PROLEGOMENA TO THEORIES OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS

With Attention to Kant, Lakatos, Carnap, Popper and Kuhn

 

Kuhn’s paradigm thesis was proposed in the context of a massive international debate about the relationship of sociology to epistemology. Can the history of science be the source of rational explanation of narrative displacement in the social context of the confusion over the relationship of empiricism and scientific theory/hypothesis. How do we understand the relationship of epistemology, scientific theories and narrative displacement? The development of “Western Science” is the bane of post modern anti science! Why? Perhaps a brief outline of the “Pluralistic theory of Knowledge and Action” would shed more light than darkness on understanding the widespread hostility toward Western Science because of it “Metanarrative” stance. Is Western Science only a socially constructed perspective? If it is, then it has no universal application in our multiculturally diverse global village. The blade strikes across both the universally applicable scientific method and the “absolute claims” of the Judaeo/Christian narrative. Can the nature of science and missions/evangelism as “conversion” procedure rest in nothing but epistemological and cultural relativism?

 

How can there be a close fit between behavior and thinking? At the heart of post modern debate in science and the exclusive claims of the Christian Gospel is--is there “one correct picture of the world?” From Plato’s psychological mechanism, creating a state of firm and unwavering belief, gives an externally perspective account of such rites, and backs them by arguments to show the “absolute truth” of the story that he would have liked to be believed forever. The double machinery of psychological manipulation and philosophical argument was developed to perfection by the Roman Catholic Church (Christendom from the 5th to the 15th centuries).

 

Never again was there to be such a profound understanding of human nature and never again was this understanding used with such fatal effect for the physical and conceptual propagation of “Ideologies.” The paradigm shift in thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries differ from its ancestor in only two respects. The context of the doctrines defended differ from that of the preceding ideologies and the psychological manipulation is left to the individual (see my paper, “The Emergence of Autonomous Man in the West: From the 15th to the 19th Centuries”).

 

THE CREATIVE MINDS OF DESCARTES AND BACON ON WESTERN THOUGHT

 

Descartes and Bacon sought the correct psychological procedures for establishing unanimity as well as steadfastness in the pursuit of truth. Both giants developed a theory of idols and try to explain why man is so frequently deceived. Both devise methods of undeceiving him and both recognize that the transition to the “new philosophy” involves perhaps a rather long period of training that creates a mind capable of understanding the arguments and prepared to cling univocally to their results.

 

From Descartes and Bacon to the founders of modern science this procedure was developed. Galileo especially recognizes the need to prepare the mind of the reader so that he will be able to understand the “new astronomy” and to remain loyal to it even in the face of difficulties (eg. anomalies). Both Descartes and Bacon are quite explicit in their opposition to “Common Sense” from the outset (eg. origens of opposition to empiricism as a method to yield True Truth). Note our heritage’s dependence on “Scottish Common Sense” in articulating the hermeneutic of our Restoration Heritage.

 

After four centuries of scientific development it is crystal clear that “Common Sense” is not the foundation of scientific advancement. It is true that Galileo utilized “Common Sense” and the psychological hold it has upon the individual to destroy the rest. Newton restricts himself to experiment and philosophical argument, but his theories soon became the basis for new and institutionalized means of creating unanimity. This is how “modern science,” or “nature” science comes into being. At this juncture Kuhn’s theory of “paradigmatic revolution” enters the hard ball arena of scientific debate. Kuhn’s paradigm futilely attempts to escape the “Sociology of Knowledge Thesis” which lies deep in all but worldly influence in the pluralism of interpretive systems in our multicultural, relativistic post modern world. Kuhn’s theory shares many properties with primitive, mythological ideologies from animistic, pantheistic world view of most of our global village (c. 75% are in Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Voodooism, Shintoism, new age occult phenomenon and most anti science, eg. Capra, et al.).

 

The influence is no longer limited to Eastern cultures, but it began to enter Western culture in the 19th and 20th century--development into cultural relativism via anthropology and sociology. The influence is no longer limited to comparative religion, sociology of religion, phenomenology of religion and history of religion schools especially English and German in origins. All this development began as the West began to engage the East. The counter culture of the 1960s was structured on Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth” (Science Fiction) and resurgent occult from the 1960s to 2000; also Marcuse, Toffler and Reich.

 

To not be prepared for this phenomenon by paradigmatic shifts in “Christian Education” is unpardonable. Any scientific theory that does not contribute to our understanding of the universe is unacceptable. Creative imagination, feelings vs. appeal to mystery convey no guide whatever for understanding the reality of the universe. Is it possible to hold one’s “received view” of science or anything else and retain freedom of artistic creation and yet to utilize it in the advancement of our knowledge? The answer to this research procedure might have a pluralism of explanations as long as they were complimentary not contradictory scientific procedure.

 

The limits of ability and limits of their degree of adaptation is available only to the “successful” completion of the proposed task. The criterion is the survival when their predecessors fail (eg. legal debates in the courtroom context). New evidence might throw new light on new facts that are fatal to the “received/established position.

 

Legal procedure in judiciary systems have two sets of lawyers--defense and counter defense. The court decisions are often placed on the highest authority, i.e., specialists/experts. Decisions are not always bound to the prejudices of the professional. What is foundation for restrictions on the guardians of knowledge, be they scientists or philosophers? Here we often engage a pluralism of alternatives. How does the paradigm of decision making relate to the “scientific method?” Are there grounds for “acceptable” proliferation of the theory of observational results? Theories can developed and improved and the relation to observation is also capable of modification. It took considerable time until the relation of the kinetic theory to the fact of irreversibility was truly understood. What unifying theory might all available experimental results support? It takes time for all interpretational idiosyncrasies to produce a common denominator. When there is scientific disagreement the theories which produce the most fruitful results is most rational.

 

Kant was perhaps the first major voice after the first scientific revolution to emphasize that experience as conceived by scientists contain theoretical elements and that observational reports lacking these elements are not to be identified into the body of scientific knowledge. It is ubiquitously acknowledged that sense data language is useless for the purpose of science and that useful observation reports must go beyond what is immediately seen. The sense data emphasis is by no means ignored, but it must be fused with additional hypothetic elements.

 

Dr. Imre Lakatos is a case in point. He is concerned with metaphysical components of observation. Observational terms can be defined without reference to theories referring to the phenomena. But observations are always guided by presuppositions of selection of X from among alternatives (see esp. I. Lakatos, “Criticism and The Methodology of Scientific Programmes,” in Lakatos and Musgrave, eds., Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge; and Robert G. Colodny, ed., Beyond the Edge of Certainty and his The Edge of Objectivity (Princeton University Press, 1966 printing); Larry Laudan, Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth (University of California Press, 1977; I.B. Cohen, Revolutions in Science Harvard University Press, 1985.

 

Rudolf Carnap stated that the physical thing language contains the idea of observer independence, which entails that a fast motor of the observer in the neighborhood of Sirus will leave the observation data unaffected. Carnap’s idea is not only hypothetical but also metaphysical (i.e., as Berkeley had claimed earlier) because it is not possible to specify an experimental result that would endanger it and that might force us to give it up. Ordinary observation statements have metaphysical components.

 

According to Karl Popper, whose procedure most adequately reflects what is going on in the sciences; Theory X is scientific only if it has potential falsifiers, that is, only if there exists observational statements which are contradictory. In order to determine the truth value, one must employ auxiliary theories, eg. the test of Newton’s celestial mechanics involves optical theory, theory of elasticity, physiology, chemistry, etc. The strength of any test is provided by the number of falsifiers or if the falsifiers involve further auxiliary theories. However wide the tests and their potential falsifiers progress and infinite regress makes us admit that there is something/something without potential falsifiers. Every test involves metaphysical auxiliary assumptions! Only the Judaeo/Christian creator/redeemer God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, can solve the necessity of infinite regress without metaphysical assumptions. Herein lies the strength of the Biblical Metanarrative! Aquinas’ arguments escaped infinite regress only by reference to “God.” Even Hume and Kant’s attack on the Biblical narrative cannot escape the irrationality of infinite regress (eg. The Roman Catholic Church Vatican II embraced Kant as savior of post modern impasse. Never has there been a greater farce proposed by brilliant academicians since Satan’s question in the Garden of Eden--“Did God say that?” (See my paper, “The Search for A Criterion of Meaning: Popper’s Philosophy of Science;” “The Christian Faith and Scientific Revolution: Comparison of Newton, Kant, Einstein, Whitehead and Popper and The Problem of Demarcation.”)

Proliferation of the explanatory system must not be suppressed. Even the most outlandish products of the human brain and scientific method are necessary ingredients for the progress of True Science and True Truth! Any comparison and/or critique of alternatives requires a metanarrative from which to accept or reject the alternative explanatory systems. Dr. Yancy is surely correct--it is not that post modernism rejects moral and epistemological norms; it is that they leave no metanarrative from which to critique any proposed explanatory systems. But they are not without a received agenda! Solipsistic reductionism is no place from which to critique any agenda, including The Christian Agenda.

 

A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE CHANGING CONCEPTS OF SCIENTIFIC

REVOLUTIONS FROM THE 18TH TO THE 21ST CENTURY

 

These turning points in the History of Science must be kept before the reader at all times before we enter the post modern discussion of Thomas Kuhn’s concept of paradigm. All references in the following sketch will be taken from the book by I. B. Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). In the context of this magisterial work further consideration is required which the author will attempt to survey in his forthcoming work, Narrative Displacement of the History and Logic of Science. This further work will consider the long established classical work of Alexander Koyre’, The Astronomical Revolution (Copernicus, Kepler and Borelli) (Cornell University Press) 1973 Eng. Tr. and also, I. Bernard Cohen, The Newtonian Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1980).

 

Some of the changing concepts of revolution are visible in the creative minds of the 18th century--

 

Transformations during the Enlightenment. Two events of violent social and political upheaval established the usage of the term ‘revolution’ in the 18th century--The American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. The mid 18th century lacked a single, clear meaning for the word ‘revolution’. This can be seen in the writings of Voltaire and in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762). During this same time period there was a strong belief in a two-stage revolution--displace the old and replace it with something new.

 

Voltaire. The writings of Voltaire also bear out the thesis of ambiguity concerning the usage of the term revolution. His pertinent works during this period were Philosophical Letters or Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733), The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and Essay on The Manners and Mind of Nations (1756). His histories were translated into English, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian.

 

Revolution as Discontinuity and Change. Despite the wide-spread ambiguity, by mid-century the word was well on its way to standing primarily for a “great political change.” Buffon would use ‘revolution’ primarily in geology and Herder would speak of it in an anthropological development. The American Revolution contained elements of the old and new semantic distinctions for ‘revolution.’ It was a return to the rights and privileges of Englishmen promised 100 years earlier and it was a radical break with its dominant mother country, thus the words of the Seal of the United States-- “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM,” “a new order of the ages.”

After the French Revolution the word ‘revolution’ lost all cyclical overtones, except in the astronomical sense. Hanna Arendt argued for the astronomical sense of the word for application to the French Revolution. She conjectured, “for the first time perhaps, the emphasis has entirely shifted from the lawfulness of a rotating, cyclical movement to its necessity.”

 

18th Century Conceptions of Scientific Revolution. Early in the century, Bernard le Bouyer de Fontenelle, permanent secretary of the Paris Academie Royale des Sciences, wrote about the revolution in geometry (Elements...of Geometry (1725). Revolution had not yet reached the physical or biological sciences.

 

Diderot and d’Alembert. The great Encyclopedie of Diderot and d’Alembert appeared in 1751. For a discussion of revolution in science the reader must turn to the supplemental writings of the Encyclopedie, especially an article by d’Alembert entitled “Experimental.” The two men share in tracing the achievements of Bacon and Descartes and paying special homage to Newton: “Newton succeeded in proving what his predecessors had only predicted--the true art of introducing mathematics into physics.” Diderot wrote on revolutions in science in his famous essay, “On the Interpretation of Nature” (1753). He held that between steps in revolution there are ‘maximum intervals between one revolution and another’ (fixed quantity of time). d’Alembert recognized, as did Max Planck two centuries later, the generational nature of revolutions.

 

Two Writers on Revolutions in Astronomy. During mid-century two authors wrote concerning revolutions in astronomy: Joseph Jerome le Francis de Lalande and Jean-Sylvain Bailly (who wrote three volumes on The History of Astronomy). Bailly is responsible for circulating the idea of a Copernican Revolution and for solidifying the idea of a “scientific revolution.”

 

Writers on Scientific Revolution at the End of the Century. French writers on scientific revolution abound in the 1780s. In the capacity of permanent secretary, Condorcet published his major work, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind (1795). This work examines the different causes of the American and French Revolutions. Three scientists of the 18th century referred to their work in terms of a ‘revolution’: Lavoisier, Symmer and Marat. The first overall review of the intellectual accomplishments of the 18th century was written by Samuel Miller, A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century.

 

Lavoisier and the Chemical Revolution. The Chemical Revolution is the first one to be so designated by its chief author, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. This revolution occurred during the time of the American Revolution and reached its climax during the French Revolution. An interesting letter was written from Lavoisier to Benjamin Franklin on February 2, 1790 which contained a brief account of the revolution in Chemistry and an account of the political revolution in France (evidence of parallel semantic loads).

 

Lavoisier’s contribution--(1) awareness of the magnitude of his own efforts and ability to predict the resulting revolution; (2) reduction by investigation; element, compound, mixture/*table of elements (vs. ‘phlogiston’ theory) [neg. result--POSITIVISM]; (3) creation of necessary nomenclature The Method of Chemical Nomenclature (1787). The major contribution came in Lavoisier’s analysis of the role of oxygen in the processes of combustion, calcination and respiration.

Acceptance of The Revolution. Almost at once Lavoisier’s chemical revolution was recognized in print. The author primarily responsible for this was Antoine Francois de Fourcroy. His complete theory can be found in his own Traite’ (1789) which was read at the public meeting of the Paris Academy of Science on 18 April 1787 by M. Lavoisier. His laboratory notes served to further establish the chemical revolution.

 

Kant’s Alleged Copernican Revolution. The Myth--Cohen lists 18 examples (including K. Popper and B. Russell) from various works to show the universal acceptance of a belief in Kant’s Copernican Revolution. The only problem is the lack of Kant’s intention to accomplish this task. The two most prominent examples of propagating the myth are the 1929 Gifford Lectures and the Third International Kant Congress of 1970.

 

Kant’s views on revolution in science--Cohen says Kant is strictly a modern and not a traditionalist; by ‘revolution’ he does not mean ebb and flow or cyclical change, but a radical forward step that makes a clean and thorough break with the past.

 

Origins of the Myth--in context, Kant’s point is clearly that Copernicus had made a shift from the perspective of a stationary observer to that of a revolving observer; he had shown that a change occurs when one disengages the observer’s own motion from the observed or apparent motion of the sun, planets and stars.

 

In the preface of the second edition of the Critique, Kant uses the word ‘revolution.’ Cohen notes that this could cause some confusion and the false notion of a self-proclaimed Copernican Revolution; (Kant did say that his work was revolution-making).

 

Between 1799 and 1825 at least four writers on Kantian philosophy stated publicly, in print or in lectures, that Kant himself either had desired or had undertaken a Copernican Revolution in philosophy.

 

The Changing Language of Revolution in Germany. The 19th century saw the development of the German language as it became the medium of international communication. In the 18th century, however, there was a contest between the French and German designation for ‘revolution’--at least ten different German words). German participants were Zedler, Adelung, Campe and Kant.

 

The Industrial Revolution. The major historiographic problem that the Industrial Revolution has in common with both the Scientific Revolution and other revolutions in science is to define exactly what is meant by the name; next comes the double question of when and in fact whether such a revolution occurred. The term was relatively common in France by the 1820s. Unlike political revolutions but like the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution was spread over a long period of time, covering some seven or eight decades in two centuries. The Industrial Revolution resembles the Scientific Revolution also in the way in which some historians have tended to see both revolutions as continuing processes. “The Industrial Revolution transformed man from a farmer-shepherd into a manipulator of machines worked by inanimate energy.” (Cipolla)

 

PART II: RATIONALITY AND REVOLUTION IN SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS

 

The following items are major voices in the post modern debate concerning the nature and development of science:

 

KARL POPPER

 

1. Is the theory internally consistent? This is determined by the conclusions the theory gives--how well do they correspond to reality and how do they compare with the conclusions of rival theories?

 

2. Is the theory authentically scientific in character? If the theory’s credibility can be tested by experimental data, it is valid. But it is invalid, as a theory, if found to be tautological in nature.

 

3. Is the theory able to generate scientific advancement? If the theory is perceived to be superior to rival theories in its ability to advance knowledge, then it can be found to be acceptable.

 

4. Is the theory sound in its conclusions when empirically applied? An example of this is when General Relativity was verified by the observation of star light bending around the sun.

 

THOMAS KUHN

 

The Arts and Humanities Citation Index: The compilers of The Index examined the record for the years 1976-1983 and issued a report on the most cited works of the 20th century. The most cited author was Lenin which speaks volumes on the state of the humanities in the West toward the end of the cold war, but the most cited single works were, in reverse order: third place, Northrop Fyre’s Anatomy of Criticism; second, Joyce’s Ulysses; and well in the lead was Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolution.

 

Interest in Kuhn’s book has not waned. The Index is now online, and records one hundred citations to the book for 1999, plus anoher four hundred in The Social Sciences Citation Index. The tone of the citations is reverential. It is reported that Structure is Al Gore’s favorite book and William Safire’s New Political Dictionary has an aricle on “Paradigm Shift”, a phrase popularized by Kuhn, which reports both George Bush, Sr., and Clinton being impressed with its usefulness.

 

1. Is the theory accurate? It so, its deduced consequences will be in “demonstrated agreement with the results of existing experiments and observations.”

 

2. Is the theory consistent? If so, it will not only be inwardly consistent, but also harmonize with currently accepted theories.

 

3. Is the theory broad in scope? If so, then its consequences will “extend far beyond. . .what it was initially designed to explain.”

 

4. Is the theory simple? A simple theory that describes the same data as a complex theory is more desirable.

 

5. Is the theory able to reveal previously unknown phenomena/relationship? An example of this is the Big Bang theory which anticipated the presence of background radiation--discovered some years later.

 

For trends and fads in the humanities \kuhn.htm world, The Arts and Humanities Citation Index is impossible to improve on. The following information is vital: New Paradigm Thinking (http.//world.std.com/nlo/94.11/0114.htm1).

 

Thomas Kuhn Theory of Scientific Revolutions (http.//www.lucknow.com/horus/guide/cm106.htm)

Thomas Kuhn’s irrationalism by James Franklin, The New Criterion-Thomas Kuhn’s Irrationalism (http.//www.newcriterion.com/archive/18/junoo/kuhn.htm)

 

IMRE LAKATOS on Scientific Research Programs

 

1. A research program is progressive if: (1) it can predict novel facts [theoretically progressive]; (2) its predictions lead to empirical cooberation [empirically progressive].

 

2. A research program is degenerative “if its theoretical growth lags behind its empirical growth” [i.e., theories are constructed only to account for known facts].

 

            A research program possesses a protective belt of auxiliary theories to fend off refutations from its “hard-core” sacred-theory [i.e., punctuated equilibrium is to protect macroevolution in the face of fossil record gaps].

 

STEPHEN TOULMIN

 

1. Theories are road maps which are not necessarily true or false in some absolute way--they are useful for scientific endeavor. The value of a theory is not in how literally it corresponds to reality, but how useful it is.

 

JAMES W. JONES

 

1. Theories: (1) must be precise; (2) are selective; (3) are abstract--they do not perfectly occur in nature; (4) order and universalize experience; (5) must be internally consistent and compatible with standard knowledge; (6) are always prior to experience. Science selects certain aspects of experience as relative and translates experience into symbols.

 

IAN G. BARBOUR

 

1. Theories: (1) must agree with observations; (2) be internally consistent and coherent; (3) be comprehensive--to demonstrate underlying unity in diversity; (4) be able to suggest “new hypotheses, laws, concepts or experiments.

 

Bibliography for Paradigms of Scientific Revolution

 

Enrico Bellone, A World on Paper: Studies on The Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, MA: MIT

            Press) 1980.

D.G. Cedarbaum, “Paradigms,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (14:173-213) 1983.

A.S. Cohan, Theories of Revolution (London: Nelson) 1975.

I.B. Cohen, The Newtonian Revolution (Cambridge Univer Press) 1980.

Cohen, Revolution in Science (Belknop Press Harvard Univer) 1985.

A.C. Crombie, “Historians and Scientific Revolution” Physics (11.162-180) 1969.

P. Fougeyrolles, Marx, Freud, et al revolution totale (Paris, 1972)

F. Gilbert, “Revolution,” DHI (NY: Scribners) Vol. 4, 1973, pp. 152-167.

G. Gutting (ed.) Paradigms and Revolutions (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press) 1980.

Ian Hacking, ed. Scientific Revolutions (NY: Oxford University Press) 1981.

Alfred Kazin “The Freudian Revolution Analyzed.” The Freudian Paradigm: Psychoanalysis and             Scientific Thought (Chicago: Nelson-Hall) 1977, pp. 76-74.

I. Krammick, “Reflections on Revolution: Definition and Explanation in Recent Scholarship.”    History and Theory (11.26-63) 1972.

Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) 1957.

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1962) revised             edition 1970).

Kuhn, “Second Thoughts on Paradigms” Structures of Scientific Theories (Urbana, IL: University             of Illinois Press, 2nd ed. 1977)

I Lakatos and A. Musgrave, eds. Criticism and The Growth of Knowledge (London: Cambridge             University Press) 1965.

Larry Laudan, Progress and Its Problems (Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press) 1977.

            Md. Mujeeb-ur-Rhaman, ed., The Freudian Paradigm: Psychoanalysis and Scientific       Thought (Chicago: Nelson-Hall) 1970.

Wilhelm Norlind, “Copernicus and Luther: A Critical Study” Isis (44: 273-276) 1953.

Nathan Reingold, “Through Paradigm Land to A Normal History of Science” Social Studies of    Sciences (10: 475-496).

Marthe Robert, The Psychoanalytic Revolution (NY: Harcourt, Brace and World) English             Translation, 1966.

S. Toulmin, “Conceptual Revolutions in Science” Boston Studies in The Philosophy of Science (3.331-347) 1968.

G. Vesey, “Kant’s Copernican Revolution: Speculative Philosophy” The Age of Revolutions - Units             15-16 (Open University Press) 1972.

Jules Vuillemim, L’heritage kantien ete la revolution Copernicienne (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France) 1954.

Edgar Zilsel, “The Genesis of The Concept of Scientific Progress” Journal of the History of Ideas (6:325-349) 1945.

 

 

Dr. James Strauss

Professor Emeritus

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656