Come the Revolution

Regular commenter AJOwens (“Staggering Implications“) posted a very astute thought below my post on John C Doyle and Zombie Science.

Whether we see problems with “current” science as a bug or a virus, or simply the current state of ever-contingent, imperfect science, the switch to a new dominant view within science is of course exactly what Kuhn was talking about in his revolutions of scientific paradigms. And they’re always revolutions because – for whatever specific reasons – the existing paradigm naturally resists change. (I’d still say the current shift is special, somewhat meta, in that it’s about science not about any particular content of science. But he makes a good point.)

As an engineer / technologist I had always focussed on the techno-economic industrial paradigms (TEP’s after Freeman & Perez, previously Kondratiev Waves) enabled by advancing science, not the revolutions of or within science itself. Doubly meta here, because the current paradigm we’re struggling to get to terms with is the Electronic Information & Communications “wave” in human culture and economies more widely. This is quite distinct from the science and technology market-place that has enabled it, and quite distinct again from the revolutionary idea that information and communications may in fact be the very foundations of any kind of science.

Understood in [Kuhnian] terms, the “bug” in science is a very old one, and its roots are epistemological. All scientific research is conducted within a paradigm, but the paradigm influences what counts as “evidence.” Phenomena contrary to the reigning theory are at first not even noticed or recognized as important “facts.” If they become more persistent obstacles to current theory, they are explained away, dismissed as anomalies, or otherwise resisted. Eventually the reigning theory becomes so riddled with inconsistencies and beset with contrary observations that its very paradigm is overturned, and a new one is adopted which can accommodate the new evidence.

I believe we are in the middle of such a paradigm shift, and the work of people like McGilchrist and Solms and Doyle are part of it.

AJOwens, comment April 11th, 2022.

(And he goes on to suggest some other current sources.)

The point – we are in the middle of a Kuhnian paradigm shift – and being revolutionary, the process will have its downsides as well as its progress.

And this particular paradigm revolution is a complex, ubiquitous, many layered on multiple meta-axes. It is – or will be when it reaches a tipping point – going to be painful on a profound and grand scale. This is not just horse-drawn canal boats being replaced by steam railways. The e-Comms enabling is running full-steam ahead of the consequences in all aspects of humanity.

“The paradigm influences what counts as evidence.”

Indeed, as I’ve said before.
And resistance is futile.

2 thoughts on “Come the Revolution”

  1. Thanks for the call-out. I mentioned Sally Weintrobe – there’s a book review on my blog. I also mentioned a guy named Charles Eisenstein, who talks about “story” in a way that meshes with my recent interest in Indigenous ways of knowing, so maybe I’ll post my library review. And _Braiding Sweetgrass_ — what a book! I’m savouring it one short chapter at a time. If you get a chance, check out the chapter on Aster and Goldenrod; it’s about the scientific worldview. Beautifully woven.

  2. That “Braiding Sweetgrass” is by Robin Wall Kimmerer? I see it categorised as “Indigenous American Philosophy” … which is of course exactly where Pirsig was coming from in ZMM and Lila. Intrigued. Never heard of it before.

    All refs added to my reading list 🙂

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