At a stroke, Lakatos merged the distinction between science and non-science, and between good and bad science. If a programme predicts nothing new or its predictions can’t be tested, then it is bad science, and might be degenerating to the point of pseudoscience. Empirical tests serve to refine the auxiliary hypotheses and a programme continues to be progressive for as long as new facts are predicted and new tests are possible. A scientific revolution occurs when a dominant programme has completely degenerated and is unable to respond to accumulating anomalies – creating precisely the crisis of confidence that Kuhn anticipated – until it can be replaced by an alternative, progressive programme. But, according to Lakatos, when the time comes, a revolution is driven by logic and method, not irrational mob psychology: ‘the Kuhnian “Gestalt-switch” can be performed without removing one’s Popperian spectacles’.
But, make no mistake, there are problems here, too. Lakatos bid philosophers and historians to look for examples of his methodology at work in the history of science. The results were mixed. Lakatos’s methodology allows the possibility that a research programme might exhibit changing fortunes over time, maybe starting off as progressive but then degenerating. This was very much his perspective on the Marxist theory that had captured the imagination of his younger self. However, by the same token, there’s nothing to rule out the possibility that a degenerating programme could somehow stage a spectacular recovery, no matter how unlikely this might seem.Jim Baggott, “How science fails ” at Aeon
In other words, on this view, string theory and Darwinism could be said to be waiting for that giant breakthrough that overwhelms all the preceding nonsense. In that case, it all comes down to who they can get to wait with them. Are they important people or not? And can they successfully suppress alternatives?