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“How does science evolve?” (part 1)

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Let's start this blog with the main focus of what we are going to be talking about today: a paradigm shift. Now many of you may have actually heard of this paradigm shift, but it's actually much more complicated than what it actually sounds like. The word paradigm literally means the things that scientists take for granted.

Note: If these concepts are too hard to understand, then make sure to read my other blog series: "What is this thing called science"

This could be that all cells have genetic information or even that all atoms contain a neutron. A paradigm shift is basically a complete shift in the basic ground knowledge that we thought that we all had known. Let me paint you a picture. When the idea that the sun was revolving around the earth was a standard fact, no one even thought of challenging it because it was something that people at the time took for granted. Yet a paradigm shift happened when Galileo decided to challenge this fact to completely change the basis of knowledge, and thought that the earth revolved around the sun. Well, some of you might be saying, “Oh well, I mean who is stupid enough to think that the sun revolved around the earth”. We have to understand that the geocentric model was a fact that was thought to be proven by professional astrologists. To compare this to modern times, it would be like saying that there is not a single cell in a human body and challenging the norms that cells are not the building blocks of life. You wouldn’t really persuade that many people. This was the same case as Galileo, after he released the heliocentric model because no one would believe that this was true.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty about what a paradigm shift really is and its phases, let’s revisit some of the old concepts we saw in the previous blogs of this series. Karl Popper was one of the greatest philosophers as he tried to examine how and why science actually progresses. He thought of a method called falsification. This method allows science to progress only if scientists try to prove their current methods wrong and get cold hard evidence for their claims. Yet another philosopher, Thomas Kuhn, challenged the concept of falsification. His thought process (which was called the paradigm shift) about how science evolves over time is commonly divided into 4 phases or sections.

Kuhn’s Phases of science

  • Pre-paradigmatic phase

  • Normal Science

  • Crisis

  • Scientific revolution

The last part of the blog will be about the 2nd section (Normal science) of paradigm shifts. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th sections will be covered in the next few blogs. The second section is just a brief introduction to the next few stages of the shift because this is the starting, where no paradigm is challenged and everyone is happy with what they already know. The 3rd and 4th stages are where normal science will really be challenged.

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