Most of the time, scientific research seeks to build on theoretical foundations that have been carefully constructed by the wider research community, often over many years. If a theoretical framework is found to be robust, it gains widespread assent, with few interested in challenging it. Those who are attracted to the idea that science develops progressively are the least likely to talk about challenges. For them, any change is a minor modification of the theoretical edifice. Thomas Kuhn referred to these theoretical frameworks as ‘paradigms’, and the progressive refinement of that framework as ‘normal science’. Kuhn pointed out that anomalies do not trigger the practitioners of ‘normal science’ to question the paradigm, but they either treat them as problems waiting to be resolved, or they ignore them altogether. In recent months, I’ve become aware that this phraseology and understanding of scientific activity is intensely irritating to some scientists. They appear to regard such talk as an invention of outsiders with a subversive agenda. A desire to comment on these issues has stimulated this blog, which is based on a paper authored by Walter Alvarez, an experienced and respected scientist working in the field of geology. He introduces his paper thus:
“Lightman and Gingerich (1992) argued that when a ruling theory is successful in accounting for a wide range of observations, scientists ignore observations that are not explained by the theory. They argued that such “anomalies” are only “retro-recognized” when a modification or replacement of the original theory calls attention to and explains the conflicting observations.”
For more, go here.