradigm to the emergent theories compete with. Crisis is always prowling around the research, because every problem that normal science sees as a puzzle can be seen, from another perspective, as a counter instance and thus a source of crisis. To my point of view what is important here is how strong and at the same time flexible is the paradigm to support and let the phenomenon being explain with the construct on hand.

The Normal Science focuses its investigation on three principal points. (i)The events that the paradigm has shown as particularly revealing of the things in nature, (ii) the predictions, and (iii) the empirical work undertaken to clear or articulate the theory of the paradigm. During this time the researchers design experiments and technology looking for better measures, and most important the predictions done around the paradigm. This part of the science is important because we need a theoretical body, which allows us to select and evaluate our researches.

The crisis starts with the discovering of a new sort of phenomenon (anomalies), this is a complex process which involves recognizing that something is and what it is. The first is to recognize that something has gone wrong in ways that may prove consequential. But anomalies do not emerge from the normal course of scientific research until both instruments and concepts have developed sufficiently to make their emergence likely and to make the anomaly which results recognizable as a violation of expectation. The second part is the struggle to make the anomaly law-like (because of the slant to physics of Kuhn, I think it could be used theory better). This period demands additional observation or experimentation as well repeated cogitation; while it continues scientists repeatedly revise their expectations, usually their instrumental standards, and sometimes their most fundamental theories as well.

When we are sure that we have an anomaly (unexpected discovery), we need a new vocabulary and new concepts for analyzing events. These new terms made the theories incomparable and the only criteria that could be used to choose between them is what and how they explain about the phenomena interest us.

The crises are resolved in one of three ways. Normal science can prove capable of handing the crisis provoking a problem; that is explaining from the paradigm or pasting to it. Alternatively, the problem resists and is labeled, but it is perceived as resulting from the field’s failure to possess the necessary tools with which it solve it, and so scientists set it aside for a future generation with more developed tools. In a few cases, a new candidate for paradigm emerges, and a struggle over its acceptance ensures; when the new paradigm is accepted and the other abandon a Revolution born. I think there could be another scenario in which the battle does not end in the death, absorbance or postpone of one theory, but the maintenance of both as different research programs or as a very long struggle.

The success of a paradigm is at the beginning a successful promise distinguishable in selected examples and still uncompleted. The Normal Science it about the promise achieve, expanding the knowledge and the facts that the paradigm shows as particularly interesting and revelators, incrementing the fitting extension between the events and the predictions of the paradigm.

The important thing to me about Kuhn thinking is no the Historical Structure of Science, or the importance of the revolution, its that clarify us that we need a conceptual body to develop the knowledge, and it is not as Popper said a process of trial and error, but a process of check and recheck.

- Kuhn T. 1962. Historical Structure of Scientific Discovery. Science 136: 760-764.
- Kuhn T. 1982. Commensurability, Comparability, Communicability. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 2: 669-688.
- Kuhn T. 1962. La estructura de las Revoluciones científicas.
- Popper K. 1982. Realism and the Aim of Science.