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Most scientific revolutions involve the rejection of previously held views, which are proven to be incorrect, to adopt new ones that match newly gained knowledge. As such, it is essential that the new theory, as well as the facts it is based on, are objective and indisputable. The requirement raises the questions of scientific objectivity and legitimate knowledge. Findings that are not disprovable and are therefore considered facts may become invalidated as technology advances and new measurements become possible. As such, understanding of the core concepts of knowledge is necessary to understand paradigm shifts.
Objectivity is essential to scientific research, particularly in matters that are often too complicated to allow full analysis, such as medicine. Many studies are unable to obtain accurate results and have to rely on statistical data.
This information is prone to biases, both on the side of the participants and on that of the researchers. Understanding scientific objectivity is vital to considering the validity of gained evidence and the possible influences that may sway the conclusions of the study. Without it, one would be prone to making potentially untrue statements, thereby invalidating the value of his or her research and potentially endangering the work of any others who accept the results. To progress, science must be based on proven and accepted hypotheses, which makes the discussion and understanding of objectivity invaluable to it.
Paradigm Shifts and Legitimate Knowledge
A paradigm shift typically involves a denouncement of knowledge that was previously considered legitimate in favor of a new theory. This change often invalidates knowledge that was based on the old ideas, requiring either a complete rejection or a search for a fresh explanation for the findings in question. Kuhn supports this notion by describing the Newtonian revolution as partially destructive, as it required an interpretation of gravity that could be found nowhere (105).
Ultimately, despite the theory’s overall success, the question of attraction could not be resolved, resulting in a partial adoption of the new paradigm. The issue was later settled with modern tools, and in the meantime, the rest of the Newtonian physics helped shape modern physics more legitimately than what would be possible with the views held before his publications.
The scientific revolutions that stood out to me the most are the Copernican and Einsteinian revolutions. The Copernican revolution is significant because it was not entirely scientific in the nature of its emergence. While the inaccuracy of the Ptolemaic system was a significant factor, it had been observed for centuries before Copernicus, and the approach still saw widespread use. According to Kuhn, factors such as pressure for calendar reform and changes in general philosophy contributed to the timing of the breakdown significantly (69). In contrast, the Einsteinian paradigm shift was entirely limited to the scientific field due to the complexity of the topic.
The scientists of the time formulated a variety of theories that came close to explaining the phenomena they observed that contradicted Newtonian physics but always had flaws. The situation paved the way for the theory of relativity, which is almost entirely without practical applications at the moment, but was accepted and embraced nevertheless.
Paradigm shifts are based on new findings and knowledge, which have to have an indisputable basis to be accepted by the scientific community. As such, scientific objectivity is an essential quality for research, especially since most of it can only suggest possibilities instead of stating facts. Furthermore, the concept of legitimate knowledge is mutable, with ideas based on old views requiring a re-evaluation upon the adoption of a new system.
Lastly, the Copernican and Einsteinian revolutions are notable examples of paradigm shifts. The former shows that scientific progress can be influenced and assisted by external factors, and the latter indicates that immediate practical influence is not necessary for a theory’s emergence and adoption.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed., The University of Chicago, 1970.